Why Success Isn’t Always Possible

I touch on a lot of this theory in my article Success is Cyclical, but I know anything insightful is worth repeating. Most people who are into personal development learn early on not to make excuses. We learn that our lives are our responsibility and we have to take action to get results. But as you mature, you realize results don’t always happen and aren’t always possible. You encounter numerous situations where the underserving get success and the intelligent, effective, and kind get ridicule. The reason this happens is because all living things are subject to cycles of growth and decay. “Good” things and “bad” things just the same. So the next time you feel like you want to be hard on yourself, gently ask “What season am I in?”, and you may get insight into your next moves.

Growth and Decay are two sides of the same Coin

Let’s take the stock market for example. Everyone loves when the market is up and hates when it’s down. Everyone, that is, except the wise. Wise people know that the stock market going down is both useful and necessary. When the stock market crashes, it forces companies and people to reorganize. After the first stock market crash we saw more legislation and federal protections from fiscal disaster. In 2008, we saw the Dodd-Frank Act. And, I believe, in the aftermath of the Coronavirus, we will see a push for Universal Basic Income.

A market crash can provide lower buying prices for a commodity that (we hope) will always go up. The point here is that when anything grows for too long, its outdated practices and inefficiencies necessitate a correction. This is why all successful companies, people, and organizations continually analyze and change as they gain more feedback over time. All those systems that don’t eventually fail.

Rewards and Recognition are Arbitrary

Speaking in generalities is a little dangerous. Of course rewards and recognition are good things usually given to the deserving, but not always. If you ever saw someone get promoted and you can’t wrap your head around why, this is why I say rewards are arbitrary. If you were a high-level executive at Enron, you would be rewarded and recognized for being dishonest. I think this happens in far more businesses than we would like to acknowledge. On the other hand, if you worked for an honest organization, you would be rewarded for hard work, ingenuity, and your ability to produce results. So if you took an honest, intelligent, hard-working person and put them in an executive position at Enron, chances are they would not be rewarded for their work (and hopefully the toxic culture doesn’t change their character).

Does that mean they aren’t doing the “right” thing? Of course not. It just means they are not doing the right thing to be rewarded under those circumstances. That’s why it is important that we screen all of the intimate relationships in our lives (work relationships, money management, romantic relationships, friends, etc.). We need to make sure our values are aligned with the values of the people we work closely with.

Hopefully this serves as some solace when you see things going sideways. Remember that success is not always possible, and that is a good thing!

How Long Will it Take Me to Build a New Habit?

I have built and broken a number of habits. It seems that when we think of habits, we think of something big such as “working out 3x a week for 1 hour” or “having a spotless house”. But as I said before, smaller habits in almost all cases but be the building block of these larger habits and goals. 

About a Month

To my credit (and demise depending on the situation), I love to learn new things. I highly value my freedom and ability to learn and experiment. As a result, I have spent a lot of time doing both effective and ineffective habits. In most circumstances, I am able to instill a new sustainable habit in about one month. Habits like these include:  

  • Eating enough protein
  • Eating a vegetable with every meal
  • Tracking all workouts 
  • Making sure I don’t wear my shoes in the house
  • Gratitude journaling before bed

As you can see, these are not huge life-changing things in and of themselves, but aggregated they turn out to be the building blocks of a much healthier and happier lifestyle. 

There is no One-Size-Fits-All

I don’t want to deceive you into thinking that every habit will take exactly one month to form, but it’s a good starting point. The next habit that you try to instill will certainly come to fruition faster if you assess how reasonable it is and then just begin. And remember that it doesnt matter how long it takes, it will be worth it. 

Some people may feel that one small habit isn’t enough to make the big changes they need to make. That’s like arguing that compound interest isn’t fast enough. Or that the sun doesn’t rise fast enough. Arbitrary, and completely unproductive. As Brain Tracy says, “Get in line and stay in line”. The patience we learn from staying the course is an invaluable life skill in and of itself. Now obviously, we are all starting from different places and with different levels of resources, but no one ever became a worse person by setting and staying the course to achieve a goal. At the very least, you will have gained discipline and perseverance which are worth their weight in gold. 

I guess I am trying to say, just begin and give it a month. See what happens. Most reasonably sized goals will become a part of your everyday routine within about a month if you can stick to it. 

Thanks for reading! 

How to Plan for your Habits


“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Although this saying is “played out” in a lot of ways, it still remains a truth in almost all areas of life. Planning is vital to achieving any level of success in almost all endeavors. Planning needs to have a structure and philosophy to produce results. Otherwise, it is just planning in vain, and that sounds like one of the worst ways to spend your time. 

