Nothing noteworthy ever happens without someone following a dream. They set bright marks on the map of our lives and are powerful fuel for our passions. Shining beacons far into the distance, calling unto us to start journeys towards better selves, better lives and better tomorrows. They guide us through dark and foggy places, up roads we never thought we’d take, always a bit further, always pulling us ahead.
I believe life is about how much we can uncover along those roads, about ourselves, about our dreams, and about this world we get to explore.
Dreaming has always been easy, the doing is what’s hard. Everybody knows the theory and nobody ever needed advice on their own life. Deep down we all know the right thing to do, we all hear our distant calls. Yet, it is so easy to choose poorly and get stuck, to stick with the familiar, to never adventure too far, to keep walking in circles, telling yourself the same excuses of why some roads are too hard or why you are not ready yet.
You don’t need anyone’s permission to follow your dreams. You just need to start and see for yourself! No one ever became something overnight, you don’t magically become a writer and then write, you don’t magically become a designer and then start designing, you don’t magically become an entrepreneur and then start a business.
You first start following your interests and if you keep growing long enough, people will be able to recognize you, and that will fuel your becoming. So to become a writer, start writing. To become a teacher, start teaching. To become an artist, start creating. To become an entrepreneur, start solving problems.
The secret sauce is to do it daily. It’s not Nike’s Just Do It! It’s Johnnie’s Keep Walking! Dreams are the long game. You can reach whatever dreams you have, if you can keep going long enough.
And as with any good fluff advice, you already knew this. All movies, all books, in all our cultures, heroes keep going. They always struggle but they don’t give up. No matter what, the hero always picks himself up, no matter how tough things get, he always finds a way.
Of course, it’s not hard for the characters in movies, they are not real people but scripted versions that obey whatever the directors fantasize.
It’s easy to feel inadequate when comparing yourself to them. We see success being achieved in less than two hours on screen and we expect the same to happen in our lives.
But the real world doesn’t bend itself for us and the process is a lot longer and the struggling is not as glamorous as seen on film. It’s easy to give up and take the quick exit and imagine we’ll just wait for the right idea, for the right day to start in force.
We try once, we fail, we get distracted, we get put down, we believe we deserve less, we believe that flying too high will burn our wings, dreams are for movies and struggle is for the living.
Play it safe. Obey our boss. Listen to the experts. This is what we’ve being taught. Yet, the myth of Icarus itself had more to it. There is something that doesn’t fit the propaganda of our industrial economy, and was easily forgotten.
Icarus’ father also warned him not to fly too low. Seawater would ruin the lift in his wings. Flying low is as dangerous as flying too high, maybe even more so as it feels deceptively safe. This is a lesson learnt by our ancestors and we should keep it in mind. Maybe dreaming too big could burn your life, but dreaming too small will drown you.
We need our dreams, we need our hopes, it’s how we’ve always pushed forward. We need a light to guide us.
“Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.”― Michael Jordan
First step. Believe more.
Belief drives action, action creates results, results reinforce belief. If the circle stays consistent your beliefs will become stronger and stronger. This is why “fake it till you make it” works. You believe you can, you take action, you see that it works, you believe more, you act more… on and on until one day, finally, you become. There is no more fakeness, just honesty. You did the process, you got the results.
The brain’s ability to believe is legendary. It can take any belief, no matter the outrageousness, and reinforce it, bit by bit until it feels truer than truth itself. We have people out there who sincerely think the earth is flat, and they are some of the reasonable ones, I don’t want to go into religion or politics but I’m sure you know someone.
You have the ability to believe anything, that is a fact. It all starts with belief. Believe you can achieve more. Believe you can become more. Believe you can offer more. Believe you will make a difference. It’s easy. Close your eyes and do it.
I will become more.
I will offer more.
I will achieve more.
I will make a difference in someone’s life.
Life allows it.
We all imagine tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow I’ll wake up early, eat my healthy meal, do my jog, read the smart books, get the smart ideas, do the smart work and by evening I will have become the hero myself. Tomorrow I will change my life, I will start anew.
Today, not so much. Today, I don’t feel like doing anything, I have enough on my plate, don’t feel like starting, I’ve been handling enough for everyone, today I just want a break. Tomorrow, maybe, tomorrow might be the day! And so it goes, day by day, one more book, one more seminar, one more YouTube video, one more break until that great day comes. We escape in our minds, because there the hero always wins, things are tidy, everything fits, and all ends well.
Real life is a lot messier, more complex, more than the back and whites we see on tv, it has all the shades in between and it allows for all the perspectives to exist together.
The tall, the short, the big, the small, the beautiful, the ugly, the hero, the villain, the reasonable and the unreasonable, all perspectives are allowed to exist and you can look through any of them. We might not get a different tomorrow, but we are allowed to pick a different perspective anytime.
