October 10, 2019

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Dark Horse Book Notes

October 10, 2019

Dark Horse

By Todd Rose


Introduction:  Breaking the Mold.


There is a term for those who triumph against the odds.  For winners nobody saw coming, they are called dark horses.  Seventy-four percent of the people surveyed said that society’s definition of success was someone who was powerful, but 91% said for them personally success is someone who is purpose driven.  Dark horses are not defined by their character nor are they defined by a particular mode of socio and economic background or approach to training, study, or practice.  There is a common thread that binds them all together, however, and it was hard to miss.  Dark horses are fulfilled.  For dark horses, it is not that their pursuit of excellence led them to fulfilment, it is that their pursuit of fulfilment led them to excellence. 


Chapter One:  The Standardization Covenant


The standardization mindset is committed to the principle that individuality is a problem.  The chief commandment for achieving success within the standardization covenant can be summed up in eight simple words, be the same as everyone else, only better. 


Chapter Two:  Know Your Micro-motives


Your motives comprise the emotional core of your individuality.  Understanding the genuine nature of your motivation is essential for you to attain fulfilment because only by tapping your own unique motives will you feel a sense of authenticity, meaning, and completeness.  Your micro-motives are composed of strong and abiding feelings rooted deep within your unconscious self.  They include subtle preferences, frank desires, and private longings.  There are three steps to the game of judgement.  First, become aware of the moments when you were judging someone.  The goal of the judgement game is to use your intense emotional response to ferret out the hidden counters of your own desires.  By cultivating awareness of your emotional responses, all of life can be a laboratory for self-understanding.  Dark horses reveal that passion is not something to be followed but rather something you can engineer.  The key is to leverage as many different motives as possible.  The more distinct micro-motive you can identify and harness, the greater your engagement will be with your life.  For dark horses, passion is a blowtorch.  You can aim it by choosing which micro-motives to activate.


Chapter Three:  Know Your Choices


“Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice.  It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved” - William Jennings Bryan


Choice puts your individuality into action. It’s the means by which you convert passion into purpose.  Choosing is an active process.  When you have the freedom to choose, you can create your own opportunities, including ones that no one else might consider.  The power of choice is the power to engineer your purpose and, thus, the power to achieve fulfilment.  If you are free to search for choices that fit your individuality, you might discover opportunities that nobody else would even notice.  Do not think you can learn something useful about your own likelihood of success by asking how the average person fares; no dark horse is average, and neither are you.  In the dark horse mindset, risk is determined by fit.  If there is a good fit, the opportunity is low risk.  You will be a better judge than anyone else of the riskiness of a choice because you will be a better judge of fit.  Keep evaluating opportunities the same way you always have.  If a new opportunity provides a better fit than your present one and you can live with the worst-case scenario, then no matter how seemingly stable and satisfactory your current opportunity appears, you should choose the more fulfilling option.  The moment you close off to opportunities that will increase your sense of authenticity, you risk losing something worse than stable comfort—you risk losing your sense of purpose.  Even when all of your options are good ones, especially when your options are good ones, the dark horse mindset implores us to choose the one with the best fit no matter how hazardous it may seem to others.


Chapter Four:  Know Your Strategies


In the dark horse mindset, a strategy is a method for getting better.  Know your strategies about letting your strengths guide you to the right study method, training regime, or learning system.  Strength is fundamentally different than a motive.  Your micro-motives comprise part of your core identity and are, therefore, potent and resistant to change.  Our brains are designed to know how to experience our motives very directly.  Indeed, desires often elbow their way into our consciousness entirely unbidden.  When we want something, we feel it, but unlike the steady beacon of motives, strengths are inaccessible, contextual, and dynamic.  In other words, strengths are fuzzy.  You discern your strengths not through introspection but through action.  Strengths are also contextual.  Any personal quality can be either an aptitude or a handicap depending on the situation.  Strengths are dynamic, they’re highly malleable, improving with practice, and deteriorating through neglect.  In the dark horse mindset, choosing strategy is a matter of trial and error.  The process of figuring out your strategies, in fact, will be the first time you should expect outright failure while wielding the dark horse mindset.  Welcome it.  Failure is an essential component, perhaps the defining component of the process of developing excellence.  Failure is the only way you can unearth the hidden contours of your fuzzy strengths.  When you learn to know your micro-motives, you can engineer your own passion.  When you learn to know your choices, you can engineer your own purpose, and when you learn to know your strategies, you can engineer your own achievement. 


Chapter Five:  Ignore the Destination


The standard formula commands you to know your destination.  In contrast, the fourth and final element of the dark horse mindset advised you to ignore the destination.  Dark horses may ignore destinations, but they don’t ignore goals.  In the dark horse mindset, there is a clear distinction between the two.  A goal always emerges out of your individuality.  More pointedly, a goal is born out of an active choice you have made.  In contrast, a destination is someone else’s idea of an objective that you have agreed to.  More often than not, a destination is defined by a standardized institution of opportunity.  A goal is actionable in an immediate concrete way.  Reaching a destination in contrast is always contingent, contingent upon intermediate, the unknown, or the unpredictable.  The more contingent a destination is upon future events, the more it impairs your attainment of fulfilment because the more it requires you to ignore the reality of change.  Gradient ascent - when you make the choice to advance in a new direction, you’re setting a goal for yourself to reach a specific point somewhat higher up the mountain, a point that you can see from here.  You aren’t aiming directly for the peak because unless you’re already near it, you simply won’t know where it is or the best route to get there, but if you rely on situational decision making, if you pursue near-term goals while maintaining the flexibility of changing course if a better strategy or opportunity presents itself, you will always be climbing higher.  The dark horse mindset for fulfilling your potential is to get better at the things you care about most.  That is the dark horse prescription for personalized success.  Get better consists of climbing toward a personal peak of excellence, it’s the process of engineering achievement by knowing your strategies and ignoring the destination.  The things you care about most consist of choosing which mountain to climb.  It’s the process of engineering passion by knowing your micro-motives and engineering your purpose by knowing your choices. 


Dark horse Mindset:


  1. Know your micro-motives.

  2. Know your choices.

  3. Know your strategies.

  4. Ignore your destination.



The pursuit of fulfilment leads to excellence.  Harness your individuality in the pursuit of fulfilment to achieve excellence.  Be the best version of yourself.  Words and phrases associated with dark horses:  person-centered, winding path, the variety of excellence, micro-motives, engineer your passion, choosing, fit, trial and error, goals, relative time, gradient ascent, individuality matters.


According to Thomas Jefferson, the pursuit of happiness has to do with an internal journey of learning to know ourselves and an external journey of service to others. 



Three stars on Goodreads. 

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