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Systematize Success #19 - Hugh Jackman & Tim Ferriss on Life
Hugh Jackman & Tim Ferriss on Life
And happy Monday!
When I was young, I was pushed to think that actors, singers, and other celebrities had attained their goals of fame - and money that comes with it - mostly through sheer luck. The rationale was that what they do is not academically hard: “anyone can do that”. Maybe that was my interpretation as a kid, but it unconsciously stuck for quite some time.
But the truth is obviously that, academic feat or not, becoming a world-class class actor requires a tremendous amount of work, determination, grit… besides luck. This usually implies some level of self-understanding, mindfulness, and personal growth. Hugh Jackman seems to have been very gifted in that domain.
Don’t get me wrong either, there are dumb and lucky celebrities out there - even if some of them still likely worked very hard to get where they are. But Hugh certainly is not one of those - thinking of him as dumbish muscular Wolverine only would be a huge mistake.
Let’s start with Hugh’s interview by Tim Ferriss, then proceed with a fascinating goal-setting framework by… Tim Ferriss again: his life journey has been quite something as well!
Make reading a priority
Patrick Stewart told me that when he was about 60, he realized that he was never going to read all the books that he wanted to read in his life.
So he wakes up 30 minutes earlier than he needs to, gets a cup of tea, and goes back to bed, and he reads.
He’s been doing that for years. He said, “The reason I do it first thing in the morning is the day just gets away from you. You think, ‘Oh, I’ll read later in the evening,’ but you don’t.” He says on weekends, he spends an hour.
Spending quality couple time
We wake up whatever time we’ve got to, I go down, I make a cup of coffee for me, a cup of tea for [my wife] Deb.
And then we go back and we read. And we read for at least 30 minutes, and then we meditate together.
And that way, it’s become our favorite time of the day as a couple. And we know that, no matter what happens in the day, which invariably gets away from you, you’ve had that quality time together.
And then the day gets away with you. So you’re front-loading it, in a way, so that it doesn’t get lost.
Often the reading sparks, ideas, things to talk about, come together with.
The benefits of meditation
When you first pour a glass of water, it’s cloudy. And then, in a period of time, that all settles, and you see crystal clear through the glass, through the water. That’s what meditation does for me.
It’s got that feeling where things drop down. I have a feeling of coming home, the feeling of experiencing my true self and not just being caught up in the monkey mind or being reactive to life. And it gives me a finer energy.
I don’t always get out of meditation, ready to, do a one-hour Peloton class, but I always come out with a finer energy.
My intention feels clearer. My listening is more purposeful, and things feel easier and more connected.
Finding purpose & joy
One of my favorite movies of all time and definitely my favorite quote from a movie of all time is from Chariots of Fire, which I loved as a kid, and Eric Liddell, who’s the religious runner who decides not to run on the Sabbath during the Olympics.
He’s meant to be going off after the Olympics to do missionary work in China, handing out Bibles or something, and his sister’s talking to him: “You’ve got to throw away this silly running thing. We have really important work, God’s work, to do. Why are you doing this and spending time on this?” Accusing him of not following God’s will.
He looks at her and says: “But I feel his pleasure when I run.”
Somehow that line, it always makes me tear up just saying it. That’s what I feel onstage. There’s a kind of natural energy.
And what I keep saying to my kids actually:
Quotes:: "Don’t settle. Find that thing that resonates with you in that way, where you feel some kind of the pleasure of the universe, of consciousness. Like, there’s some joy where you feel you can do it longer. And in that way, it’s not such a Herculean effort." #[[Hugh Jackman]]
A lesson from his mum
Everyone needs to feel appreciated. It doesn’t matter what they do, it doesn’t matter who they are, that’s a need in everybody.
A lesson from his dad
If you get two invitations, if you get an invitation to go, uh, to—I don’t know—go across the road to your mate’s place for dinner, and then an hour later you get an invitation from the queen of England to go to the Buckingham Palace, you stick by your first one.
He was just a stickler on ethics. You keep your word, even if it does not benefit you. You always keep your word. That was a big one. My dad was always big on ethics.
Make your own decisions
At one point, I had an opportunity to be in a TV show. I got cast in a TV show, and the same time I got a spot at a very revered acting school in Australia, the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.
And over the weekend, I had to choose: do I go on Neighbours, with Kylie Minogue, Guy Pearce, Margot Robbie - you know, all these people, that was the breeding ground - or do I go and study for three years?
I asked my dad on the Friday. I said, “Dad, I don’t know what to do, and I need your help.” And I was 22. But he told me nothing.
I decided to go study. And when I told dad the decision - I remember - he sighed and went, “Oh, thank goodness.”
I said, “You knew?” And he goes, “Of course I knew.” I said, “Couldn’t you have just saved me this grief the last few days and told me?” And he goes, “No,”
“You’re a man. You have to make those decisions on your own.”
Starting a business? Stick to it 7 days a week for 5 years
The thing that I learned from working in all those jobs, that if you start a business - it could be a pizzeria, it could be a bar, restaurant, anything - you have to give it seven days a week for five years.
And after five years you may be able to pull back a little bit, and you may be able to be in a position where you built the brand to a certain point. You may be able to hire a manager, you may be able to hire staff to make things a little easier.
