excerpted from this article (see link)

Imagining guys running around in black pajamas and swords, disappearing in a puff of smoke? Well let’s start with a proper… non Hollywood idea of what the Ninja were… or are… and then see what we can learn from them.

Today we have this image of the Ninja as evil assassins sneaking around Japanese castles and killing under cover of night. What most people don’t know is that the Ninja were simple farmers, priests and shopkeepers who were forced out of Japanese society and hunted by their own government. They were the ultimate survivors. In fact the word Ninja in old fashioned Japanese translates to “the person who overcomes”.

Early in Japanese history a Samurai General named Daisuke Togakure lost a battle; and as was tradition in Japan his master ordered him to kill himself and ordered that his family be stripped of all title and land. Instead this Samurai General chose to survive. He fled his home with his family and went to live in the wilderness. Now an outcast being hunted by his own government he was forced to re-invent his understanding of combat. Togakure met up with some Chinese immigrants who had fled the massive wars going on in China. Their knowledge of battle tactics, medicine and technology from all over the Asian main continent helped Togakure form what would become one of the earliest and oldest traditions of the Ninja. (This is just a rough and quick version of the oral history of the founding if this tradition) There are many other traditions of Ninjutsu but they all are similar in that they contain a philosophy of life which values surviving and overcoming or “persevering” and which leads to a simple life style with a very alternative method of self defense. The philosophy of the Ninja stood in opposition of the Bushido code of the Samurai which contained a strong class structure, and espoused suicide as a noble and honorable ideal. To the Samurai the Ninja were dishonorable, evil creatures who had no right to live… the Ninja just wanted to be left alone to live their lives as they saw fit. [ ]

As a person who has studied and practiced this tradition for several years now I have found some great principles which are a guide I use in life and in my preparations to continue life. In all of my training and all of my study of the Ninja culture as it existed hundreds of years ago and as it exists today I have found five principles that seem to apply to the Ninjas secret to not only survive but to thrive. [ ]

Principle #1: Strong and clean spirit
[ ]  The Ninja speak of attaining an unfettered mind; that you should know who you are at your deepest core. Life should be spent learning, knowing and practicing what you are. This done in everyday life gives an unfettered mind and leads to good decision making under even the worst situations. [ ]

Principle #2: Utility.
While the Samurai prided themselves on beautiful swords passed down through their family for generations and body armor decorated with family crests and religious icons the Ninja often used little more than modified farming implements as weapons. This was in part because of the ban on civilians owning or carrying swords… (we can learn a lesson here) but also because of the principle of utility. To the Ninja they were not mere weapons, but rather everything was a tool. A Ninja didn’t pride himself on a fancy sword; instead he would make a sword which like all of his tools served more than one purpose. His other commonly used weapons were converted farming implements. [ ]  Sure the Ninja would have never turned down a fancy ray skin and ivory Katana, but he would usually be found with a much cruder instrument. [ ]

Principle #3: Simplicity.
As I said earlier the Ninja were mostly farmers and merchants, but they could be found in all levels and aspects of life. There were even some Ninja amongst the ruling class of Japan at one time. What was common amongst them was that they strove to live a simple life. Both historic and modern Ninja rarely had lavish homes or castles. Rarely were known to frequent parties and social events. Instead they lived simple lives enjoying the things in life which were of true value. Simplicity permeated all aspect of their life. Often a diet of simple, healthy home grown food was eaten. With this simplicity in lifestyle one also becomes more in tuned to your own environment, able to notice small changes in weather and even understand nature on a closer level. Rarely did the Ninja draw attention to themselves. Instead of going off to become famous warriors and have grand adventures most Ninja lived quiet lives in their villages and trained diligently in their fighting arts; not for glory, but simply as a means to protect them and their families from the outside world. [ ]

Principle #4: Community and Self-Reliance.
Contrary to what some may argue community and self reliance are not mutually exclusive ideas. The Ninja were experts at having a community OF self reliance. The Ninja often lived in very close nit villages and towns where they worked and trained together so as to provide everything they needed and thus insulate themselves from the rest of Japan. [ ]

