As promised in my last post, I will explain why my “Work” calendar is labeled “Make Money”.

The Difference in Words

I remember this little gem of advice in my early college years. My roommate was complaining about having to go to work. And a friend of ours very wisely said, “You’re not going to work, you’re going to make money.” The point: Focus on the outcome and the reward (the part you look forward to), not the labor (the part that you dread). The result is stronger discipline and a tighter inner game.

The Difference Between One Marshmallow and Two

If you’re up on your personal development research, you’ll know about the famous marshmallow experiment. In brief, children were led, one at a time, to a room where they were given a single marshmallow. They would be left alone with the option to eat it. But… if they waited to devour the goody, the facilitator would return after a period of time with an additional marshmallow so the youngster would then have a total of two to snack on. You can imagine the enormity of the challenge for the little guys. The lives of these kids were then revisited over the years and the researchers found that the ones that waited – that practiced delayed gratification, that kept their focus on the future result – were better adjusted, better equipped with coping skills, and achieved more in school and work.

We all have our own versions of the marshmallow test to contend with in the many different parts of our lives. Things that irk us, drive us to whine, or make us feel disempowered. Situations that at first glance may weaken us, throw us off balance, or cause us mental anguish or suffering. Essentially, moments that make us feel like quitting. But on second glance – with a more deliberate look, with just the slightest shift in perspective – matters that may easily become more manageable and that may even inspire confidence and sense of purpose.

This way of seeing is similar to the deep appreciation that RZA, Wu Tang Clan music mogul, has for the game of chess:

“Chess is something that I think the urban community, if more of us learn it and get it into our system, we’d be able to kind of think twice, think three times before you make that stupid move and end up in jail, dead, or doing some kind of criminal activity that destroys your life.”

While some might say I’m just playing with semantics (Work vs. Make Money), I would argue that I am instead retraining my vision, that I am practicing intent, and that I am as RZA described, thinking two or three moves ahead. Big changes often begin with little adjustments – even linguistic tweaks. Minding the true goal of any journey can help tremendously when you are required (as we each definitely will be) to ward off exhaustion, to dig deep, to call upon your willpower, or level-headedness, or sense of duty. It’s about maintaining control. Not submitting to the panic and urgency of the present moment. And rather, adjusting your outlook to be able take in the bigger picture so you can act accordingly, in a manner that ultimately benefits you – and puts more marshmallows on your plate.

A video re-enactment of the Marshmallow experiment

The RZA on The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos. Skip to 6:10 for the section on chess.