Sunday, 4 October 2015

Changing Your Culture

By: Steve Pavlina

If you were to design your own human culture, what would you include? What would you leave out?

Here are some basic design questions to consider, based on the three core principles of personal growth.

How would your culture relate to truth? Would you create a very honest, truth-based culture? Would your culture encourage the discovery and sharing of new truths? To what extent would people own, hide, or manipulate the truth?

Would you create a culture based on shared stories and/or mythology, even if the stories are made up?

Would you favor politeness over honesty in communication?

Note that there are trade-offs for each path you might take. If you favor a discovery-based culture, then you’ll need a very flexible culture and flexible rituals since your understanding of reality will keep changing as you make new discoveries. That could potentially make your culture more fragile and less cohesive. If, on the other hand, you create a culture based on shared stories that seldom change, you might experience stronger group cohesion and greater stability through a shared identity, but your stories may begin to seem increasingly ludicrous as your culture matures and gains new knowledge.


Which desires will your culture praise? Which will it demonize?

How will the people within your culture connect with each other? Will people be in monogamous relationships only? Will homosexuality be allowed? What about open relationships? Is sexual promiscuity okay? How will children be raised?

Will your culture allow drinking, gambling, drugs, junk food, non-consensual sex, torture, firearms, suicide, etc? Will you have a rule of law, and if so, what will your critical laws be, and how will they be enforced?

What restrictions, if any, will you place upon people’s freedom to do what they might desire to do?

How will your culture relate to other cultures? Will it try to peacefully coexist? To dominate other cultures? To assimilate other cultures?


What relationship will your culture have with power?

Will your culture empower people as individuals to achieve their potential? What if an individual’s goals conflict with another individual’s goals… or with the general direction of your society? Is it more important to have empowered individuals or to build a powerful society?

What if another culture seeks to dominate or to eradicate your culture? How will your culture respond? Will you defend yourselves? Will you be passive and hope for the best? Will you ever take preemptive action against a likely aggressor? What kinds of weapons will you use, and how will you develop them?

Will you seek to elevate other cultures? To bring them down? To establish peaceful relations with them?

There are numerous possible answers to these questions, including the answers that earth’s cultures have already provided. Each answer has consequences, helping to determine how quickly a culture will evolve, how long it may survive, and how happy and healthy its members will be.

Understanding Your Culture

Why think about how you’d design your own culture? If you can get a clearer sense of the design decisions you’re inclined to make, you can compare your design decisions to the culture you now experience. This will give you a sense of where your culture may be out of alignment with your values.

You have the ability to define your relationship to the dominant pre-existing culture(s) in your life. Which parts will you accept? Which parts will you reject or modify? And why?

I really like some aspects of my surrounding culture. I like the sense of freedom that exists in Las Vegas, which is a very non-judgmental place to live. Some aspects of my lifestyle would attract punishment in other parts of the world, but in this city I have the freedom, and perhaps even the encouragement, to be myself and to continue exploring without substantial interference.

I also like the general sense of self-improvement that exists where I live. There’s a strong belief that through hard work and determination, we can change for the better.

Other aspects of my culture feel less aligned to me. I don’t feel inspired by many things that are popular within my culture, like working at a corporate job, going to church, following sports, obsessing over celebrities, or eating animal products.

The more I travel and the more I interact with people from other cultures, the more I see just how stressed out many Americans are. There is a lot of freedom here but also much tension with so many people having beliefs like “I’m not good enough,” “I need more,” and “I have to work harder.” People here put a lot of effort into things that don’t make them happy, and then they escape into addictions like watching tons of TV.

We have abundance but not enough appreciation. There’s an addictive quality to this more-More-MORE obsession. People here don’t realize that if they can’t appreciate a sip, they won’t appreciate a gulp either.

Influencing Your Culture

When you become an oddball within your culture, you can keep quiet and slink into the background, or you can speak up and share your observations and lessons. When you do the latter, you gain the ability to influence your culture to become more aligned with your path. Obviously not everyone will follow your lead, but some will find your ideas worthy of exploration and experimentation, and they’ll want to hear more and collaborate.

