Let’s just be honest, success looks like it’s damn near impossible. When I say success, I mean anything that few people achieve that most people would like to achieve.
In our little online milieu, it’s usually something along the lines of finding a way to make a living doing what we enjoy and having flexibility over our time.
On the surface, this appears to be possible because you’ve seen people do it. But when it comes to doing it yourself, it starts to seem pretty improbable that you’ll be the one to pull it off.
You’ll try. You’ll start reading all the articles, watching videos, listening to podcasts. You’re all fired up now. You can see the future and for a moment it seems real. Maybe you make it to the next step where you try to get the project off the ground.
You lay out a business plan. Perhaps you even get the website up. Hell, you can even get to the point where you have momentum are you are seeing progress.
But still, deep down, you’re like “Who the hell am I kidding?” There are so many steps. So many. Years of work ahead of you. 99 percent of people ultimately reach the conclusion that they should just give up.
Sadly, this will probably happen to you. Sorry, just a statistical truth.
But if you’ve read my writing long enough, you know I’m in the anomaly business. I openly admit how difficult it is to succeed and I try to give you insights to help you become that rare person who does it.
So here’s the best one I can offer.
You can learn how to do pretty much anything. When you look at a path you want to take in life, look at it in terms of a series of learnable steps that require effort and discipline.
Most people look at a life path as something they’re incapable of achieving because of their innate talent level. This thinking only applies to goals like being a pro-athlete or a billionaire, but it doesn’t apply to anything else.
I sincerely believe you could do something like start a six-figure business doing something you love. You could live a B+ lifestyle where you eventually make a few hundred grand a year and can do whatever the hell you please. Even if you don’t care about money, you can build a life of freedom by at least finding some sort of career you enjoy and gives you autonomy.
Regardless of your body type, you could get in the best shape of your life. You could master many different skills like playing instruments, rock climbing, or jujitsu. Not world-class, but better than most. You could become more confident, have high self-esteem, and increase your social skills.
You can reinvent yourself and overhaul your entire life from the ground up.
Each of the things I mentioned involves a series of learnable and relatively predictable steps. Here’s the catch, the results only become predictable on a long enough time scale. My podcast co-host has a great saying, “Too many people want to use the microwave instead of the oven.”
And the thing about the ‘oven’? If you live a long life, the time required to make this transformation is short. A few years to get your entire life back. So how do you embrace this emotionally instead of just understanding it logically?
Do you know what keeps you from making moves?
You think you’re going to be okay.
People fall into this ‘okay’ trap all the time.
I’ve had conversations with my dad about this more and more recently. He’s in his late 50’s and has health problems. He used to always talk about what he was going to do, how he would eventually make the right moves, how he had time.
Everything was going fine. Things were okay. They’d get better. Now? He has an uphill battle to climb, to say the least, and he knows it. Most people come to this realization much too late.
Sure, you have your Colonel sanders who strike it big at 65 and you can still make major moves later in life, but you always want to think about the present moment and understand that you don’t have time.
Look at your life through the lens of hyper-reality. If you decide not to give this thing a shot, when will you? Will you ever? What will your life look like down the road if you don’t?
The good news? Millions of people across the world snap out of the ‘okay trap’ every single year. They have that ‘oh crap’ realization and then they start making the necessary moves.
I’ve talked about my own story ad absurdum by this point, but five years ago it just hit me that I needed to do something. So I started taking the steps. I teach this same series of steps over and over again in pretty much every piece of content I create.
Let’s drill it into your head one more time.
When you don’t know which direction to move in yet, just start adding as much information to your brain as you can. People always tell me I’m knowledgeable and seem to have a pulse on human nature, society, and self-improvement.
Well, after reading a few hundred books, taking notes on them, and implementing the advice into my own life, that effect tends to happen. That’s another key understanding for you — everyone has already figured everything out for you.
Sure, humans are unique and there are a ton of variables that make up the world we live in, but there are some core elements and patterns you’ll see over and over again that will help you understand what to do.
Over time you’ll start to build these ‘mental models’ — little rules of thumb that help you make better decisions. You want to reach the level of multi-disciplinary knowledge, meaning you know the basics of many different subjects.
Keep that word in mind — basic. There’s beauty in basic. My favorite compliment is when people tell me my writing is basic. Stop trying to reinvent the wheel. You’re not going to be the next genius, but you can reach a pretty damn good life by becoming a student of life.
Want some recommendations? Here are some resources I put together:
You’ve taken the time to learn. You’ve mulled over your potential talents and strengths and have a bit of an idea of what do do.
So what do you do next?
You don’t create a 20-page business plan. You use ‘back of the napkin’ planning to come up with an idea you want to test. I read an amazing article by a serial entrepreneur named Noah Kagan. He started a multi-million dollar company called App Sumo in the span of a weekend.
He created a simple plan for the idea, did some research to validate the idea, and hired overseas developers to come up with a website. After he did a test run and saw results, he let the business scale further.
In his words:
For some reason, people love to make excuses about why they haven’t created their dream business or even gotten started.
This is the “wantrepreneur” epidemic, where people prevent themselves from ever actually doing the side-project they always talk about over beers.
The truth of the matter is that you don’t have to spend a lot of time building the foundation for a successful business. In most cases, it shouldn’t take you more than a couple days.
That’s all you need to start — a minimum viable product and a minimum viable plan. Even the biggest companies in the world start small.
I saw a Tweet from Paul Graham, Y combinator founder, with a screenshot of an email from Brian Chesky, founder of Airbnb. Brian was happy that he was able to charge a total of ~$700 in Airbnb fees for the entire week for the entire business.
Remove the idea from your head that you need this elaborate master plan, supreme genius, and unattainable skill level. Realizing you don’t have time to waste sparks you to learn. Learning broadens your horizons to what’s possible and inspires you to make a plan. Simple planning gives you enough self-confidence to execute.
Execution, however, will always be on you.
Nobody can execute anything for you. Sorry. But I can give you insights on how to execute.
First, you have to be honest with yourself about your level of aptitude and ambition. The less naturally skilled and motivated you are, the smaller and more trivial your goals will have to be to keep you motivated.
Many people fail because they lack humility. They think things should come more easily to them and will quit if they don’t.
If you’re able to swallow that tough pill that you’re not as naturally gifted, you’re better off. Even if you are naturally gifted, you still have to follow through, which will require you to swallow your pride when you’re no longer able to coast off your talent.
Once you execute whatever initial step is required, you achieve a slightly more difficult step. Repeat this enough times and you get exponential growth, which is another one of my favorite concepts.
You’ll get a little bit better until one day you get a lot better, really fast. And it feels really good. And when you reach this point you’ll be so thankful you didn’t quit.
Then you’ll reach a point where everyone will ask you how you did and you’ll chuckle because you know they won’t be able to fully believe you until they try it themselves.
You can learn how to do anything. You really can.
Once you go through that arc once, from total novice to second-nature understanding, you’ll have the confidence to do it over and over and over again.
You’ll get hooked on the process. You’ll build new skills and new platforms once your foundational ones are overflowing with success. Then, you’ll repeat the process over and over again just because the game is fun.
The level of abundance you can achieve after going through this process once is infinite.
Once you know that you can learn how to do anything, you’ll realize that anything you want is in reach. You’ll have the power over the universe instead of the other way around.
I’ll see you there.