I think you can learn from everyone – either as examples or anti-examples.
Here’s something we can all learn from.
I caught the train recently – interstate, so it was a long trip. Not long after I sat down, two people got on – a woman and her son. She would have been in her late 20s or early 30s. He would have been eight or ten.
They had two hours ahead of them.
I bet it felt longer.
The woman had barely sat down when the boy was already wriggling, squirming, complaining and nagging. It was common kid’s stuff, you know how they get.
He wanted to play games on her phone. She said it was nearly flat, so he couldn’t.
I know what you’re thinking – what a convenient excuse to keep him off her phone. Nope, it was really flat. I know this because she asked me if the train had USB charging ports. It didn’t, but I lent her my portable charger.
Even then, there was just enough charge for her to make whatever calls she needed to.
So her son wriggles more, squirms more, complains more, nags more.
She tells him to stop.
He does, for a few minutes.
He asks for money to buy food.
She tells him she has food if he’s hungry.
He doesn’t want that food, of course. Back to the wriggling, back to the complaining…
After 20 or 30 minutes of this, she’s yelling at him to sit still and be quiet. Strangely enough, he squirms and nags more than ever.
The boy did settle down a few times. I can only imagine how relieved the woman was to finally have some quiet, to let herself think.
Every time, he would break the silence a few minutes later with a calm, quiet question. She’s not the only parent to make the mistake of ignoring the kid, hoping to keep the quiet going. So, of course, he plays up, doing what he knows will get her attention.
And then they’re back to yelling at each other.
Seeing a parent struggling with a child is like listening to someone vomit. It might be unpleasant to be around, but it’s way worse to be the one experiencing it.
With the woman’s phone charged a little, she hands it to him to play with it. That buys her a few moments of silence. Then she’s back to yelling at him, telling him to play this game and not that game because that one had ads and –
For the last 20 minutes of the trip, she’s out of patience. She’s yelling and smacking him, he’s screaming and crying, each making the other more and more miserable.
It must have been the train ride from hell.
Not for me, though – I wrote a few chapters of a book while tuning them out.
“Couldn’t you have helped them, William?”
Define ‘could’. I could have put them both to sleep for the entire trip. I could have made them enjoy the entire ride as they feel relaxed and happy.
But I don’t go around imposing what I think is best on folks. Unless they ask – or there’s real danger – it’s not my place to change anyone.
I showed them both kindness and compassion, which they lapped up like cats after a dust storm.
I led by example by staying calm throughout the ride, inside and out.
Anything more would have been overstepping my bounds.
Now, this isn’t me having a go at some poor woman. She was doing the best she could. In fact, she was doing better than her best. I imagine a younger version of herself, before she became a mother, wouldn’t have had what patience she did. The younger her would have curled up into a ball with her fingers in her ears after 20 minutes.
But she didn’t need more patience.
The only thing that would have helped is to change.
This isn’t a story about parenting – it’s about anything.
I see folks trying to advance their career… and failing.
Trying to find love… and struggling.
Making all the wrong decisions when it comes to their friends, their health and their finances… and wondering where it all went wrong.
Then they ‘read a book’ that teaches them ‘a cool tactic’ and they think – finally, this is what I need.
But the woman on the train didn’t need some parenting tip – some magic phrase or gesture that would have calmed her kid right down.
She didn’t even need ‘to be a better mother’, whatever that means.
What she needed was a new way to think and a new way to be.
You see this in everything from seduction to sales, too. People learn some new behaviour – a trick – and think it’ll solve all their problems.
Make eye contact, touch them on the arm, use their name…
These external tactics don’t work…
Not until your internal state is sorted.
Contrary to popular advice, you can’t fake it til you make it. If you could fake confidence, who would be anything other than that?
You develop, experiment and explore at home, then be your new self in the boardroom.
For that woman, the Train Ride From Hell started long before they reached the station…
And it’s still going.
She and her son will only exit the vehicle when they find new ways of being.