Surely there will be others within your culture who’ve gone down similar paths, and they’ll begin to influence cultural shifts as well as they speak up more and more. As these people begin to find each other and connect more deeply and more often, they may even contribute to a movement to help shift the larger culture. This can take many years to play out, but it’s exciting to behold.

If you feel that you’re all alone in your oddballness, that probably isn’t accurate. There are probably lots of others like you out there, but you haven’t found them yet. That’s likely because you’re invisible to them. If you’d like to connect with other like-minded oddballs, that becomes much more likely if you broadcast your desires and let the world know how you really think and feel. Sure, you’ll get some judgment for doing that, but so what? Own it anyway. Stand tall in being yourself. This will eventually attract the attention of others who think as you do.

The alternative is to hide. If you have to hide for safety reasons, that may be your best bet for now, but if there’s no physical danger in speaking your mind, then do so. You’ll be glad you did. In fact, you’ll wonder why you kept quiet for so long unnecessarily.

If your ideal culture seems far removed from your current culture, you could leave to find a culture that’s a closer match for you if you think one exists. Or you could stay put and strive to become a changemaker within your own culture, such as by gathering like-minded people together.

Question what your culture expects from you, and be willing to more powerfully inject your own values back into your culture, especially when you think your culture’s values are destructively misaligned.

Here’s a very simple example. I recently read that most people buy food for friends and family that’s less healthy than what they buy for themselves, especially during holidays. Most people also report that they feel obligated to eat unhealthy food when it’s offered to them by others. And yet, most people would prefer to be offered healthier options by their friends and family. So why are we encouraging each other to eat unhealthy food, and saying yes to it when offered, even though most of us would prefer not to do this? Staying quiet only goes against the outcome that most people would prefer to see.

By staying quiet in such situations, you put your social conditioning, politeness, and brainwashing ahead of your health and the health of your friends and family. Instead of blindly agreeing to follow cultural norms that have long-term negative consequences for everyone, you could always buy food for your friends and family that’s at least as healthy as what you buy for yourself, to decline unhealthy options offered by others, to encourage people to offer healthier options in the future and praise them when they do, and to publicly broadcast to your social networks that you prefer to offer and to be offered healthy options whenever food is provided.

By speaking up instead of hiding your preferences, you can help create ripples of positive change.

If you don’t fit in with your surrounding culture, perhaps the reason is that you’re there to help improve the culture. If you see some aspect of your culture that seems misguided to you, call it out as such, and suggest an alternative. You’ll often be surprised to discover that while you were keeping quiet, so were many other people in your life, and when you speak up, they feel free to elevate their standards as well.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Do a Full Day’s Work in 90 Minutes

By: Steve Pavlina

The typical American office worker only does about 90 minutes of real work per workday.

The rest of each workday is largely spent on distractions like reading the news, web surfing, socializing with coworkers, snacking, taking coffee breaks, shuffling papers around, processing irrelevant emails, needless delay tactics, playing games, and daydreaming.

Moreover, American office workers are among the world’s most productive. In many other countries, even less work gets done each day.

This stat hasn’t changed much in decades, despite massive investments in time management and productivity training by many companies. We have more technology to assist us in being productive, but we also have more to distract us.

The general problem is that we’re still applying an industrial age model to the productivity of knowledge workers. It makes sense to pay attention to hours worked if the productive output for each hour is roughly the same. That may be true for repetitive labor, but it doesn’t apply much to knowledge workers.

For a knowledge worker, what’s the difference between an hour of peak productivity vs. a low productivity hour? That peak hour could easily be 10x more productive in terms of the volume of work completed and the results generated.

What sense does it make to spend more time at the office if you’re normally operating at less than 20% of capacity? Why not simply do 90 minutes of real work and then go home for the day?

What if you could complete a whole day’s work in only 90 minutes? What would that 90-minute period look like?

