- Brendan Stec
Want a real life hack? Read this.
Maybe you're ambitious. Maybe you have a brilliant idea for a startup. Maybe you're an artist - anxious for a breakthrough and gnawing at the opportunity to prove to the world how talented you truly are. If that's true, you're like a lot of people in this world who are anxious for a better life, itching for success, and eager to prove their worth.
A lot of people want success. But many people are unwilling to go to the extreme lengths true success requires. These lengths may include years of deliberate practice, endless networking and collaboration, and a true dedication towards what Robert Greene refers to as "mastery." In high school, Bill Bradley, a later NBA Champion, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar, and eventual U.S. Senator, was known to rigorously practice basketball alone over 4 hours every single day. He would often attach weights to his shoes to build endurance, and on many days he would wear blinding glasses so that he couldn't look down while he dribbled. During his NBA career, spectators marveled at his unending hustle and brilliant court vision as if it were magic. But it wasn't magic - merely the result of thousands of hours of deliberate self-improvement.
Some people want to take shortcuts to achieve their perception of success. Forget the Bill Bradley approach and years of self-improvement. They want results now. So what do they resort to? What's easy: Talk. Chatter. Hype.
It's easy to tell these people apart, because they're always telling you about what they're going to achieve or the great idea they're going to turn into a business. As soon as they feel a minor tinge of success, they're talking it up on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Snapchat. They're excited to tell you their plans to look for a new job or their dreams of becoming a musician. No one wants to admit to the truth: they're scared, overwhelmed, lacking direction, and paralyzed by the fact that everyone else seems so successful.
Always talking about your plans or achievements is dangerous because it saps you of the drive necessary to push beyond the challenges of reaching your goals. If you spend 3 hours talking to a friend about your dreams and desires, you might bounce some pretty good ideas off each other and feel that you're making progress with your goals. But don't mistake mere chatter for real achievement. You expect your colleagues and teammates to deliver real action based on their promises and plans, so hold yourself to that same standard as well.
Another issue with excessive self-promotion or hype is that it may ignite envy in your peers. Not everyone is as enthusiastic about your success as you are. Individuals who are jealous of you may speak behind your back, refuse to associate with you, or worse, take aggressive action against you. It's important to dial back excessive chatter that paints you in a better light than you really are, because those who envy you will be less likely to work with you or lend you a hand in the future. In a world that is increasingly connected and requires people to work together for success, this element of humility is crucial.
It's ok to engage in social media or talk with others on a normal basis. And it makes sense to want to promote your artwork or talents so that others are aware of them. I'm not advocating you eliminate all talk from your life. But remember: no one said success would come easy, as the path almost always requires the Bill Bradley approach. This may mean hours of writing code, practicing a simple chord progression, or studying pages and pages of formulas and proofs. This may mean dealing with the endless self-doubt, the critiques of others, and even the occasional failures. You want to show others you're working hard and making real progress with your life. You want to prove them wrong. Who cares about them? Cut the talk and focus the energy on your own actions.
- - -
I've found inspiration in many books rooted in stoic philosophy, including both the classics as well as the modern bestsellers by Robert Greene and Ryan Holiday. I really enjoy passing on their wisdom. For Further Reading, I suggest Mastery by Robert Greene and Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday.