TGA Foundation 0: The Shortcut
Level 1...And That's Okay
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This is a guest post from Guardian Joseph Robertson. Joseph is a deep thinker, an excellent copywriter and a student of the Guardian Academy. Joseph has made a living writing for himself, writing for others and teaching people how to create an income online. He will be a massive contributor to everyone in here looking to learn how to write copy that converts.
He also made this post to kick us off with Foundation 0: The Shortcut.
Here it is:
Welcome to The Guardian Academy.
Your journey begins here, in one of the seemingly most mundane and simple places.
The ideas presented here are so foundational and basic, chances are you'll nod your head and then never quite accept what's being said.
That isn't your fault.
The main idea at the start of your journey here is one which each person must fully experience within themselves to really get it. There's no amount of convincing, description, or storytelling which can replace the need for you to fully experience.
But what we can do is Open a Loop.
We can create the possibility that when the time is right in your life, you'll see exactly what we're talking about and say "WOW, I get it!"
This only happens in time. It happens with perspective. It happens with experience.
It happens by walking through the river many times, because each time you do, you are different and so is the river. At some point, you are startled as you walk through the river because the mounting, shifting experiences have all suddenly shown you a picture you could never before see.
We begin HERE, with the ideas on this page, because they are fundamentally necessary in order to move further.
This is intellectually simple to understand and accept, yet despite everything I'm about to share with you, the concept is still phenomenally challenging to fully understand the truth.
This is like Neo in the Matrix type stuff.
He knew he was in a program. But it wasn't until he really got it that his perspective and his reality changed.
It's time for you to start seeing for the first time.
The Process is The Shortcut
I can't just tell you what that means. That would be "A Shortcut."
We've got to walk a particular path of experience for you to accept what I'm about to show you.
To begin, let's discuss a Turtle and a Rabbit.
More commonly, the story of The Tortoise and The Hare.
I'm starting here because it's a classic Fable, first appearing in writing in the 16th century, so it’s been known for many years.
I'm sure you're familiar with the story.
The Hare is mocking the Tortoise for being slow, challenges him to a race, they go head to head, the Hare gets distracted and falls asleep while the Tortoise wins.
There are many ways to look at this story1
I remember as a kid thinking "I'd love it if the slow methodical racer could win" - but I never believed. It seemed silly that the Hare would lose.
It's a METAPHOR dummy (talking to myself).
The "race of life" is FAR more complex than two animals running a simple path. And The Hare perfectly represents the person who seeks The Shortcut, who focuses on the outcome.
Because quite simply if you are obsessed with the outcome (being the winner of the race in this case), you'll likely get distracted by something and wreck yourself.
While The Tortoise, not concerned about getting to the finish line, only concerns himself with consistently putting one foot in front of the other, and ends up beating The Hare.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Let's consider more stories ... because it's in these stories that we can not just observe our own human nature, but also see how we see it.
Remember, stories are a mirror. More on that in a later article.
Let's visit The Odyssey.
Perhaps the oldest example of a story which explores this dynamic.
10 years after the 10 year long Trojan War, Odysseus greatly wishes to return home.
Odysseus' desire to return home directly after the war is thwarted by both external challenges and his own decisions.
It's only through the long, circuitous journey, filled with trials and growth, that he is able to truly appreciate home and find his way back.
Let's keep going.
Another story. The Alchemist.
Santiago, a shepherd boy, dreams of finding a treasure near the Egyptian pyramids. As he pursues his dream, he learns that the journey towards the treasure has taught him much more than the actual treasure itself.
Most analysis of this book focus on finding and pursuing your Personal Legend. But the real fundamental lessons is literally that "the treasure" Santiago sought was the journey itself.
Another story. Siddhartha.
Siddhartha, a young student, is dissatisfied with the rituals and teachings, feeling they aren't enough to attain enlightenment. He seeks a "better path" to attain enlightenment faster.
Ultimately Siddhartha discovers that the goal is not enlightenment, but rather the journey itself. That wisdom cannot be taught but must be experienced.
"OK ok. I get it. The process and journey are more important than the outcome," you say.
You SEE it.
But this is not the full picture. Understanding of this concept can't come just from observation.
I will explain fully.
But first, More.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, another ancient story.
Gilgamesh was a king who sought the secret to eternal life. The epic follows this quest, alongside Gilgamesh's friend Enkidu. In the end, after Enkidu's death, Gilgamesh realizes that the eternal life he sought was not literal, but rather that which would live on in his deeds and legacy ... in other words, immortality could only be found in how he lived his life, his journey.
The Legend King Arthur.
There are many stories with King Arthur, the most known possibly being his quest for The Holy Grail. The perfect analogy. Throughout his life, King Arthur sought this treasure, through many losses and struggles, only in the end to discover that the real treasure was in the journey itself (and perhaps if he didn't obsess over the outcome, he wouldn't have experienced such loss).
Tired Yet? Think you are starting to get it?
We're not done.
A stonecutter wishes to become the most powerful entity, changing from a stone to a mountain, then to the sun, then to a cloud, and finally to water. He realizes that being water, eroding stone, is the most powerful. However, he then sees a stonecutter efficiently chipping away at stone and wishes to return to his original form, understanding the power of persistence and process.
