“This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfection.” –Saint Augustine
“The best people, they’re afraid, they question themselves. Many, if you corner them, will admit that they wonder if they’re good enough. But what separates them from the rest is that they jump off the cliff anyway. Sprout wings on the way down.” –Kamal Ravikant
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The Function that Produces Whatever You Want
In order to find our mission, we first have to adopt a mindset of complete personal agency. Personal agency means we accept full responsibility for ourselves — everything we do, consume, act on, or fail to act on. As we’ve no doubt noticed, there are many people who go through life unwilling to accept full personal agency.
For those seeking meaning, this is unacceptable. When we accept that we do have power over many things in our lives, it helps spotlight the absurdity of our past excuses. It makes our past selves look weak, which only proves how much better we’re becoming. If we’re going to continue to stay in a state of becoming, we must continually create and ship updated versions of ourselves.
A quick warning: full personal agency is not to be confused with irrationality or hubris. There are, and always will be, things outside of our immediate control. This collection of things and random events can be summed up as fate, or randomness. Fate and randomness will occasionally rear their head.
The person who accepts personal agency despite this truth is brave. With every challenge randomness throws our way, we can be sure that it contains a lesson. Oftentimes, it contains an advantage that is only visible to the person who is seeking full agency. Fully accepting personal agency is a practice which takes years to master, but once we do, we wield a power that looks mystical to those who bow their head to fate.
Either we go all in on personal agency or we don’t. Either we spend our life finding excuses, people, and institutions to blame, or we’ll figure how to master everything life throws our way. Either we’re waiting for a handout, the lotto, the stars to align, or a fully functioning business to fall in our laps, or we’re busy creating our lives.
I’ll admit that I had a natural aversion to this philosophy for a long time. The truth is, it takes a certain level of courage and faith to accept our own agency. But once we accept that we have control over our lives, we become free. We’re free to pursue and achieve our dreams. We’re free to create a legacy for ourselves and our families. We’re blessed with the joys which come from achieving things we formerly thought impossible.
The best foundation to build full personal agency is through first mastering our health. By optimizing our health, we are in the best position to mitigate what fate throws at us.
The level of our own health sets the stage for every future thought, conversation, relationship, skill, and achievement. We’re figuratively putting the oxygen mask on our face and breathing in deeply before we attempt to save anyone else.
When we take full personal agency in our lives, we can’t help but create the type of lives other people view as “lucky.” “Luck” is just an explanation for day in and day out preparation. Luck is the word the entrepreneur uses when he/she knows most people aren’t interested in listening to the 12-hour back-story describing their success. The person that takes full personal agency of themselves, and masters their health, can’t help but find their mission.
The Function of You
The most valuable mindset which accompanies personal agency is recognizing that we are each a function.
In math, a function is a relation between a set of inputs and a set of permissible outputs. When we view what we’re trying to achieve as simply as a function, the process of getting there becomes demystified. Everything we allow into our lives, our bodies, and our relationships is an input. It is all directly responsible for the resulting outputs we experience in our lives. If we want to change our outputs, or what we create, we only have to properly value and filter the inputs.
The first part of creating a great function is deciphering and planning for the exact output we want. This output can change many times, but it’s important to have a direction and aim. We can work towards something temporarily and decide it’s not for us, or keep pushing forward to find out if it is. The point is we need an output which we are trying to create. That output could be a new skill, healed relationship, mastery of our health, six-pack abs, starting a business — whatever we want. The idea is to select outputs large enough that we become motivated to find the inputs needed to create them. The function mindset asks us to think global and act local.
Having an output we want to create helps us get in motion. Once we are in motion, it becomes increasingly easy to identify and pick out the inputs we need and adjust them accordingly.
Right now, the outputs we’ve created in our life are from what we’ve consumed. We are a function which has created what we’ve taken in. We are the food we eat. We are the people we hang out with. We are what we read. We become what we think about. Everything we’ve been able to produce, or have failed to produce, is a result of our inputs. If we don’t take proper care to monitor and adjust our inputs accordingly, we will fail. So how do we know what inputs we should be taking in?
