An Opinion is Never Wrong

I just had a wonderful long talk with my mum about all sorts of things (new businesses, innovation, paleo dieting, health, and relationships just to name a few) and towards the end she said something quite profound which resonated deeply with me: "An opinion is never wrong."

I could not have said it better myself.

What is an Opinion?

An opinion is just a belief, idea, or judgment a person has for a particular topic. They may have formed this through extensive experimentation, life experiences, research, or just because one day they woke up and decided to have an opinion.

I have many opinions on a wide range of topics, some of which I honestly do not know much about. But I still have those opinions. Why? The answer once again lies in the flawed workings of the brain.

Your brain develops an answer for every question you can pose and it does so by referring to it's massive bank of data it has stored away in the dark little recesses of your mind. So when you want to form an opinion on something your brain quickly analyses everything in your memory that relates to it (experiences, news articles, opinions of people you value) and like magic you now have an opinion. Wonderful.

There is No Wrong Opinion

If we consider every opinion from the frame of reference (showing my nerdy side here) in which it was created then there is no possible way for an opinion to be wrong. For example, I might have the opinion that blue is the best colour ever, which I based on a random internet survey I conducted where 5 out of 6 people agreed that blue was awesome. Therefore, I believe we should paint the whole world blue.

Ok ok, this is a silly example but it shows my point. The opinion was formed because I believed that I had the proof that supported it. Therefore in my frame of reference (i.e. my own mind) the opinion is correct. Of course everyone else has their own opinion on which colour is the best, all of which are equally true.

When dealing with the opinions of other people you need to consider what their frame of reference is and what experiences or "evidence" they have as support.

Dealing With Others' Opinions

There is a saying people like to use which goes: "You are entitled to your opinion." This is strange on two levels. First, it's normally followed up with a big fat "BUT..." and then the person tries to force their opinion on to you. Secondly, we do not need someone to give us permission for our opinions. The very nature of opinions means that we are ALWAYS "entitled" to them.

The best way to deal with the opinions of others is to listen and ask questions. Find out what evidence, real or perceived, they have that led them to their opinion and you will gain wonderful insight into their thought process. Then question the basis for your own opinions. If you honestly believe you have some evidence that could help the other person then explain it to them. But do not expect them to always be receptive. Try once and move on, unless you find something soothing about hitting your head against a brick wall.

Of course the best thing you can do is simply respect the opinions of others and try to understand their point of view. You never know, it might lead you to change your own opinion.

Changing Your Opinions

It is OK to change your opinion. In fact the ability to change your opinions shows great strength of character. It means that you are aware of your own thoughts and opinions but are open to receiving information contrary to what you currently believe. When something of value is presented you can process it and analyse your own opinions to determine if they are still valid. If this sounds like you then you deserve a big pat on the back because this is not an easy task. Well done.

I encourage everyone to remain open, at all times, to receiving new information but also remember to question the "why" behind it. Not everything you hear is true and some people have ulterior motives for trying to change your opinion. Listen to all information presented, assess the validity of it, and make adjustments to your opinions as necessary. But only if you want to. After all, they are your opinions.

But of course all this is just my opinion. It is right for me and it may or may not sit right for you. That's the beauty of opinions.

Multitasking is Unproductive

Want to be more productive? Stop multitasking. The concept of multitasking sounds great in principle but in reality it fails miserably. Being able to to perform multiple tasks simultaneously makes you sound like some fantastic work guru who whizzes through tasks at the speed of light, but often the real result is just sub-standard performance, and failure to keep up with all the tasks. The complete opposite of what it is supposed to do.

I am not pretending to be holier-than-thou, because I too suffer from trying to multitask my day to fit more in. It is a hard habit to break. In fact, my attempt to multitask is the precise reason why I have not written here in the last few days.

So far this week I have, written a proposal for a consulting job, developed the new version of the 16 Threads website, anlaysed some sports markets, and worked on my pet coding project which is an automated betting project that should generate long-term profits. It has been chaos and I am suffering because of it.

