Are You Sacrificing Your Dreams To Watch Netflix?

If you’ve been struggling to find clarity lately, this might help you.

This idea culminated with me scaling back my business and deciding to move back to Thailand, but more on that in a moment.

When people talk about sacrifice, they usually do so in the context of what you might have to give up in order to get what you want.

For example, you might say you have to sacrifice carbs and a shitty diet if you want to get healthy, lose weight and finally have six pack abs.

Or you might say that you have to sacrifice sleeping in if you want to be wealthy, because wealthy people tend to wake up early.

Or that you have to sacrifice Netflix, Saturdays and maybe even Sundays to finally finish that book you’ve been telling everyone you’d write.

Most of these things are true, but they miss the point.

When you look your choices like that there’s a tendency to remain where you are, because you’re focused on the sacrifice you have to make to get somewhere and probably unconsciously believe that remaining where you are requires no such sacrifices.

But here’s the thing –

You’re ALREADY Making A Sacrifice!

In fact, you make sacrifices every second of every minute of every day.

Suppose you prefer to sleep in instead of waking up early and hustling, and you don’t want to sacrifice sleeping in order to become more successful.

You’re sacrificing your greater success – more money, more respect, better health, or whatever else you could create with those extra hours – in order to sleep in.

Or take that book you’ve been meaning to write.

You’re sacrificing that book and the value it would bring to the world to do whatever is your doing instead of sitting down and writing it.

Are you with me?

Regardless Of What You Choose To Do,
You’re ALWAYS Sacrificing Something

When you’re bingeing on TV shows with Netflix, you’re sacrificing countless hours that could be used to build something valuable.

When you’re staying up late to browse the internet, you’re sacrificing going to bed early, and therefore waking up early to work on something important to you.

When you check Facebook a few times over the course of a day, you end up sacrificing HOURS of time that could be spent on finishing your book, exercising, communicating with your partner, playing with your kids, or hey, maybe even doing something fun AND healthy – like having sex with your lover.

Does This Mean You Shouldn’t Relax And Unwind With Netflix Or Anything Else?

No.

My goal in writing this is to help you SEE the sacrifices you’re already making, so you can make a conscious decision regarding whether you want to continue making that sacrifice.

There’s nothing wrong with watching Netflix, using Facebook to communicate with friends or staying up late to browse the internet, but it’s important to remember that you’re going to die one day.

johnm

On the day of your death, and in the weeks and months leading up to it, you may wish that you’d spent your time more wisely.

How Did This Idea Help Me?

This week, I decided to move back to Thailand, cut costs and scale back my business, so I can work as little as possible and make electronic music all day.

Why?

Because I realized that I was sacrificing time spent with music to live in Berlin.

While I enjoy living in Berlin, I’d rather make music all day than live in Berlin. Berlin has higher living costs than Thailand, and therefore I’d have to spend more time working and less time making music if I stayed here.

But before I asked myself the questions I’ve asked you here, I had no idea I was even sacrificing music to live in Berlin.

I thought I had to sacrifice living in Berlin to move back to Thailand to make music.

But I after reflecting on these ideas, I realized I was therefore sacrificing making music full-time to live in Berlin.

Once the trade-off became visible, I realized what I wanted.

I wanted to make music. I didn’t want to live in Berlin.

When You Look At The Sacrifices You’re ALREADY Making To Live The Life You Currently, You’ll Probably Realize – Like I Did – That You’re Making Sacrifices You Don’t Want To Make

Try it!

Take a few minutes to think about it (or better yet, take at least a few weeks).

If you’re not currently living the life you want, then it’s essential you do this as soon as possible.

Life is short… and the #1 regret of the dying is…

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

What would your life look like if you were living true to yourself?

If it would look different to how it looks right now, then you’re probably making the wrong sacrifices.

photo credit: Ecco cosa ci attende su Netflix nei prossimi mesi

Grit: The Unlikely Key To Success

I swore I’d never be that guy. You know. The guy who talks about amazing things but never sees anything through until the end.

It pains me to confess it…

But I am that guy.

The one who talks about amazing things, but doesn’t see things through. The one who loves to inspire and excite people, but when push comes to shove, he can’t put his money where his mouth is. The one who KNOWS this is a big personal problem, but still struggles with it every day.

Jumping Around Is Bad
For Your Health

If there’s one thing I’ve learned recently, it’s that my tendency to jump around from idea to idea has been one of the biggest things holding me back.

I described this pattern last week, and explained how I believed this is a key pattern that has been holding me back in life.

Get excited. Start a new project. Ride the excitement for a few months. Excitement wears off. Find a new project. Rinse and repeat.

