The More You Do, the Luckier You Get
I’ve had hundreds of conversations with people who want to be successful.
But no matter how many times I seem to say it, it feels like my #1 piece of advice is never really taken:
Just take more action.
Of course, that’s not always the best answer; maybe they’ve taken a lot of action already and need a change in strategy.
But frankly, that’s really rare. There’s usually a lot more action you can take before you need to change strategies.
When it comes to taking action, the rich get richer. Back in the day, I wanted to be a famous writer; I’d email article ideas to every big blog I could think of. I wanted to be featured and have a column so everyone would know my name.
No one ever responded to me, because my writing sucked and I wasn’t getting any better — probably because I was spending more time promoting my work than actually getting better! I wasn’t taking action, so I didn’t get anywhere.
Nowadays, I get emails every week from people wanting to work with me. Big publications, news sites, magazines, online powerhouses, all emailing me asking if they can promote my work. The rich get richer — I don’t even work for it, and people come to me asking to help me out.
That never happened before. And sadly, for most people, it’ll be the same story. Because if you spend more time promoting yourself than actually getting better, you’re not going to get anywhere.
The truth is, the more you do, the luckier you’ll get.
In his autobiography, Bryan Cranston said that if any famous person claimed that things like timing, connections, and being in the right place at the right time weren’t part of their story, they were lying.
Highly successful people have always had more going for them than just talent or money. There are lots of rich, talented people still struggling to achieve their dreams.
The most successful people had (or maybe didn’t have) those inherent gifts, sure. But what did each one of them have? An enormous portfolio of work, probably more than anyone else in their sector.
My wife told me the other day that Beyoncé spent 9 months preparing for her 2-hour Coachella performance, Homecoming. It’s widely regarded as one of the greatest concerts of this century.
Would you spend 9 months preparing for a 2-hour presentation? Would you even spend a week preparing?
Most people chalk up the good fortune of successful people to luck, connections, money, or being in the right place at the right time.
Of course, these things are there. But the deeper truth is that the more work you do, the luckier you get. The more action you take, the more opportunities come your way.
So when someone comes to me and asks how they can succeed, how I did it…nothing I say will even matter if they don’t first take a lot of action. A lot. Probably more than they ever have.
If you went to LeBron James and asked him how to be a better basketball player, he’d just tell you what you could find anywhere else — practice more, learn more.
Then you can start honing your skills and trying new things. But if you don’t have a foundation of work to actually build on, it won’t matter.
You Don’t Need More Technical Knowledge, You Need to Take More Action
Sometimes, I feel like Neo from The Matrix. It feels like I can see things others can’t, and understand basic truths others don’t.
For instance: let’s say you have a blog that you want to be successful. What you don’t need to do:
- You don’t need to redesign it.
- You don’t need a new color scheme.
- You don’t need to know what SEO is.
- You don’t need Facebook or Google ads.
- You don’t need endorsements.
You just need to be good at what you do. In other words:
You just need to provide value.
There are so many fancy, flashy, impressive people and companies and websites out there. There’s absolutely no way you can compete with how they look.
But you can absolutely, 100%, no-doubt-about-it compete with (and destroy) the value they give. You could give as much value as your competition, probably more.
If you’re just starting out, great! You’re more agile and flexible than they are, you can do/say/be things they can’t.
If you’re already experienced and have a brand, great! You can double-down on your value and reach more people than anyone below you.
You don’t need more technical knowledge, you just need to take more action.
If You Can’t Commit to Big Goals, Just Focus on Making Small Progress Every Day
I hate “goals.”
Probably because I’ve always failed at them when I tried.
A few years ago, I set an ambitious goal to make $200,000 that year. The first month, I made about $2,000, way more than I’d ever made. The second month, I made about $2,500. But by the third month, I was so full of guilt and frustration and dread about being nearly $20,000 behind on my goal, I gave up entirely.
Funny — making about two grand in one month was the most I’d ever made! I couldn’t enjoy it though, because my “goal” was keeping me miserable.
So I never really set goals anymore. Maybe they work for some people, but honestly, most people I talk to can’t keep their goals, either.
This is an excerpt from an article by best-selling author Scott Adams.
“Goals work great for simple situations. But the world is rarely simple these days.
You don’t know what your career will look like in a year. You don’t know what the economy will be doing, or which new technologies will hit the scene.
Your personal life is just as unpredictable. The future is a big ball of complexity if you look out far enough. And that means your odds of picking the one best goal for you are slim, and the odds of achieving it are even slimmer, because everything is a moving target.
So instead of goals, try systems that improve your odds of success (however you define success) over time.
Choose projects that improve your personal value no matter how the project itself does. Find systems for diet and fitness that replace willpower with simple knowledge.”
Don’t focus on setting goals; instead, create better systems that allow you to make small progress every day, no matter what your schedule might be.
There’s this story I tell that goes like this: I used to live on top of an enormous hill, and my goal was to ride my bike up the hill without stopping.
It was hard. Very hard. It was so hard, I tried almost a dozen times without succeeding.
I tried all sorts of strategies: I’d pedal fast at first to try and build momentum. Or I’d drink Gatorade as I pedaled for the sugar rush. Then I tried biking from left-to-right in a zigzag, trying to ease the incline.
Nothing was working.
Finally, I decided I’d try it again, but with 2 simple rules:
- I wasn’t allowed to look up (towards the top of the hill).
- I could only look down at my pedals.
I began my ride.
It was the slowest attempt I’d ever done. I wasn’t looking up — I was actually worried I’d run into someone! I was only focusing on my pedals, slowly pushing one pedal at a time.
I rode for what seemed like an eternity.
And for the first time…I reached the top of the hill without stopping. (I remember throwing my bike down and literally yelling with excitement).
I’ve found that most of the time, goals don’t work. Goals are fine, but they have some problems: as James Clear wrote in his fantastic book Atomic Habits, there are 3 main problems with goals. First, losers had the same goal as winners — it’s not the goal that makes you succeed. Next, goals are inherently temporary. Finally, it usually sucks working towards a goal.
It’s time to stop following a routine. Stop trying altogether.
Just create better systems: they’re like goals on steroids. Create rules for each day where you can do a little more work. It doesn’t matter if it’s slow; slow’s the point. You’re building momentum, one step at a time, without any guilt or frustration.
Sometimes, progress doesn’t come easily.
It can really hard to take action. It’s like trying to start rolling an enormous boulder; it might feel like you’re pushing as hard as you can, and it’s barely budging.
But the thing about momentum is that it gets easier every day you do it. But that’s the hard part — being consistent.
Still, if you can find a way to put in some work, just a little bit of work each day, I promise you, that damn boulder will start to move. You might think it won’t, you might not even notice it.
But you’ll start building momentum. And once you keep building that momentum, you’ll become more focused, more confident, and more successful.
Just keep pushing.
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