Over coffee, two men asked my opinion on their upcoming travel plans. They wanted to make the most of the limited time they had left.
“We’re keeping our options open,” one said. “If a city is not good, we’ll leave and go somewhere else.”
This statement was both sensible and rational. Staying flexible in your search for the prize is something you won’t find intelligent men disagreeing with. That said, I don’t do it. I put myself in inflexible situations. I give myself no way out. If the environment doesn’t easily provide what I want, I buckle down, increase my effort, and find my prize nonetheless.
Every city you go to has at least one big negative that is obvious within the first three days. It could be the level of talent, the logistics, the cost, the difficulty of meeting women, the crime, or the scammers. If you adopt a flexible strategy, this negative will serve as a logical rationalization to leave instead of persisting. Your brain, the lazy saboteur, rather execute the option than to either defeat the problem or work around it. The option, it turns out, is what promotes giving up and therefore, weakness.
The brain selects the path of least resistance. It has a built-in mechanism to conserve labor when it’s that very labor that is required to meet your goals. Therefore you must not give yourself a choice. You must be dropped off in the ocean, far from the shore, with no choice but to swim back or die. If there is a helper boat nearby, and you know of its presence, you would find a way to call for assistance even if it’s physically possible for you to make it to the shore on your own.
As I was telling the two men my thoughts on sinking or swimming, I realized my own hypocrisy. My goal at the time was to learn Russian, but I was running game in English. I was dating a girl who spoke it fluently, with grammar that may have been better than my own. The boat was beside me as I swam. I knew I would never drown, but only the threat of drowning will push you beyond your limits. At that moment, while sipping my second espresso, I decided to only speak to girls in Russian. English was no longer allowed. My Russian was not yet ready for the challenge, but I no longer wanted a boat beside me. It made me weak.
When it comes to making a decision, logic is often recommended, but the brain is the source of this logic, and therefore it is biased to prevent you from embarking on a task that may result in failure after much labor is expended. It’s thinking like a corporation that only wants to meet three-month quarterly goals, regardless of the harm that type of strategy results in the long-term success of the company. Your life is long, and the difficult tasks you attempt today will yield benefits that stay with you for life. Logic in your decision-making provides you with an easy out. Therefore you must introduce a component of illogic into your goal. This can be found in the phrase “no matter what.”
I will learn Russian, no matter what.
I will stay in the next city I go to for two weeks, no matter what.
I will write this book, no matter what.
I will talk to ten girls today, no matter what.
When you add “no matter what,” how you approach the task will now be entirely different than before. Your brain, frustrated that you won’t back down, now becomes your ally. It thinks, “Well, I guess he’s serious about this goal, despite my attempt to put him on an easier path. I will now help him succeed so that we can get this tough endeavor over with.” Your brain doesn’t want to sink, and the only way to get it to swim is to let it know that it has no other choice.
Read Next: It’s Better To Have Guts Than Brains