Unsuccessful People Focus on “How Long” It Takes. Successful People Focus on “How Many Times” It Takes.

Anthony Moore
· 7 min read

James Clear, #1 New York Times best-selling author of Atomic Habits, wrote:

“There is nothing magical about time passing in regard to habit formation. It doesn’t matter if it’s been twenty-one days or three hundred days. What matters is the rate at which you perform the behavior. You could do something twice in thirty days, or two hundred times. It’s the frequency that makes the difference.(emphasis mine)

It’s not about “how long” something will take — you could practice something twice a week or 200 times a week and get wildly different results.

No — it’s the frequency that makes you successful.

If you keep reading, you’re going to learn exactly how extraordinary and successful people learn difficult new skills — foreign languages, instruments, programming, sales, sports — in a fraction of the “normal” time.

You’re going to learn why, in the words of author Derek Sivers, the standard pace is for chumps.

But you have to have an open mind about this. My inbox has been flooded with cynical people telling me that no, you can’t learn new skills quickly — “mastery takes 20 years”, they tell me.

You can believe them.

Or you could believe the almost-unbelievable truth, and earn more money, learn more skills, and achieve mastery faster than 99% of the population.

Let’s begin.

Most People Don’t Think They’re Capable of Extraordinary

“It’s lonely at the top. 99% of people are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most competitive.” -Tim Ferriss, #1 NYT best-selling author and entrepreneur

The harsh truth is, most people don’t believe they’re capable of extraordinary things. They don’t think it’s possible, and many people will fight you about this.

There’s a simple reason for this. If this idea were true — if just about anyone could achieve extraordinary results very quickly — then that means that, all this time, you could’ve been doing extraordinary things. Instead, you wasted time with cynicism and disbelief.

The truth is, you’re capable of truly extraordinary things.

You just have to pay the price.

See, nearly anything is possible if you pay the price.

  • You could learn a foreign language (and move to a new country to start a new life)
  • You could become an incredible chef.
  • You could create an online business (and make enough money to quit your day job).
  • You could write a book (that reaches thousands of people).
  • You could become physically fit (and look in the mirror with confidence).

All these and more are possible — if you’re willing to pay the price. And it’s not about “how long” it will take — that’s what unsuccessful people focus on. It’s about “how many times” you can put in the work.

This is why achieving mastery only takes as long as you want it to take. Obviously, you can’t master chess by lunchtime or learn French by Friday. But you can speed the process up 10x and literally 100x faster than 99% of other people.

In his powerful book Mastery, Robert Greene wrote:

“The time that leads to mastery is dependent on the intensity of our focus.”

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

If you’re unable to bring intensity of focus — if you’re too tired after work, or from eating junk food, or from spending too much time on unnecessary projects — you’re probably not going to master anything anytime soon. Mastery takes sacrifice. What are you willing to change to get the life you want?

Most people don’t think they’re capable of extraordinary things, so they never bother to try. They’ll spend more time criticizing and tearing down others than actually doing the work.

Ignore the haters. Ignore the people who claim “that’s just how it’s always been done.” In his book The Pocket Guide to Action, Kyle Eschenroeder wrote, “With the lowered cost of trying things, it means the value of listening to doubters is at an historic low. They don’t know what’s possible.

Don’t let others’ low standards keep you in mediocrity. You can achieve mastery, very quickly — it just depends on your intensity and frequency of focus.

It Doesn’t Matter How Long You Take, What Matters is How Many Times You Put the Reps In

“Everything is reps and mileage.” -Arnold Schwarzenegger

I’ve been writing for over 6 years. The first 4.5 years were hard as hell. Mostly because I spent more time complaining that actually writing.

During my first 4.5 years of blogging, I was very “busy.” I was thinking about my blog all the time. I was reading books about blogging. I spent a lot of time trying to pitch big-name blogs so they’d feature me (read: make me famous).

What I didn’t really do was write.

