Capitalizing on what comes easily is how successful people tend to get ahead. It’s also part of the success story that’s often left out because it’s almost impossible to talk about without it becoming misconstrued.
Successful people don’t work hard (that word, “hard,” has the wrong connotation). Successful people don’t keep throwing effort at dead ends. They also don’t force what’s nonviable, ineffective, or just simply not working out. They work consistently where they see the most results, and the reason they are able to work so often—usually much more than their peers—is because the work comes somewhat naturally to them. If it didn’t, they’d be exhausted, burned out, and left with minimal results.
Conventional wisdom tells you not to give up—ever, no matter what. But people tell you all the time that good things tend to happen when you stop trying so hard to make them happen. The most popular relationship advice is that our partners will show up when we stop looking for them. For many couples, the moment they stop trying to get pregnant is the moment they conceive.
When you try to force happiness, it eludes you. If you don’t, it tends to happen on its own. The work you end up doing in your life is almost never Plan A; it’s Plan B, which is what you started doing when you gave up on what didn’t come naturally. When you try not to think about something—like a white elephant—it’s all you can focus on. The more you try to avoid something, the more you see it everywhere. The more you try to grip a fist full of dry sand, the faster it slips through your fingers.
There are things out of our control that sort of redirect us to outcomes greater than we would have initially chosen for ourselves.
People generally don’t want to misattribute their successes in life to chance, fate, or pre-existing conditions because, of course, those aren’t the only factors at play. But to not acknowledge them at all is to deprive others of vital insight. Success is more than just how “hard” someone works because a lot of people work hard. You could argue that people in the service industry work a whole lot harder than the people who own the establishment they’re working in. They see different results because their energy is directed toward different things. Work becomes hard when we have to force ourselves to do it, and we have to force ourselves when it’s inherently uninteresting or unappealing.
When we commit to doing something we are inclined to be good at or have a natural interest in, we start an immediate feedback loop that strengthens quickly. When we put effort toward something and immediately receive positive results, our energy is reinforced. We become disciplined when we see results and when we trust those results. For this very reason, some people suggest that the things we enjoy most are often just the things we are good at.
“Flow” is that peak performance state when you lose track of time and become fully immersed in your task. This is often when we produce the best work of our lives, and those who can do it every day often position themselves for incredible long-term success. But it’s almost impossible to achieve a flow state doing something you have to force yourself to do.
Any successful person will tell you that—although they have certainly worked a lot—there is almost always an element of effortlessness at play. The work is learning how to show up, get out of your own head, and allow it to happen without your doubts and anxieties stopping you.