Why You'll Never HAve What You Want

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If you try too hard

“You’re too late to the party. The podcast dust has already settled.”

This is a sugar-coated version of all the criticism that Tommy Jackett and Josh Janssen received while starting their Daily Talk Show.

And to be honest, it does ring a bell. Ideas like podcasts, email newsletters, and websites have been around for years, if not decades. The number of players in the industry is huge. And they’re all after the same thing — your attention — which is limited.

But Tommy and Josh were different. When the world told them “you won’t be successful”, they said, “We don’t wanna be.”

Which is life-changing.

The Philosophy of Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski was a German-American poet who published six novels and hundreds of poems, selling over two million copies of his books.

In his 20s he quit college and roamed around America working blue-collar jobs and writing on the side. Out of the hundreds of short stories he wrote, only a few got published. Which was not a huge achievement since they failed to gain enough traction to take-off.

He stopped writing altogether.

After 10 years, he quit his then job at a post office and began writing again. This time he got his writing published, still with little success. Unable to put food on his table, he joined his job back.

But this time, things would be different.

He started writing every single day before/after work. Whatever time he could find. Over the years, he continued publishing tons of pieces in magazines and journals. *Still, *he wasn’t at the point of making a living as a writer.

Of course, the fact that we’re talking about him tells you that he’s considered one of the greatest and accomplished writers of his time.

While it seems he fought through all odds to achieve his dream, his philosophy in life, as well as the epitaph on his tombstone, is “Don’t Try”

We try too hard. More than anything, we’re too hard on ourselves. Not because we have high standards, but because we have the wrong standards.

We get our standards from what we consume. And the media tells us the stories of overnight success. How a kid made a smartphone game and went on to become a millionaire while you’re still trying to earn an extra hundred dollars per month.

It paints a false, shiny picture of success. Nonetheless, we believe it.

We aim for overnight success. We aim to get a massive audience in a few months. We aim to lose 50 pounds in 3 months.

The truth is, it takes much longer than we’re otherwise told.

Looking at the life of Bukowski, it’s easy to put him on a pedestal as an example of the American Dream. But what hides behind the pedestal is his decades of hard work without any approval or encouragement.

And so the key to being successful is to be okay with your short-term failures. To know that you will fail. And you’ll fail a lot.

Once you understand this, you can dump the emotional baggage that you’ve been carrying around. The pressure to become successful, and the false egoic desire of wanting fame, money, and happiness.

Beginner’s Luck

The desire for a more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experiences is itself a positive experience — Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck

The harder you aim for success, the more you miss it. This is why beginner’s luck works. The beginner isn’t aware of how hard it is to succeed. He knows he’s a loser. And he probably will not succeed.

Which is exactly why he does.

The key then, as Mark Manson says, is to not give a sh*t about it. When you care about it less, things start to fall in place. But when you try too hard, everything falls apart.

When you try too hard to sleep, you can’t sleep. When you try too hard to write, you can’t write.

When I started writing, I used to give a lot of sh*t about what I’ll write. Whether I’ll be curated, whether I’ll get the claps I’m hoping for, will the publications accept it, and so on.

Once I was able to get rid of it, I wrote effortlessly.

If I can give less of a sh*t about success, I can write a lot more and thereby increase my odds of being successful in the first place.

I got out of my own freaking way.

The Law of Reverse Effort

Alan Watts is famous for explaining “The Law of Reverse Effort” or the “Backwards Law”.

It simply means that pursuing something only reiterates the lack of it in the first place.

When you think you want something, you send a message to the Universe that you don’t already have it. And when you affirm that you don’t have something, then the Universe (or life) repeats that feeling.

The events in our life are just a mirror reflecting our own consciousness.

Now, back to the story of Tommy and Josh. It all ties in beautifully together. They know that they’re probably not going to succeed — in the short-term.

3–5 years down the line, they wouldn’t see the podcast explode. But things can quickly turn around from the sixth year. It’s realizing that you’ll be a trough of sorrow for a long time. But the results are waiting for you.

[The usual startup curve](https://andrewchen.co/after-the-techcrunch-bump-life-in-the-trough-of-sorrow/)The usual startup curve

With this honest acceptance of the negative, your life dramatically improves. And so does your relationship with long-term success and short-term failure.

This is why Tommy and Josh have made a 10-year commitment to do episodes of their podcast every day. The number itself is arbitrary. Regardless of what number you choose, things start to work out (if your number is not too short).

Here’s why — most people give up in six months to two years. Let’s say you commit to three years of writing. By just doing that you separate yourself from all the people who would fail.

But there’s more. Three years is enough time for you to get past the phase of ‘giving up.’ With every month you continue writing, the odds of you quitting decreases exponentially.

Until eventually one day, after years or decades of work, people call you an overnight success.

Here’s What to Do

I’m not a prolific writer, yet. But my commitment to write/edit every morning before my day job will make me one.

That being said, here are two things I do to ensure I don’t quit and remind myself to not give a shi*t about success:

Focus on systems rather than goals.

Goals are just checkpoints to look at instead of being obsessed over. I try not to look at my stats and earnings on Medium. I try to not attach myself to my book sales. I don’t check the number of subscribers I have every day. I focus on writing. I write every day. And that’s it.

Commit to something

When I first heard of a 10-year commitment that Tommy and Josh made, I was unsure. But the thing is, it doesn’t have to that big. For me, right now the commitment is to get to 100 articles at least. I’m almost 30% there. I still have a lot to go.

Why 100? Because I like easy math. And also because it’ll get me through the six-month-checkpoint. If I publish every other day, it’ll take almost 200 days (a little over six months) to reach 100 stories.

By the time I’m there, I’ll have enough momentum to keep me going for 500 articles and much beyond.

Right now, pick a number and go with it. It will redefine your life for the better.

Final Thought

The younger you are, the better it is to commit.

If you’re in your 20s like me, committing to your craft for five or ten years is practical and manageable (assuming you can devote time, energy, and money to it).

If you ask people who have already put in their time to master their craft, you’ll hear two things —

  • It was worth it, and

  • It wasn’t as long as it seems — time takes care of itself.

Let’s catch up in ten years.

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Written on July 23, 2020