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By Leo Babauta

As I’ve been diving into my Fearless Mastery mastermind program, with some of the most amazing people, I’ve been introducing some key ideas for training ourselves …

These are ideas I’ve been developing in my Sea Change and Fearless Training programs, as I’ve trained thousands of people to shift their habits as well as the patterns that get in the way of our meaningful work.

Here’s the problem when we try to train ourselves to change:

  1. We set out to do something regularly — exercise, meditate, write, create something, etc.
  2. We fail at it.
  3. Then we fall apart. We might beat ourselves up, get discouraged, and give up.

This is a fragile, non-resilient approach. Maybe we try this half a dozen times, and eventually we think something is wrong with us.

There’s nothing wrong with us. The problem is with the fragile approach of falling apart when we fail.

Instead, I’ve been training people with the idea of anti-fragility built into our training system.

Anti-Fragility, in Short

The idea of anti-fragility comes from Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book Black Swan: the basic idea is that many human-made systems are fragile. Something comes to stress the system, and it falls apart. Some systems are robust or resilient, which is much better than fragile.

But even better is the idea of being anti-fragile: stress makes the system stronger.

Human systems are anti-fragile — when we exercise, we’re stressing the system, and after we recover, we’re stronger and better able to handle that stress. Bones get denser with impact. Lots of natural systems have anti-fragile mechanisms built in.

We can make human-made systems more anti-fragile by designing ways that stress will make the system better able to handle stress. Failure helps the system get stronger.

Let’s look at how to apply this idea into our training — any kind of learning, habit formation, physical or mental training, anything where we’re trying to improve something.

Key ideas for Anti-Fragility

Before we get into specifics for training systems, let’s look at some key ideas I’ve found to be useful:

  1. Expect stress, failures, crashes.
  2. Design the training system to not only be resilient, but to get stronger with stresses & failure.
  3. Start by removing fragility from the system. Examples: smoking, debt, having too many possessions, or being super hurt or pissed when you get criticism or failure.
  4. Take small risks often. Small experiments designed to help us learn from failure. Example: every day, I try to get better at doing hard work, with each day being a mini-experiment. I fail often, which means I learn often.
  5. Embrace uncertainty, risk, failure, discomfort. These become things to help you grow, rather than things to be avoided or complain about, or things that cause you to collapse entirely. Embrace variability, noise, tension.
  6. The attitude is to always learn & get better from failure. Don’t bemoan it, embrace it and learn, improve, grow stronger. Love error. When your system gets stressed, how will it respond to get stronger?
  7. Intentionally inject stress into your life – do sprints, lift heavy weights, fast, take cold showers, take on challenges, experiments and adventures.

Now let’s apply this to our training systems.

Anti-Fragile Training Systems

Some ideas to use in training:

