About Steve Acho

Business Geek, Musician, Lover, Fighter, Writer, Delusional Optimist

Freedom to and freedom from

We tend to think of freedom in terms of the options we have. This is “freedom to…” While we may not have all the resources that give us freedom TO do all we desire, we can recognize the opposite side of the coin, which is “freedom from”: any of the pressures, stresses, or life-deranging things that don’t plague us at this moment.

As you contemplate all you have the freedom to do, give thanks and perhaps give yourself credit for the harmful and even traumatic things that you have freedom from.

Investing in tomorrow

Remember when you first learned about compound interest? It wasn’t intuitive that starting with a penny on day one and doubling it each day for 30 days would net so much money. Investing time and attention works in a similar way, compounding, even if it’s not exponential.

One powerful lesson from any investment that repeats and compounds is that real progress or growth isn’t immediately obvious. Knowing this allows you to adjust your expectations and stay in the game.

Citing the above penny-doubling experiment, after 10 days (1/3 of the way!) you only have $10.24. What do you have on day 30? $5.4 million. 

One useful perspective

Internalizing a single nugget of wisdom can make consuming an entire book, podcast, seminar, or conversation worthwhile.  Always be open to useful outlooks, approaches, or strategies from any source.

Even one new perspective, idea, or well-thought-out question can shift your outlook in life-changing ways.

The antidote for mixed signals in our bodies

The feeling of hunger tells us when we should eat (now), not how much we should eat. Bright lights close to bedtime tell the body that it’s still daytime, as our eyes are the most important medium for delivering info to the mother ship (the brain) on the time of day.

Our bodies can misinterpret signals, and our conscious minds can convince our bodies of a false story. Two keys to correcting this:

  1. Self-awareness is a strong antidote to better interpret these signals. Are you eating more because you’re still hungry?
  2. Change your environment – if we know we’ll get better sleep by avoiding certain kinds of light at night, and exposing ourselves to light in the morning, we can make the right changes.

An alternative to “calm down!”

If there’s a reliable way to enrage someone while also compelling them to do the exact opposite of your advice, it’s using the phrase “calm down”. 

One alternative that I’ve found to work well when I really do want someone to calm down is to say…nothing. Just BE an example of calm. Mirror neurons are part of our biology. Often, people can’t help but embrace some of your calm energy. 

Why optimism is so hard and important

Optimism is hard for a reason – it’s unnatural. For our ancestors, being optimistic and “wrong” perhaps meant you missed out on an opportunity, whereas being pessimistic and wrong meant you became tiger food.

We should train ourselves to overcome this programming for a few reasons: First, many of us are lucky to live in a world where we can test theories, and create things that might be valuable. We can be wrong and “fail” many times, often with little to no personal or reputational damage, unlike our ancestors.

Second, being optimistic is a healthier mindset regardless of outcomes. And lastly, you’re more likely to improve the world (and yourself) by thinking “this might work” versus, “here are all the reasons this won’t work.”

The most important measure of your product

“Product” can mean whatever you want it to. As a business, an influencer, an artist, or even (surprise!) as a human, your product is not for everyone. As Seth Godin brilliantly states, the least helpful mantra is “you can pick anyone, and we’re anyone!”

Of all the businesses and products…in all the ways they are expressed, packaged, and distributed…in any way we engage with the market, here is one simple question that can serve as a yardstick for how our product might be measured: Would they miss it if it were gone? 

Intelligence and morality

Many of us admire and are influenced by smart people. I know that I hold people I see as “smart” in high regard. Unfortunately, there’s no correlation between intelligence and morality. Sociopaths offer one example of this truth, as one of their most common traits is intelligence – they just use it to selfishly manipulate to get what they want, without regard for how it affects others.

Intelligence is a respectable attribute, and it’s a worthy cause to try to get smarter. Just don’t assume that virtues come along for the ride. The only thing intelligence and integrity have in common is the number of syllables.

Sharpening the skill of clear communication

What is the goal of communication? A seemingly tricky question with a remarkably simple answer: shared understanding. That’s it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re conveying something true or false, caring or cruel. The goal is that both parties understand what is being communicated.

One way to sharpen this skill is by examining the speech of people who are extremely articulate in expressing their ideas on complex topics (whether or not you agree with the content). Studying this shows that it’s more of an art than a science – it’s not always a matter of knowing more, but instead about using the most precise words that reflect your intent.

Insanely practical way to reduce stress

What if I told you that just describing how you’re feeling can help you feel better? That’s exactly what neuroscience confirms. fMRI scans showed brain activity/response to various positive or negative feelings evoked by images. When the volunteers were asked to describe what they were feeling, the emotional part of their brains (the amygdala) immediately quieted.

In plain English, that means that simply saying “I feel annoyed” makes us feel measurably less annoyed. The Buddhists use the term “noting”, to describe this phenomenon. Of course, it won’t make a problem go away. But much more important than the problem itself is our reaction.

If a simple inner dialogue can reduce your stress, why not give it a try? (Note: this is why it’s important that we teach children how to properly articulate their feelings. This stress-reduction hack works with humans of all ages.)