Principle #5: Fluidity.
Absolutely essential to the fighting style and even day to day life of the Ninja is the principle of fluidity. The Ninja fighting style involves five principle ways or feelings of combat. Each one represents an element of existence and grants almost a personality to your movement and technique. Examples are fire, a strong hot burst of energy cutting through an opponent or earth, the stable and immovable feeling of power. The five elements (earth, wind, fire, water, and the void) are not in themselves all powerful; it is the Ninjas ability to transition from one to the other and combine them in response to any situation which is essential. This fluidity was not just expressed in the elemental forms of combat, but instead is the fundamental difference between the Samurai and the Ninja. The Samurai followed set in stone techniques and movements. Memorize enough movements and you will have one for every situation. The Ninja started when they had to adapt and abandon old ways; this flexibility allowed them to meet all situations and adapt their techniques to any situation. A fundamental idea in the Ninja philosophy is not to have expectations of what will happen, but instead to be ready for and deal with whatever comes. Work towards your goals but adapt to the outcomes as they happen, don’t get caught in a frustrating loop of things not going your way and reacting with the same effort every time. [ ]  We should have basic tools which will work in any situation. Tools which serve multiple purposes and can be adapted to anything we need.  [ ]

WATER: Just as water feeds life and contains a power in both its ability to draw away from and crash back onto anything, to slowly erode a mountain, feed the tallest tree; we need the essentials of life. [ ]

EARTH: Strong foundations in faith and community allow us to stand like a rock against the corruption and destruction around us. [ ]

FIRE: Fire is our arms, our brute force through firepower.
[ ]  The Ninja as with all people of Japan were disarmed by the ruling elites, however the Ninja refused to comply, instead they fought back. [ ]  Fire comes in a burst of violence, heat and action. It is emotional, but not un-controlled. Fire also represents our passion, the passion which makes us act. It is the burning sense of right and wrong which protects our very soul from the corruption of the world. [ ]

WIND: Wind leaves us aloof, it represents the lighthearted sense of security preparedness gives us. [ ]  The feeling of being un-touchable effects your very movement and every aspect of life. Being self reliant, with your own business and self sustaining property gives you this confidence and allows you to take stands politically and economically without fear of losing your job or being evicted from your home if you oppose the powers at be.

THE VOID: This is often a difficult concept. [ ]  The void is the sense that anything can and will happen. On one hand it is the knowledge of all potential dangers and the ability to handle them. On the other hand it is the ability to react with anything, having every tool in your toolbox so that you can react and adapt in any way necessary. [ ]  Where the void can help is in the idea of not being an idea. Not being anything in particular, be void of form. Don’t fit a stereotype . . . . [ ]



from Greenwald:

It is well worth listening to this 4-minute NPR story from this morning . . . on the grave and growing menace of “state-sponsored Terrorism” from Iran. NPR national security reporter Dina Temple-Raston does what she (and NPR reporters generally) typically do: Gathers a couple of current and former government officials (with an agreeable establishment think-tank expert thrown in the mix), uncritically airs what they say, and then repeats it herself. This is what establishment-serving journalists in Washington mean when they boast that they, but not their critics, engage in so-called “real reporting”; it means: calling up Serious People in Washington and uncritically repeating what they say . . . .

This morning, Temple-Raston began her report by noting — without a molecule of skepticism or challenge — that Iran is accused (by the U.S. government, of course) of trying to assassinate the Saudi ambassador on U.S. soil (a plot traced to “the top ranks of the Iranian government”); there was no mention of the fact that this alleged plot was so ludicrous that it triggered intense mockery in most circles. She then informed us that Iran is also likely responsible for three recent, separate attacks on Israeli officials. . . . All of this, Temple-Raston announces, shows that Iran is “back on the offensive.”

