The biggest improvement I made in my life mostly come from getting the basics handled. I learned this the hard way. Stability often comes before progress. You progress if you’re constantly arguing in your relationships, not feeling in control of your finances, having late credit card bills or receiving margin calls from your brokers. I once had a margin call right before my economics examinations. Needless to say, I didn’t perform.
The 3 Tiers of Stability
If you’re looking to improve your life in anyway shape or form, whether be it getting a girlfriend or starting a side business, you need to take care of the fundamentals. You’ll require stability in your immediate surroundings, proper nutrition, health and the right relationships around you. Stability then allows you to expand and take risks in other areas of your life.
I came across a concept introduced by Ramit Sethi, one of the best personal finance and behavioural change authors. He introduced the idea: the tripod of stability, a laymen’s version of the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs.
The three tiers are a 1) safe place to sleep and basic nutrition 2) stable relationships, financial cushion and 3) the right environment for success.
Tier 1: Your Health and Your Surroundings
Firstly, you need safety in your surroundings. Have you got a safe place to sleep at night? You can’t be homeless and trying to go to the clubs to pick up girls. It doesn’t work that way.
- Sleep and Health
Secondly, sleep is non-negotiable to me. If you’re not getting enough sleep, it’ll ruin your productivity for that day. If you fall sick, that’s ruined productivity for the rest of the week. Take it from someone who is traditionally a night owl. Today wake up consistently at 8 am ever since starting my own business.
You can’t improve your life in any way if you’re eating poorly, falling sick every other week or you lack proper rest.
Tier 2: Your Psychology and Relationships
Secondly, you can’t progress without stability in the relationships around you. There’s even a study done by Harvard that states that your relationships contribute the biggest part of your happiness.
If you’re running feeling desperate or throwing everything you got anyone or opportunity that comes your way. Your neediness is going to chase everyone away.
Let me ask you:
- When was the last time you said no to a friend that asked you out to a social event you didn’t want to go?
- When was the last time you re-arranged your schedule just to go out on a date with a girl?
- When was the last time you turned down a money-making opportunity because it didn’t fit in your larger goals?
This means setting relationship boundaries. You cannot fix your issue of neediness without ironing out your boundaries and personal values. You can’t let guilt or shame run your life. This will generate self-esteem in yourself and all your relationships.
Once you got your psychology straightened out, you’re now ready to tackle the finer details of starting a conversation with a stranger, attracting girls or starting a business and etc.
When I was having constant arguments with my parents as a teenager, my academic performance suffered. In the business world, when a client wouldn’t pay on time, I get all pissed off chasing for payment and that affected my quality of work. I could only focus on projects when I wasn’t chasing my clients day in and out.
You may have toxic family relationships. I know I had them. I used to fight with my parents all the time. They would subtly threaten to kick me out of the house, stating that after all, it was their house. It wasn’t a safe environment for me.
- The Benefits of Moving Out
If you’re in a toxic environment, then move out. It’ll do you wonders.
You may not be acting in an authentic manner when you’re reliant on parents that are providing a roof over your head. That’s because if you’re relying on your parents financially, you don’t want to piss off your parents. Hence, you hesitate from bringing that girl home, you hesitate to start that side business.
Personally, I know for sure if my parents weren’t providing me with a roof over my head, I could be a lot more emotionally honest with them and myself.
Whenever I live abroad for extended periods of time, I’m forced into a state of self-reliance and independence. The foreign currency, the language, culture and doing laundry on my own. However, for some inane reason, I always felt I was more motivated, sharper when I’m living on my own.
In Singapore, it’s a cultural norm for both guys and girls to stay with their parents till their married before moving out. I personally believe both sexes should experience some form of independence before committing to a long time relationship.
I’m sure moving out is also beneficial in your dating life. For the guys that have strict parents that shame you for bringing women back, you now got your own room.
You’ll also act independently from your parent’s judgment and presence before purchasing the half a million dollars of that frigging public house.
In that sense, Singaporeans are spoilt. In Western cultures, kids move out from the age of 18 and are expected to be financially self-sufficient when they graduate. In Singapore, you’re allowed to stay with your parents till you’re married. Well, Singaporean men do go through two years of military training, I’ll give Singaporean men that.
This is especially true for guys from the pick up artist community. There’s a reason why you guys got into the community. That’s because you suck at women, and more often than not, that’s rooted from your relationship with your parents. Moving out can give you the independence that you need away from the eyes and judgment of your parents. There are also reported benefits of moving out.
