Review of Mike Cernovich’s Gorilla Mindset
Hey everybody! This is Rob and today I want to talk to you about Gorilla Mindset by Mike Cernovich.
I want to describe a few things about this book and highlight some things that I liked about it, maybe areas of improvement. And here we go.
So, Mike wrote this book a couple of years ago, 2015, and it’s a mindset book. Now if you’re familiar with mindset training and some of the core concepts of mindset work in personal development, a lot of this material will be somewhat familiar. For example the importance of maintaining a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset.
Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset
What does that mean? Well a Growth Mindset is one that views challenges as an opportunity to grow. Okay something bad has happened to me, and what can I make of it? How can I use this to my advantage? How can I rethink this and address this challenge, rather than kind of fold and accept that the world is unfair and nothing’s gonna go my way?
In education, it’s often encouraged for parents and teachers to commend students for their effort rather than their achievement. And the focus of that, or the purpose of that, is similar to why we have a mindset of growth, a mindset of accepting challenges and learning from them. Because if we praise achievement exclusively, then kids who are naturally bright and talented will tend to do really well and enjoy the praise for however long it last.
But once they face a problem that is not easy for them to overcome. Then they often lose interest they don’t know how to cope with that, they don’t know how to deal with that. And in many cases they will justify their struggle or shortcoming by refraining from engaging with that field, saying it’s dumb or they don’t like it, or they don’t want to do that, and it’s not really useful anyway.
Learning as a Process
In contrast, emphasizing your effort allows you to pay attention to what you’re doing as a student and as a learner. And you may not get the answer right away, maybe you won’t get the answer at all. But you can take satisfaction and learning from it, and putting some time and energy into improving and trying to make sense of it. And in the long haul you will find that you’re able to meet challenges more effectively if you develop that pattern of demonstrating effort when faced with something that’s unfamiliar, rather than simply resting on your laurels, because you’re bright and things come to you pretty readily and then shying away from new challenges.
So Mike talks about that and that’s somewhat familiar to me. One of the things that I really like about his book, he offers a handful of very useful exercises. He mentions throughout the book that this book is very participatory. That it’s not about finding material, it’s not about just reading this and trying to make sense of it in your head. But actually: put it into practice.
And so he provides a number of useful strategies and recommendations for ways that you can do that. And there are two in particular that I really like.
The Life Audit
One of them is “The Life Audit,” and he encourages you to think about the people in your life, circumstances in your life, and be somewhat ruthless if you are not yet reaching your goals. And use this ruthlessness to weed out individuals, and circumstances that might be energy sinks for you.
So he says, let’s say, we have a scale of 1 to 5, and 1 is a person that you interact with who afterward you think, “Boy, who is that guy? Why do I even have them in my life? I’m drained, they make me exhausted, I would rather be doing anything else.”
On the other end is a 5, somebody who after the interaction, you feel energized you, feel motivated, you feel inspired, and your sense of satisfaction and happiness is higher. And those are the people that you want to spend your time around.
And the 3 would be the typical person that you think, “Yeah well this person I don’t care so much about” Or “I don’t mind so much.”
But, they offer something or other that makes it worth my while. And he recommends starting off culling everybody who’s under 3.
If you are an energy sink, if you are undermining my sense of satisfaction, then it’s time to go.
And then over time as you continue to work on things and have only those threes, fours, and fives in your life, you might find that you are much more satisfied, you might find that you are able to focus on things.
Life is a Game of Percentages
He talks about life as a game of percentages, and putting yourself in a higher percentage position to find some luck. And how much more lucky might you be if you are not spending time on the ones and twos?
How much more lucky would you be if you also let go of the threes and fours and were only spending time with fives, with people who left you motivated, and inspired, and energized after spending time with them? The kind of folks that help you feel really engaged with the world around you, and just have a good vibe about?
If you’re spending time with only those people, then how much more likely is it that you will end up finding the sort of lucky breaks that essentially all successful people have? So that’s one good thing that he does, this Life Audit exercise, that I really appreciated
And then the other is the Perfect Day. Sketch out your perfect day: what are you doing? Very specifically visualize the five sensory experience of what your perfect day looks like, and work on achieving it. And how can you incorporate more of those perfect day elements into each of your days?
