Code of the Extraordinary Mind

Many people are taught that the world is a certain way and to live within the rules of society. However, social norms and structures can confine us and limit our potential. The Code of the Extraordinary Mind (subtitle: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed On Your Own Terms) by Vishen Lakhiani challenges the framework of life and asks you to question things, so that you can live better. This book shares secrets to succeeding such as gratitude, affirmations, self-love, examining your methods for doing things and optimizing your systems to perform better, setting nonnegotiable set points (that you can’t fall below), creating meaningful goals (end goals vs. means goals), finding your calling and establishing a personal mission, the value of forgiveness and methods for meditating that prime you to succeed. The author questions the definition of success by saying, the way we define success usually centers around money and power, which is an inadequate way to define life. Other metrics of success should be added such as well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. While this book is motivational and encourages goal setting to succeed, it emphasizes how happiness can’t be tied to goals: life is about the journey and not the destination. Be happy now because then you will enjoy life and a positive attitude is linked to higher performance, which leads to more happiness. At several points in the book, the author asks the reader to ask themselves three questions: (1) What experiences do you want to have in this lifetime? (2) How do you want to grow? (3) How do you want to contribute? And further, in the book, he asks (1) Recall a time when you experienced Heaven on Earth. What was happening? (2) Imagine you have a magic wand and with it you can create Heaven on Earth. What is Heaven on Earth for you? (3) What simple, easy, concrete step(s) will you take in the next twenty-four hours to make Heaven on Earth real? By asking these questions you examine your life and what you want from it. From this, goal setting and daily productivity become nothing more than aligning your day-to-day with your life purpose and mission. Lastly, the author points to a new model for understanding problems in our life: problems are nothing more than a friendly universe whispering in our ear as we hike through life: “Hey, you’re on the wrong path. Check out the view from this angle.” When we refine our mindset and live life in alignment with our interests, we will increase the quality of life for ourselves and others.

Key lines and concepts include:

  1. When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact. That is—everything around you that you call life was made up by people no smarter than you. And you can change it. You can influence it. . . . Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again. —STEVE JOBS
  2. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. —STEVE JOBS
  3. Elon Musk was once asked “How do you learn so fast?” He replied: “It is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree—make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.” In other words, don’t get confused by details. Focus on the big and important stuff first and then carefully add to it. But don’t let lesser things distract you from the most important things.
  4. Our beliefs are like unquestioned commands, telling us how things are, what’s possible and impossible and what we can and cannot do. They shape every action, every thought, and every feeling that we experience. As a result, changing our belief systems is central to making any real and lasting change in our lives. —TONY ROBBINS
  5. Life has 12 pillars that you need to keep in balance: love, friendship, adventure, home environment, health & fitness, intellectual, skills, spiritual, career, creative, family and community.
  6. We often carry disempowering models of reality that we inherited as far back as childhood. When you replace disempowering models of reality with empowering ones, tremendous changes can occur in your life at a very rapid pace. Go through the 12 pillars to examine the disempowering models in your life as a whole.
  7. First, I ask “one thing you are grateful for today”. Second, I ask, “what did you love about yourself today?”
  8. I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: Constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself. —ELON MUSK
  9. A system for living is a repeated, optimized pattern for getting things done. How we do anything falls into a process and system—meaning, we can improve the way you do things. When you optimize your systems for living, you can experience exponential growth in areas that truly matter to you.
  10. Too many of us are so busy doing that we never step back and think about how we’re doing. Or why we’re doing it. I call this the do-do trap. You’re so busy doing what needs to be done, you don’t really know whether your systems for living are good. Every now and then, stop doing and gather some research. Step back from what you’re doing and seek to discover new ways to do thing better. At Mindvalley we bypass the do-do trap through a technique called Learn Day. On the first Friday of every month, nobody works (unless it’s something crucial). Instead, everyone focuses on learning about how to work better. Eg. A programmer may experiment with a new coding language. People are allowed to sit and read all day, provided it’s a book related to their career. Through this process, new ideas form, new systems emerge, and new ways of working are born.
  11. The way we define success usually centers around only two metrics of money and power, which is a very inadequate way to define life. Other metrics of success should be added such as well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.
  12. Busyness paradox: people can’t find the time to productive activities that will actually save them time in the long run. Example: meditation actually adds time to your day by optimizing your thinking and creative process to make you more functional. But so many people don’t meditate because they can’t find the time.
  13. Your happiness cannot be tied to your goals. You must be happy even before you attain them. Doing so will make life joyous and full of play and bring your goals to you faster than ever. Your thoughts and beliefs do create your reality, but only when your present state is joyful. Keep the big goals but don’t tie your happiness to your goals. Have a vision for the future that drives you and pulls you forward, but ne happy now—despite not having yet attained that vision. It’s about the journey as well as the destination. Link your happiness to the pursuit of your vision, combined with a sense of gratitude for what you already have. That way, you don’t have to wait for happiness. It’s just the natural by- product of pursuing your vision. 
