What makes some people the very best at what they do? Genetic potential aside, what do they all have in common? Now, let’s ignore the very best. What do people possess that helps them get relatively successful at something? Whether they lose a bunch of weight, become solid Powerlifters, successful high school athletes or academics, run a great small business, etc., do they merely possess absurd levels of willpower? Were they just born that way? Have it in their DNA? Demonstrate great disciple? Do they have access more information or more knowledge than the rest of us?
In this article, I want to discuss what I think most successful people share in common. It’s a love of the process, irrespective of what they do. I also think it’s important to note that some people who are the very best at what they do fall far short in some other aspect of their lives. There’s only so much time in a day and so much energy you can put into activities. I think this is important, because it supports my claim that, in order to be successful at something, you have to love the process that’s involved in achieving it. The very best Powerlifters are also probably some of the very worst swimmers, because they don’t practice swimming. It’s not their priority.
What drives most people isn’t really the end goal. Say I want to squat 600 lbs. and deadlift 700 lbs. within the next two years. Would you believe it’s not these goals that drive me to train hard each day? What drives me is that I love training hard each day. Admittedly, while these goals help me work a tad bit harder on days that I want to take it easier on myself, my overarching motivation is my love for the process…the process of becoming the very best Powerlifter I can be. It’s one of the things I enjoy most about my life right now. Plus, it makes the work very easy.
I would argue that it’s what drives most successful athletes, entrepreneurs, academics, etc. If you take a look at some interviews with Kobe Bryant, it’s very apparent that he completely fell in love with the process of becoming one of the best basketball players of all time. It’s very clear that Kobe wasn’t miserable playing in the NBA all those years.
So, how can we take a bit of wisdom from Kobe’s experience and apply it practically to our lives? If you want to lose weight but hate going to the gym, it’s not enough to say to you, “Fall in love with the process.” Obviously, you hate the process, which is why you’re overweight. Perhaps you hate the process of losing weight, because you’ve tried very hard and failed the first time. Or you’ve overcomplicated the process by trying to perfect every variable and failed. Plus, you’ve found it’s impossible to stay accountable to the unrealistically high expectations you’ve set for yourself. This makes you hate the process even more!
So, my advice to those who want to make a specific change in their lives but hate the process associated with it is to find something very small within the process that you’ll enjoy doing. If you hate going to the gym to lift weights but love getting a very long walk in, then spend more time going on long walks. Or focus on a few variables at a time that you can successfully complete. I see it way too often. When people want to lose weight and start a diet, they try to put together the perfect plan and execute a million variables. If you’re starting from nothing, it doesn’t make sense to try to be perfect. Focus on a few small things that you think you can “win” at and continue to execute them. If you haven’t ever really trained, simply commit to making it to the gym a few times a week. If you hate lifting weights, try some form of kickboxing or an MMA-type class if it’s something you think you’ll enjoy, because it achieves some of the same benefits. If you typically only eat junk food, it might be smart to simply try to eliminate soda pop from your diet. Once you’ve perfected that, try to eliminate other crappy foods that you have a hard time resisting.
The reason I bring up learning to execute on small things is that it typically makes the process more enjoyable, because you feel like you’re “winning” at it. Clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson often brings up cleaning your room as a way to get your life in order. The idea is that cleaning your room isn’t a task that takes a whole lot of cognitive energy, but it’s something you can easily succeed at. And, once you’ve done that, you might have a little energy to accomplish a few more things. And before you know it, you’re way past where you started. This makes very practical sense, which is why I think it’s important to know that trying to perfect every variable after having perfected none is a recipe for failure.
Another reason people fail is that they lose sight of the process, because they’re so focused on the outcome. While successfully losing 30 lbs. and looking like the person you did in your twenties is a lot more appealing than going to the gym on days you’d much rather stay home and have a glass of wine, it’s why I think a lot of people fail to achieve their goals. The process is long. It takes a lot of hard work and discipline. So when you screw up one time in the process, quitting seems like a much more viable and comfortable route then getting back on track. This is why I think it’s excruciatingly important to find a process that’s enjoyable and one you’ll succeed at doing. Focus on small successes at first. That way you can build-up momentum along the way. Everybody’s plan and everybody’s journey will look different. It’s easy to get focused on what all the successful social media people are doing when you think it’s the right thing for you.
Instead, do some self-reflection. What are some small things that you can do today that you know you’ll succeed at? What are some things that you can do to make the process more fun? In a couple of years, you might be surprised how far you’ve come. For me right now, I’m focused on writing at least a sentence every day and cleaning/picking up one thing to help get my house in order. What’s that first step you’ll take to attain your goal?