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5 Uncomfortable Lessons I Learned From Trying to Mirror Highly Successful People
If you're the best in the room, leave.
Sometimes, I feel like an imposter in my own inner circle.
Most of the people I’ve surrounded myself with are successful business people, high-level athletes, and professional creatives. A lot of them are living my dream. I surround myself with them because I want to be able to emulate their behavior and replicate their success.
But what is success?
There are so many different ways to be successful, and most of us have different ideas in our minds of what that success actually looks like. For some of us, success looks like victory. For others, success looks like recognition. For others still, success looks like Rolexes.
These are the 5 most important lessons that I’ve observed from my inner circle this year that have changed the way that I approach business, life, and the pursuits of success and happiness.
Success won’t make you happy.
“The grind” probably won’t give you the fulfillment and sense of purpose that you’re looking for.
After the Olympic games, many athletes report feelings of depression and aimlessness — regardless of where they’re at on the podium. I’ve felt this way in my own martial arts career as well. Winning has made me ecstatic at the moment it happens, but in the long run, wins haven’t impacted my happiness that much at all.
The same goes for losses.
Success and failure are fleeting experiences. Happiness is more about peace than “doing stuff”. For many of us, the only way to shatter the cultural obsession with success from our psyches is to experience it ourselves. Once you get what you want, you’ll probably realize you didn’t really want it that bad anyway.
“Making it” doesn’t exist.
I used to think that one day, there would be a day that I wouldn’t have to work so damn hard to feel satisfied with my athletic career.
I used to think that one day, I wouldn’t have to work hard to make money.
I used to think that one day, I would make it.
But I’m never going to make it. You’re never going to make it. No one is ever going to make it, because “making it” doesn’t exist. Making it is a brainwashing technique that Western culture uses to keep you hustling — to keep you busy.
Lasting success comes from lasting effort. Sure, one day you might create something that has a lasting impact on people, but odds are if you’ve done the work to give yourself the skill to create lasting success, you’re going to simultaneously develop an insatiable drive for success.
Happiness is about taming that drive.
You can’t earn love through achievements.
The divorce rate among billionaires is not at all different from the divorce rate among the general population
Translation: income is not the determining factor in one’s ability to build lasting relationships. It’s official, you can’t buy love. You can buy a nice car, you can buy a nice house, and you can buy a bucket of bitcoin, but you can’t buy love.
I always thought that if I won another Jiu-Jitsu tournament, my friends and peers would like me more. I thought if I made more money, girls would be all over me. I thought if I wrote more articles every day, readers would adore me. But it’s all a scam. You can’t earn love through the stuff you do. Love starts from within yourself.
That’s because, at the end of the day, most of life is a solitary experience. If you can’t learn to love yourself without the crutch of your achievements, you’ll never be truly happy. You have to love yourself, even when you are nowhere near your goals.
All achievements come at a sacrifice.
If you want to do something, you have to choose to not do something else.
If you want to become something, you’ll be unable to become something else.
For example, I always had a childhood dream of becoming a rockstar. I had a guitar, took a few lessons, and practiced in my room sometimes. I loved playing the guitar. The problem was (apart from my lack of musical talent) was that I played sports after school every day instead of practicing music. I practiced guitar every once in a while, but I did not do the work required to become a famous rockstar. I did do the work required to become a professional athlete.
Dreams are fun, but goals are less fun. Goals require sacrifice. Goals require you to make choices.
Making choices is called “growing up”. The easiest way to avoid “getting stuck in life” is to make hard choices.
“Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.” — Jerzy Gregorek
Winning the rat race won’t help you escape it.
I know a handful of people who make a lot of money.
They have several cars, home theatres, and enough saved up to send their kids to college several times over. They’ve done it. They’ve made it. They could retire tomorrow if they wanted to.
But they won’t.
Instead, they’re going to keep working hard every single day doing a job that they hate so that they can spend more money on things that they don’t need (or want). They’re going to grind their lives away because that’s all they know how to do. For them, it’s easier to do something they hate than to ask themselves what they really want. It’s easier to live for their children, their boss, or their job than it is to meditate on the question “What am I doing, man?”
Even if you make enough money to “escape the 9–5, work anywhere, and join the new rich”, you probably won’t. You’ll probably stay miserable until you change your internal narrative.
All of us have our own idea of what success looks like that is (very often) based on things in our lives that at one point we didn’t or don’t have. We want money when we’re broke. We want love when we’re lonely. We want to win when we lose.
We want what we don’t have, and we call getting what we want “success”.
We view success through the simplified lens of desire.
But success isn’t about what you do, success is just a byproduct of what you do. Success and happiness are 2 very different things, and one does not impact the other nearly as much as we say it does. If anything, success and happiness often share an inverse relationship. I know that feeling all too well.
Life isn’t about hustling, grinding, or making it. Life is about knowing yourself and understanding where you fall on the success-happiness spectrum. Once you do that, you might unlock an entirely new level of your own potential.
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My Most Viewed Quora Answer of the Week
Question: How do I reignite my passion for my favorite sport after several injuries from it?
My Answer: In my Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling careers, I’ve torn both shoulders, herniated several discs, had knee surgery, (recently)popped a rib out of place, and gotten weird scabs that make me look like a Dragon Ball character (see here).
In the hours and days after the injuries, I’ve felt like hated my sport. This is a problem because, well, my sport is how I make pretty much half of my living. I had to figure out how to reignite the passion.
So what did I do?
I threw myself into coaching and teaching for a while.
As fun and as exciting as competitive sports are, all of us have limits on our physical capacity for competition. We all want to be the best, but sometimes the pursuit of being the best breaks us down.
The solution? Take a break from competition for a while.
If you don’t have an obligation to your sport, just take a break. Just stay away from the game for a while. Just stop fighting your body and mind.
The things that you need in your life will find you if you have the courage and openness to accept them.
Just… chill for a bit. Don’t compete. Don’t go to practice. Take it from a lifelong competitor: self-care is NOT slacking off.
Competitive sports are way more demanding than people make it seem. Just allow yourself to feel the burnout, exhaustion, and all the other emotions that are part of the game. If you stop fighting them, they’ll run their course.
Eventually, you’ll be able to get back to the game you love.
If the passion doesn’t return, don’t force it to. Just keep living your life.
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