Do you even care about success in your life?

Photography by: Jeshu John

Photography by: Jeshu John

In my previous post, I talked about the importance of mindset and why it is so crucial to making progress in your life. However, before I get started here, I need to thank the guys over at Fizzle for their podcast episode and related blog post that was the inspiration for my following post*. It was, without a doubt, my favorite episode of their stellar podcast and what follows is effectively a massive, genuine sign of gratitude and respect for the work they do there.

*Side-note: What the heck do they call these things on blogs anyway. Articles? Threads? Blogposts? Monologues?

 

The Foundation

If I were to characterize a typical ‘audience’ member of my blog, it would go something like this: You’re an everyday, ordinary lad. You’re at the early stages of your career, probably a millennial (I know the dreaded M-word). You’re either about to finish (or recently finished) your higher education in a solid degree that you don’t really love. Worse yet, you’re just going through the motions of a seemingly decent but really quite uninspiring life, so you’re desperate for some kind of inspiration and direction. So I thought, I’ve got to build this process of ‘breaking free’ in a step-by-step manner. No point talking about productivity hacks, life hacks, and other fun hackedy hacks without getting some groundwork done first. So after discussing the importance of fixing and being aware of your mindset, we’re going to establish a foundation. My friends, this foundation is all about creating your own definition of success.

 

Preamble: How much do you really want this?

Hopefully, you’re gradually reaching the stage where you want to make a change in your life, be it from avoiding the terrifying abyss of the corporate stooge life or escaping your fishbowl. Maybe you scoured the vast paradise of the Internet, read some other interesting blogs about making a change in your life/career, and gotten some useful insights from them. “Yesh, Zee Internet is right; I should improve myself and do all these things to become successful. I’m gonna be supa-hot fire and get out of this mind-numbing stage of my life to do some cool shit.” You’ve changed your mindset, so you’re making progress. So now you expect stuff to happen just because you’re #inspired but a day later… there’s nothing. It’s still business-as-usual. You read stuff, ponder it, and feel either inspired for the future, terrified at how behind you are, or depressed that you’re not good enough. What the heck are you actually supposed to do? What roadmap are you supposed to follow?

You’re gonna listen to this, you’re gonna say ‘you know what, yeah I’m going to define my own version of success! I’m gonna walk away from my job, I’m gonna go do what I think is right in the world!’ And then you’re not gonna do shit!

You’re going to walk away from this and you’re not going to do anything. You’re gonna be inspired for a half day and then nothing’s gonna change!
— Barrett Brooks

This is a very acute danger behind most of those self-improvement and #inspiration tips you see everywhere and it’s possibly the reason why a lot of people don’t like them very much. You feel inspired for a day and then… it’s back to square one. Because most of the time, there’s no actionable advice to them: #Be inspired! #Follow your dreams! But let’s leave that for now to focus on the more important side of the equation: when there is actionable advice given like, for example, writing down weekly personal goals, starting a productivity journal, or reading your personal mantras to yourself every night before sleeping. In this case, people think ‘Ha! You can’t seriously think I’m gonna do that type of embarrassing, cheesy crap. That’s what all those try-hards do, not me. This ain’t Desperate Housewives mate.’

This is a hard path. This is not a conversation you have today and then it happens tomorrow. You don’t get to say ‘I’m gonna define my success and do it tomorrow’ because this takes work. This is work over years and years of your life and dedication to a path. You don’t get to have the privilege of defining your sense of success and having fulfillment from it; you get to work your ass off to go find it and make it happen.

I just have such low tolerance for people having zero goals, zero definition of success, zero pursuit of anything in their lives.
— Barrett Brooks

This is where I want to talk to you directly. Yes, you the reader. You have no excuse not to take action if actionable advice is offered to you. And no, your pride getting in the way is not a good excuse. Does it sound totally weird to make a monthly spreadsheet showing how many times you spent quality time with a family member, lists your personal career and emotional goals, and reminds you to write in your productivity journal? Sure, it sounds weird as shit. But, this is work. Hard. Fucking. Work. There is simply no way to make progress if you don’t commit wholeheartedly to some kind of daily routine; a routine that holds you accountable to a set of actions that you think will allow you to tangibly measure your progress towards a specific goal. This way, it won’t disappear into oblivion along with your inspiration after half a day.

Is your mindset at the place where you see this type of structure or system as a means to an end or does it sound like the usual melodramatic wishy-washy feel-good stuff? It’s up to you. How much you want this; to take action so that you can actually live a somewhat meaningful life you give a damn about instead of hoping it will magically fall out of the sky like yet another oversized Spirit Bomb? How much do you want a change?

