The secret to success is really quite simple.
Whenever we ask about success, the answer we get rarely satisfies because it’s so simple.
How can getting whatever you want in life come down to something so simple?
But when we listen closely, all the athletes, gurus, prophets, and poets start to say the same thing: just don’t quit.
Pick something you think is worth chasing, and never, ever stop.
It doesn’t matter what it is.
It doesn’t matter if you never get there.
The thrill is in the chase, and the chase is till then end.
Or at least until bedtime.
Many years ago, my grandmother escaped a shipwreck without so much as a damp toe.
Tired of the harsh life in a broken Europe, she had decided to start anew in Australia.
On the day of departure, her bags were packed, and her heart was set in stone. She was off to the Great Southern Land. But the fates didn’t want to play Grandma’s game that morning.
Her alarm clock didn’t go off. She misplaced her travel documents. Then the train was late. Every step of her journey was littered with obstructions.
Grandma arrived at the docks just in time to see the ship slip gently out to sea. She was distraught.
At this point, much to the Pope’s horror, Grandma always quotes the Dalai Lama:
“Sometimes, not getting what you want is a stroke of luck.”
Not a soul on board that ship touched Australian soil. It disappeared shortly after leaving Cape Town.
It was just as much her tardiness as it was divine providence (despite what she might tell you) that prevented her premature and watery grave. But if Grandma had got what she wanted that day, I wouldn’t be here at all.
Now, I’d call that lucky.
Failure is frustrating, so it’s important to remember that we all start out crap.
Whenever we try something new, our first attempt is always terrible. And we usually stay pretty terrible for many more attempts after that.
It’s normal to be shit at stuff.
As James Clear reminds us:
“Your favourite athlete’s first workout was just as bad as yours.
Your favourite chef’s first meal was just as bad as yours.
Your favourite artist’s first work was just as bad as yours.”
Your heroes and idols embraced this fact of life and kept going until they made something awesome.
Keep going, and you will too.
Doing the bare minimum is often a negative thing.
But some days, it’s the best we can do.
On those days when all we want to do is crawl back into bed, turning up is often enough to make progress.
Putting in the minimal effort every day isn’t how to get what we want from life.
But if ‘doing the bare minimum’ means showing up on the worst days and doing a shit job, that’s still better than doing nothing at all.
Let me be the first to say: fuck you 2020. But also, thanks for your help.
It’s stupid to think that it’s taken about five years to get to the starting line. Five years of trying to make it make sense and failing and starting again and failing; and giving up, and starting again and failing, and giving up again.
But always starting again, because there isn’t a choice.
That’s what we do as humans. We dream a path, and we start out upon it. We try things out, we invent, we test, we fall, we fail, and we start again. And even when we succeed, we start again because that’s the point.
There’s no wrong or right way to go. It’s just one small problem after another. A challenge overcome here, a step forward there, never sure what will cross our path next but always knowing that we’ll have to go through it.
Last year was crazy, but now it’s over. You survived. We took a spin around the sun, and you took another step forward.
This next year will be crazy too, but whatever life throws at you, know you can handle it too.
And it’s only going to make you stronger.
Walking through a wall is very very very very unlikely, but science tells us it’s not impossible.
It’s called ‘quantum tunnelling’ and it’s why the sun explodes, and how your DNA replicates, and how light passes through a solid object.
A very clever teenager explained this to me this morning in under three minutes and closed with these (almost) impossibly wise words:
“Maybe the quantum world is telling us that when faced with an obstacle, there’s a small chance we can defy expectations and breach barriers.”
She absolutely nailed it.
I’m not saying take a running jump at the closest wall. But the next time you’re faced with something that seems ‘impossible,’ remember you always have a chance.
That’s just how the universe works.