“If you look at the trophy, you miss the target. If you look at the target, you get the trophy.”
I was watching a mini-documentary on Julie Foucher. She was a full-time medical student, now doctor. And she placed 2nd at the 2012 CrossFit Games and 3rd in 2014, out of hundreds of thousands of dedicated competitors. Incredible.
One thought she said stuck with me long after watching the video. She said she’s shocked how she found herself in the position she had and wondered how she got her. She thinks the key is to decide on your goal and be patient enough to achieve it in a reasonable time. It is unrealistic to expect to work out 6 hours a day, while being a full-time med student, and expect to win the CrossFit Games.
It’s hard to resist temptations to set overly ambitious goals because we salivate with greed and impatience. Plus, there are successful people telling us to dream bigger. But humans tend to overestimate what we can do in the short-term (and by short, I mean in one to five years) and underestimate what we can do in the long-term (ten years or longer). If you dream big and put in the work, you can easily fail without factoring in the patience necessary to realistically hit the goal.
After reflecting over the key to success for years, I believe the key is to identify the most mentally and physically sustainable daily effort that adds to the overall largest total work amount over the 10 year+ perspective. That’s not easy to increase, which is why we must find creative ways of doing so. Some suggest tasting and testing many things to find something you love doing for hours on end because you don’t burn out.
Julie also mentioned that she tried to workout a couple hours a day while maintaining a 9-hour medical student schedule. It wasn’t sustainable and she almost lost her sanity within a year. Forget burnout. You may even go insane. And during that downtime of recovery, your competitors catch up.
Ramit Sethi and Tim Ferriss did a webcast many years ago. Both successful entrepreneurs remarked on the importance of sustainability in their blogging efforts. They found that the more frequently they blogged, the more traffic they got. But when they tried to ramp up the pace beyond what was emotionally and physically sustainable, they were exhausted. Plus, their quality of articles probably also went down.
When I look at the mathematics of hard work, it becomes clear that what looks like a hard-worker on the day-to-day level may turn out to be someone mediocre on the week-to-week or month-to-month level. Let me explain.
It’s easy for someone to make themselves look awesome and put in five extra hours of work in a single day for the praise. But if that person is mentally drained or thinks they don’t have to hustle any more the rest of the week, he or she can be easily overtaken by someone who just puts in one extra hour a day, including weekends.
I’ve made the mistake many times myself at the gym, school, and at work. Sometimes, it was ego. Other times, it was because I was living of the moment of how far I’d done. But I figured something out one day at the gym.
I learned that rather than sinking three hours in at the gym in one day and not returning for two weeks, I set a stupidly small time limit of 10 minutes a day. Over time, I gradually increased that amount at a slow pace until I built a rock-solid habit I couldn’t break away from of an hour a day.
If you make it more enjoyable you can do wonders. Sometimes, complete pivots in career or process need to be made to turn it into a full-out passion. It could be switching to gymnastics or CrossFit. It could be realizing that you hate programming and you need to go all-in on your poker side hustle.
With a ton of experimenting on the side, you can uncover a hidden well of potential that can unleash monstrous amounts of sustainable effort. People will marvel at your hard work ethic, but you’ll realize that most of it doesn’t even feel like work.
Then, there’s the secret of enjoying the journey five times more than the destination. Most people think and live in the opposite way. Because they care more about the medals than the work, everything they try fails quickly. They hate the process of becoming better so much that they quit.
In Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck, he laments about wasting years trying to pursue a rock star dream life. He finally admits that he never got anywhere because he hated every part of the process of achieving that dream, from lugging around equipment to pitching gigs. You must enjoy the journey more. Or have such a strong desire to be the best and achieve that goal that you’re willing to get through the tremendous amount of work needed to get there.
I can think of a handful of people who truly love the grind more than the end result. Gary Vaynerchuk, Arnold Schwarznegger, Michael Jordan, and Will Smith. Gary truly loves the horrific work everyone complains about. He thrives on it and mentions it often in his daily YouTube vlogs. He reminds people how this is what most of his days are usually like. There’s no glitz, glamour, celebrities, or yachts. It’s cold-calling, client calls, and negotiations. Day-in and day-out for years.
There seems to be a common understanding that you must suffer for a long time and not enjoy yourself before you can enjoy yourself one day. There’s the phrase “Successful people do what unsuccessful people aren’t willing to.”
While there will always be small moments where anyone will have to do things they don’t like such as firing people or pushing for that last mile on the treadmill, you can also enjoy your journey to your destination in the long term and the moment as well.