  1. Do small experiments, designed to learn from failure. Small is good. Big and bulky leads to failure when big stressors happen. Instead, small means you’re lean, easily adaptable, mobile, can shift easily. For training, this will mainly apply to how we practice — we can intentionally do small experiments, small training sessions, instead of massive projects or very long sessions. Small experiments, such as training in unprocrastination by doing daily training experiments. Learn from each day’s experiment, and get better and better with time.
  2. Adopt the attitude of embracing uncertainty, risk, failure, discomfort. Instead of being afraid of these and avoiding them, let ourselves push into them and get better and better at dealing with them each time we practice. In this way, every failure, every moment of uncertainty or discomfort … becomes a wonderful opportunity to practice and get better, something to celebrate!
  3. Do weekly reviews — use them to learn, adjust & continually improve. Each daily experiment should be logged — how did you do that day, what went well, what got in the way, what can you learn & adjust going forward. Then take a little time to review each week, and use the data to learn and adjust. This is the kind of structure we need to use the stress in our lives to grow.
  4. Use accountability & support. Report every day or every week to people, so that they can support you, hold your feet to the fire, help you see your patterns that are getting in the way. Reporting to other people helps us to learn from our mistakes and failures. Having a group support you also gives you a net that you can fall back on when you fall, so that you don’t have to completely collapse.
  5. Build in redundancy. If you have a single point of failure, it’s easy to collapse when things go wrong. For training, I recommend having multiple ways to be held accountable, multiple reminders and checkins/reviews. These might seem a little tedious until we realize they are making us more likely to stick to our training.
  6. Reduce things that make you more fragile. Smoking makes you more fragile, as does unhealthy eating. What makes our training more fragile? Complaining, resentment, and similar negative thinking habits. While we might not be able to avoid these completely, we’re going to try to reduce them, to improve our overall resilience and antifragility.
  7. Intentionally inject stress into your life. We don’t want to only put ourselves in comfort, because it trains us to be fragile. But too much stress & pain can cause us to be destroyed (burnout, depression, etc.). So we want to give ourselves just enough stress that we can handle and grow from it. Regularly. So training is to put ourselves into uncertainty & discomfort regularly, when we have the capacity to handle it, and then let it help us grow. Stress, recover, grow.
  8. Be kind to yourself — but overcome your tendencies. Beating yourself up doesn’t help. It only makes you more fragile. It is tremendously helpful to learn to be compassionate with yourself. That said, it’s easy to let yourself off the hook. So it helps to bind yourself, when you’re in your best frame of mind, in a commitment contract. Tell people, “If I don’t meditate every day this week, I owe you $100.” Or something like that; it doesn’t have to be money. Don’t let yourself make the training or challenge easier for anything in the coming week — you can only change your training for days that are further than a week.
  9. See opportunities in everything. It’s an anti-fragile idea to take advantage of opportunities. When good opportunities arise, be able to take advantage of them. For training, it’s good to learn to see opportunities to practice in everything, and then take advantage of those practice opportunities as much as we can.

Questions to Ask Ourselves

With those things built into the system, it’s good to ask ourselves questions such as:

  1. What are the things that are making me (or my business) fragile? Smoking, unhealthy foods, negative thinking, inability to receive feedback, too much debt, too many possessions, etc.
  2. What is mission-critical that would cause me to fail if it failed? How can I create redundancy there — have 2 of them? Can I create a Plan A, B and C?
  3. What kind of support network can I create (or do I have) that can help me recover quickly when a stressful event or failure happens?
  4. How can I optimize for the worst case instead of the best? Not try to be in comfort all the time?
  5. How can I see an opportunity in every difficulty?

I highly encourage you to build these ideas into whatever training and self-improvement efforts you’re taking on!

And I strongly encourage you to check out my Sea Change and Fearless Training programs, and of course the Fearless Mastery mastermind when it opens up again in 6 months.

Valuable Post

Stop Asking Couples When They Are Having Kids

“So, when are you having kids?” my aunt asked me straight in the face, soon after I got married. At that point, I had been married for a few months. I didn’t even know if I wanted kids, much less when I was having them.

Caught off guard, I said, “I have not decided if I want kids.” I would spend the next hour listening to stories of women who had difficulty conceiving for a variety of reasons, with the implicit message being that I was going to be like them and regret it if I didn’t hurry and work on churning out babies.

This would be my life for the next few years, where I received varying forms of “When are you having kids?”, followed by a routine, almost ritualistic pressurization to have kids.

Lest you think that it ends after having a child, it doesn’t — the people who previously tried to persuade you to have “just one kid” when you were indifferent to the idea, now tell you to have “just one more.” It seems like you just can’t win. 😒

The problem with asking, “When are you having kids?”

I can understand why people like to ask this question. Find a partner, settle down, get married, and have kids. This is the life path that we’ve been taught to follow since young. This is the path that we’ve been told is the way of life, which would bring us ultimate joy and happiness.

This is especially so in the Chinese culture, where having kids is seen as the ultimate goal in life. There are even sayings built around this notion, such as 生儿育女 (shēng ér yù nǚ), which means to birth sons and raise daughters, and 子孙满堂 (zǐ sūn mǎn táng), which means to be in a room filled with children and grandchildren.

