You wouldn’t use a Panasonic user manual to operate a Sony remote?
So why do you always look to copy other peoples’ lives as a remedy for success?
I call this living on someone else’s user manual. Everyone one of has an obscure user manual. Some of us are blessed to clearly understand what works for us, and what doesn’t. Others are less fortunate, and are more lost in terms of how to operate their lives.
A byproduct of this is worshipping successful people, and fetishizing the way they live their lives as an antidote to the absence of this user operating manual. But the right path is not to look outward - but inward. Try to listen and see if you can uncover your true user manual.
In this blog post, we will cover three fundamental questions:
- What does it mean to operate on your user manual?
- Why shouldn’t we follow what works with others?
- How to uncover and learn your own user manual
What does it mean to operate on your user manual?
Operating on your user manual is simple: it means living life according to what resonates with you, rather than what works for you. It’s when you flow through the minutes and hours of the day, moving from one habit to the other without friction. It’s when you transition from task to task; get all the important things done on time or as needed; and feel productive healthily.
What a great feeling huh?
I’m sure all of us have had a day like this. A day we wish to capture forever - where as we laid our head on the pillow, we knew that something great just happened to us.
Not all days are like this. Most days look more like the opposite. If the day described earlier was a magnificent symphony with all instruments playing their cues perfectly and effortlessly, most days feel more like a kindergarten school banging out music time on all the toy instruments.
When we feel this discomfort in living our daily lives, we look to those around us for solutions. Humans are social creatures, and we mirror the habits of those around us. In terms of influence, we are most influenced by two criteria. First, we are highly influenced by those close around us. Our friends, family and co-workers. Second, we are influenced by those we respect. People in positions of power, success and wealth.
When it comes to unconscious habits, we often pick those up from those closest around us. It’s innate and often disguised in everyday life. Seeing your partner cook eggs in a certain way; and you do the same. Finding yourself mimicking your friends inflection and voice patterns. These all represent different aspects of daily life where we are influenced by our environment.
However, with deliberate habits to drive success, we look to the wealthy and successful. Unfortunately, we fall victim to a classic problem: Correlation does not equal causation
While we do this in good intentions - this can lead to disastrous issues. I call this the treadmill to nowhere.
So why is this the treadmill to nowhere?
When we look to others around us, we focus too much on the first order inputs. They read biographies of famous individuals, and try to extract little nuggets of information from their daily lives as inputs to their success. Some examples of this include habits like getting up early, reading a lot, spending 15 to 30mins meditation each day, and making exercise a priority.
However, it’s not the habits themselves that are leading to success. Instead, it’s the second order impact of these habits that is driving success.
Getting up early -> Gives more extra-curricular time to
Reading a lot -> Getting more obscure knowledge to generate ideas
Spending 15 to 30mins each day meditating -> Living in a stress-free environment
Making exercise a priority -> Living a healthy, injury free lifestyle
The habit itself is not the key here, it’s the actual feeling that results through the habit. If you can accomplish the feelings above, then there may not be inherent value in completing the action. For some people, reading is not useful. Maybe as an artist, you prefer to spend this time reading, looking at different artwork. This would lead to the same consequence, which is gaining additional information that leads to helpful ideas.
Why is this the case?
Human beings are unique. There are many differences between people, and many of these differences lead to big differences in how we perceive different situations and habits. When we look at successful people, we should remember this - and understand how this can lead to a deceptive perception on the value of certain habits.
If you are looking at a specific domain and a specific geographical region, you might find that the successful people are all of a similar profile. If you don’t fit that profile, you won’t value the habits as much. The actions they took are also derivative of their environments. If you are trying to succeed in a unique environment, perhaps these actions are not of value. Finally, the domain expertise and success required is different across different industries. The success traits that lead to a mogul differs completely from an artist.
What should you do instead:
First, you need to make a choice.
If you have to rebuild, make sure it makes sense in the following way. You need to see how much effort it will take. You need to see if you need to sacrifice something in your life. You need to see if these habits will open new avenues and include serendipity that you didn’t have before.
Let’s take an example: Meditating every day vs. Taking clean showers:
This is a simplistic table, but you can take this and add questions that reflect your need. As you can see here, this can help in ensuring you are choosing the right table.
There is a benefit to changing your life, but do so according to your user manual. To find your user manual, you need to look inwards to understand what your body and mind is telling you. Once you do that, try to only take the different parts of success that will deliver actual value to you.