Photo of Bradley Cooper in the movie, Limitless. Credit:

Completely and Consistently Smash Your Goals with The Limitless Effect

Perform at your best without performance-enhancing drugs

Danny Forest
Dec 10, 2018 · 17 min read

I opened my eyes. It’s pitch black outside. Even though I’m in the liveliest neighbourhood of Medellín, Colombia, the city is completely silent. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s four o’clock in the morning after all.

You’d think that my alarm went off and I’m probably in a comatose state. Maybe you’d think that I’d reach out for my phone and browse my Instagram feed like everyone else.

But the truth is, I woke up 1 minute before my alarm and I’m standing right up, ready to start my day. The alarm, it turns out, has become some sort of useless artifact. I haven’t needed it for at least a few days.

When’s the last time that happened to you?

If you’re like most people, I’m guessing it never actually happened. But don’t fret, I was like that too, until I discovered what I call the Limitless Effect.

So here I am, standing just outside my bed at four o’clock in the morning.

“What does one with the Limitless Effect do at that time?”, you ask.

The simple and universal answer across all the people I’ve interviewed is this: one gets his creative juice out, whatever that means for them.

For me, it’s all about writing. I wake up in the morning, and with the powerful work my subconscious did overnight, blank pages turn into a stream of words in what I like to think is coherent. I typically write about 750 words.

But here’s something unexpected for you — I’m not a writer. Or at least, not by degree. I’m a software engineer. And also, my first language is French, not English.

How does one go from engineer to non-fiction and fiction writer, in a language that’s not completely natural to them?

That’s a long story, but here’s a hint: I could not have done it without the Limitless Effect.

It’s a concept Jordan “J” Gross and I have been working on for months, and if you manage to keep it long enough, you become unstoppable. Here’s an unedited message I recently sent to Jordan:

Are you ready to fully understand what it is — and more importantly — get it for yourself?

The Limitless Effect is characterized by the following:

1. Getting Flow on Demand

Flow is an important part of the Limitless Effect. The main characteristic of the Limitless Effect, in fact, is getting into flow state on demand. That is, if you apply the principles and habits from below, you’ll be able to conjure flow as easily as eating that McDonald’s triple burger your regret eating after. Only now, you won’t regret going into flow.

2. Months of Deep Concentration

Flow only lasts for minutes or hours at a time. You may be able to get into flow one day, but the next day you can’t. When you have the Limitless Effect, you get into flow every day, multiple times a day. You have great clarity on what you want to do and how to do it.

Hours turn into days. Days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months. Then you realize that during that period of time, you’ve accomplished more than you had in the past two years combined. Maybe more.

Some maintain it longer, some don’t. In our experience, the less one’s environment changes, the easier it is to maintain the Limitless Effect. It’s an unsurprising result since, after all, at least half the principles revolve around good habits. And by definition, a habit is something that comes from your subconscious, and it can’t work for you if you don’t provide it a stable environment that’s working in its favour.

Needless to say, while it may be relatively hard to get the Limitless Effect, its effects can last long enough that it’s a no brainer to reach for it.

3. All-Natural and Drug-Free

What I’m proposing here with the Limitless Effect is a way for you to perform at your best, without performance enhancers. While medication like Adderall or Modafinil does increase your concentration and help you perform optimally, I believe that long-term solutions are better.

The problem with drugs is that they only last for a moment and if you want their effects, you have to keep taking them. If you run out, you’re right out of luck. Plus, who knows what the effects are on the long term for your body.

With the principles and habits required to earn the Limitless Effect, not only will you be able to concentrate deeply and achieve more than usual, but you’ll be much healthier, both physically and mentally. In fact, being healthy leads to the Limitless Effect. They go hand-in-hand.

Of all the people we’ve interviewed who had the Effect, every single one of them were in the best physical and mental condition they had been in their life. But again, that’s not a result of the Effect, but a prerequisite.

23 key principles for getting the Limitless Effect

I’ll start by saying that doing everything on that list is near-impossible. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, it’s a combination of many of the following things, and what works for one person may not for another.

So here’s how I would plan this if I were you:

  1. Read the suggestions below and note those you think you can implement easily, or already have.
  2. Try to implement them for 1 month straight.
  3. At the end of the month, take note of what worked and what didn’t.
  4. Read this guide again, start from 1.

It’s an iterative process, like most things in life. You won’t get it right the first time. You’ll know it once you’ve reached it (think about my message to Jordan from above).

The list below is not in any particular order, pick and choose from there.

And take note of this very important thing:

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily.” — Zig Ziglar

You have to keep doing the things on this list to have lasting Limited Effect. I lost it three times in the last year. I’ll lose it again. It’s inevitable. But I’ll do everything I can to keep it as long as I can!

1. Keep or make good habits, drop the bad ones

This is the starting point, and most likely the most important one. Habits are strong. We’re creatures of habits. Good or bad. Keep the good ones. Drop the negative or ineffective ones. Make new, better ones.

