We’ve talked about building wealth, understanding debt, and working towards big things. The principles and the rules take time to learn, but they’re not difficult. They’re actually pretty simple. When you take a close look at the people around you that have gone far in life, chances are you’ll discover that most of them aren’t any smarter than you.
So why do so many not make it?
Brains and talent are advantages. But there are plenty of people with brains and talent that end up going nowhere. Maybe they never had the master plan or never figured out which direction to start working. Maybe they had the plan and started the work, but then threw up their hands and quit. Or maybe they had the plan but never even started.
The information and the knowledge you need to get what you want is all out there. It’s in books at the library, it’s online on blogs, and it’s in the minds of regular people. What’s missing is the two critical steps: 1) Start Working, and 2) Don’t Quit.
Start Working & Don’t Quit
The part that is missing is showing up everyday and actually doing the work. Sure there are things that may be out of reach – don’t see too many too many fifty year olds jumping off the couch and getting drafted into the NFL. But there are plenty of things worth doing that are just outside your reach.
The difference between the people that get there and the people that don’t almost always comes down to grit. As Steven Pressfield says, “Be too dumb to quit and too stubborn to back off.”
All you really need is to show up everyday to get the necessary work done. Some of you reading this are already too dumb and too stubborn. For those that aren’t, you can still make it – you’ve just got to be a little smarter about getting some leverage on yourself.
Getting Leverage On Yourself
Don’t rely on “willpower”. Willpower has a funny way of evaporating when you need it. You don’t need more willpower, you need more leverage.
You’ve heard of the carrot and the stick right? It’s old folk wisdom: two ways you get a donkey to move forwards when it wants to stay right where it is.
The carrot dangling in front of it is the reward. It steps forward to get something it wants, and you get closer to the long term goal as a side effect. The ‘stick’ is the whip – it’s the punishment. It’s the way of telling the donkey that if it wants to avoid the sting, it better get moving.
In this story, you’re the donkey.
Or rather, the donkey is the emotional part of your brain that is perfectly happy to spend the rest of it’s life standing right where it is. It’s the part that’s good at coming up with reasons why you can start working on your goal “tomorrow” or “next week.”
The punishments and the rewards are short term fixes. They’re little things you do to coax your emotional brain into taking the next step today.
After enough ‘next steps’ you won’t need the short term fix anymore because you’ll have built the habit. You’ll start doing your work on autopilot. You want to get to the point where it feels strange to not do your work.
What you need to determine is whether that short term fix should be to use a punishment, or to use a reward.
To Use A Punishment, Or To Use A Reward
Finding the best leverage will be different from person to person. What you’re looking for is the thing that will push you to do your work when you’re at your lowest. The thing that will make you get up when you’re tired, sore, hot, cold, sick or in a bad headspace.
Rewards work good, punishments often work better. Come up with some ideas, or ask people that know you best — you want to pick something that will be maximally effective.
Say you want to pay off a loan – and maybe you love collecting sneakers. An example of a reward could be buying yourself a new pair after every $200 you pay down against the loan. Or maybe you need a punishment? Give all your sneakers to a hard-ass friend. If you don’t send him a snapshot of you paying off $200 a week by Friday at noon, he sends you a snapshot of one pair of sneakers getting donated to the Salvation Army.
Rewards are usually straightforward, punishments usually cost you money, time, or embarrassment.
Ask yourself, which will make you work harder?
The Wrap Up
The people that go far in life all do the same thing. They start working now, and they don’t quit. This is true for big goals and for little goals. Let’s say you decide you’re going to earn an extra $1000 bucks this month and lose 10lbs. End of the month rolls around, you worked on it every day, but you only earned $600 and lost 4lbs.
Remind yourself two things: First, you made more progress than the other guy that never started. Second, you’re becoming the sort of person that’s too dumb to quit and too stubborn to back off.
What does this kind of person do on the first day of the next month? They start working now, and they don’t quit.