The Ben Franklin guide to personal breakthrough (why we need a code of conduct):

In my previous article (Why Tony Robbins Is NOT Your Guru) I talked about how easily people can be seduced by an individual’s cult of personality rather than the ideas they’re sharing- ideas that can be passed on via anybody who understands them. Saying that, today I want to talk about developing your own ‘code of conduct’ and why this is so important- an idea I learned courtesy of Tony Robbins, from his best-seller ‘Awaken The Giant Within‘.

If you have a copy, flick to Chapter 23 ‘Be Impeccable- Your Code Of Conduct’. In this chapter, Tony relates the story of a young Benjamin Franklin who, despite his achievements by the age of 27, realised he wasn’t actually very happy. So he developed a list of virtues- 12 in all- that he would take account of on a daily basis as a guideline for what he wanted to embody. He later added a 13th virtue (humility) upon the suggestion of a friend. He wrote down this list in a notebook with grids ruled for every day of the week, and would put down a black mark whenever he violated one of these virtues. His goal was to see no black marks on the grid, because that would mean he’d fully internalised the virtues he aspired to.

So this got me thinking: What values did I want to consistently embody? Who did I want to be?

From what I recall, when I first gave this thought and wrote down a list, I had 9 different qualities. But like Ben Franklin’s list, I eventually reached 13. To make it easier to memorise, every single one of these values begins with the letter ‘P’. During my 10- week Fight Like A Pro experience, in our workbooks one week there was a question relating to the qualities we wanted to embody as men. This was an easy exercise for me- I just wrote down the 13P’s and then shared them with the group. One of the guys asked if I’d send him a copy of my list!

Today, I’m going to share 7 of these values I have written down and committed to memory. The 7 I list here have proven themselves especially relevant during my time in business to date. If I go off the rails, lose track and am having a day that (for whatever reason) falls below my usual standards, I just need to memorise these, and I can turn things around:

#1: Be Passionate

From what I recall, this was one of the first values I listed, because time is limited and you can only use it once. It’s inevitable that mistakes are going to be made and frustrations will come. No matter what you choose to do, there are frustrating elements that go along with it. So taking this unavoidable fact into account, what do I actually have a passion for?

If I’m going to regularly devote blocks of time towards a profession or a pastime, is it something I actually care about?

Some guys unwind for hours watching movies or playing video games but for me, I don’t get enough enjoyment from those things if I’m doing them solo. I have to really want to see a particular movie or have seen it before and especially enjoyed it to watch it. But I have no problem taking a few hours out to go for a walk, even if it’s grey and overcast outside. Give me the right clothing, a destination and tunes and I am content. Painting is something else that can take hours- days even- but I love being able to make a vision reality on canvas while listening to podcasts or music as I put my work together. One of the earlier indicators that I enjoyed writing was back in Year 7 when, as an assignment, our grade had to write our autobiographies. You wouldn’t think a 13 year old boy would have much to talk about- but I took an entire day off school to stay home and write it. I still remember it now: I had the house to myself, I’d sit down and write several pages relating funny stories or memorable moments from my life to date, then get up and have a snack or listen to some music. Then I’d sit back down and proceed to write some more. It was an enjoyable day.

In the end, I turned out close to 50 pages and got full marks for my autobiography, which I titled ‘Some Kid‘. I also read sections of it in front of the class and made the girls laugh, which was a bonus. Point is, writing was something I could spend hours doing. Writing articles like these takes hours to do, so I know I am passionate about it and this is how I can manage to do it as a job. Asking “Am I passionate about this” means I generally use my time wisely and squeeze the most out of it..

#2: Be Patient

Patience is a skill many of us take longer to develop, but the reward is princely. Being patient has helped me to stick with long-term projects, make better financial decisions, not fret if I don’t see results as quickly as I thought I would. Removing emotion from a set of circumstances and delaying impulse has helped me to put a particular situation in full perspective countless times. One great example was during my training during ‘Fight Like A Pro’, where I sparred against a guy with considerably more experience than me. Before I could even think about throwing a punch, he’d have connected three- bang bang bang! The session finished, I wearily slipped out of the ring and slinked away thinking “Stuff this- how am I going to be any good by Fight Night? This is pointless.” Everything told me it was too hard. But as I caught my breath I slowly realised that there were other small things I’d done better today. Small signs of progress to suggest that perhaps I was headed in a good direction? So I came back the next day, and the day after that, and the rest is history. Being patient has helped me to make smarter decisions and to think in regards of the “big picture”.

#3: Be Personable

My definition for this attribute reads as follows: I am open and candid with people when I engage with them. I constantly give insight into it’s like to be who I am, think as I do and go about my life. Likewise, I listen to people especially when I engage with them using the conversational skills I continue to master. As a result, I am attractive to people because they love being in my presence.

