Any endeavour you undertake in life, whether it be writing a novel, starting a business, or learning to get good with girls will require that you make a massive effort in order to be successful. Be in no doubt – massive effort is a great thing. A man must have a mission in life and true happiness comes when you work hard at it. But a very real consequence of having a singular vision is burnout and this is something you must strive to avoid.
The Need For Massive Effort
The requirement for ‘”massive effort” will be familiar to anyone who has read or listened to motivational speakers like Tony Robbins, or business and sales gurus such as Grant Cardone. Cardone in particular writes very inspiringly about the topic in his book The 10X Rule, which I would recommend not only to those who work in sales, but anyone who has an interest in improving their life generally.
Cardone’s premise is that in order to achieve any given goal in today’s frenetic, fast-paced business environment, you need to give every aspect of your endeavour 10X the effort that you might originally envisage.
Such a degree of dedicated effort, for Cardone, is the difference between success and failure. But there is another strand to his theory. To be truly successful you must also ensure that you set your goals ten times higher than required. So if, for example, it is your ambition to make $10,000, you must make it your goal to earn $100,000.
This is a familiar concept. By aiming high, even if you don’t end up pulling in the whole $100,000, you are likely to finish up with a whole lot more than had you shot for less.
The Appeal Of The “Work Hard” Ethic
This idea of putting in enormous effort to achieve goals will be familiar to many. From Michael Gladwell’s famed 10,000 hours theory, which states that mastery of any discipline only comes about after 10,000 hours’ effort have been expended, to Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, which describes how success is a product of pushing doggedly through setbacks, there is no shortage of writers and thinkers telling us to put a rocket under our ass if we want to achieve anything worthwhile.
I wholeheartedly agree with them.
For me, there are two important elements to working hard—first, that it will indeed raise the probability of your achieving success, and second, it is good for the soul. As David Deida notes in his seminal The Way of the Superior Man, men in particular need a mission in life that is unconnected with women. Whether it is a movie script, a sport or a microbrewery business, you need to have something that obsesses you that you are inspired to work on day and night. Not only are you more likely to be successful through sheer intensity of effort, but also you will lead a happier life.
My mission is writing. Aside from contributing to ROK I have several blogs, write journalism for other titles and have written novels and non-fiction books. Writing for me is both a business and an art—it is my intention that 100% of my income will come from my writing (in whatever form) within the next twelve months and I am working to make that a reality now.
The work itself is pleasurable—that’s not to say that I am ecstatic every time I sit down at the keyboard. As anyone who has tried it knows, writing is hard, frustrating, and time-consuming. It also requires you to make thousands of micro-decisions every second, which can leave you filled with self-doubt.
Nevertheless, I can honestly say that I love it. Writing gives me a sense of flow and freedom that few other activities do. I love the poetry of language, and the challenge of wrestling with it on the page, of marshalling it for my own purposes. I have sat indoors writing while the sun has been high in the sky and others have been out enjoying themselves and these stints have been some of the happiest times of my life.
But, Burnout Is Real
Having said all of that, burnout is real, something that was brought home to me recently by the experience of a close friend.
This friend of mine had spent countless hours working on his start-up to the exclusion of almost everything else. He would work from early in the morning until late at night, determined that his dream would become a reality. All was going well and he was on the verge of securing a multi-million pound venture capital injection. But he was stressed out and found it hard to sleep at night. He visited his doctor to no avail. Then, over a single weekend, everything unraveled and he was admitted to hospital suffering from exhaustion. The damage to his mental health was great enough that he has been compelled to take time off and put his business plans on hold.
His story causes some difficulty for me as someone who would otherwise unreservedly advocate massive, determined effort in pursuit of your goals.
But just because burnout is possible, I wouldn’t advise anyone not to work hard. Instead, I would caution you to be aware of the dangers, and to temper your efforts with a few simple strategies.
1. Keep in mind the bigger picture.
Okay, so your business, novel, or sporting achievement is incredibly important to you. But try to keep things in perspective. Even if it doesn’t work for you this time, it’s not the end of the world—you will always have another chance, even if you have to amend or tweak your goal slightly. Work hard on the tasks in hand, but don’t let them consume you—try to take a “whatever happens is for the best” approach. This is much more healthy and takes the pressure off so you can do your best work.
2. Write A Gratitude List And Believe In Abundance
Every night you should write a list of five to ten things you are grateful for. This could be anything from your education to readily available food to having a place to live and work.
It sounds so simple as to be asinine, but remembering—and actually writing down—all the things that make your life great is another useful way of putting things in perspective. It may seem like the end of the world when you’ve sent out 100 prospecting emails to potential clients and no one’s responded, but the truth is there is still a lot in your life to be thankful for.
At the same time, you should also believe in abundance. Again this may seem a little hokey and new age, but always remember that another person’s success will not preclude yours. So if it’s your aim to get good with girls and a friend is successful every time you go out then don’t be jealous—instead, congratulate him and realize what is possible, and that there are literally billions of women out there. Some of them will like you too.
3. Stay In Contact With friends And Family
An obvious point, but one that you need to remember. Your family and close friends are your bedrock. You need to maintain regular contact with them no matter how busy you get. If you have to, schedule time in your calendar to call your mum and dad. This is something I don’t do enough and I should.
You are not alone on this planet—maintain regular contact with those closest to you and be grateful for them.
4. Help Others
This sounds counter-intuitive but the best way to help yourself, particularly if you’re going through a period of stress, is to help other people. Doing so will take you out of yourself and remind you that you are not the centre of the universe. This could be as simple as mentoring someone, or volunteering to help people who are ill or otherwise disadvantaged.
This is not some happy-clappy pseudo-religious dogma, but a very practical way for relieving stress and living a good life. Try it.
5. Keep It In The Day
We live our lives in increments punctuated by sleep, and no human being can live more than one of these at a time, so learn to live 24 hours at time. The past is gone—whatever has happened cannot now he changed, so don’t sweat it. The future is beyond your control, subject to a myriad of unforeseen factors. So it’s not worth worrying about.
Instead, do yourself a favour and focus on what is in front of you right now. Keeping it in the day is a great way of narrowing your focus to the one thing you have at least some control over–the present.
6. Hand The Outcome Over
You may succeed, you may fail. Of course, you would rather succeed, and I would encourage you to do everything you can to make that happen, but in the end some events are out of your control. So try not to tie all of your happiness to a specific outcomes. Ok, if you don’t get that publishing deal then you’ll be disappointed, but as I said earlier, you’ll always have another shot. The success or failure of an entire lifetime is rarely founded on a single outcome, so don’t take things so seriously. Instead, hand it over to the universe, your higher power or to a god, if you believe in one, and concentrate on the work in hand instead.
Remember, if you’re fixated on a particular goal then great, but don’t let it consume you. Try the simple tips I’ve outlined to get some much-needed clarity and distance. If you put the work in on the tasks in front of you then the results will take care of themselves.
Read More: Why You Don’t Deserve That Perfect 10