The Fisherman and The Businessman.
A Businessman on vacation comes upon a Fisherman. He sees this man spending his days out on the ocean, coming home with fresh caught fish and relaxing on the beach. He’s impressed by the man’s skill. He talks to the Fisherman and encourages him to build out a business, to expand.
If he works really hard he can create a huge business and retire. “What would you do if you could retire” the Fisherman asks the Businessman. The Businessman answers “Well I’d spend my days fishing and relaxing by the beach.”
Rocky Balboa, an underdog boxer, gets a chance to fight the world champion. Instead of focusing solely on winning, he trains rigorously, embracing every step of the process. His real victory is not just about the outcome of the fight but the journey he undertakes.
The Pursuit of Happyness.
Chris Gardner struggles with homelessness while trying to secure a job as a stockbroker. By focusing on the process and his daily efforts, he eventually achieves success and stability.
Astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars. Instead of panicking about the end goal of rescue, he focuses on the process: growing food, creating water, and communicating with Earth. This methodical approach increases his chances of survival.
Luke Skywalker discovers he is following in the footsteps of Jedi, and seeks to follow that path. He follows the path when he has a mentor, but throughout the story gets distracted by the outcome ... he seeks the shortcut and is nearly destroyed. Fortunately he returns to the path. What if he sought the shortcut right away, the first time he touched a lightsaber?
"That's a silly one, obviously Luke wouldn't just go from seeing a light saber for the first time to trying to fight Darth Vader."
Think that's silly?
That's basically Karate Kid.
Daniel LaRusso, our protagonist, goes to Mr. Miyagi, the karate master, so that he can learn how to kick his bully's ass. He demands to learn the kick ass moves, so he can beat his bully. Mr. Miyagi, ever wise, forces him down the path of the process.
Wax on. Wax off.
But look, obviously these characters go on a journey, it's a story, the movies and books wouldn't be interesting otherwise."
The simplest answer is that there's a REASON our stories follow this structure.
Because that's how our lives work.
Our stories are a mirror for our own challenges, struggles, and path that we take.
But that's just the simple surface explanation.
If you've given up by this point (why would you be reading this if you had? I don't know, but here we are), then you've already failed.
Those of you still here, we're about to take a different turn.
Instead of thinking about your outcome, instead of thinking about your journey or the path you're going to walk on, I want you to think about this one simple thing:
Make Decisions Better, Don't Make Better Decisions.
When we're very young, babies, young kids, we're bound by limitations of our biology and then culture and society as we are growing to become our own individual full people.
That is, in many ways, our choices are made for us by these limitations. Much of this is biological design, because we don't reach full cognitive agency until our mid 20s.
As I write this, my son is almost 7 months old.
He's on the verge of full-on crawling around.
But funnily enough, he is super enthusiastic and gets really intense and excited about trying to walk.
He wants to go everywhere. And he wants to do that NOW.
We have 3 older kids. He sees his siblings doing things, he sees us doing things, and he wants to be a part of it all. Ever since he could start to attempt to sit up he's wanted to go go go.
The limitations of his biology force him to walk the path of proper development. He won't have the proper muscles and form to walk until he's crawled around a bit.
If he could choose to skip all that, he'd be running around the house already.
We forget this.
We forget that our entire lives are built on the simple premise that we can only get where we're going to by following the process.
This is at the core of EVERYTHING we follow in The Guardian Academy.
If you want to get full value out of your participation here, you need to at least accept "The Process is The Shortcut", and open yourself to understanding through experience in time.
Why is “make decisions better” a key component of “The Process is The Shortcut?”
We're no longer children.
We are no longer bound by biological limitation, family limitation, cultural and societal limitation. The full breadth and capability of being human is at our fingertips every single day.
We have the power of CHOICE.
We get to choose, every day, every moment, what we will do and why.
And most people's lives end up colored and driven by the nature of HOW they make choices.
Because of this, making better decisions sounds like a really good move.
Who doesn't want to make better decisions in their life?
There's a problem with this perspective.
When we seek to make better decisions, we are aiming ourselves at the outcome. We are saying "I want that outcome." We are saying "I want the tallest trees."
And we are looking to aim our decisions to create that outcome.
And this is a sinister perspective to battle against because it sounds so reasonable. It sounds like what everyone will tell you.
Go for your dreams. Work work work. Pick the outcome you desire and then go for it.
Knowing the Goal informs the process, but Seeking the Goal is NOT the process.
One of our core tenants in The Guardian Academy is "The Solvable Problem."2 This is all about understanding exactly what you want so you can create a certain path towards achieving it.
The nuance is important.
If you pick your goal and then obsess over getting that goal, you align yourself with seeking a shortcut, and ultimately you'll spend every day failing ....
And this is why YOU START HERE - "The Process is The Shortcut."
Because if you don't at least accept that as a possibility, you are highly likely to completely wreck yourself. Whether that's in crypto, business, or your everyday life.
When we seek a specific outcome, we end up aligning ourselves directly towards that outcome, we end up thinking "I need this, I want this, I'm not complete until I get this, I'll be happy when I get this ..."
