THE STORIES WE TELL OURSELVES. ABOUT OURSELVES.
I would like to, but I can’t. I can’t for one reason or another. Maybe because I am too old (but just a while ago I felt I was too young, so I couldn’t); I can’t because I am not smart enough, not organized enough, not sexy, not tall, not eloquent, don’t have enough talent or luck. Especially luck, I love luck!
Some people have it, and you see them all the time. They are a bit god-like, a little otherworldly in their perfect being. They make everything look good, beautiful, graceful, and effortless. It’s just god-given for them.
And we want to believe that. We really do.
BELIEFS TRUMP KNOWLEDGE
It got me thinking about Dynamo. Have you heard of that guy? Dynamo, the Magician. I love this guy.
I think we could all learn a great deal from him.
He is this skinny little guy, but when you see him perform, you start believing in magic. Like, actual magic. What you see doesn’t make sense, has no explanation, although you rationally KNOW there has to be some, so you start believing in magic.
And as a skeptic, as I am most of the time, I let myself believe in that, too.
But here’s another funny thing: KNOWING one thing and BELIEVING in something is like the gap in the Great Canyon.
In life, we don’t act upon what we KNOW, but what we BELIEVE IN.
That said, many of us believe all we lack is some know-how, some insight, and then we can do what we want to do.
BEYOND THE PEP TALK
That may be the reason why self-help books are so popular. You love the energy coming from the pages, you love a bit of a pep-talk, you feel good reading that things are possible for you and me, but the feeling never really lasts long. Soon, you wake up from that beautiful dream, look around and decide that maybe all those tips would work for some, but it won’t work for you.
A good thing to remember is that there are many ways to get where you’re headed and bridge that gap.
You can jump headfirst and hope you’ll learn to fly. Some do it and succeed at it.
You can also construct your bridge, use someone else’s (ideal), or abseil first and then climb to the top on the other side.
Whatever the way you chose to get there, you still have to move forward, be it in hops, skips, or just inching forward.
Here are some of my favorite ways to bridge that gap.
SO HOW DO WE REALLY BRIDGE THAT GAP?
I’m afraid a lot of what I’m going to write today may sound very cliche. That’s ok. I’ll do it anyway.
GROWTH MINDSET and a couple of tools to get you started.
First, you have to believe that it is even possible to change. In order to do that, you need to adopt a growth mindset, as opposed to the fixed mindset.
One caveat -as mentioned earlier, merely knowing what to do or even how to do it is not enough to put something into practice.
It’s like the Muller-Lyer illusion. – even when you KNOW the lines are the same, your brain STILL sees one as longer than the other.
Other illusions – you don’t see it until you see it, then you cannot UNSEE IT!
We have to push our minds to accept that there is another possibility, another way of interpreting or approaching things. And that is quite a challenge.
How to do that? One of the first things would be to develop BIAS TOWARDS ACTION. Learn to think of what is it that you can do next, and start doing it, not just think about doing it.
Another piece of a puzzle we need to add to the mix, that helps us do things is the IMPLEMENTATION INTENTION – what and when are you planning to do to implement that insight?
CREATE A SECRET IDENTITY– Your Alter Ego
I admit I cringe a little too when I hear ‚fake it till you make it”.
That said, it works, and it’s not for creeps only.
It has some bad rep, sure, but if you’re looking for a way to surpass your own limitations temporarily, I would highly recommend learning this tactic.
So far, the most eloquently put version of this practice is The Alter Ego Effect by Todd Herman. You simply create an alter ego – or a persona – that you want to show up in a particular area of your life.
It worked for Beyonce. It worked for many top athletes. It may just as well work for you.
For me, creating my alter ego was like temporarily lifting a hand brake; It’s about permitting yourself to become someone else, or rather, giving voice to a different side of you.
Because there are many of us inside us, The Alter Ego Effect teaches you how to make the most of that superpower.
It’s also about stretching your Comfort Zone. It will feel weird, unnatural, odd, but only until it doesn’t.
You can either try working with your Alter Ego to go faster or some other practice to go slowly, learning along the way and stretching your comfort zone gradually. You can also mix and match different approaches, depending on your current needs.
That takes me to another important aspect of bridging the gap, which is our EGO.
EGO on pause. Temporarily suspending judgment.
Our ego often works like brakes in a car – it’s a useful mental construct if used correctly, but try driving with a handbrake lifted.
If at all possible, it would at least slow you down, if not stop you entirely.
And yet, we’re so attached to it; we might mistakenly take it for who we really are.
Ego gets in the way of upgrading yourself either by shame, vulnerability, or fear. If you’d like to read more about that, I suggest checking Brene Brown’s excellent books on the subject (and many more).
This step is crucial for growth. Because even if you find a mentor, you need to prime yourself to learn from them.
Just like you need to soften the soil for tiny seeds to grow, you need to soften your mind towards constructive critique.
Don’t make it personal. It’s not about you; it’s about the process.
That said, you need to look for someone who can provide you with constructive critique.