This is also a common theme and quote among successful people such as Arianna Huffington: “Enjoy the journey.”
It’s not always the destination. It shouldn’t be set up in a way where you suffer for 10+ years on a business you hate to one day make a ton of money so that you can “finally” be happy because you reached your destination of a big pile of money.
Science has shown that this money won’t make you that much happier anyways.
Studies have shown, according to 80000hours.org, that one of the most common mistakes in decision making is assuming that the only options available are much fewer and more rigid than actually possible.
I bring this up because you may have more options than you thought possible in terms of ways to create a life you enjoy.
For example, people can assume that there’s only a couple ways of marketing a business: flyers, Youtube, and print ads.
In fact, there are thousands. Perhaps many of them will succeed. Which is the one that you would find most fun and has a possible good chance of success? Try that rather than get stuck in a rigid form of marketing that you don’t like doing but you think is th e only option.
There’s SEO, blogging, Youtube SEO, Snapchat, Facebook, guerilla Facebook (manually engaging in comments, groups, etc. on there), Instagram, direct mail, TV commercials, etc.
This same concept can hold true for your life. Maybe you aren’t enjoying the journey completely. Maybe it’s a career that sucks. Is there another way? Can you at least move towards making it more fun? Set THAT as your goal rather than resigning yourself to a life of painful servitude for 10+ years.
Some people have been stuck in that rut of servitude and convinced themselves it’s the only route. They have devoted themselves to 10+ years of medical school or law or investment banking simply because they think it’s the only way to “make good money” even if they will hate it the whole time.
This is one of the reasons I don’t think Asian parenting is perfect: that rigid thinking can really cripple a child’s potential. And I know there are many cultures (even white, black, hispanic, etc.) who think similarly from personal experience. If they are only made to think that a few roles (doctor, engineer, lawyer) can bring them success, it can really cripple their potential because they’ve convinced themselves of this.
I have seen a few Asian Americans with high-paying, rigid jobs because of their parents’ risk-averseness.
A Harvard business student got to meet with him and told Warren Buffett about his whole plan for the next 10 years of internships, entry level jobs at investment banks, and so on. It was clear he was going to hate the whole process but would eventually get to a place where he made a ton of money.
Warren responded: “That’s like saving up sex for old age.”
Warren Buffett has recommended choosing the job you would do if you were already rich. Now, I’ve studied passion and the career market in depth and talked about it extensively in my previous content and Youtube videos. It’s actually a tricky topic.
Some people wouldn’t work at all if they were rich. Some are too lazy or would only choose jobs that wouldn’t pay like playing video games. So it isn’t a full proof strategy.
The one big thing I have learned from all of this is this: not everything about your job you will always like. There is a certain level of market supply and demand going on. Some things you are paid for you might not like but there’s demand and people will pay for it. Other things you will like but no one will pay for.
Just remember to ALWAYS work towards making your career and life a little more enjoyable day by day somehow. And overtime, you might find yourself in a paradise. It might not happen overnight or on your first try.
And your initial job(s) might have moments that suck. But keep working towards it. Take courses to develop yourself. Gain new skills. Always be learning (most people stop at 23 when they graduate, but winners learn until they die). By doing so, you will have more to offer if you make a transition or aim for a promotion or movement across an industry or organization.
And remember to stay loose. Don’t be too rigid with your options. Go out of your comfort zone a little every day. See what other jobs are out there. Reach out to people on LinkedIn that are successful and find out what they do over coffee.
See what other awesome stuff you can do that you just aren’t aware of. And even if your day is the most boring day on Earth (something I can definitely relate to), one thing I have found that helps is to try your best to make it more interesting and fun. And even if you fail, smile, laugh, crack a joke, enjoy life, and appreciate what you already have.
And enjoy the present because it’s all you ever have. The past can’t be changed. The future isn’t here yet. Too many of us get caught in memories of the past or anxieties of the future.
Enjoy the journey!
And trust me, I have seen it myself. There are people out there already living their greatest adventures, like Richard Branson who travels the world and does crazy things like drink tea on top of hot air balloons or Nadine Sykora who travels the world to exotic places as a Travel Vlogger.
One thing I am working on cutting out and I encourage you to as well is this idea of negative talk and “I can’t.”
For example, in stead of saying “I cannot do what Nadine does because I don’t get enough views from my Youtube videos or traffic to travel the world like her”, you can say “How can I do it even though I’m not getting what she gets?”
