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Talent, Ambition, and Ability to Execute; Newsletter #19

4 Little Wonder Bites 💭

📖 Current Read; Atomic Habits — James Clear

It’s the second newsletter in a row in which I focus on this book? I think someone put a spell on me…

Within Chapter 1 of his bestseller, Clear focuses heavily on why systems are much better to actually achieve goals, and some of the problems that arise with a goal-focused mindset.

Goals and Systems.

There are two ways that people can go about forming habits;

  1. Setting Goals
  2. Building Systems

The majority of us are flawed in our approach, we only set goals and forgo the need to design any systems.

Of course, goal setting is extremely important and necessary. You set goals so that you have some sort of direction, and end result that you’re striving to achieve.

What Clear outlines, however, is that systems are the daily processes, made up of atomic habits, that actually make those results possible.

We can set as many goals as we like, yet if we do not spend time focusing on the systems, which are the processes that lead to results, it's unlikely that we will reach the goal.

You can have a goal without a system. But, as systems themselves are best for making progress, you should work on designing a system too.

Ensure that your system takes advantage of the 4 Laws of Behaviour Change, so that you stay on the right track to achieving those end results.

What problems arise when you spend too much time thinking about your goals and not enough time designing your systems?

Problem 1. Winners and losers have the same goals.

Two people can set out with the same goal, one will hit it, the other won’t.

We, however, suffer from survivorship bias, in which we only focus on those who end up winning and hitting the goal. We overlook those who missed out on the goal, we forget that there in fact were people who set the goal and didn’t hit it!

When you think about the goal only, you fall into this trap. You forget that there were people who didn’t hit the goal, meaning two things;

  1. There is a chance that you too won’t hit the goal
  2. It cannot be down to the goal itself.

It simply cannot have been the goal that propelled some into victory and some into failure.

The goal will stay, but what determines results is implementing a system of continuous small improvements that helps achieve a different outcome.

Problem 2. Achieving a goal is only a momentary change.

This, for me, is potentially one of the most important points in the book.

Reaching a goal, finishing the marathon, writing the book, it’s all only momentary.

It is true that you may feel great ecstasy and pride when you hit the goal, but like any other feeling, it fades over time. Yet, it’s important to note that achieving the goal is a win nonetheless, even if it is momentary, and we should celebrate that!

Achieving a goal only changes your life for the moment.

We think, counterintuitively, that when we hit X goal, or when we do Y thing, then life will be better. That after we hit this goal, then we’ll be happy, and things will change.

The one major issue with this approach, thinking that the goals will provide long term happiness, is this;

  • The results are not the problem

Changing the outcome you get does not profoundly change your life. As said previously, goals are only momentary. After hitting that goal, achieving the results, you’re just left with an emptiness.

You can have the title, you can have the medal, but it’s unlikely that you will get any long term happiness from that result.

This means that the results, the goals, are not the problem. Hitting the goal and getting the results will not be the thing that changes your life.

What you have to do is to change the systems; the tiny actions and habits that cause those results.

When you solve problems at the results level, you only solve them temporarily. In order to improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level.

If the feeling of happiness fades over time, why do we place so much emphasis on the goals themselves? Why do we not focus on the journey, the systems, that can provide long term happiness with less chance of it fading?

Problem 3. Goals restrict your happiness.

We, wrongly, put off our happiness till we reach a milestone.

The implicit assumption behind any goal is this: “Once I reach my goal, then I’Il be happy.”

That, until we hit the goal, happiness cannot be ours, and that only when we reach the goal, will things be good.

This goal first mentality makes it so that happiness is only something that the future self can enjoy. That, the person who crosses the finish line will be happy, not me here, the person who is training.

This isn’t actually sustainable, or healthy. To place happiness in the future only robs you of so much joy! We must work on creating happiness in all areas of life, not just when we hit a goal.

Goals also create an ‘either or’ conflict; either you achieve your goal and are successful or you fail and you are a disappointment.

And so, your version of happiness is narrow, hard to achieve, and short lasting.

The antidote is a systems first mentality.

Prioritise the systems, the day to day actions, ensure that those things provide as much joy as possible.

When you fall in love with the process rather than the product, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running.

Problem 4. Goals are at odds with long term progress.

It seems counterintuitive; you set goals so that the future can be better, so how are they at odds with it?

The issue lies in what happens after you hit the goal.

Many people work so hard to hit a goal, and when they do, they stop.

There is no longer an end goal, and so they stop doing what they were doing before, they let the good habits slip, and return back to their old life.

There’s nothing pushing them forward after they hit that initial goal, so there’s no reason to go on, and they don’t.

Take the example of a runner who finishes a marathon. They may have spent months training for it, but after they cross the finish line, there’s nothing propelling them to keep training. And so they don’t, they put the running shoes away, and eventually, fall back into old, harmful habits.

The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game.

Hit the goal, yet stick with the systems. Don’t abandon those daily processes and habits that lead to the goal.

True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement.

Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.

In short, avoid a goal first mentality, as it restricts happiness, is at odds with long-term success, and causes more problems than it’s worth. To truly become your best self, focus on building strong systems alongside goals.

🎧 Current Podcast; 10 Lesson I Have Learned from the Last 300 Episodes of On Purpose — Jay Shetty

In this episode, Shetty shares insight on the 10 most profound lessons he has learnt from his last 300 collaborative interview episodes and solo episodes. The lessons are all extremely rich and definitely worth implementing, yet lesson 3 has changed my life immensely.

Lesson #3, People Won’t Always See Your Best Work, Do It Anyway.