Iran is on “the offensive.” There is no mention in this NPR story — literally none whatsoever — of the string of serious attacks on Iran, from multiple explosions on their soil to the training and arming of a designated Terror group devoted to its government’s overthrow to the bombardment of its nuclear facilities with sophisticated cyber attacks to the multiple murders of its civilian nuclear scientists. These attacks on Iran — widely reported to be the work of some combination of the U.S. and Israel — literally do not exist in the world that NPR presented. Iran is simply sponsoring and launching “Terror attacks” out of the blue against the U.S. and Israel: presumably because they’re Evil Terrorists. . . . Imagine Bill Kristol delivering this “report” on Iran and try to identify how it would have been any different.

What’s most amazing about this isn’t just that people like Temple-Raston think that uncritically airing, amplifying and repeating the government-subservient views of a few homogeneous former U.S. officials constitutes “real reporting,” though that is quite remarkable. What’s most amazing is that NPR has an obsession with what it considers “neutral” reporting, and I guarantee you that Temple-Raston’s response to these criticisms would be to insist that she is neither a partisan nor an opinionist, but rather a “straight reporter” who simply presents facts without bias. She would undoubtedly believe that this report to which she just subjected the world — one that is about as one-sided, biased and opinionated as can be: Iran is offensively launching Terrorism at the world and the U.S. must stop it – is a pure example of objective reporting. That’s because “objective reporting” to such people means: endorsing, embracing and bolstering the prevailing views of the U.S. government and official Washington in order to inculcate the citizenry to believe them. Doing that can be called many things: “Objective” and “real reporting” are most definitely not among them.

There’s one prime reason why Americans are so uninformed about what their government does in their name around the world (Why do they hate us?). It’s because “news stories” from “even liberal media outlets” like NPR systematically obscure those facts, disseminating pure propaganda from America’s National Security State masquerading as high-minded, Serious news.  

The Future

from here

What is the future of work? How about the future of education?  [ ]  People are debating whether or not going to college is worth it, and the work landscape looks fairly bleak. The future of work is constantly shifting as we untangle ourselves from the traces of our industrial past and figure out the implications of a mobile, wired, location-free global society.

The systems and structures we’re using are a bit broken. Not all of them are broken, and not everything needs to be redone, but I agree with the sentiment that innovation is desperately needed.

Innovation doesn’t come from a specific age, place, or group of people. We like to glamorize the entrepreneur as a college-dorm-room drop out, and Inc’s 30-under-30 lists sometimes make it seem as if you’re 31 or older; you’re toast. The good news is that innovation is popping up all over the place — New Orleans, Silicon Prairie, Start Up Weekends, etc. and Under 30 CEO’s recent (unofficial) reader rankings listed places like New Orleans, Kansas City, and Austin, Texas as great for entrepreneurship.

As TIME Magazine wrote in the 2009 special, The Way We’ll Work: “Who knows what jobs will be born a decade from now? Though unemployment is at a 25-year high, work will return eventually.” How it returns, however, has yet to be seen. In the report, Time suggests that managers and management will have to be rethought, women will rule the workforce, baby boomers won’t quit, and sustainability won’t be a fad – it’s here to stay. [ ]

Want to get intimately entrenched in understanding how the landscape of work is changing? Want to change the world yourself? The best way to make something happen is to do something. It doesn’t just matter what’s written in Time. It matters what you do, both for your own career, as well as in changing work and education for everyone.

Buddha/Clooney, Cont’d

from this post:

[ ]  Long before I had ever written a line for publication, or endeavored to deliver a speech in public, I followed the habit of reshaping my own character, by trying to imitate the nine men whose lives and life-works had been most impressive to me. These nine men were, Emerson, Paine, Edison, Darwin, Lincoln, Burbank, Napoleon, Ford, and Carnegie. Every night, over a long period of years, I held an imaginary Council meeting with this group whom I called my “Invisible Counselors.”

The procedure was this. Just before going to sleep at night, I would shut my eyes, and see, in my imagination, this group of men seated with me around my Council Table. Here I had not only an opportunity to sit among those whom I considered to be great, but I actually dominated the group, by serving as the Chairman.

I had a very DEFINITE PURPOSE in indulging my imagination through these nightly meetings. My purpose was to rebuild my own character so it would represent a composite of the characters of my imaginary counselors. Realizing, as I did, early in life, that I had to overcome the handicap of birth in an environment of ignorance and superstition, I deliberately assigned myself the task of voluntary rebirth through the method here described…

In these imaginary Council meetings I called on my Cabinet members for the knowledge I wished each to contribute . . .

