Let's get this handled right out of the gate: I do not condone drug dealing. I don't promote a life of crime, the drug trade, organized crime or brutal street violence. Cool? Cool. (No letters, please.)
In the winter of 2009, a strange set of coincidences led me to find an intense self development concept that I found to be very effective. The odd thing about this concept was that it came from Mr. American Gangster himself, Frank Lucas.
At the time I was introduced to backtracking, I was in a slow ascent from a dark place. Recovering from an intense and mutually destructive relationship, I had yet to find my bearings. The philosophy I had been exposed to by my martial arts teacher helped a great deal in gaining a perspective on the situation, but somehow, the path to take from where I stood eluded me.
It was in the moment I was the most lost that an answer came.
Late one night, while watching the special features section of "American Gangster" DVD in my apartment, I heard Denzel Washington refer to Frank Lucas going on a "Backtracking" trip, where he would shut himself in a room with only a desk and a chair for weeks at a time. There, in silence, he would write down everything he could remember in his life, from the large events to the small. From that room, he was able to see long term patterns and tendencies that he had that had previously been hidden from him. It also allowed him to become a grand strategist for his life, planning movements and turns long before the opportunities would present themselves.
It was interesting idea, so I jotted it down, thinking I would explore it later. The next day, while reading Robert Greene and 50 Cent's "The 50th Law", I came across a chapter about Lucas and backtracking. Taking the clear hint, I tried to research it a bit more before realizing there is very little information about it.
The lack of information is probably because:
A) Taking advice about life from a drug dealer is generally frowned upon (although I can't imagine why)
B) Backtracking seems like a lot of work.
Backtracking allows you to confront the unfolding story of your life head on. You will see behavioral patterns that might surprise you. You will mostly likely be interested to learn about strengths and/or weaknesses that you didn't even know you had. But in the end, after having to face down the angels and demons of your past, you will be left with something you can work with to create the life you really want. Backtracking is a great way to face the monster of our past, whatever it may be and conquer it.
It is a bit of work, but it's worth the time you put into it. There is a method however. Here is exactly the concept I used before changing my career and starting my company, Iedima.
(You will need a good amount of loose leaf paper, pens and a notebook.)
Setting The Stage
1, Clear your calendar
Just as you sit down at your desk to begin this project, you will inevitably have something or someone come in and disturb your time. It is almost cosmic in it's frequency. The only way around it is by totally and actively clearing the time you are going to commit to getting it done. You will need at least 3 to 4 hours. (Don't worry, there are bathroom breaks involved..)
2. Use paper and pen
Put away the computer, the phone and the TV. I mean it. Put them AWAY. You will be very tempted to "just check something" and end up losing your focus. Don't allow them to be an option for you until your 4 hours are up. The best way to stay on task is to use paper and a pen, with no other reading material or distractions around. Why do you think Lucas only had two pieces of furniture in the room where he would backtrack? The answer is simple. He needed to FOCUS.
3. Draw the curtains
Low light seems to work best for deep memory work. Candles and incense, as long as they aren't too powerful, provide an environment conducive to the project at hand. They also have been shown to increase decision making ability when combined with lower light in several tests.
<Bathroom/Beverage Break> (See, I told you, didn't I?)
4. Create A Yearly Timeline
Write each year from the year you were born to the current one. Make sure to leave a decent amount of room between each one so can fill things in.
5. Fill in all the large events in your life by year, starting from beginning to present
Just a quick description will do. Don't get detailed yet. This will, unless you are Jason Bourne, be easier than you think. Skip the mid-sized to small stuff for now.
6. Look For Patterns
Now that you have something to work with, look for the way your life flows. Look at the way things earlier on led from one major event to another. Are there patterns? Has a particular thing happened more than once? Write all of these observations down in your notebook.
7. Go in closer and repeat
Now, go back through the years and write down every mid-sized event of piece of information you can remember. Repeat the above steps, find patterns and then go smaller until you can barely remember anything.
8. Find Your Vision
Vision is an overused word. But in this case, it means "what do you want the various parts of your life to look like?" Close your eyes and breathe deeply for awhile. In your minds eye, imagine life as you would truly like it. Notice the details.
After awhile and when you feel comfortable doing so, come out of that and write down what you have seen and what you wish to create. This is what you are going to work from going forward.
9. Review Your Findings
Now that you have made a good amount of notes looking at the events of your life and the patterns that may have shown themselves, write them out simply. Put down the core essence of what it is.
10. Take responsibility
Negative patterns and events in your life might not be your fault. But blaming anyone or anything for what has happened in your life, while possibly justified, is adverse to getting use out of a this sort of technique. At least for the moment, try to suspend your resentment and think of ways you have or can stop them from occurring in your life. How you respond is your responsibility.
11. Design your "Grand Strategy" based on your vision for the future while taking the information from the backtrack into account.
As you commit to a plan to achieve what you what you have decided to go after, make sure that you take the way you have naturally behaved up to this point into account. For instance, if you have never worked out a day in your life, than don't plan to hit the gym everyday for four hours. Taking the time to slowly introduce habits really pays off. Besides, now that you can plan on a much larger scale than most other's do, you can add minor habits bit by bit until the entire lifestyle change happens without the usual dramatic (and high failure rate) mind based mega change.
This technique, while almost obvious, is very powerful. Most people can't remember what they had for lunch yesterday, yet here you are, knowing the ebb and flow of your life. But not only that, but you have a plan to create the future that you wish to experience. Now go make it happen.
P.S. In order to change some of the behavior, it might become necessary to change old, built in behaviors. In that case, I recommend NLP or, if you are the disciplined sort, Zen meditation.