- There’s an overlooked inner work that empowers that the most extraordinary people and performers that ever lived.
- The inner work is to direct and control your impulses and desires so they let go of lesser desires and distractions and yearn for what’s most empowering.
- We need to learn to immerse ourselves in the present moment as it is, not as our cravings want it to be, so we can heighten our awareness and see the amazing that always awaits.
- To grow in self-awareness is to realize the interconnection of joy and suffering and how both are crucial if you want to live an extraordinary life.
- Death is part of fullness of life; part of you has to die so all of you can fully live.
“If you don’t go out there and put in the work, you don’t go out and put in the effort, one, you’re not going to get the results, but two, and more importantly, you don’t deserve it,” Woods said. “You need to earn it.” – Tiger Woods
So then … what is the work?
Of course there’s the physical work, getting up early, the conditioning and long practices and all that. That’s a given. Like Tiger says, if you’re not working harder than everyone else, why would you deserve it more than the other guy?
But then there’s the work under the work. It’s the hidden work that few understand–the inner work that enables the work.
Perhaps the greatest skill Tiger Woods had is that he believed from a very young age that he could be the best in the world. His belief, possibly instilled by his dad, was that if he put in the work, he could get there. He learned to believe that every tough shot, every adversity, and every battle he faced was going to come again sometime, in a much bigger situation, and because he learned after the first (ten??) times, he was going to be ready for the big time.
What he did best, however, what all the greats do best, is train their ability to direct and adapt their desires. This is the real work, the work that enables you to get on the ground, get mud on your face, and when you’re down there, maybe kicked in the ribs once or twice:
Train your senses, impulses and desires to gravitate towards and desire most that which is most empowering.
Done day after day, you’ll gain a rightly ordered interior life, one that loves most what’s most powerful and enlivening. This is the foundation for the extraordinary life, the one with the most amazing experiences.
In training your senses, we learn to sense more and think less, to use our subconscious more and conscious mind less. In other words, we learn to get out of our own way. One of the most common obstacles to peak performance is over-thinking; that is, using the conscious mind too much and not the much more powerful subconscious mind enough.
In order to see adversity as a leverage point and a way to get better (like Tiger did), we need to reduce our need for instant gratification and the belief that our desires must be met. We must be able to do the hard things during the 95% of the time when the spotlight’s off and no one’s watching.
We must be able to let go of our impulses and the fears that come with them and focus on the opportunities that unfold each moment. We need to learn how to pay attention to what matters most.
“Everyone talks about attributes everyone knows… speed, power, endurance… no one talks about the most important thing—attention span. How long you can stay attentive?” – Conor McGregor, MMA world champion
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to being attentive and observant to possibilities is training your will (your heart/spirit)… training it to not be attached to your thoughts and not “have to” have what the mind and body craves… to let go of that part of your past that you’ve clung to that’s not part of the person you’re meant to become.
Here’s two helpful ways to train the senses:
- Sense more, think less. Your subconscious mind is much more powerful than your thinking mind, and so to enable its full power, we need to stop thinking so much. We can do that by focusing on our breaths going in and out, on the sounds we hear, the things we smell, the sights we see and the sensations we feel. You can practice using your peripheral vision when you walk, expanding your awareness, listening to the quietest sound or the loudest, or both at the same time.
- Practice reducing your need to give in to what your senses want. Your body’s constant desire for comfort or more sensations or less embarrassment does not need to be met. You can do this through things like cold showers or cold plunges, or spending set times without your phone, or reading a pre-set mantra before you go on social media.
As you train yourself to sense more and “have to” respond to them less… you’re also training yourself to be able to shut off the need to respond to every inclination, to react to every impulse. It’s to stop feeding that part of you that’s needy, that part of you that “needs” to have its desires met. What it needs is to die. It has to die so you can truly live.
The daily goal is to have no needs. Anything you can’t control is not something you need. That’s why the samurai mantra is such a powerful tool: I expect nothing; I can handle anything. There’s nothing that can happen next that I can’t handle. Everything is here to teach me and help me. It’s all working for my good.
This is part of what it means to get your heart right. To reduce all the craving and clinging, the needs and wants that must be fulfilled. As you continue this journey, more and more your inner voice will say, “Nah, that desire I have that’s not helpful, I don’t need to give in to that..” You’ll be less attached to your thoughts. You’ll think, “No, that negative thought is not true, actually the opposite is true, I’m learning and growing every day, getting better in every way…”
The human heart is easily deceived, especially when the will constantly reacts to impulses day after day. But as you slowly let that part of you go, it enables the spirit within you to grow, the part of you that can face any fear and handle any challenge. This sort of impulse control is training yourself to direct and orient your desires in a powerful way.
Then the battles you engage in will be ones worth fighting for, not the lesser battles you used to fight, the ones where your desires and cravings and impulses ruled your will.
Once you realize that the best possible life has one foot in joy and one foot in suffering, and you begin to train your senses in the two ways I shared with you, your life will expand beyond levels you ever dreamed of.
Let me know how it’s going for you.
Thanks for your patience with this letter! I wasn’t feeling good yesterday and thus missed my friday midnight deadline (I think) for the first time since we started in 2020.
Tomorrow I get the honor of speaking at Sattler College in Boston, MA. What a gift to spend time with students pursuing their dreams and learning to love most what’s most empowering.