Walk your talk or what happens when you don’t follow your own advice

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Last month was quite a terrible one for me. I was sick almost three out of four weeks, lying in bed with a severe cold. Even more painful is the fact that I totally deserved it.

Not because I was unusually rude or committed more sins than other people (based on the popular false assumptions that good things happen only to good people and bad things happen only to bad people), but simply because I made a series of stupid decisions. Very stupid decisions.

I probably infringed on every advice that I blog about. Maybe not every single one, but certainly the main ones. Here are the four things I didn’t follow, even though I constantly preach about them, and that cost me three weeks of my life:

Now let’s get to the story.

Never go to war against yourself

It’s so easy to become your own worst enemy

I love all seasons except winter. It’s not that I don’t like snow or the holiday spirit, I simply can’t bear months of freezing temperatures and bad weather. The cold outside is like kryptonite to my body and immune system. That’s usually true for all highly sensitive people. That’s what I do know about myself.

But knowing something about yourself and respecting it are two very different things. If I’m even more attentive to my health during the winter time, for example with less stress, warm clothes, staying on a healthy diet, not drinking alcohol and so on, I can survive just fine.

Well, there is one more thing I must avoid at all costs: intensively exercising in cold temperatures. That’s exactly what I did. Not one time, but three times. By not respecting my limits, I became my worst enemy.

It was a lovely sunny winter day outside. I really missed the outdoor training that I do all the other seasons. The temperatures were quite cold, but the sunny day attracted many people to go outside. Thus, I decided to go on a hike.

While hiking, I got the idea to run uphill with the goal of doing proper HIIT training. I ran the desired distance, catching my breath but feeling extremely good and proud. Nevertheless, I knew that inhaling cold air so fast so many times in a row wasn’t good for my body. As simple as summing up one plus one, the next day I obviously woke up with a cold.

Einstein - quote about insanity

It took me five days to recover. I wasn’t even healthy for two days, when I did the same thing. I went running uphill. I simply needed it. I thought to myself: I just got over a cold, of course I’m not going to get sick again. I was wrong, because that’s exactly what happened. Wrong assumptions and stupid decisions always bring some kind of pain and suffering and in this case, they made me stay in bed for an additional week.

To make a long story short, I did pretty much the same thing even the third time. The only difference was that I wasn’t running uphill, but performing an exercise with a bike. But again, I didn’t put limits on intensity, I didn’t listen to my body, and I didn’t respect the weaknesses I have.

By not respecting my limits, I again became my worst enemy.

In summary, I made three big mistakes that I usually manage to avoid and even help other people avoid them:

  • I didn’t stay flexible: I wanted to exercise in the same way I do the other three seasons. I just didn’t want to adjust my exercise regime, because who’s going to stop me, right?
  • I made a stupid decision in its own right: Reward was really small (a few additional calories burned and endorphins released), but the risks were huge (my health).
  • I did the same thing three times and somehow miraculously expected a different result. That’s the formal definition of insanity. I operated based on the wrong assumption with solid proof that I’m doing something stupid, but completely ignored the proof (hard core data).
Big risks don't always bring big rewards

Smart investors know the most important value investing concept: “Heads, I win! Tails, I don’t lose that much!” Small risks, big rewards. You should follow the same rule everywhere in life.

But why?

I guess the first important question is … but why?

By nature, I’m quite an inflexible person. I like it when things are the way I want them, without any need to adjust. But I figured out quite soon that such a philosophy only leads to big setbacks, failures and suffering.

That’s why I’ve spent years training myself how to be more flexible, and I blog about it. But from time to time, my old habits take over. Hopefully only as a good reminder of what I shouldn’t go back to.

On a more positive side, I’m also quite a smart guy by nature. I can identify a stupid decision or wrong assumption very quickly. Deep down I knew I was taking a big risk with a small reward in play. I got the reward, but the risks didn’t pan out. I lost three weeks of my life. Three weeks that I will never get back; not to mention that being ill sucks a lot.

After performing a short self-reflection, it quickly became obvious to me that the reward was much more than a few extra burned calories and a good workout. I needed fast recognition or approval. My monk mode was running out. I didn’t achieve everything that I had planned. My ego was kind of suffering. And performing an aerobic exercise that not many people can do (I’m fast at going uphill), was a good way to quickly prove myself to myself.

