The most important of these skills, and power’s crucial foundation, is the ability to master your emotions. An emotional response to a situation is the single greatest barrier to power, a mistake that will cost you a lot more than any temporary satisfaction you might gain by expressing your feelings. Emotions cloud reason, and if you cannot see the situation clearly, you cannot prepare for and respond to it with any degree of control.

via Amazon Kindle: The 48 Laws of Power.

However you feel about power (it’s awful, it’s necessary, it’s awesome), it behooves you to at least understand it so that you do not fall victim to someone else misusing it on you. I’ve been meaning to read 48 Laws for a while, but just haven’t gotten around to it.

I’ll make a note to do so sometime soon…

Additionally: Andrew Warner of Mixergy interviews Robert Greene (author of 48 Laws)

This is a three part series on what gymnastics taught me about acquiring and mastering skills, overcoming fear and delivering clutch performances.

In 1996, Men’s Health published an article where they used some ridiculous mathematical formula using variables such as fitness, skill, pain, brains, etc to figure out the toughest sport in the world. And gymnastics came up number one. Here’s what they said:

Male gymnasts may wear tights, but they score perfect 10’s for fitness and athletic skills, and near-perfect marks for injury potential, mental toughness and difficult conditions. Let’s see you spin in circles on the high bar, release, do a few flips and grab the bar again. Extra toughness points were awarded for the guy who survived a full-speed, chest-first plunge into the horse and for the Japanese Olympic medalist who dismounted from the rings with a broken leg.

I started doing gymnastics when I was six years old and trained for over 16 years. At age 11 I started competing and placing in national competitions at the junior and later the senior levels. The highest I ever placed in a national senior men’s competition was 15th – I was never Olympic material, but I trained with many who were. Previously, I wrote about how I blew out my knee and came back to win a national championship – this post is specifically about what gymnastics has taught me about acquiring and mastering skills.

Gymnastics is the perfect sport to teach these lessons because it’s one of the most demanding activities that you can do. Gymnasts have to master a large number of complex skills that require high levels of technique, strength and guts – and I think that with the intelligent application of these lessons, you’ll be able to learn skills in a variety of areas faster and more effectively.

Ok, ’nuff said. Onto the lessons!

Acquiring and Mastering Skills

Deliberate practice.

I hope this is so obvious to you that you roll your eyes. But seriously – the only real way to get better at something is to do it over and over again. There is no substitute.

However, what Malcom Gladwell said is right, the key is “deliberate practice“. This means being intently focused on every attempt and thinking carefully about how you can improve your performance on each turn. But in addition to practice, consider these other lessons: Continue reading

Asking a girl out on a date can be a scary thing. Ask any guy. Now imagine standing up in the middle of a crowded metro subway train and announcing out loud to every female on the train that you’re looking for someone to take you on a date.

Could you do it?

Well, that’s exactly what Maurice Ellis did as part of his 30 day rejection therapy challenge. And he got it on tape too. Pretty awesome.

In Episode 12 of the Rejection Therapy Podcast, Jason Comely and I interview two folks who have embarked upon the rejection therapy challenge and share their war stories. The podcast is a bit longer (50 mins) but it’s worth it – the stories are both hilarious and inspiring. And if you want to catch every episode, you can join 1,400 other folks and subscribe on iTunes.

Andrew Warner interviewing Gary Vaynerchuck on Mixergy Live at SXSWi 2011

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’m at South by Southwest Interactive, one of the biggest tech conferences in the world. It’s my first time and I’m meeting a lot of cool people and learning lots. I haven’t been to too many panels but on Friday night I got to see Andrew Warner of Mixergy interview Gary Vaynerchuck, Ze Frank and Tim Ferriss in person.

I love watching the Mixergy Interviews – Andrew is able to get big name people to get really honest and open about their successes and their shortcomings. This evening was no different. Each of the folks here have done amazing things and thanks to a mix of Andrew’s probing questions, the candor of the interviewees and perhaps a bit of drinking, we got to hear a lot of real talk.

Here are some takeaways.

Gary Vaynerchuck

Gary is the author of Crush It! and The Thank You Economy (affiliate links), but is probably best known for his popular videopodcast – Wine Library TV – which is about to reach 1000 episodes and has helped him sell millions of dollars worth of product from his family-owned business. Here’s what I got from Gary:

Building a business with your family, especially your parents, is HARD.
Gary and his father would get into big fights about Wine Library. Even though the fights were always about what was best for the business, they were still painful and frustrating. Gary ultimately chose not to work with his father on another venture, Cork’d (which he ultimately spent “around 7 hours” working on) because he realized he wanted to own the whole business and his father would have always held that over his head. Now he’s focused on VaynerMedia which he co-owns with his brother – also challenging, but much better because they have more of a peer oriented sibling-sibling relationship.

Have an irrational belief that you are the best
Gary, who in some ways is quite humble about himself and his achievements, also has held the belief that he is The Man and better than pretty much anyone. He talked about how his mom built him up so much that he was honestly surprised that he wasn’t the best looking guy he knew when he was in his mid twenties. When he first started working at Wine Library after college, a woman in his town made a remark along the lines of “Aw, that’s so cute that you’re working at your Dad’s company.” and all he wanted to do was say “Lady, you don’t know anything. I’m going to blow this business up. Your son knows dick compared to me.”

Ze Frank

I’ve run into Ze Frank’s stuff once or twice before but never really understood what his deal was. I still don’t think I do but at least I know he’s legit: according to Wikipedia, he’s spoken at several TED conferences, won a Webby award and from 2006-07, hosted the show with zefrank which Slate called “a new kind of improvised conversation/performance art“. Side note: apparently it was Wine Library staff watching Ze Frank’s show that motivated Gary to start Wine Library TV. Here’s what I got from Ze Frank:
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I’m at South by Southwest Interactive with the isocket team and staying at the Hilton. If you’re around, tweet me and let’s meet up! (@jasonshen)

I think one of the most valuable things you can do is reflect on your life and process some of the lessons you’ve learned. Even more valuable can be to learn life lessons from others who have gone through different experiences – and benefit from their wisdom. Specifically unintuitive ones. Everyone will nod when they hear things like “work hard”, “be kind” and “never give up”, but even if the points are true, they’re considered common sense and therefore we’ll often discount them.

Contrast that to this thread on Quora, the social question & answer site – What life lessons are unintuitive or go against common sense or wisdom? (For example, being loud and obnoxious is surprisingly useful / effective most of the time). This posts has over 50 answers from people of various walks of life and I highly recommend you read the whole thing. Very valuable stuff.

The top answer has over 438 upvotes and it’s by a guy named Yishan Wong, a former PayPal engineer who’s now at Facebook and posts very prevalently on the site. His piece of unconventional advice?

Money CAN buy happiness.

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