“Five years from now you will arrive, the question is where?” — Jim Rohn
I remember this moment like it was yesterday. I’d just started writing. Finally, I found something that felt like an amazing fit — something I was willing to work hard at.
I was sitting in my room folding laundry watching a YouTube video by the late Jim Rohn and he talked about how much you could change your life in the span of five years.
Whether you wanted to start a business, build a brand, create an amazing network, start an organization, or any other venture that could radically transform your life, you could make it happen if you were willing to commit those five years.
I remember thinking to myself, “Five years doesn’t seem like a ton of time.” I silently committed to the timeframe. I wrote nearly every day, read books, watched videos, took courses, and essentially became an evolving self-improvement machine over that period.
As I moved forward, I kept seeing the same theme over and over again — five years. My favourite writer, James Altucher, said it takes five years to fully reinvent yourself. Jon Morrow, the online mentor who taught me most of what I know about blogging said that it would take 4 to 6 years to build a blog that can create wealth.
During years one through three when I was making little to no money, flailing around trying to figure out how to be a blogger, and bumping my head against the wall trying to learn all the little nuances that came along the way, I kept that number in my head. In years three to four, I could see that success was an inevitability. In years four to five, everything skyrocketed.
I’ve reached my five-year anniversary as a writer and student of self-improvement. Here’s what I’ve accomplished:
- I’ve published three books
- I gave a TEDx talk
- I grew my readership from zero to millions
- I quit my job and became a full-time writer
Being on the other side of the five-year equation, I can tell you without question that it works. You will experience exponential growth. In the beginning, you won’t be very good at the new skill you’re trying to learn or the path you’re trying to forge.
At this point, you’re just trying to survive and build good habits. Most people quit in this phase. Don’t be one of those people. Why? Because one day, you won’t just get a little better and become a little more successful, you’ll suddenly get much better and experience a ton more success.
Charlie Munger puts it well:
‘Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up. Discharge your duties faithfully and well. Step by step you get ahead, but not necessarily in fast spurts. But you build discipline by preparing for fast spurts… Slug it out one inch at a time, day by day, at the end of the day — if you live long enough — most people get what they deserve.’
Here are some good rules of thumb for you:
- The 90-Day Sprint: Spend your first 90 days working on your new path, skill, or project, daily with reckless abandon. You will learn more about not only what it takes to succeed, but whether or not you actually like doing it, than any amount of “research” or “studying” will teach you. Most people don’t even make it this far. If you do, odds are you’ll keep going. In the event the path really doesn’t seem like a great fit, you didn’t waste that much time.
- The Rule of 100: Be willing to do something 100 times to get good at it. Write 100 blog posts. Shoot 100 videos (something I recently accomplished with my new YouTube channel), record 100 podcasts, pitch 100 potential new clients.
- 18-Month Cycle: Peter Drucker, business expert and author of Managing Oneself, talks about using 18-month benchmarks to track your overall progress. The length of time is long enough to give you enough ‘data’ but not so long that you create unrealistic goals.
- The One Thing: The One Thing, by Gary Keller, teaches a simple rule to help you stay focused and productive. Ask yourself the question “What’s the one thing you can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” You can use this system to reverse engineer long-term goals into actionable goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) to work on in the short to intermediate-term. Choose your one thing for 18 months, then for the quarter, then for each month, then for each week, then for each day.
I didn’t keep perfect track and progress of my career using all the systems above, but I did keep an intuitive sense of all of them while I focused on building my writing career to get where I am today.
Five years seems like a long time. It isn’t. When you break things down to the present moment and focus on the immediate future, you’ll look up five years later to see that you’ve achieved a level of progress even you didn’t think possible.
Your skills compound, like an investment account, and you’ll be orders of magnitude better than when you started. But you have to start.
I use this framework for every new goal or important decision. If I’m not willing to dedicate five years to it, I won’t do it. But when I do commit, I’m all the way in. And combining these five-year chunks leads to an insanely productive life.
You have that thing you want to do. You know what it is. You’re just scared.
You want to know whether or not it will work out beforehand. Trust me, if you have a decent amount of talent and enough work ethic to gradually get better over a period of five years, it’ll work. Now go.
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