Total Immersion

She walked passed me as if I was a Mirage - tall, long wavy brown hair, heels and slinky black dress, confident swagger.

Damn! I’d never watched such a figure move across a room… The girls back home dress casually, nothing like the scene I was discovering in Australia.

I knew that none of my student friends who sat next to me would do anything, scared mute as we all were. But I did want to do something… The thought of just being another guy saying, --Yeah, check out that girl -- was irritating. A single instinct shot through me:

I want to talk to her.

But how? What would I say? I couldn’t string two English sentences together. If I approached her, I’d collapse into an mumbling, confused, humiliating mess.

This Venus and I were standing in the same bar, yet we existed in two different worlds. I felt a massive barrier between me and the life I wanted. This torment of feeling like I was half-living morphed into gritted-teeth determination:

I was going to crush that English barrier.

***

Here I was in Melbourne. Dazzling, cosmopolitan Melbourne, on a grand adventure, about to create a new life for myself.

Despite my resolve to integrate myself socially, the demands of completing a Master’s degree program and becoming oriented in a new country kept me orbiting closely around campus those first couple of years.

I was speaking Hebrew with my roommates and haunting the same few humdrum university hangouts, always within a narrow world of other foreign students. I didn’t feel very Australian.

I still remember my first thoughts during the journey from the airport to my new home: What would this new adventure bring? What kind of a person would I be a year from now? And perhaps most important, how long would it take to speak a fluent English?

These questions rushed into my mind as I took in the interesting new fauna and the lush green landscape rolling outside the taxi window.

The taxi driver offered a knowing smile at my enthusiasm. He was an immigrant himself, from Russia. His English was thick… I asked him how long he’d lived in Australia.

“Twenty years”, he answered jovially. “It’s a great place to live”.

Twenty years?!
Twenty years and still that clumsy, broken English?

Part of me was terrified… what if I’ll struggle the same way? But I kicked that upsetting thought aside. Maybe he’d isolated himself among other immigrants, maybe he hadn’t been interested in the culture or social life. That wouldn’t be me- I was ready to jump into the deep end, to live as an “Australian”... All or nothing.

***

A few months after that frustrating defeat at the bar and feeling resolved to crush the English barrier, my birthday night came - a quiet night at the apartment eating dinner with my Israeli roommates - not the exciting night out on Melbourne I would have preferred.

Heavy disappointment welled up in me that night, eventually coaxing out a productive thought. My goals. What about the 100 goals I’d drafted?

I sat alone in my room and reviewed the inspiring list. Even though it had been a year since I’d written them, before the upheaval of migrating to Australia, I felt the original power of intention behind each one. It was time to use the list.

The first step in overcoming this boundary seemed obvious: I wanted to speak perfect English. Forget that cab driver… I had a purpose in coming to Australia, and that was to immerse myself and even thrive in this intriguing foreign culture.

I was done staring dumbstruck at beauty, done feeling like a migrant. I wanted to have the confidence to start a natural conversation without agonizing about what I would say, to look in a woman’s eyes and express myself spontaneously and really connect with her.

I already considered myself a verbal guy in my native language. Now I’d translate my communication skills in English, plus work on getting even better at connecting with people. I had a new socializing mission, and I gave myself exactly a year.

I smiled as I plotted my plan to go out every single weekend so I can become fluent in English. I’d let the music, dancing, and occasional drinks - cherished pastimes from my rich social life in my native country - loosen me up for practicing English. Socializing would be my new passion. I’d make new friends, and maybe soon, be able to fully connect with any woman, including the ones who take my breath away.

***

I started to read books on socializing… I didn’t have to think this all up on my own, right? Surely others had been in my position before, could help me figure out where to start.

This process would involve more than just a series of easy-to-follow steps. What I needed was an identity shift, a new way of seeing and expressing myself to the world. I can’t think of myself as an outsider migrant student or an ex-Israeli or a mumbling beginning English speaker. I needed to give myself a private status promotion, to confident world citizen who belonged in sleek Melbourne. I’d imagine I was already the man I wanted to be- socially fearless and at home in Australia.

I needed a new living situation to fit my new persona. I started by speaking only English with my Israeli flatmates. This first awkward step took courage, especially since these roommates were the current center of my social universe. That small center had to break, too - Halfway measures weren’t doing justice to my dream.

I soon moved off campus, out of foreign-student housing, and into an apartment in the heart of the city’s entertainment district with two outgoing Australians. Now I was closer to the action, practicing English with roommates who wanted to party as much as I did, beginning to immerse myself as I’d hoped.

***

I’d been right- learning English and making new connections involved a lot of good times and adventure. Who knew goal setting could be such a blast?

Along with my growing posse, I explored the best of what the dynamic city offered: classy bars or swanky clubs, quirky basement venues or rooftop fetes, dancing until 3am under the spell of acclaimed DJs and insane psychedelic lighting, bottles of champagne and tempting shots going around, girls that look stunning- everywhere we go they’re stylish, tan, and smiling. Or laying low at friends’ houses for backyard barbecues or intimate dinners, followed by drinking games and living room dance parties, maybe crawling back to the bars by midnight.