[ ]  I still regard my Cabinet meetings as being purely imaginary, but I feel entitled to suggest that, while the members of my Cabinet may be purely fictional, and the meetings existent only in my own imagination, they have led me into glorious paths of adventure, rekindled an appreciation of true greatness, encouraged creative endeavor, and emboldened the expression of honest thought.

Solo Travel Benefits

from this blog post:

[ ]  I’ve previously mocked people who claim that traveling is a deep, life-changing experience. But one thing I will definitely grant is that solo travel forces you to evaluate who you really are, outside the context of your family and social circle. You also end up spending a lot of quiet, reflective moments on buses, trains and planes. Nothing to do but sit, think, and observe. Often, there’s not much going on around you worth observing, so you turn inward. You become conscious of your emotions, your thoughts, your body and mind.

[ ]  Travel forces introspection, and I think that’s a good thing. You can replicate these positive effects in your hometown with a transit pass and a willingness to leave your Kindle at home, but sometimes it’s hard to force it, especially if you’ve developed an information addiction over a lifetime of instant gratification. Everyone can benefit from silence, and the ability to tame your mind for even a minute or two at a time. Try it sometime: Sit still and quiet your brain. Let your inner monologue STFU for a minute, or repeat a mantra. It’s surprisingly difficult. [ ]

9 to 5 Workday: Dinosaur

from this blog post

[ ]  The simple recipe of 9 to 5 has no resonance with me; many suggest that the 9 to 5 is antiquated, a thing of the past. I can neither sit still nor think for 8 hours, let alone be in one place or with one task. Everything about that schedule is arbitrary – the start time, the end time, the things that we must produce within that set amount of time.  The only thing left is an antiquated system that we perpetuate because we don’t have the courage to think differently. We have moved quickly, cleanly beyond an industrial age where outputs were set (“build 18 shoes, please, and send them down the conveyor belt”) a time when we knew exactly when our works’ work was done; beyond the infrastructure of the giant corporation, the relic of the 1950’s-2000’s, to today: today, we live in a world where information is ubiquitous and overwhelming, and being ‘done’ with work is never truly over. A world where information threatens to take over globally, yet somehow this collection of voices creates so much noise that it pulls us locally again, towards communities and coffee shops, to social circles that we can trust instead of constantly test (for being on top of information at all times takes far too much energy for the individual).  In all of this, creative and intellectual pursuits require exceptional discipline, or else these individuals can become swallowed by the banal of chasing information and products that yield no results. [ ] 




One familiar Zen koan goes like this: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”

It’s easy to imagine the confusion and discomfort such sharp and unexpected advice would cause the devoted Zen student for whom the Buddha is an object of veneration and a symbol of enlightenment. But perhaps the koan can be understood to warn against accepting something outside of yourself, a substitute that may appear to represent your enlightenment; a doctrine or dogma that cuts your journey short before your own awakening is attained.

An Autodidact

from Zen Habits:

While I’m not as big on goals as I used to be, I do get excited about learning new things.

A single blog post I read about making bread is enough to set me off into hours of research about bread-making techniques, a week of experiments in baking and kneading, a couple weeks trying to make my own wild yeast starter, and some fun moments with my family eating some fresh-baked bread (is there a better smell in the world, btw?).

Learning is one of my favorite pasttimes. It can take up my entire day if I let it. And while I’m a big advocate of focusing on one thing at a time, after a few weeks or a month of focusing on one thing, I tend to move on to another — without necessarily abandoning the last thing I was learning.

What I’m Learning

As an example, here’s a list of what I’m learning right now:

  • Spanish. Still at the very beginning stage. Hola, Señor.
  • Meditation. Have been doing this off and on for years, but I’ve been doing it for a few months now, every day.
  • Coding. Absolute beginner. I’m taking Javascript courses from Code Academy.
  • Breadmaking. Have made a few basic recipes with some success. Am now making my own wild yeast starter, and will try tougher recipes. Am also learning to cook pasta and pizza from scratch.
  • Wine. Each month, Eva and I have been exploring a new kind of wine. Last month, we did Napa Valley cabs, and took a trip to Napa in January. In February, we have been exploring pinot noirs from Sonoma.
  • War and Peace. I love to read. I love the Russians. I started Tolstoy’s War and Peace in December, but am only halfway through right now.
  • Building muscle. I don’t normally focus on building muscle, but have started a 14-week hypertrophy program as an experiment. Just three full-body workouts a week, lots of rest, lots of calories, lots of protein.
  • My business. Recently created the Zen Habits Premium Membership, am experimenting with ways to best teach things to people, including webinars, mini-courses, videos and more.

An Autodidact’s Schedule

So how do I fit all of that into a day? Well, honestly, I don’t always. Some days I’ll focus on one or two things, others I’ll do a little of each. I don’t like rigidness, and want the freedom and flexibility to let my interest and enthusiasm take me where it will.

That said, I’ve been working lately with a rough schedule. It’s not set in stone, but having a loose schedule helps me to keep everything going.

Here’s what it is right now (subject to change at any time):

  • Morning: Meditate, read, write/create, workout/yoga/stretch.
  • Afternoon: Language, code, read.
  • Evening: Bake/cook, language, wine.

I tend to do anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour for each one, but if other things come up and I can get to some of them, that’s OK.

How I Learn

I learn not as a chore to check off my list, nor as a route to self-improvement, but because I’m excited about something. That’s the only way to learn, in my experience.

Some other things I’ve been learning in recent months:

  • Tea.
  • Beer.
  • Neapolitan pizza.
  • San Francisco, by exploring by foot.
  • Fat loss.
  • WordPress themes, CSS.
  • Book publishing.
  • Squats & deadlifts.

Here’s how I usually approach learning:

  1. Read. It will usually start through reading — I read a lot each day, and it’s pretty varied. If I get excited about something, I might read about it all day, or for a week or two. Mostly through blogs and other websites, but sometimes through books.
  2. Do. The best way to learn isn’t by reading, though — it’s through actual doing. The mistake some people make is they just read about something, but it’s when you actually use the knowledge that it becomes real, that you find other problems that you have to solve, that you learn all the things that go along with main idea. If I don’t put something into practice, I don’t really care about learning about it.
  3. Socialize. The best learning is social. When I bake bread, it’s for my family. When I learn Spanish or coding, it’s with my son. When I meditate, it’s with my Zen Habits members. Sometimes I learn alone (Tolstoy, the gym), but it’s more fun to learn with someone else, even if they’re only online.
  4. Practice. Just doing something for a week never really teaches me something. I have to do it repeatedly for weeks or month or years. Writing, for example, is something I’ve done practically every day for two decades. I’ve learned more about that than almost anything else.
  5. Love. Everything I learn is learned with love. It’s a way to experience my love for life, the wondrous gift we’ve been given. It’s a way to practice my love for myself, or my love for others. If learning is infused with love, it becomes a practice you won’t want to stop.

Thoreau @ Walden

see the full article

Many people remember the book Walden as the story of a hermit living in a hut who survived on twigs and berries in the Concord, Massachusetts woods. Its author, Henry David Thoreau, was no hermit, but a survivalist and philosopher who personified the best of American values of self-reliance, simplicity, love of the land, individualism and defense of personal liberty against governmental overreaching.

He lived simply on Walden Pond from 1845-1847 without a GPS, iPod, iPhone, laptop or wi-fi.

[ ] Thoreau’s principles are an overarching everyday strategy, holding that a life worth living depends upon remaining free and independent, living as autonomous men and women alert and able to confront, ignore, or go around obstacles in our way. [ ]

[ ]  Today few of us could replicate Thoreau’s life in a 10 x 15 foot cabin a mile from his closest neighbor. What we can do whether we live in New York City, Los Angeles, or in between is to think of Walden as a state of mind.