In order to get the output we want, we simply need to find people who have created that circumstance. Analyze them and find out how they created what it is we value. Be sure to check and make sure they aren’t suffering from a bunch of maladies or side effects from creating what we want. Then, if we do not find any negative side effects, we study the type of inputs they used to get there. They’ve likely read hundreds of books. Can we find out which ones, and then read them ourselves? They probably exercise; what kinds of workouts do they do? If they look healthy, what is their diet like? Who do they spend time with? Who did they start their business with?
When we know the outcomes we want to create, there are only two broad categories of inputs we interact with. Those two types of inputs are ones which help us, and ones which don’t help us create the outputs we want. If any inputs fall into a seemingly grey area, be wary of them.
The foundation of everything we do starts with preventative health. Our society places an absurdly small value on the preventative medicines of diet, exercise, and sleep, yet these are the actions which produce the greatest benefits. By focusing on health first, we boost every interaction we have with others. When every interaction with others becomes better, we can’t help but continually move our lives forward. When we shield ourselves from dangerous inputs and continually make small experiments to improve our health, our entire lives can be transformed. We regain control of our brains and we boost our willpower. This practice pays dividends for the rest of our lives.
For instance, consider something small such as eliminating soda from your diet and drinking more water. This begins to bring our body’s pH levels to a normalized state. It stops destroying our body’s resistance to insulin. The lack of sugar (assuming we cut it other places as well) allows the inflammation it’s caused in our brains to heal. We then begin to reduce our risk for diabetes, Alzheimer’s, depression, and a whole host of other maladies. We start to win back control of our brains, which then influences everything else. You might be thinking this sounds a bit extreme, but it’s not. This simple act of cutting sugar from our diet can mean the difference between 60 more years of life with a healthy brain, or a slow decline into dementia. We are a function of what we consume.
When we break down our health into a function mentality where we put in inputs and produce outputs, it becomes easy to know where we’re heading. There aren’t any secrets about what we’re going to achieve.
There are two types of inputs: raw materials (food) and sensory inputs (media, books, music, etc). These inputs help us either produce or fail to produce our outputs (grit, imagination, skills, health, wealth). By becoming obsessed with the raw materials we consume, we give ourselves energy for the necessary actions and willpower needed to produce outputs we want. Now, we need only to figure out the outputs we want to create, then find and consume the right inputs.
“The man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.” –Vince Lombardi
Inputs, Outputs, and Emulation
The function mentality is simple, yet challenging to implement daily. The first step we can take towards successfully executing on the function mindset is to become certain about the outputs we want to create.
“A man’s worth is no greater than the worth of his ambitions.” –Marcus Aurelius
We can start by listing the outcomes we want for ourselves. These could be health, satisfaction (more than money), developing the ability to do the type of work we love, being promoted, owning our own business, becoming a multi-millionaire, building an amazing family, or a combination of the above. The point is to get very specific about what we are creating. When we’re hyper specific about what we want to create, it becomes easy to find others who have created those things. When we find those creators, we can then discover and study their inputs and actions. After we identify these, it’s only a matter of consistently executing on those inputs and actions. Our minds need specificity. Our faith in where we’re headed needs to be kindled by proof that it’s possible. So let’s get started by listing the outcomes (outputs) of a function we want to create:
Now, who has created these outputs in their personal lives?
What are some of the inputs, mindsets, and actions they cite or have pursued (sometimes behind the scenes) in order to create what they have?
If this process sounds simple, it’s because it is. The thing about simple processes is that most people won’t follow through with them. Aspiring to greatness requires courage, faith, and exposing ourselves to failure. The people who start this process but don’t finish are those who worry too much about failure instead of worrying about what it would be like if they never tried.
The lesser portions of our ego can trick us into thinking that finding someone to emulate means we’re not good enough. This type of thinking is poisonous. Don’t let it stop you from finding outcomes and emulating successful people.
