You need to change course and direction if you’re going to hit your goals! – Random Guru
While striving towards goals does involve being a bit off course a lot of the time, if you’re changing strategies too frequently to try to level up, it could actually cause failure.
The guy at the grocery store checkout line that wants to jump to another line that seems like it’s moving faster, only to realize his original lane was now going faster and jumps back, realizes he never makes any progress as he keeps hopping lines.
The guy in Office Space driving to work hops in the other lane that’s going faster only to immediately stop due to extra traffic.
Sierra On-Line games co-founder Ken Williams talks about how massively successful they were when they started making computer games and dominated in that. Then jumped ship by trying to make video games for consoles and failed miserably in the early 1980s. Ken says he should have never deviated from his original path, despite the allure of video games being much more favorable. Sometimes chasing after a slice of a billion dollar pie is much harder than getting the entire pie if the pie is only $10M.
As an aside, it’s a common lesson we hear repeatedly that it’s better to be the best in a niche more than to be “a part of a billion dollar industry.”
Be impatient with getting into line. Be impatient with getting your niche carved out. Be patient with staying in your niche and growing, more than jumping to a newer broader niche or a different market altogether.
Sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing. Stay in line, stay in your own niche, and keep grinding out that plan. When to switch vs stick it out is an art, but usually tied to progression. If you’re progressing bit by bit, maybe you should stick with it. If you’re not progressing at all, maybe it’s time to switch.
How many things would have gone better for you in the past, if you just stuck with it all the way through as opposed to jumping into something else seemingly more lucrative or exciting?
“Thinking of going to college or taking a trip around the world? College can wait. Travel the world!” – Gary Vee
Gary is probably right about most things. However, there’s 2 biases that are in play with his advice.
Tell me what I want to hear bias (eg Confirmation Bias):
The bias to want to hear what you feel. I wrote about this in another article where gurus become popular not because they’re effective or give good advice, but because those gurus tell you to chase 6 passions simultaneously (and that’s what you wanted to hear). It may not be good advice to derail your employment career for your jaunt across Europe, but when Gary tells you it’s ok, it suddenly is now confirmed that dropping out of school is a good idea.
The Scarcity Effect:
The bias that something that is scarce is valuable. People think this is a bias that deals with physical things, but it’s rampant in non tangible things too. The problem is that because you can only go on a Europe trip this one time and then it’s going to be nearly impossible to do it later is now somehow, magically, and incorrectly, thought to be a better decision because “you can always go back to school” or “you can always find another job.”
This process is bad where we are giving priority for doing things that can only be done now AND giving them a ‘bonus’ over something that isn’t scarce (ie. getting a job, going back to school, etc). It MIGHT actually be a good idea to go on your jaunt across Europe. But it’s NOT a good idea simply because the alternatives could be pushed off.
Things that can be pushed off aren’t inherently a bad idea.
This logic goes down a slippery slope, “Hey Gary, should I start that diet to get ripped or should I eat this cake made by an amazing chef?” To which Gary will say, “Fuck those abs man, you can always start a diet anytime. This is CAKE we’re talking about. Don’t you love cake? I know tons of people with 6 pack abs that are miserable! Don’t you want to be happy?!”
His advice is seductive, and in fairness, it propagates because it’s OFTEN right. But lurking in the bushes near his good advice is are 2 biases waiting to latch people to him: 1) I’ll tell you to do whatever you want, and 2) Procrastination is ok. It’s hidden in his mantras about “patience” and the unreasonable premium on decisions that have an expiration date to them.
Gary helps people make the right decision a lot of times (starting your business, etc), but for the wrong reasons (“because other things can wait”).
Do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because there’s an easy way to bail and jump ship to another idea (ie school, job). – Truth Cake
As an aside, Naval is the only person that I’ve seen describe advice on patience fully which is, “Be patient with results and impatient with the execution.”
If you’re trying to decide between things and you catch yourself saying, “Well, if X doesn’t work out, I can always go back…” Just stop. You’re making a biased decision based on the Scarcity Effect, and your conclusion is likely to be wrong.
What decisions have you made that you made because you felt that this was your “ONE shot” vs simply making a decision because it was the best decision to make?
