Beware of Advice From Successful Outliers


(photo by clickclick)

The danger of listening to anyone who has been successful is the great chance that they don’t fully understand the reason(s) for their success.

For example, the world is stuck on “getting motivated” because so many people credit it as the key to their success.

Good Habits Get Wins and Motivation Steals the Credit

Habits are stealthy because they work from a subconscious level. Underlying almost every successful person is a habitual framework that supports and fuels their success, but they are often unaware of it. Outliers who think they succeeded because they “wanted it” are probably already habitual achievers. Ask them what they do when they’re having a bad day. If they say something like, “I still train,” or “I still work,” then they are relying on habit and/or willpower, not motivation.

The person who depends on motivation is useless on any day(s) they can’t “get motivated.”

Successful people will (genuinely) try to share their secrets, but too often they assume that others have the same behavioral framework they have. The bodybuilder who lives at the gym doesn’t understand why it’s so hard for some people to go to the gym even one time. It’s a pretty simple thing, right? You just get in your car and drive there.

But that doesn’t account for the feeling of helplessness some people have.

It doesn’t consider the painful struggle of body shame and feelings of inadequacy that can undermine a person’s willingness to invest in themselves.

Some people struggle to get out of bed, let alone go to the gym and exercise. When a bodybuilder tells someone they have to want fitness more or to “just do it,” he’s seeing the path to success through his own eyes, not others’ eyes. He’s at point B, but that doesn’t mean he knows how to get others from A to B.

Learning How to Juggle From a Scuba Diver?

Just because someone excels in one area does not make them an expert in any other area, including the ability to teach others the steps and strategies to replicate their success.

This problem hits the weight loss industry especially hard. Movie stars release weight loss books. Nutritionists tell people how to change their behavior. These people may or may not know what they’re talking about, but never assume that because a person can act well that (s)he can also give excellent weight loss advice, or that because a person knows nutrition, that they also know neuroscience.

Many people try to help others by repeating the advice they’ve heard from other people, further spreading the wrong message. If you’re starting out in personal development and want to help others, your first focus is most likely going to be superficial motivational content because that’s what we’re exposed to the most.

This isn’t to say you can’t trust anything you read, it’s to encourage you to always think for yourself. Great advice for someone else might be terrible advice for you.

I wouldn’t encourage anyone to take my path of getting a college degree, not using it, quitting my job on day one, starting a blog, and now writing books for a living. I know that path (and entrepreneurship in general) won’t work for a lot of people, so I don’t suggest it! Instead, I focus on the fundamentals of success like consistency, habit-building, decision-making, and living with the right perspective. Those are effective for any path.

There are some people out there who do understand their journey to success, such as Scott Adams, the creator of the comic Dilbert. Scott said of his journey, “Success caused passion more than passion caused success.” He is rare because he didn’t give the knee-jerk response of “I succeeded because I’m passionate about it.”

Most people I’ve heard insist that their passion drives success, and it certainly can do that, but that implies that we should generate more passion to be able to succeed, which is poor advice. It’s best to start with success, not just success in the world’s eyes, but in your daily life. Be consistent, stack small wins every day, and good things will happen. Once you begin to succeed in an area, you will get more passionate about it, which can lead to further success.

In conclusion, there’s a lot of haphazard advice out there. Question everything. Test everything. See what works and try new strategies. You might find, as I did with Mini Habits, that the conventional advice is a misunderstanding of how things really work.

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