In 2013, I sold my book “Choose Yourself” in a store that ONLY accepted bitcoin.
People were outraged.
I knew I was onto something.
Any time I hear the cries of doubters I know to keep going. Because I know that anytime someone asks me WHY I’m doing something, I know they’re not really asking me. They’re asking themselves.
- “Why does he get to be free?”
- “Why does he get to be creative?”
- “Why am I following the rules? Why don’t I innovate?”
- “Why don’t I try things?”
Then they get angry.
You can’t try!
“Why” becomes the arrow of my compass.
Mark Malkoff does this, too. He’s a comedian and filmmaker. And he used to work with Stephen Colbert at The Colbert Report.
Now’s he’s doing a podcast called “Persistence 360°” (and my producer, Steve Cohen, was a guest!)
“I want to pump myself up, pump others and just hear those persistence stories,” he said. “I mean, you’re a persistent person. I am, too.”
And he really is.
He told me some of his weird experiments. All of them require a ton of persistence.
- He lived on a plane and flew for 30 days straight. “I didn’t shower for a month,” he said. “I had to clean myself with baby wipes.” He washed his hair in the tiny airplane bathroom. People sent him articles about everything that could go wrong. Lack of oxygen, blood clots, exposure to radiation, etc. He did it anyway.
- He moved into an IKEA store for a week. They said “no” to him over and over again. But he kept circling back. Finally they said, “Okay. We trust you.”
- In one day, he visited every single Starbucks in New York City. That’s 171 stores. He ordered a beverage at each one. “I had to go to another store every 7 minutes for 23 hours straight,” he said. “It took me a month of training. After 12 hours in the hot July weather on a bike, I couldn’t walk in a straight line.”
I asked him “Why?” a hundred times.
Which shows that “Why” works both ways.
- A) It can help you see when to keep pursuing some crazy idea.
- B) Or it can be the alarm saying, “Time to get out of your comfort zone.”
“Why did you think it was a good idea to go to every Starbucks?”
“Why did you want to go a full day of having people carry you around New York City?”
His answer: “I wanted to test the kindness of strangers.”
He told me his formula. This is how Mark knows when it’s time to persist.
- CREATION: He comes up with a quirky idea… it could be anything.
- CHALLENGE: Then he figures out how to make the idea more high-stakes.
Once the bar is high enough, he knows there’s entertainment value. Which is key since Mark is going to film the whole thing.
What Mark does isn’t rational. And that’s why it works for him.
Because it’s not pre-approved. It’s not all serious.
It’s a recipe. Some parts ridiculous. Some parts fun, odd, curious, strange, etc.
Here’s how I can tell if I’m in a rut:
“Has anybody questioned my behavior lately?”
When’s the last time I heard defiance?
If I can’t remember, then I know.
Here are 10 ways to get started:
1. TAP INTO YOUR FEARS. Make a list. If you’re scared of pickpocketers, go learn how to pickpocket. (WAIT. I’m not advocating you steal from people. I’m just saying you can go learn the magic behind it.)
2. ASK YOURSELF “WHAT SKILLS CAN I GO LEARN?” What skill do you want to learn more about? I don’t plan to go to the moon. Or become a basketball player. But that didn’t stop me from having astronaut Mike Massimino or NBA player Kareem Abdul Jabbar on my podcast.
3. LEARN IN NEW WAYS: if you usually learn from books, try something else. Go to the restaurant you love the most and ask if you can shadow in the kitchen. Maybe they’ll say no. But hearing “no” in person vs. hearing “no” in your head are two totally different things. One is a story. The other is pathetic. Plus if you hear “no” enough, you build up a tolerance.
4. GO AGAINST YOUR PAST. What’s something you decided early on is out of character?
5. SUPRISE PEOPLE. Write a list of your roles: dad, provider, husband, boss, etc. Then write a list of 10 roles you’d do if everyone in your family died. Try those ideas.
6. DO MENTAL TRAVEL. “Who would I be if I lived in South Korea right now?” Study another culture. How do they greet people differently? Or say bye? What are their habits? Can you adopt any?
7. DO SOMETHING YOU SUCK AT. No one has to see. I can’t draw. And if I try, I’ll be uncomfortable. But that’s the point.
8. TRY YOUR FRIEND’S HOBBY. Or your wife’s/husband’s/kids. Whoever. I guarantee someone in your life can introduce you to something you’ve always rejected. Which is important. Because part of this exercise is proving to yourself that you’re changeable.
9. GO AGAINST YOUR PATTERN. I used to eat at my desk. Then one day, I set a rule: “On Thursday’s I’d eat in the park.” Thursdays became every day after the first try. And eventually, I got so comfortable leaving the office, I stopped going altogether.
10. GO INTO THE CURIOSITY ZONE. And if you don’t know what you’re curious about, check your Google search history.
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