The week before that, I described how I felt like a fraud because despite being in business for almost 4 straight years, I couldn’t afford to pay myself. Despite working harder than I’d ever worked in a job for 4 straight years, I wasn’t any better off than when I had started.

It’s probably no surprise I’ve been asking myself…

Where Did I Go Wrong?

In this short 6-minute TED talk, Angela Duckworth presents the idea that grit is the ultimate “X factor” in success.

Here’s Angela:

“In all those very different contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ.

“It was grit.

“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day-in, day-out. Not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years. And working really hard to make that future a reality.

“Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Grit.

Where did I go wrong?

I didn’t have enough grit.

Why Am I Like This?

I don’t know why I’m like this. I don’t know if it’s hereditary, or a result of my early childhood experiences.

Maybe it’s simple brain chemistry.

Maybe it’s a result of intelligence (because when you think you’re smart, you try to outsmart the system – but that’s another topic for another time).

It doesn’t matter.

Why?

Because what matters is that I learn to grind.

That I develop grit like my life depends on it (because it does).

I might be miles behind the marathon runners. Those brave men and women who show up every single day and do what they’re here to do – rain, hail or shine – whether they’re excited or not.

Maybe I’ll never catch up to them.

That’s fine.

What matters is that I change. That I retrain as a marathon runner in the game of life (or as a tortoise, as I explained last week).

I need to accept that life is not always exciting. That the journey towards my goals isn’t going to be all sunshine and rainbows. That there are going to be days that suck. Days when I want to quit. Days when all I can think of is NOT doing whatever it is I need to do to move forward.

Instead of constantly seeking excitement and stimulation, I need to settle in and get comfortable with the boring moments, the monotonous moments.

Because like the long car journeys when we were kids, it’s going to be a long ride.

How Do You Develop Grit?

While there is no conclusive scientific research (yet) on how to develop grit, I’ve found some compelling ideas online.

First, embrace the pain.

Like I said above, life isn’t always exciting. Always seeking out excitement will ultimately end in failure, because you won’t be willing to do the boring stuff that comes with anything worthwhile in life.

I struggle with this. I really do. When I get bored, I get distracted. I have to remind myself that part of the process is the pain. The boredom. That I’m exactly where I need to be. And that while it won’t last forever, it’s something that needs to be endured today.

You can apply this to everything – not just boredom and excitement.

Success in anything requires sacrifice.

Losing weight requires saying no to that delicious nutella and icecream pizza you love. Making money and building wealth requires saying no to partying every weekend so you can maintain your productivity during the week. Marrying someone you love means saying no to all the other people you could be with.

There is NO way around the sacrifice, so you might as well embrace it.

Second, reframe your problems.

There is no such thing as a problem, only opportunities.

While this sounds cheesy, it’s quite a powerful way of thinking.

Got no money and no foreseeable hope of digging out of the hole? you’re in? Think of it as an opportunity to practice humility and develop new, empowering financial habits.

Struggling with a relationship? Think of it as an opportunity to develop better communication skills so you can avoid similar problems in the future.

You get the idea.

Any problem can be reframed.

I’ve been using the free program at the Resilience Academy to reframe ineffective beliefs and ideas I have.

You start with a belief like I should have more money.

Then you negate it, by saying In reality, I should not have more money at this time.

Then you brainstorm reasons for why the second version is true.

It’s a simple exercise, but it has strangely powerful effects on how you feel. I’ve used it this week to lower my stress levels and stay focused on what I need to do. If you struggle with stress, I suggest you check it out.

Third, cultivate mindfulness.

This one surprised me.

How could mindfulness and making peace with the present moment increase grittiness and long-term success?

They seem diametrically opposed, but scientific research on the topic suggests otherwise.

Many of the factors that make up grit – including facing fear, having a moral compass, drawing on faith, making sure your brain is challenged, having “meaning, purpose and growth” in life, and realistic optimism – are internal strengths that can be cultivated through mindfulness.

In other words, deep breathing exercises that bring your awareness into the present moment are helpful for cultivating grit and developing your ability to persevere, even when it’s tough.

When I wake up before sunrise and feel like staying in my bed, I observe my thought or feeling, and then turn the light on. When I’m working and feel the pull of Facebook or YouTube, I note the desire and go back to working. I’m far from perfect at this, but it’s amazing how something as simple as thought, emotion or body awareness lifts a weight off your back.

Finally, Be Wary Of Excitement.

It’s easy to get excited about grinding after a conversation like this.

But in a month or three, the excitement won’t be there.

And you know what?

That’s perfectly OK.

The mistake that I’ve seen in my life is needing and wanting it to be exciting and awesome all the time. It won’t be. It will suck, just like a peak hour traffic jam.