The type of people who view intelligence and capacities as fixed are toxic. In the book, Mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck discovered a simple difference between those who achieve what they want, and those who do not. The difference between the two types of people was that one group saw their abilities as fixed. They bought into the concept that our brains and capacities remain the same, and we can’t change them. These types of people (surprise!) never changed in life. The type of people Dr. Dweck found who were high achievers had a mindset of growth. They saw their abilities, brains, and bodies as malleable functions they could control. They naturally achieved what they wanted.
Those with fixed mindsets never try and never learn. Those with growth-oriented mindsets sometimes have hubris and unwarranted confidence, and sometimes they under- or over-shoot, but because they get started, they’re guaranteed to learn. Those with a growth mindset are bodies in motion, and once bodies are in motion, it’s much easier to change direction and adjust course.
Caveats on Finding Those to Emulate
I understand the objections some people have with these ideas. They don’t want to be exactly like the person they’re emulating; they have their own talents and ideas. But finding a person to emulate isn’t about becoming exactly like them. It’s not being slavish or a copycat. Finding a person to emulate for the outcomes they’ve produced is the best way we can discover ourselves. It tests us strictly and guides us on a path which has worked before. It’s through getting started that we’ll discover what feels authentic to us, and what does not. It’s when we mix emulation with thoughtfulness that we find originality.
Once we find a person or group of people who have produced what we want, we can then determine if they’ve been able to maintain the other parts of life we value. So maybe they have made a million dollars, but at the expense of their relationships. Their grown kids won’t talk to them and their girlfriends have orders of protection against them. Is that what we want?
Hopefully the answer is no, so we go on to the next person. Maybe we can find someone who has had more modest business success, but maintained their relationships and health, or someone who is building their wealth at a sustainable pace. We can continually sift through those we want to emulate until we’re left with people who have produced what we want and haven’t sold their souls in the process. Once we find these people, we can further sift through this group to identify people who came from similar backgrounds as us. For instance, if our parents got divorced when we were in our teens and we can find somebody to emulate whose parents also got divorced in their teens, that person’s experiences and inputs will likely be much more contextually relevant to us.
So the process of finding the type of outputs we want to create starts like this:
- Start exploring different outputs we may want.
- Make sure we have a solid “why” for each output we want to create. If our “why” is big enough, we’ll be much more inclined to figure out the “how.”
- Find several people who have produced outputs similar to what we want; these are potentially people we want to emulate.
- Use due diligence to try and figure out how they’ve been able to achieve what they have. Have they sacrificed certain areas of life along the way? Have they maintained balance? This due diligence exists to make sure we’re emulating those who have produced the outputs we want in a healthy way.
- Filter out those who have produced the outputs we want and have remained great people while doing so.
- Filter out those people again to find those with backgrounds most like our own. The more similar their backgrounds are to our own, the higher the probability that the inputs which mattered to them will be contextually relevant to us.
The list we’re left with is where we can start searching for the exact inputs and actions they’ve used to get the outcomes we want to achieve.
We don’t have to contact these people directly, but the people we’re left with are our ideal “digital mentors.” If these people have a presence online, it will be much easier to decipher their inputs and actions. Study their backgrounds. The more closely your background and character traits match up with those you’re emulating, the easier it will be to relate.
The more similarities we can find between their early life and our own, the better. Maybe they were an only child, or they lived in a house packed with brothers and sisters. Maybe they went to college and found it vital, or maybe they dropped out of school. Once we learn these facts, study them even further to find their interests, habits, addictions, or weaknesses. When we get that specific, we will have found someone worth emulating, and the perfect digital mentor.
It’s in this pursuit that we have a high chance of stumbling over opportunities in our own lives which are unique to our circumstances.
No matter what stage of life we’re in, there are people who have the health, wealth, and wisdom we want. This is the first time in history where many of these people are sharing their experiences and knowledge online. Many people want in-person mentors, and in-person mentors can definitely be helpful. But if we can expand our minds from demanding in-person mentors to learning to emulate the best via digital mentors, we expand our horizons. We are now able to receive virtual/digital mentorship from the best outcome producers in the world.
Now that we have an idea about the outcomes we want to create, we can dive into more of the inputs needed to get there.
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Author: Chad Grills