It’s hard to tell you exactly how to be successful. But there are always attitudes, behaviors, and strategies that will definitely not help you reach your goals.
I’ve talked about the process of inversion many times — figure out what doesn’t work and avoid doing it. Pretty simple, right? That’s the thing about getting what you want from this life. Often, the process is simple, but not easy.
You can probably guess some of the attitudes I’m going to share with you beforehand, but that doesn’t mean you’ll ditch these attitudes like you’re supposed to. Why? Because some of them are comforting, some of them help you cope, some of them give you a view of the world that isn’t ideal but at least it’s something you can work with.
And that’s what happens when people get stuck in these ruts of counterproductive attitudes. They stick with them because they can work with them. They can tolerate them.
What can’t they tolerate? The truth. We live in a world filled with people who can’t face the truth about their own lives. Not some objective truth, but the things they believe to be true deep down but ignore. We have a society that feeds people convenient lies. We know they’re lies, but we don’t know they’re lies.
Well, some of us do. I do. And since you’re reading this, odds are you do too. While you’re reading this, put your guard down for a little bit. You might feel defensive when you hear these ideas but you wouldn’t be defensive if they didn’t strike a nerve. I care more about your outcomes than making you feel good in the short term.
There is no rule that if you’re in category ‘x’ you’re destined to fail. Are there obstacles when it comes to success in life based on things you can’t control? Sure. But it’s up to you to figure out to which degree those things really affect you.
These days, all we talk about is race. I’m a black man and I agree that there are issues to work on, of course. But what do I usually see in the media when it comes to people who look like me? I see people who look like me getting shot by police. Or I see them in a movie about slavery. Or I experience some well-meaning white person talking about how downtrodden my people are. I don’t hear about how my life can be excellent, but that it “matters” — that’s the bar I guess.
It’s not just that someone who looks like me has to deal with true racism, but I also have to deal with the soft bigotry of low expectations — encountering people who take pity on me instead of trying to build me up, people who set the bar low for me for no other reason than the way I look, people who don’t even interact with my people in real life but try to speak on our behalf. It’s bullshit. And I’m done being quiet about it, even if it’s unpopular.
I was the top writer on Medium for six months in a row. A black man. I’ve made multiple six-figures as a black man. I was just working on a project and hired a middle eastern female virtual assistant for $52 an hour, the equivalent of more than $100k per year. So much oppression in the air.
Prior to that I worked on a different project and had a white female V.A. Do you know why I chose them? Because they could help me make more money. That was the only reason. It’s the only reason one should need for a project like them. When you get out there and try to build a career of your own, you’ll find that there are plenty of people who will work with you regardless of what you look like. Build the skills and don’t let your immutable characteristics hold you back.
Maybe it should be. Honestly, if it could be, I’d like it to be, but it isn’t. Which is more likely — you doing the work it takes to succeed, even if it’s unfair, or changing the entire structure of society? Which do you have the time and energy to accomplish? You know the answers to these questions.
So, why waste energy on the things you can’t control? Well, because it’s easier than doing the work. It’s easier than understanding that, although life isn’t fair, there are many ways you could be doing much much more than you’re doing right now and you know that. Even if we were somehow able to create a perfectly equal society where everyone got to start in the exact same place, where would each individual end up?
Cold hard facts about life:
I could write a list with 100 of these — so many variables to prove that it’s impossible to create anything resembling a level playing field. Every time we’ve tried to pull it off, everyone’s lives ended up equally terrible.
The idea of fairness, in the sense that people shouldn’t cheat or the field shouldn’t be discriminatory, is noble and useful. We can all work towards that. But that doesn’t mean you should personally wish for life to be perfectly fair before you get anything done. That will never happen.
This is a subtle distinction, but an important one. Nobody owes you anything. I mean, if someone literally owes you something, is indebted to you, that’s different. But the idea that you’re owed certain resources, opportunities, and advantages won’t help you get them. And even if it does, you’ll create negative subconscious seeds in your mind that will keep you from getting as much success as you would’ve gotten had you just owned your outcomes in the first place.
Let’s take a look at my industry. Any time I see a writer who says something along the lines of “the fans just don’t get it” I know they’re going to fail. The audience doesn’t owe them attention. These types of writers always get discouraged and quit. This is a general rule of thumb you could use for business owners, too. People buy products because they want them. Business isn’t a charity.
