Do you know of some people who are extremely resilient and stoic, able to handle any problem life throws at them? Ever wondered how they are able to stay calm most of the time and handle the situation in the best possible way?
How about that friend of yours who is able to exercise regularly and stick to a healthy diet while you have so much difficulty?
All these high-performing individuals have one thing in common. They have achieved Emotional Mastery in a particular area of their lives.
Emotion drives Success
Success always starts with a goal. I haven’t heard of any success coach that says otherwise.
Joseph Schooling, Singapore’s first Olympic champion, set a commitment for himself when he was 6 to compete in the Olympics. By 21, he won the Olympic gold for the 100m Butterfly in swimming, beating his childhood hero Michael Phelps in the process.
At 15, Michael Jordan dreamed of becoming the greatest basketball player. But his dream was crushed when he was dropped from the high school basketball team because he was too short. By the time he retired, he had won the NBA championship 6 times and is widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time.
One night in 1985, Jim Carrey, while dreaming about the future, wrote a $10 million cheque to himself, dated it for Thanksgiving 1995 and kept it in his wallet. In the notation line he wrote “for acting services rendered”. By 1995 he was earning $20 million per film.
When I was 14, I decided I was going to become an entrepreneur and build a $100 million company. Well, I’m not yet at $100 million, but I have reached a few million with another good 30 – 40 years of productive life ahead.
What is YOUR goal in life? Think about it for a second.
Look at your goal, my goal, the goals of all the successful people I mentioned above, and all other successful people that you know of.
Are the goals logical? Or are they emotional?
I believe that for successful people, goals are 100% emotional.
It is what gets us up early in the morning while everyone else is warm in bed and sleeping.
It’s what makes us put up with long hours of work and hardship and countless setbacks and heartbreaks.
It’s what makes us endure and persist in the face of overwhelming odds.
We do that because we’re chasing something. What we chase is the emotional state that we get to be in when we achieve our goals.
We want to feel significant.
We want to feel that we’ve made an impact.
We want to feel that we’ve contributed to society.
All success starts with a dream. An emotional dream.
Emotion is what drives motion, and it is the things that you do that create success.
Unless you want something badly, you won’t want to sacrifice your time, energy and money pursuing it.
When Logic Gets in the Way
Can you imagine what a logical dream would be like?
Let’s imagine now that the voice of logic is talking to the champions.
Mr Logic will tell Joseph Schooling, “No Singaporean has ever won an Olympic gold medal. There is no point trying.”.
Mr Logic will tell Michael Jordan, “Coach is right, you’re too short for basketball. You should try another sport.”.
Mr Logic will tell Jim Carrey, “Acting doesn’t pay, which is why you’re broke. It’s better to go get a proper job.”.
Mr Logic will tell me, “Business is risky and difficult. Your father became bankrupt after failing at business. It’s better to be an employee.”.
What would Mr Logic have told you?
As you can see, success comes from emotion, but logic often gets in the way.
Often, it’s the people around us using logic to pour cold water on us.
Some do it with the best intentions and just want to protect us from being disappointed.
Others just want to pull us down to make up for their own sense of inferiority.
But all that “logic” talk rubs off on us and becomes our own self-talk if we’re not careful.
When Emotion Gets in the Way
However, it is not a one-way street.
There are times when we need to be logical, but emotions get in the way. In fact, I think emotion obstructs logic more often than vice versa.
What happens when we are confronted with problems?
Often, we get into unresourceful emotional states like frustration angry or depression. Instead of focusing our energy on solving the problem, we distract ourselves with disempowering questions and statements.
“Why am I always so unlucky?”.
“Why does God hate me?”.
“Why are there so many stupid, incompetent people in this world?”.
“I hate my life!”.
We get angry, disappointed, frustrated and sad, and stay that way long after the problem has already happened.
Logically, we should stay calm and focus on what we can do to make things better instead of dwelling over what has already happened. But the emotions get in the way, and we just can’t think straight.
Emotion is also at play every time you procrastinate.
Logically, you know you should exercise. Emotionally, you just don’t feel like it because exercise is difficult and uncomfortable.
Logically, you know you should start a business. Emotionally, you’re just too scared of failure to begin.
Logically, you know you should get your homework done before playing your mobile games. Emotionally, you just feel like playing games the whole day.
Success Requires Emotional Mastery
As you can see, sometimes you need to feel emotional.
You need emotion to feel motivated. You must feel excited about the dream that you chase, and you need to feel excited about it every single day.
And emotions don’t always need to be positive to motivate you. I find that anger and fear can also be very powerful motivators. Anger that someone else is richer and more successful than me despite being less capable. Fear that I will fail in my business.
Sometimes the reverse is true. You need to stay calm and unemotional, especially when confronted with problems.
I have a 4-step formula for handling crises. The acronym for it is CODE.
Calm – Stay Calm.
Options – Evaluate your Options.
Decide – Make a Decision.
Execute – Execute the Decision.
As you can see, the first step is to stay calm and not let your emotions get the better of you.
Without staying calm, you won’t have the creativity to come up with options, the clarity of mind to make a good decision or the energy to execute the decision.
There’s a stock that I believe will increase 75x over the next 10 years, but I’ll not disclose yet what that stock is because I haven’t accumulated enough of it.
I started buying the stock at the end-2021, but it kept dropping and came down by 65% over the next 7 months. While other investors might have quit, I was undeterred and did dollar-cost averaging (DCA). I kept buying and brought my average cost per share down by 45%.