My ego was suffering and pushed me into making a stupid decision. Three times. That’s why. Severe emotions, positive and negative, drive us to make stupid decisions if not under control. The less you know yourself, the less you reflect, the less you put your analytical skills to use, the more it happens on an unconscious level.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling severe emotions. The problem arises when you are not the one managing your mind and emotions, but they are dictating your decisions and your life instead. My mistake in this case was that I didn’t already do the reflection the first time I went against myself. Don’t make the same mistake.

Never go to war, especially with yourself.

Nobody follows their own advice all the time

My winter saga holds another important lesson. Don’t assume that people who write personal development articles and books follow their own advice all the time. Especially when the articles are named 50 things you should do to achieve [x].

We are all humans, not robots. You must have realistic expectations towards life, yourself and others – including people who write self-help advice.

I just gave you an example of how I didn’t follow my own advice. And that is just one example. I can give you a few additional ones, if you will. I lived without a car for a year. But still, on average once or twice per month I borrowed a car from my mother, brother or girlfriend because I needed it.

I eat a very clean diet, but once per month you can see me having a pig-out day, stuffing my face in McDonalds. Sometimes I’m even scared that somebody will take a photo of me and call me a liar.

You have to be very critical towards everything you read. I suggest you quickly categorize personal development articles into something like:

  • Author has extensive experience with the topic, it seems like s/he follows the advice most of the time. I should try to implement the same thing in my life and see if the solution also works for me.
  • Somebody put together a general article with all the possible advice on the topic. That can help me get new ideas for what to experiment with in my life, but I know that nobody can follow all the advice all the time.

The main point is that you can easily feel frustrated after reading a few personal development articles. It might seem that everybody employs all the possible tools for improving their lives at the speed of light and that they follow an endless list of healthy habits and life wisdom. That’s very far from reality. Those are very unrealistic expectations towards others. Remember, even Jesus got mad.

Walk your talk

Make sure you walk your talk most of the time

The last important point is: even though you can’t follow your own advice all the time, make sure you follow it most of the time. Let’s say “80 % and up” of the time. It’s easy to give advice and share wisdom. It’s hard to consistently follow that wisdom and navigate through life with strong values, unbreached integrity, and a smile on your face while achieving your goals.

Actions prove who someone is. Words prove who they want to be.

I once knew a person who loved to share life advice; and the advice was quite solid. But when I asked him why he’s giving advice he isn’t following himself, he replied: “I know they can be better than I am”. I think that was the most hypocritical and double-standard answer I ever heard.

Follow these two simple rules when it comes to life advice:

  • Don’t be an askhole – An askhole is a person who constantly asks for advice, yet always does the opposite of what they’re advised. Ask for advice if you’re really prepared to change something in the situation you’re dealing with.
  • Walk your talk – Make sure that the advice you give is also the advice you follow and gives you the desired results. You have no right to preach to other people what to do, if you’re not following the same wisdom.

Here is my blog post with a few more things to be careful about when asking for advice.

It’s time to get back on track

The third time I got sick, I had a really bad fever. I was sweating, hallucinating, and felt like my head was going to explode. When things don’t go as planned, feeling sorry for yourself is always a handy thing. And I felt sorry for myself, for a short period of time.

The question, “why do I have to suffer this now” was going through my head, like there was some black-magic misfortune currently present in my life.

But when I honestly answered the why question from a rational, not emotional perspective, it became very clear that in this case I was hit with disease only because I was inflexible, made a series of stupid decisions and didn’t respect my true self. Sometimes that’s all there is, without any actual bad luck.

For me, everything was a good reminder to always walk my talk. Not doing so cost me three weeks of my life. It also led to me being behind with my blogging schedule. But now after the lesson has been learned it’s time to get back on track. Stronger than ever!

About the author

Consulting and management coaching

Blaž Kos has managed venture capital investments over the past 12 years and participated in the development of the start-up ecosystem in the region. Today, he advises companies on growth strategies, process optimization, the introduction of lean agile methods and the digitalization of business. In addition to the Slovenian blog, he also writes an English blog, which was selected among the 50 best bloggers in the world in the category of personal and business growth.
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