“You’re so lucky!” is the worst phrase in the English language. It’s something we’re told by many people when they find out we’ve traveled for two years without working. Saying this belittles everyone’s ability to make their dreams come true, even their own, as it wasn’t luck that got us here, it was following the lesson below. Since this is the week we make resolutions to change, here’s how you can accomplish any goal, no matter how big, as we did when we set off to travel the world. You can use this guide not to make a resolution, but to make things happen.
Cute? Certainly, but don’t wait for this little guy to make your dreams come true….
LUCK, LEPRECHAUNS AND LIGHTNING
Before going any further let’s once and for all end the myth of luck. Luck is like getting struck by lightning, it’s not random, it’s not chance. If you stand on your roof with a metal poll in a lightning storm, getting struck isn’t “dumb luck”. Not getting struck because you were in your home isn’t luck either. Lottery winners aren’t any more lucky, rarely has a person hit the jackpot on their first $1 ticket, rather they buy hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on tickets for years before winning. Getting struck by lightning (or not) and winning the lottery isn’t about luck, it’s about setting yourself up for it. The reality is luck is as real as the leprechauns who bring it.
CHAMPIONS DON’T GET LUCKY
Michael Jordan, Michael Schumacher or Roger Federer aren’t lucky. We just weren’t watching them as they perfected their craft for hours every day, for years, before we knew their name. While we saw them do things in their sport that nobody had done before, we didn’t see the hours each day they worked behind-the-scenes. Others have had the physical talents of these champions, but only those that put in the work, dedicate themselves to perfection, and overcome obstacles (personal and physical) that become household names.
The same goes for when you watch a professional anything. What seems so effortless, so easy, is actually the result of years of practice. Think of something you do that there are professionals, anything from soccer to cooking: don’t professionals make hard things look easy? Their skills weren’t gained overnight or by a lightning strike, no, they’ve spent years perfecting their craft.
Ana Ivanovic didn’t become the world’s #1 women’s tennis player because she was lucky…
it was the hours on practice courts like this one.
IF IT’S NOT LUCK WHAT IS IT?
If I can’t sit on my butt and wait for a lucky break, what should I do? Commit to your goal, learn the steps to take, and work towards it daily. Easy, isn’t it? No, it’s not easy; it’s these three things that separate those called “lucky” and everyone else. If you really want something, to lose weight, start a company, pay off debt, or quit your job and travel, you have to fully commit to doing it. It is all about changing habits, changing habits requires changing behavior.
Your actions make habits
Your habits create results
Your results make your destiny
HOW TO MAKE YOUR DREAM COME TRUE
First and foremost you must clearly define your goal. Really define and understand your goal by researching it. Don’t be vague, as the more general the harder it is to accomplish. Take traveling for example, where you want to go and how you want to travel will vastly change your budget. We saved for a trip to see “developing countries that are changing quickly and places that take a lot of time to see.” Had we chosen to travel Western Europe the budgeting would have been completely different as one week in Norway can cost more than one month in Nepal. Lucky for you, getting information on any goal is easier today than anytime in human history. There are few secrets, a day on the internet can teach you more about a subject than a person’s career may have a generation ago.
Once you’ve clearly defined your goal to something so specific and tangible you can picture it, really committing yourself to it is the pivotal step. Are you willing to give up things to accomplish your goal? Professional athletes have to give up late nights to make early training sessions. Hollywood superstars have to sacrifice eating mindlessly to stay in shape. You are setting a goal because you haven’t accomplished it doing what you’ve been doing; to get a different result requires different actions. Change is hard, it’s hard for everyone, but if you really want something, commit yourself to that higher goal and change will follow.
Goal setting requires a lot of self-awareness and perspective. Personally I’d like to be in the starting lineup for the LA Lakers. The fact that I’m short and lacking in basketball skills makes this goal an uphill battle. That said, there are plenty of people who do extraordinary things, regardless of age, but it requires more effort and a lower probability of success than pursuing something that would make them truly happy.
Even better, before setting off on a big audacious goal, start off by setting a small goal and achieving it. It could be something as simple as reading one book per month for six months. This probably will require you to “create” time in your life for reading by cutting back on something (mindless internet and TV time?). After accomplishing this you will understand that you can change your life; you own your time and can use it how you like. Only after accomplishing some small goals, inevitably by dedicating yourself and overcoming challenges, will you see how big goals are just as achievable.
WINNING THE DAILY BATTLES
Before you get out of bed think about your goal, no matter how distant. Think each morning about how today you are going to get closer to making your dream a reality.
Focusing on it daily is great, but there are going to be days that you go backwards instead of forwards. There are days you waste money instead of saving it, days you eat too much instead of watching your diet, days that you get sucked into Facebook instead of writing your novel. Neither get down on yourself nor make excuses. Identify the reasons that you acted the way you did. Identify what was the situation that made you lose sight of your goal?
Did you smoke a cigarette because you drank too much at poker night? Did you browse Facebook because you didn’t have a clear schedule for the day? Identify these things and work to remove these situations from your life in the future. Make sure to forgive yourself for what happened, but feeling bad about your behavior is a good thing, it means your goal is important to you, that you’re bothered you slipped up.
Think of any goal like doing a physical task such as running a marathon. Before running a marathon you need to run a mile, then two, then 10 to build up endurance. For even the most committed athlete there are days that running sounds awful and runs that are terrible every single step. Yet completing a marathon requires getting through these bad days, mixing up days with long-runs, short-runs and days with no running at all! It is the sum of all this work, over many months, that allows regular people like you and me to run a marathon.
DOES THIS WORK?
I have seen these steps work for hundreds of successful entrepreneurs and investors that I met while working in the venture capital industry. My wife and I used them to save the money to travel the world for three years, without working. In the end, no matter what the goal, it all comes down to what makes anything successful: clearly define the goal, create a plan to accomplish it, and following through on those steps. Just as a young athlete has to choose a sport in which to compete, you too have to define your goal. Just as an entrepreneur sets out a plan to get a product to market, you too have to understand the steps to accomplish your goal. Just as everything in life, following through is going to be what determines whether you can live your “what if”.