Here’s a rad idea. You think of who you want to become. You distill it into one word. You put said word on an amulet. You proceed to wear said amulet for a year. Then pause. Sip Coffee. (Black, no sugar). Reflect. Did it work?
In 2016, I did exactly that. If you’re someone who a) wants to wear a necklace, and b) wants to become the strongest version of themselves, then boy, do we have another post for you!
One Hell of a Christmas Present.
First, some background.
2015. Amid the fascinating *cough* happenings of pop culture, an intriguing conversation develops with a friend. She tells me about MyIntent – a company that carefully crafts your intent on a necklace, then sends your intent straight to your door.
My mind was blown.
Bling and self-development? Let’s do it!
To fill the ever-growing bling-shaped void in my life, I did what any other rational man would do… I wrote a letter to Santa, and burned it in the fireplace.
On 25th of December, it arrived. My intent, via the medium of bling. And Santa nails it again. (Rudolf mail ≥ Owl mail ≥ Amazon Prime.)
My intent for 2016 was courage, what Elliott Hulse describes as “the iron quality in becoming the strongest version of ourselves.”
Courage was my Intent, because I felt it was the virtue I lacked the most. Sure, I could study hard. Sure, I could.. I dunno, do triathlons, speak spanish and stuff. But if I want to become the strongest version of myself, and if I am gonna take my dreams and turn them into a reality? I’mma gonna need more courage.
Stephen Covey said:
“Humility is the mother of all virtues, courage the father, integrity the child and wisdom the grandchild.”
Courage is the father to all virtues. So, so true. After all, how can you stay true to your principles and live a life of your own design without courage?
Further, I was reading all these biographies, and I’m finding that what I admire most in my heroes is courage. If I’m going to become more like them, I’m gonna need more courage.
Calling out the most powerful man in the country (Jay Gould) for corruption as a junior legislator, taking a decision to ready the Pacific fleet for war when his boss was out of office, leading the heroic charge up San Juan Hill against the Spanish, going out West to herd cattle and apprehend villians. Oh, and ya know, being the youngest president of the States in history.
From his own mouth:
“If I am to be any use in politics it is because I am supposed to be a man who does not preach what he fears to practice… For the last year I have preached war with Spain. I should feel distinctly ashamed… if I now failed to practice what I have preached.”
Maximus in Gladiator. When Commodus, after killing his own father, offers his hand, Maximus refuses, knowing full well that Commodus had killed the Emperor. Or the “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius. Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius, father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife, and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”
And Lord of the Rings… What a cinematic bastion of virtue. The night before the battle of Minas Tirith, Theoden’s general says, when Aragorn leaves the camp,
“He leaves because there is no hope.”
“He leaves because he must.” replies the King.
“Too few have come. We cannot defeat the armies of Mordor.”
“No. We cannot. But we will meet them in battle nonetheless.”
Which leads to my favourite scene, out of any movie, that I have ever watched. Sends shivers down my spine every single time.
I could go on FOREVER about Lord of the Rings, but alas, I must stop for fear of taking up too much bandwidth on our precious internet.
Returning… Courage it was, and courage I wore. I wanted to get me some courage via a necklace. “This is what I want to cultivate, this is what I want to stand for in the world, so I’m gonna wear this round my neck.” thought Iain 2k15.
For the first month, it felt so.. mystical. I’d hold it up against my face in the mirror, I tried to make rituals out of it… Anything so long as it blessed me with courage. The very act of wearing this necklace was going to make me instantly more courageous, or so I thought.
The high wore off. In February, I returned to pre-necklace normality. Bummer. As I looked at myself in the mirror, I couldn’t help but think it wasn’t working. I didn’t feel more courageous at all.
Yet that year, weird things started to happen. I took a leap of faith to invest my money in the 67 steps. (But what if it’s a scam!!!) I reached out to an inspiring guy I met to go for walks in the morning.
The beautiful girl I’d been sitting next to in class… I asked her out on a date. And, I went to a celeidh on Friday night. (Geez, take it easy Iain!) After the celeidh, I asked another girl out. Holy shit?! This was not the Iain of old.
I’m firing my hand up in lectures. I’m contributing. I’m feeling it. I’m wearing ridiculous workout clothes to lectures… Just because I can. I start enjoying wearing workout clothes to lectures. Then I realise I could probably live my whole life in workout clothes, so maybe that’s a slippery slope. (Easiest 30 day challenge of my life, that would be.)
I sign up to go to TedX St. Andrews. I volunteer at TedX Dundee. And not just giving out passes on the door. Hell no! I suggest that I go out and interview people on the street. Hell yeah. I spend 90% of my hard earned dollas to go meet Tai Lopez at his entrepreuner conference in London. When I don’t even have a business idea. And after failing to write a book, and walking most of the Scottish National Trail, I sign up on a crazy sailing adventure for the explicit purpose of getting scared. To experience what Roosevelt did in his years as a cowboy in the Wild West. I go through scary oceans. I come out the other side. Then, I start enforcing boundaries. Hey, if we’re gonna be living together, we need to make a compromise… And, after one of the crew exploded at my friend, and wouldn’t let him stay another night, I left the adventure of a lifetime on principle. Into the great unknown of Mexico, where I have no idea what awaits.
Fast forward to present day, and I’m telling my Buddhist monk flatmate to smile if he wants my help, and telling my three adult language companions that we need to turn up on time to the language class. In Scotland, turning up late means you show no respect for the other person.
Who are you, and what have you done to Iain Harrison?!
So looking back, and I’m thinking…. When and how did all this happen?! I thought the necklace didn’t work?!
Pause. Sip Coffee. Black, no sugar. Reflect. Did it work?
The amulet did work. Just not the way I expected it to. As usual, I missed the point entirely.
MyIntent doesn’t make you more courageous. Nor does a talisman or a SamWise Gamgee wall-poster (who’s with me?). What they do do is remind you of your intent.
Tony Robbins, in Awaken The Giant Within, says the three decisions that control every moment of our lives are “what to focus on, what things mean, and what to do in spite of the challenges that may appear to limit us.”
Everytime I put that necklace on when I get up, and everytime I take it off before I sleep a tiny voice in my subconscious whispers… “Iain, dude, courage. Let’s see some courage today. Come on, man. Pick it up. More courage.”
Every time I see it, feel it, touch it, I’m reminded of what I must focus on. To become the strongest version of myself, and earn the respect of my heroes, I must focus on being courageous.
And everytime I’m reminded of what I must focus on, my subconscious gives a mini-rallying call to all the diverging troops of my mental focus, and redirects them to the original objective: courage. It’s not a full scale assualt or anything…”All units regroup, and charge at courage!” (Like Theoden did at Minas Tirith) It’s more subtle. “Ermm…, what the hell are regiments A and B doing all the way out there? Go remind them, again, that the objective is courage. Everyone else, keep doing what you’re doing.”
These subtle reminders converge my thoughts, maybe only slightly, towards the path I want to take.
So little by little, I become more courageous. I do more courageous things. And I don’t feel more courageous day to day, because the steps are so small. One day, it’s only a 1% improvement. Or 2%. 5% on a big day. Day-to-day… meh, it’s not really working.
But stepping back after a year, that’s when you realise the power of all these mini redirections of your mental forces. That’s when you step back and think, holy smoke!, that was the best Christmas present ever.
Charlie Munger says it best.
“Step by step we get ahead, but not necessarily in fast spurts. But you build discipline by preparing for fast spurts…. Slug it out one inch at a time, day by day. At the end of the day – if you live long enough – most people get what they deserve.”
MyIntent. What. A. Present.
One question and one question only:
What word are you getting on yours?