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The Whole Human

How to know if you’ll be successful

Life is complex and messy. It can be extremely difficult to get traction, let alone find motivation.

But motivation is something you can learn to create at will. Becoming deeply passionate is also within your creative control. As a result, you can completely predict your own success. You can choose to become as successful as you desire.

Here’s how:

1. Turn success into a game, not a grind

“Life is a game, play it.” — Mother Theresa

We hear a lot about people “grinding” these days. That sounds awful! Grinding day in and out is a path to burnout and misery.

The best performers in the world don’t grind, they game! For example, Warren Buffett became good at selling because as a child he would go door-to-door selling chewing gum. But he wasn’t focused on making money. Instead, he was fascinated trying to figure out which flavors sold best. Even back then, he was trying to make predictions. He’s still playing the same games.

According to author, Daniel Coyle, “If it can be counted, you can turn it into a game.” Rather than “practicing” in a tedious and boring way, you’re far better-off turning your practice into a game. This is why CrossFit is so successful. There are objectives — where you start and complete new challenges.

I recently had this experience learning Spanish on the app, Duolingo. I started seeing how many objectives I could complete in a single day, and how many days I could compete challenges in a row.

2. Know that you can succeed

“Ignition (n): The motivational process that occurs when your identity becomes linked to a long-term vision of your future. Triggers significant amounts of unconscious energy; usually marked by the realization: That is who I want to be.” — Daniel Coyle

There’s a moment when you see what you want and a voice organically speaks within you — “I could be that.”

This experience is pivotal!

How could you ever become an Olympic Athlete if you didn’t at some point see it and believe it in your mind?

Put simply, you need to have an identity shift. No “wannabe” ever made it big. At some point, they either gave up on their dream or stopped being a wannabe.

During my research as a graduate student, I studied the difference between wannabe entrepreneurs and successful entrepreneurs. None of the wannabes actually saw themselves as entrepreneurs. They hadn’t had the shift where they fully identified themselves as entrepreneurs. Conversely, successful entrepreneurs saw being an entrepreneur as who they were.

That identity shift happened as they began investing money into their entrepreneurial goals, and as they made the conscious decision — this is WHO I AM. Your identity follows your behavior. Therefore, this shift won’t happen until after you begin acting into the new role you plan to play. You don’t start with faith. You choose to have it. It’s a conscious choice, followed by behavior. Then identity and motivation follow.

3. Stop hiding it

What other people think of you is none of your business.

If you want to remain mediocre at something forever, keep it to yourself. If you want to become extremely successful, then openly share your dreams with your loved ones.

Harmonious passion is about living an integrated, rather than a compartmentalized, life. The more aligned you become on who you are — the more congruent all areas of your life will be. Moreover, the more honest you are with the person you intend to be, the more support and love you’ll get from friends and family. They’ll also hold you accountable to your dreams and goals if they see you not making progress.

How can you involve key people into this quest?

How can you connect this passion with other areas in your life?

4. Create a vision that works

“It doesn’t matter what your vision is. It matters what your vision does.” — Peter M. Senge, The Fifth Disciple

What’s your vision?

More interestingly, what does your vision cause you to do?

Rather than worrying so much about what your vision is, you should be thinking about what your vision is doing. What is it doing to you? What is it doing to your environment? Your behavior? Your relationships? Your aspirations? Your income? Your impact?

Are you and your external world transforming in powerful and inspired ways? If so, then your vision is working. If not, then adjust the vision to ensure it focuses on execution and transformation.

That’s the most important consideration —is your vision working?

5. Practice privately 5-10x than you perform publicly

“Private victory always precedes public victory.” — Stephen Covey

Kobe Bryant was always the first person in the gym and the last to leave. He worked harder than anyone else. He had more coaches and trainers. He was always pushing his own limits and perfecting even the smallest facets of his skillsets.

When practice becomes the game for you, that’s when you’re about to explode in your progress.

Why?

Because practice is all about perfecting skills. True practice and learning force you to deeply examine the chinks in your armor. You are only as strong as your weakest link. In a world that tells you to ignore your weaknesses, true practitioners do the opposite.

6. Carry a notepad everywhere

“I take notes like some people take drugs. There is an eight-foot stretch of shelves in my house containing nothing but full notebooks. I trust the weakest pen more than the strongest memory, and note taking is — in my experience — one of the most important skills for converting excessive information into precise action and follow-up.” — Tim Ferriss, in the blogpost, How to Take Notes Like an Alpha-Geek

Your mind can be like a well. It takes pumping the well for a while to get the ideas and creativity flowing. However, if you get the well pumping, then all of you have to do is keep it going. You can get to the point where the ideas and insights keep coming coming coming.

Your responsibility at that point is to take notes. If you ignore those subconscious promptings, they will stop coming. Taking note, adjusting your mindset, and shifting your behavior is HOW you pump the well. It’s how you keep the ideas flowing. You must continually be shifting the connections and model.

7. Quickly address mistakes, or you’ll stop learning

“It is tempting to think that just because one understands certain principles one has “learned” about the discipline. This is the familiar trap of confusing intellectual understanding with learning. Learning always involves new understandings and new behaviors, ‘thinking’ and ‘doing.’ ” — Peter M. Senge

Lessons are repeated until learned.

According to Brain-scan studies, if you do not address a problem in 0.25 seconds after a mistake is made, then you probably won’t do anything about it. You’ll shrug your shoulders and keep going. This is really bad for learning. You’re just more deeply engraining the negative behavioral cycle into your brain.

Performance experts have found that if you address your mistakes immediately, you can learn more in 5 minutes than most people do in 30 days. If you simply address your problems and the spot, correct them, and learn better ways, then you don’t have to continuously repeat the problem.

8. Face your pain, or it will be buried and stunt your growth

“If you don’t know how to control your emotional reactions and there’s a refractory period, and you let that emotional reaction linger for hours or days, it turns into a mood. So you say to someone, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ The person says, ‘I’m in a mood.’ Then you say, ‘Why are you in a mood?’ They say, ‘Well, this thing happened to me five days ago and I’m having one long emotional reaction.’ If you keep that refractory period going for weeks and months, you’ve developed a temperament. If you keep that same refractory period going on for years, it’s called a personality trait.” — Dr. Joe Dispenza

Learning and growing are emotional and often painful experiences. Sometimes, things happen in life that you didn’t plan for nor were you responsible for — traumatic experiences.

Whether caused by you or someone else, when you go through a painful experience, that experience can only become one of two things to you. It’s either going to become a long-term problem, or it’s going to become a core strength.

When you experience a powerfully emotional experience, you experience what is known as a “refractory period” — which is your physiological response to an experience. That period should ideally be short, but often people don’t cope well with experiences. Sometimes. the refractory period of a certain experience can last years.

For example, you have a really intense experience and that experience changes you. Until you directly face and walk-through that issue, it will always be a part of you. In fact, you will remain the same person emotionally until you learn that lesson. I know people who had rough experiences as teenagers who are still subconsciously playing out the same emotional experiences from that episode. They haven’t learned or changed since that event.

This is a painful and ineffective way to live. This is not to diminish the pain and suffering that people have gone through, or the negative ripple effects that have since been created. It’s simply speaking to the truth of the matter — the only way out is through. You can’t avoid it. You must face your deepest fears or you’ll always be a slave to them.

In a recent interview, Josh Waitzkin described an experience where he almost died. He was doing underwater breathing techniques and accidentally passed-out. Rather than allowing a long refractory period to occur, he said that he was back in the water 2 days later.

He didn’t want that traumatic experience to become a lifelong weakness. He didn’t want to train his body to live in the trauma. He walked straight into the trauma and pain and fear and quickly re-established his relationship and control over the situation. Therefore, that experience became an incredible blessing and learning and experience.

9. Have fun milestones

“Celebrate small victories often. Mourn failures quickly. Do what’s necessary without fanfare.” — Chris Brogan

A key component of mastering anything is creating fun, engaging, and relevant milestones throughout the learning process.

For example, if you’re trying to learn a new language, buy a plane ticket for 3 months in advance so you can test your new language skills in an immersive way. Plan to eat at fun restaurants and to see interesting things. Reward yourself in a way that links directly to what you’re trying to master.

10. Invest big on yourself

“Beyond a certain point there is no return. This point has to be reached.” — Franz Kafka

Dreamers invest their money and time into distractions while doers invest their time and money into their dreams.

The financial investment will make it real to you. This is a huge part of “ignition” (see #2 above). When you start acting in ways that excite you, and in ways that reflect the future identity you’re trying to create — then you begin identifying with that future self here-and-now. You signal to yourself who you are by the actions you take. Your behavior shapes your personality and identity.

This is one of the most important moments you can have. That moment where you say, “Whoa, I’m actually doing this!

That moment is deeply connected with the moment where you say inside of yourself, “I can be one of those.”

11. Ignore everyone

“For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.” — Ira Glass

Keep your eyes only on the people who inspire you. You have good taste.

The worst thing you could do is worry about what your peers think. When people begin worrying about what their peers think, their motivation becomes clouded and confused. They stop doing their work for the internal reasons that got them excited and they begin trying to fit in, or to be impressive to the wrong people.

12. Focus on challenges and quests, not time

“Deep practice is not measured in minutes or hours, but in the number of high-quality reaches and repetitions you make — basically, how many new connections you form in your brain.” — Daniel Coyle

In his book, Living with a SEAL, Jesse Itzler tells the story of being inspired by a certain Navy SEAL and consequently inviting him to live at Itzler’s home for a month. Itzler admitted being in a personal rut and wanted to shake himself out of his routine.

Day 1: “SEAL” asked Itzler, “How many pull-ups can you do?” Itzler squeaked out eight shaky pull-ups.

“Take 30 seconds and do it again,” SEAL said. 30 seconds later, Itzler got on the bar and did six, struggling.

“Take 30 seconds and do it one more time,” SEAL said. 30 seconds later, Itzler got on the bar and did three, at which point his arms were exhausted.

“Alright, we’re not leaving here until you do 100 more,” SEAL stated. Itzler was puzzled. “Alright, we’re gonna be here a long-time. Cause there’s no way I could do 100.” However, Itzler ended-up completing the challenge, doing one pull-up at a time. Thus, SEAL convinced Itzler that he could do way more than he thought he could.

Like Itzler who shattered a mental barrier by completing 100 pull-ups, you too can get out of your rut by pursuing tangible objectives.

The concept is: Do something and don’t stop until it’s complete, no matter how long it takes.

If it doesn’t suck, we don’t do it.

You can apply this principle to anything. You can do a homework assignment and just do it until it’s complete. You can write an article and stick-to-it until it’s published. You can do 100 pull-ups, or run 5 miles, and go until you’re done. Who cares how long it takes?

The best practice is objective-based. Not time based. In fact, you want to eliminate your sense of time as much as you possibly can.

Living in the dimensions of time is a 9–5 mindset. Living in FLOW is about dissolving into timelessness. It’s about enjoying what you’re doing for the sake of it. One of the fastest ways into flow is by pushing yourself to achieve certain things, daily. If you’re weightlifting, your “reps” or “objectives” could be to do a certain lift perfectly a number of times. If you’re a musician, it could be playing a certain song or part of a song 5–10 times perfectly in a row.

Make it a game. But more than anything, focus it on successfully completing a certain objective. Don’t build your practice around time and effort. We live in the results economy — where results are what matter more than anything now.

