Stop Pretending There’s a Secret to Success
March 19th, 2019

Several years ago, a friend asked me a very simple question that sparked several years of thought.

She was mentioning how she had been dehydrated lately and needed to drink more water. I shared with her my recent discovery (shared to me by another friend) that it really helped me to drink a liter of water first thing in the morning, before even having my coffee. This got us talking about our mornings, and at the time my morning involved me getting up pretty early to follow the ritual of drinking that liter of water, writing for an hour while drinking my coffee, working out, eating, showering, then heading to work.

She looked at me, shook her head, and genuinely asked, “How do you do it?”

My first thought was—I’m not the person you should be asking. The whole reason I was doing those things was because I felt like I was lacking success. My morning rituals were like remedial life class, as far as I was concerned. But she seemed to think otherwise and genuinely wanted an answer.

I shrugged and answered honestly, “I just do.”

Our conversation moved on, but I spent years thinking back to that discrepancy between how I saw myself and how she saw me. I saw my morning routine as personal development, almost something to be embarrassed by. Only unsuccessful people need such development right? But on its face, she saw it as success. In her eyes, I had achieved something great. From my perspective, I was on the yellow brick road; from her perspective, I was in the emerald city.

I finally found the answer years later, in the words of Jim Rohn: “Your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development, because success is something you attract by the person you become.”

Let those words sink in. Your level of success is tied to your level of personal development. I will go a step further than Jim and say that success and personal development are the same thing.

Let’s say your vision of success is an early riser (you’ve always wanted to be one of those) who eats really well (you’re on your third frozen pizza this week) and goes to the gym regularly. Here’s what you need to do in order to achieve your version of success: 1) wake up earlier, 2) eat healthier and 3) go to the gym regularly.

Does it sound like I’m being cynical or sarcastic? I’m not, that’s truly all there is to it.

There’s no wall surrounding your bed at 5am. There’s no wall blocking the door to your gym. You don’t need a self-help class or some 10-step program to being a better you to achieve these things. Follow that old Nike proverb: just do it. That Nike swoosh logo—it’s a checkmark, because it’s that simple: do it, check it off your list, move on.

If there is a secret, something that will put a little more gas in the engine, I can tell you this: you’re going to struggle to do any of these things if you don’t know why you’re doing them. That’s right, bold and italicized, that’s how important it is.

Why do I get up early? Because I’ve spent a lot of time in hospital beds over the last fifteen years, and I’ve decided I want to be awake for as much of my life as possible—especially on weekends. I’m definitely not going to use the one or two free days I get to sleep, I sleep every night! What a waste of my only time off.

Why do I eat healthy? Because I want to be healthy.

Why do I workout? Actually, I’m not working out right now. My vision of success does include being in better shape and working out, but that’s a place where I’ve not followed my own advice. So here’s a real life, happening-in-the-moment example of finding a why: I want to start working out because I’m 31, and when I closed the door on my twenties I remember reflecting heavily on how I spent my time and what I had an hadn’t achieved in that decade of my life, and I don’t want to turn 40 and look back to see that I never reached my potential, physically speaking. It’s like the feeling you have when you want to get up at 7am, but you hit the snooze and the next time you open your eyes the clock says 10:00, and you’re a little upset with yourself because you can’t get that time back. It’s gone. But hey, there’s always tomorrow, right? Until there isn’t. You can’t rely on tomorrow, you have to change “someday” into “today.”

Let’s see if that works. Check in with me and I’ll let you know.