“Successful people do what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.” -Darren Hardy, former editor of SUCCESS Magazine
The truth is, most people are making choices based on avoiding what they fear, not striving toward their goals.
This fear-driven behavior is exactly why most people are no on-track to succeed. When fear is calling the shots, you are living reactively, not intentionally. You spend the lion’s share of your energy focusing on problems, risks, and worst-case scenarios rather than how to win.
It’s human nature to choose the familiar, the convenient, the easy. I’m no exception. For most of my teenage years, I chose the mind-numbing bliss of pornography and compulsive video games in lieu of dealing with the pain and hurt from my family, bullies at school, and chronic loneliness.
But after 6 years of intense behavioral counseling, therapy, and 12-step addiction work, I’ve learned a few things.
- Most people are not on-track to escape their mediocre lives.
- Most people aren’t on-track to have great relationships.
- Most people can’t say they’re happy with their health.
- Most people don’t feel financially secure.
- Most people choose the easy path, even if it leads to mediocrity.
This is how most people are living their lives. In his book Seasons of Life, best-selling author Jim Rohn wrote:
“When we are given free choice, more often than not, we choose rest, or we choose half an effort, or we choose a convenient excuse.”
If you’re reading this, you’re someone who’s concerned with achieving daring goals and adventuring where others dare not tread. As prolific writer Seth Godin once quipped: “Only talented people fret about mediocrity.”
You already know where the “traditional” path most everyone is on will take you: a good, but not great, outcome.
For lots of people, that’s fine. Not everyone has an intense desire to evolve into an upgraded version of themselves and achieve victories they’ve never thought possible.
But if that’s not you, then what I’m about to say will change everything.
To Succeed Where Others Failed, Push Through “The Dip”
“The difference between a mediocre sports player and a regional champion isn’t inborn talent — it’s the ability to push through the moments where it’s just easier to quit.” -Seth Godin, The Dip
Marketing guru Seth Godin’s book The Dip is founded on a simple premise: for every worthy endeavor, there is a “Dip” where most people quit. If you can push through the Dip, you’ll achieve the results most people will never see.
This is true for every worthwhile challenge — weightlifting, book-selling, a happy marriage, entrepreneurship, culinary college, etc. To achieve extraordinary results in your desired field, all you need do is push through the Dip where most people quit.
I’ve been writing for over 5 years. I’ve met hundreds of other writers on the way. 9 out of 10 of them aren’t writing anymore. Most people saw how difficult it was to build a blog, or consistently produce quality content, or drearily see their low view count again, and quit.
That’s fine. You shouldn’t be pushing through every “dip” you reach in life; many failures are actually gifts that reveal that particular path isn’t worth it. You don’t need to be Superman at everything. You can’t and shouldn’t.
But when you finally find your Mount Everest — the challenge(s) you knowyou need to conquer — understand this: the Dip is coming. It’s inevitable, and it won’t be fun. It’s the part of the climb where almost everyone gives up, where it got too expensive, too risky, too challenging. But if you can push through it, the long-awaited treasure is waiting.
As Seth Godin also wrote:
“If you can get through the Dip, if you can keep going when the system is expecting you to stop, you will achieve extraordinary results.”
Frankly, most people reach their Dip and quit. That’s how the world is set up; there are systems in place that are designed to present any adventurer with extreme challenges, to see if you’re worthy of reaching the summit. Turning on the TV with your smartphone in hand is just too easy.
Since most people have not prepared themselves, they quit before they should’ve, and go back to their mediocre job, relationships, income, and reality.
If you want what no one else has, you must do what no one else does.
Push through. Be consistent. Invest in yourself. The short-term pain you’ll experience is nothing compared to the long-term benefits success will bring you.
Ultramarathon (50–100 miles) runner Dick Collins was once asked how he keeps going for so long, despite fatigue, hunger, cramps, dehydration, and sheer exhaustion:
“Decide before the race the conditions that will cause you to stop and drop out. You don’t want be out there saying, ‘Well gee, my leg hurts, I’m a little dehydrated, I’m sleepy, I’m tired, and it’s cold and windy.’ And talk yourself into quitting. If you are making a decision based on how you feel in that moment, you will probably make the wrong decision.”
If you can get through the Dip, you’ll achieve extraordinary results no one else around you has.
First Create Clarity and Self-Belief — > Success Will Follow
“All confidence is acquired, developed. No one is born with confidence. Those people you know who radiate confidence, who have conquered worry, have acquired their confidence, every bit of it.”
-Dr. David Schwartz
Your beliefs shape every action, thought, and feeling. If, deep down, you don’t believe you can, you certainly won’t.
