We've all experienced our fair share of accomplishments and failures over the years. As I've accumulated more of both, I've begun to reflect on which events were actually "excellent" and why.
The long hauls, or the series of events that seemed insignificant at each stage but added up to significant gains, were what I understood was remarkable, not the intermittent highs. This inspired me to consider brilliance in more detail. I've discovered that it takes time to develop repeated habits rather than instant success or bursts of excellence.
Maybe "excellence" is simply "good," but recurring.
Think about this
While getting into the meat of this essay, I want to make the following two points clear:
- Excellence does not happen overnight.
- Excellence is gained
Recognizing that you probably aren't already exceptional is the first step toward becoming great. In actuality, it results from the understanding that greatness at a certain moment in time does not exist. Since greatness can be reduced to luck in a single occasion, excellence is instead the result of sustained work.
Additionally, being "excellent" does not entail being superior to others. It requires commitment and self-control, and in the end, it must be earned.
Theoretically, a lot of individuals aspire to excellence. In fact, each month 1000 people look for discrete solutions on how to get from 0 to 1, 260 people look for discrete solutions on how to become excellent, and 2400 people look for discrete solutions on how to be the best. But in reality, a lot of individuals in life are unwilling to put forth the effort over an extended period of time to truly reach 1. In many ways, the "secrets to success" they are seeking don't exist. Do you know the secret to success? Success comes from perseverance.
Before continuing with this post, I kindly ask everyone of you to think about whether you would like to live a life in which brilliance truly is a reflection of non-instantaneous, earned effort. Consider whether you want to fight an uphill battle all of your days, weeks, months, and years.
It's okay if you decide in the end that you don't want to do it. It doesn't diminish who you are as a person. The holding pattern of wanting to do X but not understanding why you haven't yet succeeded has at least been broken. And if that's the case, feel free to relax guilt-free while watching Netflix.
In light of this, let's explore what genuinely distinguishes a "excellent" person.
Consistency might be challenging.
There's a misconception that being flashy is necessary for success or notoriety. This idea stems from the media's emphasis on outliers, whether they be situations or people that deviate from the norm. This not only encourages people to want fame for its own sake, but it also leads the general public to believe that success in these outliers is caused by their unconventional behavior. But here's another narrative: Consistency is the most reliable and, hence, the best means of "success."
Don't dismiss those you admire success as luck until you put in as much effort as they did. To be clear, consistency offers a greater degree of certainty than hoping for a lottery win or someone to "find" you. It is not always the simplest path to success, though. When the following conditions are met, continuous effort is a more deliberate strategy that produces excellence:
- Over time, inputs are constant.
- Purposeful inputs produce the desired results.
If you can't do excellent things, do tiny things a lot of times.
If you don't have the chance to "achieve excellent things," concentrate on obtaining tiny victories over and over again. In reality, these little chores only need to be done once or twice in a nice way. In fact, I would advise against concentrating on perfection because success is frequently thwarted by it.
Although there is sparkle and fanfare surrounding unpredictability, being predictable well is actually considerably more difficult and hence impressive. For instance:
- It's simple to get out of bed whenever you "feel like it."
- It's challenging to maintain a 6 AM wake-up schedule.
- It's simple to switch gears from side project to side project, concentrating on the latest bright thing.
- It's challenging to maintain a side project for years, especially when many of them might not be successful for some time.
- When you encounter a challenge or the next potential companion becomes available, it is simple to give up on someone.
- Being devoted and investing in a relationship for many years is challenging.
In most cases, we begin life with the best of intentions. We have plans to establish morning routines, work on our businesses until they are successful, or "love someone forever." We believe that when we make investments in something, we will naturally go forward. Things should only get simpler, am I right?
Success in anything rarely looks like that. Life is a collection of minuscule nodes that resemble the right side more than the left. In the more realistic graph on the right, there are two crucial components that deserve highlighting:
There is always compounding. Any procedure will involve more difficult first phases, but it might be challenging to picture the compounding that could occur later.
There are always downs to go along with the ups. Although it sounds apparent, we frequently overlook this when we are having a bad day. Because we can't see the next peak right around the corner, we stop at these local minimums (the sections shown in red above).
The Hedonic treadmill, also known as hedonic adaptation, makes the local minima very mentally exhausting. In essence, a person's baseline moves to reflect new levels as they experience new triumphs in many areas of their lives, and as a result, their expectations and goals are also reset. There is no overall increase in happiness, making it even more challenging to maintain composure under pressure.
That is precisely why a focused pursuit of success can be troublesome. It is much more productive (and healthy) to aim towards ongoing behaviours that lead to success as a result rather than the primary objective.
"Being constantly intrigued by performing the same thing over and over again is the only way to become good. You must have a love affair with dullness.
You must fall in love with the process, which involves several regional minima and maxima, in order to achieve greatness. What will actually set you apart from those who are merely "good" and isolate you as one of the few who are "great" is staying constant and pushing through both of these continuously.
'Inputs > Outputs'
The act of behaving with intention is crucial for achieving greatness. Although your actions and outcomes won't always match your aims, as you strive for "greatness," you should gain a deeper understanding of what inputs lead to what outcomes. Although you'll still make mistakes—as we all do—you'll be more aware of what is most likely to succeed. For instance, compared to someone flying blind, your success percentage may be 30%.
Let's examine a straightforward case:
Consider that firm X employs two salespeople. By chance, salesperson A closes a $1 million deal in his first week. He has trouble finding anything significant, though, during the following six months. While this is going on, salesperson B establishes a procedure over the course of the first month, generating only $100k, which he then expands upon and doubles month over month.
This is what each party will have earned financially after six months.
You're likely contemplating "Then what? That is just a standard illustration of compounding."
Yes! That is the key idea. Miracles are rare in life; more frequently, well-planned, long-lasting strategies are. The same is true for relationships, businesses, and pretty much anything else with recurring features. You will profit for years to come if you consistently put time into figuring out what leads to success. Consider what might have changed a previous defeat into a triumph in the future, even in the least quantitative circumstances.
Think about the best companies throughout history. They didn't all appear overnight, and there wasn't one turning point that defined whether these businesses would succeed or become well-known. Their capacity to withstand the test of time is what distinguishes the "great" companies of all time from the "not so great."
Would you rather be Zoom, which took almost 8 years to raise more than $30M but is now one of the most successful and sought-after "unicorns" in the valley, or Juicero, who raised $100M but filed for bankruptcy a year after its Series C?
Along with consistency, brilliance results through asking the correct questions, iterating, and discovering the factors that, ideally, lead to positive outcomes. "Greatness" results from a recognised or thoroughly investigated procedure with some degree of outcome assurance.
Unless you are specifically describing a method of learning so that in the future you can "go fast and break less of the same things," "moving fast and breaking things" is not a plan.
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