You Become What You Feed Your Mind

We like to blame luck for how our lives turn out. But luck has little to do with it. Rather, you become what you feed your mind.

When you strategically expose yourself to the right kind of intellectual input, you will excel. But feed on the wrong stuff, and you are done for.

Learn why, in a digital age, this is so difficult to go through with and how you can succeed anyway.

There is an almost magical correlation between what you feed your mind and the results you get in life. Whatever you expose your brain to, your life trajectory adjusts to.

When I was 16, I got really into playing the guitar. For the next four years, all I did was practice, read music magazines, and go to concerts. Despite lacking any musical talent whatsoever, I ended up in bands with much more experienced musicians.

When I was 23, I discovered Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Again, I went on the path of complete immersion. I went to practice every night, bought instructional DVD sets to watch at home, and subscribed to all the BJJ magazines. This eventually led to me getting my black belt and teaching martial arts for a living.

When I was 27, I got fed up with the monogamous relationship paradigm. So, I made it my project to find new, unconventional people to date. I read every book on the subject, talked to thousands of strangers at bars, and went on hundreds of dates. I ended up in an ENM relationship that lasted for six years.

I am not saying this to brag. In fact, it is not so much about the person as it is about the input. Provide the right stimulus, and almost anybody can achieve anything. But feed yourself the wrong input — social media, Netflix, the news — and you will stagnate.

You become what you feed your mind.

Why Does It Work?

There are several reasons why exposing your brain to powerful ideas will lead to success.

First, our minds rule our existence. Where the mind turns to, our bodies and our lives follow. It’s like a general directing his troops. He commands, they follow.

If you are convinced with every fiber of your being that you should run an ultra-marathon, it will probably happen. If all you think about every waking minute is writing a historic novel, you will eventually do so.

If the mind can envision it, it can be done. But to create that vision, you need the right input. Books, teachers, and other instructional sources are how we come up with it. They provide the blueprint.

Also, when you become obsessed with one subject, you redirect all your mental resources to that subject. If you read archeology books all day, your mind can’t help but turn these ideas over nonstop, even when you are not reading.

This extreme level of focus will set you apart from the competition. While everybody else is dividing their attention over dozens of projects in their lives, you have narrowed it down to just one thing.

Consequently, you will experience well-above-average results in your chosen area. While everybody else ends up in a boring 9 to 5, you go unearthing Greek temples and Roman palaces.

Finally, when you constantly feed yourself ideas on the same subject, your worldview changes. For example, if all you do is study sales materials, you suddenly notice sales conversations going on everywhere.

This heightened sensitivity will give you a further edge. You will be much quicker to notice opportunities related to your chosen subject. When there is a great sale to be made, you will pick up on it first.

Why We Struggle With This

Nobody doubts the importance of proper nutrition. We know that to be healthy and strong, we need to put the right fuel in our tanks. Especially for athletes, proper food intake is half the game.

Yet, when it comes to our minds, most of us indulge without a care. Whatever we happen to come across online – the news, cat pictures, barely clad influences – we swallow it whole.

This has real consequences.

When we waste our limited attention on garbage, instead of growing, we regress. Our career suffers and our relationships suffer. Just like you can’t build a great physique without the right foods, you can’t build a great mind without the right input.

So, why do we keep consuming mental fast food, even though it makes us worse?

There are two problems.

The first problem is that we don’t grasp the cause-effect relationship. Just like with real food, the bad consequences set in much later. You don’t eat a donut and get diabetes right away.

Feeding your mind the wrong input is the same. Your success curve doesn’t immediately drop. It happens over a long period of time. For that reason, it is easy to downplay the effects.

The second problem is our lack of self-awareness. There is actually an immediate feedback loop. You might not get diabetes from eating that triple burger, but it will affect you negatively. You will feel lethargic and even grumpy afterward.

The same thing happens when you go on a news or social media binge. Your mood shifts. You get pulled into that stream of negativity and gossip. When you finally resurface, you feel upset and even depressed.

That is why, “You become what you feed your mind,” is a two-way street. Expose yourself to the right ideas, and you will excel. Gorge on garbage, and you stand no chance of success.

The Challenges of the Digital Age

There is also a contemporary challenge we are facing — in just a few short years, we have all become addicts. We are addicted to social media and the news like an addict to heroin.

If that sounds extreme, I challenge you to leave your smartphone with friends for a week. Just try it during a vacation when you don’t have the excuse of having to be available for work all the time.

Then watch yourself.

Notice how you constantly reach for your phone, dozens of times per day. Observe yourself freaking out about what you might be missing. Watch yourself feeling antsy, cut off from the world, even though the world is right around you.

I repeat — we are all addicts. Just because it is a universal addiction that now everybody suffers from doesn’t make it “normal.” Just two decades ago, no one was suffering from these symptoms. Now, the masses need their fix.

It is important to understand our digital consumption behavior for what it is. You need to realize the implications. Constantly feeding your mind the right stuff and ignoring the bad stuff is not just some nice self-help project. It is the equivalent of joining a 12-step program.