Jeff Bezos spends money better than you or I do. When we spend money, we’re basically influencing what someone else does with their time. There are certain tasks that are better for humanity than others, one would argue having someone spend their time to build a house, or cook a meal, is more valuable than banging buckets as drums on a downtown sidewalk or cooking meth.
In the book Bold, the authors mention that to fix developing countries you can fix certain problems such as giving a place electricity or better ovens and this solves a pile of other problems. This is in contrast to solving a problem like hunger by giving a free meal, which doesn’t really solve a problem for very long and also creates more problems when well fed people then have the strength to reproduce and create even more mouths to feed.
When a hobo is given $20, then that money commands more liquor store owners to keep showing up, make new stores, or brewers to get more barrels to brew booze in. When Elon Musk is given $20, that money commands a kid to stay in school to keep studying rocket science in hopes that Musk will hire him to help get us to Mars. Getting to Mars is likely better for the human race than brewing more booze.
This is why the government doesn’t want certain people to pay any taxes. The government knows that business owner will spend that money better than the government can. A regular wage earner will likely not spend the money in a good way that benefits a lot of the economy and society, and therefore the government takes it and spends it the best it can to encourage more people that CAN spend the money than them to emerge (ie. the entrepreneurs). The only reason we have a job working for some company where the CEO pays no taxes is BECAUSE the CEO pays no taxes. This is a highly incomplete view of this economic theory, but the point is to think about how money influences others to make humanity better (or worse).
Also, in terms of making things better, we should consider what things make us better vs not. If you have a hobby, like singing, drawing, painting, this may seem like a selfish thing, but many of these things can be performed or done for others and that brings joy to those other people enjoying the fruits of that person’s hobby and practice. Even things like philosophy, which are usually unemployable skillsets, may bring some value to others in terms of helping people see ways to progress mentally.
It’s probably worth considering the scale of what’s valuable and not. An example is knowing different languages is probably one of the worst things humans do in terms of making the world productive and better, and we’d all be better off if we just picked one language and everyone was taught that. Learning how to write in funny ways like cursive might be exceptionally low value. But learning government, even if someone isn’t going into politics, is probably higher value to make sure we’re not going down the path of a tyrannical government that destroys a society’s productivity. And maybe higher is learning digital arts like movie production, animations and image editing. And maybe the highest is learning chemistry, building trades, engineering, and software development.
It’s also interesting to note that some things may have nearly no value whatsoever. Like memorizing the latin names of animals, or perhaps even knowing how to identify certain bird sounds with certain birds. Does it make the world a better place to know how many eggs a sea turtle lays in a season? Probably not. This isn’t to be confused with whether something is profitable to know. Philosophy may not have much profitability associated with it, but if you meet Jeff Bezos and tell him some philosophical story of how people that do great things receive a lot of criticism at first from skeptics, and that’s the story that keeps him going, then philosophy is highly valuable to a growing society.
Even harder sciences don’t necessarily make the cut such as paleontology. If someone spends their days with a paintbrush delicately brushing away dirt from a bone, and we see that bone and then make predictions about it (ie. “It’s 20,000 years old!”), does it really matter? Granted, on some level everything matters, and also perhaps, nothing matters. But some things will matter to more people than other things. If you learn how to make a seed that yields 5x the crops, there’s a lot more people that such a discovery will matter to than finding another old bone. If someone discovers a technology and builds a business around it that comes to town and has 10,000 jobs, that may matter more than knowing how long a whale can grow to be.
The point is that there’s some things in life that matter to more people than others, and maybe we should focus on those things as a society. Beware of the piles of infinite information that don’t do anything for society or you, and simply clog your brain. And consider how when you spend a $1 how it can affect the world and how spending in certain ways vs others, controls whether humanity progresses or regresses.
If you consider yourself a little microcosm society, what things should it learn the most? What things should it try to compel others to do via spending money? What behaviors can start a flywheel of prosperity or happiness to begin to spin up?
“Stop playing those games and get to work!” – Alex Becker.
Becker will have you working non-stop, ignoring all your friends, and so on. For him, it works. But for many of us, we can find success by working hard and playing hard. People misinterpret that statement all the time.
