35 Hard Truths Part 1 of 2
You Should Know Before Becoming “Successful”
By Benjamin Hardy Feb 22
1. It’s Never As Good As You Think It Will Be
“One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has studied the relationship between money and happiness for over two decades.
“We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them,” Gilovich further states.
Actually, savoring the anticipation or idea of the desired outcome is generally more satisfying than the outcome itself. Once we get what we want — whether that’s wealth, health, or excellent relationships — we adapt and the excitement fades. Often, the experiences we’re seeking end up being underwhelming and even disappointing.
I love watching this phenomenon in our foster kids. They feel like they need a certain toy or the universe will explode. Their whole world revolves around getting this one thing. Yet, once we buy the toy for them, it’s not long before the joy fades and they want something else.
Until you appreciate what you currently have, more won’t make your life better.
2. It’s Never As Bad As You Think It Will Be
Just as we deceive ourselves into believing something will make us happier than it will, we also deceive ourselves into believing something will be harder than it will.
The longer you procrastinate or avoid doing something, the more painful (in your head) it becomes. However, once you take action, the discomfort is far less severe than you imagined. Even to extremely difficult things, humans adapt.
I recently sat on a plane with a lady who has 17 kids. Yes, you read that correctly. After having eight of her own, she and her husband felt inspired to foster four siblings whom they later adopted. A few years later, they took on another five foster siblings whom they also adopted.
Of course, the initial shock to the system impacted her entire family. But they’re handling it. And believe it or not, you could handle it too if you had to.
The problem with dread and fear is that it holds people back from taking on big challenges. What you will find — no matter how big or small the challenge — is that you will adapt to it.
When you consciously adapt to enormous stress, you evolve.
3. There Is No Way To Happiness
“There is no way to happiness — happiness is the way.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Most people believe they must:
First have something (e.g., money, time, or love)
Before they can do what they want to do (e.g., travel the world, write a book, start a business, or have a romantic relationship)
Which will ultimately allow them to be something (e.g., happy, peaceful, content, motivated, or in love).
Paradoxically, this have — do — be paradigm must actually be reversed to experience happiness, success, or anything else you desire.
First you be whatever it is you want to be (e.g., happy, compassionate, peaceful, wise, or loving)
Then you start doing things from this space of being
Almost immediately, what you are doing will bring about the things you want to have
We attract into our lives what we are. This concept is confirmed by loads of psychological research. In his popular TED talk, Harvard psychologist Shawn Achor explains that most have happiness backward. They believe they must first achieve or acquire something to be happy. The science shows that happiness facilities success.
For example, Scott Adams, the creator of the famous comic series Dilbert, attributes his success to the use of positive affirmations. 15 times each day, he wrote the sentence on a piece of paper, “I Scott Adams, will become a syndicated cartoonist.”
The process of writing this 15 times a day buried this idea deep into his subconscious — putting Adams’ conscious mind on a treasure hunt for what he sought. The more he wrote, the more he could see opportunities before invisible to him. And shortly thereafter, he was a highly famous syndicated cartoonist. It couldn’t not happen.
I personally apply a similar principle but write my goal in the present tense. For example, rather than saying, “I will become a syndicated cartoonist,” I write, “I am a syndicated cartoonist.” Writing it in the present tense highlights the fact that you are being who you want to be, which will then inform what you do and ultimately who you become.
4. You Have Enough Already
In an interview at the annual Genius Network Event in 2013, Tim Ferriss was asked, “With all of your various roles, do you ever get stressed out? Do you ever feel like you’ve taken on too much?”
Ferriss responded: “Of course I get stressed out. If anyone says they don’t get stressed out they’re lying. But one thing that mitigates that is taking time each morning to declare and focus on the fact that ‘I have enough.’ I have enough. I don’t need to worry about responding to every email each day. If they get mad that’s their problem.”
Ferriss was later asked during the same interview:
“After having read The 4-Hour Workweek, I got the impression that Tim Ferriss doesn’t care about money. You talked about how you travel the world without spending any money. Talk about the balance and ability to let go of caring about making money.”
Ferriss responded: “It’s totally okay to have lots of nice things. If it is addiction to wealth, like inFight Club, “The things you own end up owning you,” and it becomes a surrogate for things like long-term health and happiness — connection — then it becomes a disease state.
But if you can have nice things, and not fear having them taken away, then it’s a good thing. Because money is a really valuable tool.”
If you appreciate what you already have then more will be a good thing in your life. If you feel the need to have more to compensate for something missing in your life, you’ll always be left wanting — no matter how much you acquire or achieve.
5. You Have Every Advantage To Succeed
It’s easy to talk about how hard our lives are. It’s easy to talk about how unfair life is. And that we got the short end of the stick.
But does this kind of talking really help anyone?
When we judge our situation as worse than someone else’s, we are ignorantly and incorrectly saying, “You’ve got it easy. You’re not like me. Success should come easy to you because you haven’t had to deal with what I’ve gone through.”
This paradigm has formally become known as the victim mentality, and it generally leads to feelings of entitlement.
The world owes you nothing. Life isn’t meant to be fair. However, the world has also given you everything you need. The truth is, you have every advantage in the world to succeed. And by believing this in your bones, you’ll feel an enormous weight of responsibility to yourself and the world.
You’ve been put in a perfect position to succeed. Everything in the universe has brought you to this point so you can now shine and change the world. The world is your oyster. Your natural state is to thrive. All you have to do is show up.
6. Every Aspect Of Your Life Affects Every Aspect Of Your Life
Human beings are holistic — when you change a part of any system you simultaneously change the whole. You can’t change a part without fundamentally changing everything.
Every pebble of thought — no matter how inconsequential — creates endless ripples of consequence. This idea, coined the butterfly effect by Edward Lorenz came from the metaphorical example of a hurricane being influenced by minor signals — such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly — several weeks earlier. Little things become big things.
When one area of your life is out of alignment, every area of your life suffers. You can’t compartmentalize a working system. Although it’s easy to push certain areas — like your health and relationships — to the side, you unwittingly infect your whole life. Eventually and always, the essentials you procrastinate or avoid will catch up to your detriment.
Conversely, when you improve one area of your life, all other areas are positively influenced. As James Allen wrote in As a Man Thinketh, “When a man makes his thoughts pure, he no longer desires impure food.”
We are holistic systems.
Humanity as a whole is the same way. Everything you do effect the whole world, for better or worse. So I invite you to ask:
“Am I part of the cure? Or am I part of the disease?” — Coldplay
7. Competition Is The Enemy
“All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition.” — Peter Thiel
Competition is extremely costly to maximum product reach and wealth creation. It becomes a battle of who can slightly out-do the other for cheaper and cheaper. It’s a race to the bottom for all parties involved.
Instead of trying to compete with other people or businesses, it’s better to do something completely novel or to focus on a tightly defined niche.
Once you’ve established yourself as an authority over something, you can set your own terms — rather than reactively responding to the competition. Thus, you want to monopolize the space in which you create value.
Competing with others leads people to spend every day of their lives pursuing goals that aren’t really their own — but what society has deemed important.
You could spend your whole life trying to keep up, but will probably have a shallow life. Or, you can define success for yourself based on your own values and detach yourself from the noise.
8. You Can’t Have It All
Every decision has an opportunity cost. When you choose one thing, you simultaneously don’t choose several others. When someone says you can have it all, they are lying. They are almost certainly not practicing what they preach and are trying to sell you on something.
The truth is, you don’t want it all. And even if you did, reality simply doesn’t work that way. For example, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I want my family to be the center of my life. Spending time with my wife and three foster kids is my top priority. As a result, I can’t spend 12 or 15 hours a day working like some people. And that’s okay. I’ve made my choice.
And that’s the point. We all need to choose what matters most to us, and own that. If we attempt to be everything, we’ll end up being nothing. Internal conflict is hell.
Although the traditional view of creativity is that it is unstructured and doesn’t follow rules, creativity usually occurs by thinking inside the proverbial box, not outside of it.
People flex their creative muscles when they constrain their options rather than broaden them. Hence, the more clearly defined and constraining your life’s objectives the better, because it allows you to sever everything outside those objectives.
9. Never Forget Where You Came From
It’s easy when you achieve any level of success to believe you are solely responsible for that success. It’s easy to forget where you came from.
It’s easy to forget all the sacrifices other people have made to get you where you are.
It’s easy to see yourself as superior to other people.
Burn all your bridges and you’ll have no human connection left. In that internal cave of isolation, you’ll lose your mind and identity, becoming a person you never intended to be.
Humility, gratitude, and recognition of your blessings keep your success in proper perspective. You couldn’t do what you’ve without the help of countless other people. You are extremely lucky to be able to contribute in the way you have.
10. If You Need Permission To Do Something, You Probably Shouldn’t Do It
My father-in-law is a highly successful real-estate investor. Throughout his career, he’s had hundreds of people ask him if they should “go into real-estate.” He tells every one of them the same thing: that they shouldn’t do it. In fact, he actually tries talking most of them out of it. And in most cases, he succeeds.
Why would he do that?
“Those who are going to succeed will do so regardless of what I say,” my father-in-law told me.
I know so many people who chase whatever worked for other people. They never truly decide what they want to do, and end up jumping from one thing to the next — trying to strike quick gold. And repetitively, they stop digging just a few feet from the gold after resigning the spot is barren.
