I decided to write about this thought today; I see an awful lot of people who are drifting their way through life with no real plan, just hopes and dreams, and a lot of “going through the motions”. Please allow me to let you in on a little secret:
Your dreams mean nothing without an action plan.
The first time I decided to write a book, I went to the wife of a friend who is a well-known published author for advice. We didn’t know each other well, but she willingly told me lots of tips and tricks, how to accomplish certain parts of the process. At the very end of our session she said something to me that I was shocked by: “I’d ask you to show me your progress thirty days from now, but I am guessing that you aren’t really going to do what I told you.” I looked at her with a surprised look on my face. She laughed and said “Don’t worry, I have had this conversation with many people who want to write a book. It has been my experience that most people are not willing to do the work, so I quit worrying about it a while ago.”
I just smiled at her, and said: I’ll prove it to you. In my mind, she had just thrown down a challenge to me that she never thought I would execute on. She didn’t know me well enough to know better. I was friends with her husband Michael, which is why she graciously took that meeting, but she didn’t know who she was dealing with. When I want to achieve something, I find someone to model the process after, then I get to work. Little by little I chipped away at the project. This was uncharted territory for me; I had never written anything longer than a term paper for school. But I also had the luxury of not knowing “the right way” to write a book. I didn’t get mired down on what she thought was the best way to write. I just wrote. Every day I wrote; the topic or chapter didn’t matter, I just knew that if I could write every day for at least six months, that I would have a book soon.
I organized the entire book AFTER I had written it. I didn’t write it from start to finish, I created chapters as a makeshift outline. I would sit down in front of my laptop, pick a chapter or topic that I chose to write about that day, and got to work. In retrospect, this method was allowing me to be free with the creative process, having free license to write on whatever I felt like that day. As I neared the end of the process, I began to ask for help from friends, proofreading the manuscript and giving feedback. I would make changes, polish the content, and continue the process. It was a daunting task when I look back on it, but I was willing to undertake it. I knew I could eat that elephant if I did it one bite at a time.
One year later, to the day, I met with her again. When I walked up to the table she was sitting at, I dropped a test copy of the book on the table in faux-dramatic fashion. She was stunned. She couldn’t believe that I had done it. I never asked for more help or encouragement from her throughout the process, I just put my head down and worked. “I can’t believe it” she stated flatly. “Now I owe my husband $20 bucks…”
Michael knew me; He sees me in the gym, on the court practicing, on the hill running sprints. He knew that I had the work ethic and commitment to do this, and he bet on me to pull it off. He had seen me run until I threw up, heard me grunting and groaning in the weight room as I grind out one more rep. It was the reason he was willing to sponsor me when I played on the Pro Tour; he was enrolled in my dream to reach the top in my sport because he knew I was 100% committed to what I wanted. He knew I was willing to do the work needed to get there. Most people are not; they want to have things, to achieve things, but they do not have the work ethic to get them. I do.
Do you want to know what makes me special? Nothing. I don’t think I am special by any definition. I have a high “pain” tolerance, meaning I willing to take more physical or mental pain than most. This is not a gift, but rather a skill, honed over time with practice. I wasn’t born this way, I developed my capacity of tolerance, day by day and year by year. I knew that no matter how many times I got knocked down, if I got back up again, I was still in the fight. I didn’t get lucky, I earned everything I got. I didn’t just dream about making the top 20 in the world on the Pro Tour, or writing a book; I laid out a plan and then I executed that plan. That is it. Hard stop…end of story.
There is no magic pill, no short cut, that gets to where you want to go. You wake up with a goal in mind, you get out of bed, and you pursue that goal with every fiber of your being. That is the secret to success. In my opinion, that is the ONLY secret to success, the rest is just details specific to the task at hand. If you don’t have this type of approach you might as well roll over and go back to sleep. You are wasting your time getting out of bed without a goal AND a plan to achieve that goal.
Like my buddy Jim says: “Don’t try to follow in my footsteps, you won’t make it.” I think their is some truth to that statement; he and I have spent many a night discussing things like this over dinner. But I know for a fact that he and I are not alone; there are millions of people who follow this same path, have the same mindset, and get what they earn. There are a few hundred million who do not.