Stop Trying to Change the World

It feels like the next big thing is everyone trying to create the next big thing. Trying to change the world is the new million dollar paycheck.

Everyone wants to create the next Facebook or Google, everyone wants to be the next Steve Jobs. But the reality is that the next Steve Jobs isn’t going to resemble anything like Steve Jobs. He or she is going to be the equivalent of a 1970s sandal wearing hippy living in their parents garage, but in modern day times.

What does that even look like? It’s not the tech hipster you’re thinking about right now, it’s probably not even an entrepreneur — and that’s exactly why most of us will miss the boat.

And we won’t just miss it. We’ll completely reject it — we’ll launch an air strike on it.

You see, the true pioneers are the pattern breakers, and almost never the pattern matchers. But most of us get so caught up trying to understand the pattern, trying to study someone else’s come up, or how someone else made it — that we fail to recognize the deeper drivers that actually ignite change within us.

Since I was three years old I’ve been groomed to win.

I grew up on the mats of a dojo floor. I was the scrawny computer nerd who was born into a family almost entirely comprised of Taekwondo black-belts. My dad, mom, brother, uncles, cousins and nearly everyone in my extended family were competitive martial artists.

My parents even owned and ran the local Taekwondo school. So for as long as I can remember, all I’ve ever wanted to do was kick ass and win gold medals.

My master was a 5 foot Korean dude with a three foot pony tail, named Woo Young Jung. He was an 8th dan, 14 time Korean national champion, and two-time world champion. A modern day Bruce Lee if you will. As a 10 year old kid I have this vivid memory of him roundhouse kicking a louisville slugger baseball bat, and completely breaking it into two with his bare foot — he was the real deal.

I spent almost my entire childhood training with master Jung at the dojo, day in and day out, around the clock. And by the time I was 9 I had gotten my black-belt, by the time I was 14 I had gotten my third dan, and by 15 I was a two-time national champion and ranked 4th in the world.

The other day I was going through a bunch of old boxes, and I came across an old crumpled up yellow newspaper article. To my surprise, the article was an interview with my former 14 year-old self. It was almost 15 years old.

Referring to competing at the worlds, 14 year old me was quoted in the article saying “Once you get to this level it is purely mental. It does not come down to who is superior physically. What matters, is who is superior mentally.”

Fuck. I actually knew more about the world when I was 14 than I do now.

It’s amazing how intuitive we are as kids, but how as we grow older we lose touch with that intuition.

Being wired to win, I did’t listen to my sage 14 year-old advice, and instead became obsessed about understanding the external patterns of success. My desire to win extended into every area of my life. I became obsessed about life’s equivalent of the physical — and forgot the mental.

Along the way I’ve had the incredible fortune to not only see what it takes to win in the ring, but what it takes to launch products and companies at scale. I’ve now helped co-found nearly 10 companies, most failures but a few that worked, and I’ve also gotten to work with some of the Fortune 500s best executives, and some of Silicon Valley’s best entrepreneurs.

But after nearly two decades of inquiry — searching for the patterns of success, the golden recipe if you will — I’ve realized that the patterns I was searching for don’t exist.

Here’s the thing. I’ve learned that while it’s important to understand how something happened, what’s incredibly more valuable is understanding why the people were part of it in the first place.

Who were they? What did they care about? What mattered?

You see, when I sit across from some of the most amazing people — no two stories are ever the same. When you really examine it, everything is always different, all the time, and the path to success never unfolds as predicted. Excel spreadsheets lie.

The more successful the entrepreneur, the more they will say things like — we could have never imaged blank, or we were completely committed to this idea, but the thing that really took off was this other idea, so we shifted our focus. We “pivoted”.

But we spend so much time trying to anticipate what will work. Trying to create the perfect plan. Trying to predict the future. That we fail to remember what’s important to us, the ones that will ultimately bear the burden necessary to make it all happen.

If you do not love what you do. If you are not obsessed and passionate about the lifestyle you must live, day in and day out, in order to have the impact you want to have. You will fail.

Most people believe that by studying and implementing the patterns of others, that they will succeed. But it is your unique passion that creates the patterns.

So the better question to ask — is what gives you your unique fire? How do you cultivate a passion that will create the patterns that shape your life?

Moments string into minutes string into hours string into days string into weeks string into months string into years string into decades string into your LIFE. Your life is no more than right now, and certainly no more than today.

How you live your day is how you live your life.

So, instead of creating plans about the future, spend time reflecting on how you currently spend your time. How do you spend your energy? Where is it that you put your attention? What did yesterday look like?

I want to leave you with three exercises that you can complete by the time you goto bed tonight, that have the power to change the course of your life forever:

  1. The first is about values. What are the five most important values or things in your life? What’s important to you? It could be your relationships, your health, your family, being creative or adventurous — anything at all. I want you to write each of these down, and then write the corresponding tangible activities that correspond with them in time and space. What percentage of your week do you spend aligned with these values? We’ll call this your values-to-schedule ratio.
  2. The second is about fears. Fears are one of our greatest servants. I want you to list your top three fears, and then write what it would look like to run towards those fears. Not in some abstracted way, but write down what the actual real-world activities look like in time and space? We’ll call this your fear-to-practice ratio.
  3. The last is about who you listen to. I want you to write down the three people you goto when your about to make important life choices. I want you to ask yourself, why do I listen to these people? Do they embody what I want to be in the world? Do they have the life that I desire? We’ll call this the quality of your information.
Values-to-schedule ratio. Fears-to-practice ratio. And the quality of your information.

That’s it.

Don’t worry about changing the world, instead, ask what it is you can change about you — and from there anything is possible.