No one will ever give you permission to live your dreams. As Ryan Holiday has said in The Obstacle is the Way, “Stop looking for angels, and start looking for angles.” Rather than hoping for something external to change your circumstances, mentally reframe yourself and your circumstances.
“When you change the way you see things, the things you see change.” — Wayne Dyer
You are enough.
You can do whatever you decide to do.
Make the decision and forget what everyone else says or thinks about it.
11. You Earn As Much Money As You Want To
Most people “say” they want to be successful. But if they really wanted to, they’d be successful.
I used to tell people, “I wish I played the piano.” Then someone said, “No you don’t. If you did, you’d make the time to practice.” I’ve since stopped saying that because he was right.
Life is a matter of priority and decision. And when it comes to money — in a free-market economy — you can make as much money as you choose. The question is, how much money do you really want to make?
Instead of vegging on social media day-after-day, year-after-year, you could spend an hour or two each day building something of value — like yourself.
In the book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill invites readers to write down on a piece of paper the amount of money they want to make and to put a timeline on it. This single act will challenge you to think and act in new ways to create the future of your wanting.
For example, despite growing up so poor that for a time his family lived in their Volkswagen van on a relative’s lawn, Jim Carrey believed in his future. Every night in the late 1980’s, Carrey would drive atop a large hill that looked down over Los Angeles and visualize directors valuing his work. At the time, he was a broke and struggling young comic.
One night in 1990, while looking down on Los Angeles and dreaming of his future, Carrey wrote himself a check for $10 million and put in the notation line “for acting services rendered.” He dated the check for Thanksgiving 1995 and stuck it in his wallet. He gave himself five years. And just before Thanksgiving of 1995, he got paid $10 million for Dumb and Dumber.
12. Your Vision Of Who You Want To Be Is Your Greatest Asset
“Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.” — Oprah Winfrey
No matter where you are right now, you can have any future you want. But one thing is for certain, what you plant you must harvest. So, please plant with intention. Mental creation always precedes physical creation. The blueprint you design in your head becomes the life you build.
Don’t let society tell you how your house should look. You are an artist and creator. Your life can be exactly how you want it, whether or not it’s considered a “mansion” by others. Home is where your heart is.
13. Who You Are Determines What You Can Have
There’s a parable of a wealthy parent who hesitated to give their unwise child an inheritance, knowing it would undoubtedly be squandered. The parent said to the child:
“All that I have I desire to give you — not only my wealth, but also my position and standing among men. That which I have I can easily give you, but that which I amyou must obtain for yourself. You will qualify for your inheritance by learning what I have learned and by living as I have lived.
I will give you the laws and principles by which I have acquired my wisdom and stature. Follow my example, mastering as I have mastered, and you will become as I am, and all that I have will be yours.”
Going through the motions is not enough. There isn’t a check-list of things you must do to be successful. You have to fundamentally change who you are to live at a higher level. You must go from doing to being — so that what you do is a reflection of who you are, and who you’re becoming. Once you’ve experienced this change, success will be natural.
“After you become a millionaire, you can give all of your money away because what’s important is not the million dollars; what’s important is the person you have become in the process of becoming a millionaire.” — Jim Rohn
14. Earning Money Is Moral
“For better or worse, humans are holistic. Even the human body does best when its spiritual and physical sides are synchronized… People’s bodies perform best when their brains are on board with the program… Helping your mind to believe what you do is good, noble, and worthwhile in itself helps to fuel your energies and propel your efforts.” — Rabbi Daniel Lapin
I know so many people who genuinely believe making money is immoral, and that people with money are evil. They believe those who seek profits force those weaker than them to buy their products.
Money is not evil, but neutral. It is a symbol of perceived value.
If I’m selling a pair of shoes for $20 and someone decides to buy them, they perceive the shoes to be worth more than the $20, or they wouldn’t buy them. I’m not forcing them to buy my shoes. It’s their choice. Thus, value exchange is win-win and based purely on perception.
Value is subjective! If you offered that same person $20 for the shoes they just bought, they probably wouldn’t sell them. They see them as worth more than $20. But what if you offered $30? They still might not sell them.
There is no “correct” price for goods and services. The correct price is the perceived worth from the customer. If the price is too high, the customer won’t exchange their money for it.
We are extremely lucky to live in a society with a system of money. It allows us to borrow, lend, and leverage. Our ability to scale our work would be enormously limited in a bartering and trading system.
Earning money is a completely moral pursuit when it is done with honesty and integrity. In fact, if you don’t feel moral about the work you’re doing, you should probably change your job.
When you believe in the value you provide so much that you are doing people a disservice by not offering them your services, you’re on track to creating colossal value. Our work should be a reflection of us. It’s always their choice whether they perceive the value in what we’re offering or not.