Focus Blocks

Here are some recommendations for having a very productive 90-min period (let’s call it a focus block):

1. Pick one theme – Instead of doing a bunch of random actions, pick one clear theme for the block. This allows your brain to load in a singular context and stick with it, which makes you more efficient. Your theme may be a project you’re working on, a type of work like catching up on correspondence, or anything that lets your brain load in one clear context and stick with it.

2. Define the finish line – See your focus block as a fast dash to the finish line. But where is the finish line? What does it look like? Having a clear goal that’s only 90 minutes away will help you focus. Don’t worry if you don’t cross the finish line each time; it’s there to help you focus, so aim for it, but accept that sometimes you’ll miss. Some examples: Write and post a new blog entry. Process items in my email inbox till it’s completely empty. Plan and schedule all my focus blocks for the upcoming week.

3. List the action steps
– List the specific actions you’ll take during this block. For some blocks this is really helpful. For others it may not be necessary if the steps are already clear. I wouldn’t list out my action steps for writing a new article since that process is very familiar to me, but I’d list brainstorm and list steps for an unfamiliar new project to make it easier to get started. Some examples: Delete all obvious spam and clutter from my email inbox first. Then quickly process all messages that I can handle in less than two minutes each. Next, sort and prioritize longer messages for response. Respond to my most important longer messages till I’m at the 90-minute point. Surrender to the realization that it’s not a good use of my time to reply to the rest, and just archive them to empty the inbox.

4. Ensure zero interruptions – Do whatever it takes to ensure that you will not be interrupted under any circumstances during your focus block. If necessary, tell people in advance that you will not be available for the next 90 minutes; let them know that you will be available after that. Lock your door if you can. If you can’t guarantee that you won’t be interrupted in your current work environment, then do your focus block somewhere else. You’ll be much more productive and your focus will be deeper if you know for certain that you won’t be interrupted.

5. Work fast – Think fast. Move fast. Work fast. If you catch yourself going slow, speed up! Imagine that you’re in a race, and you have to maintain a strong pace for the full 90 minutes. After that you can rest. With practice this gets easier.

6. Allow no distractions – During your focus block, you must do your pre-defined work and nothing else. Keep your cell phone off. Turn off any notifications that might interrupt you. Turn off your Internet access if you won’t need it during this block. Do not check email during this time. Do not take a coffee break or snack break. Use the bathroom during this time only if you must.

I think you get the idea.

Avoid the Gray Zone and Take Real Breaks

Many people spend their workdays in a gray zone marathon. That’s why it takes them 7-8 hours to do 90 minutes of work. They work slowly and inefficiently. Their work time is cluttered with distractions and interruptions. They begin late and wind down early. Most of the time, they’re only half working.

Instead of doing a gray zone marathon each day, cycle between real work and real breaks. This will be much more efficient, even if you work only half as many hours or less.

Don’t immediately go from one focus block right into another. After you complete a focus block, celebrate your achievement. Then assess where you are. Tune into your energy and see how you feel.

If you’re still feeling alert and energized, you may only need a short break. Take 5-10 minutes to stretch, go to the bathroom, and have some fresh fruit. Then feel free to dive right into another focus block.

If you feel tired, it’s good to eat something and/or take a nap.

If you feel like doing something physical, go for a walk or take an exercise break.

If you feel like you could use some emotional renewal, you may wish to meditate, socialize, or read some inspiring material.

How long should your breaks be? Make them as long as necessary till you’re ready for another round of focused work. Sometimes you may only need a few minutes. Other times it may be wise to take a couple hours off, especially if the previous block was particularly draining. Between focus blocks, seek to refresh and renew your energy until you’re ready to handle another focus block.

Do your best not to load up your breaks with gray zone tasks like email since that’s more likely to drain you. I recommend batching small tasks into their own focus block (including email). But if it’s just a quick one-minute email check now and then, that probably won’t be too bad, but never do email checks during a block unless it’s critical for the completion of the block.

Realize that if you only complete one focus block in a whole day, you’ve still done as much real work as the typical American office worker does in a full eight-hour day. And if you only complete two blocks, you’re twice as productive as most. On a super productive day, you may complete five or six blocks, which is like getting a full week’s worth of work done in one day.

