Work to Do

It is easy to believe the lie that work stops. That, sometime soon, you will get the break you deserve. The time off. The retirement. You have had your eye on it for a long time, and now it feels close. It all sounds great, but if you want to be great, breaks never come. At least they shouldn’t. Being great is about the work you are doing and the work you have left to do, not what you have done.

School trains you to look forward to breaks. It is rare to go through a full week (Monday through Friday) when you are in school. So, you have gotten used to breaks. And although those breaks are nice during the school year, they do not come when you graduate. Graduation day is fun, exciting, and rewarding. You have been through a lot, and now you are finally done. Except the reward is not the break you expect. The reward for all your hard work is more work, and that is a good thing. You get to do the work you were (or should have been) trained to do. Go and do it well.

In sports, people tell you to “keep your eye on the prize.” The prize usually has something to do with winning. It might be the NCAA championship, the Super Bowl, or the World Series. If you are fortunate to win and achieve your goal, your work is not finished. If you want to be great, you must get back to work. Next year starts right when you walk off the court or field. When the final buzzer sounds, the off-season starts. Winning a championship means you have less of an off-season. So, you have work to do. And you better get to it because you have less time than the people you beat. The reward is the work you get to do, not the work you did. 

Some people work their entire lives to retire. They tolerate jobs they hate so they can reach the reward of retirement. But, if you are working for the right reasons, retirement never comes. Even when you do not have to go to your job anymore, you still have work to do. Learning is a lifelong journey, so you are never finished. If you are living, you have learning to do. Retirement might give you more free time, but that does not mean you should waste it. You have a responsibility to continue working, to continue learning.

If you want to be great, you have work to do. The work never ends because it should never end. Your life is too important to let yourself believe that at some point you get to relax and do nothing. Continue to work. Continue to learn. Not because you have to, but because you get to.

Doing What You Want

The way to get what you want is not to do what you want. You have choices to make. Everyone does. Choices are hard to make because many factors go into every one, and other people make them more difficult. Everywhere you turn you are being offered someone’s opinion. They tell you what to do and how to do it. And the more opinions you have, the harder it is to choose. People tell you that to get what you want you should do what you want, and that is easy advice to follow. The easy way is to do everything you enjoy and avoid what makes you uncomfortable. The problem with this is that you never do what you need to do. And if you avoid the things you need to do you will never get what you want.

Sometimes it is good to do what you want. The things you enjoy allow you to relax and center yourself on what matters. They are a guide on your journey and a reset when you need it. We all need those things at times. But if you only do the things you want to do, you will never force yourself to act. Imagining a better life is one thing. Working towards one is another. To be someone different you must do what you have never done. If you only do what you want, you cannot become someone different.

Bridging the gap between doing and getting what you want.

If you want to become someone different you need to find a way to bridge the gap between doing what you want and getting what you want. The way to bridge this gap is to do what you do not want to do. So, figure out what you want to do or who you want to become and work backward. Chances are, there will be many obstacles on the path you will have to work through. They will not be easy, and you will not enjoy them. And that is a good thing. That means they are hard choices. And that is the way to bridge the gap. You must do them to get where you want to go even if you want to avoid them.

It is easy to avoid things in life. But those choices are what hold you back. Avoiding what you do not want to do stops you from achieving your goals. The things you avoid stop you from becoming the person you want to be. Your goals require certain things of you. There is no room for picking and choosing what you do and do not like. You must choose to do what is necessary to get what you want.

To get what you want you must bridge the gap by doing what you would rather avoid. Getting better does not mean you only do the things you want to do. Quite the opposite. It means you get to work and do what you need to do. You do the things you do not want to do to go where you want to go. And remember you get to do them.

On Extracting Greatness

Greatness is inside us. It’s in me and it is in you. It is somewhere waiting to be found, but it will not show itself. Someone must see it and go get it. And you are the only person who can do this. You can choose to find greatness on your own or allow someone else to reveal it. Either way, being great is a choice you make. It is not something that gets handed to you or that you talk about. Greatness is a choice you make through the hundreds of small options you have each day.

Jim Collins’ book, Great by Choice, is a great book and a true statement. Greatness is a choice you make. And is not one choice. It is in every choice you make because everything is connected. You cannot be great one minute and average the next. You cannot show up on gameday and expect to be great if you have not done the right things in practice. It does not work that way. You are the sum of the choices you make, and you are what you allow yourself to be. Being great is an all the time or none of the time thing. It is the person you are. You are either great or you are not. So be great. There is no reason to choose otherwise.

There will always be people more talented than you are that appear great. That is life. But that does not mean they are. Looks can be (and often are) deceiving. The fact that someone is more talented than you does not make them great. Genetics deceive many people. Greatness has nothing to do with your gifts. It is about what you do. The right choices make you great, not natural ability. That means we can all choose to be great.

While being great comes down to the choices you make, you can choose to allow someone to find your greatness. It is best to find greatness on your own because you learn about yourself, and that is valuable in itself. Doing it on your own makes you learn what it takes to improve. If you choose to allow a great leader to find your greatness, know that it will not be easy because it never is. This person will be harder on you than you would be on yourself. High standards are hard to live out. It is even harder to accept someone else’s high standards for you. But, if you can, it would be wise to accept the help. You will be better because of it.

If you want to be great you have to fight human nature. You must admit that you do not know something and that you need to get better. This means that you have a lot of work to do. We all have work to do, but we will never get started unless we know that we do not know. If you can understand that you have much to learn, you are on the path to greatness.

The Sacrifices You Make

People who are good at something might make it look easy, but that doesn’t mean it is. At times, we all wish things were easier. We convince ourselves that some people have a genetic advantage or are luckier than we are, but neither idea is true. Unfortunately, the easiest excuses are the ones we give ourselves. We can be our own worst enemy because we are the easiest person to fool. But let’s not fool ourselves. Great achievement comes from great sacrifice.

Things don’t just happen by chance. You have to sacrifice to get what you want. Actually, you get to sacrifice to be who you want to be. Although individual situations are different, you can choose to improve right where you are with what you have. Seemingly small choices can be made at this moment to improve who you are. And you are the only one who can choose to make this change. Don’t wait for someone to come save you because they never will. Your only obstacle stopping you from where you want to go is what you tell yourself and what you do. To get something, you must give something. We all can give something.

To assume people are “naturals” only hurts you. People who are viewed as naturally gifted are assumed to have great genetics. The problem is that genetics rarely gives you what you need to be successful. Genetics lay the foundation for success, but you have to do the work and make the choices. Unfortunately, great genetics are detrimental to many people. Believing that successful people are naturals gives you the excuse to not try. Lao Tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Assuming that people are naturals causes you to never try; to never take that one step that could make all the difference. Instead, you can believe people are where they are because of their hard work, sacrifice, and the choices they make. By looking at it this way, you give yourself a chance. You choose to take that first step.

Although this is not a huge surprise, you will only sacrifice if something is important to you. If it is important, you have to give something up to get it. You don’t know if it is important until you decide to commit to it all the time. It is easy to say you want something because it is easy to utter words. It is difficult to act them out. The challenge lies in the actions you take, not the words you say. You prove your commitment to yourself when your actions follow your words at all times.

Keep in mind that you sacrifice either way. You can choose to sacrifice for what you want by giving up your excuses and taking the necessary steps to eliminate things holding you back. Saying no to unnecessary things frees up time to focus on the things that matter. Eliminating social media gives you more time to study and think. Avoiding poor food choices allows you to feel and perform better, leading to a healthier mind and body. Like these positive changes, sacrifice also happens the other way. You can choose to indulge in social media and unhealthy food, but you will need to accept the sacrifices that come with these choices. Indulging in these things sacrifices your ability to learn and become healthy. The choice is yours to make, and there are sacrifices either way. While you don’t get to choose your results, you do get to choose your sacrifices.

The possibilities are endless with the right sacrifices. The right ones are available to you, but it is your responsibility to choose them. No matter if you choose to go after what you want or not, sacrifices will be made. You will give up what you want now for long-term rewards or give up long-term payoff for what you want now. Either way you sacrifice. What you achieve is the result of the choices you make and the things you give up.

The Price You Pay

There are prices to be paid for everything. Food costs you money. Reading a book takes up your time. And working that job you hate is costing you your sanity. Just like there are prices to be paid for these things, greatness comes at a price.

Although it is easy to believe people are great by default it is not true. Just because we believe something doesn’t make it true. To be great at anything requires a large sacrifice. All great achievement is possible because the achiever is willing to pay the necessary price. You can’t be great without paying the required price, but that doesn’t stop us from believing so. And even if you could skip the price and achieve greatness, you shouldn’t want to. Then you would have to live with knowing you shortcutted your way to the top. There are few worse realizations.

It’s easy to assume that people become great by accident; that greatness is something that happens to them. But that is not true. How can it be? If it were that easy, everyone would be great. And if you look around, that is not the case. As human beings, it is easier to believe that things just come to people. It is easier to think that people stumble upon greatness instead of sacrifice for it. And it’s easier to believe that you are great by default instead of working hard towards a goal. But that is our nature: we choose to believe things are easy. This belief makes us feel better when we are assuming, unorganized, and lazy. Our nature allows us to accept our circumstances as fate.

Achieving greatness in sports is one example. There are no secrets to success in team or individual sport. Being a great athlete requires certain things of you. You must be willing to sacrifice your body if you want to be elite. Pushing your physical limits likely leads to pain and injury. Many of the greatest athletes have persevered through gruesome injuries in pursuit of their goals. But they kept going and refused to quit. They understood this to be part of the process of becoming great.

Take the Olympic athlete. They often train for years to perform one event. Years and years of training for a race that might last less than 60 seconds. It is unbelievable to think of the time invested and energy sacrificed for the chance to compete in just one event. This is a huge price to pay, but they accept it knowing it’s necessary to be great. 

Authors also know this sacrifice all too well. If you want to write, you in a way must become your book. Great authors spend years writing a few hundred pages or less. They spend hours each day crafting their masterpiece. After the hours they invest into the writing of their work they spend the rest of their time reading and thinking about how to improve it. It is an exhausting, expensive process. It costs them time, money, and energy, but they know there is no other way to produce what they want. If they want to produce great work, this is the price they must pay. 

Being great is for the select few. Most people are average, some are good, and few are great. Greatness comes at too high a cost for people to accept and pay. But for the few willing to pay its price, the rewards are ready for them. If you look at any great achiever, you will find they paid a high price to get where they are. All great athletes, musicians, authors, and entrepreneurs paid the necessary price to be great.

The problem we face is that people want to be great without paying the necessary price. There is a price along with greatness, and you cannot separate one from the other. Many of us don’t think the price applies to us. We like to believe we can write a bestselling book without the years of research and struggle to choose the right words. We tell ourselves we can be an elite athlete without years of practice, failure, and disappointment. One thing we know is that greatness requires more than wishful thinking and dreams. It requires sacrifice and an acceptance of the price it takes to get there.

Although it is easy to believe many of these things, greatness cannot be cheated, lied to, or fooled. It is too smart, and the requirements are too simple and well-known. You cannot cheat the system. You can try, but one way or another you will fail if you resist paying the price. While you can talk about being great, dream about great performances, and imagine yourself living like your idols, you never will be without sacrifice. You can imitate greatness, but you’ll never achieve it unless you are willing to pay its price.

Uncomfortable Choices

We all strive to get better and to improve. We set goals and dream of a better life. It’s easy for us to imagine getting a dream job, losing weight, or writing that book. Imagining is easy, but it is much harder to do it. To do it is uncomfortable. And it’s not uncomfortable for a moment. It is that way for a long time, and results are not guaranteed.

