A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to be in a situation where I was casually dating an awesome girl. Or at least I thought that we were casually dating. At the time, I thought that as long as I was adept enough to avoid “the talk”, things would remain casual. Her thoughts were different. From her point of view, we had become serious right away. Needless to say, it was an extremely awkward situation when it became clear that we weren’t aligned in terms of the rules and expectations of the relationship.
And that’s when I found out about the danger of unspoken contracts. An unspoken contract is what happens when a lack of explicit verbal communication allows for each party to apply their own assumptions to a situation. A nonverbal contract, if you will. If those assumptions on the contract are not the same, there is friction as both sides begin to realize that the other party isn’t exhibiting the expected behavior.
Unfortunately, my relationship with this awesome girl didn’t work out. And as I’ve matured, I’ve realized that an honest discussion of your expectations at the beginning of a courtship saves a ton of drama and heartache.
The same theory applies to the workplace. A manager who isn’t able to clearly communicate her expectations to the people she’s managing will always be frustrated. An employee who isn’t able to communicate his goals to his boss a couple of months before his review risks being disappointed by the outcome.
Unspoken contracts are also dangerous in athletics. If a teammate is expecting someone new to the team to run a specific route when faced with a zone defense, it should be communicated. It should not be assumed. Otherwise you risk not having your receivers running the patterns that allow you to break the zone.
WHY IT OCCURS
So why do these situations occur? The answer is simple. We assume that other party is able to figure out what our goals and expectations are. We think that the environment, our personality and our behavior are enough to indicate our intentions.
And we are either too embarrassed or too shy to express our thoughts verbally. So we rely on subtle non-verbal cues to hint at our intentions, hoping that they are enough. But the truth of the matter is that the other party is not psychic. They can’t know exactly what’s going on in our heads without us explicitly telling them.
HOW TO AVOID UNSPOKEN CONTRACTS
The best way to avoid unspoken contracts is to communicate your goals and expectations clearly and early on. If you want a promotion in 6 months, say so. If you want to casually date and have fun, be explicit. If you are looking for a long term romantic partner, don’t be afraid of “scaring people off” by being honest about it. In fact, I would say that it is even more important to let your potential partners know early on. As the stakes increase, so does the necessity to be brutally honest about what your expectations are.
I have been fortunate enough in the past 12 months to have friends and mentors to push me to be brave. They have pushed me to have the awkward conversations early on and not be embarrassed about admitting what I want. And in 90% of those “awkward” conversations that I’ve had, the other party is refreshed, impressed and grateful for my honesty. I know it’s not an easy step to take, but it does save a lot of frustration. Good luck!
This is the face of a champion.
It’s not pretty.
It’s beat up.
It’s bloody, scarred and bruised.
You’re not given respect.
You have to earn it.
You earn it through the grind.
Testing yourself against the best.
Putting yourself in situations that make you better.
Taking your beatings.
Learning from them.
Adjusting your game plan.
Trusting your experience.
Not giving a shit that you’re bloody, battered and bruised.
Because that’s what a champion looks like.
The scars are experiences.
They are reminders, stories and motivation.
And they are what made you the champ.
THE MAKINGS OF A CHAMPION I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to get tickets UFC 154 in Montreal. The experience was amazing. It was raw. It was animalistic. It was poetic. Kudos to all of the fighters for being so accessible, athletic and entertaining. But the main event – the Welterweight title fight – was where the champion was made. You see, once you enter the ring, it doesn’t matter that you’ve been a champion before. That belt was taken away from you the second you stepped in the ring. And you have to earn it back.
Seeing George St-Pierre fight Carlos Condit through a full five rounds was one of my personal highlights for 2012. It was technical. It was brutal. It showed tremendous heart. It also taught me a lot about life. You have to fight to be on top. The road is never easy. You have to grind it out with hard work.
We are not infallible. As dominant as we may have been a year or two ago, things change. You have to constantly improve yourself in order and bust your ass to create your legacy.
But most of all, you have to keep moving forward. Don’t be afraid of getting kicked in the face. Scramble, get back to your feet and earn your championship.