Goals vs Vision
One other thing that he also discusses that I really appreciate, is the idea of goals versus vision. And vision is something similar to what Scott Adams would call a “strategy”, which is what you’re specific idea or non-specific idea about what your life is going to look like.
How can you set yourself up, so that the practices that you’re engaging with every day, tend to be putting you in that position to find success, to find those lucky breaks?
And what I like about Scott Adams and I plan to do a review of that book as well, once I finish it is: when you set goals, you find yourself in an essentially continually defeated position.
The Problem of Future Goals
Either you have this goal in the future, that you’ve not yet achieved (let’s say you want to lose 20 or 30 pounds, or you want to make X number of dollars or whatever).
And most of the time is the lead up, and you’re not actually experiencing the satisfaction of having achieved that goal.
And then let’s say you do achieve that goal. Well there’s often a hollowness there. What do you do afterward, what comes next?
Do you end up reverting to old habits and old practices that, put you in the position that you found yourself in before? Or do you put yourself in a position where you’re searching for the next goal and you’re kind of continually searching for that new high, that new thing to chase
There is some advantage to that mindset, that’s often what you see among fitness, or exercise enthusiasts, or athletes, or a lot of people who have goals based thinking.
The Benefits of Strategy Over Goals
But what Adams proposes instead, and I think this dovetails with what Mike describes, is you have a strategy, you have the way of life, that allows you to essentially meet those goals, and be in alignment with your vision every day.
And if you’re doing that, then regardless of the future outcome, regardless of what happens then you can feel satisfied, you can feel that continued energy to persist and go on. And from an outside or objective standpoint, that persistence is perhaps the most important part of success.
Many people will work tirelessly for years and years before they catch their break and at any point of the way, if they lost the energy to persist, then they would have seen all of that energy as wasted, all that time spent as wasted, and would never have had that breakthrough.
Instead if you essentially appreciate the process and the day to day experience of whatever your life strategy is, or life vision is, then the end goal becomes less important, and incidental almost. But paradoxically, might end up being more likely.
A couple of things that I will comment about, that I think could be could be better about Mike’s book. I thought that his writing was clear and simple and direct. It could be a little bit more elegant at times it But it may also be a consequence of trying to broaden the scope of who he’s speaking to.
And there were some sections that I had a little bit of a hard time making sense of even having engaged with it. The difference between the mindset and frame, was still a little bit fuzzy to me. Maybe it’s because of my background and the way of all of those concepts interact in my mind, and are perhaps not discreet.
Or it may be that the definitions that he was using were a little bit idiosyncratic and unfamiliar. I just had a hard time getting past my own assumptions about what those meant. Then I had a hard time kind of teasing out those concepts.
All of that said he in a seminar that I tended of his recently in New York, ended up saying very directly, that the terminology is less important to him than the practice. How you define things is up to you, and he’s not interested in parsing definitions. Because ultimately the goal is to get some value from this writing. And to have some inspiration and motivation to change your practices, to engage with life in a different way, to be clear about your own thinking and your own responses to situations.
Empowering Takeaway Message
And it’s a very empowering message ultimately. This notion that when we allow others to control our emotions, when we say things like, “You make me angry,” or “You’ve wronged me,” we are focusing on the impact that others have and not on what we can do ourselves.
It’s ceding over a lot of power to other people. And we have the power to control our thoughts, we have the power to control our own approach and mindset. And maybe that’s the only thing that we have control over in the day-to-day world.
We can’t influence external circumstances perhaps as much as we might like to. We’re all subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. But, how we interpret those, how we recover from those, that’s up to us, and that is empowering. That gives us a lot of leverage to impact our lived experience.
As Mike says, each of those worldviews is true, in some reasonably objective sense. We can see ourselves as the victim of circumstances, but we can also see yourselves as agents of change and transformation in those circumstances.
And which one is going to help us live a life that we enjoy more? That’s what he’s after.
Really great book. I appreciated it and am glad that I had a chance to read it, make sense of it, and had a chance to see Mike.