The easiest path of all is to never even decide that you care about what success means.
— Steph Crowder

Sidenote

Writing this particular post was a curious process, because I felt like a total fraud. I thought, dammit, I’m just rehashing everything they said in their podcast, especially things that Barrett said. The thing is, rarely have I agreed so wholeheartedly with something that it inspired me to sit down to plan and write a worryingly-long blog post about it. Many of the things said there resonated with me almost word-for-word, which is why I’m so grateful to the Fizzle team for what they do. Anyway, let's get back into the main course.

 

Doing the work

Ok so that was a lot of preamble before getting to the point, and I may have lost you already, but I think it was very necessary. Let’s get to the nitty-gritty stuff. As a starting point, listen to episode 140 of the Fizzle Show and apply those lessons to your life right now. I based this entire post on that episode so it would literally be a waste of your time to read this but not listen to them. Besides, I’m not going to rewrite every piece of advice that they suggested there because it would make this far too long (and would be flagrant plagiarism). Instead, I’m going to highlight a few parts that caught my eye.

I really liked the discussion about getting a picture of your current versus your ideal self because it (again) fits nicely with the mindset discussion and is very actionable. In terms of your current self, you do it in two ways: objectively and subjectively. The objective part means doing one of those personality tests. Yes mate, I know. Believe me, I’m generally not a fan of those either (for instance, apparently the Myers-Briggs test is pretty much useless) and most of them cost a chunk of cash so venture at thine own risk. But I did the 16personalities test which was a) free, b) remarkably detailed, and c) actually very good so that particular one would be my suggestion. The important thing is that you get a reasonable, objective assessment of your full character so you get a “scientific” view of your identity. At the end of the day, these tests aren’t magic: they don’t create some kind of demi-god from the data you give them.

The subjective part is really interesting and one that I particularly liked. Simply ask five people you know well the following questions, maybe in an email:

What do people say about me when I’m not in the room?
What are my greatest strengths?
What are the things holding me back?
What are my greatest weaknesses?

It’s absolutely crucial though that these five are people from different areas of your life so they shouldn’t all be family members, or all co-workers, or only friends from college. So now that you have an idea of your current self, we move towards identifying the ideal self. This involves explicitly pinpointing what your mission, values, and vision are. Again, I refer you to the Fizzle post for a detailed breakdown of each component but I really think this discussion of the ideal vs. current self is a great way to establish a foundation.

Lastly, there’s the no-brainer of setting goals for yourself, be it for your career, love life, family, or other things. Write them down, review them monthly, and think to yourself ‘what little thing can/did I do every day to bring me closer to achieving these goals?’ It’s a trial-and-error process, so don’t give up if you don’t get it right on the first shot! Just make sure you establish a system that feels natural to you and that you stick to no matter what. Don’t overwhelm yourself with a million goals, try a handful first and go from there. Remember, defining your own success is basically you making a roadmap; this map, or compass, will always guide your future endeavors but it won’t do the driving for you.

 

Closing Thoughts

I have the feeling that people might misunderstand the point of this post and think "it sounds like defining my own success means that I have aspire to become the best financial analyst or the best engineer in my field otherwise society thinks I'm worthless." Dammit, no. Life is not as black-and-white and all-or-nothing as that. What I want you to take away from this is simply that you should break down this intimidating beast called success into smaller pieces, small goals in your life, and then define success in each area. Then do it for another aspect of your life. And another one, and so on until infinity (and beyond). It doesn't have to be a hard skill like getting a degree in something, it can also be wanting to lose weight, learn photography, become a better creative writer, improve your public speaking, or learning a new sport. Then just go out and f-ing do it. But for the love of God, care about something. Please.

Once again, a huge thank you to the Fizzle crew (if they ever read this) for the inspiration to this post. All the quotes were taken from the podcast episode, so I really hope I didn’t misquote anyone or misconstrue the message because that was absolutely not my intention.

Finally, please help each other out with whatever type of support you can offer. Feel free to discuss, offer words of encouragement, share struggles, and anything else you need here without worrying that everyone on your Facebook feed is going to see and/or judge you. It’s all up to you, but please remember that you’re not in this alone, Space Cowboy.

Otherwise, you can always discuss how absurd-but-still-kinda-freakin-awesome that Frieza-Spirit Bomb scene was in Dragonball Z.