The vibe of these wild escapades was incredible… this is what I had in mind for embracing Melbourne’s nightlife! And the best of these late parties turn into lazy morning brunches at lavish beachside restaurants, beers and cocktails and heaping plates spread over the table, all of us taking in the iconic coastal view. Am I tired… is the fevered pace of my new life catching up with me? Nah. Nothing a full meal and laughs with friends can’t fix.

On top of all the fun, my secret English and social “lessons” continued. I made a point to learn names, start conversations with anyone I met- bouncers, bartenders, friends of friends.

I worked like a machine, approaching everyone, not planning what I would say but just allowing conversation to flow. Soon the bouncers recognized me, were even directing me into the front of their lines. Friends started calling- could I get them into these clubs, too?

Invitations to exclusive parties started piling up, and eventually I was motioned into clubs without having to wait in line. I couldn’t believe it- I’d gone from glum migrant student to VIP and social ringleader in just a few months. Wow- it was possible to help other people get the things I’d once so desperately wanted.

What else could I conquer with this new winning sword I’ve gained? I figured I just had to be crystal clear about my area of focus, carve out a plan, and then immerse myself totally and completely in it .

***

The Power of Immersion

It’s extremely and understandably tempting to go and pursue everything at once - everyone wants the most results in the shortest amount of time possible, right?

The problem is that, in my experience, this usually translates into mediocre results at best.

I, once, used to be clueless about how to achieve big dreams, and my year of socializing has taught me a great deal about the benefits of immersion and focusing on one thing at a time.

I’ve learned that most visions don't get realized, not because of the lack of trying or even because the wrong approach, but because of a common tendency of trying to change every aspect of life all at once. Our systems simply do not respond favorably to excessive amount of radical shifts, and this overload usually causes us to abandon our grand dreams.

By picking one single area of life to focus on and diving into it head first with an unshakeable commitment, we’re able to extract more wisdom, master that area, and enjoy the finest quality of focused attention.

A great example of applying immersion is trying to learn a new language, like the English language I tried to master. The casual approach would be to sit in a weekly class and study from a book.

The immersive approach, however, would be to travel to the country of the language of your choosing and live there for at least a few months. This would be true immersion - you’re immersed in the country and its culture and language in every possible sense, and you couldn’t get away from it even if you wanted to.

Take, for example, Benny Lewis who used this exact same approach to reach conversational competence in any language in just 3 months. Through immersion, he taught himself over ten languages in only a few years.

These days, the benefits of immersion are widely recognized by successful people from all walks of life. Tim Ferriss, for example, used immersion to go from “swimming scares the hell out of me” to “I love swimming” in just 10 days using a total immersion strategy.

Or, take Scott Young who set forward a challenge where he would finish the MIT computer science curriculum without enrolling or taking any classes. He ended up finishing a 4-year curriculum in just 12 months.

As a result, some of the best universities around the world started to offer immersion programs in their curriculums. They also were able to see the incredible results immersion creates.

As Steve Pavlina, author of Personal Development for Smart People, put it, immersion is personal growth on steroids.

Applying Immersion

Which area of your life - health, money, relationships, spiritual, etc - needs most attention?

The key here is to pick an area that gives you the biggest leap possible towards your highest vision of yourself. Think strategically. What big aspiration or dream, once fulfilled, will change everything and will have the biggest positive impact on your journey?

If there’s a number of them, prioritize. When prioritizing, it’s also worth taking into consideration the amount of time required for manifesting those asspirations. Often times, we’re too quick to pursue our dreams not considering the commitments, obligations, and the overloaded schedule we usually have.

The first thing to do, in that sense, is to start taking back control of your time. And not just take control of it, but actually make more of it. This can mean eliminating distractions, saying “no” to people, cancelling activities, and and exerting most of your waking hours on the task at hand.

In practice, of course, this is a lot harder than it sounds. Sure, we all want to believe we can change everything at a heartbeat, however, most of us are too busy living our lives to change them.

If making drastic changes isn’t a realistic option for you, I suggest keeping track of your time for a few days and then eliminating the time-wasting activities from your life. Track everything - track how much time you spend in bed between waking up and actually getting up, how much time you spend on social media, watching TV, having meaningless conversations on Facebook etc. At the end of the week take a look at what you’ve written down, decide on what you can eliminate, and commit to eliminating those things for your period of immersion. It can be quite eye-opening to discover how much time we waste....

***

The above is an excerpt from the opening chapter of my book, The Art of Fully Living. Make sure you're on the email list for the opportunity to receive additional bonuses . To get started with your journey, checkout my 7-day Jumpstart program - it goes beyond the traditional goal-setting process.

Founder

Tal Gur is a location independent entrepreneur, author, and impact investor. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His most recent book and bestseller, The Art of Fully Living - 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World, has set the stage for his new mission: elevating society to its abundance potential.

 

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Founder

Tal Gur is a location independent entrepreneur, author, and impact investor. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His most recent book and bestseller, The Art of Fully Living - 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World, has set the stage for his new mission: elevating society to its abundance potential.

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