Here’s a good way for you to actually interpret ‘work hard, play hard.’
Are you playing hard? Or just distracting yourself? Distractions make you not think about the things you should be doing (like work). Playing is a reward from the hard work you’ve done and is NOT a distraction to keep your mind occupied from being bored (and therefore realizing even more that you should be working).
Play hard – do the things you really love doing for fun.
Work hard – do the things you bring the most value to the table for.
Don’t distract yourself. Mindlessly watching TV is probably a bad idea. Going on a hike to a cool waterfall, clearing your mind, and “playing” is a good idea.
Most people live a life of distraction, which is unfulfilling but it’s both easy and minimizes the chance of pain (as well as pleasure).
Be aware of your distractions and/or inefficiencies.
Do you really want to be spending all that time walking in a parking lot to where you’re going? Maybe you should jog instead.
Do you really want to be spending time watching TV shows you don’t care about (eg. distraction)? Maybe you should work harder on finding a friend that you can hang out with having more fun.
Do you really need to make 2 grocery store trips (eg. inefficient) or can you buy extra and save yourself the second trip?
“Work hard and play hard” sounds like advice to make a lot of money and then blow it all. But really, the cliche is best to consider what’s between those 2 things, which is distractions or just tasks that are wastes of time (ie. tasks that aren’t really your work, nor are they play).
The cliche should be, “Work hard, do things you truly enjoy, and avoid wasting time from all the stuff in between playing and working.”
How much time are you wasting walking in parking lots, watching bad TV, being stuck in traffic, etc that maybe you can find ways to eliminate them so you have time to play more?
“Work on your mindset everyday!” the gurus will scream. But really, your mindset is just a permission slip that grants you the ability to move forward.
Granted, the real reason why people don’t move forward more is often mindset. But you can’t preach mindset advice to prisoners of war or to people that are slaves – that’s not what their problem is. These are extreme examples, but the reason they’re in their situation isn’t “because of their mindset.” This sort of endless “mindset” talk is just some guru selling a course.
The reality is mindset is you giving yourself a permission slip to move forward. Permission to fail, to take risks, to grow. Just like a road trip, you need a permission slip, but also the car to get there, the map to know where you’re going and so on. Permission slip is just a small piece of the puzzle, but it’s the piece that gurus can blame you the most for not having it and you can be convinced that they’re right.
Most people do suffer from a broken mindset that keeps them artificially crippled.
But once you’ve gotten the mindset stuff figured out and you’ve truly granted yourself permission to move forward, then you have to start moving on to the other things (ie. plans, strategies, tools, etc) to help you get where you want to go.
Have you been spending time endlessly working on your mindset, when in reality, you’ve already cleared that barrier and now ready to tackle the next hurdle?
In a different post, I mention that finding more problems is often strangely the solution. However, another way to go about that idea is to consider whether you’d like to solve a problem or eliminate a problem by making the problem irrelevant.
There’s usually an easier way to handle a problem, and it’s by noticing 4 ways to deal with it.
First off, the problem people say is the problem isn’t the REAL problem. It’s buried in multiple layers like an onion. The REAL problem is several layers of problems deep. Let’s say the problem is “I’m late for work,” which is not the real problem. The real problem is getting fired. Which the real problem there is not having a paycheck. Which that problem is not being able to buy groceries. Which the real problem is therefore actually going hungry.
Don’t look for the “root of the problem” unless you want to make your life hard and waste time.
People erroneously say something like, “The root of the problem of being late for work is you need to plan better!” But that’s not the real root of the problem, and that sort of thinking distorts your ability to better problem solve. The REAL root of the problem in this example is “starvation.” It’s also myopic to look at the root of the problem, when in reality, problems form in multiple layers and you can solve any of the layers of problem just as effectively as “the root.”
The secret is simple: Just ask why a problem is a problem and see if solving any of the other layers is easier to solve.
If you have bad traffic in a city as people commute to work. A solution is to build another lane. But if you wanted to make the problem irrelevant, you simply build flying cars that have no traffic jams.
Make the problem less severe: Build another road, change speed limits, etc.
Make the problem irrelevant: Build flying cars.
Solve a different layer of the problem: Allow remote work. Win the lottery and quit your job.
