Ed Cooke is a certified Grandmaster of Memory that was featured on Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routine and Habits of Billionaires, Icons and World-Class Performers. The following excerpt has come in handy on several occasions since I first came across this.
“When I was at school, I would lose a debating competition or discover that I was a loser in a more general sense. I had what I call, in a way, a ‘mind hack’. I’d be sitting on the loo or something and I’d just think, ‘Oh, everything feels terrible and awful. It’s all gone to shit.’ Then I’d consider, ‘But if you think about it, the stars are really far away,’ then you try to imagine the world from the stars. Then you sort of zoom in and you’re like, ‘Oh, there’s this tiny little character there for a fragment of time worrying about X.'”
We all experience problems. Sometimes though, we can focus on how it’s so terrible that the problem completely balloons out of proportion in the grand scale of life and the universe.
The above quote from Ed Cooke is a very simple, but powerful visualization. I tend to prefer imagining my body from a bird’s-eye view and zooming out slowly, like Google Maps would. I can then include other people in my mind’s eye as I zoom out further – neighbors, people driving their cars, farmers ploughing fields, office workers etc.
Through this visualization, we can understand how many other people occupy this world, and that they have problems too! So why aren’t we hung up on those people’s problems to the same degree, even though some (or most) of them are worse than ours? It’s the inflated sense of self-importance while simultaneously forgetting the interconnectedness of the world. Sometimes a brilliant way to solve our own problem is to solve somebody else’s.
A lot of our individual problems can come from self-consciousness. But sometimes we forget that it’s not only us that suffers from this, the whole world does to at least some degree. A simple example from my own life would be as a door-to-door salesman it used to be incredibly nerve-wracking to knock on someone’s door and speak to them. But once I recognized that the person who answered the door was probably just as nervous or scared of silly old me at the same time, it was much easier to relax. Sometimes we view every other person as formidable, competent, and confident, everyone except ourselves. But it’s important to remember – we all feel the same things, and we are all human.