There’s an old joke that goes like this. There’s a glass with some water sitting on a table, and a crowd of of scientists, philosophers, and psychologists are arguing whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. Unbeknownst to them, a little boy walks in the room, quietly drinks the rest of the water, and leaves, leaving the crowd dumbfounded.

It’s all about action.

After 4.5 years of writing mediocrity, I knew I needed to change my approach. mI finally decided to take writing seriously. I looked back at how many blog posts I had written; in 54 months, I had published about 150 posts.

That’s like, 3 posts a month. (They weren’t even that long.)

Then I came across an article by renowned blogger Jon Morrow from SmartBlogger. He wrote a challenging statement: he said that if you wanted to be a serious writer, you had to put in at least 10 hours a week or writing (but probably 20 hours if you’re really serious).

I knew that if I wanted to get better as a writer — and to stop seeing a huge “0” in income, readers, and views — I needed to write. A lot.

So that’s what I did.

I wrote 30 articles in 30 days, and by the end of the month I had more readers than the previous 4.5 years combined.

I stopped emailing websites hoping people would say yes and just focused on writing. I knew I sucked. I stopped worrying about my blog and my numbers. I stopped focusing on the outcome and started focusing on the process.

I knew that if I continued to write, I’d probably (hopefully) see why I sucked, tweak accordingly, and get better. I’d stop wasting time thinking about “how long” things were taking, and start concentrating on “how many times” I could write an article.

The results were astounding. In the first 4.5 years, my total results were:

  • 178 total email subscribers
  • 50 views/day
  • $40 earned income (total!)

But in less than a year of writing consistently, here’s what I saw:

  • 30,000+ new email subscribers
  • Guest posts on CNBC, Thought Catalog, and Business Insider
  • 65,000+ views on a big day (for 4 years, my record was 748 views in 1 day) and hundreds of thousands of views/month
  • Thousands of dollars/month in passive income
  • A book publisher asking me to sign a book deal
  • An international men’s magazine republishing my articles
  • Podcast and conference speaker invitations

I began attracting enormous success when I made PROGRESS my biggest goal.

I stopped focusing on “how long” success would take, and instead focused on “how many reps” I needed to put in. The answer? A lot. As always.

I finally stopped chasing success. I knew the more I improved, the more success I would attract; success would take care of itself.

Photo by Austin Wade on Unsplash

Here’s How to Accomplish 100x the Results in 1/10th the Time

“You got this far operating under one set of assumptions. Abandoning those assumptions and embracing a new, bigger set may be exactly what you need to to do get to the next level.” -Seth Godin

The reason most people don’t achieve mastery and accomplish their goals quickly isn’t because they can’t — it’s because they’re following an extremely slow timeline.

The truth is, the standard pace — the pace and speed that most people go at — is usually far slower than you need to go. The standard pace is set for the maximum number of people to succeed, but you don’t need to play by those rules. In fact, once you realize how fast you can go, you’ll begin to see enormous results — very quickly.

Like I said, when I first started blogging, I was told that it takes years to become successful. Which is true — to an extent. Those years have to be spent wisely and efficiently. I know plenty of “writers” who have been casually blogging or posting pictures once every few weeks who have gone nowhere.

Remember — it’s not about how long it takes, it’s how many times you can put in the work that determines your success.

Difficult skills and goals take time to complete, but you could probably start achieving your goals much faster if you increased the intensity and frequency of your effort.

Big changes often come from small tweaks.

Increase the frequency of your intensity and speed of practice, and you’ll get much bigger results, much faster.

In Conclusion

“Small, seemingly inconsistent steps completed consistently over time will create a radical difference.” -Darren Hardy, former editor of SUCCESS Magazine

It’s not about how long things will take — that’s what unsuccessful people focus on. “Are we there yet?” isn’t a great question to help you reach you goal.

Instead, focus on “how many times” you can put in the work. What do you need to cut out of your life that’s preventing you from fast progress? What is slowing you down? How could you live differently so that you have more energy and focus?

What do you need to do today that will make you successful tomorrow?

Call To Action

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The Ascent

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Anthony Moore

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The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment.