You Don’t Have to Be Smart to Become Successful

It’s about grit, trying, not being afraid to fail and some luck

Reflective personalities (like yours truly) fall into this trap often.

It seems that people who have achieved some sort of success know something, that we, mere mortals, don’t. It can seem that there is some hidden mental pattern or a brilliant idea that will instantly make us a fortune.

This couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

From what I see, success in life, business, blogging, or just about anything is not correlated with being smart, reflective and knowing what you’re doing. Unlike school, you don’t have to have a plan to be successful in life.

What you need instead is grit, the desire to experiment and try new things and, of course, luck.

If all you do is think, all you do is think.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, yet many of us forget about it.

Planning the business out is not the same as building it. Wanting to become a famous blogger is not the same as blogging daily, especially on days when you don’t feel like it. Getting better at something is not the same as watching YouTube videos about it.

Thinking has never made anyone rich. Even people who think for a living (e.g., writers) have to write something to be seen and become successful.

You need to get outside of your own head into the real world. That’s where progress is. But that’s also where failure can meet you.

Projects and ideas fail, people don’t.

I’ve tried a number of things in my life already, from blogging to investing to building an agency business to working full-time, and I am just getting started.

Of all the successful people I’ve met — no matter whether they were young, old, had 1 company or were serial entrepreneurs, they all shared one same trait.

Spoiler: it was not the size of their brain. Most of them didn’t even graduate from school.

They tried things. And they were not afraid to fail.

I’ve read somewhere, that projects fail, while people don’t. Even if your idea didn’t work out, it doesn’t mean that you’re a loser. The right attitude to have towards trying new things is this:

If it worked out, good job! But if it didn’t, shit happens. You’ll be luckier next time.

Don’t personalize failures. Stuff happens. You’ll get it next time.

Successful people view life as a series of experiments.

When you view everything you do, try or build as an experiment, it alleviates the heavy burden of having to succeed. When you’re experimenting, you’re experimenting! Nobody guarantees success during an experiment.

It’s a much healthier approach to doing anything.

As a scientist of your life, you’ll inevitably obtain valuable data through experiments. If you succeed, well, great for you. But if you fail, you’ve won too! You’ve obtained knowledge, and you won’t make the same mistake again.

Instead of thinking stuff through, try doing it. Even if you fail, you’ll learn — and remember — much more, than by thinking.

There are no rules.

People who want to think their way to success are essentially trying to come up with rules for life. I know this from personal experience.

It’s so tempting to try to explain why certain things happen. For example, how people get hired. Or how a post gets curated by Medium curators.

The truth is, there are no rules.

‘People get hired because somehow, they get hired’, said Neil Gaiman during his famous commencement speech. By the way, he lied his way into his first few jobs.

A post gets curated, if you put enough effort into it. And even then it doesn’t guarantee anything.

There are no rules. Quit searching for them. Go do, try and experiment. See what happens and learn from that.

The most important thing about life.

Is sticking to it for a long period of time.

If you’re not as successful as you want to be, it’s probably it. You’re just too impatient. You are quitting way too early.

I’ve started and quit projects, blogs, relationships, business so many times. And it’s something I regret. At the time, I didn’t know about a concept by Seth Godin called ‘The Dip’. I was blind to ‘Resistance’, which Steven Pressfield told me about through his books.

Sticking to something long enough is probably that ‘secret of success’ that everybody is chasing. Grit, tenacity and perseverance are the qualities that separate successful entrepreneurs, writers and bloggers from their less successful peers.

Use a ‘six-month rule’ to get anything done.

I have a rule I talk about often. It’s called a ‘six-month rule’.

Whenever you start a project or something new, tell yourself to stick to it for 6 months. If in 6 months you won’t see the desired result (it can be anything), you quit. But until those 6 months are over, you stick to it and don’t doubt yourself.

The good news about sticking to something and finishing stuff, is that you only need to do it once to learn.

I’ve only learned it this year.

When I was done with my first book and a big project that I was working on for 14 months, I felt ecstatic. I was now a ‘finisher’, not just a ‘starter’.

Stick to it.

Your job is more of an emotional labor, than anything else.

Why do you think Starbucks baristas (which are usually very friendly, I love you guys!) are working 9–5, come home exhausted, not able to do anything else, yet they still make less money than somebody writing posts on Medium or creating YouTube videos as their full-time career?

It should have been otherwise, right? The former folks are busting their butts off, yet get compensated so little.

It’s because of the risk. Of the insecurity. Vulnerability. Emotional labor. That’s what you’re working with as a creator, an entrepreneur, an artist. The barista, on the contrary, works with her hands.

It’s scary to go out there and try to make a living on your own. It’s scary to publish a post and show the whole World Wide Web what you’re really thinking about.

It’s hard because it’s hard.

But you’re also compensated in proportion to the risks you take. If you want to become successful, you don’t need to work more. You need to work differently.

You’ll need to take risks and you’ll need to start using emotional labor as your working tool.

But in the end, luck plays an important part in all of it.

You can make everything right. You can try new things, you can experiment, you can be absolutely fearless when it comes to failure and public humiliation. You can stick to something for 6, 12, and then 18 months. And you can work with emotional labor.

Yet, in the end, you’ll still fail.

Why? Because luck has other plans.

Luck is very underestimated and today everyone thinks that we can control everything. But it’s still there.

It used to be that people blamed the unfortunate (mind the root of the word) events on Fortune. Or on Gods. On something external. On luck. Today, we blame ourselves for failures and we take credit for all (sometimes undeserved) successes.

But you can only control so much.

The best approach here is to remember what the Stoics teach us. There are things we can control, and then there are things we can’t. You should always focus on the former and let go of the rest.

Like they say in Russia:

Do it fine, and it’ll be fine

Thanks for reading :)

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