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Tabula Rasa: My Personal Secret to Success

A success tip anyone can use regardless of circumstance.

Written BY

Ayodeji Awosika

TED Speaker, published author and marketing director. Top writer on Medium.

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May 19, 2020

Every Monday, I send an inspirational email to my readers. Why Monday?

For one, I wanted to help people have a different view of a commonly disliked day.

Two, Monday is the start of a new week and I love the idea of starting fresh as many times as needed. If I could pin down one of the main reasons I’ve had a bit of success in my life, it’s the fact that I have a short memory.

Like a quarterback who throws an interception, shrugs it off, and scores the next drive, your ability to let go of the past and build a new future, as many times as you need to, is the key to eventually getting the outcomes you want.

In my mind, you always have the opportunity to start over and reinvent yourself. Always. I look at Mondays as a chance to reinvent yourself for the week. I look at the actual day of Monday as an opportunity to reinvent yourself for the day.

Symbolism can be powerful. Some argue that telling yourself “today’s the day” or making resolutions is useless. But people use symbolic motivation to start and end up successful all the time.

Are they the exception to the rule? Yes, but all people who get most of the outcomes they want in life are the exception to the rule. As cheesy as it sounds, you have to form this belief, this delusion almost, that you’re going to be exceptional.

The belief is small to start, then to build momentum, then you believe it more, then it happens.

If you decide to change your life and take action to do it, there has to be a day or a moment where you first made that decision. Maybe you don’t state it explicitly, but at the beginning of everyone’s new journey comes that point.

And it can always happen. Regardless of how many times you’ve tried and failed before, you can wipe the slate clean. I can’t tell you how many little schemes or goals I tried and failed at. I joined MLM companies. I’d go from making the dean’s list one semester in college to flunking out the next. And I never finished school. At age 25, I was a convicted felon, broke, working a job for $10/hr. Stuck.

As simple as it sounds, I just changed my mind. I could’ve stayed stuck in the past — wondering how I could’ve been so stupid, how I could’ve thrown such a bright future away, how I didn’t graduate school. But I just let it all go and start over. I’d gotten into self-improvement a bit, which eventually lead to a day where I explicitly stated I was going to change my life. And that’s exactly what happened.

But how do you do it?

Short answer — gradually over a long period of time. But the mindset behind making the change involves understanding that your life is a series of moments and you get to decide how to act in each of those moments.

Add those moments up and that’s your life.

On the one hand, your life is cumulative because the collection of decisions you make lead to the point you’re currently at.

But life is only cumulative in that sense. It’s not cumulative in the sense that a large collection of decisions can’t be fixed or outweighed by a smaller set of decisions.

You can take a hundred losses, but only need a few wins to turn your life around. You could live years of your life doing the wrong things, working the wrong job, following the wrong path, making the wrong decisions, and then start doing things right for a day, a week, a couple of months, that all the sudden puts you on a better path.

That’s what happened to me. Sure, it took five years for me to achieve some of my long-term goals, but my mindset shifted, permanently, years back. And before I made that mental shift, found and committed to self-improvement, and started writing, I’d made damn near every mistake in the book.

I could’ve looked at my identity as cumulative — since I’d done all of that bad stuff, I could’ve looked at myself as a bad person. Since I spent years of my life acting like I loser, I could’ve concluded that I was a loser.

Why is it so hard to wipe the slate clean?

You look at your past and the mistakes you’ve made as parts of your identity. You start to tell yourself stories — “This is the way I am.” Well, when changing your life means losing your sense of self, change is difficult.

But let me ask you this…if your old self wasn’t serving you, why keep it? Just like we hold onto relationships with toxic people for too long just because we’ve known them for a long time, we hold onto our ‘old selves’ for the same exact reason.

This is the ‘sunk cost’ fallacy. You think that just because you’ve invested time into something you have to keep doing it to justify the original investment.

You don’t. Whatever investment you made has been made and what’s done is done.

What’s done is done. So true. Yet so hard to accept.

But that’s where change comes from — acceptance.

I’ve done the mental dance you’ve done with your past. I still do it.

You replay your past and try to tweak the variables. You wonder what your life could’ve been like if you could just go back in time and change a decision or two. If you don’t like your present, sometimes you wish you weren’t there, but you have to be there.

You have to be you.

As soon as you can finally fully admit to yourself, “Ok, this is where I’m at” you’re ready.

Then you can become a brand new person. Totally different. Don’t try to look too far into your future and see this ‘new you’ yet because your vision is too blurry at this point.

Just know that regardless of what has transpired in your life so far, what happens next is much more under your control than you think.

Make your move.

Further Reading
Six Habits of Deeply Miserable People
Psychologists say these are the giveaways to watch out for.
June 3, 2020
Loyalty is an Old-Fashioned Ideal That is Dead
Can we bring it back to life?
May 30, 2020