Twelve Mental Resets from the Book “Skip the Line”

Tim Denning

Life is a series of queues you can skip.

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Thinking can become stale.

I discovered that gem not long ago. My thoughts had become, well, useless and the good insights were lost. These are times I need a mental reset. In the 1990s, desktop computers had a shutdown and reset button. Whenever my computer was making me rage, I simply hit the reset button. Somehow, like magic, after a slow reboot, the computer would work again.

I’ve taken the idea of a reset button and applied it to my thinking. It involves reading a random book. Books give me ideas. Ideas can lead to mental resets.

The book I read during this odd period in my life is called "Skip The Line” by James Altucher. Many of the takeaways from the book pushed the reset button in different areas of my life. Here are the best mental resets.

Become comfortable with the land of not knowing

The key to skipping the line is to consistently live in a world of “not knowing.” To constantly be curious but not threatened by what’s next. To live in the world where everyone else is scared but you are so comfortable with the land of not knowing that you can still navigate the rough waters.

I’m a certainty addict. Practicing discomfort has helped me mentally reset. It’s why I do public speaking in front of a room full of strangers. The slight vomit feeling I get before jumping on stage reminds me I don’t have it all figured out, and have a long way to go.

It’s easy to write on the internet and think you have life all figured out.

Comfort is a threat that creates many stops and starts. Curiosity is a compass towards gentle upwards progress.

Skipping the line in life is backwards

I always thought self-improvement was the way to skip the line in life. So do many people. James provided a mental reset by teaching me that helping people who are lost is not the end of the line but the beginning.

An obsession with ourselves causes us to go off course. We start becoming so obsessed with what we’re doing in life that we trample on the hopes and dreams of others. But you get what you want by helping other people get what they want.

The individualism cult has got it wrong.

Individualism that turns into collectivism allows you to skip many spots in the line to achieve life goals. ‘Help others’ is a timeless, cliche way to get out of your own head.

Tap into the mind’s time-traveling ability

Right now may be a disaster. James taught me to use the mind’s memory to go back in time to a period when life worked.

Once I’m back in a moment of significant achievement, it feels as if it’s happening to me all over again. The brain can’t tell the difference between the past and present. I use the dysfunctional body clock to create a mental reset. What if it’s 2016 all over again? I say.

What feels impossible becomes possible when you unlock the power of your memory. You can sort through the memories and find the ones that act as a reset and even inspire you to rethink the stage of life you’re at.

Opportunities to exit the comfort zone are limited

‘Asks’ that scare the pants off you don’t come around often. When I get one I try to grab it by the curly ones. You can do the same. There is nothing to lose by accepting an uncomfortable opportunity. The worst case is it doesn’t work out and you get to try again in the future.

Humans have tiny goldfish memories, according to research. Our need to survive is so great that we can’t remember all of your failures.

The hard drive in our head is running on 58 megabytes of disk space from thousands of years ago. Your small failure is a 4K Youtube video that takes up gigabytes of mental disk space. Sorry, pal. Disk full. This is a great mental reset to remind yourself of.

You’ve got nothing to lose from fear that makes your pants fall down.

Purpose = Obsession

The word purpose is thrown around a lot. “What is my purpose in life?” is a question we’ve all asked through our lives. If the question is avoided for too long you find yourself lost, needing a mental reset. What about instead of what do you love, the question became what are you obsessed with?

I’m obsessed with writing. I quit my job for my obsession. I think about it before bed, while sleeping, while in the bathroom, on my birthday, and even during job interviews.

Every spare minute I have is spent writing something, somewhere on the internet. The worst thing I did is ignore this purpose and try to place 9–5 job band-aids over it. James helped me focus on my obsessions and less on hard to explain love or passion.

Obsessions steal time in your calendar.

When one interest suffers a cardiac arrest, switch to another interest

Amongst online writers right now, I hear the word burnout a lot.

I’ve certainly burned out from writing obsessively too. James gave me a simple mental reset: switch interests when one has become stale. For example, I’m going to switch to doing slightly more teaching than writing to let my writing freshen up. Too much of a good thing is bad.

Give an interest a rest to unlock the next level.

Writing down ideas fires up your brain

James describes dying to wake up and get to the local cafe in 2002 after losing everything. Ideas took his mind into all sorts of alternate realities.

Ideas help you skip the line in life. But what ideas really do is unlock your potential muscle, which gets you excited and pumped to wake up. Even if the ideas are trash the feeling outweighs the few seconds it takes to write each one down.

Writing ideas down is starting up your imagination. Once the imagination engine is running, it interrupts your mind’s sad story playing on repeat, causing you to become solution-focused. The question that follows is “What can I do about this?” Your idea habit answers the question for you.

One bizarre thing leads to another

The book Skip The Line tells the story of well-known podcaster Lewis Howes. Many of us think podcasting was how Lewis became who he is. James shared the real story.

Lewis learned how to send direct messages on LinkedIn and network. He used messages to get people to his in-person events. It became such a successful habit that he started running online courses. The scope of the course was narrow. All he taught was how to network in messages like he did. This led Lewis to make millions from his course and eventually start a podcast.

Sending a message on LinkedIn looks like an insignificant task. Most of us would disregard this small act. Lewis trusted where this might lead him. The result isn’t something anybody could have mapped out, not even a prestigious university.

Joining the dots makes sense looking back. Trust that one bizarre thing will lead you to the sequence of events you’ll look back on and be proud of.

A paycheck is an addiction

Paychecks make you feel safe. Most jobs pay you to never fail. This resistance to failure hurts long term. You expect for things to work out. Then if you try a side hustle and there are setbacks, you erupt like a volcano on Twitter.

What if a job is holding you back? What if taking risks and failing at work took your life in a different direction.

Here’s the mental reset I learned: you can always get another job again. So you’ve got nothing to lose.

Vulnerability is a new beginning

James’ writing career is fascinating. He started writing about finance and got nowhere. At one point he switched into writing with vulnerability. That’s the moment everybody started to know who James is.

Real success happens when you dare to be vulnerable. The same happened to me. When I stopped hiding behind writing startup press releases and dared to talk about taboo subjects like mental illness, everything changed.

Vulnerability is relatability. Without it, our words become cobwebs.

Become an energy minimalist

Many of us think energy comes from food and exercise. That’s true. But energy also comes from people, writing, books, places, finance. I’m writing a whole book on energy right now.

The mental reset I borrowed from James is this: Where are the energy leaks?

Plug the leaks and be a minimalist with your energy. Blowing up at a driver who cut you off costs precious energy. Spend energy like you spend money and then you won’t waste it on rubbish.

Use this superhero trait more often

Being secretly good to people = superhero

My parent’s generation was taught to chase fame. James resets your ego by boldly stating fame is for losers.

Being good to people looks pointless. What I learned is that you can’t see what being good does for you behind closed doors. Every day people are reference checking you without you knowing. Those reference checks are glowing 5-star reviews if you’ve been caught offloading goodness on everybody.

Your life has an Uber rating. Make it 5 out of 5 by treating people ridiculously well for the hell of it.

Skipping the line in life involves embracing mental resets. Our operating system gets selfishness viruses that infect every area of life. Even a good night’s sleep or a prescription for a cold shower can’t erase the virus. The best thing to do is use James’ ideas to create mental resets that act like a vaccine. Question your self-talk. Push the reset button if lies become visibly noticeable.

The most powerful way to skip the line is to remember it’s all backwards. Individualism puts you at the back of the queue. You get to the front of the queue by quietly helping others who give you 5-star references that unlock doors others believe are invisible.

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