But if you’re willing to grind it out – for weeks, months and YEARS on end – it will feel amazing on the other side.

Onwards and upwards.

John McIntyre

P.S. Know someone who needs to read this?

Forward this email to them.

P.P.S. If you enjoyed reading this and think your friends would enjoy it too, please share the new homepage on Facebook, Twitter or whatever social network you prefer.

Here’s the homepage: http://www.johnmcintyre.me

P.P.S. A few of you have asked when the next article is coming out.

I committed to writing 4 articles in the month of September, and today is number 4.

Now that I’ve fulfilled my commitment, I’ve thought about whether I’ll continue. I enjoy writing, but it’s not my main project, and so, in honour of grit and the holy grind, I will not be committing to more articles at this point.

I need to finish what I started with my business.

I’ll write when I’m inspired to write, but I can’t promise you that I’ll write every week.

Do You REALLY Want To Change The World?

I wanted to crawl into a hole and die.

You know that uncomfortable feeling you get when you feel inferior and all you want to do is run away and hide?

That was me.

I felt like someone had an iron grip on my gut and was twisting it around and around into a tight knot.

On the outside, everything looked great.

I was sitting on the white sandy beach of Sir Richard Branson’s private island in the Caribbean, surrounded by bright turquoise water that stretched to the horizon in every direction. It was stunning.

I’d made some new friends on the island and was chatting with them during a kite-surfing lesson.

The interesting thing about my new friends was that they wanted to change the world.

Sure, lots of people say they want to change the world. But this group of 30 people were different.

They were changing it:

Solar-powered aircraft.

Global internet networks.

Drones that explore the depths of the oceans.

Satellites that read the chemical makeup of the earth’s surface.

One woman had even begun redeveloping the third world by building the first of tens of thousands of orphanages – and was on track to redevelop entire cities.

Then there was me:

A guy who wrote emails for a living. Sure, I do it by running a small email marketing agency while living in exotic locations around the world… But there I was. Surrounded by people who were legitimately changing the world… and all I did is write emails for a living.

Granted – my life is pretty special. I’ve lived in some amazing places, had amazing experiences and met many amazing people.

…but at that moment on Sir Richard Branson’s private island, I had a serious case of “Imposter’s Syndrome” (Turns out, Imposter’s Syndrome increases performance).

I felt anxious, insecure and inferior as I looked around and saw success redefined as “how much positive impact have you had on the world”.

In this case, volunteering for a few months doesn’t cut it. It’s too small. Try helping tens of millions to eat, find shelter or get clean water. Try tackling Climate Change by building an electric car company. Try building a global satellite network so the world has 100% internet coverage.

Understandably, I was intimidated when I first arrived on the island. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be there. Like I wasn’t good enough, smart enough or hard-working enough.

I vividly remember being in conversations where I pretended I was happy and calm… while feeling tormented, insecure and anxious inside.

But as I got to know these people, I fell in love with their passion for helping the world and the anxiety faded.

These folks weren’t greedy, money-grabbing businesspeople out to make a quick buck. They genuinely cared about helping the world in the biggest ways possible.

Plus, they weren’t upset that someone who “wrote emails for a living” was on the island with them.

Instead, they were excited and pleased that someone else was stepping up to the plate, with a desire to help solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges.

These amazing folks won me over with the passion and drive to help people and after seven days on the island with these people, I felt invigorated.

I’d made up my mind: I was going to change the world.

(I even wrote a blog post about

Necker Island and my new desire to change the world.)

The Journey To Changing The World

After the event with Richard Branson, I wanted to change the world with some sort of amazing business idea.

The week after the event was filled with conversations with friends and family as I regaled them with stories from Necker Island, as well as my newfound passion for changing the world.

I remember talking about how I felt it was my destiny. As though I’d discovered what I was meant to do on this planet.

What better way to live my life than help solve the biggest problems solving humanity and make lots of money in the process?

It felt like the best of both worlds: Help millions… maybe billions… and get rich along the way.

At that moment, I wrote emails for a living. It paid the bills and gave me a great lifestyle.

But was it deeply satisfying? Did I feel like I was adding something amazing to the world?

Of course not.

So it was only natural that I felt inspired after Necker Island.

However, I never actually figured out exactly what I wanted to work on. If people asked, I’d tell them I was going to build space ships, or robots or satellites.

I couldn’t tell them specifically what I was passionate about in that area.

I just knew that I had to work on something in the field of “exponential technology” (to borrow a term from Peter Diamandis).

However, after a month, my post-island enthusiasm had died down and reality had set in.