Walden’s principles and maxims are as relevant in 2012 as in 1853. In fact, times were remarkably similar to our world today. Global competition was common. Better quality German pencils nearly drove the Thoreau family pencil business under. The Panic of 1837 was as severe as our financial downturn today. A real estate bubble burst due to sub-prime lending, and real estate prices plummeted. Families lost jobs, spending power, and risked their savings as half the banks in America folded within weeks. The federal government, whose policies touched off the contagion, was growing in power and would continue piling on public debt. Even then, the U.S. government depended upon foreign countries to finance its operations.

As the nation entered the industrial revolution, Walden was Thoreau’s challenge to a society forgetting cultural values and practices of the first Americans such as self- reliance, thrift, and the importance of the family.  [ ]

Social Anxiety


[ ]  Social timidity is frequently a result of approach anxiety. Instead of proactively approaching new people to form connections (for friendship, dating, networking, etc), these people often hold back. There can be a variety of reasons for why they hold back, but it typically boils down to fear caused by limiting beliefs about approaching people, initiating conversations, expressing interest, etc.

[ ]  To Morty’s surprise (and to my own as well), he discovered a great variety of beliefs that contributed to approach anxiety. There weren’t just a handful of them — there were dozens that he was able to identify.

The main problem wasn’t the quantity of beliefs, however. The bigger issue was that there was very little overlap between participants, meaning that each person had different beliefs that contributed to their experience of approach anxiety.

This meant that it wouldn’t be practical for Morty to create a single product to help people eliminate this problem. Morty can still use his method to help such people one on one by phone or Skype, but he can’t turn it into a product because there’s too much variety in people’s limiting beliefs. To eliminate a limiting belief, it must first be identified, and that identification process plays out differently for each person.

I was disappointed that we couldn’t use this idea to create a new product that would help people afflicted by approach anxiety. I liked the idea of helping people to permanently and inexpensively eliminating such a problem. But I didn’t want to let Morty’s initial research go to waste, so I asked him if I could share the backstory about this idea and the beliefs he was able to identify with his volunteers, and he graciously agreed.

I expect this may still be helpful to many people since identifying a limiting belief is an important first step in eliminating it. Sometimes just being aware that you have a negative belief can get you started on the path to letting it go.

[ ]  And here’s a list of limiting beliefs related to approach anxiety that Morty and his participants were able to identify:

  1. Change is difficult.
  2. I can’t do anything right.
  3. If a woman isn’t attracted to a man initially, she never will be.
  4. I’m a bother to people.
  5. I’m a dangerous person.
  6. I’m annoying.
  7. I’m a loser.
  8. I’m broken.
  9. I’m inadequate.
  10. I’m inferior.
  11. I’m not acceptable.
  12. I’m not attractive.
  13. I’m not good enough.
  14. I’m not interesting.
  15. I’m socially awkward.
  16. I’m ugly.
  17. I’m unlovable / not lovable.
  18. I’m weird.
  19. It’s wrong to show sexual interest in a woman.
  20. It’s wrong to be attracted to women.
  21. It’s wrong to be turned on by women.
  22. My sexual desire is bad.
  23. People aren’t interested in me.
  24. People aren’t interested in what I have to say.
  25. Relationships are difficult.
  26. There’s something wrong with me.
  27. What makes me good enough or important enough is having people like me.
  28. Women don’t want nice guys.
  29. Women don’t want to be bothered.
  30. Women don’t want to talk to guys.
  31. Women want more financial security than I could provide.
  32. Women want men who are assertive and get what they want.
  33. Women want attractive men.
  34. Women want interesting men.
  35. Women want men who are confident / flirtatious.
  36. Women want men who are witty / make them laugh.
  37. Women want men who treat them badly.
  38. Women want men with exciting lifestyles.
  39. Women want men with money and stability.
  40. Women want popular guys.
  41. Women want security / to be protected physically.
  42. Women want successful men.

This is an interesting collection to be sure, but it’s far from exhaustive. I’m sure you can identify many more, especially if we consider limiting beliefs that women have as well.

We can loosely categorize this list into beliefs about oneself, beliefs about others, and beliefs about interactions.

Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

Many of the self-related beliefs are linked with low self-esteem and a low sense of attractiveness. Eliminating the negative belief is one way to fix those problems. Another way is to shift your focus onto your overall lifestyle, and take more action to create a life that fulfills you. When people are pleased with their lifestyles, it shows. It’s easier to attract people you like when you’re enjoying the other parts of your life. It’s also easier to attract compatible partners when you’re already living a life you enjoy.

As for the beliefs about others, the main issue there is overgeneralization. Everyone has different standards for what they find attractive and what they don’t. These patterns certainly aren’t universal.

With billions of people on earth, we can find many people who may fit those patterns and many who don’t. And in any given week, people can oscillate between matching and not matching these patterns. Sometimes people feel social and would be glad to be approached by almost anyone. At other times people turn inward and prefer more solitude.

One pattern I see here is the implied limiting belief that if you approach someone who doesn’t want to connect with you (for whatever reason), and you get rejected as a result, then you made a mistake and never should have approached in the first place.

Of course there isn’t much real danger in trying to initiate and deepen connections, but that doesn’t make the fear any less real. The fear may be rooted in false beliefs and erroneous assumptions, but it can still exert control over one’s behavior.

There is a matter of calibration involved here, so as you gain experience, you can increase your hit rate, but this doesn’t mean that getting a rejection now and then is a terrible thing to be avoided at all costs. It’s really no big whoop. You basically have to risk some rejection in order to build experience. The more experience you have, the easier it is to read people and get a sense of who’s open to connecting with you and who isn’t. Making a mistake here isn’t the end of the world.

The good news is that when these limiting beliefs were eliminated, the fear went away too. And when the fear goes away, that’s where the fun begins.

Finding Counterexamples

One of my favorite methods for eliminating limiting beliefs is to deliberately seek out counterexamples. If I can find even one or two counterexamples for a belief, then the belief tends to collapse. My mind can no longer pretend that it’s true.

A long time ago I had the belief that women aren’t interested in sex as much as men are. I also had some related beliefs about sexuality being bad or sinful. I can credit 12 years of Catholic school for installing such notions. This certainly isn’t uncommon.

Then I saw the movie Kinsey, which opened my eyes to the notion that sexual desire is a very individual thing. That helped put a dent in my overgeneralized beliefs.

Later I met women who were comfortable talking about sex openly, and they shared thoughts, feelings, and attitudes that contradicted my old beliefs. It took me a while to make the 180-degree turn from my Catholicism-installed falsehoods, but I eventually collapsed those limiting beliefs.

I also had to be careful about installing opposite beliefs like “women love sex more than men do” since that’s an overgeneralization as well. I find it more helpful to accept the notion that this is a very individual thing.

Accepting Variety

Overgeneralizing is an attempt to treat everyone the same, as if you can come up with a single pattern or strategy that works well with everyone. Generalizing works okay in some areas of life, but in other areas there’s too much variety, including in the area of human relationships.

Our brains automatically and unconsciously seek out patterns in specific data, but sometimes they make mistakes, and we need to consciously adjust their conclusions.

Deep down we may indeed have similar needs and desires, but we have different ways of satisfying those needs and desires. So what one person finds attractive, another person finds creepy, boring, or repulsive.

If you can accept this, you’ll see that it’s silly to expect everyone to like you as you are. Some people will. Some people won’t. Such are the vicissitudes of life.

Instead of trying to get someone to like you or worrying about saying or doing the right things to create attraction, it makes more sense to express your personality and preferences openly to the degree that’s possible, and then let other people self-select if they feel they match you.

Alternatively, you can focus on initiating connections with people you find attractive, while accepting that your interest may not be mutual. If the other person doesn’t feel the same, it doesn’t mean you aren’t awesome. It just means the other person isn’t doesn’t agree that you’d be a good match. Certainly that isn’t the end of the world. There are billions of other people you can seek to match with.