And our everyday perspective is cut short to only focus on the outcome.
Our founding analogy for this is "Growing Trees,"3 because it's a story which exemplifies the nature of how this philosophy shows up in your life.
When you focus on the ultimate outcome, you narrow your vision of what a good happy life is for yourself, and you spend your everyday life, every moment, NOT having that outcome, living unhappy and unfulfilled.
You constantly seek the shortcut, how to get the tallest tree faster (so you can stop being unhappy).
On the flipside, if instead of making "The Tallest Tree" your outcome, you make loving the process of growing trees and getting better at the process of growing trees your outcome ... you are already there.
You arrive at your goal every single day.
You have nothing to be unhappy about because you are what you want to be.
And that brings me back to those stories.
My hope in starting with story, and sharing some of my own, was to give you a feeling, enough of a feeling to understand and believe in what we say here.
Our entire world is FILLED, perhaps you might argue, even BUILT by stories of people who have confronted the nature of seeking a shortcut over embracing the process, only to discover that if they'd just followed the process in the first place they'd already be where they want.
Countless stories from the oldest known written word to the latest box office hit.
WE. FAIL. TO. UNDERSTAND.
Maybe it's because "those are all just stories" and "I'm a special flower."
We all feel like we are unique. This is a basic human trait. We're special. The way it happens for everyone else doesn't happen for us.
Thing is ... we've all grown up as humans and have experienced this very foundational concept throughout our entire lives.
Perhaps having experienced it our whole lives has made it feel mundane, simple, basic, invisible.
Perhaps that's why the illusion of The Shortcut is so appealing because it means we can ascend beyond what appears to be so simple. The Shortcut is in a way a promise that we are beyond the basic, that we are special and unique.
We disregard the power of the process completely, losing it in the mundane of life. We fail to use that most fundamental power because we think we need some secret, something special, something unique.
We think that power in our process is basic and boring and if you don't find The Shortcut you are a failure, but ironically in this perspective we actually fail to see the thing which does make us uniquely special.
How we each individually show up into the process IS our unique gift and power. When you see it, when you embrace it, THAT's when you unlock "the real shortcut."
Which brings me to my one conclusion.
This entire article here is A Perspective, a Filter.
You don't need to fully feel what "The Process is The Shortcut" means to your life right now. In fact I don't think there's any way to fully know that meaning without walking that process yourself.
But if you want the benefit of The Guardian Academy, you owe it to yourself to embrace the idea and trust it will make sense personally in time.
Leave it as an open loop4, determine your solvable problem, follow your “next best step” and before you know it you'll look back and realize you had that power all along, if only you'd just done the boring basic thing of following The Process.
Your Litmus Test
How do you know if you're following the process?
Here are a couple filters you can use to check your thinking and perspective.
They both take a certain level of self awareness, so it's on you to be real and truthful with yourself.
The first one is a filter on your decision making process.
You can start by asking yourself two simple questions:
Are you thinking about how to make decisions better? Or are you thinking about how to make better decisions?
Thinking about making better decisions is an orientation toward what you want. It shows up more easily when you think in retrospect. If you'd change your decision because it would make a better outcome ... that is NOT good decision making.
The outcome has no bearing on the quality of the decision. Good decisions can result in bad outcomes, that doesn't mean you made a bad choice.
If you are thinking from a fundamental perspective about making your decisions better, that means you are concerned with the way you make the decision, not with the outcome you think that decision will get you.
More on this another time.
Here's the second filter.
This idea comes from Lukas Resheske, right out of one of his First Principles events.
Call it "Lukas's Clarity Compass."5
Everything we think and do falls on this spectrum - Philosophies, Principles, Strategies, Tactics, and Tools.
This idea has grown out of a business perspective (copywriting and marketing), but with First Principles thinking it applies to every aspect of life.
Your Philosophies are your foundational beliefs, both what you believe and what you don't believe.
Your Principles are things which you know to be true. They rarely change. They are discoverable, learnable.
Strategies are things you do which are dependent upon the environment you are in. As an example, a General is going to have a different Strategy fighting in the mountains vs on a flat plain.
Tactics are things you do which are relevant to the strategy, in the moment. They are ever changing, often reactionary. Set an ambush. Push the assault.
Tools are the things you use to execute the tactics.
Notice the last three, are "Things you do" and "Things you use."
These are OUTCOME oriented perspectives. That's not bad. They are intended to be. After all, even though we heavily value process, our process is informed by the outcome, and through our process we do things.
The important part is the matter of where your focus and intention lies.
The first two are PROCESS oriented perspectives. They are about how you think and perceive. They inform everything below them.
And this is the filter.
If you are primarily focused on "Things you do" and "Things you use" - you are OUTCOME oriented. You are thinking in Strategies/Tactics/Tools. You are focused on form, not the function6.
If you find yourself thinking about what you want to do, what you want to have, what you want to USE ... your perspective is NOT centered on process.
Think higher. Think to your Principles. Think to your Philosophies. And in THAT space ... you will discover your Process.
(And then you can take action)
The process is the shortcut. 7
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