I reckon you’ve been curious about what separates the elite performers, thinkers and leaders from the mundane ones.
A challenge can inspire one person… while another crumbles from the pressure.
A crisis can transform an ordinary person into a hero… while another retreats from the world.
It comes down a difference in how you see the world.
How you think.
But no one is teaching you how to think differently.
I see so many young, smart, talented and ambitious folks struggling. You know life can be more – that you can be more – but you don’t know how to create that.
If you ask for help, you’ll get all sorts of well-meaning but awful advice.
“Learn a skill!”, “find a hobby!”, “travel!”, “get a new qualification!” – this is what people offer you, as if you’re after some small tweak to one part of your life.
You don’t want a tweak.
You want a revolution – to shed your weaknesses, harness your untapped abilities and transform your life.
That’s what I offer you.
Welcome to the thoughts you haven’t been able to think yet.
I’ve spent years honing the skills to shift you into different consciousness states, where you can think around your stubborn problems, explore new possibilities, and grow.
If you want to become who you know you can be, this isn’t optional – you have to think outside the comfortable and familiar grooves of your own thoughts.
I’m not going to tell you what to think – you’ve had enough of that for three lifetimes.
I’m going to show you what brilliant things you have in that gorgeous brain of yours, just waiting to come out.
I said this day would come:
Phronesis Accelerator is my monthly newsletter program. Each month, I’d share some of the greatest resources I’d come across to help drive your personal evolution.
Because that’s what I’m all about. I’m happiest when you’re burning through to new heights.
In that spirit, I decided to make four back issues and most of the supporting resources available as a one time purchase.
This is like getting four months of training all at once – and this content is exclusive, not available anywhere else.
Here’s what it contains:
Your emotions, habits and instincts might be automatic, but they’re not inevitable. There are many proven ways to unravel these ghosts in your neurology – here are 34 of my favourites. You will learn:
Most of your challenges will fall to any of these.
Nothing holding you back can withstand all of them.
I’m not a doctor. You’d have to be clueless to take my advice on your wellness.
I’m offering it anyway.
Although it’s not so much ‘medical advice’ as how to find the best qualified person to give it.
Thanks to the incessant culture war that leaves nothing untouched, there are now two common schools of thought:
“Oh, you’re sad that your dog died? You know, there are pills that will numb you right up!”
“Oh, you’re chronically depressed? Medicine is a scam – have you tried yoga?”
Yeesh – no thanks to the both of those.
As far as I can tell, there’s only one way through this. I’ve seen skilled and compassionate doctors do this and I’ve seen doctors… who don’t.
Want to know which kind of medical professional you have?
See if they ask you these sorts of questions.
Use this guide and you’ll quickly spot the quacks who only care about pumping you full of drugs… and the doctors who genuinely care about your wellbeing.
Again, I’m not a medical professional, so do what you will with this info.
Exploring your limits and evolving doesn’t have to be complicated.
That’s why I built Phronesis Accelerator around three core ideas.
That’s all – just three.
Yet there are thousands of ways to think about, apply and enhance them. And there’s no change or improvement I’ve found that doesn’t tie to (at least) one of them.
With this bonus guide, you’ll learn:
The January 2021 issue of Phronesis Accelerator, included in this Collection, shows you how to:
Create a sense of perspective. Remember in 2018 how everyone said it was ‘the WORST YEAR EVER omg!’ because, what, three ageing celebrities died? How idiotic do those people look now? Trust me – everyone calling 2020 the worst year ever are just as worthy of pity.
Create your courage. If you ask the authorities, bravery in 2021 is where you blindly obey and give into fear. True bravery is about clinging to hope and not squandering your energies. Fear is useful in bursts, not as a ‘new normal’.
Create your vitality. The danger of modern life is living out of sync with your nature. It’s time to restore your connection with your true self and revel in all the wonder it brings.
Create surprises. Are you in a rut after months of working, resting and socialising at your desk or on your couch? Just because they say you can’t travel, that doesn’t mean you can’t break the stupor and really embrace living again.
Create your power. This will make the PC police cry, but the victimisation hurt both men and women. I know I’m ‘supposed’ to say it hurt women/minorities more – and maybe it did. But is it useful to argue about who got the worse deal? Wouldn’t you rather learn how to reclaim your power as a man or woman?
Create human connection. This powerful influence secret always worked. Now, it works even better – and it shows everyone how great a leader you truly are. Best of all? It’s so fun they’ll thank you for it.
Create your authority. People tell you to grovel, to beg, to apologise for being alive. Reclaim the sovereignty that is your birthright.
Create epiphanies. You know the Einstein quote about not solving problems with the same level of thinking that created them. So find your new level of thinking – it can happen in an instant.
Human beings are supposed to live free. Every form of containment goes against our nature and robs us of our power.
So it’s time to crack the locks, step out into the sun and protect everyone around you.
When fear is used as a weapon, there’s no safety in feeling it.
Rise up and free yourself now.
The February 2021 issue of Phronesis Accelerator teaches you all of this:
Every generation, lunatics, preppers, sleazy politicians and conspiracy theorists say Western Civilisation is in a state of decay.
And they’re all right.
Entropy attacks the system because entropy attacks every system. Every political and economic theory sows the seeds of its own annihilation.
A toy model of Capitalism shows how. A free market transfers greater wealth (and therefore power) to people who can best solve the problems of the day. It’s a beautiful set-up… until someone uses that power against the free market.
After all, there’s a reason why governments are so keen to break up monopolies.
In an absolute monarchy, ruthless individuals seek to sway the opinions of the throne. In a democracy, they seek to sway the opinions of the masses. A queen takes her opinions with her to the grave, while the masses’ opinions become part of the culture.
Here’s a short and very much incomplete list of ways Western Civilisation grinds against itself:
Take any virtue to its extreme and it becomes a vice.
We can agree that death threats are terrible, so we punish them. We agree that meritocracy is better for everyone, so we punish those who discriminate based on sex, age or faith.
So far, so good.
Then the standards shift and the punishments broaden.
It gets to the point where guilt by association – like praising the economic plan of someone who said something that might be considered racist in a certain context – is enough to get you fired.
It doesn’t get there fast but the trends pull it that way.
Democracy allows citizens to express their preferences for who leads them.
But no citizen is qualified to understand any of the issues, let alone all of them. So we take shortcuts. “This person gives off a good vibe” or “that person makes the sorts of decisions I would in their place”.
Things simplify further.
People find themselves not with a stance on each issue, but one stance on every issue.
As in, the same stance.
Liberal, conservative, libertarian – either mapping exactly to that, or close enough that the differences don’t matter.
Democracy regresses to a two-party system – in some countries, it’s a one party system where the government only changes hands when the party in charge really screws up.
How many parties need a viable chance of winning in order for real thought and debate to happen? Five parties? Thirteen?
More than two, that’s for sure.
It’s easy for secretive and entrenched powers to generously donate to both parties. Ever wonder why both major parties tend to agree on major issues, while squabbling over the fringes?
This leads to…
Why get interested in politics when it doesn’t matter? It’s all just tribalism and social identification, arguing over the colour of the carpet while the sinkhole in the yard grows.
Sometimes, you take a calculated risk and it doesn’t pay off.
Sometimes you’re simply unlucky.
The great thing about being a social animal is you don’t have to win every time. Your hunt might not bring back meat to your family – that’s okay. Someone else will share their meat with you today and you can repay the favour tomorrow.
That’s much better than always being one step away from ruin your whole life.
It’s flawless when you know the person giving you their spoils. If you start slacking off, a raised eyebrow and a gentle “come on, mate” will shame you into pulling your weight.
It doesn’t scale, though.
A person can genuinely try to find a job for months, even years, only for economic forces beyond their control to thwart them.
Or someone might just give up and spend their days drinking.
When being a needy, helpless victim is the best or only way to survive – when being unemployed becomes their job – it robs folks of the chance to offer something back. A safety net can become a tomb.
Taken to its extreme:
Someone, out of greed, negligence or malice, causes harm to someone else. They sell them a faulty widget or whatever. The legal system decides to make the perpetrator pay the victim an appropriate amount.
It’s a good system – punishing wrong-doing and supporting their victims.
Then someone irons a shirt while wearing it, decides it was the iron’s fault or the shirt’s fault, and demands reparations.
It’s a bad system – rewarding idiocy and punishing people at random.
Let’s say you have two political parties, the Polkadots and the Stripes.
(Those pesky two-party problems…)
One of the few meaningful distinctions is how much they value the common good institutions. Polkadots think public schools, public hospitals and public infrastructure are essential. Stripes think they are handy but other priorities that could use that money too.
The culture at these institutions shifts to be a little more pro-Polkadot. Why wouldn’t they? They’re just following incentives. It might not even be deliberate – more an unconscious drive.
Stripes get annoyed at this bias. They’re right to be annoyed, but they’re wrong to blame the institutions. They blame them anyway, maybe launching inquiries or whatever.
This just pushes them further towards Polkadots.
Unless something stops this cycle, the feedback biases loop these neutral institutions until they become both weapons and victims in the culture war.
Keeping the wolves out of the cities means citizens forget how to fight them.
That’s great – it frees them up to learn other things and sleep more deeply at night.
Then the cities attract rats, which attract snakes. So citizens have to fight the snakes… until civilisation figures out how to keep them at bay.
Fast forward a few generations…
People are hardwired to monitor the environment for threats. Without real threats to fixate on, they invent new ones.
With no threats to their physical selves, the threats to their social selves become greater.
They have to keep up with the latest fashions. Literally, nothing could be more important. If someone insults them, it’s like they took a knife and plunged it into their chest.
“Won’t somebody please think of the children? Sometimes they hear mean words!”
For the convenience and ‘safety’ of it, people eagerly give up all sorts of things.
Freedom of expression – who needs that when you say all the right things anyway?
Freedom of association – all my friends are cool.
Sure, this tool violates my privacy more than was physically possible ten years ago… but it’s slightly move convenient, you see.
Income inequality is neither the cause nor the result of problems. That’s because, by itself, it’s not an issue.
Imagine the poorest people lived like the middle class. They could own a home (or at least rent one), drive a car, school their kids, buy some luxuries and put some into savings.
Now imagine in this world that income inequality is ten times as bad.
Apart from a few entitled losers griping about how other people have more than them… does anyone care?
Like I said, every force sows the seeds of its own destruction.
Look at history, how the concentration of power ultimately destroys fascism… and its distribution weakens democracy.
The only way to stave off entropy is through constant reinvigoration.
That’s why stagnation is a sign of decay. Too much change isn’t great either, sure, but institutions need to evolve with the times, always fighting to preserve the reason they were founded.
And that’s why a crisis can be exactly what an organisation needs to get it thriving again.
The deranged optimist in me says this is all great. The only crises dirt-farming peasants face are wars and droughts. If our institutions are decaying, it means we have institutions in the first place.
Breathe deep and smile, because things are great.
Well… they’re not awful. For now.
And they’ll only stay not-awful if we fight for what we deserve.
The solutions to these problems are simple. This isn’t me armchair governing – we already know the problems and what to do about them.
But they’re not easy.
That’s fine. People have fought, killed and died for a fraction of the liberties we enjoy. Compared to revolution, this is easy.
Compared to settling for a comfy status quo, it’s not.
This issue is dedicated to everything you can do, starting today, to revitalise everything that needs revitalising.
Don’t worry about what others will do. Focus on you, then lead by example, then speak out and take action.
Yes, in that order.
If you don’t have your shit together, your ability to save civilisation is exactly zero.
The March 2021 issue of Phronesis Accelerator shows you how.
The April 2021 issue of Phronesis Accelerator will teach you:
In this issue, you will learn:
Grab your copy below.