I’ll admit it. I am a dreamer and I often make lofty goals and set idealistic expectations that are likely out of reach. In my mind I gravitate toward huge success stories like J.K. Rowling, Sara Blakely, Tyler Perry, Mark Cuban, etc. , basking in the perceived luxuries. In other words, people who are self-made and now worth hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. I’m sure I’m not alone in that.
There is a whole industry of people who are building wealth by promoting products and services that cater to that same desire – to catapult someone from obscurity to legendary status. Ploys to develop mastery, to be a high performer, to 10x your growth or to max out your life are plentiful. I, too, have consumed content from many of these people and programs as well. This is in no way a condemnation of them or anyone’s desire for success, because I believe their intent is good.
However, even among many of these people, they will share bits of things that have actually improved the quality of their lives the most, and by and large they don’t involve the massive accumulation of wealth. A great example of this is the collection of interviews in Tim Ferriss’ book Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice From the Best in the World. Usually they have to do with things like service, faith, connection, meditative or contemplative practices and other contributing lifestyle enhancements. I have become someone who now looks for patterns and similarities in messages, sort of decoding things through these perceptions and identifying repeat melodies even among otherwise very different songs.
What I have found is that the chasing of that big jump – in anything – is very rarely what actually works. Rather, it is an accumulation of incremental changes or improvements that surmount to those sought-after ideals in life. Additionally, going all out in one area of life can create a deficiency in one or more other areas, thus imbalancing one’s personal ecosystem and rendering any long term growth unsustainable.
We often find ourselves saying, “I’ll be happier when…,” and of course it usually isn’t the case. Either the results are never obtained, or the thing happens but happiness is nowhere to be found because the change in mindset didn’t occur. By contrast, rather than some undefined level of fleeting happiness, we can choose to be happier in the very next moment, through human interaction, reflections of gratitude, exercise, a good meal or any number of things. Then we can choose to be incrementally happier again in the next moment, hour or day, and again and again. Soon there is a very noticeable difference between where we were then and where we are now, even if it is just ten percent happier (to borrow from the title of the book by Dan Harris). Over time that continued growth and improvement becomes sustainable at a much higher level, and we have transformed our lives.
The same is also true in business. I’m a huge fan of scaling something big and fast. Although there are definitely times and situations that I feel that is still applicable, the reality is that type of growth is not only rare, but unnecessary. Want to earn more money? Look at small ways to increase sales, and reduce some wasteful spending by improving systems. Then you can add more staff, a bigger office, more locations, etc. Keep doing this over time and in a few short years there is a very significant growth and improvement, without sacrificing your happiness to achieve it.
It’s not that I have completely dropped my hopes for huge successes someday, but that rather than the major swings up and down that can occur, by applying a steady growth mindset applied to as many areas of my life as possible, I’m able to keep incrementally improving as a whole. Some parts go down, others go up, but the longer-term trend is that I am finding myself become more resilient, happier, more present in my relationships, more productive at work and have a more fulfilling life. None of it is perfect of course, but I choose to keep improving, even if only a little bit at a time.
What I have found is that anyone can do this. The information is readily available and accessible to us all. Sometimes it takes a little help to apply it.