But no one really goes into owning their own business thinking, “Oh, this is going to be the easy life.” They do it because there’s something they want to create, and they don’t want to be told what to do, and they go out and make it happen.
As an actor, I have to go and get rehired every time I go for a job, and my brand is my name, so I have to build that up.
And so I thought, “OK, what have I learned from all these jobs? I’ve got to give it seven days a week.” So I vowed to never wait for the phone to ring. I was going to write letters, I was going to start…
But my feeling was you have to drive, you have to work. You cannot be a victim, you cannot wait for the phone to ring. You have to go out and generate and get your brand out there and get going.
Following your gut
I heard the pitch for that show, I had a feeling in my gut: “Oh, my God, this is going to be amazing. You’ve got to do it.” But my head was saying, “You’ve done three musicals. Stop. When are you going to stop? You’ve got to stop. You made a commitment.” So I turned it down.
And when I went to see that show two years later - by the way, I still hadn’t got a film audition pretty much, I was actually sick to my stomach because it was everything I knew it was going to be when they pitched it to me.
And there I was, making some strategic plan in my head, and it was wrong. And from that moment on, I have always followed my gut on stuff, even if it doesn’t make sense.
Design your life day after day
I do a daily design every day. I create messages as if in the past tense of what the day had been.
And they’re not just about me; they’re about my kids, they’re about my wife, they’re about my friends, they’re about purpose, they’re about meaning, they’re about life, I mean, confidence, all of that stuff - that the direction I’m meant to go will become clear to me 100% clear in my gut.
It’s past tense. It’s already happened. There’s no, “I really hope… I think that… I’m going to try… I will… ” Like, “Today, my son and I had the best hour together laughing and talking, and we connected on some of the most elemental things in ways we’ve never connected.”
And I do that every morning on a text, which I send to my coach, because she says, you know, “We all need to be accountable to someone”.
I write that every day, and then either that night or if I’m too tired, in the morning. I read it again and go, “Oh, wow. Shit. That was a four out of 10. That day did not turn out at all like that.” Then it’s got to do with belief, really.
Rowing is the #1 exercise to keep fit.
There’s a reason the rower’s usually empty at the gym: because it’s difficult.
If you add in some chest work, some push-ups, that’s everything you need to keep fit, healthy, strong.
The 85% rule
If you tell most, sort of, A-type athletes to run at their 85% capacity, they will run faster than if you tell them to run 100% because it’s more about relaxation and form and optimizing the muscles in the right way.
The rule came from a guy studying Carl Lewis, the sprinter.
He couldn’t understand why a guy who was routinely coming last or second-last after 40 meters, which traditionally in sprinting was meant to be where you won—you won in the first 40 from the start—how someone like that would always win by 10 yards at the end. And somebody was saying, “Well, he’s just a slow starter, but he’s got a long stride,” duh-duh-duh.
And then someone… This guy was studying it for a year, a sprint coach. And someone gave him, finally, one of those head-on shots - you know, they invented at the Olympics, that head-on shot where you watch them come down?
And he watched it over and over again. And he said, what he realized Carl Lewis did at the 50-meter mark, 60-meter mark, was that he did nothing. His breathing was exactly the same. His form is exactly the same as had been between meters 25 and 50. Whereas everyone else starts to push to the end, trying - ”Gonna try a little extra harder!” - and he said their face would scrunch up, their jaw would tighten, their fists would start to clench.
Whereas Carl Lewis stayed exactly the same and then he would just breeze past them.
So that’s where he invented the 85$ rule.
The art of living
All the Americans always have therapists, psychiatrists, and you might think "come on...", but it’s actually a little arrogant to think you’ve got it all sorted out.
Roger Federer is the greatest tennis player of all time, and he has a full-time coach.
Pavarotti had a singing teacher to the end of his life.
Why wouldn’t we invest that in the art of living? And so certainly with me with Lauren Zander that’s changed my life in the last four years, big time.
Around 300 BC in Athens, someone named Zeno of Citium taught many lectures walking around a painted porch, a "stoa." That later became "stoicism."
TLDR; - "Separate what you can control from what you cannot control, and then do exercises to focus exclusively on the former."
"Named must your fear be before banish it you can." Yoda
"Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action." Benjamin Disraeli, former British Prime Minister
What if I ...?"
In the first column, "Define," you're writing down all of the worst things you can imagine happening if you take that step.
If the worst-case scenarios happen, what could you do to repair the damage even a little bit, or who could you ask for help?
One question to keep in mind as you're doing this first page is: Has anyone else in the history of time less intelligent or less driven figured this out? (Chances are, the answer is "Yes.")
What might be the benefits of an attempt or a partial success? What might be the benefits of, say, a base hit?
Spend 10 to 15 minutes on this.
If I avoid this action or decision and actions and decisions like it, what might my life look like in, say, six months, 12 months, three years?
This might be the most important, so don't skip it: "The Cost of Inaction."
Humans are very good at considering what might go wrong.
Get really detailed -- again, emotionally, financially, physically, whatever.
"I couldn't imagine any life more beautiful than that of a Stoic." - Jerzy Gregorek, four-time world champion in Olympic weightlifting
"Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life." - Jerzy Gregorek, four-time world champion in Olympic weightlifting
"We suffer more often in imagination than in reality." - Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Please don’t forget to share if you think this type of insights can help others:
Thanks for reading, and have a fulfilled week,