If you ever feel stuck, and can't seem to get to your goals FOR WHATEVER REASON, there are methods and steps you can follow - and my framework is just one of dozens - you don't have to choose mine, but you really should choose at least one that you like.
I break everything down into six categories, and you can compare your current situation to the list and see where you might be able to step up your game, break through the barrier, and get closer to your dream.
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Murphy’s Laws. I’m sure you know the most popular one which goes “if anything can go wrong, it will.” Murphy was not the most positive guy. He would not have made a very good motivational speaker. But I want to talk to you about Murphy’s law #12, which states that “whenever you set out to do something, something else must be done first.” This is the beginning of what I call the cycles of complexity. Fortunately for you, this very day, I’m going back in time to an old episode, and I’ll tell you the steps and attributes you need to get through any cycle of complexity and come out the other side successful. Let’s set out do it now, but something else must be done first… my into in 5 4 3 2 1
I first heard the term Cycles of Complexity when I was taking a course from Kyle Dammann from the Growth Factor business accelerator. Generally, when you’re trying to put together an online business from scratch – you don’t understand everything all at once and many times you are halfway through doing one thing, and you realize that you have to get something else set up first – then halfway through that, you realize you have to set something else up. It can be frustrating, and Kyle called this a cycle of complexity.
It resonated with me immediately, and I looked it up to see if there was a book about it, but it looks like Kyle originated the term, and I adopted it. I began to see these cycles everywhere in my life – not just in creating a business, and not just tech. A lot of life is about getting through a complex thing, and then getting through another complex thing. They seem to keep coming.
Later on I was looking for some way to categorize and organize all the personal development notes, things I was learning. I was filling up literally journal after journal with quotes, ideas, thoughts. Twenty years of thinking had been piling up and I was releasing it all at once, all these new topics were letting this backlog of my experience and assessment of life pour out.
Decades of my own history left unanalyzed or misanalysed were all finally getting light shed on them, and my own past mistakes were beginning to make a lot more sense.
This also creates value.
If I can take my past and invest it all into my future, then my future is looking pretty good. If I soak up and relive experiences, point out the mistakes and failures and successes, what I liked and what I didn’t like. What I did and what I saw and what I said and how I felt.
For a year I just journaled pages every night, non-stop, because I saw the value in that. After having close to a year of journals filled up, five or six – more than 1000 pages in late 2019, at least, I realized that If I’m ever going to remember all of this, I need a system.
How can I take each thought and categorize it under some headline, some system – so that when I hear advice or a great quote or have my own idea – I know where it goes – in my mind, on my computer, how it’s tagged in my journal. No matter where I put it, there will be a place for me to put it.
I came up with dozens of categories, and through a process of combining similar categories together, multiple times, I came with my system.
It’s very nice, there are only six categories.
Ethos, Intention, Efficacy, Agency, Adversity, Elevation
As it turned out, these six categories defined a way to get through all of the cycles of complexity you go through in life – in business, in relationships, in health issues. If there’s something going wrong in your life, all you have to do is look at this list, because if there’s a problem, it’s one of these six things.
Ethos is like mindset mixed with philosophy; character mixed with an operating manual. Everything you believe about the world, and other people, and yourself, and the way you choose to process it in your own mind. The way you choose to think about it.
Brian Tracy says that the quality of your life is entirely determined by the quality of your thoughts, the quality of your thinking. Creating your Ethos is about gauging the quality of your thinking to improve the quality of your life.
This is the rudder on the ship, the steering wheel, the single most important thing you could focus on if you’re not happy with the direction of your life. Because you can change the way you think by changing what goes into your mind, the right books, classes, seminars, and the right group of people in your life could change everything – especially if you also remove all of the wrong input to your brain, the wrong books – the wrong tv.
You become like the people you hang out with the most – that includes the characters of the show you are binge-watching right now. In fact, it’s been said that you will be exactly the same person 5 years from now except for the books you read and the people you meet. If you change your thinking, you will change your life.
