“This is a fundamental irony of most people’s lives. They don’t quite know what they want to do with their lives. Yet they are very active.”—Ryan Holiday
From the moment you were born, you were thrust into a world and a system that automatically pulled you along. You spent some time chilling, drinking milk, and discovering the wonder of being alive then suddenly you were plucked from the warmth of your mother’s arms and put into a room with other kids.
And so it began, you moved up to bigger rooms as you grew older, choosing subjects from your limited options and looking forward to being an adult. After 18 years or so, you were spat out into the wild west of the real world. Now things are a little different. The rules are ambiguous, the expectations even more so. All this choice frightens you, so it’s easy to give in to someone, anyone who can give some direction. Usually that is your job or societal expectations at large. Between those two there are no shortage of metrics and KPIs to chase after. Soon enough you are running around frantically, chasing points and achievements and accumulating stuff without any real thought to what you REALLY want.
The first step in getting what you want is knowing yourself. The next step is perhaps even more critical, as you would imagine. It is knowing WHAT you want in the first place. Sounds easy enough, but it really isn’t.
Desire is a very tricky thing. Sometimes we have to peel back layers of conflicting ‘wants’ to really find the core of what we truly desire. Discovering what you want is not easy, it takes some work.
What do you want?
The cardinal sin in answering this question, which is the one so many of us are guilty of, is the sin of vagueness. We only have a vague impression of what we want. We know we would kinda like to be rich, kinda like to be happy, kinda like to do something we love. But vague desires lead to vague action which leads to vague results. You will never get what you want if you are not very clear about what you want.
It is so hard to know what you want, because there is already so much that conditions us if we are not woke to doing the internal work. Deciding what you want is making a decision, to choose one thing over another. We by nature are very social creatures, our likes and preferences get shaped by the forces of our environment. We get taught what to want. But what we are conditioned to want may not be what we REALLY want.
How many times have you chased something, really wanting it, and then getting it and realizing, “fuck, I actually don’t really want this”. You spend all that time and energy climbing to the top of the mountain, only to find out that you are on the wrong mountain.
If I asked you what you wanted, your answer would most likely fall into one of these broad categories. You want a degree, more money or you want to be rich. You want cars, or houses, or clothes, or a loving relationship, or a family, maybe you even want to make an impact. It is fine to want those things. It is also easier to want those things because they are always in-our-face as part of culture. Never doing the self-examination of our desires means that even deeper, more fulfilling desires are left unmet because they are never considered.
If you are an entrepreneur, you know ‘success’ generally means getting tons of money and building a massive and impressive company. And so, you decide that is what you want. So, you spend time and energy, building, breaking your back over this thing that you ‘want’, when truly what you want is just enough to ensure your day to day freedom.
In a world that tells you want to want every second of the day, it is important to check in with yourself and find out…what do you really want?
Knowing what you want starts with knowing your values. You have to figure out what is important to you. And this comes from knowing yourself and diving in. If you don’t know what your values are, you are like a rudderless ship with no direction. You can easily get shifted into things that are not for you. You can end up wasting your life.
It is said that we don’t really want the thing we say we want. What we truly want is the feeling that thing will give us.
We don’t just want the nice sports car with the plush interior, what we really want is the feeling of accomplishment, of pride, or being envied or respected that comes with it. There is nothing good or wrong with wanting things, just also know why you want them. You don’t want to waste your time trying to fill your inner holes with the wrong things.
If you know what is important to you on the inside, you are better equipped to make decisions and choices. Now you would know what you truly want.
If you would like to dig deeper into values, Steve Pavlina has a great 2-part piece on Living your Values here.
What do you want to give?
Knowing what you want is not just about knowing what you want to get. It is also about knowing what you want to give, what you want to contribute. If you want to get something, you need to know what you are willing to give for it. How are you willing to serve the world, the people around you?
These questions are not the type that are easily answered. Sometimes you can come to an answer in a few minutes, but usually, it takes a long time. These are the questions you wrestle with, the ones you live with. You might find the answer today, and then tomorrow have to come with a new answer. We are human, the world is chaotic, things change. The goal in all this is to become a little more intentional, more conscious in our pursuit.
Once you have figured out your values, what is important to you and what you seek to contribute in the world, your who, your what and your why begin to align. And when you are aligned, you start to work, hustle and move with purpose. You become unstoppable.
To thine own self be true. – Shakespeare
Know yourself, that is the First Step to Getting What You Want.
Long time ago, while I was in high school, I ‘came up’ with this formula to success. Very simple stuff, nothing fancy. It was a quick 3 step process:
- know what you want,
- calculate the cost,
- pay the price.
