NOTE: This post was originally written for Clay Collins’s blog, so you can blame him for the references to “Project Mojave” and “Freedom Businesses” that you see here.
I’d like to talk about the magic ingredient for success in any endeavor, be it building a business or climbing the outside of a glass skyscraper wearing suction cups and Superman underwear. Even if you have all the planning and equipment and knowledge in the world, you can’t get anywhere without this magic ingredient. Without the ingredient, you will fall flat on your face every single time.
That magic ingredient? It’s belief.
Allow me to make this all about myself yet again.
I wrote a post two weeks ago on my own blog in which I talked about faith and Martin Scorses’s unit. The upshot, if you don’t want to read that post (and why the hell wouldn’t you? You asshole) was that — as is common in my life — some big financial obstacle had dropped its big fat ass in my path. But instead of freaking out as I usually did, I decided then and there to put my foot down and not believe in the obstacle. (“Don’t believe the hype,” as Public Enemy said.) Instead, I chose to believe in my path, to have faith, to keep moving, and to trust that everything would work out.
See, there’ s a history here. I realized that I’ve been in that same situation a lot over the past year (I own real estate “investments” in Cleveland; ’nuff said) and that each time I’d felt like I was facing this big huge thing that was in my way that I’d never be able to get past, something interesting happened. If I just stayed my path and kept on going instead of falling back, the obstacle disappeared. It always worked out. Always.
So this time, instead of freaking out and worrying, I tried something new.
As I wrote that post, I appeared to have three days to come up with about $2000. I decided to believe that what had happened every other time would happen this time. I decided that this obstacle, like any other, was just a mirage that would dissipate when I actually reached it.
The last line of that post was, “Three days. Two thousand dollars. Now you just fucking watch what happens.”
I’ll leave you in suspense as to the outcome of that situation. For now, keep reading.
But what’s my point? Right now, you’re almost certainly wondering what any of this has to do with you, and with Project Mojave.
So let me get to my keystone premise.
Here’s the take-home lesson: The things that you’re currently thinking will stop you from reaching your goals are, in all likelihood, only your perception. Most of the obstacles that you see in your path aren’t really there.
So now, instead of wondering what any of this has to do with you, you’re maybe a little annoyed at me for being so airy and foofy and hippie-minded or something else derogatory. Of course your obstacles are real. And even if they aren’t real, am I really so assholishly naive as to suggest that simply ignoring all obstacles and forging on anyway will make you successful?
In the short-term, no. I don’t literally believe that. But in the long-term? Yeah, I totally do. Remember, I’m the crazy guy who wrote here about how successful people are not normal — or, if they’re Clay Collins, they are totally shit out of their minds. Crazy people with drive have a big advantage because they don’t know or don’t care that they’re supposed to be intimidated by X, Y, or Z that would scare a normal person. They don’t know that bucking the trend or denying convention is akin to rocking a boat that ought not be rocked… or else.
Crazy people are sometimes successful because they don’t know that they should stop and think about that big problem in their path. Who runs right at a big fucking obstacle as if it wasn’t there? A crazy person, that’s who.
I’m absolutely not saying that if you’re in Project Mojave and have started a Freedom Business selling sock garters for chimpanzees and are getting feedback that it’s a stupid niche, that if you simply forge on bravely, chimps will start wanting sock garters and you’ll become a millionaire.
What I am saying is that if you fail and try again, and fail and try again, and fail and try again, and still refuse to believe that you should stop, or that you personally are a failure, that you will do very well in life.
And if you stop projecting false problems in your path — or panicking about something that might happen — then you’ll soon discover that you’ll build a sense of surety within yourself that you can learn to trust, and that will keep you on that true path. Like an inner GPS.
Because what do most people do? They think, “This one thing could happen. And that would cause this. And then that could happen.” None of it has happened yet, and the truth is that it may never happen. But the game is over before you even get a chance to find out, because the fear and the perceived obstacle get so big that you quit before you reach the decision point. Or, more insidiously, you alter your path. You stare at that thing that may happen and start to believe that it will happen, that it’s inevitable that it happen. And so instead of staying on the right path and going through it, you steer around it. And then you really do fail.
Belief is like a muscle. You have to build it over time, and it all starts with telling yourself that something you fear or something that appears to be in your way isn’t really there. If it is, fine. Take the hit and adjust. But I’ll bet that a bunch of times you’ll walk right through it — no harm, no foul.
But walking over a chasm when you don’t see a bridge? That takes faith. That takes a few instances of blind, stupid, idiotically optimistic faith. I won’t beat that up here; read that penis post of mine again for more detail.
For now, let’s relate it to the source of all of life’s answers: The Matrix.
In the first Matrix movie, Neo goes to visit the Oracle. While he’s waiting to see her, he comes across this kid bending spoons with his mind. Here’s how that goes:
Having faith while staring down a big obstacle is a bit like bending spoons. Don’t spend all your time figuring out how you’re get over the obstacle. Don’t panic if you can’t see how you’re going to solve the problem. Instead, try only to realize the truth: There is no spoon.
That’s harder than it sounds. All of our lives, we’re conditioned to believe that when X happens, Y is sure to follow… and Y FUCKING SUCKS. You do NOT want Y. Avoid Y at ALL COSTS. Keeping on keeping on when X is a possibility? That’s just stupid. What if X happens? Do you really want to risk Y?
The thing is, yes, X may happen. But it also might not. If you back off every time that something may happen, you’ll never get anywhere. C’mon, have a bit of faith. Grow some balls. Take a chance. Don’t be stupid about it — equivalent to trying to lift 500 pounds when your belief muscle is only strong enough yet to handle 50 — but stretch. Try the 55 pounder again and again until you can do it. Anything worth doing entails some degree of potential risk.
It’s like that sage line from the movie Airplane!: “You take a risk every time you get out of bed, cross the street, or stick your face in a fan.”
You take a risk. You walk right on in the face of an obstacle — one that’s reasonable for you to tackle — and believe it’s not there. And life will toss you bigger and bigger obstacles. If you keep doing this, you’ll start to see that even huge obstacles are often just really elaborate and realistic special effects demonstrations.
So, my little $2000-in-three-days-with-no-apparent-solution problem?
I could have freaked out. In the past, I had freaked out repeatedly. But this time, I found myself thinking, “How many times am I going to face some sort of an impending crisis and discover that it all worked out fine before I stop being duped into panic in the face of new crises? How long before I start to believe in advance that it’s all cool, that it’s all smoke and mirrors?”
So I tried that. Instead of panicking, I stayed on my path and refused to worry. This was a proud moment. I felt like I was getting better at bending spoons because I was starting to realize that the spoons didn’t actually exist.
In fact, I kind of felt like I was at the end of the movie, where Neo is starting to do some crazy shit on that rooftop and Trinity says, “What’s he doing?”
And Morpheus says, “He’s starting to believe.”
So what happened? Within three days, I’d gotten $1500 and a few days’ extension of the deadline. And within those additional few days, I got the remaining $500 and then some. All out of the blue.
There is no spoon.
Even if you think this is all a bunch of New-Agey crap, I think you can still learn a thing or two here. Maybe you really believe that spoons exist. Maybe you don’t believe in serendipity or the notion that everything happens according to a plan.
Even if all of that is true for you, I still guarantee that you’re getting in your own way. I still guarantee that you make spoons out of thin air and put them in front of your face and say, “I can’t bend this fucking thing.”
At the very least, take a close look to what you think is stopping you. Really think about it. Test your boundaries; soldier on in the face of a few of these supposed spoons.
I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.