For the past several years, I’ve mainly been using the expressiveness strategy because I’ve had so much social input coming my way. All I really had to do was to express myself openly and shamelessly, and then I could select among the people who seemed to resonate with what I shared. If people didn’t like me, they usually filtered themselves out of my reality, and if they didn’t, then it was easy for me to decline to interact with them. If people initiated interactions with me as a result of what I shared, then I could choose to accept some of those invites, and at least I was guaranteed to have an interaction with someone who was interested in connecting.

This worked well for attracting people who are interested in me, but it doesn’t give me as much opportunity to connect with people that I find equally interesting. So for the past several months, I’ve been closing most of those open doors (like my Facebook page, the forums, and my contact form), so fewer people can approach me to connect. This gives me more opportunity to initiate my own connections with people I’d like to get to know better and to be more selective.

With my old socialization strategy, I would sometimes stray into my own version of approach anxiety, but of a different sort than the one discussed earlier. I actually worry more about being approached. Will the person be interesting? Will they be honest about their intentions? Are they just trying to get something from me?

As my social interactions became increasingly patterned, I felt I was at risk of developing limiting beliefs like “Everyone needs something from me” and “People are energy vampires.” I thought it best to turn off the flood of incoming connections for a while, so I could have more space to consciously think about what kind of social life I’d like to create and experience.

The benefit of getting limiting beliefs out of the way is that is creates more room for conscious choice.

Training Up

Another favorite way to tackle limiting beliefs is with progressive training. I see limitations as a weight to be lifted. The more you train the relevant muscles, the easier it is to lift and finally dispose of the limitation.

As a child I was very shy. In kindergarten I used to play in the sandbox alone most of the time. If I had any friends, it was just one or two close friends that I played with. I didn’t feel very comfortable socializing with other children, especially in large groups.

In grammar school what I hated more than anything else were speech contests. These were mandatory every year in my school, but I never felt comfortable presenting in front of the class. I got nervous, my hands would shake, and I was pretty bad at it too.

I improved a little from this forced practice, but I still didn’t like that I got nervous when I spoke in front of the class.

Eventually I decided to conquer this fear, and I thought that progressive training would be a good strategy. I started volunteering to speak tech conferences. Then I joined Toastmasters and later the National Speakers Association to keep making progress.

This approach took time, but it worked. The more practice I got, the more comfortable I became with speaking, and the less nervous I was. Now I feel just as comfortable in front of a group as I do playing video games with my kids. What used to be anxiety producing now gets channeled into enthusiasm and fun. I now find myself looking for ways to make it more challenging; if it feels too easy, it isn’t as stimulating for me.

Enlisting Social Support

Another important thing to realize is that you can be afraid and still take action. This is hard to do on your own, but it’s much easier to do when you have some social support. Without social support it’s too easy to succumb to fear and make excuses. But when you’ve committed yourself to people who will hold you accountable, it’s harder not to act.

For example, if you agree to give a speech, you’ll usually find that you can still follow through even if you’re really anxious about it. People do this all the time. They get up to the mike, and for the first several minutes they’re nervous. You can see their hands shaking. Or their voice cracks and they can barely catch their breath. They’re clearly having an emotional reaction, but they still do it.

What may surprise you is that many pro speakers with decades of practice still get nervous when they speak. But they’ve learned that if they agree to speak anyway, they’re going to follow through even if they’re nervous.

Think about how you can apply this idea of social support to other forms of social interactions that may be troubling you. Can you invite a few friends to encourage you along the way and to hold you accountable?

I’ve seen how well this works at some of my workshops. People who can’t get themselves to start up a conversation with a stranger can suddenly take action when they have two accountability partners encouraging and supporting them.

Further Help

Although we don’t have a singular solution that works for everyone, approach anxiety is a problem that can be overcome.

[ ] However you decide to tackle the challenge of approach anxiety, try not to be so hard on yourself. It’s not the end of the world if someone doesn’t want to connect with you. No matter how weird or broken you think you are (or how cold you think other people are), many people would enjoy your company.

People can provide value to each other in the simplest of ways, such as by listening to each other, sharing a meal, and holding hands as they go for a stroll. If you can smile, you can provide something that millions (probably billions) of people would receive as valuable and worthwhile.