It’s cliche to say that there is no secret to success. People write and talk about it all the time. Eyes glaze over reading it. But it is cliche for a reason. It is a simple but incredibly powerful insight that most people don’t grasp on some level.
When you do understand it though, the way you see the world changes. You realize that there are no tips, tricks, or hacks that will ultimately take you where you want to go. There is no secret recipe. People who have developed amazing skill and power didn’t use secrets to get there, they made it with commitment.
I’ve written before about Dan Sullivan’s 4 steps to a breakthrough framework:
People imagine this going the other way. They don’t want to act until they feel confident, but there is no shortcut to confidence. Confidence in any area is built by doing something when you don’t know how to do it.
Our education system creates the illusion that you can start with confidence. They sell you classes and tell you that they can teach you everything you need to know before you need to know it. That you can learn finance, math, physics, entrepreneurship in an environment without real stakes. Then you can confidently go out into the world and apply your already learned knowledge.
99% of the time this doesn’t work in the short term, but even if it did, it would be a recipe for disappointment in the long-term.
As humans, we are hard-wired for progress. If we are not improving we aren’t happy in a deep way. In order to consistently grow you need to continually make commitments that stretch your capabilities.
Work is great for personal growth because it creates an external commitment that leads you to more capabilities and confidence. You have to learn how to do your job well or else you will face real negative consequences (monetary and social). The challenge is to not let yourself settle in once you reach a level of confidence.
As humans, we have a strong pull to comfort. Working when we don’t have the capability or confidence doesn’t naturally feel good. It is uncomfortable and it can provoke a lot of fear and anxiety. The path forward isn’t to hide from these feelings, but to learn that they are an inescapable part of the journey to the confidence we want to feel in any skill.
Someone like Elon Musk is not a superstar genius that know’s everything about electric cars, rockets, space, the brain, and entrepreneurship. He has developed confidence in his ability to raise capital, find the best people in the world at any specialty and convince them to work for him. He also knows that the first step to creating anything great is committing. The first step to building a rocket to Mars isn’t learning everything about rockets, it is making a commitment and having the fortitude to follow through with that commitment.
The first step to getting where you want to go is committing to it. If you want to be a writer, don’t start learning theory, commit to writing every day. If you want to be a philosopher don’t start reading about the history, commit to writing out an idea every day. If you want to be an entrepreneur, commit to an idea and start working every day towards making it real.
You may end up learning that you don’t want to go your original direction, but along the way, you will develop the capabilities to follow through with whatever the next commitment you make is.