13. See how much you can do in a single day

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” — T. S. Eliot

Ezra Taft Benson was a religious leader who simultaneously served as the 15th United States Secretary of Agriculture during both presidential terms of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Benson grew up on a farm in Whitney, Idaho. One day in 1915 at the age of 16, he was hired by a neighboring farmer to thin a field of sugar beets. He took his short-handled hoe in hand and looked out over the sugar beet field. Here was the thought that came into his mind:

“If I work as hard as I can, I wonder how much I can do in a day?”

He started just as the sun came up and worked almost without stopping until sun down. Then he realized how much he could do. He had thinned a full acre of beets in just one day! Which was an insane amount for one person. When the farmer saw what Benson had done, he was shocked. He dropped two silver dollars and two five-dollar gold coins into Benson’s hand. Benson could hardly believe his eyes! 12 dollars at that time, and for a 16 year old farm boy, was a small fortune.

As he walked home he was walking on air and he felt like the richest man in town.

The question Benson asked himself is a question YOU need to ask yourself.

How much can you get done in a single day?

How much can you get done today?

This isn’t about being busy, but rather, about being productive. It’s also about pushing your own limits, and seeing how far you can actually go. Most people are trying to see how little they can do. If you’re one of those people who can see how much you can do, yeah …

14. See how much you can give in your relationships

“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” — Zig Ziglar

When you’re driven to give and to serve, you become more empathetic and relevant. Because it’s about them and not you, you can actually listen and discern what they need. You’re not calculating your next move. You’re not thinking about what you’re going to say next. Instead, you’re actually listening. You’re actually discovering what other people need.

15. Deep focus, then deep reflection

“I think of the learning process of an undulation of deep learning and periods of surfacing and reflection.” — Josh Waitzkin

Success is not a marathon. Instead, success is a series of sprints. You push yourself beyond your limits and then you rest/recover.

Some sprints may be a week. Other sprints may be a few years. Whatever the case, you need periods where you surface from the intensity and reflect on what the heck just happened. You get feedback. You open yourself up to trusted friends and mentors. You re-adjust your path if you need to based on what you’ve learned and based on the post-reflection process.

Recovery, resting, and reflection are essential to becoming brilliant at what you do. If you’re not prioritizing these, then you’re on a path to burnout. Moreover, if you’re not taking time to reflect and recover, there’s a good chance you’re going the wrong direction without even knowing it.

16. Never stop learning

“Don’t believe your own press.” — Joe Polish
Wayne Gretzky is considered the greatest hockey player to ever live. Yet, he was known by his teammates to continually look like a fool. He was always trying new things in practice and falling all over the ice. He failed a lot more than his teammates.

The problem with success is dull your motivational edge and drive. In order to keep yourself sharp, you need to never stop pushing your boundaries, not matter how good you become.

The moment you stop learning, testing, and trying is the moment you go backwards. If you don’t use it, you’ll quickly lose it.

17. Avoid luxury like the plague

“We love comfort. We love state-of-the-art practice facilities, oak-paneled corner offices, spotless locker rooms, and fluffy towels. Which is a shame, because luxury is a motivational narcotic: It signals our unconscious minds to give less effort. It whispers, Relax, you’ve made it.

The talent hotbeds are not luxurious. In fact, they are so much the opposite that they are sometimes called chicken-wire Harvards. Top music camps — especially ones that can afford better — consist mainly of rundown cabins. The North Baltimore Aquatic Club, which produced Michael Phelps and four other Olympic medalists, could pass for an underfunded YMCA. The world’s highest-performing schools — those in Finland and South Korea, which perennially score at the top of the Program for International Student Assessment rankings — feature austere classrooms that look as if they haven’t changed since the 1950s.” — Daniel Coyle

For most people, “success” is not really about the work itself, but about the luxuries success can give you.

World-class performers keep things simple. They aren’t afraid to enjoy luxuries and make good money. However, when it comes to their work, they are simplistic. They maintain the scrappiness and drive as they had when they were first starting out.

Conclusion

What does success actually look like to you?

How much are you investing in your dreams?

Can you see yourself where you want to be?

Are you going to get there?

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This article first appeared on Medium.

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