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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This Is What Gratitude Really Gives You:

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“You never know just what you’ve lost- until it’s yours and then its’ dust”– Paul Kelly, ‘Standing On The Street Of Early Sorrows’

I have a memory of being around 4 years old, sitting in the living room of my old place one morning and watching this ‘Thomas The Tank Engine’ video we had. It was the final episode on the video and as I watched, I got this sinking feeling…

Because I knew that after this episode finished (with The Fat Controller deliberating over whether to keep Donald and Douglas after they’d destroyed a spiteful break van), it was off to preschool for the day. I had friends there and I loved playtime- but I couldn’t stand having to come in for nap time in the middle of the day. I wanted to keep playing outside! No matter how many times my friend Garth and I ran and hid in the wooden pirate ship each day when we’d all get called inside, the teachers still always found us! So it was inside, to lie on one of the cots, bored out of my mind while they played some new-agey music to try and lull us to sleep. To this day, the smell of bed linen takes me back 30 years to those nap-times. I couldn’t wait to be grown-up, not have to go inside and lie down on a cot and do what the adults told me. I couldn’t wait to be able to drive a car, go to work as an engine driver every day instead of going to preschool, and get to choose what I ate for dinner. It felt like a lifetime away…

Skip forward 9 years- and I’m sitting in Year 7 maths class. Bored. Gazing out the window. For some reason, this Paul Kelly song comes into my mind:

It was from his album ‘So Much Water So Close To Home’ and Mum used to listen to it in the car back when I was in preschool. I thought about those days nearly a decade ago, when nobody expected anything of me. When I didn’t care what my peers thought of me or (more to the point) whether girls found me attractive or not? Starting high school had been an unexpected awakening because suddenly I’d become self-aware, full of doubts and insecurities I didn’t know I had. Continuing to gaze out the window, how I yearned to go back to more innocent days- when everything was so easy. I ached for it like a past lover I still carried a flame for…

Let’s go forward again now- I’m 30 years old. Out for a walk one Sunday afternoon- my one day off for the week. On my iPod, I’m listening to a playlist I’ve just created, that is (song for song) a copy of a mixtape I had back in Year 7. It brings these flashbacks to early adolescence…the new feelings I had, the fresh discoveries I was making, how hopeful and optimistic I was about my future…and as much as I enjoy my life in its’ current state- I want to go back, to feel things as I did back then. I want to go back to that time when so much of the world still felt new and fresh and exciting (and intimidating) in equal measure. In some ways, it seems cute when I remember some of the things that were such a big deal to me back then, that just didn’t matter in the bigger scheme of things. So I play the tunes, grab a beer on my walk, sink a cold one in the spring sunshine- and drift back…

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You see what’s happening here?

I have an unusually sharp recollection for times that many people my age have forgotten by now. The benefit is that I remember enough not to fall into the trap of imagining “things were so much better then”. If I’m headed down the path of viewing the “good old days” through rose-tinted glasses, I then remember the not so great things-

I remember the frustration of being preschool age and having to go where the grown-ups told me to, eat what was put in front of me and do what I was told…

I remember the awkwardness and lack of self-belief that clipped my wings and (unfortunately) stopped me from enjoying my adolescence in the carefree manner I could have- and I can’t get those days back…

I remember even a few years ago, the things I still didn’t see clearly and the realisations I hadn’t discovered yet that would’ve given my life more substance…

I bet this all sounds familiar to you. You hear one song, catch a re-run of one show, smell just one scent, run into just one familiar face from your past- and remember a time that you just want to go back to:

No bills!

No jobs outside of house work and school work!

So many problems you didn’t have to deal with!

So many life problems you didn’t even know existed!

Can I get an amen?

In the moment, we take so many things for granted- and we don’t actually appreciate them until they’re gone. Dead. Lost. Left behind in a life we can’t return to. To quote Bill Bryson: You can’t go home a second time.

How did we not recognise these good times when we lived them? Well…

We were too busy.

We were too absorbed in chasing “the next big thing” that was meant to make us finally stop, relax and go “I’ve made it”. Or we were engrossed in nostalgia for other times past!

Contentment isn’t a destination we reach, like a town on a map. The plane doesn’t land into Gratitude International Terminal where even though the aircraft eases down out of the sky, our spirits soar to levels we’ve never felt before. The train doesn’t pull into Gratitude Central with a rainbow breaking out across the bright blue sky.

The journey is within. It’s a state of mind. It’s a conscious decision. I mean, in terms for the world’s population, the fact you’re reading this article right now via the internet from your phone, tablet, PC or laptop means you’re pretty fortunate as is.

But instead, I complain about people I don’t even know personally. Or you envy somebody who appears to have “more” than you. Or we find ourselves wistfully reflecting on a nicely edited version of “the good old days”.

I try not to take anything for granted. I don’t take today for granted. I don’t take tomorrow for granted. Without meaning to go down a morbid path, tragedy is often so because it strikes out of nowhere, without any time to prepare. Just driving on the wrong section of road at the wrong time, boarding the wrong flight, walking along the wrong pedestrian mall or even climbing aboard the wrong ride at a fun park at the wrong time can change the trajectory of our life and rob from us in a way we didn’t foresee.

So there are just two options we have: we can live in a constant state of worry. Or, we can live in a state of gratitude

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I miss my 10 week Fight Like A Pro journey back in the winter and spring of 2016. Not just the fight night itself- but everything that led up to that moment. The sparring sessions at the gym, the 5:30am starts running laps at Currumbin Alley as the sun came up, the sessions on the beach afterwards, the guys I met- everything. BUT-

During the whole time, I made sure to appreciate the moment. I made every effort to be present, and take in everything as it happened. Because I knew that soon enough, it’d be over- so I made the conscious effort to enjoy it while it lasted. To be grateful for the whole experience. And whenever I reflect on those 3 months now, while I miss them?

I’m grateful that I was grateful.

Just recently, I made a new playlist- ‘2010- 2019’. It’s all the tunes I’ve liked from this decade nearly over. Listening to it brought back a lot of great memories- vivid flashbacks to going out on the town in my mid 20’s; fond memories of the Uber days on the Gold Coast when I lived there- and that night I saw ‘The Bennies’ for free at The Shark Bar with the people I picked up; that winter when an old flatmate and I would stay up late, clocking ‘Lego Pirates Of The Caribbean’. All good times, most of which won’t come back. But that’s ok. Because I’m grateful for the journey, and I know that if I’ve still got some time in front of me (Lord willing), then there’s plenty of other memories yet to be made that I’ll recall just as fondly.

But in the meantime?

We might as well be grateful for what’s here and now. I can think of plenty of things, and I’m sure you can, too:

Who are the people we have in our lives that we appreciate?

If you’ve turned your small business into a larger company- aren’t you grateful for what you’ve managed to build so far?

Big family or small family, young or old, single or taken, start-up or established business owner- you can definitely take some time out to go “I am grateful for…”

What does your life situation look like and what are the good things about it?

Your feeling of well-being, frame of mind and appreciation for the small things you might have otherwise missed- they all change noticeably the moment you begin regularly exercising this attitude of gratitude. And when these “good old days” have passed, at least when you look back you’ll know you enjoyed the ride while it lasted.

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