And the way to it.

There are two generic ways to accomplish a goal:

  1. Push hard, charge through obstacles, sweat and swear.
    And eventually make it, as a challenge and relief.
  2. Make this goal part of the natural course of the Universe.
    Look at the world from the right angle and observe it happen.

The former route involves fights against externalities, which are seen as obstacles or villains to be cheated or slain. It can be compared with sailing against the stream.

The latter route involves understanding what the world is up to in the near future, aligning the goals with where it evolves and making small adjustments along the way. This route feels like flowing with the stream.

If you and I want something non-contradictory, we both can have it.

When two people want something in a way that at most one can succeed, a conflict appears and external arbitrage is required.

The world around, ultimately, acts as a machine to provide this arbitrage. It considers the situation, weights pros and cons from either side, throws in some luck and randomness, and, voila: something appears out of it.

At the end, it may make zero, one or both of those people happy. The world doesn’t care much. It just resolves the conflict so that the uncertainty of what is and what is not feasible has been taken care of by this reality check.

I could go further explaining that mastering any activity, from crafts, sports and engineering to psychology, entrepreneurship and politics, is largely the process of one obtaining a better picture of how exactly does the world assign weights to the pros and cons, and thus carefully selecting which small changes will make a big difference.

And if I go even further, I’d say that in today’s world of post-industrial economy, tweaking the world in small quantities, leveraging the butterfly effect, is much easier than it used to be hundreds or thousands years ago.

This blog entry originates from an offline conversation about this Facebook post:

81% of the wealthy maintain a TODO list, vs 9% of the poor.
88% of the wealthy read 30+ minutes a day, vs. 2% of the poor.
10% of the wealthy watch reality TV, vs. 78% of the poor.
86% of the wealthy believe in lifelong educational improvement, vs. 5% of the poor.
Infographic, Habits of the World’s Wealthiest People.

Personally, I can’t agree more with the overall message sent by this article.

The traits presented are certainly the ones I would expect to differentiate successful people from those who just get by.

A friend of mine, however, took the article negatively.

With the message being: There is more to this world than wealth. People, who want to get there, often don’t notice other important things.

He then followed up with a question: Say, your goal is health. How would knowing the traits outlined in this article help you?

My answer was simple: Same way!

Reading more, not watching reality shows and believing and mastering lifelong education would sure have positive effects on one’s health.

And maintaining a TODO list as well, to not keep many things in their head. Of course.

The above paradox of wealth vs. health kept me puzzled for a while, until I realized something very simple.

Most people see one’s wealth as a result of their fight against the world.

Of course:

  • Due to selection bias and ego, most wealthy people we see around would be those who fought their way to success.
  • All mass media, as well as the society itself, is skewed towards the perception that acquired wealth originates from excessively hard work.
  • On the non-wealthy end of the spectrum, surely, there is a well observed correlation between how much does one work, how much do they push their health and stress limits and how well do they end up.
  • And, of course, there will be natural force telling us “don’t try it, it’s too hard and damaging”. Which also is known as laziness.

Life is not about extrapolating!

Let’s change “wealth” into “success”, since, as we talked of above, the former term carries the danger of being perceived negatively.

On the path to success, there is no magic bullet I am aware of. But the main ingredient to it is certainly not in working 10x hours to make 10x money.

What it likely has something to do with would be:

  • a belief in lifelong educational improvement,
  • exclusion of TV from daily routine,
  • investment of one’s time into reading, and
  • an up-to-date TODO list.

While the above does not guarantee anything success- or wealth-related, it sure is a path to a healthy life.

Why would anyone disagree with it?