To get sweet dopamine hits, post cute puppy shots on social media and count your likes.
To grow, however, find a safe haven, someone to dissect your work, and work on what’s lacking. Play with the bigger guys and fast-track your growth. This will supercharge the process.
RAISE YOUR SELF-EFFICACY
Now, raise what, Anna?
Self-efficacy is our belief in our abilities and competencies.
Albert Bandura (1977), a pioneer humanist and father of the concept of self-efficacy, defined it as “people’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise their influence over events that affect their lives” (Bandura, 1994).
That reminds me of how I used to trick my son into walking from his nursery to our home (all the 5 minutes of walking): he would always say it’s too far, too hot, and he was too tired. So I said we only had to race to the first tree. When we got there, we had to run to the nearest lamp post, and so on. A couple of personal sprints later, we were home.
Simply put, it is about believing that you can do what you want to do. The problem is, you often don’t, hence the whole ‚bridging the gap’ thing.
To raise your self-efficacy, you need to prove to yourself that you are capable of doing something.
To do that, I suggest starting small, like, really, really small, borderline tiny.
Can you climb a massive mountain in one go? Most likely not. But can you take the first step and move forward a little? Most likely, yes. That’s what it takes. Every time you do that, it’s like casting a vote for this new, emerging, capable creature.
With every little win, you will gain more trust in your abilities.
Find a mentor
That means finding someone who is a little further in the process than you are. It can be a real person, but it can be a podcast, a book, a tweet.
Not everyone who is great at something is a great mentor. It’s rarely about their craft, but their thinking patterns, their approach. That’s pure gold. You can figure out the rest yourself or with the help of others.
Become a mentor.
Someone once said: Teach someone something you’ve learned as soon as you learn it before you forget how it felt not to know it (thanks, Ryder Carroll, for mentioning it somewhere).
Teaching something is one of the best ways to distill your knowledge and find any gaps in it.
Teach many, and teach often. It’s a fast way to checking what and how well you really know where your gaps are.
I once went to a photography workshop with photography rock stars. Frankly, many of the participants were at the same, if not higher, expertise than our teachers.
And while most were in awe of our teachers, it hit me that the biggest winners were our mentors.
Not only were we paying them top dollars for their expertise, but we also asked them incredibly valuable questions and shared our knowledge. From all corners of the world, from some of the best people in the industry!
Learn about the process.
If you want to grow, talk to people who’ve made it and ask about their process.
Most of the time, we only get to see the end product- it’s often the polished version of someone (or their alter ego).
What you see is the latest version in the long process of becoming, you compare it to where you are, and all you see is the discrepancy in the image. When you see something finished and polished, you don’t get to see the scraps, the sketches, the struggle, the Resistance, the uncertainty.
But even those who made it to the top are human, just like you and me. You need to dismantle that image and start with little things.
We undermine the process, and the process is a critical component of just about any creation.
BECOME A SHADOW
Try shadowing someone- what do they read? What do they eat? How do they spend their time? Who do they hang out with?
When you see something you admire, ask yourself many questions: what am I seeing?
This means switching from the magic watching audience to taking a step back to analyze different aspects of someone’s performance and then asking yourself more questions: what would it take to do something this way? What could I possibly do to get closer to that?
Is that lifestyle attractive for you? Or do you just want the results? Sadly, we still have to do the work.
Learn about the Resistance
You can read more about this powerful force here.
Want to win a lottery? You need to buy a ticket!
Have you ever thought that you never win anything? I know I have.
I saw some people from my industry win awards, awed at their work, and thought that, sadly, I was not one of them.
But at one of the workshops I attended, I got to know some of those people and realized that, in fact, we were not significantly different.
They didn’t possess any magical powers, but what they DID DO, was giving themselves a chance to win.
See, in my twisted mind, my work wasn’t even good enough to win anything. I wasn’t good enough. A couple of awards later, I KNOW that wasn’t the case.
Yes, my work needed tweaking and cropping and burning and dodging, but that’s what it takes to make it! That’s what everyone else was doing! Oh, and one last, pretty important thing, I actually had to enter a competition (and funny enough, I won my first award on the first go, so it encouraged me to do it again).
My friends kept winning because they would ‚buy the ticket’, enter competitions, raise their hands.
In private groups, I could also see that they would often enter the same image repeatedly. Sometimes for years! And then, one day, stars would align, and it would win something. Right time, right place, right judge.
Somehow, in my mind, the conception of all things worthy was an entirely different concept. In my mind, the clouds would part, the sky would open, and a perfectly shaped creation would appear.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
- Insight is not a cure. Just knowing is not enough. We still have to do the work.
- We act on what we believe in, not what we know.
- To grow, believe that you can, and adopt a growth mindset.
- Find a mentor and mentor others.
- Learn about the process of creating something instead of buying into the illusion that things just happen effortlessly.
- fun fact – in the USA, people spend 70billion on lottery tickets – more than on books, movies, sports teams, theatre combined, etc.