Can Helping Yourself Hurt You?
A "Must Read" From Our Founder
This is an impromptu, bonus post. This happens when we believe something shouldn’t go unsaid. In my experience, it’s so important that I will add it to the welcome email for new subscribers. After a long conversation with Dr. Jeff Spencer last night, we both realized the best way to help people help themselves is to realize where the most friction will be coming from. So I sat down and wrote out a document for The Letter1 I’m simply reinventing a little bit for TGA. I’ll attach the original document at the bottom as well.
Improving Yourself Can Turn You Into
A Ticking Time Bomb
Personal growth is supposed to make you better. But does making you better, make your life better? Not necessarily. Ask anyone who’s done extraordinary things; it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
Not because of the strangers you encounter, or because of your competition/enemies. That’s not who you have to beware of. Instead, if you’re going to lean into your full potential with TGA you must…
BEWARE YOUR OWN PACK
What These Two Loving Idiots Taught Me
About The “Two Tyrants of Leadership”
I was on a walk the other day when I realized how difficult it is to get out of our own way. Especially when the biggest obstacles are invisible.
Every time I take my wolf pups for a walk, I learn something new. Usually, it's because I'm walking, walking is a super-food for the brain. Sometimes it's from observing my two little idiots engage with the world.
Jasper and Tundra are litter mates. That surprises people because they look so different and have entirely different personalities. Jasper inherited most of his qualities from their mom; a 160lb Arctic wolf. He's got the prey drive, the webbed feet, and likes to show his "mean teeth". Tundra is more like their dad, a big, fluffy, blue-eyed Siberian husky.
Tundra is curious about all things and has boundless energy. Jasper's interests are limited to things he can eat, things that might scratch his belly, and hogging all the pillows.
Jasper likes to think he is the Alpha, so when we walk, he stays a few inches ahead of Tundra. It's always just a few inches. If Tundra slows down, Jasper will slow down to not get too far ahead. If Tundra speeds up, Jasper will speed up.
Jasper is always working to maintain the positioning and the distance that they have come to accept as normal.
As we're walking, start thinking about testing this idea that had been percolating.
So I move Tundra slightly to the left. Without any prompting, Jasper also moved to the left to maintain the distance. Then, I moved Jasper to the right and, again without prompting, Tundra moved to close the distance. These two are very close, and they have a keen sense of positioning and distance - especially amongst or between each other.
Humans aren’t so different.
Especially when they are in the presence of the people they have known the longest or are closest to. Some groups of people have a hierarchy they’ve adopted; some level of understanding they maintain and a distance they are comfortable with; even if it’s completely arbitrary.
If you don’t like the word “hierarchy” you can think of it like this; there is a range of behaviors you would expect and that would be acceptable from the people you know well, like your spouse.
As long as you’re behavior is in that range, the people closest to you will adjust accordingly to “maintain the distance” that they are comfortable with. Not because they’re malicious…
It’s just how they’re wired.
In the wild, this is good for surviving.
But we aren’t writing these posts so that you can survive. We write them to help you thrive.
Thriving throws our hardwiring for a loop.
If you’re making forward progress and your spouse is not - you’re creating distance.
…And they will feel it with every bone in their body
They should feel it. It would be concerning if they didn’t.
More on that shortly. First, I wanna talk about two questions that have come up a lot lately:
“Why do so few people do extraordinary things?”
“Why don’t people fulfill their potential?”
Let’s tackle them both right here and right now.
A friend and partner of ours, Randy Massengale, was senior advisor to Bill Gates in the 90’s so we feel like he’s qualified to speak on the matter. His response:
“The Two Tyrants of Leadership”:
Scrutiny and Expectation2
The main reason people don’t go beyond the ordinary is because they are not prepared for the scrutiny that comes with it. It's unexpected, and it's magnified by the fact that it comes from their best friends and family. Everyone around them is trying to prevent them from creating distance.
Second, if they do start to break free, the expectations become overwhelming. Again, it's not the expectations of strangers, but all the people that expect you to share the benefits with them. You have probably already experienced this.
Your husband or wife will criticize you for going to bed early instead of staying up like you used to. Or for working late into the weekends instead of watching movies with them like you used to. Or for going off to events every month; events they don’t understand. They will guilt you for "changing".
Because they can sense that you are creating distance.
And, if you succeed, they will expect you to share the rewards of that early morning or late night work with them.
Because they can sense that you are creating distance.
And guess what?
…They probably SHOULD be scrutinizing you, they should be concerned, at least.
Are they unwilling or unable to put forth the effort to close the gap? I’m not sure. Maybe.
But here is what I am sure of:
They don’t have a crystal ball and they are not mind readers.
When someone you love changes their behavior overnight, you should be concerned. When the only response to behavior change is “Can’t you just trust me?” you should be concerned. That’s also what drug addicts, liars, and cheaters say.
And if you continue to go to events, read implement what you learn in TGA, or do any work on yourself that changes your behavior for the better you’re taking steps toward a better you. Every step you take in that direction creates distance, distance that they cannot (understandably) possibly understand. And that distance growing slowly increases the background friction.
You’re creating a ticking time bomb.
This means you have three options:
Option 1: Stop Improving
Option 2: Let the bomb go off and deal with the aftermath
Option 3: Just diffuse the damn thing.
You don’t need our help with options 1 or 2, so let us provide some insight on how to not blow yourself and your family up.
Refer back to the TGA structure3. Dr. Jeff Spencer says reaching your full potential requires exposure, access, and proximity to the right people, places, and things. If you’re reading this, you’re probably already doing that.
Refer back to “The Rocky Road”4. Consider how many of the “accompaniments” you have in your head that they don’t. Remember, they have not had the exposure, proximity, and access that you have, nor do they have mind-reading powers or a crystal ball.
Step Three (and this is the big one…)
Invite Them To Join.
If you go to events, buy them a ticket. (It’s a very small price to pay to diffuse a bomb)
If you watch a specific YouTube channel or listen to a specific podcast, invite them to watch or listen.
I already know you’re reading this post. Are you inviting them to read it, too? Hell, why not read it together?
That’s it. That’s how simple it is.
It’s simply taking your foot off the brake before pushing harder on the gas pedal.
Improving yourself is only part of the equation. You are part of a system, and to reach your full potential, the system must be harmonized; the friction must be sucked out of it.
You can take the stance “haters gonna hate” if you want… But there are people in your “system” that belong there and you have to allow them to become a participant.
Is it possible that they say no? Sure.
Does that have implications of its own? Of course.
But until you have had the conversation, you’re kidding yourself about playing at your full potential.
Something to think about,
The Guardian Academy
PS. Here is the original document written for The Letter. Notice how the same base principles apply across all domains.