Do a Week of Work in a Day

During one of the most productive periods of my life, when I was doing contract game programming work, I’d normally work from 9am to noon, take a one hour break for lunch, and then work from 1pm until 5pm or 6pm. But I’d subdivide the work into shorter focus blocks of deep concentration.

At the start of each day, I’d define the next milestone I wanted to reach, such as a short list of new features to add. Then I’d make a short list of action steps in my work journal (just an everyday spiral notebook). Sometimes I wouldn’t bother to list the action steps if they seemed obvious. Then I’d program the items on the list. Finally, I’d compile the software, test the program, fix bugs, and tweak the implementation until I was satisfied. A typical milestone would take me about 45-90 minutes to achieve.

Since I was programming games, testing the program meant playing the game a little to test the new features as well as the overall gameplay. In effect, the testing phase gave my brain a nice break from designing algorithms and writing code.

When I finished one cycle like this, I’d feel a nice little sense of accomplishment. I might take a quick stretch break. Then I’d make a new list and repeat.

In the morning, I would complete a few of these cycles, perhaps three of them. In the afternoon I’d do several more. My game projects progressed very quickly during this time. Every day I added many new features. I could have a prototype of a whole new game running in just a few days this way. With today’s better development tools, the work can progress even faster.

During lunch each day, I took a complete break to restore my mental energy. I rarely went to lunch with my co-workers. Usually I brought a sack lunch with me, but I left the office to go eat. I’d drive to a nearby park, sit on the grass with my back against a tree, and eat alone in silence. I’d let go of work and just relax. After eating, I’d lie back on the grass and take a 20-minute nap, or I’d stare up at the sky and totally zone out. I’d enjoy the breeze and listen to the birds. I gave the brain circuits I needed for programming work a very restful break. Then I’d go back to my car, return to work, and crank out a few more cycles before leaving for the day.

Test, Train, and Experiment

If you aren’t used to a working rhythm of alternating focus blocks with rest periods, you may need to practice this method for a while to get used to it. I expect you’ll really like it once you taste this kind of flow. Doing a full day’s work in about 90 minutes is not only efficient; it’s also motivated and energizing.

Cycles of about 90 minutes usually work well once you get up to speed. But you may find that shorter cycles like 45 or 60 minutes work better for you. You may also find that different cycle lengths are more suited to different types of work. Sometimes I’ll keep going for 2.5 hours (or more) if I’m feeling good, especially when writing a new article.

Some people like having scheduled focus blocks with scheduled breaks, so everything is a set duration. They’re sticklers for starting and stopping at set times. There’s some evidence that this helps your brain optimize its performance if your cycles are the same every day.

For instance, you might have focus blocks at 5:30-7:00am, 8:00-9:30am, 10:30am-noon, 1pm-2:30pm, and 3:30-5pm, which would give you five 90-minute focus blocks with hour-long breaks in between. This would be a super productive day that would see you doing as much real work in one day as the typical American office worker does in a week, but you’re only working for 7.5 hours total.

Other people prefer a more organic approach, deciding based on their energy levels how low each focus block and break should be. This is how I work most of the time.

A modest but still highly productive schedule might entail having three focus blocks per day. You could easily complete a great deal of work this way. Many top creative workers only work 3-5 hours per day, but they work with deep focus and zero interruptions during that time.

Don’t succumb to the cultural bias that may try to convince you that working 8+ hours per day makes you productive. That may be true for physical labor and some repetitive tasks, but it’s not true for knowledge workers and creative types. Many people enjoy tremendous flow and achieve great results by working in short high energy, bursts of motivation and drive. Try this for yourself, and you may never want to return to the gray zone of long, unproductive workdays again.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Selecting Projects Wisely

By Steve Pavlina

Sometimes people dive into new projects because they really want to make some money or to “get something going.” They put pressure on themselves to start a project mainly for the sake of trying to create some forward momentum.