This example is clear with our physical goals. Most people want to lose weight, get in better shape, or build muscle. They want these things, but most are not willing to do the work. They are not willing to make the uncomfortable choice day in and day out to achieve these goals. It’s easy to go to the gym, but it is difficult to eat and sleep well. It’s easy to watch videos of others lifting weights, but it is difficult to go to the gym and lift weights. Our goals will not achieve themselves. We must be willing to sacrifice for what we want. Sacrifice happens when uncomfortable choices are made.

Learning a new topic or building your business takes years of uncomfortable choices. It is easy to read a few articles on the Internet, but it is difficult to study books and re-visit them to ingrain these topics. Listening to your favorite speaker or watching a video is convenient. Taking notes and researching different topics is difficult and time-consuming. If we want to learn and improve our abilities we must choose to do things that are difficult and inconvenient.

Nothing worthwhile is achieved through comfort and convenience. If we hope to get better or to provide a better life for the people we love, we must willingly make uncomfortable choices. If we make those choices often enough, we have a chance of making progress. Avoiding uncomfortable choices guarantees that you will stay right where you are. Remember that the next time you want to avoid something. There just might be a path forward if you choose to go through it.

8 TED Talks That Are Worth Your Time

There are many things that we do not know or have trouble understanding. Oftentimes we do not know where to start looking for information. But, the internet provides us with a great opportunity to learn any subject through videos, writing, and websites. TED talks are a great resource for learning a variety of topics in a short time. I have listed eight of my favorite TED talks on a wide variety of subjects that are worth your time. I hope you learn a few things you can take away and apply to your life. 

3 Things I Learned While My Plane Crashed – Ric Elias

Ric Elias was a passenger on Flight 1549, the plane that landed on the Hudson river in 2009. In this video, Ric discusses what went through his mind as he believed the plane was going to go down. He offers a great perspective from what he learned during this frightening experience. Ric is CEO and co-founder of Red Ventures, a portfolio of digital companies that creates customized online experiences.

How I Held My Breath for 17 Minutes – David Blaine

David Blaine is a magician and stuntman who is best known for his feats of extreme endurance. This video details how he trained to stay underwater for this world-record breaking attempt, and how he thinks through his work. He is the author of Mysterious Stranger. You can learn more about David by visiting his website.

The Power of Introverts – Susan Cain

Susan Cain is a best-selling author, lecturer, and a co-founder of Quiet Revolution. Her talk discusses the current state of society, where being social and outgoing are valued. She argues that introverts bring extraordinary talent and abilities to the world. She is the author of Quiet, and Quiet Power.

How Great Leaders Inspire Action – Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek is an author and motivational speaker. His books focus on how leaders can inspire cooperation, trust, and change. This video discusses his famous concept of “Why.” He is the author of Start With Why, The Infinite Game, Leaders Eat Last, Find Your Why, and Together Is Better. You can learn more about Simon and his work by visiting his website.

How To Speak So That People Want To Listen – Julian Treasure

Julian is a sound and communication expert. His mission is to help organizations and people listen better and create more effective sound. This talk discusses powerful speaking, and provides vocal exercises and tips on how to speak with empathy. He is the author of How To Be Heard and Sound Business. You can learn more at his website.

The Power of Vulnerability – Dr. Brene Brown

Dr. Brene Brown is a research professor and author. She studies courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. In this video, Dr. Brown shares insight from her research to understand herself and humanity. She is the author of The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Dare to Lead, Rising Strong, and Braving the Wilderness. You can visit her website for more information.

Is The Obesity Crisis Hiding a Bigger Problem? – Dr. Peter Attia

Dr. Attia is the founder of Attia Medical and focuses on the applied science of longevity. In this video, Dr. Attia questions the current understanding of diabetes. He analyzes how assumptions within the medical community may be leading us to the wrong wars. You can learn more about Dr. Attia by visiting his website and listening to his podcast, The Drive

The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers – Adam Grant

Adam Grant is a professor at Wharton. He is a leading expert on motivation and meaning, as well as living generous and creative lives. In this video, Adam discusses how creative people come up with ideas. He shows us that “the greatest originals are the ones who fail the most.” Adam is the author of Give and Take, Originals, Option B, and Power Moves. Visit Adam’s website to learn more about him.