Your mind can make or break you.
Mine broke me. Into 50,000 pieces. It took years to put it back together again. In the process I became mentally unbreakable.
Want an unbelievable example?
I lost $1.2m in a single day. Three days later I was back to normal as if nothing had happened.
Best friend: “How are you not crushed by that event?”
Me: “In the process of facing the darkest times of my life I rebuilt my psychology. Now it’s unbreakable.”
How you think determines how successful you’ll be in life. Let’s make you mentally unbreakable.
The ultimate demonstration of a mental fortress
When I think of an unbreakable mind, I think of those who lived in concentration camps during the holocaust.
It’s hard to imagine a darker time in history. Hitler was a piece of crap man who only had one testicle. Many say that’s why he was such an a-hole.
The experience of the holocaust is often described with this quote:
And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music— Friedrich Nietzsche
The rare few like Victor Frankl, who survived the holocaust and managed to keep their minds intact while their friends and family got gassed to death, danced each day to music in their heads that nobody else could hear.
The average person in the concentration camps thought these people who saw the good in the experience were insane.
They weren’t insane at all.
They just chose to hear an upbeat soundtrack in their heads because the alternative was to die in their minds before they arrived in the gas chamber, and live their last few days/weeks/months on earth in agony.
Even in the darkest situation we have the opportunity to see the light.
Change the meaning of discomfort
A study by Kaitlin Woolley and Ayelet Fishbach found that when people see discomfort as a sign to quit, and change the belief into a sign that it’s time to grow, they unlock a higher level of mental toughness.
With this new belief they found a person can persist against the odds for longer and regulate their emotions much better.
Ultramarathon runner Courtney Dauwalter used this belief to change her story around pain when in a race. She learned to celebrate pain as a sign of progress rather than simply survive it.
This gave her a mental edge against her competition.
It gets better…
After a few times Courtney built an imaginary database in her head of experiences when she’d overcome discomfort to defy the odds. When she found herself in similar situations she would remember that evidence to win the battle in her head again.
Mental evidence helps you keep pushing and know everything will be fine in the heat of a psychological battle.
I use a similar technique. During my fight with mental illness I overcame some crazy challenges that felt superhuman. Now when I face adversity I think back to those dark times.
I even have the journals from the old days saved in Apple Notes on my phone so I can read them.
Every day was so hard.
But when I read those notes from the past and realize who I am today, seeing that transformation makes me understand that whatever pain I have to deal with today … well … it’s tiny.
Takeaway: relabel discomfort as growth. Use it to win. Then document it as evidence you can use to replicate the result.
Don’t expect life to be an equality utopia
Snowflake mentalities want life to be fair.
This causes them to shatter into hundreds of pieces when they witness some level of unfairness. They march through the streets with their social justice flags and demand equality.
The challenge is humans are hardcoded to compete and seek out status.
Life will never be fair. Accept it and make life fair through your actions and optimistic view of the world.
Use this simple tactic to reduce stress
Stress makes our minds fragile.
The more decisions we have to make the less mental willpower we have. The way to defeat all this stress is to implement systems in your life.
A system is simply a series of steps or a checklist you apply to similar situations. Have one for all the common tasks in life.
Set your mind free with systems.
Most of the time, the mind is just mud wrestling with itself — Naval Ravikant
Work out to exercise the mind
Your pain threshold plays a big part in your mental toughness.
Going to the gym is a great way to increase the level of pain you can handle. When you lift weights until the point of failure it tests your mind.
Your brain wants you to give up and rest. If you give in then the growth you get from painful reps is lost. If you persist through the pain your muscles and mind grow.
Next time the same pain at the gym comes up, you’ll be able to get through it because you’ll be stronger. It’s why the gym is a great metaphor for so much of life.
Go to the gym to train your mind.
Get your finances sorted
This one is quirky as hell. Hear me out.
Money is on most people’s brains a lot. We have to think about it heaps because a lack of money can send us into a world of pain.
Get money off your mind.
Understand human motivation to solve most problems in your head
Mentally weak people play a tug of war in their heads when a life situation doesn’t go their way. They think “But w-h-h-h-y-y-y-y me … wahhhhh.”
The solution is to understand human motivation.
It’s why famous investor Charlie Munger says “show me the incentive and I’ll show you the outcome.”
If you don’t know why people do what they do, you’ll always be wasting time trying to use conspiracy theory thinking to understand — and get nowhere.
Don’t let personal experiences lie to your face
Finance author Morgan Housel says:
“Your personal experiences make up maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world but maybe 80% of how you think the world works.”
The fastest way to let your mind lie to you is to think the few tiny experiences you’ve had in life give factual evidence for how the world works.
The world is more complex than your personal experiences. Seeing something “two times” doesn’t count as a precedent or a pattern.
Practice brutal deep thinking
A lot of our days are spent doing shallow thinking:
- Giving in to desire
- Being upset with people
- Thinking about the future
- Thinking too much about our next meal
Mentally tough people spend more time being aware of their mind’s limits.
They hold a wide range of perspectives on most things until they have direct experience that helps inform their narrative better. And they question everything — primarily, biases, thoughts and beliefs.
This level of deep thinking leads to free thinking. Free thinking is what creates freedom in one’s life that makes them unstoppable.
Forget about those judging eyes
Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge — Carl Jung
Weak minds focus too much on what others think.
Because they try not to step on the land mines of other people’s beliefs about how they should act, they accidentally default to people-pleasing.
This makes them vulnerable and dependent on others for survival and validation. Forget what other people think.
Opinions are like buttholes — everyone’s got one.
Practice zooming out
Our minds love to zoom in and double click on tiny details.
A zoomed in mind is another way of describing a closed mind. You can’t get far with this mindset.
A zoomed out mind goes beyond one’s selfish problems and sees them in the context of society. This brings new insights that stop you thinking everything is about you.
It’s not thinking that hurts, it’s thinking about yourself that hurts — Naval
The “self-care” movement is out of control
It’s common now to avoid feeling bad at all costs. Or to label challenging people or events as “bad for your mental health.”
This way of thinking turns us into victims.
Psychology enthusiast Mark Manson says “you don’t build psychological resilience by feeling good all the time. You build psychological resilience by getting better at feeling bad.”
The very thing you’re being told to avoid is the thing making you psychologically fragile. Feeling bad is okay.
The good life needs light, shade, AND darkness.
Use the underrated power of mindset shifts
Psychology guru James Clear says negative events happen and we should expect them. But a negative mindset makes those events 10x harder.
The solution he offers is to write down these negative things and then write the opposite.
– I’m not hurt, I’m healing.
– I’m not losing, I’m learning.
– I was not rejected, I was redirected.
It’s such a simple exercise but it gives you a weapon of mass destruction for when bad stuff happens — and it will.
Ask for help if you need it
Let me end on this hard lesson.
For years I couldn’t deal with mental illness. It was too much. I hid. I felt afraid every day. Finally I got help and went to therapy. I thought it made me weak. I didn’t want anyone to find out my secret.
I now realize this belief is stupid.
A mentally tough person doesn’t handle everything on their own. They have people around them they can lean on when hard times hit.
It’s okay not to be mentally okay. Ask for help, it’ll make you unbreakable.