As a kid growing up, perhaps my least favorite part of the school day was math class. I remember sitting in math, the world would slow down, my eyes and brain would kind of glaze over, and I would be semi-comatose until it ended. I remember being told by numerous well-intentioned and hard-working math instructors that, “This stuff is important. You’re going to need to know this in the real world.” Eventually, I figured out how to use real math in the real world, at least for what I needed it for. There are, however, some real simple mathematical equations worth thinking about and following as success principles to use in the real-world.
“Anything that can be done in two minutes must be done immediately.”-David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity
If you’re at all like me, you probably start your day and your work projects with the best of intentions. What starts as a linear process very often becomes quite circular, and often results in backtracking, repeating, and duplication of effort. Often, there’s so much paper on my desk that if someone were to drop a match on it it would ignite a bonfire. David Allen, who probably knows more about productivity than anybody on the planet, has what he calls “The 2 Minute Rule.” Anything that can be done within 2 minutes is tackled immediately. This applies during periods of overwhelm, those moments that can result in frustration, indecision, and mentally shutting down.
One of the fallacies of time management is the belief in multitasking. Study after study indicates that multitasking is ineffective and counterproductive. Successful people think their multitasking, but actually they are not. People who think that they multitask are just good at attending to one thing at a time, then another, and then another, and so on. We never are able to really do two things at once. Apply the 2 Minute Rule next time you feel overwhelmed. Regardless of what task you have on your desk, at least you are doing something. This builds momentum, prevents you from mentally shutting down, and keeps you moving forward, which is where you need to go in these moments. I often find it helpful to utilize the 2 Minute Rule in conjunction with this riddle:
Q: How do you eat an elephant?
A: One bite at a time.
“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”-Benjamin Mee, character in the movie We Bought a Zoo
If you follow this blog regularly, you know that I a the huge proponent of the benefits of positive, yet realistic self talk. Positive self talk, followed by appropriate action, is the way to get results in almost any area of our lives. As humans, however, we are wired for safety and security. As a result, taking risks of almost any type result in ambivalence and an ability to talk ourselves out of doing things that we would do if we were emotionally and mentally capable of doing them.
With a little introspection, I’m sure you can find a lot of lost opportunities from your past where you didn’t do something and have wondered about it ever since. Take a stroll down memory lane and see if you can think of two or three times when your life might have been dramatically different had you apply the 20 Seconds of Insane Courage Rule. Maybe you would have ended up married to someone else, in a better job, feeling more self-confident, and be doing more with your life. This mathematical principle is a momentum builder. Once you get through that initial, dreaded, 20 seconds, things begin to happen. Next time you are ambivalent about something, take a deep breath and ask yourself if this is a moment where the 20 Second Rule might apply. Unless you are absolutely certain that it is not, do it anyway. Maybe, just maybe, something great will come of it. You can be sure of one thing. If you don’t, it won’t.
“You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.”- Jim Rohn
This one tends to be a little more philosophical than the previous two mathematical rules. Jim Rohn was an American entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker. He said that if you did a mental survey of the five people that you spend the most time with on a consistent basis, you’ll find that you are approximately 80% of what they are with regard to lifestyle, quality of life, health, wealth, and overall state of happiness. Many informal studies have been done on this principle, but it’s probably a good idea to do your own study and see if it applies to you.
Identify the five people, excluding your immediate family i.e. husband/wife, kids etc. and take a good look. Chances are you are very similar to them. Now comes the interesting part, are you similar to them because you freely choose to be that way, or are you similar because they are holding you back? Do they prevent you, on a subconscious level, from being, doing, and having what you want out of your life? Is part of your relationship with them based on the idea that misery loves company? Would you still be friends with them if your salary suddenly tripled? Would you be involved in different hobbies, recreational activities, and different relationships if they weren’t your five closest friends?
Some psychologists believe in what is called the “mirror effect,” where we subconsciously imitate people that we are very close to because it lets us know that we are ok. If the people we are close to accept us, then we feel emotionally safe and secure. On many levels, we act as they do so as to be accepted by them on an ongoing basis. This is part of our basic human survival instincts. Act like the tribe, be accepted by the tribe, and survive. To break loose from the tribe is threatening to our sense of self/survival. This is one of the deepest mathematical principles for success. Yeah, I struggle with it too, but interesting concept isn’t it? Think about it. It’s a great way to examine your beliefs about yourself, your values, and your personal responsibility for your own success.
These are three, basic, mathematical principles that you never learned in school that could the capable of making your life a little easier, rewarding, and more meaningful.
“If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.”- John von Neumann
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