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How to Get Gutsy

How to Get Gutsy
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    “If you wanna run with the big dogs, you’ve gotta get off the porch.” This was the sage advice given to me some years ago as I considered my first entrepreneurial venture. You’ve got to take risks. Be gutsy. All of which led me to wonder what guts really is. And, more importantly, if you don’t have it, can you get it?

    What is “gutsyness?”

    According to the American Heritage Dictionary, Guts (in our context) is…

    1. Courage; fortitude.
    2. Nerve; audacity.

    To me, “guts” translates to a willingness and ability to embrace risk. What kind of risk?

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    • Risk of trying and failing
    • Risk of exposing your true-self and being judged
    • Risk of losing status, time and money
    • Risk of injury or death, and
    • Risk of…succeeding at whatever it is you are attempting

    Looking at the above list, it’s pretty clear there are activities that require you to take risks that, addressed and embraced, are constructive and have the potential to add to your life. These would include turning a deep interest into a profession, introducing yourself to a potential mentor, client, partner or lover, writing a book or creating a painting for public display.

    Other activities, though, are substantially more likely to require risks that are likely to take away from the quality of your life. Those would be actions that place you in peril. And, while, occasionally justified by extreme circumstances, my focus is more on the willingness to take the day-to-day risks with the potential to enhance your life.

    Guts and genes

    Who hasn’t been in a scenario where you wished you had the guts to do something, but just couldn’t get it together to try? We tend to blame ourselves for “wimping out,” but interestingly enough, a solid chunk of gutsyness is not learned or conditioned, it’s genetic.

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    According to Jungian theory, we all have innate personality preferences or types. If you have kids or know anyone with kids, this is readily apparent. Two kids from the same parents literally come out of the womb with radically different personalities, temperaments and preferences.

    Seeking to create a usable tool to identify genetic personality preferences some 60-years ago, Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers created their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®). This tool allows you to determine your innate personality preferences. Indeed, you can even take variations of the MBTI® test online today. Give it a shot, it’ll only take 10 minutes. Then, see how close the results come to revealing your deep, dark secret personality traits.

    I was blown away when I took mine. Part of my profile reveals a strong tendency toward introversion, which, for those who have known me for years, is not surprising. But, for those who know me only through business, it’s pretty shocking, since I make my living largely in the public eye.

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    So, genetics plays a strong role in your preference to take the various risk involved in being gutsy. And, according to most, there’s not a whole lot we can do to change that. But, another chunk of gustiness is actually not inherited, but learned.

    Guts and environment

    While we arrive on this planet with a certain attitudes about risk, our interactions, relationships and experiences as we go through life also play a major role in molding just how gutsy we are. The more we risk stepping out of our genetic comfort zones, the more opportunities we have to “learn” about the benefits of being gutsier and then “choose” to take those same actions again in an attempt to get those same feelings that came from our adventure in gutsyland.

    Which begs the question…

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    If you didn’t inherit the gutsy-gene, what can you do about it?

    First, you’ve got to ask yourself, “if I’m not too gutsy, do I really need to change?” The short answer is, it depends. A certain aversion to the risk of injury or death is natural and good. It stops you from being reckless.

    But, if you have an irrational fear of injury, death, judgment, failure or embarrassment or simply an aversion to risk that stops you from participating in the everyday joys of life, that needs attention. Similarly, a certain amount of caution in social situations is fine, but when it engenders a level of fear that stops you from doing things that would add genuine joy to your life, it’s time to do something about it.

    Here’s a three-step approach that’s gone a long way toward moving me past my natural tendency toward introversion and contemplation to regularly taking fairly major risks, both personal and business.

    1. Visualize gutsy action and success. Twice a day, visualize engaging in the activity that would require guts and then succeeding wildly. Make it as vivid and detailed as possible. Use all of your senses. Over time, this really helps to alleviate the anxiety/fear that holds you back. Through repetition, you tend to desensitize your fears and anxieties, while simultaneously reinforcing your belief that, should you take a gutsy action, you will succeed.
    2. Take incremental action. Pick a situation that gives you the opportunity to confront one of your fear-inducers in a controlled, supported, incremental and gentle manner. For example, if you have a fear of speaking in front of people, commit to a small weekly gathering of friends and begin speaking up, rather than scheduling a 20-minute presentation in front of your entire company. Then, begin to commit to events/actions that will allow you to confront your fear in increasingly more exposed situations. This process lets you experience serial success, builds confidence and gets you “incrementally gutsy” over time.
    3. Rinse and repeat. The more-often you engage in this process and succeed, the more you’ll believe in your ability to succeed and the more willing you’ll become to step out of your box.

