“Trying to do things they can’t, failing, and learning what they need to do different is exactly the way expert practice.” -Angela Duckworth
Success has many popular definitions.
Most are stereotypical, inaccurate, yet maddeningly ubiquitous.
You might’ve heard “success” as simply owning a ton of money. Having a lot of material “things” like cars, houses, jewelry, clothes.
Perhaps you’ve heard “success” as being better than everyone else. Beating them at their own game, coming out on top.
Maybe “success” is just extreme happiness and bottomless fulfillment. A problem-free life where you can drink endless mojitos on the beach in the Caribbean.
But this isn’t success — not true success. As author Benjamin P. Hardy once explained, “‘Success’ isn’t just having lots of money. Many people with lots of money have horribly unhappy and radically imbalanced lives.”
In fact, a life of success and accomplishment is rarely defined entirely by a bottomless well of self-belief, absolute confidence, and unfettered fulfillment.
Pain, discomfort, shock, boredom, impostor syndrome, awkwardness, fear, being wrong, failing, ignorance, looking stupid.
These are the the feelings that accompany a life of success.
And your avoidance of these feelings is stopping you from achieving a life beyond your wildest imagination.
These are the feelings that accompany a life of success. And yet, these are the very feelings you relentlessly avoid!
Sit With the Pain
“The obstacle is the way.” -Ryan Holiday
“Impostor syndrome” abounds in entrepreneurship and achievements.
You think you’re a fraud, a phony, a fake. That you only achieved success through some fortunate circumstances or luck — not by anything you did.
Depression, fear, and anxiety are all in abundant supply for creatives and successful entrepreneurs, even the ones who have reached and exceeded their goals.
Life isn’t problem-free. As the old Haitian proverb goes, “Beyond mountains are more mountains.”
The feelings that accompany a successful life are not always easy ones. This is because constantly evolving into better versions of yourself requires tremendous sacrifice, diligence, and discipline. Most people simply throw in the towel when it gets too hard.
“Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.” -Mark Manson
The greatest growth occurs when the greatest adversity is overcome. The greater the pain, the greater the extent of the growth.
Success means constantly looking at your life and removing what is holding you back.
As you may have already experienced, the more you hold yourself to higher standards, the less you are able to justify low quality — in your relationships, your health, your career, behaviors, and every other area.
Giving up these toxic influences is extremely difficult, especially if they’ve been your rock for years.
Sit with the pain. It’s not unusual — in fact, the pain simply confirms you’re on the right path.
A Prophet Without Honor
An interesting phenomenon happens when several crabs are caught in a trap together.
If one crab tries to escape, the others will attempt to prevent him from leaving. They grab the would-be escapee and pull him back down with the others.
If the crab continues to try and break free, the other crabs may even begin harming the crab by pulling off his legs — his only means of escape.
If the crab still continues to escape, it isn’t uncommon for the rest of the crabs to simply kill him.
This oft-used analogy is helpful in understanding what life can be like once you decide to become successful.
The feelings that accompany a successful life aren’t fun, especially at first. For instance, when you begin telling people you’re not interested in spending another $100 at the bar to get raging-drunk again, your friends might begin to ostracize you and even mock you and your new values.
Millennia ago, when Jesus Christ was beginning his ministry, he began attracting national attention for his teachings and behavior. Towns and cities loved him — massive crowds clamored around him simply to touch his cloak.
However, the attitude was very different when we returned to his little hometown.
All of his old friends smirked at him. “Is this the guy?” they gossiped when we arrived. They ignored him, then demanded he perform miracles for them. When he refused, they became angry and disrespectful.
“No prophet is accepted in his hometown,” he explained to his disciples after they had left.
See, all of Jesus’ old friends had seen him growing up. They knew him before he was famous — when he was just a nameless amateur carpenter. They didn’t like it that he had become famous, respected, and loved. It made them feel sad and insecure that the guy they had grown up with was now famous, which turned to resentment and anger.
These are the feelings and experiences that accompany a successful life.
Don’t Be Fooled By the Appearance of Success
“Don’t be fooled though; success often looks amazingly simple from the outside. It’s only when you get under the covers and work out what strategies and tools you need to duplicate the same results, that you realize how damn hard it is.” -Tim Denning
Successful people have a way of making their lives look easy.
What you don’t see is the boring, exhausting, lonely, sweaty practices that have been happening every day for years to get them to where they are now.
We see the “highlight” reel in the media, but we rarely see the practice behind the scenes.
“When people say God blessed me with a beautiful jump shot, it really pisses me off. I tell those people, ‘Don’t undermine the work I’ve put in every day.’ Not some days. Every day.” -Ray Allen, NBA record holder of most made 3-pointers
Don’t be fooled. A successful life is not easy, nor is the work that is required to get there.
Once you achieve that success, you’ll know it wasn’t just “luck” or some “blessing” — it was hard ass work. Even if people claim it wasn’t.
The feelings that accompany a successful life aren’t always nice and positive. Often, a successful life is characterized by boredom, loneliness, imposter syndrome, perpetual failure, and looking stupid.
What most people don’t realize is these feelings are natural and normal. They’re part of the process. A successful life means removing things that are holding you back, and the process of removal is painful and difficult.
If you want to continue on the path to becoming the best version of yourself, you are guaranteed to experience these feelings.
Don’t worry — they’re part of the process. The worst thing you could do is avoid the pain and discomfort and settle for a nice little life free from danger, humiliation, or risk.
Sit with the pain. The pain confirms you’re on the right track.
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