The 2 Types of Stress, Unsexy Success, & More
Today at a Glance
- Quote: Impossible is nothing.
- Framework: The 2 types of stress.
- Tweet: The unsexy success principle.
- Article: Advice on the approach to work.
- Podcast: Jocko on Huberman Lab.
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"It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow." — Robert H. Goddard
Everything is impossible...until someone does it.
The 2 Types of Stress
The word "stress" has a very negative connotation. We hear it and immediately go to a dark place.
But the reality is that stress isn't bad in an absolute sense.
Famed endocrinologist Hans Selye—the scientist who actually coined the term "stress" in the first place—identified two types of stress:
- Distress: Negative stress
- Eustress: Positive stress
Distress is what we commonly think of when we heard the word stress. It is the negative stress that leads to a range of negative patterns such as demotivation, low energy, deteriorating performance, and anxiety.
Eustress is the positive stress that leads to a range of positive patterns such as improved motivation, enhanced performance, focused energy, and invigoration.
Both distress and eustress cause a physical release of common stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline), but the response is very different.
The Yerkes-Dodson Law—formulated in 1908 by psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson—says that stress and performance are positively correlated up to a certain point, after which more stress reduces performance.
This should pass the sniff test for most people: a little bit of stress from a modestly imminent deadline actually improves our performance on the project, but too much stress from a really imminent deadline pushes us over the edge.
Interestingly, the experience of distress or eustress in a situation can be influenced by our own perception of the stressor, context, and situation.
For example, if we experience a simple daily stressor, there are two ways we can choose to perceive it:
- Negatively: We feel overwhelmed by the stressor and worry that we won't be able to overcome it. We wonder why this is happening to us and how we can possibly get past it.
- Positively: We feel energized by the opportunity to beat back this stressor. We know we don't have everything figured out right now, but we are confident in our ability to figure it out and get past it. We choose to view the stressor as an opportunity to excel.
The negative perception increases the odds of this stressor causing distress, while the positive perception increases the odds of this stressor causing eustress.
This is the important point: We all get to choose how we perceive daily stressors, and this perception creates the reality of how we respond.
Action Item: The next time you encounter a simple daily stressor that has negatively impacted you in the past, flip the script on it. Tell yourself it is an opportunity to rise to the occasion and win. See how much this simple mental shift changes the reality. Reply to me with your experience!
P.S. Here's a funny example of distress to laugh about this weekend...
This tweet hit me hard.
This comes down to the simple difference between motivation and discipline. Motivation will come and go, discipline is a constant. The person who relies on motivation will struggle mightily when the work gets boring. The person who trusts in discipline will still show up and execute.
Remember: Discipline > Motivation.
Lovely short read from novelist Toni Morrison on the way to approach work (and life). It centers around the moment from her childhood when she complained to her father about her job cleaning a woman's house.
Her father said, "Listen. You don’t live there. You live here. With your people. Go to work. Get your money. And come on home."
Toni's four takeaways from this comment are worth remembering:
- Whatever the work is, do it well—not for the boss but for yourself.
- You make the job; it doesn’t make you.
- Your real life is with us, your family.
- You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.
I loved this piece.
Jocko Willink: How to Become Resilient, Forge Your Identity & Lead Others
Great discussion with a lot of golden nuggets:
- Voluntary Struggle: Voluntarily doing difficult things builds your resiliency muscle in the same way that doing squats or deadlifts builds your leg or back muscles. Embrace voluntary struggle and you'll be prepared when the involuntary struggle hits your life.
- Today Impacts the Future: Your actions from today positively or negatively impact your future. If you went back in time, you'd be scared to touch anything because you'd worry about the implications in the future. Treat today with the same care as it relates to its implications for the future.
- The Risk of Overthinking: Don't overthink simple actions. Learning to create motion before thinking can be a superpower. When your alarm clock goes off, get your feet on the floor, you won't hit snooze if you do that.
Note: You definitely need to be in the right mood to appreciate this one...
Listen to it here.