People really want to believe effort is a myth, at least if we
consider what we consume in the media:
- politicians and beauty queens who get by on a smile and a wink
- lottery winners who turn a lifetime of lousy jobs into one big
- sports stars who are born with skills we could never hope to
- hollywood celebrities with the talent of being in the right place
at the right time
- failed CEOs with $40 million buyouts
It really seems (at least if you read popular media) that who you know
and whether you get 'picked' are the two keys to success. Luck.
The thing about luck is this: we're already lucky. We're insanely
lucky that we weren't born during the black plague or in a country with no
freedom. We're lucky that we've got access to highly-leveraged tools and
terrific opportunities. If we set that luck aside, though, something
interesting shows up.
Delete the outliers--the people who are hit by a bus or win the
lottery, the people who luck out in a big way, and we're left with everyone
else. And for everyone else, effort is directly related to success. Not all
the time, but as much as you would expect. Smarter, harder working, better
informed and better liked people do better than other people, most of the
Effort takes many forms. Showing up, certainly. Knowing stuff (being
smart might be luck
of the draw, but knowing stuff is the result of effort). Being kind
when it's more fun not to. Paying forward when there's no hope of tangible
reward. Doing the right thing. You've heard these things a hundred times
before, of course, but I guess it's easier to bet on luck.
If people aren't betting on luck, then why do we make so many dumb
choices? Why aren't useful books selling at fifty times the rate they sell
now? Why does anyone, ever, watch reality TV shows? Why do people do such
dumb stuff with their money?
I think we've been tricked by the veneer of lucky people on the top
of the heap. We see the folks who manage to skate by, or who get so
much more than we think they deserve, and it's easy to forget that:
a. these guys are the exceptions
b. there's nothing you can do about it anyway.
And that's the key to the paradox of effort: While luck may be more
appealing than effort, you don't get to choose luck. Effort, on the other
hand, is totally available, all the time.
This is a hard sell. Diet books that say, "eat less, exercise
more," may work, but they don't sell many copies.
With that forewarning, here's a bootstrapper's/marketer's/entrepreneur's/fast-rising
executive's effort diet. Go through the list and decide whether or not it's
worth it. Or make up your own diet. Effort is a choice, at least make it on
1. Delete 120 minutes a day of 'spare time' from your life. This can
include TV, reading the newspaper, commuting, wasting time in social
networks and meetings. Up to you.
2. Spend the 120 minutes doing this instead:
- Exercise for thirty minutes.
- Read relevant non-fiction (trade magazines, journals, business
books, blogs, etc.)
- Send three thank you notes.
- Learn new digital techniques (spreadsheet macros, Firefox
shortcuts, productivity tools, graphic design, html coding)
- Blog for five minutes about something you learned.
- Give a speech once a month about something you don't currently know
a lot about.
3. Spend at least one weekend day doing absolutely nothing but being
with people you love.
4. Only spend money, for one year, on things you absolutely need to
get by. Save the rest, relentlessly.
If you somehow pulled this off, then six months from now, you would be
the fittest, best rested, most intelligent, best funded and motivated person
in your office or your field. You would know how to do things other people
don't, you'd have a wider network and you'd be more focused.
It's entirely possible that this won't be sufficient, and you will
continue to need better luck. But it's a lot more likely you'll get lucky, I