A couple of weeks ago, I bought a massive blank canvas. The intention was to create some home made art for myself. I wanted something for my bedroom that would inspire me each and every day. I’m a gentleman who is in love with words, so I gravitated to my favourite quotes. Out of the ones that I had scribbled down across various notebooks and scraps of paper, I found my top five quotes for consideration:
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them” – Walt Disney
“Bad decisions make great stories.” – Unknown
“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” – Francis Bacon
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss
“You have to do stuff that average people don’t understand, because those are the only good things.” – Andy Warhol
I mulled over these for a couple of days, trying to figure out which one I liked the best. Which would put me in the best mood day after day? Which quotes could be applicable to the challenges that I would face that day and put them in perspective? Which ones would be applicable to work, athletics and relationships?
It wasn’t until I was talking with my sister that I had a striking realization – none of these quotes work. Why? Because none of them were funny. Sure, they tote heavy life lessons that I should try to remember every day. They’re words that encourage taking risks, learning from your mistakes, pushing the boundaries and appreciating your experiences. But they’re not funny.
Humour inspires me. It’s the trigger that makes me happy. It puts me in my most productive mindset. Silly humour washes away worries, insecurities or concerns. It’s like a warm hug from a giant teddy bear. It makes me feel safe. It makes me feel like anything is possible. And that’s what I need to crush the day.
Some people get inspired by tragedy. Some by hope. Some by deadlines. Some people get inspired when they see all of the amazing shit that other people in the world are doing. For me, the most consistent trigger that works day after day is humour. Something silly. Something to make me smile.
This week’s inspiration is all about breaking the rules. Nike paid filmaker Casey Neistat to make a film about its Fuelband and #makeitcount campaign but instead of shooting a straight advertisement for Nike, Neistat took the money, went on a 10-day around the world adventure and created an advertisement for life.
You’ve done the hard work. You put in the hours. You hit the gym. You did the drills. You have game time experience. You’re preforming well, but you can’t get to the next level. There’s a missing ingredient. That ingredient is a pinch of swag.
Swag. It’s the confidence to execute. It’s the willingness to take the game on your shoulders. It’s ability to deliver a win in in a clutch situation.
To be clear, it’s not cockiness. Derrick Rose has swag, but he’s not an asshole. He’s a grounded guy. But he has confidence. Confidence that the hundreds of hours he spent working on his delivery is going to pay off. And that swagger is what gives you the confidence to take the shot. Preparation and experience is what gives you the skill set to nail it.
Without swag, you’re not taking enough shots. You’re not putting yourself out there and chasing the opportunities that you want. Without swag, you’re giving up before even trying.
Find your swag. Find it and start taking your shots. Because your swagger is your ticket to the next level. It will transform you from a bench player in to an all star.
Strength is a funny thing. It’s built by being tested. If you want to lift heavier weights, you test your muscles until they grow stronger. If you want strong creative ideas, you have to challenge your mind to produce creative insights, thoughts and art. Strong character is demonstrated by being able to do the right thing in sketchy situations. Returning a lost wallet. Being honest when it’s simpler to lie. Being able to go out, have some drinks with your friends and be above extramarital temptation.
These thoughts on strength inspired me to put words on paper. Consider it a manifesto. A “call to arms” to be strong. Because life doesn’t always go the way that you wish it would. But these challenges are tests. They test your mind, your body and your character. And these tests make you stronger.
The “Be Strong” Manifesto
Life is a test. And only the strong succeed.
So be strong. Lift heavy burdens. After all, that’s how we get stronger.
Use your brain. Form strong opinions. Express them.
Use your heart. Have strong values. Don’t compromise them to fit in.
Figure out who you are. Establish a strong identity. Project a strong sense of self.
Be strong for your friends. Be strong for your family. Support the people that you love.
Build a strong network. Surround yourself with strong people. People who push you to be stronger.
Test your strength. Again. And again. And again. You’ll come out stronger.
Welcome the next big challenge. Because now you have the strength. To confront it. To own it. And to wrestle it to the ground.
Be strong. Be successful.
The inspiration for this manifesto came from two things. The first was the fact that I pushed myself to hit a personal goal that I was working towards for a long time. The second was someone who was able to help me reboot from a recent challenge. These words helped me. What’s helped you?
Our brains are hungry for content. Human beings are curious by nature. You can see it small children. Their eyes are constantly wandering and exploring new things. They want to touch, tug and taste everything they come in contact with. They’re thirsty for knowledge about the world around them.