Multi-Generation Chinese Family at the Park

A multi-generation family, often used to depict a vision of happiness in the Chinese culture

So after you get married, people automatically assume that you should have kids. “When are you having kids?” they ask, somehow expecting you to give them a straight answer.

The problem with this question is that it’s rude. It’s presumptuous. It’s also insensitive.

1) Happiness can come in different forms

Firstly, everyone has their path in life. Some people want kids, while some don’t want kids. Some people think that having kids is the greatest joy in life, while some see having kids as a burden to their carefree life. To presume that everyone should have kids, especially when the person has never said anything about wanting kids, is rude and disregards the person’s preferences and choice in life.

Take for example, Oprah Winfrey. She chose not to have children and has dedicated herself to her personal purpose of serving the world. Oprah hosted her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show which ran for 25 years, founded a leadership academy for girls and became a mother figure to the girls in attendance, and started her own television network. Through the years, she has inspired millions and become a champion for humans worldwide. As she says,

“When people were pressuring me to get married and have children, I knew I was not going to be a person that ever regretted not having them, because I feel like I am a mother to the world’s children. Love knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if a child came from your womb or if you found that person at age two, 10, or 20. If the love is real, the caring is pure and it comes from a good space, it works.” — Oprah[1]

There are other people who chose not to have kids as well.

  • Betty White, actress and comedian, chose not to have kids as she’s passionate about her career and focused on it.[2]
  • Chelsea Handler, talkshow host, doesn’t have kids as she doesn’t have the time to raise a child herself, and she doesn’t want her kids to be raised by a nanny.[3]
  • Ashley Judd, actress and politican activist, chose not to have kids as there are already so many orphaned kids in this world, and she feels that her resources can be better used to help those already here.[4]

And then there are others who chose not to have kids, such as Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, Cameron Diaz, Chow Yun Fat, Marisa Tomei, Renée Zellweger, and Rachael Ray. These people choose not to have kids for different reasons, such as because they’re pursuing paths deeply meaningful to them, they do not wish to be tied down with a child, or they just don’t feel a deep desire to have kids. Not having kids has not prevented them from being happy in life, and there’s no reason to assume why people must have kids in order to be happy.

2) You may well cause hurt and pain

Secondly, you never know what others are going through.

Some people may want kids, but maybe they are facing fertility struggles.

  • Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan went through three miscarriages before having their firstborn.[5]
  • The Obamas had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF.[6]
  • Friends star Courteney Cox had a total of seven miscarriages before having her daughter, as she has a MTHFR gene mutation which raises the risk of miscarriage-causing blood clots.[7]

About 10% of women have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant,[8] while 13.5% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages, with the figure rising as the maternal age rises.[9]

For some people, the journey to conceive is fraught with deep pain, struggle, and losses as they experience miscarriages, undergo round after round of invasive fertility treatments, and wait in hope of the double blue lines on their pregnancy kit each month.

And then there are people who cannot have their own biological children due to issues with their reproductive system, which could have been there since birth.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and family

Barack and Michelle Obama had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF

While you may be think that you’re being helpful or funny by asking people when they’re having kids, your question may well trigger hurt and pain. As Zuckerberg said,

“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience.”[5]

3) Not everyone is in a position to have kids

Thirdly, having kids is simply not a reality for some people due to their circumstances in life.

Some people may lack the financial resources to have kids, a reality in a place like Singapore.

Some people may be facing problems with their marriage, in which case their priority should be to work on their marriage, not to have kids.

Some people may be so burdened with caring for their dependents that they are unable to consider kids, at least not at the moment.

And then there are people facing chronic health issues, issues that you don’t know and can’t see, which make pregnancy difficult due to the toll it would take on their body.

4) Some couples could still be thinking

And then there are people who are neutral to the idea of having kids, like myself when I just got married. These people need time to think it through, because having kids is a permanent, lifelong decision with serious consequences. There’s no reason to assume that having a kid should be an automatic decision, because you’re bringing a whole new life into this world. This is a decision that will change your life forever, as well as the life of the child you’re bringing into the world.