The Multitasking Impact

I am tired, I am fatigued, and I am a little sick. I am grumpy, I am negative and and I blame multitasking!

I have been pushing myself to meet deadlines, often imposed by myself, because I set some high goals in terms of my personal productivity. It started well, filled with motivation as I made significant progress on all projects. I was knocking out code, producing graphics and just generally flying along, multitasking in style.

But the problem is that the initial high wears off. When I got past the inital stages of the projects where things flowed quickly and smoothly I entered the treacherous waters of fiddly work and the smaller, more annoying tasks. On their own, these tasks can be dangerous enough to anyone, threatening to kill productivity but when you run several projects concurrently, these tasks pile up and sometimes it just feels like too much.

I realised my error when I found myself sitting in front of my computer doing nothing. I had two different projects open and the notepad for another beside me, yet I was doing nothing. I had hit the multitasking wall.

The Multitasking Wall

The multitasking wall comes about when each of the tasks you are running become ust the slightest bit more complex than normal. And this is the main problem with multitasking.

Sure if you are doing simple and repetitive (i.e. boring) tasks then you may be able to multitask successfully. But when you start adding complexity and require in-depth thought into the mix the problem with multitasking is suddenly exposed.

Multitasking does not double or triple your productivity. It just spreads your focus among the multiple tasks. If you consider your maximal focus and productivity as 100% then multitasking 2 tasks just means you only give each task 50% focus. So instead of devoting yourself to being awesome at one specific task you are just being mediocre at multiple tasks.

When those tasks are simple 50% is often fine. But when those tasks require complex thought patterns this reduction in your skills is what kills your productivity. You have essentially halved your ability to think, apply the processes, and make the correct decisions. And that is before you consider the "tax" of switching gears.

Switching Gears

Switching gears is what your brain does when you change quickly from one task to another. It has to change context, focusing on the new subject and dredging up past information that it might need to use as a reference. This all takes time, and the more complex the new task is the longer it will take.

This time is just wasting your time. It is "taxed" from your possible productive time, leaving you with less time to complete your multiple tasks. So not only do you end up doing a half-arsed job when you multitask but you end up losing precious time too. This just results in more pressure to complete the tasks which normally means doing an even worse job.

The Answer

The answer is simple - one task at a time. Work on a single task until completion, ignoring all interruptions, other work, and that little itch to be a "go-getter multitasker". Let yourself get stuck into your task with all of your focus and you will be amazed at the productivity you can produce. And when that single task is finished you move on to the next most important task on your list. Simple.

Maybe not. Even if you try to be rigid in your single-tasking method you will fall back into multitasking, just like I did this week. In a society with email, mobile phones, twitter, facebook (and so on forever) everyone sees to pride themselves on juggling everything at once. Like it is a badge of honor. It's not.

Reject multitasking. Accept single-tasking.

Release Your Immortal Elephant

It happened late one Friday night. I had a beer in my hand and I was tired. Very tired. The words just popped out: "Release your immortal elephant."

I had been playing with my dog and was watching him wrestle and kill his little elephant toy, over and over. Every time it was moved, he would attack it with gusto and drag it back to his bed, only for the cycle to start again several minutes later. I saw strange parallels to human behaviour.

My mind picked up a gear and I was raving about life, negativity, and how everyone is weighing themselves down by dragging around an immortal elephant. For a second I wondered if I had (finally) gone crazy but I knew I was on to something when Sophie actually started nodding in agreement.

The Immortal Elephant

The Immortal Elephant is a metaphor for the negativity that holds you back in life. It weighs you down, it controls your actions, it invades your life, it restricts your focus, and no matter how hard you want to kill it it just will not die. The immortal elephant sucks.

The Immortal Elephant can be any form of negativity in your life, but generally it's the big stuff. For me, my elephant is/was self-doubt. Several years ago my life was riddled with negativity, especially about myself. Everything I did I thought I could have (and should have) done better, and I was constantly beating myself up about almost everything; my looks, my job, my lack of "success" and so on. It was not a happy time.

