I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I try to eat healthy. I run. One of my friends who drinks, doesn’t smoke, and doesn’t eat healthy, is a good runner. He’s also heavier than me. Yet, his marathon personal best is nothing short of 15 minutes faster than me. That’s a big time difference, especially for a marathon. For a long time I wondered how this guy could run faster than me. Then I realised there were a bunch of guys that were in less good physical condition than I was and were running better times. What was this all about? Then I realised one thing: I just had to work harder.
This applies to everything in life
Over 50% of people who run a marathon only do it one time, meaning they never try again. My friend is one of those people. He did his personal best at this one marathon he ran years ago, and is not planing on running another one. So by just running one more marathon, I am already doing a better job at trying.
I don’t plan on becoming an elite runner, but I do plan on improving my personal record. Using that approach to whatever you’re doing in your life can make you achieve great things. Mark my words. You have no idea how far hard work and consistency can take you, how much better it can make you, and how much of an edge it will give you.
Most people won’t even start
I takes on average 2 months to create a habit. That is, something you will do automatically, consistently, everyday, without even thinking about the outcome. How many people do you know who would keep at something everyday for 2 months, without skipping a day, and without dropping it before 60 days? Probably not a lot.
Most people won’t even start the work. By simply starting, you’re already placing yourself ahead of a ton of people who will NEVER start.
Then, everyday you keep going, you’re becoming better than tons of people who quit on that very same day.
Those who start will quit
People quit because things get hard. Some will quit after a few days, some after a few weeks, months, years. But the huge proportion of people who ever start and try something hard will quit.
“Winners never quit. Quitters never win.”
They might quit against their own will. If they run out of resources, if they go through a life changing event, positive or negative… You don’t have to worry about the reasons people quit. You just have to know that everyday you keep going, tons of people quit.
Sure, on the same day people quit, other people start. But a lot of those new starters will be quitters soon too. Besides, you have the edge of experience over whoever starts after you.
Even if a very small percentage of people who started after you catches up with you, it’s fine. Learn from them, look at what they’re doing better, try to replicate that. At the end of the day, as long as you keep putting in the work, you’ll be fine at your own level. It’s only a matter of time until you get to the next one.
The best part about all this? You don’t even have to be good to keep going.
You don’t have to be good at things
With most people who won’t start, and the rest who will quit at some point, the odds of success are on your side. All you have to do is get to work, and then not stop. When you start trying something consistently, with a long-term vision, you WILL make progress. There’s simply no scenario where you don’t improve.
You might not start at the same level than other people.
You might make progress slower than others.
You might experience setbacks.
But at least you started, and you’re keeping at it. That’s why hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work. It’s because even if you don’t have talent, the sheer power of work will give you the edge of making progress. Eventually, you’ll catch up with the guy that didn’t even have to work to get where you got, but is not working on anything to get further.
You don’t need so much time
You need SOME time. The amount of time you’re willing to dedicate to practice is directly proportional to the speed of your progress. But it doesn’t mean you have to rush into things, or sacrifice other parts of your life you don’t want to let go.
Of course, you WILL have to make sacrifices. Prioritisation is a huge part of making progress. Whatever your schedule looks like, you will have to allocate time for practice. Usually, this means replacing some low-value activities with high-value ones.
It can be as simple as replacing free time you are using to watch Netflix. You’ll get more value out of work than out of Netflix.
Or it can be replacing the Friday bar at work. You’ll get more value out of work than out of drinking beer.
Or switching to online groceries (so much faster). You’ll get more value out of work than out of shopping.
Prioritisation is different for everybody, but it works when done right
For most activities, anything under an hour of practice a day will usually translate into very small progress. It might even be so barely noticeable that it will discourage you from keeping going. The longer time slots you can allocate, the better. You will not only make progress, you will learn to love the work more in the process. If you have more passion than talent, you’ll be more likely to win than if you had talent but no work ethic.
You do need to get lucky
Here is the thing with luck. Always acknowledge it, never rely on it.
Usain Bolt is the fastest guy in the world. He’s obviously worked really hard to get to that level. But he was also lucky to be noticed for his abilities at a young age. Maybe there’s a kid out there with more potential than him, who will never make it in the spotlight because he doesn’t have the means to get people to notice him.
Will Smith is one the most famous actors in the world. His breakthrough role was in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He went on to star in widely acclaimed movies (and some bad ones too). He has worked hard to improve his acting game, but he was also lucky to be given a shot at a young age.
Anyone who is famous for being the best at something got lucky somewhere in the process. And that’s ok, that’s how life works. You always need a little bit of luck in life, but you should never rely on it.
Why you should never rely on luck
“The harder you work, the luckier you get”
— Gary Player
Usain Bolt could have stayed on the sidelines, watching his teammates, thinking “I’m a really good runner, somebody will notice me, and come draft me from that bench no matter what.”
Will smith could have stayed home, watching TV, thinking “I’m a good actor, somebody will come pick me for a movie from my couch no matter what.”
Neither of them would have ever gotten a shot. Even if they knew they were good, they had to work hard. They had to create luck through work.
You might be an excellent runner, writer, actor, cook, illustrator… If you don’t work, it doesn’t matter. You’ll never know what you’re capable of if you stand here waiting to be given a shot. You need to create your own opportunities.
So focus on the long-term, and work with the end in mind. Hard work pays off. As long as you put in the input, you’ll get an output. And one day, you’ll get lucky, will 10x your potential, and be able to say: “I created my own luck from hard work.”
“There are no shortcuts. You have to work hard, and try to put yourself in a position where if luck strikes, you can see opportunity and take advantage of it.”
— Mark Cuban
Skills don’t matter
What matters is how much you’re willing to work and adopt a winning mindset. So many good runners will always remain couch potatoes. So many good writers will always remain in front of the white page. This concept applies to literally any area of life.
“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude” — Zig Ziglar
Want to write better? Stop staring at the white page and start writing, whatever it is. In a few months, years, you won’t have to face it anymore because you’ll know exactly what to do.
Want to run better? Go out there and run. Read about running. Eat right. Work on your breathing. You can literally outperform a guy with better physical abilities than you, if you just work harder than him.
Want to cook better? Cook new things, dare to fail, mix weird ingredients together, read about cooking.
Even if you don’t become better than the greatest at your craft, the simple fact of having the drive to do so will make you better than 90% of the competition. Guaranteed.
Whatever it is that you want to do in life, there’s only one recipe to achieve it: hard work + consistency.
As long as you keep going, you’ll be fine. So go out there, do your thing. Learn from the best, work harder than them, don’t rely on luck, keep the attitude. One day, you might actually find yourself in the shoes of the people you look up to. Oh and also, don’t forget to smile along the way.
“Always wake up with a smile knowing that today you are going to have fun accomplishing what others are too afraid to do”
— Mark Cuban
Thanks a lot for reading! If you want to take control of your time, stop wasting your energy, and prioritise the right things, my free tool The 168 Hours Spreadsheet will help!