Once you acknowledge that, your chances of success increase. You are now taking this seriously.

How To Feed Your Mind Properly

Now more than ever, the idea of “You become what you feed your mind,” presents itself as a chance.

In a world ruled by social media, it’s a chance to differentiate yourself. If you are one of the few people who feed their minds the right input, you will inevitably excel.

Here are some ideas to help you with that.

1. Never Check Your Phone First Thing in the Morning

Checking your phone right after waking up is a terrible idea.

The content on your phone is designed to distract you. Your messages, emails, news alerts, app alerts — none of these things matter in the grand scheme of things. Give them your attention, and you will never get around to your most important projects in life.

To make things worse, by checking your phone first thing in the morning, you are giving your best time of the day away. When you wake up is when you are the most rested; this time should never go to wasteful activities but only to your most important work.

Finally, how you start your day sets the tone for the rest of your day. If you give in to temptation right away, chances are you will continue to do so throughout the day.

Therefore, make it a rule to never reach for your phone after waking up. Instead, do at least a few minutes of your most important work; write those 300 words for your next blog post or complete that unit for your machine learning course.

To make this easier, put your phone on the other side of the room the night before. This way, you won’t instinctively reach for it before you have a chance to wake up.

2. Gradually Ramp up Your Efforts

To nurture your mind, you should gradually wane off bad input and expose yourself to more good input.

We already said we wouldn’t check our phone first thing in the morning. Now gradually push back the time when you do pointless activities like checking your messages, Instagram, or the news.

For example, when you usually get up at 8 am, don’t check any of those things until 9 am. After two weeks of this, increase to 10 am, then to 11 am, and so on. Eventually, you will spend the better part of your day not feeding on crap.

In the same way, gradually increase the time you expose yourself to good input. Start with 5 minutes in the morning right after waking up. Then go up to 10 minutes, then 20 minutes. And so on.

Also, establish a second deep work session right after lunch. Getting a break from work and feeding yourself (healthy) foods creates an energy spike. Use that spike for more work on your most important project.

The trick with all of this is to make the increases so tiny, so gradual, that they will hardly register. If that means just increasing your study by 1-minute increments, do so. Do not overcharge your system. Nothing is won by becoming overambitious and then burning out.

3. Establish a Reading Schedule

The prime source of your input should be books.

There is a depth to books that you cannot get from other types of media. That’s because the written word can be refined indefinitely.

When you read a good book, this is never what the author originally put down. It is the result of numerous iterations, not just by the author, but also by several editors.

This way, an idea gets stripped to its essentials and polished. It results in a density that you will never get from a podcast or a video.

These media are aimed at the short-term, the virality, the quick clicks. A book is aimed at the long-term. It needs to sell for years, even decades.

It can be challenging to make yourself read books in an age obsessed with digital content. Especially with the arrival of short-form videos, we have become utterly scatterbrained.

To remedy that, I advise you to set up a reading schedule. This way, you make sure important, eye-opening books get read, even though social media is trying to distract us.

4. Surround Yourself With the Right People

“You become what you feed your mind,” doesn’t just refer to the media we consume. It also applies to the people we surround ourselves with.

If everybody around is constantly working out, so will you.

If all of your friends are successful entrepreneurs, chances are you will join their ranks.

If you are surrounded by people discussing books and ideas with each other, you will want to join the conversation.

Gather the right people around you, and they will pull you up.

The problem is that they have no incentive to hang out with you. They already are more successful than you are. They get nothing out of you.

That’s why you must offer them value first. If you are an accountant, offer to do their taxes. If you do web design, redo their websites for free.

Few people go through with this advice, but those who do change their lives. Through osmosis only, they adopt a new, better way of living.

5. Think Long-Term

When people talk about how you become what you feed your mind, they usually focus on the “feeding” aspect. What they ignore is the “becoming” part.

Change takes time, much more time than we would like it to take.

This is why we struggle with staying the course — we expect immediate results. After 6 months of applying ourselves, we expect to look like young Arnold Schwarzenegger or be rich like Jeff Bezos.

The truth looks very different.

Let’s say Max is trying to make it as a content creator. He starts putting out content every day — YouTube videos, blog articles, Twitter threads, etc. This takes several hours out of his day, on top of his already stressful 9-to-5 job.

Meanwhile, Max’s friend Donovan is out partying every weekend. He smokes pot, gets drunk, and hooks up. Regularly, Donovan will text Max something like, “Forget about this content stuff, it’s a pipe dream. Come out and raise the roof with us!”

And he is right. For the first few years, Max cannot expect any results. No one will read his stuff or watch his videos. Despite all his work, his results are not any better than Donovan’s.

But feeding your mind is an exponential curve. For a long time, not much happens. But then, suddenly, your results go through the roof.

Likewise, not feeding your mind the right stuff results in exponential decay. You might be okay now, but 10 years from now, you will deeply regret your choices.

One day, Max will wake up and he will have thousands of followers eager to buy from him. And Donovan will wake up broke and with a substance abuse problem.

This is what you must wrap your head around — feeding your mind the right input will make you superhuman. Just not now.

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