When people don’t see how hard we work on something, it’s common that we can get pretty angry or upset.

That, when we spend hours working on a project, recording a video, creating outlines; trying in any which way possible to add value, when people don’t appreciate it, we have the tendency to get frustrated.

Of course, this is totally understandable. Behind each piece of work we create, there’s other factors at play, such as time and effort, and we wish that everyone would appreciate the hard work.

Yet, the harsh truth we need to accept is this; people will not always appreciate your work as you deserve. Some people are too caught up in their own lives to realise how much effort you put in, it’s often not personal.

The caveat here is the fact that we are assuming that people will see your work.

What about when they don’t?

There will be times where the content you create doesn’t get released. The articles you write and and videos you create will never see the light of day.

This is especially big for habits; the majority of the little, daily actions that we take go entirely unnoticed.

People won’t see the workouts that we do when we’re alone, and they won’t see all the times we get up out of bed when we wish we could stay under the covers. They won’t see all those hours we spend studying for exams, when we could be out partying.

Yet, should we let that get us down or stop us?

Should we stop, give up or procrastinate just because people won’t see the hard work?

The most rational answer here is clearly, no.

In the situations where people do not see your hard work, you must still do your best. You must show up for yourself, as if you had an audience, as if the whole world was watching!

Yet, the most important thing to do when doing your best is this; forgo any desire for outside approval or praise, and try find it in yourself.

Let me repeat that, forgo any desire for outside approval or praise, and try find it in yourself.

The most paramount and beneficial form of motivation is always yourself. If you can praise yourself, reward yourself for all the hard work, those other people and their opinions sink into oblivion.

It is 10x better to show up for yourself than for anyone else. Do the hard work, the studying, the workouts, the writing, do it all for you.

Do it precisely because nobody is watching. As you do not need anyone else to watch to ensure that you do well when you are your own motivator.

Find the external praise that you searched for in yourself, become your own sight of happiness, ambition and motivation.

Do the work so that you feel better, happier, healthier, do it to improve yourself first, and praise yourself on the way.

Eventually, people will see your improvements, and they will praise you. They will give you the rewards you initially wished for. But that only happens if you do your best work when nobody is watching.

As James Clear says,

When you finally break through.. people will call it an overnight success. The outside world only sees sees the most dramatic event rather than all that preceded it. But you know that it’s the work you did long ago — when it seemed that you weren’t making any progress — that makes the jump today possible.

The message in this is; people won’t see our hard work, but we must do it anyway, for ourself.

Idea of the Week. 💭

“Action is the foundational key to all success” says Pablo Picasso.

I go on to discuss later, in the Tweet section of this newsletter, how action on its own will not guarantee success. Yet, Picasso is onto something in this quote, and as Ollivier Pourriol states in his book,

“Choosing randomly is better than not choosing at all. The longer you hesitate, the harder it will be. Don’t wait until you’re sure before you act’.

In essence, any action is better than no action, and as action is foundational to success, there will be a point where you simply have to take action.

That, to progress any further will require action. You might have been able to get away with it before, but there’ll reach a point where it’s either action, or stagnancy.

When you take that first step, whether you are ready or not, you’re on the right track. You’re building that foundation. You simply have to act, you have to break through the fears and apprehensiveness, and you have to throw yourself in there, head first.

Olivier Pourroil also offers evidence for this,

We feel the fear in advance, when we think about it. Whereas once we’re out there, we just do the best we can. We are delivered from fear by action.

If you throw yourself into action, via choosing randomly or thinking it through thoroughly, any of the fear you may have had can subside, and you can begin on your path to success.

If you don’t take any action, you don’t have the foundation, and you won’t reach the success.

Tweet of the Week. ✍🏻

Just because you have talent & ambition doesn’t mean you’ll succeed.

To go a step further, taking action isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either.

Execution is where the magic happens.

Combine talent, ambition, & the ability to execute and you’ll become an unstoppable force.

There are three things that one needs to increase their chances of success; talent, ambition and an ability to execute.

Having the talent on its own is not enough. To have talent, without honing in on it, training it and developing it, it is simply wasted potential. Ensure that you do not leave your talents and specialties undeveloped.

Having the ambition on its own is not enough. You’ll have all this energy and urge to achieve, but where will you place the energy? You’ll have goals, but not the resources or the systems to reach them.

Having the desire to act on its own is not enough. You can take as much action if you want, yet if its not directed in the place it needs to go, you’d be better off not acting at all.

As Peter Drucker says,

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

There is no need to act on something when it shouldn’t be done at all.

All of these 3 factors on their own bring no return.

What you need, accumulated alongside these 3 factors, is the ability to execute.

The ability to execute ensures that you make things happen, that you execute your ideas and bring them into the world.

With talent, find something that comes easy.

With ambition, set solid goals and build solid systems.

With action, find the best place to direct it, and gear up.

Combine all of that with execution, and make things happen.

To end, here’s a question from me! ⚡️

How can you make non fatal or reversible decisions as quickly as possible?

One of Tim Ferriss’ six principles in having a choice minimal lifestyle is to make reversible decisions quickly. Making these non fatal decisions without too much thought is pivotal. Here’s an excerpt from my article;

When faced with a decision where the stakes are not high, and you can easily double back on what you said, make it quickly. Its unlikely to hurt you in the long run.

When you spend less time and energy on those decisions, you have more energy to put to the big decisions, where it is demanded and valued.

Thanks for reading!

Sam. 😄



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Sam M

Sam M


happiness in all areas of life. student 👨🏻‍🎓. 2 weekly newsletters, daily stoic meditations + occasional articles and book summaries.