For a long time, I had virtually no self-belief. I wasn’t clear on anything. Truthfully, the thing I felt most confident of was that eventually, I’d fail — my writing, my marriage, my dreams.
Looking back at the first 4.5 years of my writing, I see now how little self-belief I had. Deep down, I knew I wasn’t a good-enough writer, and that truth would manifest in self-sabotage and failure. In his book The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, Joseph Murphy wrote:
“If you consciously assume something is true, even though it may be false, your subconscious mind will accept it as true and proceed to bring about results, which it must necessarily follow, because your conscious assumed it do be true.”
It wasn’t until around year 5 when I changed my mind and started to believe I was a good writer. This belief brought about concrete action: I started writing consistently. I bought a $500 writing course. I started treating myself like a top-tier writer.
The results speak for themselves. In the past 9 months:
- 25,000+ email subscribers
- 22,000+ Medium followers
- 200,000+ views/month (consistently)
- $1000’s of dollars in passive income
- Traditionally-published book deal
The lesson here is simple. If you want success, first get clarity of your goals and develop your self-belief.
(Here’s a 20-minute journaling exercise that will help you get immediate clarity on your most important goals).
The problem most people have is that attempt to achieve their goals without building clarity and self-belief first. As best-selling author Darren Hardy once pointed out: “Most people drift through life without devoting much conscious energy to figuring out specifically what they want and what they need to do to get themselves there.”
Most people blunder their way through job changes, new relationships, even new cities as they try to figure out what they want and how to achieve that. But if you want the success most people don’t have, then stop doing what most people are doing!
Chart your course first, and gather the necessary supplies (self-belief, clarity, direction). Then embark on your journey.
“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
Why Most People Will Remain in Mediocrity
“It’s lonely at the top. 99% of people are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre. The level of competition is thusfiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most competitive.”
Much of the thinking around us is small-minded. Most people are overly concerned with “beating the other guy,” usually through manipulation and politics. As a result, they’re left fighting for scraps with the other 99%.
Every successful area of my life today was made possible by thousands of tiny (and some not-so-tiny) failures.
My writing. My marriage. My friendships and relationships. My sobriety from pornography. My expertise in Super Smash Bros.
This is exactly why most people stay in mediocrity: they aren’t willing to deal with failure. But if they aren’t willing to fail, they aren’t able to learn from their mistakes. If they never learn, they’ll never grow and develop into something more.
“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can.Because remember that’s where you will find success.”
-Thomas J. Watson
If you’re not willing to fail, you guarantee you’ll stay average-at-best.
I’m not here to paint a bleak picture of most people’s future. But in order to avoid a mediocre life, you have to recognize just how common that lifestyle is.
Failure sucks. I’ve gone through more major failures (like, royal screw-ups) that most people I know (here’s a nice list of them here). The amount of hurt feelings and hard conversations I’ve caused is staggering.
One of the most important things I’ve learned is this:
It’s not about you.
It’s not about earning the most in your circle of friends. It’s not about buying the first house, or having the hottest girlfriend to bring to your high school reunion, or finally impressing your dad with a new promotion, or any of that crap. That’s mediocre stuff. That’s what individuals with low-frequency goals strive for.
In the words of one of my favorite authors Ryan Holiday:
“Ignore what other people are doing. Ignore what’s going on around you. There is no competition. There is no objective benchmark to hit. There is simply the best you can do — that’s all that matters.”
Want to avoid mediocrity? Stop paying the stupid game everyone else is concerned with. Focus on making decisions that will increase the quality of your life.
Last year, my wife and I had the chance to vacation in the Philippines for a week, where we stayed at the nicest resort I’d ever seen.
One evening, I was relaxing on a lounge chair at the pool reading my book. Across the pool, there was an attractive couple taking pictures of each other, constantly posing in new positions. They spent a solid hour and a half taking pictures of themselves.
I couldn’t help but wonder: why are they doing that? Are they planning on looking at all those pictures later? Who are they hoping to impress when they post the day’s best pictures online? What will those people’s approval do for them?
Sometimes, life feels like Hungry Hungry Hippos, that old board game where you frantically grab as many pieces as you can from other players. You start to do silly things to get what you think you need.
But this is not the recipe for a life full of abundance, of generosity, of security. It’s not how you’ll achieve what you really want.
My mom once told me if I close my fist around cash, then sure, I can’t lose it — but I can’t open my hand to receive more, either.
If you want true success, immediately stop doing what most people are doing. That won’t get you what you want.
Focus on developing yourself. Stick with it even if everyone else quits.
Choose to live and behave out of chasing excitement, not avoiding fear.