Self-help is amazing and it also sucks.
On the one hand, I know for certain that pretty much everyone of a reasonable intelligence level can pull off truly astonishing goals — including you.
The ‘maxed out’ version of you is probably unimaginable. Even reaching, let’s say, 20 or 30 percent of what you’re truly capable of would blow your mind.
Unless you’re 5 feet 6 with a dream to be in the NBA or someone with a terrible voice hoping to become a pop star, the sentence “you can do anything you put your mind to” is one hundred percent true.
But then you have to, you know, put your mind to it. And it’s hard. That’s where self-help falls short because it can’t bridge that gap for you. And sometimes it can just be a reminder of your own inadequacy.
You can read all the books, watch all the videos, listen to all the podcasts, and take all the self-improvement courses you want, but you still have to face reality, take action, and build the habits and discipline level to pull of those huge goals.
And most people don’t. I’m always upfront about the fact that becoming ‘successful’ is abnormal.
Most people are good people. They work hard. They are well-intentioned. Clearly, many would like to escape their situations. Who the hell doesn’t want a better life? Who doesn’t want to escape the rat race BS and have some mental peace?
It’s a slap in the face to tell people they don’t have the outcomes they want just because they don’t want it bad enough. The truth is, you’ll have to overcome deep-seated psychological problems, imaginary but acutely real obstacles, and a societal environment that is set up for you to fail.
So how do you do it?
Fear and self-doubt hate motion. The more you put yourself in motion, the less your brain has a chance to fill your mind with those doubts.
Take this writing session for example. Many times, I don’t feel insanely inspired to write. But by the time I start writing, I get inspired and end up having a ton to say.
I sat at my computer for a half-hour thinking about writing, but once I started writing, I hit a bit of a groove. These grooves help you create long-term momentum, so you want to get into as many grooves as you possibly can.
Tips for finding ways to get into a productive state are:
You’ll notice that the more you think and try to intellectualize your problems away, the stronger your feelings of anxiety will grow. You think about taking that step, don’t take it, then you think about why you didn’t take it, then you think about why you’re still wasting time thinking about why you didn’t take it.
Then you get into what I call ‘the loop’. You torture yourself by going through the same looping thought pattern — wanting better, not doing better, and beating yourself up for not doing better — and it slowly tortures you and erodes your energy and soul at the same time.
You need to understand how dangerous the loop is. The loop feels comfortable. But on a long time scale, it costs you much more than whatever embarrassment rejection or negative feelings you’ll face if you just decide to go for it.
Continuing on that thought. It’s not as if failing to follow your dreams will ruin your life directly. It won’t. But when you fail to keep the promises you make to yourself you begin to ruin your life in a subtle more indirect way.
On the surface, your life is okay. You’re even-keeled. Maybe you even kind of like your job. You have a good family, solid friends, fun activities to do. On the surface, life isn’t so bad.
But if you look into the eyes of many of the people in society who fit this description, you see a little bit of sadness in them. That quiet whisper of resignation.
People who know me or meet me in real life that know what I do for a living tend to open up to me. We’ll be at a party having a conversation and they’ll tell me their dreams. Their eyes will light up. I’ll do the best I can to share some insights. Usually, they feel good and a bit of that light remains, but you can see the sadness creep back in because, deep down, they don’t believe they’re ever going to follow through. Then, they look at me as if to say ‘save me.’
Maybe I sound dramatic, or arrogant, or both, but my intuition tells me that there is something deeply tragic about the banality of a normal life. It’s almost worst to let yourself down a little bit day by day until you die than it is to have some major tragedy happen to you. Your life is a reminder of your inability to trust yourself and fully take care of yourself. It fucking sucks.
Are you feeling inspired right now?
Sometimes desperation works better than inspiration. Sometimes mustering up the energy to avoid a life you don’t want works better. Look into the future if you keep doing what you’re doing right now. What do you see? Does it scare you?
I remember when I worked at this crappy factory — the epitome of sadness. I’d look at some of these people much older than me. I didn’t pity them because I don’t pity anyone who works hard to make a living. I just knew I didn’t want to be like them. And I knew it at a deep level.
It seems cruel, but juxtaposing yourself against people you don’t want to be like can motivate you to do the things they’re unable or unwilling to do. Hell, you have to juxtapose yourself against the entire society because it’s designed for the opposite of success.
You’ll feel alone on your personal growth journey because you are. But that’s okay. If you manage to use these little psychological tricks and productivity methods to wive that wave of momentum, you’ll find that you’re more than capable of doing pretty much anything you want.
You understand what you need to do during each individual moment to stay productive and you also know what’s headed your way if you never get your dream off the ground. Combine the two concepts and use them together to make your plan.
What’s your dream?
You want to start a YouTube channel? Ok. Shoot one video and post it to your channel.
Maybe you have something you can’t just up and do right away and requires a series of steps, e.g., planning a product business. Ok, spend one day doing product research. Then, do it over again the next day. Eventually, you’ll have an idea of what you want to sell and you’ll call someone in China to order a sample product. Next, you might have to set up a website and payment processor […].
You want to go back to school? Ok, take a single day to think about what you might want to do. Repeat often enough until you’re fairly certain. If you already know what to do, then it’s time to research schools. Next, fill out applications, etc.
All these examples go to show that big monumental life changes are more likely to happen with ‘back of a napkin’ type planning with solid execution vs. creating elaborate plans and trying to get all your ducks in a row. Remember, you want momentum.
You should be able to get your project off the ground with all the important elements ready to go in 60 to 90 days. At that point, you should be trying to sell, trying to build the audience, taking the classes, etc.
After that, you have to break new time barriers like six months to a year. And honestly, beyond that point, you’re pretty much all the way there if you just don’t quit.
You build these skills and all these little micro-skills. They seem super difficult to learn at first then become second nature. The difference between the perceived difficulty of the same skill at different times will be lightyears apart. You’ll see this contrast so many times that tackling new challenges and skills gets easier.
Next thing you know, you look up and what’s now normal to you would blow the mind of ‘former you.’
This is the recipe. It works. I know how difficult it all seems and I know that me simply writing this won’t make that fully clear to you. But trust me when I say the process works.
I wish I could sit down and have a talk with each and every one of you. If I had the time, I would. I wish I could coach you one on one for free, in perpetuity. If this were humanly possible I would. I wish you could see what I see.
Not that life is some magical fairytale where you can get ahead if you just ‘believe it and achieve it.’ Nope. Just the very logical and pragmatic understanding that disproportionate outcomes are simply a matter of time, hard work, and a bit of luck — which tends to find you if you’re good about the first two.
You don’t have to do anything crazy or fancy. I didn’t. Just an hour or two of focused work per day for a few solid years and you’d be out of the rat race forever.
You’d have peace. You’d feel like your life had more meaning. All your problems wouldn’t be solved, but getting what ‘what if’ demon out of your mind is just as powerful as you think it is.
So, you just have to try.
I know. Amazing insights you have here Ayo. Truly brilliant stuff, man.
Stay focused in the present moment and win each individual day. But understand that you really just have to give up a small sliver of your life to get the rest of it back.
Make the trade.