Late one night I stumbled upon some self improvement material online and I began changing my life. I learned to love and respect myself, I developed self confidence, I realised my thoughts were valid and that I did not have to agree with others, and I acknowledged that I did not have to be perfect as long as I always had good intentions and welcomed improvement. Finally, I had grown into the man I was supposed to be and it felt amazing. No, it felt better than amazing.

My big fat negative elephant was no longer haunting my life, bringing me down and preventing me from achieving. Had I done what everyone wishes they could do? Had I killed my immortal elephant?

No, it's immortal silly. But I had released it, which is even better.

Releasing the Immortal Elephant

The elephant is immortal because there is always negativity in our lives, and having become so used to fueling our lives with negative energy (stress, anger, resentment, laziness) it is all too easy fall back into those habits and forget all the positive work you have done. The elephant feeds on this negative energy and becomes stronger.

Releasing the immortal elephant is about letting go of the negativity in your life instead of fighting it. Just let it be. If someone in your life is angry towards you then just accept them as negative and move yourself in more positive direction. If you have negative thoughts about yourself do not get worked up about them, but acknowledge they are valid representations of your current mindset. If you have friends that use you, or cause distress in your life, then move on. Just like the schoolyard bully, the elephant goes away when ignored.

Once you start releasing your negativity, instead of holding on to and fighting it, you will notice a big shift in your life. You will naturally become happier, you will accept others as who they are, you will identify yourself and grow as a person, and you will learn to cultivate only those situations in life that bring prosperity, happiness, and positivity. Which leads me to the best part of this crazy metaphor.

Get the Elephant on Your Side

Not only does releasing the elephant have a dramatic effect on your life but it also affects the elephant too. I mentioned above that your immortal elephant feeds on your negative energy but this is only part of the story. Your immortal elephant feeds on ANY energy; positive or negative, and these energies have polar opposite effects.

Feeding your elephant with negativity will create an angry, stressful, and chaotic elephant running amok in your life. This elephant is your enemy.

Feeding your elephant with positivity creates a strong, happy, and supportive elephant that nurtures and protects you. This elephant is your best friend.

A positive elephant is the best kind of immortal elephant. It follows you around, supporting and encouraging you, and it is always ready to squash out any negativity that pops up in your life. Feed your elephant with positivity and get it on your side, working with you not against you.

What the Hell am I Talking About?

For those wondering what substance I am taking right now, the answer is none. I am naturally this bizarre. I see the world quite differently to most people and often it is very hard to explain. If this entire metaphor was too much for you perhaps this (non-elephant) summary will help:

  • Negativity is infectious and debilitating.
  • Release negativity from your life instead of holding on to it.
  • Surround yourself with positive actions and relationships.
  • I like elephants.

So, what negativity in your life are you holding on to?

Update 5/5/11: If you find it hard to rid yourself of negativity try reading my article on How To Harness Your Negative Emotions To Make Positive Changes

Decisions Cause Manifestation

Every action we take in our life begins with a decision. Without decisions we could not achieve anything. The decision is the catalyst for putting our thoughts, dreams, desires, and goals into action. Most people think that success and achieving goals comes from carefully planning the correct action but this is only partly true. Before that can happen you need to decide that it actually will happen. Deciding that you are working towards a specific outcome solidifies the idea in your mind, and also forces you to exude energy that will progress you towards the goal. When you make an active decision your mind will strive to fulfill it, identifying any possible opportunities that could help and even subconsciously controlling your actions to guide you closer to your goal.

Deciding leads to manifestation. Once something has been decided upon, things will start to occur to fulfill it. It is as simple as that. So why do most people not do this when talking about that one fantastic goal, or dream, they have? Fear. But today we are not looking at why it happens but how to take control and use the power of decisions to our advantage. Today we are going to make things happen.

