Is there some magical reason why some people pull off their dreams and others don’t?
What’s the real key? The magic pill? The one thought, insight, or solution that can make it happen for you?
To be honest, life is weird. You can’t quantify exactly what makes someone successful or what causes them to follow through with a dream. We’re all a mixture of work ethic and luck, innate talents, and earned skills, circumstances, and actions.
That’s why I never promise anyone much of anything. I can’t promise you that you’ll follow through with your dreams because I don’t know you. In fact, if I had to bet, I’d bet you don’t follow through with them.
Not because you can’t. But because, statistically, you probably won’t. According to a Gallup poll, nearly 45 percent of people said their jobs are mediocre and 16 percent said they’re working bad jobs. Only 40 would even classify them as ‘good.’
You don’t need a poll to be able to look around and see that most people spend the majority of their time doing things they don’t want to do.
And I don’t fault them for it either. Society just puts so many hooks into you. On top of that, you have to deal with the inner war in your own mind. Why should we, why should you, be afraid of anything? It’s dumb. In theory, you should be able to just go out there and do it.
Which leads me to the only objectively true difference between the people who follow their dreams and the people who don’t.
The only difference between the people who follow through with their dreams and those who don’t is that the people who follow through with their dreams made a decision to do it in the first place and never stopped after that.
It doesn’t have to be a huge decision. Mine wasn’t. I didn’t initially aim at any of the things I do now. I just made a decision to try something I’d always kind of sort of thought about doing. That’s it.
You have that thing, too.
It’s so banal, really. Your life purposes are likely the things that make you think to yourself, “You know? That would be kind of cool.” They’re the things you offhandedly mention. You can take that small inkling and turn it into an empire.
I saw a Tweet from Joe Rogan before he launched his first podcast episode. It was something along the lines of “You know, it’d be cool to start a podcast one day.”
This was the seed that lead to a one hundred million dollar deal with Spotify a decade later. And the money isn’t even the main reward. You can just tell watching the show that he’s truly having a blast.
That’s the point you want to get to. Not millions in the bank. But being able to reach a point in your life where you pinch yourself a little bit. Where you wonder how the hell you’d even be allowed to do what you’re doing for a vocation.
You can get there, but you have to take that seed and grow it. You have to break through the beginner barrier. Then, you have to give it a bit of time. Eventually, you’ll win.
Zero. I can hardly remember what it felt like to be at zero. Zero fans, zero experience, zero money, zero network, just zero.
Zero kills dreams.
When you’re at zero you just think about what it will take to put an entire dream together and you think to yourself “How the hell am I going do to that?”
Looking backward, the answer is simple — it just takes time. But we have such a strange relationship with time that it’s hard to follow through.
We lack patience. Anything you want to do that’s of consequence, whether it’s becoming a writer like me or starting some non-profit organization to save kids in Africa, takes time. Usually, it’ll take you a few years, which isn’t much time looking backward, but an eternity looking forward.
We’re afraid of wasting time, yet we end up wasting it by never starting. You miss out on all the gains by never starting. It’s like someone who tells themselves they’ll ‘start investing’ one day and then one day they find themselves old with no retirement money.
“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” – Earl Nightingale
Might as well start.
And once you start, fight like hell to get past zero. That’s the bulk of the battle. Study whatever tedious materials you need to study, learn the pieces to the chessboard, practice your craft daily for six months, repeat the skill 100 times, and don’t let the weight of being a beginner crush you.
No matter what you’re trying to do or build, just know that you can’t quite picture or grasp the magnitude of what your future self will accomplish. It won’t feel doable at first, but if you start to ‘do’ it’ll just happen.
One day, you’ll snowball your way to success, but you have to start. You have to get past zero.
I’ve tried to break down fear and self-doubt in about a hundred different ways since I started writing. What exactly is it that keeps us, keeps you, from taking action. You’re fighting against this imaginary ghost in your head that’s simultaneously real and not real.
I’ve narrowed closer to the answer that you think your success or failure says something about you at a deep level. You tie your identity to the things that happen to you, good or bad. And your brain does this messed up equation where never trying is better than trying and failing.
Spoiler alert – I don’t have a magic answer that’s going to alleviate that doubt for you. But I can say definitively that the negative voices in your head are BS. You know this, too. But you have to fight the two-sided battle to convince yourself at a core level.
On the one side, you have your actions and feedback. Action is the most potent antidote to fear. No amount of thinking about doing something will replace doing it.
The funny thing? Often, when you take action, you realize how silly your fears were, but you only ‘remember’ that for a bit and then the fear comes back when you tackle the next challenge. But, eventually, your actions start to convince you of your own worthiness.
On the other side, you focus on brainwashing yourself whichever way you can. That’s where personal development comes in. That’s where focusing on your own self-talk comes in. Try to have active conversations with yourself in your head about how the negative voice is a liar.
Over time, you transition your mindset. At first, you do kind of need those accomplishments to improve your self worth because your identity is attached still. But, as time goes on, you tend to get more successful as you become less attached to your actions.
When you reach a mental space of doing for the sake of doing and going full steam towards your goals without the neediness and chip on your shoulder, success gets much easier. And you have the accolades too, which you realized didn’t change anything about you in the first place.
Then you are free to play the game for fun,
My last piece of advice to you? Try to balance fun and playfulness with challenge, grit, and determination.
You should try to follow your dream because it’s cool and fun. Adopt the attitude that you’re just trying to see what you can do, trying to see if you can get better.
And then, you’ll get better.
The cliche is true. The growth is more important than the destination. Growth is the destination. You’re here to see what you can do with the time you have. That’s all. That’s the attitude. Run with it.
Run as long as it takes to pull it off. Think about it. What really happens when you ‘succeed’ or ‘fail’? Nothing really. Different chemicals in your brain fire off and you feel physiological responses as emotions.
We live our lives dominated by these random sensory inputs instead of dancing with them, using them to our advantage when they’re on our side, and rolling with the punches when they’re not.
Success is finding the right combination of deadly serious work ethic and totally free playful creation detached from the outcomes themselves.
You’ll never master this process, but you’ll never need to.
I just hope to see you on the other side. I hope you eventually realize that you legitimately have nothing to lose but a couple of bruises to your ego.
Ultimately, I hope you understand that you’re the only one in your way.