The Next Best Step
Level 6: Grand Master Player
“Just do the next right thing” - Princess Anna of Arendelle
I have an affliction.
The only salve to this affliction is awareness.
It starts with the simple fact that I love a good grand idea.
In fact, I think one of my strengths - a place where I play my best game - involves coming up with good grand ideas and then implementing the strategy/structure for executing on those ideas ...
(And after I've solved that puzzle, I get bored and disinterested really fast ... classic Quick Start here)
Some time ago, after joining The Guardian Academy and having all these concepts floating around in my head (letting them Open Loop1), I realized something critical about myself.
It's this affliction I'm talking about.
This affliction on the surface looks like a good thing.
In our hustle culture, our big dream culture, our "all you have to do is work hard to get what you want" culture, it seems like a huge asset.
But this affliction has largely contributed to what one of my best friends called "being one day away" for the past 10 years.
I remember this feeling with my last business.
I could see the whole thing. I could see all that was capable.
I had strategically, intentionally selected and built that business in that market specifically because I believed that there was a huge well of potential related to my interest.
When I started, the initial flood of activity and customers confirmed it.
And I quickly developed this sense that all the gold I was after was mere inches beneath my feet. I just had to keep digging. Or figure out a better place to dig to get everything I wanted.
I didn't go out much. I didn't date much.
I avoided other things I enjoyed because I thought they were a waste of time and money when I was so close.
I was just "one day away."
For 10 years.
How did I get stuck being "one day away" for so long?
Was it bad luck?
Was it bad partnerships?
Was it poor decision making?
Was it shifting market conditions keeping me not quite able to hit that major growth success?
I blamed so many other things before I blamed myself. And when I accepted my responsibility in the entire outcome, it still took me open looping for awhile to realize my affliction.
There's an action you take every single day, multiple times a day.
Within this action lies a hidden power.
An ageless, invisible power which can grant you all the riches in the land. The keys to the kingdom.
All it takes to unlock that hidden power with intention, is a simple yet terrifyingly vulnerable perspective.
It starts with the next decision you make.
And it starts by letting go of everything after that decision ...
How do we decide what to do every day?
We have the ability to come up with big grand visions for our life. We can say I want $10 million and then we can "solve" that equation and know with a high degree of certainty we'll get there.
But you can't have $10 million tomorrow.
Something has to happen in between.
A lot of somethings.
Every day you have 'choice' in front of you. Choice of actions to take or not take.
And though you may be clear on the end result you want to achieve ...
How do you make decisions well in the present NOW? For today? For tomorrow?
Decision making is a curious thing - it's heavily influenced (perhaps even entirely controlled by) the emotional part of your brain.
"We have dog brains, basically, with a human cortex stuck on top, a veneer of civilization. This cortex is an evolutionarily recent invention that plans, deliberates, and decides. But not a second goes by that our ancient dog brains aren’t conferring with our modern cortexes to influence their choices—for better and for worse—and without us even knowing it."2
Most of us are taught to make decisions with good reason.
Use logic, reason, and evidence to make a decision, and make it well. But if a decision is made in the emotional part of our brain, how can we do that?
Do we wrestle our emotions under control, become disconnected from our emotional state when we make those decisions to ensure they are good?
That doesn't make sense. How can we inform our decision making with desire and interest if we disconnect it from emotion. After all, how we feel about the choices we make is important. It's perhaps one of the key things that makes us human.
If you strip away the "stuff" layers of The Guardian Academy - stuff about business, stuff about money - what you discover is that everything we do here is about embracing the emotional part of ourselves in a way that contributes to good decision making (ideally so each of us can uniquely get what we really want in life).
What does that look like with the decisions we make every single day?
If you don't connect the dots, you make yourself vulnerable to "emotional decision making." After all, our decisions happen in emotion whether we like it or not.
What happens when you say "heck with it I'm eating the donut" isn't a product of what happened in that moment ... it's a product of what didn't happen in the many moments leading up to it.
In order for your emotional decisions to align well as "good decision making" for you, long before you make the decision you need to use your rational thinking to reframe how you look at and experience the world.
Just because it's emotional doesn't mean it's bad.
Our emotions can be very accurate and useful ... IF we understand ourselves, what we really want, and the world around us.
I think it's fair to say that our emotions are always true.
What they MEAN to us requires a deeper understanding of self.
Our emotional decisions look irrational and "emotional" when we haven't done the self work necessary to have frameworks which allow "good decision making."
When something doesn't go the way you expect or hope it to go, if you haven't done the work to understand yourself, and how to live in a constantly shifting world, you'll be at the mercy of those emotions.
To take crypto as an example ...
When the price of Bitcoin "tanks" and you haven't done the work to figure out your solvable problem and establish your base case, you're operating in a world where anything that happens beyond your limited expectation (Bitcoin going "up") presents shadows that could be nasty beasts behind the rocks ... your primitive brain wants to protect you and get the hell out of there.
Your actions aren't figuring out the next best step to take to get you closer to what you want.
They are defaulting to primitive survival.
This brings us to My Affliction
When I have a big grand idea,
I want it NOW.
I can quickly see the entire thing, how it can all come together, the big huge impact it can have, the magical connections between all the pieces.
I'll have this big grand idea and I'll be buzzing with the potential. This invisible energy saying YES GO DO IT.
And then because I know what is possible, the fact that I don't immediately have it makes me feel like I am failing.
"Why don't I have a million dollar business yet, all the pieces are there!"
I WANT IT NOW!
Like a child who's only frame of operation is entitlement.
The expectation that because I could possibly make the thing, I should have it now, butting up against the adult in me who knows the work needs to be done to get there.
Emotion drives the ship. I zero in my vision on the big idea and try to make it, try to have it now.
I spin my wheels without realizing it.
And spend 10 years "being one day away."
How I avoid this problem now involves letting go of everything past a certain point.
The Next Best Step
When I first saw the concept "next best step" it made perfect sense, especially in the context of chess, which I am all too familiar with.
Interesting thing about chess - after each player has made 5 moves, there are over 69 TRILLION different possible games that can be played.
(Heck, even after each player has made 1 move there are 400 possibilities, which is more than overwhelming)
You don't go into a chess game thinking "I'm going to make each and every one of these moves up to checkmate" knowing exactly what the moves are going to be.
No, you start with an opener to set up the game, and then ...