How to End the Pandemic of Poor Mindsets + The Best Tips on Dealing with Criticism and Failure from Tom Bilyeu
Your mindset has the power to take you places you never imagined you would go, or hold you back from those places, keeping you stuck in a hamster wheel of fear, anxiety and depression. You get to choose which direction you take in life.
In this week’s blog and podcast, I spoke to media mogul, entrepreneur, filmmaker and leading motivational speaker Tom Bilyeu about the power of choosing the right mindset, how we can take back control over our lives and tell our own stories, how to build up mental resilience, why learning is so powerful, why we all need to embrace our failures, and how constructive criticism can help develop our passion.
Of course, we all want to be good at something. We are designed to have purpose—to have something that drives us forward, breathing life into our daily existence. Passion adds intrinsic value to our lives. It gives us the energy to keep going, to keep working, to keep at it. But, as Tom points out, too often we equate purpose with an end goal, not the process itself. It is important to remember that the struggle is guaranteed, while the success is not. When it comes to developing our passion, we need to not be afraid of doing the hard work and facing disappointments and failures. We need to find something that we will enjoy struggling with. We should always value ourselves for the sincere pursuit of something we are passionate about. We should never make our worth or story contingent on the end product.
Always remind yourself that “you can’t make a racehorse out of a pig, but you can become a very fast pig.” Even if you don’t become the greatest at something (because you probably won’t), the journey to get there will bring you skills and power, and will help you achieve things you never imagined possible. We are only limited by our beliefs.
In fact, our failures are incredibly important. We don’t have to “overcome” failure. We need to embrace it; failure is the most information-rich data stream we will ever experience in life. It teaches us so much about what doesn’t work, so we can find something that does work.
Your mistakes and failures shouldn’t lead you to edit your self-narrative. Don’t think less of yourself; think like an A.I. computer. This means seeing your failure as a sample. What is the cause and effect? What didn’t work? Why? What can you learn from this situation? What will you do different next time?
When you embrace your failures, you will recognize the power of learning. As Tom notes, skills have utility: they let you do stuff and go places. Yes, you are going to embarrass yourself at times and fail, but your talent and intelligence are malleable: you can get good, and, if you can get good, you can be good. Don’t look at yourself or your life through the lens of the moment; see yourself over time. This will allow you to see how far you have come and how far you can go.
When you learn, you can actually do stuff—you can change your life. Learning will make you obsessed with who you can become. So, constantly ask yourself “who or what do I have to become to generate success and get where I want to go?” Always see yourself as the learner, always be ready to do the work, always come seeking power. This will help you go from imagining a better world to making it come true.
As I always say, building the brain through deep thinking and learning is one of the best ways to improve our mental health. We should always be learning and growing. This builds up our mental strength and resilience and makes us more intelligent! Desire for progress is part of the physics of being human. One of the surest ways to feel depressed or at a loss is to be stagnant, to stop learning and growing.
An important part of this learning process is the ability to take criticism. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Learn to hear negative feedback and constructive criticism. It may not be fun, it can hurt, but it removes a blind spot you may not have known you have, an obstacle to your progress and development. It shows you that although your actions may not be great, that doesn’t mean you are not great. It forces you to examine your motives: do you actually want what you say you want? And do you want it badly enough? If you do, then constructive criticism can help you make progress towards this goal. When you learn to embrace criticism and honest feedback, you will realize that you have agency over your life—you write your own story.
The same can be said for the way you criticize yourself. You have agency over your thought life. You can control your thinking. Do not allow yourself to think thoughts or believe anything that moves you further away from your goals. Some ways Tom does this are by:
1. Practicing mindfulness. Habits like meditation and deep breathing, for example, can help get you through the biggest ups and downs of life. If you learn these kinds of skills, you are never more than 45 minutes away from absolute tranquility, regardless of what challenges life throws your way. It can help you avoid burnout or overwhelming anxiety by taking the background radiation of life back down to 0.
I also love taking what I call “thinker moments” throughout the day, where I just slow down, meditate and let my mind wander. These moments give your brain a rest and allow it to reboot and heal, which can increase your clarity of thought, help you deal with stress and help improve your mood. For more information on thinker moments and how to make them a part of your daily routine, see my book, Think, Learn, Succeed.
2. Becoming aware of the stories you are telling yourself. How do you see yourself and your thoughts and actions? What is your identity? Are you addicted to suffering or feeling bad? Why do you do what you do? Remember, awareness is the first step to real change!
My app SWITCH can be helpful during this process, as it is a great tool for helping you learn how to manage your mind, deal with the roots of your negative thoughts, and overcome toxic behaviors that impact your mental health through the mental process of reconceptualization (it is now on sale at 50% off for a 3-month subscription).
3. Using physiological hooks. Just making yourself smile, laughing out loud, breathing deeply or doing something silly with your facial expressions when you are really upset, anxious or angry can change your psychology in under 30 seconds. So, become aware of your body language and expressions and how you can use them to help your mood and reduce anxiety in the moment.
4. Shifting your amplitude. Your brain will justify whatever amplitude you react with; your brain responds to your mind. You can rewire your response by shifting the amplitude; make it a habit to downplay the negative and amplify the positive, and your brain will respond accordingly. Keep repeating this and thinking this until it becomes a habit loop. Embody the hype: get excited about the positive, contractive thought and the possibility to grow and learn! For example, if you are really battling with failure, say something like “Yes I am terrible right now, but I know I can improve if I work hard and it will be a great learning journey! This will be great!”.
5. Using the “brain in a vat” exercise. Stand outside yourself and imagine you are in a matrix. What if you were just a “brain in a vat”? What if your negative thoughts are not real? If they are not real, then you don’t need to beat yourself up. Yes, you intrinsically know this is not true, but this mental exercise is a way to move forward by teaching you how to let go. It helps you figure out what is holding you back by giving you a moment of lightness, where you feel like you can progress and move forward.
We also need to apply the same kind of willingness to learn, be honest and grow to our relationships. As Tom notes, honest communication is in fact key to a successful marriage or partnership. This means being truthful even when it hurts—this kind of real, authentic honesty lays the foundation for deep connection. It means that you know, deep down, that the person really loves you, despite all your foibles, and that you are worthy of being loved.
This kind of honestly comes with a deep sense of commitment. It means that when you say “yes”, you are saying that “I want to share this life completely with you. I know this is something that is irreplaceable, and can’t ever be sped up. We are evolving together, and I commit to not let it become toxic”. When you make this commitment, you are also committing to not weaponizing the other person’s insecurities (even during a nasty fight!) and not joking about or threatening divorce when times get tough.
At the end of the day, the goal of your life should be to see how much of your potential you can turn into actual useable skills, and use those skills in service of something bigger than yourself. We are social beings; we need to do something that adds value to other people’s lives, including the lives that are closest to us, in a way that matters to us and adds value to our own narrative. We should all have this kind of growth mindset in every area of our lives.
For more on success, learning, criticism, mindsets and mental health, listen to my podcast with Tom (episode #182), see his website, YouTube channel and podcast on Spotify and Apple.
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2:05 How Tom founded Quest Nutrition and Impact Theory
4:25 Why is having passion important?
9:17 What are some of the biggest life lessons Tom has learnt?
13:42 Why is learning so important?
19:52 Why is identity so important?
25:58 The power of facial expressions
30:00 How to overcome mistakes and failures
34:53 What is the best way to deal with negative thoughts?
41:19 What is fulfillment, and why is it so important?
50:08 Why should we challenge our own thinking?
54:37 The power of raw and honest feedback
1:00:15 What are some of the keys to a successful relationship?
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