Simple. My entire spiel on getting what you want essentially boils down to that 3-step process.
But it is difficult to know what you truly want if you have not come to terms with who you are.
In a world that constantly tries to pressure you to conform to a box, or put up a front, understand that you are incredibly and wonderfully unique and you have something to contribute. It is ultimately your responsibility to journey inward and connect with your true self.
A tremendous amount of our problems come from the fact that we hardly sit down to connect with ourselves. We get too busy acting, too busy chasing – a goal, an object, a person, a relationship. We seek to become complete or find some sort of fulfillment in all these things. And yet, the one thing we need to do is to go inward.
In all of time, no one else can or will be ‘you’. The combination of the times, your environment, your DNA, your soul all work together to this specific expression. You are a miracle worth celebrating, worth exploring.
On the long road of growth, self-awareness is the first step. You have to be able to recognize your thoughts, emotions, motivation and beliefs. Once you can observe what’s going on inside you, you are able to change your perspective, and then in turn change your actions.
The alternative is going through life without understanding yourself, how you tick, what belief systems and patterns are running amuck in your subconscious. You become essentially enslaved to your emotions and environment. You fall into a state where your efforts to move forward are perpetually frustrated, because you have not done the internal work to know yourself and clear the internal obstacles.
That is the typical state of things for most people. We want to rise up to new levels, and grow, and achieve and be successful, but we are held back by so many internal demons, so much conditioning, the bonds of our environment that we end up taking a few steps forward and multiple steps backward. We remain resigned to mediocrity.
It’s only with self-awareness that one can journey closer to a state of “self-congruence” — in which what we say, think, and feel are consistent. – Anthony Tjan
You have to know yourself. There is still a small voice inside, you know it, the one that somehow truly, deeply knows what you are meant to become. It is comforting to want someone else to have the answers, it is nice to follow a guru. Learn from others, but you must also connect with and nurture that core within, that inner voice.
When you are in tuned with what you are feeling, with what inspires you, you begin to form a kind of internal guidance system that leads you towards your true goals and your greatest contribution.
This inner voice is hard to hear sometimes. It tends to get drowned out. If not by the world around us and media, it gets drowned out by our own beliefs and insecurities. It is too easy to go through life with ambitions that we have absorbed and carry around that are not really ours. They are the imprint of society’s programing; the whispers of the dreams other people have placed on us. In the midst of all this input, you have to do the work to coax out that inner voice.
Know your strengths and weaknesses, know your personality. Know what makes you come alive, know what you want, what you REALLY want. Know who you are, and what you want. Then you can start making moves in that direction.
Not that you will always be right. We are prone to error. You can completely feel something right now, an emotion that is overwhelming and is your absolute truth in that moment and still not be right. But being acutely aware of it, of what is going on, you are at least able to make a conscious choice.
Becoming more self-aware is really an increase in consciousness. If you want to win, if you want to grow, you have to become more conscious. Your sphere of awareness must start with a knowledge of self, and then expand to knowledge of the people around you and your environment. When your consciousness and awareness increases, you can start to wake up, stop drifting and make concrete bold decisions towards your aims.
As you become more self-aware, you learn to love, embrace, accept and affirm yourself. Media always makes us feel like we need to be someone else. Self-awareness allows you to become you.
Of course, it is not easy. It is never easy. We are not very logical, we are messy complex creatures. We have so many biases, so many shortcomings, so many ways we deceive ourselves. Sometimes that self-delusion is healthy, it can spur us to action, to attempting things we really have no business attempting.
However, a lot of that is dangerous. We’ve all seen people who are so convinced they can sing that they end up rocking the wooden mic awards at Idols. Self-awareness allows you to must clear the fog of self-deception and get to know yourself for who you are…warts and all. Then you will have a chance of winning.
So enough of all that, what are some practical ways you could deepen your self-awareness:
It is amazing the lengths people would go to avoid stopping and listening to themselves. It is important to sit down, journal, meditate, do whatever you need to slow down, quieten the noise in your head and get to know yourself.
Every now and again, especially when you are distraught and stressed and in emotional turmoil, sit down in a quiet room alone, dim the lights if you can, sit comfortably and just be with yourself. Let your thoughts bubble up and subside. Sit and observe your internal environment. Get to know what’s going on inside you.
Get a notebook, or an app and every day write down a few pages of just stream of consciousness or considered reflection of your day. As you do this over time, you start to observe themes or points of concern emerge.