When I was in New York, I rented out a shit-y AirBnB apartment on a shoestring budget. Yes, I still went out on a couple of dates. However, the crappy AirBnB apartment affected my mood and I wasn’t so motivated to ask my date back to my place.
Tier 3: Investing in Yourself: Mentors, Skillsets and Expansion
- Build the Right Relationships and Your Support Network
The people around me had poor relationship patterns. You know, those that show up when they got nothing going on in their lives, and disappear when they’ve got a partner. It made me feel, undervalued. Not surprisingly, they also became my biggest critics.
“Look at Marcus, he’s being all superficial again, going out to clubs.”
These days, I’m highly careful of the people I let into my life. Yes, you’re going to get criticized, especially from the closest people around you. Especially so when you’re trying to improve. You’re going to face criticism. You’re going to face resistance. That is human nature.
One of the litmus tests I use is to observe someone’s reactions during if I slight in a bit of ambition in my conversation:
- How does the person sitting in front of me react to it?
- Will they feel threatened?
- Do they subtlety roll their eyes?
- Do they genuinely care about why you have those ambitions?
Over the years, I figured you’re going to get criticized no matter what you do in your life. If you cured cancer, some asshole is going to as you: why didn’t you cure aids? If you started a business helping others in their relationships, someone else is going to say: you should be spending more time on charity. I’ve heard people called me insensitive, selfish, immature, misogynistic and many uglier things.
However, you can mitigate these things by building the right relationships and support network.
- Getting Mentors and Guidance
When you nailed down your surroundings, 8 hours of sleep and sort out your relationships around you. You’re now ready to expand.
Getting mentors was an idea I rejected for years. I hated the conventional life coaching advice. NLP? Bullshit. Overpriced motivational seminars? Waste of time. I also arrogantly thought I could learn everything myself. Through the years, I also preferred creating my own learning and training philosophies, instead of sticking to routines.
However, there’s a reason why Universities, books and coaches exist in the first place. You can’t do or learn everything by yourself. Billionaires Charlie Munger and Warren Buffet are voracious readers in their day to day life. They continue to learn despite being extremely successful individuals in their own rights.
I’m not going to bore you with the age-old advice of you being who you surround yourself with, however, I am going show you the research behind the peer group effect.
- Creating an Environment For Success
When I studied in San Francisco on an exchange program, I was alone but independent. I had to be fully accountable to my health, my social life, my academics performance and logistics. It was a lot of stress. However, I ended up performing well at the top public University in the States.
However, when I was in Singapore, my academic results are often lacklustre. I also noticed that when I came back, my habits quickly fell back to negative ones. I couldn’t wake up on time, I started watching pornography, my bad dietary habits came back and I started feeling restless and moody.
So what made all the difference?
Firstly, in the States, I had the freedom to flex my identity. In Singapore, nobody knew me as the academically excellent kid. My grades were average at best. Through the years that’s how I identified myself as. In the States, I could be as scholarly or nerdy as I desired.
Secondly, there were no rebellious students, no one to party with on the weekends. No one to fool around with. Just me, the library and my school notes. I was also shit scared of wasting thousands of dollars invested in my summer program.
Hence, I was curious. I needed to know the psychology behind it. How does our external environment play a role in determining our success? It turned out that my gut feeling was right. Our environment does play a huge role in determining our habits and our behaviour. Humans are a lot more reliant on our environmental cues than you think.
There’s something to be said about creating an environment of inevitable success. If you got rent to pay, you’ll be damned sure you’re waking up on time to get to that sales appointment. However, if you’re waking up in comfort and breakfast is served to you, you’re going to slack off.
If you invest in a mentorship, a fitness coach or bought yourself clean groceries, you’re sure as hell going to keep yourself accountable and follow through on those actions.
Through the years, I invested in up tens of thousands of dollars into mentors, my own entrepreneurial education, hire a psychologist, so much so that failure is NOT an option for me. I deleted Tinder, stopped hanging out with naysayers so much so that I’m fully responsible for my romantic and social life.
If you aren’t in a safe place, built a couple of handy relationships and eating unhealthy food on a daily basis, you’re probably haven’t created the right environment to improve your life. Your progress is going to be largely determined by surrounding yourself with mentors, as with the people you spend time around and the environment you create for yourself and put yourself into. In my experience, the biggest periods of growth in my life happened because I had no other alternative. I had no way out but to succeed.
Gonzales, Nancy (2010). “Family and Peer Influences on Adolescent Behavior and Risk-Taking” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 26, 2010. Retrieved November 28, 2010.
Wood, W., & Neal, D. T. (2007). A new look at habits and the habit-goal interface. Psychological Review, 114(4), 843.