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Worry to Win: How to Worry the Right Way

Worry to Win: How to Worry the Right Way

How do you worry? While the emotion can be a formidable foe, we mustn’t forget that every coin has two sides. What do you feel as you worry? Does the worry lead to distress, finally cascading into a perplexed or confused state?

Author Robert Greene paints early humans as a benefactor of this misunderstood emotion in his masterpiece, Mastery. While the Business Insider published an article that plays on the distress our worries can bring, there is a one solution to disheartening worries that will empower you to be decisive. Worry will, as long as you allow it, become a trusted confidant. Unless, of course, you enjoy the emotional roller coaster.

Robert Greene has nearly two decades of brilliant and insightful books on the nature of mankind. If you’ve read The 48 Laws of Power, you’re likely better for it. His masterpiece, Mastery, should be taught in public school. With that being said, consider Mr. Greene’s words on the evolving prehistoric human:

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“These early humans evolved the ability to detach and think, their primary advantage in the struggle to avoid predators and find food. It connected them to a reality other animals could not access. Thinking on this level was the single greatest turning point in all of evolution-the emergence of the conscious, reasoning mind.”

With that reasoning mind, they worried often — about predators, their families, where the next meal was coming from, and many other survival basics. These worries were necessary and decisive. They lacked the luxuries of the 21st century and so worry was advantageous and complacency meant death.

Switching gears for a moment, consider the person you love most. Think of how they have proven to you that they love you. Meanwhile, consider your favorite food and how it tastes. In fact, imagine the person you love has prepared that favorite food perfectly. That imagination wouldn’t have been possible if our ancestors did not harness the negatives they developed while simultaneously forging them into positive assets. With that being said, there are times when a person could be manipulated into worrying the wrong way as well.

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The Washington Post recently referenced a study that supposedly proves that men cheat more often when their ages ended with 9. In fact, 18% of the 8,000,000 men on Ashley Madison were, in fact, 9ers. The person who allows their worries to control them may make a rash assumption here. They fail to realize, because they’re becoming distressed, that only 30% of internet interactions actually end in a meet up.

How to Define and Prioritize Your Worries

In order to overcome counter-productive worrying, you must, through practice and discipline, designate time alone to worry. Throughout your day, write any worries that present themselves in a specific place and leave them there until your set aside time. When that time comes, first and foremost, circle all the challenges that you wield no power over. If it cannot be changed, you cannot worry about it.

Next, prioritize your worries from greatest to least. Once you’ve got that in order, decide which ones must be solved the quickest. Then, begin devising the solution to your worry with the highest priority and the least time to solve. Take your time, relax, and make a game plan. Even if this occupies a whole hour, it will amass to much less time than worrying all day, and it will produce more concise and refined results. Obviously there will be decisions daily that have to be made on the fly, but the worry over those decisions and their repercussions should be isolated.

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Pro Tip: Use the 80-20 rule. Focus 20% on the issue, 80% on the answer.

Make Worrying a Role Player in Your Life

Imagine this: the year is 1997 and the Chicago Bulls are tied 86-86 against the Utah Jazz. There’s only one possession left, so you’d imagine Head Coach Phil Jackson wants to see His Royal Airness Michael Jordan take the final shot. Instead, when Michael caught the pass, he himself also passed the ball. To Scottie Pippen of course, you might think? No, M.J. passed to the now Golden State Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr. Steve Kerr, without hesitation, drained the deep ball and won the Finals.

Role players are important. Using those role players advantageously is the difference maker. Steve Kerr, a Point Guard who averaged 6.0 points a game and 15 minutes of playing time a game for his career, was a role player.

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Take a moment to compare your life with the ’97 Chicago Bulls. Everyone has a mind that devises up a plan for their lives. This is comparable to Phil Jackson, the Head Coach of the team. We all have key characteristics that we rely on — some speak well, some have great imaginations, etc. Picture your key talents as your Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen of the team. Few people understand who their role players are, and those that do often rely on them very little.

Why don’t you take a pivotal page from our early ancestors and make worry a role player on the team? Understand how to worry to win so well that worrying the right way will lead you to your greatest achievements. Let worry be your Steve Kerr.

Featured photo credit: Kate Williams via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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