Would I say I am the perfect embodiment of this? No. Is it what I strive for? Yes! Using this definition as a reference point when I’m about to meet a room full of new people and envisaging times where I’ve embodied this puts me on the front foot before those other people even meet me. Sometimes you don’t make a notably good impression on somebody until the second or the third time- but what if you don’t get that second chance? Consciously aiming to put my best foot forward and have a positive engagement with somebody that first time makes it easier to develop positive relationships moving ahead.

#4: Be Positive

My definition reads: My destiny lies within my mind. The more I ruminate on what I want and how I will feel and what I will be like when I have what I want, the more I will become that person and the stronger my powers are to attract it into my life. (We don’t believe in pain)

You can’t do it all on positive thinking- you have to do the work as well, obviously. However, adopting a positive mindset gives me more energy and resilience when adversity comes and (as a result) has increased the likelihood that I can bounce back and get on top again. It takes just as much energy and creativity to adopt a positive viewpoint as it does a ‘realistic’ or a negative one. And in each case, you generally get what you expect with the odd surprise thrown in but I know which one feels the best- and has manifested the best results so far!

#5: Be Prepared

This is more than the scouts’ motto or the title of that number Scar sings in ‘The Lion King‘. Being prepared, for me, is really about thinking long-term and using my knowledge and intuition to identify any possible threats that may arise so I can minimise the disruption if they come. So If I go for a ride on my bike, I have a small backpack with me and in the front pocket is a tube repair kit, a shifting spanner and a universal tool in case a nut comes loose or I get a puncture along the way. More than once I’ve been grateful for thinking ahead in this regard! But it also works the other way- it helps me to capitalise on opportunities that may come up later simply because I am ready to act if they present themselves. To be prepared is not just about taking action, but getting into the right frame of mind for what is required of me. You might find it hard to believe, but I don’t always sit down here to write and words just flow. Sometimes rather than fully absorbing myself into a fluid motion of thoughts-words-sentences, the ideas come in short bursts and then I stop…and procrastinate. If I’m writing for a personal project this isn’t such a big deal, but when there’s a deadline and my full ability is required, I have to find a way to get into my peak. So here’s what I do- I either go back and read stuff I’ve written before, whether it’s a relevant topic or not. I remember the train of thought that led to me turning out the piece in question. Or I’ll go to my special folder full of screenshots from passages of other people’s writing that I’ve loved. This also activates the part of my mind that remembers how to link up the words to convey information how I want to convey it, and then I can usually return to the task at hand and churn out the words needed. As I put it in the write-up for my definition of this state: Being prepared is the quiet rehearsal in private that is necessary in order to take the stage later and kill it, with everybody cheering me on.

#6: Be Proactive

In short? Strike first! I expanded on this in a previous article and you can find it right here

#7: Be Persistent

The wording I’ve put for this definition is stronger in tone, but it needs to be. If it isn’t, if you don’t live by something like this, then the grind of life can wear you down: As long as I am working or aiming for a greater cause or state of being, keep moving forward and fixate only on getting what I want or where I want to be. Failure is inevitable- but what happens after is my choice. Choose to keep going forward, learning and becoming more dangerous to anybody or anything that would rather I kept passive and gave up. Being persistent is the nemesis of failure and the haters. (We don’t believe in defeat)

Through persistence, I won the high school cross country at my final attempt.

Through persistence, I won Fight Night after 10 weeks where (as I mentioned already) I had considered throwing in the towel at least once.

Through persistence, I turn out articles like this one every fortnight, even when I don’t feel like the final draft is as amazing as it could be.

Through persistence, I got to where I am now- and keep pushing ahead, looking to get better in some small way every day.

I can lose today and I can be worn down by that- but as long as my heart is still in it and I still want it, I return tomorrow and I go again…

Conclusion

Back when I was 26, I was in London one night and going home from a pub crawl. Here was the problem: while I knew whereabouts my hostel was, I couldn’t remember the name of the street it was on, the name of the hostel or the exact route to get back there. It was late and the underground was no longer running. My only options were:

a) Hop in a cab and try to recall how to get back to my hostel (spending who knows how much in the process) or,

b) To walk unfamiliar streets, in a city whose sprawl is notoriously easy to get lost in.

But then I realised something: I knew that the hostel was just across the Thames. If I could get on that side of the river in that particular area, then the streets would be familiar and I could find my way back to the hostel on sight alone. The problem with London is that (like Sydney or New York City) the streets don’t run parallel with one another, so you can’t go in one direction and predict where the intersections are going to be or where that particular street leads. However- I knew that the closest bridge crossing the river was Westminster Bridge, right near Big Ben. So although I was coming from Camden (with miles to go) if I just used Big Ben as a reference point and walked towards it, I would then find Westminster Bridge- and this would lead me back across the river to familiar territory and my hostel. So this is what I did, and despite unfamiliar surroundings I found my way back.

Think of your code of conduct the same way: getting clear on your values and committing to them gives you a marker to aim towards, even if you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed by current circumstances. They are your guiding light that lead you towards success and fulfilment with who you become in the process.

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