While forward momentum can be a beautiful thing, I would actually recommend against this approach. Usually when I see people try to motivate themselves like this, their projects fizzle out within a matter of months, if they can complete them at all. A couple years later, they have little or nothing to show for their efforts. The “I’ve gotta get something going” approach is the dabbler’s strategy. It’s too amateurish to work well most of the time.

The main issue is that these types of projects are selected largely at random. They don’t fit into any greater strategy. They’re just ideas, but they aren’t really inspired ideas, so even a small amount of resistance can kill them off.

I’d suggest thinking instead about a long-term journey you feel you could commit to for at least 5 years — some combo of lifestyle + income streams + fulfilling work that makes for a nice package deal. Then think about projects that align with your vision. This way you’ll be more likely to follow through on those projects; you’ll have more important reasons for seeing those projects succeed.

In 2004 I started on the path of building a personal development business, and I began with two different skill paths: blogging and speaking. On the lifestyle side, I wanted to explore personal growth very deeply, to conduct my own growth experiments, and to share what I learned along the way. It was the overall lifestyle that appealed to me most of all. I loved the idea of centering my life around personal growth for many years. That was an inspired idea that I could really commit to.

In order to make that a reality, I needed a flexible business model. That’s why I picked blogging and speaking for my work outlets — they’re both flexible and travel-friendly, and I enjoy doing them. But most of all, these outlets can support my desired lifestyle.

I knew that both of these skill paths could also be used to create a variety of income streams. I could write books, create info products, do paid speaking, do public workshops, etc. I like variety, so this seemed like a good overall strategy. If I stuck with these skill paths, I knew I’d eventually be able to monetize my work one way or another and make it financially sustainable. That was just a matter of time. But the real motivation was to support the lifestyle of being able to work on personal growth and to share what I learned with people.

As I went down this path, I tried to pick projects that aligned with it. Which projects would help me achieve my big picture lifestyle desires?

Some of those projects fizzled. Some succeeded. I tried a lot of different things to figure out what I liked doing most, what generated reliable income, and what provided value to people. Those projects were chosen because they fit the bigger framework — my long-term commitment to living a certain lifestyle centered around personal growth explorations and learning. You could say that these projects were stepping stones, but I didn’t always know which stones to step on and in which order. So in retrospect some of them may look like stepping stones, but when I originally picked those projects, it was usually because they looked like reasonable ideas that could support my lifestyle journey. I didn’t always know in advance how I might build upon them.

Here’s a quote from Steve Jobs that fits nicely here:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

I think you can also trust in some basic intelligence. If you take the time to get clear about the core of your desired lifestyle path, and then you choose skill paths that can support it, I think you’ll have an easier time picking good projects and not seeing them fizzle so often. Otherwise there’s a high risk of choosing projects that are very disjointed and incongruent.

If your main motivation for selecting a project is money, but you aren’t yet clear about what type of lifestyle that money is supposed to support, then your motivation will likely be unstable and inconsistent. Minor distractions will knock you off course.

You may also be trying to force your project forward, such as by pressuring yourself for financial reasons, but that approach probably won’t create the most inspired work. So even if you complete your project, you may have a hard time selling it. Much to your chagrin, you may discover that no one feels inspired to buy your project that was forced across the finish line just so you could make money from it.

When I started studying public speaking in 2004, it was part of my big picture lifestyle vision. I knew that if I got good at speaking, I could use it to share personal growth ideas, to meet wonderful people, and to generate income. So for the first few years, I picked speaking projects to enhance my skills, to experiment with different styles, to discover my most authentic ways of speaking, and to get really comfortable in front of an audience. I didn’t get into speaking just to make money or to “get something going.” I chose it because it was a good skill set for my desired lifestyle path. This gave me a lot more motivation to stick with it.

Many of the speaking projects I picked in those early years, such as doing a one-day workshop on blogging or speaking at Hay House’s I Can Do It!conference a couple times, were chosen because they aligned with my big picture lifestyle vision. I turned down a lot of other potential projects along the way because they didn’t align with my lifestyle path. I could have gotten into corporate speaking, but I didn’t go that route because speaking at corporate events doesn’t mesh with my lifestyle well enough. Public workshops, however, mesh beautifully with my lifestyle since I get to connect with people who are very enthusiastic about personal growth, and designing a workshop is a great way to delve deeply into a subject that interests me.