Instead of “I can’t”, think “How can I?” This spurs you to start thinking instead of giving up, and it opens you up to a host of more options: You can get more views by working on your Youtube videos, you can realize that what matters here is money not views and there’s thousands of ways of making more money (freelancing, acquiring a new skill as a service, bartending, starting a business, promotion, etc.), or you can realize that she’s a travel hacker as well and has to skimp out on things to travel and do the same.
One of the secrets to life is understanding that life is a journey, and to enjoy the rid. Enjoying the journey, as detailed by pop songs like The Climb by Miley Cyrus and content from entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk, have pointed to this idea the whole time. The reasoning is that if you enjoy the work more than the reward, you won’t burn out or give up and you’ll get more done since it’s not a chore.
I’ve noticed that the bulk of my suffering comes from not enjoying the journey and getting frustrated when I see signs that some reward I wanted, in the short- or long-term, did not come to fruition, isn’t coming as soon as I expected, or may not come at all.
On the micro-level, it can be when I show up to an activity group and the one attractive girl there leaves before I get to talk to her . On the macro-level, it can be when I work out and see muscular gains, but see no noticeable improvements with girls and how they react to me.
So many people don’t stop to consider why they want to be better or obtain something better. It’s worth taking a moment to pause and considering if there’s a good reason. Instead, we compare and there’s always someone who has it better than us.
It’s not your fault. It’s genetic and natural to strive for greater status, wealth, pleasure, possessions, awards, praise, popularity, and mates. But is more always better? That leads me into the first way you can break free from this channel.
Understand the science of happiness. Reading a few books about this did the trick for me. If you can deeply understand that research proves that these material and superficial achievements won’t give you enduring increases in happiness, it’s easier for you to break away.
I’ve come across a lot of wealthy people in my research. Many overwork themselves every day. Many are still unhappy, so clearly obtaining that doesn’t even guarantee happiness.
Some people are caught in a constant chase with the Joneses, the figurative neighbors who are always a bit better than you. They pile themselves up with more responsibilities, more work, more business, more exercise, all for a dream that it’s worth it. Sometimes it is, but at what point is it not?
Finding your passion is another supposed key to enjoying the journey, easier said than does. My international readers remind me it’s also far less common outside the U.S. to the point of weird looks if you bring it up. To that I say it’s not as common as you think in the U.S. either.
Keep looking, keep tasting different thing you wouldn’t have even though to taste, and keep honing what you have. Your heart will know it when you find it. For example, if you like act of selling, writing, creating music, filming, or engineering more than the sales, raise, promotion, trophies, fame, or yacht it may one day provide, you’re on the right track.
When you love the game itself more than what awaits on the podium, it’ll help you succeed more and enjoy it throughout. Stop trying to be happy ten minutes, ten days, or ten years from now. Let’s find a way to be happy right now.
While it helps, there’s always something you won’t enjoy in the short-term. Successful people do what unsuccessful people aren’t willing to do and that’s usually because those tasks are unpleasant. Passion is a glorious solution to that overall but you’ll likely still have to suffer to get there. I love CrossFit overall. It’s fun and enjoyable, except when you’re halfway through a workout and your lungs are on fire.
Those moments of deep discomfort are when frustration and questions of why you even bother rear their head. What do you do then?
Without a good answer, you can flame up into a pile of burn out, frustration, and binge watch sessions of Game of Thrones.
If it’s because you’ll get the muscles and eventually get the girl, that’s fine — if it happens as expected. But when your expectations get squashed — say you’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle and your dating life hasn’t improved, that can cause you to break down.
You’ll say, “I went through all this shit for … this? Not worth it.”
People are different, so some people may have different responses, but this response is common. Especially when you’ve chosen work you hate for some distant end goal, you’ve created a recipe for disaster. When the pot of gold isn’t revealing itself when you think it should, those weeks, months, or years of slogging through 8 to 15 hours of shit per day make you angry. You want to quit. Every day feels longer and worse.
From personal experience, I’ve even been set off in a firestorm of resentment and frustration just from merely overhearing a hot girl talk about how lazy she was and little she did. I was doing a lot — working out, social skills practice, building my career — all to get a hot girl. In the process, I learned to value work ethic. Was I doing all this for someone like her? Someone who barely had to put in any work to get what she wanted?
It wasn’t her fault. She is how she is. And granted, there are pretty girls who also work hard. It was more a red flag for me that my core motivation was not ideal.
You have to have a good Why. In Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why, he explains how the right Why (in this case, passion) helped the Wright Brothers beat competitors with millions of dollars more in funding to invent a working airplane. So what is a good Why for you?
