I was having a discussion with a friend of mine the other day when he mentioned that motivation and inspiration are pretty much just a lot of bullshit.
After all, my most popular post, “The Universe Doesn’t Give a Flying Fuck About You“, has got to be on the “inspiration and motivation” continuum. Just about the only other things it could be are philosophy or entrepreneurship — and let’s be honest; it’s not really philosophy and it’s not really entrepreneurship. The intention of that post was to inspire people to do the things that mattered to them and to motivate them to do it by pointing out that the clock was ticking.
And that’s almost 5000 Facebook shares worth of motivation. Fuck me.
And then, when I thought about it, I realized the same could be said of “Disobey.” That one is supposed to inspire readers to stop listening to authority for the sake of authority and to live their own lives. Or “You Are Dying, and Your World Is a Lie,” which which I hoped to motivate readers to stop worrying so damn much about being comfortable, and to worry more about actually being satisfied with how they were spending their lives.
So yeah, this might be a problem for me, because some people feel that “head stuff” and “heart stuff” and anything that lacks step-by-step instructions is just so much airy-fairy bullshit.
But what I say — and this is what I told my curmudgeon buddy — is that we’re living in an age where we’ve got more step-by-step, nuts-and-bolts, here’s-exactly-how-to-do-it-and-look!-there’s-a-YouTube-video-and-three-vaguely-related-porn-forums-about-it! information than we’ve ever had before, and we can get at that information instantly, wherever we happen to be.
And yet, we’re still not doing anything right. Most people still spend way more time doing things they’d rather not be doing than doing things they enjoy, and most people still never reach any of their goals — not the big, important ones, anyway. Why is that?
It’s because information is not the problem. The problem is in our minds.
You are in your own damn way
I recently hired a personal trainer named Roger Lawson. I did this despite the fact that I’ve been a reasonably hardcore gym rat for almost twenty years. I hired him despite having read dozens of books from the best minds in fitness and having run a weight training forum for several years. I’ve spent hours and hours and hours thinking about the best ways to eat, the best ways to train, sharing articles with like-minded people, trying new things, and, frankly, working my ass off. I’ve even got a manly injury — a broken arm from when I caught an Olympic clean wrong and snapped one of the bones (I forget which) in my left forearm.
What I’m trying to say is, I know a lot about this stuff. Yet I couldn’t quite get the six-pack of late night TV fame, so I hired Roger.
Roger told me that I needed to lose fat. To make that happen, he told me to eat less and exercise more.
Stop and think about that. He told me to eat less and exercise more. And sure, there were a lot of details in there, but the details weren’t what made the big difference. Hell, I even tried to make some justifications once about said details. When I did this, Roger slapped me back to reality by saying, “Everything is slave to the calorie deficit,” which meant, “Stop overcomplicating it, asshole, and worry about burning more than you consume.” Roger is pretty humble about such things. I mean, look at the message on his About page. Everything is reduced to simplicity. But the man earns his stripes, because he knows what he knows and he’s unflinching in getting others to do the things that they know.
Today, I’ve lost around 22 pounds. I’d like to go another eight or so, and if I may be totally and obnoxiously immodest, I think I look pretty damn ripped.
So let me ask you something: If the difference-maker was something as simple as eat less and exercise more — and if it was something I already knew and that we all know — then why did I get results this time despite many, many false starts in the past?
I think it was two things.
For one, I’d fooled myself into believing I simply didn’t have that much to lose. I’d convinced myself that I was already quite lean and that if I went below 190 (I’m at 181 now), I’d have no fat on me at all and that would be unhealthy. Roger and a camera changed my mind and taught me to believe something different.
And two, I didn’t have someone on my ass, telling me to get out of my own way and simply do what I already knew.
In other words, I needed someone to motivate me. I needed someone who — through his own results and those of his clients — would inspire me. I needed someone who believed so strongly in what he was telling me that I wouldn’t be able to doubt myself, ever, because he wasn’t going to give me enough slack to do it.
What Roger gave me — and continues to give me — is confidence in what I already knew. What Roger gave me was belief.
Now, I’m no rocket scientist here. You tell me if that means “head stuff” matters or not.
The four-minute mile
I just realized that what follows is a story about another Roger. How interesting.
Anyway, you may know the story of the four-minute mile. Basically, for centuries, throughout all of recorded history, nobody could seem to run a mile in less than four minutes. They tried and tried and tried, and had lions chase people to get them moving faster and whatever else, but, after enough time and enough failure, humanity decided that a person simply couldn’t run that fast.
Then a man named Roger Bannister did it. I won’t take you through how he did it, but he ran a mile in under four minutes, and everything changed.
After Roger did it, a lot of other people started to do it, too. Today it’s not even a very big deal to break the four-minute mark, and new records are being set all the time.
Think about that.
Suddenly, everyone’s able to do something that for centuries was considered impossible. So what changed? Did humanity read a great blog post about the mechanics of foot turnover and body position and pacing? Did someone release a new running book that made the difference? Did anyone release a how-to info product on improving stride length?
Nope. What made the difference was that one man finally did it. One man showed that it was possible, and that meant that suddenly, overnight, the minds of millions of people were changed. And when their minds were changed, people were suddenly able to do something very simple — to run faster. To step more quickly. The answer, it seemed, was obvious. How do you run faster? You run faster.
In the end, it was simple — just like everything you could ever want is simple.
Everything is simple
I’m going to tell you how to create a successful business. Ready? Here we go:
Sell something people want at a good price.
But what about getting customers, you’re asking? Okay:
Seek out people who might like what you’re selling, and tell them about it.
See? These things are very simple. And yeah, there are nuances, and I’ve taught those nuances in courses of my own. But the nuances — including the “how” — are refinements on a central theme that is missed surprisingly often. You’d be amazed how many people want to “start an internet business” but haven’t given any real thought to what they want to sell, if anyone would buy it, and where those people are.
Let’s do another. What about something a lot of people struggle with, like quitting smoking? Okay:
The feedback system for this one is simple. If there’s a cigarette in your hand, you’ve done it wrong. Put it down and try again. (If you substitute “drinking” for “smoking” and “alcohol” for “a cigarette,” this is how you quit drinking, by the way.)
Want to have a better relationship with your teenager? Talk to him or her.
Want to get strong enough to lift twice your body weight? Lift weights, then make those weights heavier as you’re able.
Want to learn to dance? Practice dance steps until you get them right.
And if you’re red in the face right now, angry with me, screaming your objections, saying that there’s a lot more to it, that it’s haaaaaard to “just eat less” and it’s haaaaaard to “just not smoke” and it’s really, really haaaaaard to refine your product and your marketing and to get enough people to buy what you’re selling, then just calm down.
Yes. All of those things are hard. I agree. They’re very, very hard.
But I didn’t say they were easy. I said they were simple.
The latter is about knowledge. The first is about your mind. And this, my friends, is why “mind stuff” is important for all of us, all the damn time.
We’ve got the knowledge. What we lack is the drive, the belief, and a compelling reason to use what we already know… and to keep using it through a lot of hard work and pain, riding out the rough times in anticipation of better times ahead, until we get what we want.
Knowledge is not the problem
I’m so fucking tired of everyone blaming failures on lack of knowledge. Are there cases where you can fail because you didn’t know something? Of course. Are those things the norm? Absolutely not.
Let me tell you something, and I hope this doesn’t surprise anyone:
Nobody fails to quit smoking because of a lack of knowledge.
There is no factual knowledge that is lacking when someone tries to quit and doesn’t make it. “Hey, John, did you know that you should remove that cigarette from your mouth?” has never, ever been the piece of information that has made the difference for a struggling smoker. Same for the combos of drinkers/alcohol and people who want to lose weight/cake/sitting motionlessly. Nobody has ever seen a late-night infomercial, bought a weight-loss product, opened it up, and found only a slip of paper that says, “Eat less and move more” and had a light bulb go on over their head, saying, “Of course! I didn’t know this!”
When these things change, they change because someone finds something in their motivation, their belief, that allows them to get through the hard. Sometimes that’s a support group. Sometimes it’s finding a kind of Roger Bannister — a role model who has done what they want to do and proves that it’s possible. Sometimes it’s simply hearing the right words, in the right way, at the right time. Sometimes it’s hearing that the universe doesn’t give a flying fuck about the huge failure you think you’re going to have, and so you decide that it’s now or never, and it’s up to you.
Nobody likes to hear this, though. It’s so much easier to simply buy an easy button.
In fact, here. Let me give you a pitch for my new product:
For only $997, you can bust your ass for five years, failing constantly and exposing yourself to ridicule, banging your head against the wall and feeling like you’re getting nowhere. In this miracle product, You’ll drag your ass out of bed and show up each and every motherfucking day and put in really hard work until you feel like you’re at your breaking point, possibly crying and panicking. And then, after one hell of a lot of drudgery, you’ll finally see a tiny amount of progress, and then you’ll maybe have another setback and will want to quit. But if you push through the suck, it’ll get better — and one day, some day, you’ll succeed and get that thing you’ve always wanted.
Who wants to sign up? Here’s a PayPal button.
No? Okay, well then how about the same thing, but I’ll give it to you for free?
What? Why not? Look at that last bit, about succeeding and getting what you’ve always wanted? YOU CAN HAVE WHAT YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED! It’s a surefire thing, too. I can guarantee it if you’d like. All of your money back if you’re not completely successful after years of effort, at my discretion as to whether you actually worked hard or not.
In much, much less severe terms and a shorter timespan, this is what Roger sold me, by the way. I got to deprive myself and bust my ass, and he got to hold me accountable and tell me when I wasn’t actually working hard enough.
Yes, getting what you want is hard. I agree.
But the difference between people who succeed in getting the things they want and people who don’t is that the successes would take that deal every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Stop searching for the magic key and do the fucking work
Like I said, I wrote what I hope is an awesome (and free!) manifesto called How To Be Legendary: A Realistic Guide To Being the Superhuman You’re Supposed To Be, and if you agree with what you’ve just read, you should pick it up and spend some time studying it.
I want to save you some time right now, though. It’s reasonably long for an internet manifesto, so don’t bother reading it if you want some hot and secret tips that will instantly make you awesome overnight. Don’t read it if you don’t want to do a lot of hard work.
See, there are very few people who truly create the lives they want, and the reason is because getting what you want is hard. People don’t want to hear that, though. People want things to be complex but easy, because that combination means that once you learn the magic trick that you don’t currently know, you can have your dream without much effort. But that’s not the way it is. Success in just about everything is actually very simple… but it’s not easy.
Once you understand that — once you really grasp it and commit to busting your ass because the end result is worth it — then you’ll be able to achieve pretty much anything you want.
You may not want to believe it.
But it’s true.