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The Company We All Are Running Internally

To me, the most impressive frontier to conquer is our own mind.

You could be the most succesful entrepreneur in the world but if your mind is running amok and wild, your empire will collapse right in front of your own eyes.

Right from the ancient sages and Stoics to modern day CEOs swear by this one principle: the secret to happiness is not your external success but your internal scorecard.

We all know this intellectually and every once in a while sit down and even jot wise thoughts on this topic (like I’m doing now!). But then we f*ck it up on a random Tuesday, don’t we? Why?

What’s stopping us from being our wisest self and listen to our own counsel during moments of distress?

It’s because — rarely do we ever consciously process who’s running the show and calling shots during our difficult times.

We like to think our mind is in charge of making decisions at all times. That’s true, however, do you really want to know which type of mind is calling shots? Wait, do you first want to perhaps learn what kinds of minds we may have?

Speaking from my own personal experience, I see three minds in me on a daily basis.

1) The Wise and Purposeful aka The Chairman

2) The Executive Decision Maker aka The CEO

3) The Instinctive Warrior aka The COO

At any given moment, one of these minds is calling shots and holding the narrative in my head. Currently, since I’m feeling reflective and introspective, I would say “The Chairman” is running my show. He is wise, kind and believes in leaving the world a better place than when he found it. He is also forgiving, willing to move on and believes life is too short for petty fights over trivial topics. He’s basically the wisest layer of my personality, ala Warren Buffet. (just kidding) . I’m sure you have someone who you admire for their wisdom and ideals too from whom you take a page from when you are feeling wise.

However, when things don’t go well, I tend to default to my COO. The one who is in-charge of protecting me at all costs. He’s an operator (designed through evolution) and is desperate to pick and win a fight like the animal ancestry he came from. He operates on primal things (fight or flight), fear and protecting pride within the tribe. However, none of those qualities are needed anymore in a modern 21st century society in which we live where our biggest worry for the day is why the line at our favorite restaurant is twice as long as usual. Getting angry/upset over such a trivial thing is not only counter-productive but shifts the power back to the COO for all such minor inconveniences. How do we stop this?

Here’s the most important component of this analogy: The Emotions.

Your emotions are the shareholders of the company called your life. They are ones driving the narrative in your head, they are extremely demanding when met with unpleasant situations and also occasionally catch a relief when things are going well. All in all, they just want two things: a) get pleasant feelings b) avoid unpleasant feelings

Here’s where the CEO can come into play. The CEO is the executive decision maker who can design, enforce and command everyone to follow a set of beliefs pulled from the wise chairman’s playbook. Some people call this self-control or patience. But really no one is both with patience or discipline. They have to be first consciously labeled as good things and them practiced over and over again. The CEO can help take charge of every time we are tempted to use our primal reactions and can guide to choose a better behavior instead. The more you practice this, the easier it gets to default to beneficial behaviors that you won’t regret later.

Recapping our definitions again,

The Chairman = Your wise, reflective self who has a sense of perspective and a larger than life purpose

The CEO = The executive decision maker in charge of designing and enacting beneficial behaviors/habits

The COO = The operator who’s only obligation (from an evolution point of view) is concerned with “self” and hence pulls rudimentary fight or flight moves like anger, retaliation, revenge and if all else fails, submits to sadness and self-pity.

Caution: You tend to slip into the slippery slope of misery if you remain too long in the COO position. The COO runs a banana republic with your raw emotions with no sense of purpose or control. It is very dark and depressing to be so angry and sad all the time. Guard your mind against falling into the COO trap.

What are your thoughts on this analogy? Do you catch yourself falling into one of these states?

“Man can alter his life by altering his thinking.” —William James

"You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."—Marcus Aurelius