An Illustrative Story - Toby the Cavoodle

First, a story to illustrate the point. This story is about Toby (warning: cute puppy picture following...)


On Saturday Sophie and I adopted Toby. Yes he is that cute in real life, but the real gem of this story is how quickly it all transpired after we decided to get a puppy.

We had talked about getting a dog for many months but always with some doubt hanging around, gnawing in the background. We both said we wanted a dog but we never really committed to getting one until last Friday night.

Sophie and I were out walking and the conversation turned to dogs (again) and then the inevitable reasons for not getting one. But we pushed through all those negative thoughts and we realised we were so definite that we wanted a dog. We both looked at each other with excitement in our eyes and decided “we are going to get a dog”. It felt right.

Arriving home, Sophie received a call from her sister who told her that the RSPCA was having an adoption drive the following day. When the universe aligns to make things happen it does it in a big way.

We canceled our Saturday plans and headed to the RSPCA, but we were let down. Most dogs were too big, or had such high energy levels, that we could not have kept them happy at our house. When we found a smaller dog ideally suited to our property and lifestyle, we discovered a family was already waiting to take her home. Feeling dejected, we went for a drive, pondering our situation. We had been certain that the RSPCA was a sign but we were still dog-less.

Two hours later we found ourselves at an out-of-the-way pet store doing some research on what we would need when we did eventually did become new puppy owners. While talking to the assistant we played with a litter of Cavoodles and during that time Toby won us over. He was fun, energetic, and smart. We had found the dog for us and he went home with us the very next day. Our decision had manifested.

Decisions Cause Manifestation

The point to the story is that nothing happened until we made that finalising decision. We both had longed a do  for months but we had never actually made a conscious decision about it. When we finally made that decision it took less than 24 hours for us to go from decision to manifestation, with many signs along the way pointing us in the right direction and reinforcing our decision.

Adopting a puppy is not really a big dream to have and because of this the gap between decision and manifestation was short. That is how the universe works; the smaller the goal, the smaller the time it takes to occur after we have decided to make it happen.

Consider the action of eating. When you make the conscious decision that it is time to eat the relevant actions occur quickly with little problems and you end up eating a meal pretty quickly. But bigger goals, like buying a house, quitting your job, or starting your own business, take a lot more time to manifest.

That is not meant to serve as a scare-tactic but work as motivation. If you are dreaming about something big then you need decide to make it happen today, so that you give it as much time as possible to manifest. Putting off the decision will only delay your goals more. Use today to decide that you will make your dream come true.

Remove Fear and Self-Doubt

Once you have made the decision, the biggest problem you have facing you is your own fear and self doubt. These are the stumbling blocks that you encounter that prevent your goal from manifesting.

If you start doubting if you will fulfill your goals then guess what? Your mind will find reasons to prove your self-doubt correct. Compare the difference between these two statements: 1) “I want [x]...I want it to happen no matter what!” 2) “I want [y]…Maybe its impossible. Maybe I should aim for something else.”

If you were given both these statements at the same time which one would you focus your attention on? Number 1 of course! Why waste time and energy on a task when we have doubts that it is even possible? And that is exactly how your mind works when you feed it doubt and fear. It is blatant self-sabotage and it prevents you from achieving your goals.

To turn this around you need to start believing and stop doubting. It can be hard skill to learn, especially if you have spent your life listening to the masses of people who try to tell you what you cannot do, so I recommend starting small. Pick a goal that is small but will be noticeable when it is fulfilled. Make a decision that you will achieve your goal and state your decision aloud. This helps you feel more accountable. Even better is if you can tell someone you trust - your partner, friends, or family. Spend 10 minutes a day, preferably at the start, reminding yourself that you made this decision and you fully intend to see it fulfilled.Then wait for he opportunities to unfold in front of you, often in unexpected ways.

Decide to be successful.

If you liked this article you might like reading more on The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and The Way You Think and Why it's Wrong.