Up until two years ago I consistently read “success” and inspirational literature for close to a decade straight. I’ve read hundreds (literally) of books on the subject and have consistently applied the various suggestions to my life to try to achieve certain results that I want.
I think that we are all the same in many ways. We may not all seek out books or models to learn “how to achieve” but we all consistently operate in a way that suggests that we move towards what we what, and move away from what we don’t.
This is the essence of being “goal oriented” in my opinion. Somebody may say that they “don’t have specific goals”; however, if you analyze closely their behaviour you’ll see that they still operate in a goal oriented manner. Their time, and actions, are organized around obtaining what they want. This is consistently programmed into everyone.
I’ve found that most “success literature” is full of inspiring stories but over time it can feel quite repetitive, perhaps even overly marketed, and sometimes we are made to feel that we “need” it when in actuality the answers are quite innate in us.
I can say that in all the years of reading “success literature” I’ve only really come across a few lessons that have been really, really, important.
Now that I understand these lessons I can honestly say that I’ve moved away from “success literature” and now spend my reading time in either fiction, philosophy, religion, science, and historical or biographical non-fiction. I haven’t bought a “self-help” book now for several years.
Here are the “lessons” that really matter in my opinion. I call it my “real cost paradigm for achieving what I want” . I’ve created it by taking what I learned from the various books I’ve read, applying them, gauging feedback, deciphering what was most important, and then simplifying the process into an easily duplicatable model.
It is quite simple, and involves three simple steps:
1. We must know, with clarity, exactly what we want
Clarity allows us to control psychic entropy, focus, and trigger flow in our actions. Clarity also allows us to find the most effective plans to achieve what we want, engage the most helpful resources and mentors, and avoid distraction. Clarity truly is power.
2. Clear goals require “objective outcomes”
We have to be able to know when we have obtained what we are seeking. We need to know when we actually achieve the goal. For example – if our goal is “happiness” that is a goal that is wrought with difficultly because we never “arrive” at happiness. Happiness is always a part of the process (and in my opinion happiness is the by-product of continually achieving emotional states of flow in the pursuit of our objective outcome).
3. Each goal has “real costs” associated with it. I have to pay these costs to achieve my goal.
The “real costs” are both fixed and variable for each goal. They are fixed in that certain results require a certain “quota” of action that cannot be shortcut. But the costs are also variable in that everyone has a different skill set, and access to resources. As a result certain people may be able learn and progress faster in (and thus “pay the cost” in a quicker time).
Allow me to illustrate this principle by using specific goals in my life. Over the last two years (among my other business and personal pursuits) I have been writing books, and learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).
For me – writing is easy, BJJ is hard.
Writing comes naturally. I have an easy time sitting down each day. I hit flow naturally. I am constantly full of ideas.
BJJ isn’t as natural. I’m not naturally flexible. I struggle with some of the movements, and physical confrontation is a fear that hasn’t been easy to overcome (and I still struggle with it despite having attended dozens and dozens of classes at this point).
Now let’s analyze both of these activities from my “real cost paradigm”, using two specific goals.
BJJ: Get a blue belt (the first progression rank from white)
To get a blue belt I must learn and be able to apply in a real setting (BJJ enthusiasts will know this as rolling) certain techniques. This is the real cost.
The variable component is that certain people will understand these techniques quickly, apply them easily, and not have to deal with the same fear in applying them (as BJJ is a full contact sport). They will be able to obtain the blue belt faster than someone who struggles with these. The person can who struggles can still “pay the full cost” and get the blue belt, but it will seem like the cost is much higher (hence the variable cost metaphor) because they aren’t naturally inclined to the sport.
Writing: Finish a book
To write a book you have to organize your thoughts in a coherent fashion that ends up (generally speaking) in 50,000-100,000 words around a central theme or thesis. This is the real cost.
The variable component is that some people will find it easy to write 1000 words a day. Thoughts, organization and content will flow easily. Other people will really struggle with this task. The person who is inclined to write will get the book done much faster (and likely produce a much better book) than the person who struggles. The person who isn’t naturally inclined to write can still get the book done but the cost will seem much higher (hence the variable metaphor).
Can you see how this model applies to all goals for all people?
With me, in the last two years I’ve finished two books (one published, one in the editing phase), but I haven’t gotten my blue belt. The variable costs for me in BJJ have been much higher than the variable costs in writing.
However, both goals are possible if I pay the appropriate real costs. I have paid the costs in writing, but not yet in BJJ.
All goals are theoretically possible by all people using this model. If you pay the “real cost” for any goal, then you can achieve anything. However many people aren’t willing to pay the real cost, particularly because the “variable cost component” for certain goals will make the cost seem much higher (since they aren’t naturally inclined for the behaviour).
I can get a blue belt, but it will seem much harder than someone naturally inclined to BJJ.
I do write books however much easier than someone who isn’t inclined to writing.
The reason that I like this model is
1) it actually works (every time)
2) it causes me to be “honest” with myself.
This model forces accountability. If I’m not achieving a goal it is because I haven’t (or I’m not willing) to pay the cost. I cannot place the blame with anyone but myself. If I pay the cost then there is nothing that I can’t achieve under this model. This gives me hope and encouragement, while holding me accountable at the same time.