The second category is Intention. It’s about the goals you set, who you want to be, what you’re mission and vision is – what you’re greatest life looks like to you. Most everything relating to goals falls into this category, but I did hear a really great quote the other day, not sure where it came from, but it was “what are the 5 feelings you want to experience in this life? Go after those. Don’t worry so much about buying something or going someplace – those things we do because of the feelings they bring us. So, choose the feelings and strive to do whatever it takes to get those feelings.” That quote resonated with me enough to write it down in my journal. I haven’t analyzed it enough yet to feel fully confident it’s the right way for me to think, but it’s definitely a thought that would be categorized under Intention.
The third category is Efficacy. Efficacy is the ability to produce the desired or intended result. This will include any skills that you need to develop in order to fulfill your intentions. If you want to be a marketer, what skills do you need to get to the level you want to be at? If you want to be a real estate investor, what is it you need to learn to begin that process, then excel at it? Do whatever it takes to build the skills you need to execute your intentions. In fact, this is simple because your own goals will inform the course of your self-education. Two quotes I love, both from Jim Rohn, fall squarely into the category of Efficacy.
1. Your formal education will make you a living. Your self-education will make you a fortune.
2. If you wish to be wealthy, study wealth. If you wish to be happy, study happiness.
Efficacy is where you begin to BECOME something bigger, become MORE. This is really where the change starts to occur in ways the begin to reap benefits outside of your mind. Read the books, take the courses, find the people.
Category 4 is Agency. My favorite definition of agency is “Action or Intervention such as to produce a particular effect.” Now that you’ve gotten the education you need to execute, it is time to execute. This is agency. Action. Intervention. Take whatever steps your great learning taught you to take. Nike’s “Just Do It” now fits into this category. (as a side note, I don’t like the quote “just do it” when it absolves you of the efficacy, the skill that it takes to JUST DO IT. In the absence of skill, the action I would take first is to learn the skill.” Agency is getting out there and planting the seeds, then defending them against the weeds and the bugs and the weather, tending your crops, and then harvesting when the time is right. And never expecting the crops to be there if you didn’t do the work – if you didn’t take action.
My fifth category in the cycles of complexity is probably the most complex part of all. It is Adversity. Everything GOOD you want to do will be attacked in some way. Even with an incredible ethos, amazing intentions, great skill and efficacy, and impressive action, there is just no way around adversity. You are going to hit it. Things will go sour. They will be hard, and things will pop up. You will encounter internal adversity like “just not feeling it”, or laziness, or a lack of hope. And you will encounter external adversity, like a hurricane wiping out your crop or employees quitting, or nobody buying your product. You’re just going to hit it. Not everything goes right all the time. I’ll have a lot to say about adversity – some of the things I’ve come up against in my life – in the months leading up to one of my toughest projects, as I was finally getting ready to monetize, the pandemic hit us, my wife broke her nose, my sister had a heart attack and my father passed away. I just wanted to quit, I wanted to give up for a while. Why does adversity come at the most inconvenient times? I stopped asking the question – it’s not for me to know why. But it is for me to know that it comes. And there is hope – a lot of hope, because of the next category.
After adversity comes Elevation. Elevation is where I got my tag for this podcast. Elevation is where you reflect, revise, and remix your life. Look back at all that happened. Learn what was under your control and what wasn’t. What went right? What went wrong? What could you have done better? Look at the whole process from Ethos to Intention to Efficacy to Agency to Adversity and analyze each one – how can the system be improved next time? What did I learn from the past that I can invest into the future? And to come full circle, how can this process of reflecting carry forward into a newer better Ethos, more specific intention, and forward again all the way through. Elevation raises every level, including your reaction to adversity.
These are the means I use to get through the cycles of complexity. They started out as a way to categorize personal development information and became a concise paradigm of how to get through smaller and larger projects and problems, and a machine to elevate my whole life each time I do – instead of staying the same and trying to avoid problems. I use this philosophy to look for even bigger problems to solve.
Beginning next week, I’m starting to share a new paradigm about how I organize my whole life, called the building blocks of a life well-lived. I hope you enjoyed this episode from the spring. As always, I’ll be here every Monday and Thursday until all doctors can agree about whether eggs are healthy or not.