Welcome to part two of my return to blogging! Part one was reviewing “Building Your StoryBrand” by Donald Miller and Part three will be my thoughts on “Bulbapedia” and Pokemon in general. If you haven’t heard of either of them, or even if you have, make sure to check my posts out. Without out further ado, let’s dive into this book.
“Are You Ready To Succeed” by Srikumar Rao
Hear me out because I swear this book is worth your time. I too was put off by the unabashedly honest title which seemed to suggest a novel replete with clichés and recycled cat poster quotations. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Professor Rao expertly synthesizes psychology, philosophy, and science seamlessly and truly teaches you how to succeed
A bit of context is probably relevant to the discussion of the novel. Srikumar Rao studied in India and then worked in America, rising to executive roles in large corporations. After an extended period of time in the business arena, Rao began teaching at Long Island University. While taught an assortment of courses, one specific class achieved a great degree of eminence in the academic world: Creativity and Personal Mastery. The course eventually migrated over to Columbia University where, in order to take the class, students needed to sign up years in advance. The novel is meant to be an abridged version of the course.
My dad had been quoting and praising this book for a couple of years now so ,after a few years of “encouragement” I decided to check it out for myself. The thesis of Rao’s novel is that we live in an imagined reality. What we see, what we think, what we feel is all a product of our brains. Now, if this sounds eerily solipsistic, let me assure you it isn’t. Rao argues that we develop mental models, i.e ways of perceiving the world. These mental models either propel us forward or stymie our progress, both personally and professionally. We construct these mental models based on mental chatter, conversations we constantly have ourselves. Repeatedly trash talking and self-deprecating thoughts can restrict us from achieving true success. For example, one mental model that I had previously was “I don’t have time to read because of my crushing workload and lack of a sufficiently rigorous work ethic.” But are we slaves to our brains? Can we ever hope to surmount ourselves? Yes we can. Rao offers a variety of simple exercises to recognize our mental state and then reform it. Perhaps one of the most practical exercises that I adopted (and slightly modified) was recording all of my mental chatter on a piece of paper and then “roasting” each unjustified assertion about my work ethic, character, etc… As a debater, that appealed to me more than a mere thoughtful reflection.
To supplant our previously faulty assortment of mental models, Rao prescribes us his mental model medicine. He asks us to believe in a universal consciousness. This isn’t necessarily religious, though it can be if you wish. The consciousness is omnipotent and,more importantly, benevolent. Everything that happens to us is as a result of this consciousness and, due to its omnipotence, must be in our absolute benefit. If you lose out on a promotion, perform poorly in a high stakes situation, or, worst of all, step on a LEGO piece, don’t curse every deity or cosmic entity you can think of. Thank the universe and move on
Hold on for just a second. Suspend your knee-jerk skepticism and think about why this might be a beneficial mental model. If everything is in our absolute benefit, we might never be dogged by negativity and self hate. Additionally, Rao mentions a sort of feedback-loop. If we thank the universe for positivity and events we perceive to be “good,” the universe will continue to reward us with more “good.” Similarly, if we belittle the “good” or chalk it up to dumb luck, we may never get the “good” again, except maybe serendipitously. Conversely, if we curse the Universe for the “bad,” we, paradoxically, tend to experience more of it. The world is nothing more than our interpretation of it. If we interpret it right, we no longer have to seek out success. It follows us wherever we choose to venture.
Success isn’t some serendipitous windfall that graces our presence fleetingly. We can learn to consistently attract it, but we must first change ourselves. Our mastery of success starts with a devotion to self-improvement, continuously cultivating success-attracting mindsets and habits. Like a muscle, the efficacy of these mindsets atrophy due to infrequent usage. It isn’t easy to change your worldview at the drop of a hat, but consistent deployment of the exercises outlined in the book is integral to the attainment of success. Now, I know that my journey is far from over. It’s barely begun. But, thanks to this book, I feel at least partially ready, knowing I have the tools to aid me.