Between my recent episode as a guest on the Finding Genius Podcast, Not so in the Dark, a short episode about my first trip into the Adelaide CBD after lock-down, and our Blind Insights episode on what it is like to be blind, there is nearly two hours of material out there about my experience of being blind. I recommend that anyone who would like to understand what it is like for me to be blind listen to these episodes.
In this blog post I would like to focus on what I do to work around my blindness, to make myself as capable as I can be. My solutions and conclusions may (or may not) be typical of other blind people, but I am sure that they can be applied to improve general Human performance.
I love process, and I choose between different processes to get things done every day of the week. The combination of process and talent can increase the likelihood of success, but if you make me pick between the two I will pick process over talent. How I use my mobility cane and move around the world is a series of processes: how I learn new things is a process; how I teach people is a process in a constant state of refinement; and how I am relearning to play guitar is based on other people’s time and performance tested processes.
If you want to get your head around how processes work, and which processes you might want to start building into your own life, start with Peak, Atomic Habits, The Talent Code, or The Power of Habit. If you only have enough time to read one book, then pick any of the four at random. If you are prepared to make the time to improve your processes to improve your performance, then read the four books in the order I have presented them, as it will help you get the most out of each subsequent book.
I bet my life on processes every time I cross a road, but processes are not a silver bullet. Processes are only as good as your ability to correctly select and refine what will work in a given circumstance. As the old adage goes: if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem you encounter will be treated like a nail. While it is important to practice using a process, so that it can deliver the outcomes you expect, it is even more important that you constantly monitor whether the process you are using is still appropriate to the circumstances you are using it in.
For example, when I am doing my Ashtanga Yoga practice on my mat I can take risks with balance and over-extending myself, because the mat is temporarily my entire world, but when I am walking down an unfamiliar street I can’t take any such risks, as I am in an open system with too many unknown variables.
Before you relax into repeating a process, be very careful to check that you are really functioning within a closed system. Also ask yourself whether you want to aimlessly repeat a process, as you are unlikely to improve your performance until you consistently choose to refine your process as you are experiencing it. Aim to be confident about your ability to refine what you are doing, while also being slightly sceptical of how well you are doing, even when things are going well.
If you have been successful at something, then definitely double down on it to maximise your chances of further success. I did not set out to become a high performance teacher. Instead, I discovered I was getting good at empowering people and doubled down on increasing people’s capacity to be high performers. While consistently improving in this area feels great, I have always left time and energy to make sure my mobility skills are still good, so that I can minimise the likelihood of going straight from providing excellent training to walking into a wall. Doing what you are good at can provide an artificial sense of invulnerability, so leaving time to do what is difficult is very good for maintaining a growth mindset and humility.
Always aim to get along with people, as they help to get you out of your head and offer a different perspective from which to appreciate the world. I regularly need strangers’ help to do simple things like finding an empty chair and getting on the right bus. These interactions could just remind me of my limitations, but I choose to view them as opportunities to engage with people I otherwise wouldn’t get to talk to. I have had so many interesting and enlightening conversations with people I asked for help, and I am at least as grateful for the insights into living I have gained as I am for the practical help. Try not to live in your head and to see people as a means to an end, as this sort of reductionist view will have its largest reductionist impact on you.
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