20 Oct 2016

7 Lessons I Learned on My First Day at Sage Academy in London

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There’s no magic in small dreams! In order to reach self-fulfillment and your fullest potential and feel you have accomplished everything you are capable of, you need guts – to step out of your comfort zone. You need to have the courage to challenge yourself, your beliefs and your ego. Be willing to free yourself from the embrace of everything safe and familiar and dive into the unknown.

Last week one of my dreams came true – I met my mentor – Peter Sage. I not only met him, but spent almost 40 hours in his presence and was one of the participants in Sage Academy – Peter Sage’s business school. I won’t tell you again how closely I had been following his work and how meeting him in person had seemed like a utopia to me a year ago. But usually, when we don’t attribute too much significance to one thing and just let it sit in our mind and slowly work its way into reality, one day we end up where we had only dreamed of being. Because when you don’t force things, they just happen – naturally. Sometimes we ourselves stand in the way of what we want by putting it in the framework of our expectations – how it must happen, how soon etc.

Everything that happened won’t fit into a blog post, so I will use this text to share with you some of the main realizations or rather my personal “aha” moments.

I won’t order things in any given way. I will just share some of my thoughts.

1.London and left-hand traffic

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Sometimes lessons can be found even in the smallest things. For example the left-hand traffic in London. Travelling from the airport to the hotel, I watched the big city, the traffic, the people and I realized how strange it felt for my mind to understand that cars travel in the opposite direction to the one I was used to as being “the right one”. I drew a parallel to life and the different points of view people have. I thought about how often we accuse others for having the “wrong” mindset; for going against the current of life or what we have accepted as a standard. At the same time, somewhere in the world this “wrong traffic” turns out to be the right one and the only one the locals know.

The same thing applies to life, don’t you think? Maybe my direction isn’t yours, but that doesn’t make it wrong, because there are many people in the world who are probably walking down the same path and feeling it as much their own and as right.

The other thing that came to my mind when I thought about the left-hand traffic had to do with habits. It wouldn’t be too much too say I was lucky not to be alone in London, because I would have been run over on the very first day. Habits are very interesting. The mind accepts the fact the the “rules” are different and everything seems perfectly clear. Until you’re standing on the road and instead of turning your head in the direction the cars are coming from, you turn it the other way – because that’s the way you are used to.

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I thought to myself how often our life is driven by this kind of routine habits. Perhaps that was why the habit to look the wrong way could have proven unhealthy for me and the same applies to many of the habits we build our day on. We quite frequently do things we are used to, even though we know they are not in our best interests, but we have repeated the same pattern so many times that it has become a part of us and who we are. It takes a lot of mindfulness, presence and as many repetitions to break the old habit and create a new behavioral pattern. So always remember this when you are trying to change your way of life – habits can be regarded as a kind of virus – they are stubborn, they stick around and it takes steadfastness, perseverance and the right “medicines” – a behavioral pattern and an approach – to change them.

2,Sage Academy, day 1

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2.1. I wasn’t solving a problem, just masking it

That was the story of Sarah – a woman whom Erol Abramsom introduced. A woman who had managed to take care of him and his cardiovascular problems. Erol told us how a while ago he had been sent home to… die. Then destiny sent him Sarah who now has a clinic where they treat people with cardiovascular issues. Sarah came up on the stage and told us how she had started working as a nurse. She told us about the patients she had visited and how she just handed out pills and all the time she felt something was missing. One day she realized that she wasn’t treating the problem itself, just masking it. She told us how she quit that job and was offered a job at a clinic where she started working – and has been for the past 20 years. Sarah finished off her story on a powerful note – she said: “The body has a plan, if we just give it the right ingredients.“

Isn’t that that truth? So few people realize the body strives for health and it can repair itself, as long as we let it. The body is very wise and if we give it time and the right signals – from food, movement, sleep, environment in general – it will find a way to heal. Illness is just a symptom and a medicine doesn’t treat it – it just masks it. The only way to get rid of the illness is to change the environment and the information that enters our body.