I didn’t have the means to go off and start a rocket company. Hell, I still had bad months where I struggled to get clients and ended up worrying about money.

So I set the goal of changing the business so it generated at least $10,000 of monthly profit while only requiring 1 hour a week to maintain. Then I could go to San Francisco and get involved in an exponential tech start up.

Fast Forward 4 Months To Now…

I’m still working on that goal.

While I’m still interested in “changing the world” and making a positive impact, I’ve had a lot of time to think through my vision from Necker Island.

I’ve forced myself to ask myself some tough questions like:

Am I prepared to do whatever it took to build a company that helped tens of millions of people?

Am I willing to move to San Francisco and play in the most competitive business market on the planet (where everyone has big dreams but almost everyone fails)?

Am I willing to work 12 hours, 15 hours, even 18 hours a day, for years on end, without holidays, in pursuit of that goal?

Am I willing to face bankruptcy, withstand heart-attack-inducing levels of stress and risk everything to give it a shot?

Am I willing to give up my flexible lifestyle for investors, rules and regulations and a strict schedule with a ton of responsibility?

I’d decided to change the world.

But did I really know what I was getting myself into?

The Problem With Thinking
Big And Setting Goals

We’re told to “think big” and to “make a dent in the universe”.

We’re told that we’re special. That we can do anything we want to. That “the world is our oyster”.

But this unregulated encouragement is destroying our happiness and eroding our self-worth.

I have struggled to come to terms with my post-Necker goal of “changing the world”.

One of the best things I could do is work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, every week, until I’ve got the business that requires no more than 1 hour a week to maintain. Then I can go off to San Fran and get started. Maybe you think that working 14 hours a day for weeks on end is unhealthy. You’d be right, but from what I’ve seen, this is standard behaviour for company founders.

Or if I wanted to make things happen faster, I could shut down my email writing business and go today. It’s riskier, but I’m confident I could figure something out when I land in San Francisco.

The reason I mention those two things is that if I was serious about going to San Francisco and getting started with a tech company, I could start doing it lot faster than I’m doing right now.

But I don’t want to do either of those things.

I want to go to the gym and stay healthy. I want to spend time with my friends. I want to read books and work on my personal development. I would be miserable if I worked 14 hours a day.

I also don’t to shut down my email writing business and move to San Francisco. I hate to admit it, but I don’t want to take that risk. I’d hate to end up in San Fran, fail to find an opportunity and wind up with no money, no tech start-up and no email writing business.

Nor do I like the the idea of even getting involved with a start up at this point in time.

I’d like to travel more first. I’d like to do lots of other things first.

My mind has gone back and forth on this issue over the last few months… from self-doubt to extreme confidence and back again, often in less than 24 hours.

I’ve been trying to reconcile the belief that “I want to change the world” with the fact that I’d like to travel, stay healthy, and have a flexible lifestyle with lots of free time.

As a result, I’ve been struggling with destructive thoughts like…

I want to change the world and I’m prepared to work 14 hours a day and sacrifice everything to make it happen… but since I’m not actually working that hard, and I don’t want to, therefore I’m a bad person.

Maybe I’m not prepared to go off to San Fran and make a go of it. But if that’s true, that means I don’t care about helping people. Productive way to spend my time, no doubt.

Instead of admitting to myself that maybe I don’t want to change the world as much as I’d like to think, or that there are other ways to change the world that better fit my values, I’ve been going through this destructive cycle of thoughts on a weekly basis for the last 4 months.

Why does it happen?

Because I haven’t been willing to accept the cost of success.

I like the idea of changing the world, but I’ve been ignoring the reality of it – the extremely long hours, the stress, the broken relationships along the way, partnerships gone bad, and so on.

While “Changing the world” can take on many forms, in this case, when I say “changing the world”, I’m referring to “starting an exponential tech company with the goal of helping millions, if not billions, of people”. I’m talking about building a billion-dollar company.

That’s why my mind has been contorting itself into all sorts of uncomfortable positions because the belief “I want to change the world by building a billion-dollar company” can’t be reconciled with the belief “I want to travel, stay healthy, and have a flexible lifestyle with lots of free time”.

On Changing The World
(An Example From My Own Life)

Three weeks ago, I found myself reading Elon Musk’s biography. I was looking for inspiration on my quest to “change the world”.

Elon Musk is the man behind PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity; Four billion dollar companies that are re-shaping the world and making a dramatic impact on humanity.

As would be expected for someone who has built four billion dollar companies, Elon works a lot.

In fact, Elon works upwards of 12, 14 or 16 hours a day, for years on end, and has a remarkable ability to just keep going where others would burn out from stress and adrenal fatigue.

Why does he do it?