The hard part is doing when you don’t want to, be as many things in life, consistency is key! If you can’t be consistent, add accountability.

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2. Reading uplifting content before going to bed

Don’t let yourself go to bed in a bad mood, or by filling your brain with “crap”. I understand that you need to decompress before going to bed. I completely get that.

But what you do before bed affects how you wake up, and the state of mind you’re going to be in for the first part of the day.

My top recommendation here is to read biographies or self-help books. I find them so uplifting. It’s always nice to hear that even the inspiring people in our lives are just as imperfect as we are, sometimes even more so.

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You Are, or Will Become What you Read

3. Listen to uplifting music, podcasts, and people

My most productive days seem to be when I’m dancing to music on my chair. Great music puts me in flow state. I feel like I can do anything!

In terms of podcasts, nothing gets me more than the Tim Ferriss Show.

For people, I like to listen to people smarter than I around myself. Or TED talks.

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4. Keep inspiring quotes near you

Quotes are powerful. One thing I had realized early on when I started writing was that things people highlighted most in my stories were the quotes I put in them.

And I get it. People far smarter than me have said far smarter things I have.

Reading at least one good quote a day puts you in the right mood. Keep it on your fridge/desk. Let it be in your face as frequently as possible.

The one I kept the longest the last time I had the Limitless Effect was this one:

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” — Markus Aurelius

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5. Work out, even if just a little

The best months of my life was when I was doing physical activity. I was feeling great in my body.

I’ve always been a skinny guy, but when I’m working out and seeing even small gains in muscles, I feel incredible. Whatever your goals are health-wise, be active, measure every little gain, and keep going.

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6. Have monthly goals and track them

New Year resolutions suck. They’re near-impossible to achieve.

Monthly goals, on the other hand, are excellent. Committing to goals for a month is doable, and leads to building great habits. It’s great to experiment and see what works for you, and what doesn’t.

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7. Make a clear task list

I work on at least 4 projects on a daily basis. A lot of people would say this is insane and counter-productive, and they would be mostly right.

I’ve been disorganized and lost many times. I had a really hard time tracking my progress on the various projects. Not anymore.

It doesn’t matter the tool you use as long as your list is clear.

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8. Aim freaking high

Always make your lists bigger than you can chew. We, as humans, like comfort. If we allow ourselves to be comfortable, we end up doing close to nothing.

Make your lists big. But make sure the tasks are small and achievable. I have about 15–20 things to do every day. Most are 10 minute-tasks.

If I aim to accomplish 10 tasks. I will. And I will be “satisfied”.

Now if I aim to accomplish 20 tasks and complete 15–18 of them, I’ll be pumped. I won’t see time go by and the dopamine rush I’ll get rush for accomplishing so much will strongly contribute to building that momentum up.

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9. Prepare your next day the night before

What I’m proposing you here is to simply make a list of things you want to accomplish for the next day a few hours before bed, and then review it shortly before “calling it a night”.

Don’t make it too complex. Just a simple list. It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. I usually come up with a list of anywhere between 10–20 things to do.

Here’s what happens when you prepare your next day the night before:

While you sleep, your subconscious is “working on” things you “fed it” before going to bed. When you feed it with things you want to accomplish for the next day, it will “prepare” you for them.

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10. Write for yourself

Writing has been a powerful medium for me to express myself. I never knew I had so much to say, let alone inspire people along the way.

I did it for myself, really.

Yet putting all my thoughts in writing has been a phenomenal way to free my mind and think clearly, ultimately leading to some momentum.

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11. Delegate to people you trust

This is WAY underrated! I thought people who delegated were lazy. I didn’t get the 4-Hour Workweek the first time I read it.

There was a guy I worked with who was so proud of letting others do the work for him. Turns out he was secretly a genius.

There are so many things I was doing that could easily be done by someone either more qualified or with more time doing simpler things.

Since I hired my assistant in February, I was able to focus on the things I’m good at and have increased my productivity up to 10x.

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12. Have a semi-strict routine

My wife hates my daily schedule/routine. It’s pretty obsessive indeed. But damn, it works. The more I stick to it, the more productive I am.

I tweak it every month depending on the skills I’m learning that month and what my goals are.

Here’s what it looks like for this month:

  • 4:30am: Wake up
  • 4:40am: Write
  • 5:30am: Walk to work
  • 6:00am: Practice skill: epic music composition
  • 7:00am: Salsa dancing lessons
  • 8:00am: Work block
  • 12:00pm: Lunchtime
  • 12:30pm: Admin Tasks
  • 2:00pm: Power nap
  • 2:30pm: Work block
  • 7:00pm: Walk home + groceries
  • 7:45pm: Shower
  • 8:00pm: Cook, eat, dishes
  • 9:00pm: Leisure time
  • 10:30pm: Sleep

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13. Don’t stop when it hurts

How do you build muscles? You continue when it starts hurting!

And you know what? That’s how you grow in anything in life. No pain no gain.

If you stop when it’s hard, you just wasted valuable energy. Recognize when you’re in a dip, and then get out of it!

