How to Use Situational Leverage to Optimize Your Life
Posted by Zach Magnuson in / May 9, 2016
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” —Winston Churchill
What is Situational Leverage?
Situational leverage can amplify your successes and turn the biggest challenges in life into some of your greatest strengths. Sounds pretty awesome, right? But what exactly is situational leverage? The best way to understand what I mean when I talk about situational leverage is to explore the concept of leverage in some of its more common contexts. We’ll start with the most basic meaning of the word.
The literal definition of leverage is “the mechanical advantage or power gained by using a lever.” This is the definition that all other uses of ‘leverage’ are built upon. A lever is one of the simple machines that we all learned about in grade school. It’s a straightforward device used to magnify force; like a seesaw or a crowbar. Levers give you a mechanical advantage that allow you to do more work with less force. They can be used to move objects that would otherwise be too massive or to make smaller tasks much more efficient. Now we’ll look at how the concept of leverage can be applied in a less literal sense.
In finance, leverage “is the use of various financial instruments or borrowed capital, such as margin, to increase the potential return of an investment.” So, financial leverage allows you to achieve much higher returns (you make more money) than would otherwise be possible.
For example, you put down 20% of the value of your home to gain access to and financial appreciation of the entire home by using leverage (a mortgage). Another common example is using student loans to finance your education. You can’t afford the entire cost out of pocket so you take out a loan and leverage your way to higher earning potential.
Financial leverage always comes with higher risk and I am no financial advisor so I’m definitely not making any kind of recommendation here. The concept of financial leverage gives us an even better idea of how leverage can be expanded beyond the realm of just moving heavy objects. But we can take these principles even further.
This isn’t a blog about how to invest your money or the benefits of using simple machines. The idea of leverage can be applied to any area of your life, from business to creativity to fitness. You just need to build the habit of always seeking out ways to leverage whatever situation you find yourself in. Now, don’t take that in a selfish way; I’m not talking about taking advantage of others because you can leverage your position of authority or anything like that. Instead, think of situational leverage as simply making the most of every opportunity and challenge.
Leverage Obvious Advantages
First of all, you should harness your obvious advantages. Play to your strengths. Think of a basketball team: the coach puts the tall guys near the hoop so they can take use their height to get easy layups and rebound the ball. The best shooters are kept around the perimeter to take advantage of their ability to shoot 3-pointers instead of just going for two.
So, what are you really good at? Do more of that. And don’t just do more of it; press your advantage. Find ways to amplify it. If you have a great voice, make it the focal point of your podcast. If you have an ear for audio and a knack for editing, use that to push your production value through the roof. If you’re an extrovert who loves conversation, considering making your podcast revolve around interviews. There is no end to the list of strengths and skills that people have or ways to harness those gifts.
Leverage the Mundane
I’ll admit that leveraging clear advantages is an obvious step, but it’s just a starting point. What about mundane but necessary tasks? For many, things like this make up the bulk of your day. Don’t just get them out of the way and check off your To-Do list; optimize them.
I mentioned an example of this in my post on Why Podcast Cover Art Matters. Podcasting platforms generally want you to upload cover art for your podcast; many podcasters view this as just another roadblock to getting their show live. Instead, you should seek to leverage this opportunity to attract an audience and connect with your listeners by getting the best cover art that you can.
If you’re going to work out, make the most of that time by working your tail off and focusing on doing the exercises with the proper technique to get the best results possible.
The dishes need to be washed; might as well turn on a podcast while you do them.
When your professor assigns a research paper, choose a topic that will benefit you the most to learn about. If you’re trying to get healthier, write about nutrition. If you want to make more money, research and write about investing or entrepreneurship.
Your goal should be to optimize every task to be as efficient as possible and, ideally, to move you closer to your long-term goals.
Leverage Perceived Disadvantages
Years ago, I started listening to podcasts because I wanted to make the most of my long commute. If I’m going to be stuck in my car for an hour and a half every day, I want to use that time to learn and improve myself rather than listening to music and ads on the radio. Maybe you could bike or walk to work and leverage that inconvenience to get some exercise each day.
Let’s look at an example that is a little (ok, a lot) more extreme.
There’s a guy named Anthony Arvanitakis who has a really inspiring story about how he lost his leg after very long battle to recover from a car accident. After years in a hospital bed, Anthony finally decided to turn his life around and now he’s freakin ripped. He’s started a website called Homemade Muscle where he helps other people get more fit and healthy.
I’m sure we can all agree that losing a limb brings certain challenges and disadvantages, but Anthony has found a way to leverage his apparently bleak situation. The fact that the dude had his leg amputated makes his entire brand and approach that much more effective and inspirational. This video says it all, “What’s your excuse?” Well…crap, I guess I better go do some pushups.
Remember, any situation can be leveraged. When compared to the loss of a limb, most of our perceived disadvantages start to look pretty small. If Mr. Arvanitakis is able to leverage his situation, so can you. And I don’t want to hear any excuses or I’ll have Anthony punch you in the face.
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