I think you’ll find that if you get clear about your desired lifestyle path — clear enough that you can make at least a 5-year commitment to it — you’ll be smarter about picking good short-term projects that align with your lifestyle and your desired skill paths. And you’ll be able to escape the dabbler’s fate of doing random projects that always fizzle.

I understand that it can be hard to take a step back and think about your big picture lifestyle vision, especially when you’re feeling a lot of pressure to get something going. But the get-something-going approach usually just punts the problem a few months forward. When you complete your project (or give up on it because it fizzled), you’ll be facing that same kind of pressure yet again. You’ll still be telling yourself that you need to get something going.

Looking back, haven’t you already been doing this to yourself for some number of years already? If so, then isn’t it fairly predictable that you’ll still be doing this to yourself a year from now… five years from now… ten years from now? Of course you will, unless you choose a different path now.

The people I know who are happiest in life almost invariably put lifestyle first. Yes, they do work they love too, but a big reason for their chosen work is that it supports their desired lifestyle journey.

I really enjoy writing and speaking, but I especially love that these skills support my lifestyle. It’s more accurate to say that I love writing and speakingabout personal growth. If these skills didn’t support my lifestyle, my interest in writing and speaking would fizzle — I just don’t care to write and speak about other topics as much. The same goes for other creative projects. It’s the “about personal growth” aspect of those projects that makes them fulfilling and that motivates me to eventually complete them.

What’s your version of the “about personal growth” qualifier that suits your desired lifestyle journey? I think that once you identify it, you’ll find it easier to know which projects fit your qualifier (and your lifestyle) and which aren’t worth your time.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Hard Work

By Steve Pavlina

Success literature going back hundreds of years espouses the benefits of hard work. But why is it that some people seem to feel that “hard work” is a dirty word nowadays?

I define “hard work” as work that is challenging. Both hard work and “working hard” (i.e. putting in the time required to get the job done) are required for success.

A problem occurs when people think of challenging work as painful or uncomfortable. Does challenging work necessarily have to be painful? No, of course not. In fact, a major key to success is to learn to enjoy challenging work AND to enjoy working hard at it.

Why challenging work? Because challenging work, when intelligently chosen, pays off. It’s the work that people of lesser character will avoid. And if you infer that I’m saying people who avoid challenging work have a character flaw, you’re right… and a serious one at that. If you avoid challenging work, you avoid doing what it takes to succeed. To keep your muscles strong or your mind sharp, you need to challenge them. To do only what’s easy will lead to physical and mental flabbiness and very mediocre results, followed by a great deal of time and effort spent justifying why such flabbiness is OK, instead of stepping up and taking on some real challenges.

Tackling challenges builds character, just as lifting weights builds muscle. To avoid challenge is to abandon one’s character development.

Now it’s natural that we’ll tend to avoid what’s painful, so if we see challenge as purely painful, we’ll surely avoid it. But in so doing, we’re avoiding some very important character development, which by its very nature is often tremendously challenging. So we must learn to fall in love with challenge instead of fearing it, just as a bodybuilder can learn to love the pain of doing “one more rep” that tears down muscle fibers, allowing them to grow stronger. If you avoid the pain, you miss out on the growth. This is true both for building muscles and for building character.

While a common philosophy says to go with the flow, the downside to this belief system is that you must yield control of your life to that flow. And that’s fine if you don’t mind living passively and letting life happen to you. If you feel you’re here to ride your life instead of drive it, then you’ll have to accept where the flow takes you and learn to like it. But sometimes the flow doesn’t go in a healthy direction. You can go with the flow and end up in a pretty screwed up situation if you don’t assume more direct control when needed.

On the other hand, there’s the alternative way of looking at life with you as the driving force behind it. You create and control the flow yourself. This is a more challenging way to live but also a much more rewarding one. You aren’t limited to those experiences that can only be gotten passively or painlessly — now you can have much more of what you want by being willing to accept and take on bigger challenges.