You can see this thirst for information in yourself. Your brain loves to be entertained. It loves to learn. It loves to experience new things. If you’re on a boring commute to work, chances are that you’re mind is itching to absorb information. You’re reading a book or a paper. You’re listening to music or a podcast. Or even if you’re doing none of those things, you’re observing the world around you. Checking out the landscape. People watching. Doing mental math on the timing of the rest of your commute.
You can feed your thirsty mind with the correct diet of content or the wrong diet. The main components of a creative diet involve ignoring comfortable, easy to access information. Don’t waste your time with mainstream media.
Mainstream media caters to the lowest common denominator. It caters to the popular opinion. Mainstream media caters to the mediocre. It’s speaking to the stupid. The stories in mainstream media are not designed to provoke thought. They are designed to provide you with an opinion. They make it easy, so that you don’t have to do the thinking yourself.
When you stop thinking, your creativity dies.
You have to keep your mind nimble by thinking. You have to take in raw information and form opinions. You have to see situations from different angles. That means not relying on one source of information. Don’t just read one newspaper. Don’t just read a handful of blogs that all express the same viewpoint. Get out of your comfort zone. Read something that you disagree with. Watch a show that makes you angry. Listen to a podcast that’s from a completely different area of interest.
One of the best podcasts that I stumbled across was something called the Naked Scientists. (It’s not as dirty as it sounds. Trust me.) Basically, it’s a group of physicians and researchers from Cambridge University who use radio, live lectures, and the Internet to strip science down to its bare essentials, and promote it to the general public. It’s fascinating. The first podcast was about how certain areas of the U.K. have high proportions of the population that are genetically resistant to H.I.V. due to their ancestors surviving the Black Plague. It was something that was totally out my obvious sphere of interest, but was amazing to learn about!
The best inspiration comes from when you expand your knowledge base and are able to connect to the creative problem you’re trying to solve. You’re not going to do that by just reaffirming the beliefs that you already have. So stay away from mainstream content. Dig a little deeper than the easy stuff. Learn about science, art, music, sport, business, innovation and history. Learn about it all. Because knowledge is what fuels your creativity.
There are certain days when you rediscover your heroes. For me, today was one of those days. It started at about 3:00 AM this morning when my mom texted me that the island that my dad was visiting in the Philippines was hit by an earthquake with a 6.8 magnitude. Naturally, I freaked out. I was shit scared, until my mind cleared up and I reread the message. My dad was in the epicenter of the earthquake, but was safe.
Alright, cool. I was sleepy, so I went back to bed. I woke up a couple of hours later thinking about it. My dad was on a medical mission there, helping people with their eyesight in a remote area of the Philippines. But due to the disaster, he’s now working with the trauma unit at the local hospital. And they’re working out in the parking lot outside of the hospital because the structure of actual hospital building is no longer safe. And then I came to a realization. Holy shit! My dad is a hero.
It’s one of those strange phenomenon that has come full cycle. You see, because when you’re a young boy, your hero is almost always your dad. He is all knowing and powerful. He can fix shit. He can chop wood and make fires. He can drive cars. He knows all the answers to your homework. And then there comes a time when you start to realize that your dad maybe isn’t the hero you thought he was. Maybe he isn’t awesome at everything. I remember that time very distinctly in my mind. I was around 10 years old and my parents had just gotten me a skateboard. My dad was trying to show me how to use it, at which point he tried to skate down a little hill in our driveway. He bailed, messed up his hand and swore profusely. And that was the point that I realized maybe he wasn’t the hero I thought he was.
But now he is again. And he has been for a while. He’s no longer the hero that you expect to solve all your problems for you. But he is the type of hero to guide and support you in what you’re doing. He is the type of hero that inspires. Sometimes he does it by kind acts. Sometimes he does it by listening. Sometimes he does it by saving lives. Sometimes he does it by calling you out on your bullshit. But he’s a hero. He makes a difference. He inspires. And he makes the people around him better.
When I in high school, trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, my dad and I had a long conversation. We talked about doctors being heroes. They saved lives! Who wouldn’t want to be able to do that? But, my father brought up the fact that doctors can only save one life at a time. There’s a limit to the scale of what they can accomplish with their hands. However, creativity has the potential to save millions of lives. By challenging the system or solving a difficult problem, creative thinkers can change the world. They can improve the quality of life. They can make technology easily accessible to all. They can pull down repressive governments regimes. They can rally and inspire billions.