    Share your experiences, stories and other techniques to help make the transition from gutless to gutsy.

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    Last Updated on November 5, 2019

    How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

    How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

    Assuming the public school system didn’t crush your soul, learning is a great activity. It expands your viewpoint. It gives you new knowledge you can use to improve your life. It is important for your personal growth. Even if you discount the worldly benefits, the act of learning can be a source of enjoyment.

    “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” — Mark Twain

    But in a busy world, it can often be hard to fit in time to learn anything that isn’t essential. The only things learned are those that need to be. Everything beyond that is considered frivolous. Even those who do appreciate the practice of lifelong learning, can find it difficult to make the effort.

    Here are some tips for installing the habit of continuous learning:

    1. Always Have a Book

    It doesn’t matter if it takes you a year or a week to read a book. Always strive to have a book that you are reading through, and take it with you so you can read it when you have time.

    Just by shaving off a few minutes in-between activities in my day I can read about a book per week. That’s at least fifty each year.

    2. Keep a “To-Learn” List

    We all have to-do lists. These are the tasks we need to accomplish. Try to also have a “to-learn” list. On it you can write ideas for new areas of study.

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    Maybe you would like to take up a new language, learn a skill or read the collective works of Shakespeare. Whatever motivates you, write it down.

    3. Get More Intellectual Friends

    Start spending more time with people who think. Not just people who are smart, but people who actually invest much of their time in learning new skills. Their habits will rub off on you.

    Even better, they will probably share some of their knowledge with you.

    4. Guided Thinking

    Albert Einstein once said,

    “Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

    Simply studying the wisdom of others isn’t enough, you have to think through ideas yourself. Spend time journaling, meditating or contemplating over ideas you have learned.

    5. Put it Into Practice

    Skill based learning is useless if it isn’t applied. Reading a book on C++ isn’t the same thing as writing a program. Studying painting isn’t the same as picking up a brush.

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    If your knowledge can be applied, put it into practice.

    In this information age, we’re all exposed to a lot of information, it’s important to re-learn how to learn so as to put the knowledge into practice.

    6. Teach Others

    You learn what you teach. If you have an outlet of communicating ideas to others, you are more likely to solidify that learning.

    Start a blog, mentor someone or even discuss ideas with a friend.

    7. Clean Your Input

    Some forms of learning are easy to digest, but often lack substance.

    I make a point of regularly cleaning out my feed reader for blogs I subscribe to. Great blogs can be a powerful source of new ideas. But every few months, I realize I’m collecting posts from blogs that I am simply skimming.

    Every few months, purify your input to save time and focus on what counts.

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    8. Learn in Groups

    Lifelong learning doesn’t mean condemning yourself to a stack of dusty textbooks. Join organizations that teach skills.

    Workshops and group learning events can make educating yourself a fun, social experience.

    9. Unlearn Assumptions

    You can’t add water to a full cup. I always try to maintain a distance away from any idea. Too many convictions simply mean too few paths for new ideas.

    Actively seek out information that contradicts your worldview.

    Our minds can’t be trusted, but this is what we can do about it to be wiser.

    10. Find Jobs that Encourage Learning

    Pick a career that encourages continual learning. If you are in a job that doesn’t have much intellectual freedom, consider switching to one that does.

    Don’t spend forty hours of your week in a job that doesn’t challenge you.

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    11. Start a Project

    Set out to do something you don’t know how. Forced learning in this way can be fun and challenging.

    If you don’t know anything about computers, try building one. If you consider yourself a horrible artist, try a painting.

    12. Follow Your Intuition

    Lifelong learning is like wandering through the wilderness. You can’t be sure what to expect and there isn’t always an end goal in mind.

    Letting your intuition guide you can make self-education more enjoyable. Most of our lives have been broken down to completely logical decisions, that making choices on a whim has been stamped out.

    13. The Morning Fifteen

    Productive people always wake up early. Use the first fifteen minutes of your morning as a period for education.

    If you find yourself too groggy, you might want to wait a short time. Just don’t put it off later in the day where urgent activities will push it out of the way.

    14. Reap the Rewards

    Learn information you can use. Understanding the basics of programming allows me to handle projects that other people would require outside help. Meeting a situation that makes use of your educational efforts can be a source of pride.

    15. Make Learning a Priority

    Few external forces are going to persuade you to learn. The desire has to come from within. Once you decide you want to make lifelong learning a habit, it is up to you to make it a priority in your life.

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    Featured photo credit: Paul Schafer via unsplash.com

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