2.2. The mindset of a successful businessman is that of a successful athlete

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The biggest surprise during day 1 was Derek Redmond. You can Google him, but he is a legend in track-and-field athletics. In the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 Derek was aiming for a gold medal. He started off confidently, when he heard a strange noise and fell on the ground. As he said himself, “I thought someone had shot me”. It turned out he had torn his hamstring. We watched the Olympics sequence twice and then he came up on the stage himself and told us the story of his life. He told us about when he was lying on the ground, defeated by the pain, and realized he was at a stadium that was full of thousands of people. He realized he had put in so much effort to get there and even if he wouldn’t leave there with a medal, he couldn’t give up on finishing what he had started. He got up and limped to the finish line. His father jumped down on the track to help him, supported him and father and son crossed the finish line crying.

I listened to Derek’s story – not the one about the Olympic Games, but the one about his life afterwards, and I saw myself. It felt as if he was describing my pain and what I went through with basketball.

After his first hamstring tear, Derek tore that same muscle 7 more times – he went through tough surgeries and long recovery periods. My story was the same, but with my shoulders. After my first severe injury, every time I tried to get back on the court, it was only a month or two before I suffered another injury and went through the whole hell of recovery, of all the doubts and questions that surge in your mind.

Derek told us how his doctor had said to him after his last injury:

-Boy, your career is over. Go and get yourself a regular job and you will never compete for your country again.

Derek said:

-I got home and was furious. Him having the nerve to tell me my career was over – I knew that myself! Telling me I had to get a job – I knew that too. But telling me I would never again compete for my country – that I could not swallow.

Derek told us how he had played professionally in the basketball league and after that – in the rugby league. He told us how a photographer had given him a photo of him from a game after his debut with the national basketball team. Derek got home, framed it and hung it on the wall. He looked at it and thought it didn’t belong there. He took it down and captioned it: “To doctor… (I didn’t remember the doctor’s name) with lots of love.” Then he went and gave it to the doctor who had told him he would never again compete for his country. Derek’s story is another example that shows us we should not let others define us. We should not let others tell us what is possible and what isn’t. 8 years ago my doctors also told me I would never be able to exercise again, but such a thing never even entered my mind. At the end of the day, a person is not what others believed was possible, but what the person themselves perceived as possible. Nothing is impossible and every time someone says something is not possible, somewhere in the world there are people who wake up every morning and make it happen. People consider something to be possible or impossible based on their own courage, convictions and willingness to step out of their comfort zone. The impossible just takes a little longer. Derek says that after his first injury he no longer has any problems – just challenges. He says we should treat business and life as a sport – when you don’t succeed, you just get up, analyze, train smarter and better and next time you win. There’s no magic in small dreams!

2.3. We can’t vote what happens at the biological level, but we can vote what happens when it comes to emotional maturity

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This is one of my favorite phrases. Peter Sage uses analogies with nature and seasons too. He had printed out a page on which a whole life was shown – one column contained life in minutes, another one – in days, a third one – in weeks and that last one – in years. It’s interesting to realize your life can fit into one page. You look at the items on it and realize that every day you either choose to live out your dreams and experience something different and exciting – to fulfill yourself, or you choose to relive the same day over and over – to be led by routine.

I liked Peter Sage’s metaphor of seasons and life and most of all that about winter. Winter offers challenges which sometimes make you shiver with cold. They freeze you up and hold you prisoner. In moments like these some people get hypothermia and freeze. Other just go skiing.   An interesting point of view on life – so simple, yet it contains so much meaning. Life’s challenges defeat those who refuse to change and adapt, but are a pleasure and entertainment for those who just choose to use what’s available and succeed again.

Here was another moment I very much liked. It was about how people often look for shortcuts to their goals. That was what Peter said: “It’s like celebrating your tenth birthday and complaining you’re still not 85.“ Once again both brief and very meaningful.

There’s no need for shortcuts to our goals, because it’s not the goal, but the road leading to it that makes us feel alive, fulfilled and gives us the sensation of moving. Not blowing out 85 candles, but knowing you have made your way through 85 years during which you encountered triumph and defeat, pain and joy, disappointment and hope, friendships and betrayals, reunions and break-ups and you survived nonetheless – you grew stronger and wiser.