If I only went with the perceived easy flow of my life, I’d never have learned to read, write, or type; those were all challenges where I felt I was going against the flow of what was easy and natural. I wouldn’t have gotten any college degrees. I wouldn’t have started my own business. I certainly wouldn’t have developed any software. No way I would have run a marathon — one doesn’t exactly flow into such a thing. And I most certainly wouldn’t be doing any public speaking. This web site wouldn’t exist either; it was definitely an entity created more by drive than by flow.

I do believe there is an underlying flow to life at times, but I see myself as a co-creator in that flow. I can ride the flow when it’s headed where I want to go, or I can get off and blaze my own trail when necessary.

When you step up and learn to see yourself as the driver of your life instead of the passive victim of it, then it becomes a lot easier to take on big challenges and to endure the hardships they sometimes require. You learn to associate more pleasure to the character development you gain than the minor discomforts you experience. You become accustomed to spending more time outside your comfort zone. Hard work is something you look forward to because you know that it will lead to tremendous growth. And you eventually develop the maturity and responsibility to understand that certain goals will never just flow into your life; they’ll only happen if you act as the driving force to bring them to fruition.

When faced with the prospect of saying to yourself, “If I always avoid hard work, I’ll never in my life get to experience X, Y, or Z,” it’s a little easier to embrace the benefits of hard work. What will you miss out on? You’ll probably never run a marathon, marry the mate of your dreams, become a multi-millionaire, make a real difference in the world, etc. You’ll have to settle for only what going with the flow can provide, which is mediocrity. You’ll basically just take up space and die without really having mattered. The world will be pretty much the same had you never existed (chaos theory notwithstanding).

If you want to achieve some really big and interesting goals, you have to learn to fall in love with hard work. Hard work makes the difference. It’s what separates the children from the mature adults. You can keep living as a child and desperately hoping that life will always be easy, but then you’ll be stuck in a child-like world, working on other people’s goals instead of your own, waiting for opportunities to come to you instead of creating your own, and doing work that in the grand scheme of this world just isn’t important.

When you learn to embrace hard work instead of running from it, you gain the ability to execute on your big goals, no matter what it takes to achieve them. You blast through obstacles that stop others who have less resolve. But what is it that gets you to this point? What gets you to embrace hard work?


When you live for a strong purpose, then hard work isn’t an option. It’s a necessity. If your life has no real purpose, then you can avoid hard work, and it won’t matter because you’ve decided that your life itself doesn’t matter anyway. So who cares if you work hard or take the easy road? But if you’ve chosen a significant purpose for your life, it’s going to require hard work to get there — any meaningful purpose will require hard work. You have to admit to yourself then that the only way this purpose is going to be fulfilled is if you embrace hard work. And this is what takes you beyond fear and ego, beyond the sniveling little child who thinks that hard work is something to run away from. When you become driven by a purpose greater than yourself, you embrace hard work out of necessity. That child gets replaced by a mature adult who assumes responsibility for getting the job done, knowing that without total commitment and lots of hard work, it’s never going to happen.

Desire melts adversity.

Show me a person who avoids hard work, and I’ll show you someone who hasn’t found their purpose yet. Because anyone who knows their purpose will embrace hard work. They’ll pay the price willingly.

If you don’t know your purpose yet, then in the world of mature human beings, you don’t yet matter. You’re just a piece of flotsam on the flow created by those who do live on purpose. And deep down you already know this, don’t you? If you want to make a difference in the world, then hard work is the price. There are no shortcuts.

Purpose and hard work are buddies. Purpose is the why. Hard work is the how. Purpose is what turns labor into labor of love. It transmutes the pain of hard work into the higher level pleasure of dedication, commitment, resolve, and passion. It turns pain into strength, eventually to the point where you don’t notice the pain as much as you enjoy the strength.

Once again it all comes down to purpose. Create a purpose for your life, and live it each day. And many of the other success habits like hard work and working hard will fall into place automatically. Figure out the why. Why are you here? Why does your life matter? That is the ultimate test of your free will.