To think that we are unable to be heroic is foolish. It doesn’t take exceptional skill, intelligence or passion. All it takes is consideration, thoughtfulness and action. We all have the potential to be heroic. The key is to perform actions that inspire others.
I’ve always wanted to learn how to skateboard, but never had the gusto and dedication to go through with it. When you’re older, it’s pretty embarrassing to try and learn a new sport. Especially if that sport prides itself on being cool. It’s like someone trying to learn how to be cool at the age of 30. It’s just uncomfortable.
And then in a conversation with my friend Gabe (who is over 30 – don’t tell him I said that) and I found out that he was learning to skate. I thought that it was really cool. He didn’t have the same predilections as me. He didn’t give a fuck if people saw him trying to learn. He didn’t care if he looked like an ageing hipster. He didn’t care if he fell. All he cares about is learning and getting better. He’s a teenage boy living in a 30 year old’s body.
Skateboarding is the perfect paradigm for creativity. It’s self taught. It’s monkey see, monkey do. You learn from seeing someone do something and then trying it yourself. Throwing your own swagger and style at it. You learn from your mistakes. You practice. You improve your skill. And the better you get, the more and more everything you see starts looking like a skate park.
The same thing happens with creativity and art. The more that you use your creative muscles, the more that you start seeing creative opportunities all around you. And you want to capture them. Paint them. Write about them. Bring them to the world. And just like skateboarding, you can start developing your creativity at any age.
But the thing that I like best about skate culture is the do-it-yourself mentality that comes from teaching yourself the sport. They don’t wait for a director to find the best skaters and make a video about them. They film it themselves. And edit it. And design the cover art. And post it online. There’s a blue collar mentality of doing what’s necessary to get it done. So, part of you is a skater. But part of you is also a producer. A designer. A director. A salesperson. Maybe even a seamstress.
What drives this do-it-yourself frame of mind? Easy. Skateboarding is fun. It’s relaxing. It’s scary. It’s thrilling. And when you’re having fun, you don’t mind doing the extra stuff. It’s rewarding. The first time that you’re able to see yourself pulling a trick on film, you feel like a bad ass. All of that extra work learning how to use a camera, figuring out iMovie, learning about lighting is worth it. It’s all about creating a product that you’re proud of and showing it tot he world.
And sometimes we forget that about being creative – especially if it’s part of our job. But you’ve got to take the time to find the fun again. To be a bad ass. To get inspired. To be excited about your work.
My greatest fear is to wake up 20 years from now and hate my life. To be so complacent and risk averse that I keep on suffering through the same boring life for decades. I call this the fear of the same. Last week in Hong Kong, I was able to reconnect with an old friend who had done the “unthinkable” by Chinese standards. She had quit her stable job and went backpacking around Asia.
For people who haven’t caught the travel bug, this may sound insane. Why would you leave your high paying job and air conditioned condo in Canada to go sleep in hostels all over Asia, only to collect bug bites and bruises? It doesn’t make sense. You put your career on pause. You’re leaving all of your friends and family behind. You’re messing up the pattern that we’re supposed to follow (go to school, get a job, buy a house, find a partner, get married, have babies). So, why would you do it?
You do it because it’s an adventure. Because it’s the unknown. Because it’s exciting. You do it because normal life is boring. You do it because you’re curious and you want to know what it would be like. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.
Over the course a couple of Hong Kong beers and some sketchy peanuts, my friend said something that stuck with me:
“I look back at the past five months and I talk to people whose lives are exactly the same. That scares me. I don’t want to go back to being like that.”
Every day, she woke up and did something different. She learned something new. She saw something that she had never seen before. She was inspired. And she came to the stark realization that some of her friends living “normal” lives were boring. What did you do this week? I watched Breaking Bad. Fuck, well I guess that doesn’t compare to being one of the first Western tourists to backpack through Burma.
So, what does this mean? If you want to be inspired and live an interesting life, you’ve got to take risks. You don’t need to quit your job and backpack around the world. Take a dance class. Learn the guitar. Read a book. Stay up drinking wine with friends until you see the sun rise. Just do something to shake up your routine. Don’t do the same thing every day.