Working with a qualified practitioner can be a great way to get to know yourself, heal repressed trauma and change your behavior. I know there is a stigma around seeking therapy and admitting you need help sometimes, but the investment would be well worth it.
Experiment, try out things. You would never discover new things about yourself like the depths of resources you possess without putting yourself in new and alien situations. That’s why travel and exploration are so important. It is hard to know, truly know yourself without the fire of experience.
- Seek Feedback
Talk to the people around you, and get some feedback of what they think about you. Ask them what they think your strengths and weaknesses are. More often than not, our friends and colleagues have a perspective on us that would be completely oblivious to us otherwise, or allows us to frame a personality trait more effectively.
- Personality Tests.
As unique as you are, there are general archetypes to the human psyche. Taking any one of the various personality tests available out there can be very powerful and at least give us frame works to understand our behavior and the behavior of others.
“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.” ― C.G. Jung
“Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” – Scott Peck
It is counter-intuitive to think of suffering or pain in the same breath as happiness. When we think of happiness, we think about ease, pleasure and euphoria. Our basic nature as humans is to seek out comfort and pleasure. We want to increase our pleasure and minimize our pain. But deep, lasting happiness is more complex than simply optimizing for pleasure.
True happiness is born from the pursuit of purpose. When we are driven by a goal, pulled to pursue something bigger than ourselves, we are called to new levels of action and struggle. We are forced to go through this hard and uncomfortable journey and come out the other side.
In-between where we are now and where we want to go, there is the gulf. There is our inertia. There are all the things we don’t know. There are all the mistakes we will make. There is all the fear and self-doubt. There is the past trauma. There might even be the boos and jeers of the people around us. But if we want to reach our destination, if we are to get what we want, we have to cross this gulf, we have to embrace the suffering.
Now, there is bad suffering. The millions of people living in abject poverty kind of suffering. The suffering brought upon by disaster and tragedy. And that is terrible, but not that is not what we are quite focused on here. We are talking about the everyday struggle, the general angst of living, the ache and pains and complexities of being human. The fact that anything worth doing usually requires some form of effort, some level of suffering, of pushing out of your comfort zone into unfamiliar territory. And we can never run away from that. If we are to live well, we must learn to suffer well, and suffer with purpose, suffer in the right things.
Suffer well, but do not suffer needlessly. Suffer in pursuit of your calling and your vision. Don’t suffer fools, complainers or the tyranny of your own mind and emotions. Suffer for the right reasons.
Suffering comes in the form of the extra hours spent on the side hustle after a long day at the office. Suffering comes in delaying gratification and saving or investing money instead of balling out. Suffering comes in the fatigued thighs and burning lungs while pounding away on the treadmill. Suffering comes in stepping up to bat and doing the work when all you want to do is stay in bed and watch Netflix.
Suffering is not just the hard thing though, it’s not just the ‘hard work’ the ‘hustle’. Suffering is also facing the thing you usually try to ignore. Suffering is facing ugly truths and making tough decisions. It is doing the small but important thing you have been avoiding. Suffering is just as much pulling an all-nighter working on a project, as it is taking a step back to really think and decide if you should be working on this project at all.
The suffering that matters is the suffering that comes from stepping out of your comfort zone, from facing the thing you avoid, doing the thing you fear or have decided is too much for you to do. Because those are the things that usually matter the most. They are the things that could change your life.
The world is tough, you must build resilience. The tougher you get, the more adept at handling suffering, the more your endurance will increase, the more second nature it will become and the easier the pursuit of your dream will get. In fact, you might even start to welcome it, to relish it.
We always want to escape pain, that’s why we drive ourselves to distraction – social media, drugs, liquor, sex, whatever your poison is. But instead of avoiding the pain, we should lean into it. We embrace the suffering because the promise of what is to come is so much greater than where we are now, or the pain we must endure to get there.
Like the buffalo that runs to the storm instead of away from it, we can lean into the pain and find that it not only passes quicker, it leaves us stronger, more resilient, fulfilled and ultimately happier.
More often than not, the seed of suffering bears the fruit of happiness.
I’ve been an avid reader for years, and out of the many books I’ve read, there are a few that truly stand out. These are books that contribute a unique idea, a new perspective or a tool that propel my life. So I’m starting a new series where I profile my favorite books, the ones that have had the most impact on me. Hopefully it inspires you to pick up one of these books, or at least you can pick something from this series and allow that to spur you into new action.
I had heard of Grant Cardone years ago through a friend who works in sales. I knew Grant had a lot of content on sales training and had a very balls-to-the-wall kinda vibe. I did not know just how much until I started listening to his podcast late last year. Cardone has insane energy and insane expectations lol. Watching, listening to or reading him is definitely a kick in the pants. He takes no prisoners and goes all in.
