Systems rarely “get better” by accident. Instead, progress is usually a product of intentional efforts aimed at positive change.
In this post, I share 4 brief examples of actions to take and ideas to consider in order to deliberately improve.
(1) Cultivate Inputs
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but it’s worth repeating.
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” — Jim Rohn
Jim is correct, but he should take the idea even further.
Like it or not, we are massively influenced by our surroundings: who we follow on social media, who we text, who we are in the same group chats as, and who we read and listen to.
Each person, post, show, email, or tweet shapes how we see the world and affects our mood throughout the day.
If you watch hours of cable news, you’ll be anxious and outraged.
If you watch hours of motivational content, you’ll be excited to tackle the world.
When we don’t control our inputs, we cede autonomy of our mindset, and this realization has led me to set a higher bar for what I let in.
I used to think I was stronger than my environment. I was wrong.
Instead, I’ve learned to forfeit the expectation of an ‘iron-will’ in favor of environment design and carefully curated inputs.
In the classic myth, Odysseus knows he can’t overcome the influence of the sirens, so HE JUST DOESN’T LET THEM IN.
Jim’s statement shouldn’t scare you. It should empower you. It’s a framework for consciously improving your circumstances by changing… your circumstances.
For whatever you want to do or become, change your environment to more closely match the desired end goal.
I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, so I started a podcast to surround myself with entrepreneurs at least once a week — twice if you count editing ;)
If you want to lose weight, get skinny friends, and you’ll adopt their habits.
If you want to get in shape, do group fitness (like cross-fit).
I promise there is a self-organizing community focused on getting the results you desire, so join them!
Surround yourself with the right influences.
(2) Unpleasant Truths
I first found this graphic in The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco (great book despite the spammy title)
I deeply appreciate the symbolism in the above cartoon.
By being “brave” enough to frequently seek out unpleasant truths and genuine constructive criticism, you enjoy a few benefits.
First, unpleasant truths are the best way to improve the pace and impact of your iterative cycles.
What does that mean?
Take this simple example: who’s going to be the better podcaster at the end of 1 year? Someone who invests their time making 100 episodes or someone who invests the entire year making 1 “perfect” episode?
The 100-episode creator will have successes to replicate and mistakes to avoid. The perfectionist won’t learn a damn thing. They missed all the gains to be made from criticism and iteration.
The other symbolism from the original cartoon comes from the line of people at the left-most booth.
We all fantasize about skipping the line in life. If you choose the right line, you can.
Just as the cartoon shows, practically NOBODY is willing to seek out and follow harsh truths. Meanwhile, the masses are willingly burning time in an endless queue just to receive short-term highs from a salesman peddling complacency.
If you are in search of progress, visit the stand often.
Shoutout to William Brown for inspiring this point!
(3) Deterministic Happiness
Naval Ravikant & Hal Elrod are the first people to expose me to the idea of deterministic happiness. What can we do to intentionally become a happier person?
What habits, beliefs, and practices can we adopt?
One especially compelling recommendation that Naval makes is to “tell people you are happy so you have to live up to it.”
We are remarkably consistent with our own constructed identities.
We rise to the expectations we set for ourselves.
We’d hate to be thought of as hypocrites.
Most beliefs are self-fulfilling.
Tell people you are happy.
Live up to it!
(4) Cheap Abundance
This last idea is a fun “hack” I practice as often as I can.
In most cases, the greatest improvements to quality of life (QOL) come from removing negatives rather than adding positives.
After a predictable (and tragically short) period of time, new stuff loses its luster. Gizmos like cars and phones are progressively less exciting from the moment of purchase onward.
Instead, solving genuine problems (no matter how small) leads to more lasting joy.
I’ve been acting on this phenomenon through a framework I call cheap abundance.
Stealing each-other’s phone chargers caused ~50% of the friction in my family while I was in high school. We got along fabulously — except when it came to claiming ownership of $10 cables.
This is a silly problem to have.
For $100 you could buy so many (albeit off-brand) phone chargers that you could drop one in the toilet, feed a few to the cat, and use a handful to keep a loaf of bread airtight while still having enough left over to quench everyone’s digital thirst.
Chapstick is the same way. Like most men my age, my greatest fears are
- Catastrophic global nuclear war
- Being without chapstick when I need or want one
For $20 I could buy enough chapsticks at Target, Costco, or Sams to completely wipe out one of my worst fears… What a bargain!
The last example is computer chargers. I hate having to go under my desk and reroute wires every time I want to write at a coffee shop, so I have two laptop chargers and keep one in my backpack at all times.
As an added bonus, when stuff eventually goes wrong or something is lost, you are covered.
Two is one and one is none 🤠
Andy is here to solve your problems.
What small points of friction can you wipe out with a 20?
These little annoyances are worth paying to fix.
Where could cheap abundance help you?
Bringing It All Together
In episode 20 of The Louis & Kyle Show, we interviewed angel investor Howard Lindzon about how he spots trends. His answer (from June) stands out in my thoughts six-months later.
“Don’t try to spot trends. Just follow me on twitter. I’ll spot them for you.”
Take responsibility for your own progress, but don’t put the burden on yourself to come up with all of the ideas.
Someone else has done the thinking. Cultivate good inputs for this purpose.
- Friends and mentors that give constructive criticism
- Great books, online courses, or podcasts
- Motivational accounts on social media
- Supportive Communities (book clubs, cross-fit, religious groups)
- Blogs like mine 😉
Don’t hope for improvement opportunities to find you.
Build systems to seek them out.