Elon’s life goal is to put humans on Mars.

Fucking MARS.

Yes…

The PLANET Mars.

Importantly, he’s willing to sacrifice everything in order to get there – including his own life.

He’s not particularly interested in hitting the gym or taking care of his health.

His philosophy towards his health is something like:

Life is short. We need to get to Mars. I’m going to skip the gym so I can get more work done.

I’m not joking. He mentions this in his biography.

When I ask myself if I could do that – if I could work 16 hours a day for YEARS on end, go through three divorces and ignore my health in order to get to Mars…

…the honest answer is no.

The sacrifice isn’t worth it to me.

Sure, I love the IDEA of building rockets, electric cars, satellites and other amazing, world-changing stuff.

But I’m not willing to make that sacrifice.

The Benefits Of Throwing In The Towel

Admitting to myself that I don’t want to be Elon Musk as much as I thought is a freeing feeling.

I thought it would feel depressing. Like I’d given up and let myself and the world down.

But it feels great.

Why?

Because my identity is no longer based on my ability to work 16 hours a day for years on end with no holidays.

I want to go to the gym at least three times a week, spend time with my family and friends and travel and see the world.

There’s a long list of things I want to do with my life and I know that if I don’t do them… if I work 16 hours a day instead to reinforce my self-image as a “hard-working visionary”… …I’ll feel like I missed out on life.

How About You: What DON’T You Want?

When it comes to setting goals, this is the step that most of us skip over.

I skipped over it when I thought about changing the world.

It’s fun and exciting to think about what we want.

Do you want to lose weight?

Do you want to be rich?

Do you want a better relationship with your significant other?

What’s not so fun and exciting is to think about what you DON’T want regarding these goals.

If you want to lose weight, are you prepared to get your ass in the gym at least 3 times a week, eat a strict diet and sleep for 8-9 hours a night?

If not, you don’t really want to lose weight. You just like the idea of the idea of losing weight.

If you want to be rich, are you prepared to work harder than you ever have in a job (at least in the beginning), face failure and bankruptcy, deal with family and friends who ridicule you and take on more risk in a year than most people take on in a lifetime?

If not, you don’t really want to be rich. You just like the idea of being rich.

If you want to improve your relationship with your significant other, or get into an amazing relationship, are you prepared to stare rejection in the face, overcome your self-doubt and insecurity, work on your communication skills, and basically do all the shitty stuff that’s required of you when you want to improve an existing relationship or get into a new one?

If not, you don’t really want to improve your relationship or get into one. You just like the idea of it.

I’m not saying that you should try and lose weight, get rich or improve your relationship.

The Ugly Truth About Thinking Big
(And Setting Any Goal Whatsoever)

The ugly truth about thinking big and setting goals is what there is ALWAYS going to be sacrifice involved.

There is ALWAYS going to be something shitty about the process of improvement.

Want to sit on the couch and eat junk food all day while you play video games?

Great. But you’ll pay the price of bad health and probably a poor social life.

Want to do the opposite and get a flat stomach?

Great. But you’ll need to work on your diet and sleep, plus spend less time on the couch eating junk food playing video games.

You’re probably nodding your head as you read this.

“This is common sense, John. You’re not saying anything new.”, you might say.

You’d be right.

But isn’t it amazing how often we forget that there is a cost to everything?

The Often-Ignored Cost Of Success

I think it’s amazing that we forget about the price we have to pay.

Or maybe we just ignore it.

Why?

I think we use our goals and dreams to reinforce our identity… to reinforce the way we see ourselves.

If we see ourselves as disciplined, motivated and healthy, we might like to tell ourselves that we want to lose weight, even if we never seriously apply ourselves to the task of losing weight.

I think that this is why we don’t like to think about the sacrifice required by our goals… the stuff that’s going to suck.

Acknowledging that the price for losing weight is too high would damage our self image.

It would force us to realise that we don’t care about losing weight as much as we think, and that perhaps we’re not as disciplined or as motivated as we think we are.

Sadly, we end up living in a virtual reality “what we think we want”.

What Do You REALLY Want?

Whether you think you want to change the world, lose weight, make more money, improve your relationship or anything else…

…I challenge you to dig deep into that desire and see if it’s really want you want.

You might make a surprising discovery: …that you don’t really want what you think you want.

If you discover that the cost isn’t worth it or that you want something other than what you’ve been telling yourself you want, I encourage you to quit.

Give up.

Throw in the towel.

And instead of beating yourself up for never hitting your goals, and subtly damaging your self-image, go after whatever it is that you truly want – and let go of everything else.

Life is too short to chase things you don’t care about.

Final Thoughts

Earlier in this article, I said that goal-setting is incomplete.