His book The 10X Rule is about thinking big, setting huge goals and taking insane massive action towards achieving them. I think it’s an important book because as far as getting what you want goes, we tend to under-estimate just how much effort it would take to achieve our goals (if we even dream big enough). if you do 10X more than you need to do to get what you want, the chances of you getting it simply skyrocket.
My Highlights from The 10X Rule
It takes the same amount of energy and effort to make $10 million as it does $10 000. Sound crazy? It’s not – and you’ll see this when you start operating at 10X levels. Your goals will change, and the action you take will finally start to match who you really are, and what you are really capable of doing.
Another component that is required for success is the ability to estimate the right amount of effort necessary for you – and your team – to achieve a goal.
As I look back over my life, I see that the one thing that was most consistent with any success I’ve achieved was that I always put forth 10 times the amount of activity that others did. For ever sales representation, phone call, or appointment others made, I was making 10 of each. When I started buying real estate, I look at 10 times more properties than I could buy and then made offers to ensure that I was able to buy what I wanted at the price I desired. I have approached all my business enterprises with massive action; that has been the single biggest determining actor in any success I have created.
In order to get to the next level of whatever you’re doing, you must think and act in a wildly different way than you previously have been.
Only you know your true potential and whether you’re living up to it; no one else can judge your success.
Take massive amounts of action at 10 times the levels you think necessary
This is the focus of the 10X Rule: You must set targets that are 10 times what you think you want and then do 10 times what you think it will take to accomplish those targets. Massive thoughts must be followed by massive actions.
There is nothing ordinary about the 10X Rule. It is simply what it says it is: 10 times the thoughts and 10 times the actions of the other people.
The 10X Rule is about pure domination mentality.
A person who limits his or her potential success will limit what he or she will do to create it and keep it.
As long as you are alive, you will either live to accomplish your own goals and dreams or be used as a resource to accomplish someone else’s.
It is not enough just to play the game; it is vital that you learn to win at it.
One of the greatest turning points in my life occurred when I stopped casually waiting for success and instead started to approach it as a duty, obligation and responsibility.
Discipline, consistent, and persistent actions are more of a determining factor in the creation of success than any other combination of things.
Instead, you must acquire the discipline, muscle memory, and achievements that result from taking massive action – while others think, plan and procrastinate.
Attack, dominate and keep your attention on the future, and then continue to repeat your actions – and your courage will grow. Do things that scare you more frequently, and they will slowly begin to scare you a bit less – until they become so habitual that you wonder why you ever feared them in the first place!
The successful know they can quantify what works and what doesn’t work, whereas the unsuccessful focus solely on “hard work”.
Results (not efforts) – regardless of the challenges, resistance, and problems – are a primary focus of the successful.
You can only be as successful as the individuals with whom you involve and associate yourself.
Stay focused on the future, be unreasonable about it, continue to add wood, and don’t focus on what people say has been done, can be done, or is possible!
And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that never were. – Rainer Maria Rilke
At this time, around the world, millions are engaged in some form of reflection and planning. The much-needed holiday brings some sense of rest and refreshment. The new year offers the opportunity for a fresh start.
For some of us, 2017 may have been epic. We got new achievements, bagged jobs, got into relationships, etc. For the rest of us, it may have been disappointing, heartbreaking and stressful. For all us however, 2018 is an opportunity to have another go at it, on a ‘blank‘ slate.
If the past 12 months were great, it’s the time to double down and keep pushing. If the past year was bad, then now is as good a time to begin afresh, to reinvent one’s self. It is an opportunity to let go of the past and forge ahead boldly into the future. It is the opportunity to shed some bad habits and pick up new empowering ones. It is the chance to change our thinking and our lives. It is the chance to experience something new and powerful.
Making a change can be incredibly hard, but not impossible. There is a reason why so many of us abandon ship on our resolutions mere weeks in to the new year. That is because even though the year is new, we are still the same person we were last year. The euphoria of the new year may motivate us for the next few days, or weeks. But the hard work of change and growth will still remain. The only way we will get to the promised land of our dreams and hopes for the new year is by commitment to the cause.
Nothing happens by accident. 2018 will only be better than 2017 if you have been putting the work in. There is no magic wand or miracle on the horizon to grant you all your wishes. If 2017 was bad and you did not take the time to look back, analyze what you did wrong and refocus yourself for action, 2018 will be pretty much the same. If you had a great 2017 and decide to coast on what you did this last year, then the new one will be mediocre and possibly disappointing. But if you are focused on your grand vision, and you have taken stock of your weaknesses, and are committed to digging deeper and growing, stacking your next moves on the success of your past work, then you will win.
