Red faced. Short breathed. Hot-tempered.
If those are the images you get when you see the word aggressive, I’d like to challenge your thinking. When I think of being aggressive in my own life I think about taking action. I think of the words attack, offence and industry. Being aggressive is the counter to how most people live their lives. If you want to stand out, build confidence and crush depression or anxiety, do the opposite of the masses, make your default mode AGGRESSIVE.
Last week I met a group of new friends out in Kingston at Venture for Canada training camp. I knew I made the right first impression when Shannon, a Social Anthropology Major, asked me if I had always been so intense. I knew immediately that I hadn’t. I knew that for years I was defensive and passive and as a result, timid, lacking in self confidence and depressed. Her question reminded me immediately of one of my favourite quotes by Montaigne,
“My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.”
Can you relate?
When I was depressed and defensive, I was always in my head. I always pictured the worst thing that could happen. I never took action on any of my ideas or inspiration. I would postpone doing things until I proved to myself I shouldn’t or couldn’t or until it was too late to even try. I learned first hand that being default defensive is the most disempowering state you can live in. When Shannon asked me that question, “have you always been so intense?” I felt tremendous pride and burning desire to share with you how to be aggressive and get the action habit.
Aggressive VS Defensive
Successful people are aggressive. They’re on the offence. Virtually all unsuccessful people are defensive. They’re passive. Mr. Aggressive is a doer. He takes action, gets things done, follows through on ideas and plans. Mr Defensive is a “don’ter“. Like me at 16, he waits, contemplates, postpones action until he has 100% of the information he needs.
The difference shows up in little ways. Mr Aggressive plans a vacation. He takes it. Mr. Defensive plans a vacation. But, he postpones it until “next” year. Mr Aggressive decides he needs to take his health seriously. He hires a trainer and starts meal prepping. Mr Defensive decides he needs to take his health seriously. But, this weekend is his Uncle Bobs birthday party. He chooses to wait until Monday and than proceeds to never get started. Mr Aggressive read that he should pay himself 10% of his income before spending anything on expenses. He calls the bank and sets up an automatic withdrawal where 10% of his income goes directly into his investment account. Under the same circumstances, Mr Defensive finds a good reason to put of calling the bank and the withdrawal is never set up.
The difference shows up in big things too. Mr Aggressive wants to go into business for himself. He does. Mr Defensive also wants to go into business for himself, but he discovers just in time a “good” reasons as to why he better not. Mr Aggressive knows he deserves a raise. He asks for it. Mr. Defensive also knows he deserves a raise, but after imagining all the worst case scenarios of brining it up with his boss he does not.
The differences in these examples are profound and they happen everyday. Think about two people you know that embody these two opposite personalities.
Everyday the Mr or Ms Aggressive in your life is getting the things they want done, done. As a by-product, they’re gaining confidence, a feeling of inner security, self-reliance, and more income. On the flip side, everyday the Ms or Mr Defensive in your life is not getting the things they want done, done. As a by-product of not acting, they’re losing confidence in themselves, destroying their self-reliance, and are living in mediocrity.
As you reflect on those people in your life, take an inventory of your own personality. Are you in a natural state of being aggressive, doing, and taking action? Or, are you normally defensive, passive, and waiting for the perfect moment to act? If you relate more to the latter, write down this quote by Chazz Palminteri,
“The saddest thing in life is wasted talent and the choices you make will shape you forever.”
I’m writing a book right now titled, “Squandering Talent”. It’s a reminder to myself as well as a warning to others on how to prevent wasting your innate potential. Talent itself is not enough! Talent is only valuable when it is cultivated, expressed, and aggressively acted upon. Allow future regret, of wasting your talent by being defensive, drive you.
Someone once said that the saddest words of tongue or pen are these: it might have been or I should have.
Avoid regret by being aggressive. Being aggressive is as simple as getting the action habit. With all circumstances the same, the only advantage Mr Aggressive has over Mr Defensive is that he takes action now. Now is the magic word of success. Tomorrow, next week, later, sometime, someday, are all more often than not simply synonyms for the failure word, never.
We should make new years resolutions if we’re reading this post on January 1st. But, if we’re reading this on June 22nd, than we should make June 22nd resolutions. Waiting for the calendar to flip for us to start making our life better is ridiculous. Whenever you’re reading this, resolve to do better today.
Resolve to stop thinking about it. Stop dreaming about it. Stop researching every aspect of it. Stop debating all the pros and cons of it. Be aggressive and just start doing it.
Till next time, stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “You cannot change the destination of your life overnight, but you can change your direction.”.