That’s because it’s not enough to answer the question ”What do I want?”.

Through the experiences I described above, I learned that you have to ask 4 questions: 1. What do I want?

2. What do I need to sacrifice on the journey to get what I want?

3. What will I sacrifice once I get there?

4. Am I willing to make that sacrifice?

I wanted to change the world. To be like Elon Musk and the friends I met on Necker Island.

But upon deeper reflection, I realized that I’m not willing to make the sacrifice.

The price isn’t worth it to me.

Maybe the price is worth it to you.

Maybe you ARE prepared to work 16 hours a day in order to make an impact in the world like Elon Musk or Steve Jobs.

Maybe your priority is to the best parent to your kids you can be.

Perhaps you’d like to work on your intimate relationship.

Or lose weight.

Or hey, sit on the couch, eat junk food and play video games all day.

I still want to “change the world”, and I’m working through what that means for me, but I know that right now, I’m not willing to work 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, for years on end to do it.

There Are No Perfect Goals

There are no good or bad goals.

Only YOUR goals.

YOUR desires.

YOUR life.

If you really want to sit on the couch, eat junk food and play video games all day… …go right ahead.

Just invite me over for a game sometime.

Hares and Tortoises

“Don’t put much stock in what John says”, my friend said quietly while I was out of the room, unaware that I was listening.

“He’s always getting excited about some new idea, but he gets bored after 3 months and finds another one”.

It cut deep because it was true.

Was I really that bad? Someone who said he’d do something and then literally gives up within months?

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I was that guy. The guy who talks a lot about big things, but rarely gets down to business.

Some examples –

Necker Island And My Mission
To “Change The World”

In May 2015, I went to Necker Island for a week with 29 other amazing entrepreneurs. I left the island with my heart ablaze. I was going to change the world. I told everyone I knew about my new vision and even wrote a blog post about it.

3 months later, the excitement had worn off and I confessed in a different blog post that while I wanted to change the world, I didn’t want to work 16 hours a day like Elon Musk to do it.

The Navy SEALs

In 2014, I became obsessed with the Navy SEALs and the special forces operations of various countries. I devoured books about them. I watched all the YouTube videos I could find. I loved learning about their training, diet, mindset and routine.

I remember one book in particular called Unbreakable. At the end of each chapter, the author gave an exercise to help develop an “unbreakable” mindset.

I completed the first two challenges easily enough. It was third challenge that defeated me.

It was easy to understand, yet seriously demanding:

Walk for twenty-four hours without stopping for more than ten minutes at a time.

While I excitedly told my friends about this challenge, I never did get around to doing it. I kept putting it off until I’d forgotten about it. By the time I remembered it, my excitement for the SEALs and special forces had worn off. I’d moved on (once again).

More Business Projects
Than I Can Remember

There was an advertising campaign on Facebook that started strong. It made money and I felt accomplished. But eventually, my ads stopped working. Instead of staying with the discomfort of not being good at something and having to figure it out, I gave up and moved on.

There was McMasters, an online community I launched where people paid monthly for access. I was ecstatic when this launched, because I felt like it was my ticket to the “4 hour work week”. The idea was simple: get a few hundred people on a monthly payment and then retire. But just like with Facebook, building a membership community wasn’t as easy as I thought. After a few months, the initial excitement was gone and I moved on.

There was my high-ticket consulting business. I hired a business coach. Made some cold calls. Even did a few big deals. But after a couple of months, I got bored and – you guessed it – moved onto something else.

My Internet Business In 2007

In 2007, I made $800 online. While $800 in one year isn’t exactly enough to live on (it’s only $67 a month), it’s enough to prove that money is there. They say that the hardest dollar is the first dollar, and I’d done that. All I needed to do was continue grinding and within another year or two, I’d never have to work a job again.

But as with everything else, I gave up towards the end of 2007. I’d just turned 18, and my priorities shifted to alcohol, women and parties. I’ll never be able to answer the classic “what if” question: Where would I be in today if I had continued to work on my business in 2007?

This Writing Project I’m
Working On Right Now

I started this personal writing project for a few reasons:

#1 – to work through my own issues

#2 – to help other people who struggle with similar issues

#3 – to see if I enjoy writing regularly enough to make it a business

The first two emails were relatively easy to write. I was excited, just like I always am with a new project.

But this third article has been a struggle. It’s Sunday morning now. I intended to write this on Saturday, but when I woke up, I didn’t feel like writing. I went to the cafe, but I couldn’t get anything out. I didn’t feel the excitement I felt from the weekends before. So I started to wonder if it was even worth continuing.

