- May 12, 2020
Question for you — why focus on getting good outcomes in life, at all? Why focus on being great? Instead, why not just be content with what you have right now?
I’ve had this debate in my head back and forth, but I always lean to the side of trying to become great at something and, yes, getting the worldly rewards that come with it. But why?
There are just certain lessons about life you can’t learn until you try to become great at something. Most of us go through life thinking about our potential. Does a day go by where you don’t imagine a better future? Maybe you don’t have huge dreams of world domination, but you wonder about what it’d be like if you could finally put it all together. You can see it in your mind.
You’re motivated. You have the discipline to follow through with your plans. You can visualize yourself having that confidence to finally attempt a better life without quitting in the process.
Maybe you’re not as obsessed as I was with becoming this person, but you do think about what it’d be like to be this ‘ideal self’ at least some of the time. And the main benefit of going through the process of reinventing yourself, getting great at a skill, and producing outcomes is the fact that you no longer have to wonder.
Daydreaming without ever taking action creates this weird form of stress and anxiety. Not severe, but just knowing you’re living below your potential makes you feel the emotional equivalent of a sigh every once in a while. You’re upset with yourself “Why can’t I just follow through? Why can’t I take care of me?”
The question is – what do you actually do about it?
As always, I can give you angles and insights, but nobody will be able to ultimately pull that trigger until you do it. That being said, here are some of my favourite ways to look at the process of being great, of getting self-improvement to work.
Understand This Truth About Skills
With enough practice, you can get good at most things. If you have the talent and you work hard, you can become great. You have to get this idea out of your head that you have to be some superhuman ultra-talented genius to live a pretty damn good life. Find the shortcut — the skill you’re naturally suited to learn plus commitment equals the passionate life you’ve been looking for.
There is a wide enough range of skills, profitable skills, to choose from for most reasonably intelligent people to become successful. Find your range and most importantly, stay there. I chose writing and I haven’t done much else but practice writing for the past five years. The only reason I have the bit of success that I enjoy now is the fact I didn’t quit. I didn’t quit because I understood the power of compounding — your skills get a little better, then one day, they get a lot better.
So you have the skills you come equipped with and the skills you have to try much harder to master, your weaknesses. Even the things you’re not naturally good at can be learned to the extent that your weaknesses don’t harm you. I’m naturally disorganized, but I’m organized enough.
If you realized the true power of becoming a learning machine, you’d have started already. If you have started already, understand that success is inevitable as long as you practice, iterate, and wait. That’s it. A few years of your life to get good enough to make a dream come true. That’s it.
Understand This Truth About Motivation
You’ll be motivated to be great once you find an area that motivates you to be great. This is why aligning with your strengths is so important. When you’re aligned to your strengths, you’ll get some quick wins early on — you’ll pick up a concept or part of a skill quickly and the confidence you gain from that pushes you to learn the next skill. Quick wins equal a positive feedback loop and positive feedback loops equal lasting motivation.
You can go from not being motivated much at all to growing highly motivated at a skill that compels you to stay motivated. Have faith that you can come across the skill and start working on it even if you’ve been lazy up until this point — that’s what happened to me. Also, understand that you won’t have to continually fire yourself up to stay motivated if you reach traction points.
Traction points usually happen a few months in. You achieve some steps that reduce your chances of quitting and increase the things that create permanent motivation — habits, routines, rituals, etc. Most beginners make the fatal mistake of thinking each part of their journey will require equally high levels of motivation when, in reality, the highest levels of motivation are always required in the beginning.
You have to get out of beginner’s hell. When you’re a beginner, even at something you have talent for, you’re usually not great to start and the gap between you and true quality seems super wide. It isn’t. Get over being a beginner and the rest of your time will be spent learning the nuances while continually getting better at a faster rate over time.
Understand this Truth About You
I’m not trying to be cheesy when I say this, but you honestly sell yourself way short of your true capabilities. Way way short. As soon as you want to tackle a new challenge, one that deviates from conventional wisdom, you suddenly forget every successful moment of your life, pretend as if you’ve never worked hard at anything before, and create this insane context to your new goal when, in reality, it’s just a goal.
What’s the huge difference between the effort required to do something conventional vs non-conventional? I’d argue not all that much. You just perceive them differently and attribute risk and difficulty to non-conventional paths. Treat your side hustles, projects, and experiments just as you have goals with structure, e..g, going to school. If you can motivate yourself to go to a job every day, you can motivate yourself to work on your projects. Stop thinking of them as hobbies and treat with the same attitude of your 9 to 5.
You have skills already. You have motivation already. You have pieces to the puzzle already.
Get over yourself and your irrational fears so you can piece everything together and win.