2.4. Greyhounds and rabbits

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This is one of my favorite examples from Peter Sage. He quotes it a lot in his interviews. He describes his life as one of those races where hounds chase a rabbit. The game is designed in such a way that, no matter how fast a hound runs, it can’t catch the rabbit – these are just the rules of the game. Still, at the end of the race the hound is not disappointed with itself, it is not frustrated it has not caught the rabbit and does not feel like a failure. The hound is happy and exalted by having run, because that’s what it is designed for.

It’s the same thing with life. There’s no goal that we can pursue, grab and feel like everything is over and we are fulfilled. The more we run and catch, the more opens up ahead of us and the race goes on. It doesn’t matter how many laps of the track we do – we will catch no rabbit. That’s life – we were born to live and fulfill ourselves with every new race. It doesn’t matter what, if anything, we catch, but what we turn into while we are chasing it. The sooner we realize this, the more disappointments we will spare ourselves and the more we will live for the pleasure to be and do what we love – without focusing only on what we will get.

2.5. Achieving a goal allows us to feel a certain way

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For me that was one of the most important realizations. Most people feel they are not enough. Everyone looks at their reflection in the mirror and sees themselves as imperfect. In our desire to turn into perfect people, we all set certain goals to ourselves. In reality, in our minds achieving the goal is so important, because it is the barrier/obstacle which allows us to feel in a way we don’t allow ourselves to feel now. Quite often we feel like we don’t deserve to feel successful, happy, good-looking, important, if we haven’t accomplished something before that. I am no different and even though I have made enormous progress over the years, I started from the same spot. I have always been a perfectionist and I have always been one of those people who constantly set goals to themselves – goals which, when achieved, should give me permission to feel a certain way I currently think I don’t deserve to feel.

Think about how many people are like that – everyone! Even when it comes to diets and workouts. So many people think they have to lose weight first to feel pretty; to feel they deserve to buy a new clothing item or afford to have a treat. When we realize we are enough as we are and we don’t need to overcome the barrier of all our goals to earn the right to feel important, special and significant, that’s a quite heavy load off our chests. Then you allow yourself to be imperfect. You allow yourself to try more, to fail sometimes, but feel happy nevertheless – because each and every emotion is permitted and you don’t need to earn it at the price of a certain accomplishment. I don’t know if this realization will get to you the way it got to me. But for me it was very powerful and important.

2.6. If you go to a place a lot, you start spending your time there.

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This was about habits and how they form. I drew a parallel to a lot of things, but the most important thing for many of you would be about how we form our exercise and eating habits. If we imagine two parallel lines which are slightly separated from each other, but the more you walk down one, the farther you come from the other one. One line is ascending and turns upward, while the other one is descending and turns downward. If the ascending line stands for the habits we call “good”, while the descending line stands for those we call “bad”, the more time you spend on one line, the farther away you stray from the possibility to change course and move over to the other one. Say, if you eat healthy and walk the upper line, but on rare occasions allow yourself to visit the lower line, sooner or later you will start going upward and will move farther and farther away from unhealthy options.

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It crossed my mind that’s exactly what happens when you change your diet. I remember my first steps toward a healthy way of life and how I kept jumping from one place over to the other one, but the more I stuck with the healthy place, the less I visited the unhealthy one. So today I have moved far up the healthy lifestyle line and the other one feels so foreign and distant that I can only vaguely recall the time the two lines were so close to each other.

But there’s also the other option – walking the unhealthy line and just sometimes, but rarely, visiting the healthy one. There comes a time when we reach the place where the two lines separate and we start descending headlong and moving farther and farther away from the healthy alternative. Then if at some point we decide we want to go back and jump over to the healthy line, it will cost a lot more time, a lot more effort.

Many people who say they want to change are standing at this very spot and quickly give up – because they don’t see this correlation and don’t realize that it will take more efforts in the beginning, because they strayed too far away. You cannot climb back up at the speed you climbed down. You will have to put up with the efforts, the fatigue, the racing heartbeat and the times you just feel like letting go. But then you will have to keep you goals, your motivation in your mind and know that climbing back up is not in vain and you’re on the right track.