Maybe writing wasn’t for me. Maybe I should forget about it. Maybe I should find something else that I was excited about.

That’s when I realised that this was the same old pattern that had been holding me back for years:

Get excited. Start a new project. Ride the excitement for a few months. Excitement wears off. Find a new project. Rinse and repeat.

I Never Actually Failed (Or Did I?)

In my mind, I never actually “failed” at any of these projects.

I always had a well-thought out rationalisation for why it didn’t make sense to continue. I used these rationalisations whenever anyone called me out on my self-destructive behaviour.

Looking back, the rationalisations served to protect my ego. If I could convince other people that I hadn’t failed, then I could reasonably believe that I had never failed.

Cha-ching! Ego protected.

The only problem was that not accepting that I’d failed with all of these projects was the reason the cycle kept repeating itself.

The worst part?

In every single one of these situations, I didn’t fail because I wasn’t smart enough, or didn’t have the talent, or because uncontrollable external forces conspired against me.

I Failed Because I Didn’t
Have The Guts To Continue

Anyone can work hard when they’re excited about something.

The real test of your commitment is when it inevitably gets uncomfortable and boring.

It’s easy to be committed to your intimate partner when you’re excited about them and love chemicals like oxytocin are flooding your brain. The real test of your commitment to that relationship is when those love chemicals inevitably die down and you’re no longer excited.

It’s easy to be committed to an exercise plan or diet when you first begin. The dream is fresh in your mind. But after 6 weeks of grinding on the program with little results to show for, you’re not going to feel like continuing.

This is why so many people struggle with their New Year’s resolutions. New Year’s resolutions are borne out of excitement, not rational thinking. When the excitement inevitably wears off, people fall back to their previous behaviour.

Our Addiction To Excitement
Is The Problem

Follow your passion.

Do what you love and the money will follow.

We’re regular exposed to platitudes like these, as though thinking this way will help us create an interesting, satisfying life.

But ironically, “following your passion” doesn’t work. There are far more effective ways to create a satisfying life that don’t involve excitement and passion, especially at the beginning of a project.

In the stories above, my addiction to excitement and novelty was the reason I quit and gave up.

I’ve been relying on excitement to keep me going for years. The problem is that excitement is inherently unreliable because it’s an emotion and emotions go up and down.

The need for continual excitement while working on a project is ultimately a glaring weakness of mine. It has been holding me back for years.

If this seems depressing, it’s because it is depressing.

It’s depressing because the only reason I wasn’t successful on a number of projects was because I didn’t stick with it. I had the ability, the talent, and the intelligence. But I didn’t have the guts to continue.

While it is a weakness, it doesn’t have to be.

There Are Two Types Of People In Life

The tortoises and the hares.

The tortoises like to grind. They plod. While they don’t move fast, they keep moving for a long time. They don’t win because they’re faster than you or me. They win because they don’t stop. They stick with something for long, long time.

Then you’ve got the hares. The people who thrive on excitement and adrenaline. People like me. Hares can be extremely productive over short periods of time, and often move so fast that they end up a long way ahead of any tortoises.

If You’re A Hare…

…like me and you get really excited at the beginning of a project, you need to learn to plod. You need to give up your need for excitement and novelty, and understand that sometimes, the most important thing you can do for your own growth, is continue working on something even when it’s uncomfortable and boring.

On the other hand…

If You’re A Tortoise…

…and you prefer to move slow and steady, you need to understand that your biggest weakness is moving too slow and not taking risks. While you’ll probably beat the hares who give in as soon as the excitement disappears, you’ll be vulnerable to hares who have mastered the impulse to quit, who have taught themselves to plod.

They Both Have Their
Strengths And Weaknesses

It’s not about being 100% committed to an idea like the tortoise, or always moving fast like the hare.

The magic is in combining the speed and risk-tolerance of the hare with the consistency and reliability of the tortoise.

That’s what I’m working on now…

Taking the strengths of the hare – my excitement and passion – and teaching myself to plod like a slow and steady tortoise. I have a feeling that this isn’t something I’ll solve once and for all but rather, something that I’ll have to work on until the day I die.

I’m just grateful I discovered it early in life.

Are You An Asshole?

I felt like a fraud.

I was on the couch in my apartment, complaining to my friend about my “money situation”.

I’d just checked my business bank account and was agitated to discover that after I paid myself for the month of September, there’d be nothing left.

My insides were a twisted, tormented knot as I stared at the Google Spreadsheet that showed me I’d failed.

I thought of myself as a successful business person – with money, autonomy and freedom – and yet here I was… I couldn’t afford to pay myself.

So much for being an entrepreneurial success.