For those yet to have kids, they need the space to figure out what they want, not have people breathe down their neck day in and out about having kids.

My experience

For the initial years after I got married, I just wasn’t thinking about kids. Firstly, having a child is a lifelong decision, and I wanted to enjoy married life with just my husband first, before diving into a decision as serious as that. Secondly, both my husband and I were genuinely happy spending the rest of our lives with just each other — we didn’t feel the need to have kids at all, not in the way my culture obssesses about it. Thirdly, my husband was dealing with some personal problems, and I was fully focused on supporting him through these. These were issues that we needed to sort through before considering kids, if we were to want kids.

Yet I kept getting nudges to have kids, even though I never said anything about wanting them.

“So, when are you having kids?”

“[This relative’s] baby is so cute, isn’t it? Why don’t you hurry up and birth a baby?”

It was as if I was some vehicle, some production machine to have kids, where my own views in the matter didn’t matter. The most frustrating thing was that I kept getting this question, while my husband would never get it (as a man), not even when we were in the same room together.

It was as if my sole reason for existence as a woman was to have kids, and until I had them, I was regarded as unworthy or incomplete.

The decision to have kids

Yet the decision to have children is a personal one. It is also a complex one. It is a decision that will permanently change the lives of the couple in question.

It is not a decision that one should be pressurized into making because their mom wants to carry grandchildren or their aunt wants to play with kids. It’s a decision that a couple should make because they genuinely want to nurture another life.

Because when a child is born, the people bugging others to have kids aren’t the ones who will be caring for the baby 24/7, whose lives will be set back by years (even decades) as they care for a new life, or who will be responsible for every decision concerning the child for the next 18-21 years.

It will be the couple.

And the people who aren’t ready, who were pressured into having kids because they were told that it was the best thing to do, may have to deal with regret as they are stuck with a decision they cannot undo. Because there are people who regret having kids, and we need to be honest about that. These people regret, not because of the child’s fault, but because they were simply not ready to have kids, be it financially, emotionally, or mentally. Unfortunately, the children are the ones who eventually suffer, from living in dysfunctional households to dealing with issues of violenceabuse, and anger.

We need to recognize these realities, and not make parenthood seem like it’s some magical band-aid that solves a lack of purpose or life’s pressures. Things don’t magically get better because people have kids; existing problems usually worsen as having a child puts a big strain on a couple’s lives. Digging into people’s plans to have kids, and pressurizing them into one of the biggest life decisions they can ever make, will only stress them out and perhaps push some into depression. As this redditor shared,

“I have a friend who went through 6 years of miscarriages and fertility treatments before the doctors figured out the problem and she had her son. The nosy ladies at her work and her in-laws questioned her constantly. The depression from that made it harder for her to conceive.”

Stop asking couples when they’re having kids

So, if you tend to ask others when they’re having kids, it’s time to stop that. It’s rude, insensitive, and it disregards people’s privacy. It’s also none of your business.

The reality is that if people want kids, they will work on having kids. They don’t need you to prod them about it.

If they don’t have kids, it’s either because

  1. they really don’t want kids,
  2. they are not in a position to consider kids right now, or
  3. they want kids but they are facing some struggles.

For people in group (c), they aren’t going to share such deeply personal experience over some afternoon coffee chat, and certainly not by you asking, “When are you having kids?”

The best thing you can do is to give people their personal space. Understand that having kids is a personal decision, and people don’t have to share or explain anything. Respect that others have their right to privacy. Respect that people are individuals on their own path, and this path may not involve having kids. And this doesn’t make them incomplete or lesser in any way.

Instead of asking women or couples, “When are you having kids?”, talk to them like how you would a normal person. There’s no reason why conversations should suddenly revolve around childbearing after marriage; it’s not like a person’s identity changes to revolve around having kids. A person still has their own passion, goals, and dreams. Talk to them about what they’ve been doing. Understand their interests. Know them as a real person, not some random being here to fulfill society’s checklist.