Do your Research

Before we begin planning a path toward any particular goal, we must decide what is worth planning for. Let’s say you decide to plan a fitness goal. It would be helpful to have a teacher or trainer guide you through the process. If you are a rebel, perhaps you want to figure it out on your own. But in any case, you need to gather the necessary information to know what reasonable steps to take. As was stated in my earlier article on making small habits, be sure to start small and build slowly. Okay, so now you know that you are going to start your journey by walking for at least ten minutes a day. The next step is to take that small goal and create a reasonable and visible plan. 

Have a Reasonable and Visible Plan

If a beginner to fitness made a goal to begin running 30 minutes each day they would likely fail. Not only is the goal not reasonable, it is unnecessarily hard. Now, if I go from being sedentary to walking ten minutes a day, that is a reasonable goal. Big enough to begin producing results, but small enough not to set off my body’s resistance patterns. 

I now need to make this plan visible. This is a minor, but crucial process in creating a good plan. Let’s say you open up your Google Docs and create a weekly meal plan. The next morning you get up and go to the fridge to begin prepping your meals for the week. What was your snack supposed to be? How many cups of rice go in your lunch? Now imagine that you printed that document and placed it on your fridge with a magnet. Now you get up, go to the fridge and know exactly what to pack to meet your goals for that day. In my experience, this small habit of making the plan visible is indispensable to 100% compliance. 

I am a teacher. When kids don’t do their homework, I make them verbally tell me they didn’t do it. I don’t do it to be vindictive, I do it to provide accountability. If I just walk past and they can look the other way, they don’t have to admit their failure (albeit insignificant) to me or themselves. Going back to the fridge example, If I have to look at the document on my fridge and willfully put something else in my lunch bag, I must admit that small failure to myself in that moment. Of course we forgive ourselves when we make mistakes, but knowing that you have to confront them soon afterward makes for a good accountability measure. 

Be Ready to Tweak

Jack Canfield has a lot of great little sayings that I remember. One of them is “ready, fire, aim”. Basically the concept is to “just begin” and then take stock of the results to make tweaks as you go. This is exactly what we must do with our plans (unless we are under the guidance of a professional). It sounds like a contradiction to tell you to make a plan, and at the same time be flexible, but that is exactly what we must do if we are creating unique goals for ourselves. Just let the idea settle that achieving your goals will require flexibility on your part. 

So remember, do your research, have a visible and reasonable plan, and be ready to tweak your plan as you go.

Thanks for reading!

Habits are Investments

In a previous post, I discussed the idea that you should focus on building habits one at a time. When we commit to smaller habits that are easy to form and sustain, we grow our ability to achieve more and more. If we try to do too much too soon, we quickly encounter our body’s natural resistance mechanisms. A good way to think about a habit is as an investment. 

Results Take Time

Depending on how big the goal, the subsequent energy required to reach it is proportional. For example, if your goal is financial independence, you can expect to spend several years in that pursuit. If your goal is to become fit, you can expect to achieve your goal after several months (maybe even a year or two).  

But what if instead of setting a big lofty goal, we set a more reasonable one and think of it as an investment? A few dollars a day over the course of many years can lead to financial security very quickly. For example, if our goal is to become fit, perhaps we can choose the small goal of eating a piece of fruit every day. It seems inconsequential, but once that habit is solidified, the door opens to add another small habit (maybe eating adequate protein to support an active lifestyle). Then we add another habit…and another…and, before you know it, you reach your goal. 

Patience is required in this process. If we eat our piece of fruit and then expect to see results after a day, we are delusional (you might feel better, but you won’t look any different). But we can eat our fruit knowing that this habit is the step to begin a journey that will lead us to bigger and better (and more noticeable) results. Think of each small habit built as a deposit into the account that will soon pay dividends much larger than the original investments. 

Compound Interest

Achieving a goal is the end of an exponential process. Much like compound interest. You put in $1,000 and earn $20 interest. The next year, you now have your original $1,000 plus the next $1,000 you invest, PLUS the $20 interest. Habits work the same way. Month one you decide to eat fruit. Month two you are eating fruit and watching your protein intake. Month three you are eating fruit, watching your protein intake, and counting calories. With each habit you build, you have the value of that habit, plus all of the other little habits that are grown out of that one. Does that make sense? (I am a math teach haha) The results may not be immediate, but they will grow faster than you think. The beginning is the hardest. It is against our nature to put in effort without seeing reward. But it’s just the way it is. With a little faith, we can know that these small habits will eventually bear fruit. 

Thanks for reading!

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