One hour later, I was searching the web for a flight to San Francisco. I told me friend, who was next to me on the couch, that I was thinking about staying there for a few weeks on my way to Thailand.

He turned to me and spat:

”What the fuck are you doing, John? You just told me you can’t afford to pay yourself this month… and now you’re booking a trip to San Francisco?

I blurted out a list of “rationalizations” to protect my already-fragile ego but my friend swiftly knocked each one down.

I felt my stomach tighten.

Then I felt a wave of arrogance. I wanted to scream “Don’t tell me what to do with my life”.

Then I felt defeated. He was right. I had failed.

That was 7 days ago.

I reflected on what had happened – about why I’d failed, why I’d let myself down, and why I struggled to admit my error, even when it was staring me in the face.

I came up with 4 key lessons.

You Need To Admit You’re Wrong Because It’s Going To Help You Move Forward (Lesson 1)

I hate to admit I’m wrong.

Why?

Because if I’m wrong, the hard-won illusion of my superiority is dashed to pieces.

It hurt when I realised I couldn’t afford to pay myself this month. When my friend rightly told me that I couldn’t afford to go to San Francisco. When I looked at the reality of my situation.

But the searing emotional pain that burns your gut and makes you want to run away and hide is necessary for your growth.

That leads me to the next lesson…

You Need To Sacrifice Your Ego On The Altar Of Personal Growth (Lesson 2)

When I left Australia in 2011, I did it with the intention of building a business that would generate substantial income whether I worked on it or not.

But after four years, I have not achieved that goal.

I have a job.

If I don’t work, I don’t get paid.

That’s the reality of my situation.

But that’s not sexy. It doesn’t make me look good.

That’s why I’ve been careful to craft a public image of myself as a successful business person. Someone with lots of money and lots of time. Someone who is in control of his life. Someone who gets it.

But that illusory self-image has been creating problems for years.

Instead of accepting reality and changing my bad behaviour, I’ve pretended that everything is fine.

As a result, I haven’t been moving forward with my life.

My business hasn’t grown.

I’ve been spending money when I should have been saving.

I’ve jumped from project to project whenever it has gotten hard, in order to avoid the uncomfortable feeling that comes with not being good at something.

Something in my life has to change.

As I continued to think through these things, I realized that…

It’s OK To Say “I Can’t Afford It” (Lesson 3)

After my friend pointed out that I can’t afford to go to San Francisco, he asked me to say exactly that.

“I can’t afford it”.

But I couldn’t.

To admit that I couldn’t afford to go to San Francisco would destroy the illusion I’d worked so hard to build. The illusion that I was fine. That business was good. That I was a great entrepreneur and my life was amazing.

I wanted to think I was special. Better than everyone else. Smarter and more successful. A hero.

But I wasn’t.

I was a normal human being with normal problems who was terrified of what he’d see if he looked in the mirror.

After I’d had a few days to process all of this, I thought I’d learned my lesson.

That’s when I discovered that…

Just When You Think You’ve Learned Your Lesson, You’re Most At Risk Of Screwing It Up Again (Lesson 4)

Pride is a sneaky fucker.

Just when you think you’ve beaten it, it comes back to bite you in the ass.

Three days after my uncomfortable realisation that I couldn’t afford a trip to San Francisco despite running my own business for 4 years, after I thought I’d learned my lesson and vowed to never make the same mistake again…

…I made the same mistake again.

I was on my computer, about to book a trip to Chile to see an old friend.

I had the cash sitting there in my “fun fund” (money I’d saved for fun activities). It wasn’t going to be an expensive trip. So why not?

Luckily, a voice inside me wondered if I was making a mistake.

I turned to my friend and asked him if it was a good idea. I thought he’d nod his head and that’d be the end of it, but his exasperated expression told me I was wrong:

“John, this is exactly the same pattern we discussed a few days ago. You spend money when you shouldn’t to reinforce an false identity you’ve created about yourself. It’s an impulsive, emotional decision and does not serve your stated goals. No, it’s not a good idea. It’s a terrible idea.”

I knew he was right, but I did not want to admit it.

Once again, I went through the process of anxiety, arrogance and then defeat.

I thought I’d learned my lesson. That the problem was solved. But I’d willingly stepped in front of the same bus again.

What was wrong with me?

I wasn’t willing to accept reality.

Which brings me to my final point…

You Have To Accept Reality To Move Forward With Your Life

It is all your fault.

You are the asshole.

If you can’t accept that, you’ll be trapped by the same patterns, making the same mistakes and blaming everyone else for why your life isn’t how you want it to be.

Just like I was.

But when you accept reality as it is – not your personal spin on it – that’s when you can finally get out of your own way and get down to business.

.

John

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