If you’re really interested in someone’s plan to have children, you can simply ask, “Are you and your partner planning to have kids?” If they wish to share more, they will do so. If they give a generic answer, then take the hint and move on.

Ultimately, having kids or not doesn’t change a person’s self-worth. A woman is complete with or without kids. A marriage doesn’t need kids to be deemed complete. Having kids should be a conscious choice, not a result of external pressure. Don’t judge people by whether they have kids or not. Some people will have kids, and some people will not have kids. Some will have kids early, while some will have them later in life. All of these are different paths, and there’s nothing wrong about any of them.

For Me

For my husband and I, we eventually had a few discussions and decided to have a baby, and had our baby girl this year (2020). 😊 Yet other people’s comments and nudges to have children didn’t make me want to have children; it only annoyed me and made me want to avoid these people, because having a child is a personal decision between me and my husband, that has nothing to do with them. It was after we had the space to settle down and enjoy married life without kids, and took some time to actively pursue our goals and interests, that we finally felt ready to try for a kid last year.

In the meantime, I hope all of you are doing well. There are other things that I’m working on, other things that are happening that I look forward to sharing in time to come. Sending lots of love to you, and remember that whatever life challenge you’re facing, you have it in you to overcome it. I’ll talk to you guys soon! 🙂

The post Stop Asking Couples When They’re Having Kids appeared first on Personal Excellence.

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Last week, I messed up. I disappointed people I care deeply about, and people who look up to me as a role model. I made the mistake of silencing the voices of the Black B-Schoolers in my FB group that needed to be heard during this time of deep pain following the horrific deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and countless others.

Instead of creating a safe space for them to express their hurt and pain, I chose to temporarily close commenting without attempting to understand their point of view. 

I take full and complete responsibility for my mistake. I was 100% wrong. 

While we had guidelines in place about the type of posts and comments that are acceptable, our core values are rooted in kindness, compassion, and respect and I didn’t uphold those ideals. The fact is, Black people cannot separate their business from their race or any other aspect of their lives. Any business that has people of color as customers has a responsibility to acknowledge, respect, and embrace that. 

At the time, I had two glaring blindspots:

  1. Wanting to protect myself, while also having the privilege to pause thinking about race if I choose to do so.
  2. Not setting up my team to moderate online discussions on anti-racism. I hadn’t done that important work yet.

That’s white privilege. 

That’s unconscious bias on my part. 

Over the weekend, a number of Black women put time and energy into calling me in and educating me about these blind spots. To Rachel Rodgers, Trudi Lebron, and many more, I sincerely thank you. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, but you began to open my eyes. And for that, I’m grateful.

I finally did what I should have done at the beginning: I shut up, surrendered, and let go of my defensiveness.

That’s when things began to crack open. 

Where I Stand

One lesson that’s emerging from this time is the importance of stating and restating my values. So let me be crystal clear where I’m at on these issues. 

  • I stand in full support of the Black community and the Black Lives Matter movement. 
  • The U.S. criminal justice system needs a complete overhaul. It’s a racist system designed to protect white people and put Black people behind bars.
  • White privilege, white supremacy, and institutionalized racism must be dismantled now. As white people, it’s our job because we created this problem. Inequality exists because of us. We have to wake up, speak up, and get to work.
  • Economic, educational, housing, voting, and health inequalities that negatively impact marginalized communities, and specifically Black communities, must be made right. The playing field is not equal, and it never has been. Enough is enough.
  • I don’t care about losing followers or customers who want to blather on about “all lives matter” or pretend that they “don’t see color” or want to argue “reverse racism.” 

The Actions We’re Taking Now 

We will:

  1. Train our internal team to actively combat racism, with ongoing reinforcement training. This is a long-term initiative.
  2. Overhaul our management, leadership, and hiring practices to recognize bias and increase the number of Black people on our team.
  3. Prioritize the health and wellbeing of our team, especially our Black team members. That might mean resting, having conversations, supporting each other, being there for family — whatever they need.
  4. Actively remove people from our B-Schoolers Facebook community who participate in racist behavior and dialogue.
  5. Award at least 50% of our scholarships to B-School and The Copy Cure to businesses owned by BIPOC.
  6. Use our platform (MarieTV, The Marie Forleo Podcast, B-School, etc.) to feature, elevate, and promote more Black experts, authors, and creatives. 
  7. In B-School and future training programs, we’ll amplify Black-owned businesses and elevate their voices, visibility, and success.
  8. Make a $50,000 donation to Color of Change.

This is our action plan as of right now. I’m sure it will evolve as we learn, grow, and work closely with our community and team. 

We’re also having a lot of tough, but valuable conversations in the FB group. We’re connecting on a level that, frankly, we’ve never connected on before.

We’ve instituted office hours to facilitate constructive conversation. I’ve been in the comments connecting, listening, and learning. Last Friday, we had a very transformative experience on a Facebook Live. Over two hours, eight Black B-Schoolers spontaneously joined me to share their experiences and let me know how my actions impacted them. 

We’re sharing ideas and suggestions to make our community a safe place where everyone, but specifically Black people, can feel seen, heard, and understood. It’s a messy process doing this with over 30,000 people. There are a lot of disagreements. But we’re committed to growing forward together. 

We want that growth to be rooted in respect, love, and justice. 

They say that within any crisis lies great opportunity. I believe myself, the people of this country, and the world are embarking upon one of the greatest and most profound learning experiences and transformational shifts of all time. 

This Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint. 

There’s no getting back to business as usual.

We can’t quickly “do the work” and claim victory. 

We can’t unpack deep-seated, unconscious racism and undo injustice and discrimination in a weekend. 

This is not about attending an inclusivity webinar. Or watching a particular movie. Or reading a single book. 

There is no list of “The Top 5 Anti-Racist Actions” to add to your morning routine. 

Don’t look for a set of boxes to tick off and declare, “Well, we did that! Let’s move on!”

Change won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. It’s already happening. We need to come together and build long-lasting solutions that get at the root of these problems. This is an important journey that we’re going to take together. 

I also want to make something super clear: I’m 100% committed to use my voice and platform in this fight for justice and equality. Not for a day. Not for a week. But as a fundamental aspect of who I am and how I show up in the world.

My focus right now is on my B-School community and my team. 

This is where I caused the most hurt and this is where I must focus my efforts. Please know that work is being done in the background (it never seems to happen fast enough at times like this) that you will see rolled out over the weeks and months ahead. 

This is an awakening. This is an opportunity to take what I’ve built for 20 years and use it to do more good in the world than perhaps I’d ever imagined. 

Now, there’s one more important thing I need to say. 

Dear White People, Do Not Defend Me 

Anti-Blackness is so utterly pervasive, most of us can’t see that it exists — especially in ourselves. When we’re willing to see it, it’s uncomfortable. It’s disorienting. It can unleash a torrent of emotions like shame, denial, grief, regret, anguish, anger, guilt, and profound sadness. But being uncomfortable and sitting with that discomfort is required for real growth and lasting change. 

Spend your energy actively listening to Black people and other people of color right now. Listen to their stories. 

I invite you to learn alongside me. To begin the education process of becoming an anti-racist in every sphere and scope of your life. Then, you must commit to action. 

Bold, risky, imperfect, unrelenting action.

To everyone reading this right now, whatever your race or ethnicity…

With my whole heart, let’s find ways to create a fair, just, and equitable world together. 

There is no going back, there is only forward.

P.S. My focus right now is on my B-Schoolers Facebook group and Team. We’ve begun the healing process, and it’s a long road ahead. There’s a lot of important work to be done (like staying in conversation with my B-Schoolers, activating all the action plans I mentioned, educating myself and my team, etc.). In full transparency, I may not be able to respond to all comments, but I assure you that I’m actively reading, listening, and absorbing. 

With enormous love and respect,

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