Then you must ask WHY it’s a problem. Let’s say traffic is a problem because commutes are boring and unproductive.
Mitigate the pain of the problem: Create autonomous vehicles so you can work / play while stuck in traffic.
As another example, let’s say turnover is bad in a coal mining company.
The 4 methods are:
Make the problem less severe: “Have a pipeline full of new hires at all times,” or “provide bonuses so they quit less.”
Make the problem irrelevant: “Automate the job with robots,” or “Stop selling coal and build solar panels.”
Solve a different layer of the problem: “Start a new company that doesn’t have turnover problems.”
Finally, why is it a problem? Because new hires take 4 weeks to train and the company loses productivity during that time.
Mitigate the pain of the problem (ie “Making the problem acceptable”): Put a better training program in place so that they’re up to speed so fast that the company doesn’t care if there’s turnover anymore.
Most problem solving books tell you to hit the problem from multiple angles to come up with creative ideas on making the problem less severe. But if you consider all 4 of these methods, one of them will almost always show an easier path.
One final example is climate change:
Mitigate the problem: Pollute less by using electric cars
Make acceptable: Wear gas masks
Make irrelevant: Colonize Mars and leave Earth
Solve a different layer: Invent a huge air purifier
What problems have you had where you wanted to mitigate / solve the problem directly, but it was easier to make the problem irrelevant, acceptable, or solve a different layer of the problem?
Gurus are always trying to tout that if you’re successful, you’ll be happy. The reality is these things don’t always coexist. We’ve seen many “successful” people kill themselves either intentionally or not (ie drug overdoses).
The data is in: Being successful financially doesn’t equate to happiness.
Gary Vee is always talking about “don’t you want to be happy?” and talks of all the millionaires crying in their lambos. I want to take it just a step further and consider the 10 year goal. The 10 year goal means that you’re not there yet – it’s something you’re striving to achieve. If you think the attainment of that goal will make you happy (and you’re not happy now), then being miserable for 10 years while you strive for it is probably a garbage idea.
Also, if it did take you 10 years to get it, whatever it is, it’s probably no longer what you want that would make you happy. Consider what you wanted most 10 years ago. Do you still want it just as badly? Probably not. Your desires change over a period like 10 years, so if you’re always striving towards a 10 year goal, you’re always arriving to it and realizing you want something else by the time you get there. Ten years is simply too long if your goal is happiness. If your goal is success, and striving for something that you don’t even care about or want anymore by year 8, then sure, the 10 year goal may be great.
Sometimes attaining the goal will give you a little hit of dopamine when you get there, but probably not, and is any temporary high worth 10 years of doing stuff you don’t want? Probably not.
Perhaps you should think about a 10 day goal. It’s possible to attain. You get a little dopamine hit in under 2 weeks. Your desires today will probably be somewhat similar in 10 days. And you can actually plan it out as opposed to having a 1,000 butterfly effects over the course of 10 years that throw every plan far off kilter.
What about Elon Musk’s 10 year goal to get us to Mars? Should he make a 10 day goal instead? I would reaffirm a few ideas, a) Elon’s happiness isn’t tied only to the attainment of that goal, b) Elon probably enjoys the process of getting to Mars nearly as much as the single moment when it occurs, c) Success sometimes requires long term goals like that, but happiness does not.
There’s no right way or wrong way to all of this, but it’s important to realize when we read motivational books to beware of blanket statements like “Set 10 year goals,” that may be great for someone, but terrible advice for you.
Are you trying to be happy, or successful? And have you blended these 2 terms in your mind? Do your goals change more often than 10 year periods? Maybe it’s time to change the timelines of certain goals? Maybe it’s time to focus on 10 day goals and actually be able to accomplish more?
What is this site?
Self improvement for smart people.
I follow business leaders, gurus, and philosophers and note things others missed that I’ve found valuable.
This site is my precious treasure chest of ideas on business, philosophy and life. And hopefully during your pillaging here, you get your mind blown.
My life’s goals are to help summarize the human knowledge base, dispel self improvement myths, and achieve a resultant and unrelenting state of 24/7 euphoria. I’m kidding, but we’ll still try!
Follow along on my journey!