Today, I am happy to say that I have turned a profit on this stock, and it looks like the price is on its way to the moon.
Understand this: your emotions are weapons. They can be used to help you, but they can also hurt you if you’re not careful.
To succeed, you must be able to access the right emotion when you need it. You must also be able to suppress it when it is working against you. This is called Emotional Mastery.
But that’s easier said than done, isn’t it?
The good news is, there is a hack.
Change your Focus, Change your State
No, I’m not going to tell you to think positive.
Instead, I’m going to ask you to practice changing your focus.
What you focus on, you feel.
And since emotion is what drives motion, changing what you focus on will create the desired motion.
Let me give you some personal examples.
I don’t like to feel fat. I don’t like the feeling of a tummy getting in the way when I put on my socks.
So, to get myself to exercise, or to stop myself from eating that tempting snack, I visualize and remember the feeling of trying to wear my socks with a tummy in the way.
There was a point in time when I needed to jump out of bed early consistently to work on my business and I used a compelling vision to do so. In my brain, I played a mini-movie starring myself as a rich businessperson, flying all over the world in business class.
You can also do it externally. Some motivational coaches advocate writing down your goals and putting them up in a place that you can see every day, like on a mirror or a wall. But that only works when your eyes are open, which is why the visualization method is good if you have problems getting out of bed without hitting the snooze button.
Do you know what works even better? Visualizing my business rival flying first class while I am still stuck at economy. I can use anger to motivate myself.
But there is something even more powerful, which is fear. Fear can also be useful, especially fear of a future disaster.
Parents use that a lot to get their children to study hard. They scare their children into thinking that if they don’t study hard and get good grades, they won’t be able to get a good job and will become poor all their lives.
I used fear a lot in my early years as an entrepreneur. When my distribution business was doing badly the mortal fear of failing and becoming bankrupt compelled me to keep working like crazy. I had already burnt all my boats and failing was not an option.
I often saw this video in my brain where I’m trying to tell my children that my business had failed and that I was a failure. But before the words can come out of my mouth, I simply cannot take it anymore and I shut the video down. It was unthinkable.
I get a sudden adrenaline rush and jump right back into work.
The truth is, I was a lot more motivated and hardworking back then when the business was in trouble. Now that it has become more stable, I have less fear and as a result, I am less motivated.
You can also use positive emotions to override negative ones. Gratitude is one of the most powerful.
Let’s do an experiment now.
Close your eyes and try to recall a situation that made you very sad, angry or frustrated. An intense outburst of negative emotions. The worst day of your life. Try to get yourself into the same negative emotional state as you did that day.
Now, switch focus, and think of things or people that you feel intensely grateful for. Your cute children and their adorable behaviours. A partner who loves you, or friends that support you even when no one else does.
Do you feel better?
And how long did it take for gratitude to flush out all the negative emotions and make you feel good?
If you are stuck in a depressed, unresourceful emotional state, you can get out of it in an instant. Just change your focus!
So far all the above examples talk about accessing emotions that serve you.
When you need to make rational decisions based on logic, how do you get rid of the emotions blocking your way?
Again, it’s all about focus.
Your Brain is like YouTube
If you keep playing depressing videos, YouTube thinks you like depressing videos and keeps serving them to you. If you keep playing horror or angry videos, YouTube will serve these to you too.
YouTube will go on autopilot and serve videos by default until YOU change the video.
If the video playing now is a horror movie showing all the possible things that can go wrong with your business, change it to one showing all the possible solutions to your problem.
If it’s a tragic movie showing all the sad and unlucky things that happened to you, change it to an inspiring one where you are happy and successful.
Or you can do what I do, which is to turn off YouTube altogether.
Many business problems take time to get resolved, some of them very painful. Often, I have already done what I can, and the only thing I can do is wait.
But that wait can be excruciating if I let my brain run on autopilot. It is going to keep reminding me of the problem and make me feel miserable.
When I catch myself playing these depressing movies, I have a trigger phrase that shuts down the video and focuses my brain power towards working on other projects.
I tell myself, “Stay focused and keep moving forward”.
If there’s already nothing more I can do about the problem (except wait), then rather than waste precious time dwelling on it, I should work on other projects that grow the business.
Most people run their lives on autopilot. They believe that things happen to them, they get emotional, and there’s nothing they can do about it. They cannot control how they feel.
The truth is, while they cannot change the things that happened, they can change how they feel by choosing what to focus on. Once they are calm, they can choose the best possible response.
The ability to consistently choose the best possible response is the filter that separates those who succeed from those who don’t.
Being able to use your emotions, even negative ones, when they suit your purpose and being able to turn them off when they don’t is an immensely powerful skill.
And like all skills, emotional mastery requires constant practice until it becomes a habit.
Experts believe it takes a minimum of 21 days of consistent practice for a new habit to form.
If you are committed to forming this new habit, the first step is to create the habit of mindfulness.
When you are in a negative emotional state, catch yourself and look at what video your brain is playing.
Next, remember that while your brain can run on autopilot, you can also override it and choose what video to play, or to turn it off altogether.
Sometimes, your negative emotions are so strong that no matter how many times you shut down the videos, they keep coming back.
In such situations, I encourage you to talk to somebody and vent your negative emotions. But choose this person carefully.
What you need is someone who can be there to listen, and not judge or give you unsolicited advice, which can make you feel even worse.
Do this consistently for the next 21 days.
Once the habit is formed, you’re well on your way to success.
To be clear, emotional mastery doesn’t guarantee success. But it sure as hell improves the odds!
Stay focused and keep moving forward!