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14. Surround yourself with motivated people

Here’s one of my favourite quote of all times:

“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn

This is so true.

I seek mentors. I seek positive people. I seek people who get stuff done.

I can only work from co-working spaces, mostly because of that. This, along with delegating, are the main cause for my intense productivity.

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15. Walk to work and limit wasted time

Walking to work is one of the most “meditative” things you can do. Going in, you can prepare for what’s to come. Going out, you can disconnect from work.

Analyze how you spend your time. We all waste valuable time. And I’m not saying to not watch TV, but realize that there’s a time when you need it, and a time when it’s a waste.

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16. Constantly learn new things

That’s probably contributed the most to the changes in my life.

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ― Robert Greene, Mastery

Everything I’m doing today — my “successes”, my “failures” — it’s all because I had decided I wanted to consciously learn 3 new skills every month back in September 2017.

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17. Learn to power nap

Power napping is a skill, and it’s hard to master. I’ve mastered it over the years, and it’s been a key ingredient to my productivity.

We can’t be focused 100% of the time during the day. When my energy levels are low, I power nap. Once. Twice. Three times a day! Who cares.

15 minutes after power napping, I’m back in peak state and accomplish so much more than if I didn’t nap.

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18. Learn to meditate and journal

I knew meditation would be hard when I decided to start doing it. But what I didn’t realize was that it’s a skill and it needs practice. I quickly learned that I had the wrong expectations, and that held me back. Meditation is not about “not thinking”, it’s about being aware.

When I started journaling, I had the preconception that it was a dumb idea and that I wouldn’t have anything to say. I could not have been more wrong. On my first journaling session, I wrote for 3 hours without even noticing.

It’s a powerful tool that frees up your mind and aligns your goals together. You become more aware and focused.

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19. Take a well-deserved vacation

It’s hard to brake when your pedal is all the way back. But you know what, sometimes that’s exactly when you need to brake.

You can’t function at peak state when you’re constantly under pressure.

Dare take vacations, you need them!

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20. Don’t be alone

I’m an introvert. I like solitude. I’m so drained whenever I’m surrounded by people.

But I need to have people around me once in a while, to share my stories, my experiences, my “successes”, my “failures”, etc. Everyone does.

Everyone needs to be uplifted, and you can’t (easily) do it alone.

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21. Meet new people, attend events, do things outside of work

Meeting new people and doing things outside of work is very important both for your sanity and for making important connections.

I voluntarily go out to seek and talk to people that are now helping with some of my projects. And of course, I help in return!

You gotta have things outside of work. You can’t be all work and no play. Work hard, play hard. Cliché I know, but it’s true.

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22. Do good, be grateful

I don’t know of anyone who has the Limitless Effect and is not doing good. Doing good is so rewarding and gives you such a high.

And when someone does good to you, be grateful. Gratefulness is almost as powerful as doing good yourself.

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23. Celebrate The Small Wins

If you’re like most of us, you don’t get many big wins in a month. It’s hard to keep our motivation when we don’t win frequently. It’s not by accident that people, including myself, rush to video games — you are constantly being rewarded. That’s also why we’re trying to gamify everything now.

So I say to you, every time a small event happens where it could be considered a “win”, acknowledge it. Take note of it. Have a “success” journal. Here’s an example of things I saved a few months back:

That’s it! This is not a big win, but that totally uplifted me, and is the main reason I’m writing on this topic today!

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Here’s a quick recap of ideas to getting the Limitless Effect (makes for a good list on your fridge!):

  • Keep or Make Good Habits, Drop The Bad Ones
  • Reading Uplifting Content Before Going To Bed
  • Listen To Uplifting Music, Podcasts, And People
  • Keep Inspiring Quotes Near You
  • Work Out, Even If Just A Little
  • Have Monthly Goals And Track Them
  • Make A Clear Task List
  • Aim Freaking High
  • Prepare Your Next Day The Night Before
  • Write For Yourself
  • Delegate To People You Trust
  • Have A Semi-Strict Routine
  • Don’t Stop When It Hurts
  • Surround Yourself With Motivated People
  • Walk To Work, and Limit Wasted Time
  • Constantly Learn New Things
  • Learn To Power Nap
  • Learn To Meditate and Journal
  • Take A Well-Deserved Vacation
  • Don’t Be Alone
  • Meet New People, Attend Events, Do Things Outside Of Work
  • Do Good, Be Grateful
  • Celebrate The Small Wins

Be consistent in working towards your goals. Don’t skip. Do. Even when you don’t want to. Every small gain builds your momentum. Momentum makes you unstoppable!

You can do this!

Thanks for reading, sharing, and following! :)

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Danny Forest

Written by

Status quo’s worst nightmare | Obsessive learner | Productivity beast | Father of a little Viking. Get in touch:

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +667K people. Follow to join our community.

Danny Forest

Written by

Status quo’s worst nightmare | Obsessive learner | Productivity beast | Father of a little Viking. Get in touch:

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +667K people. Follow to join our community.

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