If you are like most of us, you know what it’s like to make a bold decision to change and then slip back into bad habits and programming. Moving forward to new goals can be a series of false starts, a pattern of two steps forwards and fifteen steps back. What launches us out of this rut? What sets off the paradigm shift and commitment that allows us to finally get what we want? How can we think, live and behave in such a way that we get what we want in 2018?
The first step is to embrace the false starts as part of the process. As long as we keep getting into the ring, learning from our mistakes and adjusting our course, eventually we will get there. It may not be pretty, it may not be sexy, but over time we will win. You don’t have to be perfect, just do more of what you want in your life this year, and you would have begun to succeed.
I know this headline probably lured you in expecting the magical 5-point list or elixir to success, but this is more of an invitation, to join me on this journey. This year, I will be writing more frequently. I have been a big fan and student of personal development over the years and I enjoy writing in the genre. Over the past 24 months, I have become increasingly concerned with how the rubber hits the road, how to make practical change. It is so easy to become a self-help junkie, absorbing success porn and indulging epiphanies make us feel good. Actually implementing the advice and creating real change takes real commitment and a specific mindset.
Over the past 2 years, I have been digging deeper into content and ideas from multiple authors, vloggers, and coaches, as well as mining my own experience for lessons with the specific intent of implementing them in real life and seeing if they work. So far, I have seen tangible impact on my life. I have learned so much, my business has grown, my work is better, I’m delivering more value. I am clearer and more focused than I have ever been, and perhaps most importantly, I have begun to learn how to be a doer and how to execute. And yet, I have only just started to scratch the surface. There is still so much yet to be done and to be learnt. I will be sharing what I have learnt so far and what I continue to learn on my journey as a means to crystalize my understanding of these principle and to codify them and leave a record, a contribution to the game if you will.
So, join me as I explore the idea of How to get what you want in 2018. How to get from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be).
Wishing you success and growth in the new year!
P.S. I’ll also talk on branding, design and business because that’s what I do for a living. I believe that strong design, a great strategic brand and a solid knowledge of business principles are vital for startups and organizations to live up to their full potential.
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take
– Wayne Gretzkey
Success > Nothing > Failure
For most people the above is true. Success is better than failure, but failure is so bad, that doing nothing is preferable to losing. Sometimes this is true, there are failures that can be quite devastating. People make ill-advised investments or decisions and lose it all.
But for the most part, the cost of failure is a nothing more than a bruised ego and hurt feelings.
The fear of failure can be incredibly crippling. And this fear keeps us stuck and stagnant. Our upbringing and society conditions us and keeps us comfortable in our status quo. We value the safe, the tried and true. Schools actively discourage making mistakes and we go through life thinking we must always have the right answers. Religion keeps us thinking we have to be perfect all the time. The idea of failure and its subsequent fear has evolved over centuries into an intimidating spectre.
And so most times, we do nothing.
For some reason, we think that in doing nothing, we gain nothing and we lose nothing. The fearing of losing trumps any anticipation of winning. And this fear keeps us from starting businesses, from ending or starting new relationships, from taking chances. But if you stand still, you lose still. Because time does not stand still, it is unrelenting in its forward movement second after second. The window of opportunity to take action may only be open for so long.
Here is the simple truth – you will fail. Especially when you are doing something for the first time. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. You failed multiple times in learning how to walk. You were a complete blabbering incomprehensible mess when you were a toddler. You didn’t care or give up then and decide that this walking thing wasn’t for you. Nah you kept plowing on. You, with your big ass head and stubby legs. You kept going and now look at you with your badass self walking around and conversing fluently like it ain’t no thing.
Big ups to you!
Now apply it to your life and your dreams too. You will try, you will fail, but most importantly you will learn. And next time you will be a little better, you will suck a little less. If you stick with the process, eventually, you will win.
Success > Failure > Nothing
Success is better than failure, but as bad as failure is, it is still better doing nothing.
So go ahead and try. And fail. And try. And fail…until you succeed.
I will not lose, for even in defeat, there is a valuable lesson learned, so it evens up for me.
– Jay Z
There is a powerful Ted Talk by Tim Ferris on fear setting, where he explores the idea of stoicism, and the practice of fear setting. In this exercise, you explore the worst consequences of failure, against the potential upside of success, against the inevitable results of doing nothing. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. It will help you put your fears of failure in perspective and hopefully galvanise you to action.