  14. Three types of happiness: (1) Happiness from special and unique experiences, which is linked to feel-good sensations and exciting and inspiring situations. (2) Happiness from growth and awakening such as learning a new skill and being more competent, which feels good and empowering. (3) Happiness from meaning, which involves having a purpose and getting fulfillment from achieving goals related to that purpose. Think back to a time of supreme happiness in your life and what type of happiness was it?
  15. Happiness methods include: gratitude, thinking about your “reverse gap” (how far you’ve come), forgiveness 
  16. Forginess as a key to happiness: The secret to increasing alpha waves was just one thing, forgiveness. Holding onto grudges and anger is the single biggest factor suppressing alpha waves. So it was critical for us to be able to release every last bit of that out of our systems. We had to forgive every single person in our lives who had wronged us, even if it was in the slightest way imaginable. I had to forgive high-school teachers, business partners, family members—everyone I could think of who I believed had wronged me, big or small. And every time I did a round of forgiveness, my alpha waves spiked.Exercise: Liberate yourself and truly forgive. Here’s how to do a simplified variation of the forgiveness exercise I learned. In a notebook, make a list of people you feel have wronged you or situations where you’ve been hurt. To Do: Step 1: Set the Scene First, with your eyes closed, for about two minutes or so, feel yourself in that very moment when it happened. Picture the environment. Step 2: Feel the Anger and Pain As you see the person who wronged you in front of you, get emotional. Relive the anger and pain. Feel it burn. But don’t do this for more than a few minutes. Once you bring up these emotions, move on to the next step. Step 3: Forgive into Love See that same person in front of you, but instead, feel compassion for him or her. Ask yourself: What did I learn from this? How did this situation make my life better? Adopt a model of reality that everyone who has ever entered our lives, even those who have hurt us, are nothing more than messengers to teach us an important lesson. Think about what lessons you could derive from this situation, as painful as it might have been. How did these lessons help you grow? Next, focus on the person who wronged you. What pain or anguish could they have gone through in their life that made them do what they did? Remember that hurt people, hurt people. Those who hurt others are doing it because at some level, at some time, they were hurt, too. Think about how they may have been hurt in their childhood or in recent years.
  17. Establish an inner peace that protects you from external problems: When you’re truly at peace and in touch with yourself. Nothing anyone says or does bothers you and no negativity can touch you. Someone could be mean to you, and, yes, you’ll take defensive action and protect yourself if necessary. But you’re able to go on with your life without having to waste your energy on them.
  18. The Dalai Lama once said: To be happy, make others happy. Additionally, he was asked, “How is it possible to be happy when seeing so much misery and tragedy every day?” The Dalai Lama’s answer was actually a question, and it was simply this: “But who can you help if you’re unhappy?” The discipline to be happy allows you to spread more happiness in the world. This is definitely a paradox: to help others, you must first help yourself. (Note: if we are always focusing on our own happiness, could this not lead to selfishness, hedonism or other bad qualities?)
  19. Forget the money, because if you say that getting money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living—that is, to go on doing things you don’t like doing. Which is stupid. Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.
  20. Means goals vs. End goals: End goals are the beautiful, exciting rewards of being human on planet Earth. End goals are about experiencing love, traveling around the world being truly happy, contributing to the planet because doing so gives you meaning, and learning a new skill for the pure joy of it. End goals speak to your soul. They bring you joy in and of themselves, not because they confer any outward label, standard, or value attached by society. Nor are end goals undertaken for the purpose of pay or for material reward. They are the experiences that create the best memories in our lives. My most amazing end goals were: Reaching the top of Mount Kinabalu and gazing down at the clouds below me as the sun rose over the island of Borneo. My honeymoon with Kristina in Svalbard, Norway, hiking through blizzards in Arctic weather. Inviting my employees to witness a gorgeous, state-of-the-art new steampunk office I’d been dreaming up for years, and witnessing the look of awe on their faces when we opened the doors for the first time. Seeing my baby daughter dance for the first time (to Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart”). But for most of my life, I pursued means goals. Means goals are the things that society tells us we need to have in place to get to happiness. Almost everything I wrote down as a goal was actually a means to an end, not an end in itself, including: Graduating from high school with a good GPA. Qualifying for the right college. Securing a summer internship. Getting a job at Trilogy Software in Austin, Texas. Other common means goals include hitting certain income levels, getting good reviews and promotions to a certain level at work, and being with one particular someone. When means goals become your focus, you miss the point. I love this advice from author Joe Vitale: “A good goal should scare you a little and excite you a lot.” Scary and exciting are two beautiful feelings that good end goals often bring out. Scary is a good thing because it means you’re pushing your boundaries—that’s how you take steps toward the extraordinary. Excitement signifies that your goal is genuinely close to your heart—not something you’re doing to please someone else or to conform to societal norms. Correcting the way I set goals helped me shift my life from a mundane and tiresome slog to a life of adventure and meaning. I only wish I had learned about the idea of end goals sooner—I wouldn’t have wasted so many years pursuing goals that seemed great on the outside but that contributed little to what my heart felt was important. So, don’t choose a career, lest you end up in a mind-numbing occupation. Nor should you just declare that you want to be an entrepreneur—lest you turn into a stressed out, bored one. Instead, think of your end goals and let your career or creation find you. Means goals: (1) usually have a “so” in them e.g. get a good GPA so I can get into a good college. (2) often about conforming to societal norms. End goals: (1) about following your heart (2) often feelings e.g. to be happy, to be consistenly joyful 
  21. The three most important questions: (1) What experiences do you want to have in this lifetime? (2) How do you want to grow? (3) How do you want to contribute?
  22. The fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side…Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose. When you think deep enough about loss, you realize that there is no loss. Happiness is completely within your control, and when you have nothing to lose, you’re free to think and dream boldly. Replacing fear with courage is one of the key components of establishing an inner peace that protects and drives you. For me, confronting my fears and overcoming fear of loss caused me to “say yes to life” and be open to more opportunities that grow and strengthen me. Examples are snowboarding, cliff jumping, trying things that I’m scared of. 
  23. When you become secure, self-assured and strong-minded, it makes all the smaller problems meaningless. You’re no longer bothered about that date who didn’t text you back, the rising price of gas, or that naysaying coworker. You have more urgent things to worry about. The problem with most people is that their problems aren’t big enough. You don’t get bogged down by petty problems and by other people’s misbehaviors, grudges, and rivalries. You have no time for politicking, finger-pointing, pot-stirring, backstabbing, bullying, tattling, throwing under the bus, and other time sucks that fill the days of bored and unhappy people. When you’re unfuckwithable, you rise above all of that. Instead, you’re thinking of far bigger things—of problems to solve that could change the world and help others move forward. Your goal becomes to tackle these problems.
  24. Three ways to define work: (1) A JOB is a way to pay the bills. It’s a means to an end, and you have little attachment to it. (2) A CAREER is a path toward growth and achievement. Careers have clear ladders for upward mobility. (3) A CALLING is work that is an important part of your life and provides meaning. People with a calling are generally more satisfied with the work they do. 
  25. Be clear on the WHAT of your goals and WHAT you want from life. Once you choose a destination, often the right synchronicities, opportunities, and people emerge in your life to get you there. Some people call this luck. I beg to differ. I believe luck is under our control. When you pursue the right end goals while making sure you’re happy in the now, happiness unlocks the door for luck to come calling. In fact, it often seems as if you don’t find your quest. Rather, your quest finds you.
  26. Kensho and Satori moments: (1) Kensho is growth by pain (2) Satori is growth by awakening. Kensho is the universe giving you tough love. You go through some kind of pain or difficulty through which you learn different ways to feel, think, and be. Satori is a big insight that happens suddenly and changes you forever. Essentially, these moments are epiphanies. They can happen anytime, anywhere. It’s a moment where knowledge and experience impacts you to a point where you see life differently. Growth as “quality of life over time”. Kensho moments would start with a dip and then shoot upward as you recover and assimilate your new learnings. Satori moments would be a sudden burst upward.
  27. A new model for understanding the problems in our life: problems are nothing more than a friendly universe whispering in our ear as we hike through life: “Hey, you’re on the wrong path. Check out the view from this angle.” Behind every problem, there’s a question trying to ask itself. Behind every question, there’s an answer trying to reveal itself. Behind every answer, there’s an action trying to take place. And behind every action, there’s a way of life trying to be born. That new way of life trying to be born is your calling. And who knows how this calling might influence the world and those around you?
  28. Find your mission by asking these three questions: (1) Recall a time when you experienced Heaven on Earth. What was happening? (2) Imagine you have a magic wand and with it you can create Heaven on Earth. What is Heaven on Earth for you? (3) What simple, easy, concrete step(s) will you take in the next twenty-four hours to make Heaven on Earth real? As you do this, pay attention to your emotional reactions. (Remember: True end goals tend to be feelings.) Do you feel your heart open or beat faster? Does your gut literally respond? Does your breath catch or deepen? Do you gasp with excitement? These are your first big clues to your mission. Remember the words of Steve Jobs: Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
  29. “If I had one superpower, it would be persistence. X Prize took me ten years to get off the ground.” and Elon Musk said: “I have a high tolerance for pain.” If you recall my story, you’ll notice a similar pattern. My failures and misfortunes were often just as spectacular as my successes. I took a lot of jobs just to keep body and soul together. My career path looked oddly ordinary before a sudden burst of success in my later years. Persistence and confronting hardship is important to making it through to the otherside of success. (This relates to endurance sports such as marathons and ironmans.)
  30. Six phase meditation: (1) Compassion (2) Gratitude (3) Forgiveness (4) Future Dreams (5) Perfect Day (6) Blessing