Do it for your own growth and health, enjoyment, or a greater good, not for some reward. It’s not a solution that solves everything, but it’s the best I’ve found out of all my experimentation and research. When that dark question of “Why are you even doing this?” pops into your head, because it will, your response makes a huge difference.
But instead, if your Why is “to prove to the world that Ghana is as capable a country as any other” or “to improve my own health and longevity so I can live a wonderful life” or “to improve the lives of people in my town,” when expectations don’t meet reality, you won’t freak out. You’ll have a positive attitude, learn from reality, tweak your strategy, and persist.
Next, there’s gratitude. Research and wisdom help tremendously with gratitude. The fact that 75% of the world lives on less than $10 a day alone and 50% live on less than $2.50 a day should give you a hint at the iceberg of things we’re unaware we take for granted.
Remind and realign. What’s the point of more money? When is it ever enough? What are your big goals?
If your dream is to travel to exotic beaches, pursue the dream, not a middleman. You don’t want to die one day realizing that you’ve spent all this time accumulating paper and never realizing that dream. When you’ve hit the amount necessary, go.
In my journey, I have come across many people who are unhappy even though they are making a ton of money or they make a ton of money every day but they are completely trapped in an entire life of work that they don’t enjoy to make that money from which they can’t escape.
Neither are ideal. Freedom of time AND abundance of money can really free you up. Other people’s fulfilling lives may not be what your picture of a fulfilling life is like. Model those who have the life that you want. Always remind yourself so you don’t find yourself going in the wrong direction for a needless goal such as chasing unnecessary additional money.
This may be obvious to some but a surprise to other: on your journey to wealth and once you get rich, you can still fail in terms of success. There is a certain phrase that’s well known in self-development that I remember a female billionaire said in an interview: “Money simply magnifies who you already are.” If you let it, money can not only magnify who you are, but trick you into becoming a monster.
It is within your responsibility to not become an asshole, be rude to people, talk down to people, let your ego turn you into more a hotshot than you really are, or succumb to the ways money can ruin you: over-indulgence in drugs, alcohol, women, or showing off.
I was reading this book called Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill (affiliate link). Mr. Hill studied 500 of the wealthiest people in the world in person for over 25+ years to learn their secrets. In this book, there is a mock dialogue between him and the Devil. Through this parable, you learn the ways he tries to lure you into failure.
Just because someone is rich doesn’t mean you should respect him or her.
Of course, I will think it is awesome that you managed to achieve your wealth and high goals. But right after, I will immediately see what you value, what you believe in, how you treat others, how you carry yourself, and so on. Some millionaires keep the right things in check while others go crazy.
Here are some of the big things you should avoid when you have money or are pursuing more:
- Not letting drugs, alcohol, massive over-spending, or women overtake you. I do not drink, smoke, or do drugs at all. I recommend you getting down to 0%. These things can pull you dramatically off track.
- Not letting your ego or arrogance overtake you. Just because you made some money doesn’t make you an expert at everything. You were good at one practice within one niche. An example would be someone who makes their first million in real estate and then goes on thinking he or she is an all-knowing expert in everything related to business: manufacturing, tech, investing, stocks, and macroeconomics. This will probably lead to you losing money. Arrogance or too much ego also shows that you have placed too much emphasis on the belief that money = success. This thinking shows that you have not thought of things as deeply as you should. Success can also mean spending quality time with your family, not sacrificing your health, honoring your values and avoiding sacrificing them for money, being an ethical person, not cutting corners or hurting others to get to where you are, and so on. Many people have failed on all these fronts despite making money. And in that way, they wouldn’t be considered successes in some cases in my book.
- A strong foundational, healthy, psychological disposition. Some people get wealthy without settling deep psychological issues. Because of things in their distant past, they bring it up in weird ways like seeking excess validation from others. You do not need to go through something severely traumatic to have some psychological issues. Therapy, meditation, or books are great ways of working through these.
Generally speaking although not always, you can seek guidance and model older people to help you succeed. Younger people tend to be more naive and susceptible to temptations.
Think for yourself. Decide definitively what you want and everything you do. Have very clear plans and goals. Form habits of reaching definite decisions on all subjects.
Avoid common fears like fear of death and fear of poverty. These often can lead to illogical behaviors.
It’s important to fix this as soon as possible. The older you get, the harder and more permanent your habits and behaviors become.
For further related resources:
- Check out Julie Foucher’s podcast. It’s available on iTunes. She interviews many of the world’s top CrossFit athletes and movement physiology experts.
- The book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- The book Deep Work by Cal Newport
- My epic, comprehensive article on finding your passion