15. Almost Everything In Life Is A Distraction
“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” — Greg McKeown
Almost everything is a distraction from what really matters. You really can’t put a price-tag on certain things. They are beyond a particular value to you. You’d give up everything, even your life, for those things.
Your relationships and personal values don’t have a price-tag. And you should never exchange something priceless for a price.
Keeping things in proper perspective allows you to remove everything non-essential from your life. It allows you to live simply and laser-focused, and to avoid dead-end roads leading nowhere.
16. Focus Is Today’s I.Q.
We live in the most distracted era of human history. The internet is a double-edged sword. Like money, the internet is neutral — and it can be used for good or bad based on who uses it.
Sadly, most of us are simply not responsible enough for the internet. We waste hours every day staring idly at a screen. Millennials are particularly prone to distractions on the internet, but nowadays, everyone is susceptible.
Our attention spans have shrunk to almost nothing. Our willpower has atrophied. We’ve developed some really bad habits that often require extreme interventions to reverse.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence suggesting the internet — with its constant distractions and interruptions — is turning us into scattered and superficial thinkers. One of the biggest challenges to constant distraction is that it leads to “shallow” rather than “deep” thinking, and shallow thinking leads to shallow living. The Roman philosopher Seneca may have put it best 2,000 years ago: “To be everywhere is to be nowhere.”
In his book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport differentiates “deep work,” from “shallow work.” Deep work is using your skills to create something of value. It takes thought, energy, time and concentration.
Shallow work is all the little administrative and logistical stuff: email, meetings, calls, expense reports, etc. Most people aren’t moving toward their goals because they prioritize shallow work.
“The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence,the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.” — Cal Newport
17. If Your Goals Are Logical, Don’t Expect Luck (or the like)
“You need to aim beyond what you are capable of. You need to develop a complete disregard for where your abilities end. If you think you’re unable to work for the best company in its sphere, make that your aim. If you think you’re unable to be on the cover of Time magazine, make it your business to be there.Make your vision of where you want to be a reality. Nothing is impossible.” — Paul Arden
Most people’s goals are completely logical. They don’t require much imagination. They certainly don’t require faith, luck, magic, or miracles.
Personally, I believe it’s sad how skeptical and secular many people are becoming. I find great pleasure in having faith in the spiritual. It provides context for life and meaning for personal growth. Having faith allows me to pursue that which others would call absurd, like walking on water and transcending death. Truly, with God all things are possible. There is absolutely nothing to fear.
18. Don’t Seek Praise. Seek Criticism.
As a culture, we’ve become so fragile that we must combine honest feedback with 20 compliments. And when we get feedback, we do our best to disprove it. Psychologists call this confirmation bias — the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information that confirms our own beliefs while giving excessively less consideration to alternative possibilities.
It’s easy to get praise when you ask family and friends who will tell you exactly what you want to hear. Instead of seeking praise, your work will improve if you seek criticism.
How could this be better?
You will know your work has merit when someone cares enough to give an unsolicited critique. If something is noteworthy, there will be haters. As Robin Sharma, author of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, has said, “haters confirm greatness.”
When you really start showing up, the haters will be intimidated by you. Rather than being a reflection of what they could do, you become a reflection of what they are not doing.
19. The World Gives To The Givers And Takes From The Takers
From a scarcity perspective, helping other people hurts you because you no longer have the advantage. This perspective sees the world as a giant pie. Every piece of the pie you have is pie I don’t have. So in order for you to win, I must lose.
From an abundance perspective, there is not only one pie, but an infinite number of pies. If you want more, you make more. Thus, helping others actually helps you because it makes the system as a whole better. It also builds relationships and trust and confidence.
I have a friend, Nate, who is doing some really innovative stuff at the real estate investment company he works for. He’s using strategies that no one else is using. And he’s killing it. He told me he considered keeping his strategies a secret. Because if other people knew about them, they’d use them and that’d mean fewer leads for him.
But then he did the opposite. He told everyone in his company about what he was doing. He has even been giving tons of his leads away! This has never been seen before in his company.
But Nate knows that once this strategy no longer works, he can come up with another one. And that’s what leadership and innovation are all about. And people have come to trust him. Actually, they’ve come to rely on him for developing the best strategies.
Nate makes pies — for himself and several other people. And yes, he is also the top-selling and highest-earning in his company. It’s because he gives the most and doesn’t horde his ideas, resources, or information.
20. Create Something You Wish Already Existed
Many entrepreneurs design products to “scratch their own itch.” Actually, that’s how loads of problems are solved. You experience difficulty and create a solution.
Musicians and artists approach their work the same way. They create music they’d want to listen to, draw painting they’d want to see, and write books they wish were written. That’s how I personally approach my work. I write articles I myself would want to read.
Your work should first and foremost resonate with yourself. If you don’t enjoy the product of your work, how can you expect other people to?
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