Stretch this line of thinking across multiple applications. Nobody owes you the type of life you want. Nobody owes you a certain amount of money, status, or lifestyle. We have a society of people who now feel like they’re owed happiness, good emotions, and a positive self-image. We have many who default to looking outward as if self-esteem doesn’t literally have the world self in it.
I don’t owe you anything. Anyone who reaches out with a request of me and says “thanks in advance” will definitely receive zero help from me. Most of these people mean well, but it’s just an entitled attitude that doesn’t work in the real world and I can’t reward it. The world will not reward you for this attitude.
Don’t take the bait from society, the media, the people who want to keep you in this infantilized state where you treat success like it’s something you inherently deserve instead of something you earn.
I’m not making a moral argument here at all. I’m talking about the way this attitude will affect your outcomes if you choose to adopt it. If you attribute malice to someone for doing something, you won’t want to do it yourself.
If you say all wealthy people are evil, then why would you want to be wealthy? Maybe you don’t. But there are a bunch of people who’d love to have more financial abundance in their lives but can’t because they have a negative relationship with money.
If you look at anyone at the top of any field and believe they had to lie, cheat, and steal to reach the top, how would you make it to the top of that profession? Maybe you don’t want to reach the top, but you’d be surprised at how much that thinking keeps you from reaching the levels you do want to reach.
My profession is interesting. Many people have a love-hate relationship with self-improvement. On the one hand, they kinda sorta think it’s bullshit. But, on the other hand, they want to make improvements in their lives. If you want to improve your life, you have to start believing that it’s ethical to improve your life. You have to believe you can improve your life, your career, your financial situation, etc without having to take something from other people. You have to believe in win-win scenarios.
Most of you do think this way. These attitudes I’m mentioning aren’t necessarily things you feel deeply and viscerally all the time. But it’s the little hints of these attitudes that accumulate over time and hold you back. You’re going to have to constantly check your thoughts and beliefs along the way when you’re trying to improve. Think about the energy and intention behind your beliefs. If they’re definitely pushing you further away from your goals, try to abandon them.
‘I can’t’ has this permanent connotation. Instead, replace it with something along the lines of “I’m unwilling to do this at the moment.” All of those dreams you have in your head, minus the crazy ones like being in the NBA or making billions, you can do them. But, at least for right now, you’re unwilling to do what it takes.
I used to tell myself I couldn’t be organized. Now, I’m not a naturally organized person. I’m prone to messes. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be organized. Oftentimes, I was just unwilling to exert the extra energy required to be organized. But, eventually, I learned to be organized enough because I found something compelling to work on.
And that’s the key to going from I can’t to being willing to work on something. Given the right reasons, you can develop motivation, discipline, and persistence. Sometimes the reason needs to hit you a certain way before you finally get it. I know that was true for me. You can go quite some time telling yourself that you can’t do something but then simply decide to change your mind about it. Sounds simple and obvious, but it’s true.
Re-frame that phrase over and over again until you see the truth. Look, sometimes doing that thing you really want to do is going to really suck for a while. Realize that you can do it and just accept upfront that you will have to go through some psychological difficulty to get it done. That’s it. Accept that the process won’t work as smoothly as you’d like it to. But never say that you can’t do something.
All five of these points are damn near the same exact point. But I did that on purpose to drill the overall sentiment in your head. I typed out the first draft of this pretty fast. Like, my fingers were banging the keyboard hard because I felt passionate, angry almost, about what I had to tell you.
Can you feel it?
I’m done with this narrative. I don’t care if it costs me money. I could make more by telling you what you wanted to hear, that society is out to get you and that you’re a helpless victim, but then I’d have to lose my soul in the process.
Be brutally honest with yourself. You know that there’s not much else aside from your own BS narratives that are keeping you from getting what you want. Own the truth and run with it.
Once you let go of the BS you’re left with the real you. Confident, strong, bold. You’re left with the way you’re supposed to be. You’re supposed to be great. Somehow, all of your ancestors survived long enough to pass their genes through the generations. You’re the winner of all winners just for being here in the first place.
Act like it.