I get it.
I get why many people are jaded by the self-improvement industry. There are a ton of gurus out there who bombard you with this image of what a successful life looks like.
According to the laws of hyperbolic self-help, you’re not successful unless:
- You own a six-figure business (ideally, though, you should be a millionaire)
- You have a perfect body
- Your morning routine is optimized from start to finish, takes 4 hours, and includes meditating, journaling, yoga, a 10-mile run, daily donations to charity, 3 perfectly steeped cups of green tea, with every action or calorie tracked on your Apple watch
- You have at least one super-car. Be unique, though, because Lamborghinis are basic at this point
- You make passive income while only working 1-hour per week
- The kicker, you must do this all overnight or else you’re a failure
In general, the over-exaggerated version of self-improvement aims at perfection, a perfect “A+” grade in life that’s unattainable for most of us.
On the one hand, I do believe an intelligent person with drive, persistence, and marketing knowledge can become a millionaire. But I’ll never push the idea that you need to become one nor will I ever try to teach people “how to become a millionaire” even if I do it myself.
I know you’re much more capable than you think you are and I’m sure you’re living below your potential in some ways, but how does painting an unrealistic version of the future help you?
Don’t Do This Either Though
You know what else doesn’t help?
While I’m not a fan of over-hyped promises, I’m also not a fan of this “C+” culture we live in either. I’m not a fan of the celebration of mediocrity. Lately, it has become cool to have no goals, cool to coast through life with an air of nonchalance, and cool to blame all of your problems on anyone else but yourself.
While you don’t need to achieve extreme outcomes to live a good life, you won’t understand certain lessons life has to teach you until you push yourself to be above average. Take ‘great’ off the table right now. If you focus on being even slightly better than the average person in society, you’ll be setting yourself up for a pretty damn good life.
And when I say the average person in society, don’t get your knickers in a bunch, alright? I’ve said many times that the average person in society is a good person. They do work hard. They do take care of their responsibilities. Also, their way of living isn’t entirely their fault. When you have to undergo a brainwashing campaign since age 5, I don’t necessarily blame you for trying to chase the illusion of the middle-class American dream.
But once you know the truth, you’re responsible for what happens next. And what is the truth? The truth is that being above average doesn’t require anything extraordinary. Nope. Just simple, gradual, persistent effort. There are a few things you can do to set yourself apart from the rest of society and put yourself in a position to get better outcomes in the future.
- Read books — But then actually do something with the information. Reading for the sake of bragging about how many books you’ve read is worthless. But if you apply the knowledge you learn from books and let your curiosity fuel creativity, you have a cheat code to life. As much as people say they read, they don’t. If you do, you’ll know and be able to implement secrets people don’t have access to.
- Become a learning machine, period — The biggest lie average people tell themselves is that upward mobility doesn’t exist. It definitely does. And you create it by learning. There are so many educational resources to live a better life that I have no pity on middle-class people at all. They’re in their own way and won’t take the time to learn profitable skills.
- Start a side business — Look, do I think everyone in the world needs to start a side business? No. And it doesn’t matter because most people won’t do it anyway. But if you do it, you’ll realize that the path to extra income and a bridge to your freedom is available to you if you do the work.
I could go on, but these steps are simple to make. They’re not difficult. They are time-consuming.
And they can be a lot to ask of you on top of already having to take care of the responsibilities you already have.
It’s your life. I always come back to this. If you think everything I’m telling you is BS. Just don’t listen to me. Let time be the judge. My observations tell me that the tragedy “C+” lifestyle isn’t apparent. Most people don’t hate their lives. But the “C+” lifestyle creates slow-burning anxiety that mutates into a litany of other problems.
Come on. I’m not the only one who sees it, right? Don’t you? Can’t you see it happening in your own life right now or in the future if you don’t decide to change?
So if you shouldn’t aim for lofty success or be complacent with what you have, what should you do?
Find Your Sweet Spot For Success
Get to a B+ lifestyle.
What does B+ mean? It means that, while you might not be a millionaire with a Lamborghini, Yacht, and mansion, you can look at your life and say “damn, I can’t believe I did that.”
Starting a business that simply replaces your 9 to 5, not being rich, is B+. Creating the level of freedom where you don’t have to stress about every purchase, live paycheck to paycheck, and run on a hamster wheel in survival mode is B+. Waking up and generally, for the most part, doing whatever it is you want to do, B+.
When it comes to the skills you want to build to create the life you want, don’t necessarily try to be the best in the world, but get pretty damn good.
I have big dreams. I do want to become a New York Times Best Selling author. I’d love to one day reach the level of some of my writing heroes. Selfishly, I do want the big numbers, the status, the accolades. But deep down, I know those goals are all illusory. They won’t fulfill me.
I put my vanity goals in the background and just focus on becoming a pretty damn good writer. I’ll spend the rest of my life practicing my craft and try to squeeze every last ounce of natural talent I have and let it bleed onto the page. I’m a universe better than when I started and I’ll keep getting better over time.
B+ is finding something to aim for and going all-in on it for as long as you can. It’s not about the outcomes. Success doesn’t make you happy. Vanity goals make you happy for a very short time and you get used to them. But you can play the ‘pretty damn good’ game until you die.
Imagine this type of life.
You’re not a millionaire, but you do something you really enjoy. Not even passionately in love with, just enjoy. Every day, you get a little bit better.
Some days, you have breakthrough epiphanies that make you feel euphoric and during those epiphanies, you think back to when you first got started, how hard it was back then, and how it all seems so easy now. You find new challenges that make you feel like a beginner, you level up the skill, and you go through the process all over again.
Do this throughout a lifetime and you can look back proudly, not on what you have or own, but what you’ve done.
With the freedom your skills provided you, you also got to have some amazing experiences — some trips you wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise, more free time and flexibility to enjoy your spouse and children, connecting with a wide network of like-minded people and building friendships from your passion.
Imagine that type of life.
The life where you get to say to yourself, “Damn, my life was pretty good.”
Ayodeji is the Author of Real-Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement. Grab your free checklist here — The Ultimate Guide to Discovering Your Natural Talents and Strengths.