When a baby elephant lives in captivity, it is tied to a tree with a strong rope or chain every night. Because it’s in his nature to roam free, he will struggle to break away. But since he is not strong enough his efforts will fail. And after many tries, he will give up, and never try again.
This is why, later, when the elephant is fully grown, it can be tied to a small tree with a simple rope. It could easily free itself, but since he no longer believes he could do it, he doesn’t even make the slightest attempt. Gigantic, powerful elephant, is stuck because of his childhood mind.
We all have in some ways limiting beliefs that tie us down.
I’m too old.
I’m not smart enough.
I’m not fit enough.
I’m not educated enough.
I don’t have the money.
I’ve already tried.
I don’t have the discipline.
I don’t deserve it.
It has to be perfect.
I’m not ready.
Nobody else has done it before.
It’s already been done.
Everyone has them, even our heroes, those that we look up to. It is normal not to be perfect, it is normal to doubt yourself, it is normal to give up, it is normal to be afraid and it is normal to be reasonable. It is in our human nature to let ourselves be driven by beliefs.
But it is also normal to be unreasonable, it is also normal to keep going, when all the signs say stop, to push yourself beyond what everybody else thinks possible.
Life allows it. It doesn’t mind what you believe.
We hear daily about people who found success in the most unlikely scenarios. The media loves them, those underdogs we are all rooting for. Were they as reasonable as we are?
Because like the elephant, you can grow yourself in strength and ability many times over what you and others believe is possible, you will need to adjust what you allow yourself to dream.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”― Henry Ford.
So please, believe more!
Second step. Become unreasonable.
Once you start on this path, you will hit resistance. The mind does not enjoy leaving its comfort zone. You have set limits that you’ve reinforced for years. And as soon as you hit the slopes, you’ll start getting some reasonable thoughts. “Let’s be real. This is not gonna work. I’m too old/young/inexperienced/poor/uneducated. I don’t have the experience/the time/the knowledge/the skills/the money/the tools.. I don’t know what to offer. I’m too small. It’s too slow. I’m not seeing any results. I don’t feel I can help/change this world. ”
And that’s when you need to be able to reply “That’s ok, thanks. But I’ve decided to be unreasonable about this, so I’ll keep going anyways!”
Was Steve Jobs reasonable when he decided to create a phone with only screen and no keypad? How many times did Apple reinvent products and services? Were they reasonable changes or market shattering? Reinventing the pc with the first apple computers, reinventing the music industry with iTunes and iPod, reinventing communication and our whole way of life with the iPhone.
Was Elon Musk reasonable when he decided he is going to start a company and build rocket ships to send humanity to Mars? Does that sound like a reasonable man? Being a billionaire and sleeping on factory floors? Even for someone who is successful, space travel is clearly beyond normal expectations, it’s fantasy realm.
No matter what you believe, know that you have an unreasonable part in yourself that is always there. You will need its help to push through whatever your reasonable mind is saying.
To keep struggling, to keep dreaming, to keep chasing, when all the signs say you are done, you need to be unreasonable and keep going, until you grow strong enough to break those ties!
Alongside all your beliefs just add a new one. That you can be a bit unreasonable.
When I say that I don’t mean for you to become a difficult person with a fixed mindset, but for you to dream bigger than you feel is reasonable, to push harder than you think is reasonable and to gain those results that are beyond what you think is reasonable.
Check out Nathan Winograd, he went to work for SPCA San Francisco. He was not in charge, he had no budget, he had no authority. At that time, every year, 4 million dogs and cats in the US were killed within 24 hours of being found in the street by the SPCA and Humane Society. He saw this, he hated it, but he decided to do something instead of just wringing his hands.
He created a proposal and went to City Council, but he was voted down. Yet, he did not give up, and just went directly to the people of San Francisco, not to all of them, but the ones who could align with his mission, those who would not stand for these “humane” procedures. People like him, who wanted to do more than complain, people who were willing to push and pull for a better way.
Nathan was able to keep going relentlessly until, in less than a year, he had enough money and, more important, enough commitments from volunteers that San Francisco became the first no-kill shelter in the United States, not one healthy dog, or cat has needed to be killed since that day in the city.
And he still did not stop. He exported his message to more than a hundred major cities and plenty of non-major ones, and they adopted his movement, and more are doing so everyday!
Was this a reasonable man? Would you have raised your eyebrow? Shake your head, sounds good, but don’t think it’s gonna work. The council turned him down and they are smart people who should know what they are doing. How much can one person do, maybe talk to a few friends, save a few strays, but could he make an impact for millions of them?
Did he push beyond what you feel was reasonable, and did he create results way beyond what you could ever imagine?
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman
Third step. Find a driving pain.
Long-term happiness requires short-term discomfort, there is no way around it. You will have to suffer the pains of growth, of challenge, of fighting against what you and others think. Being unreasonable is not easy.
And in order to motivate yourself through that discomfort you will need to fight emotion with emotion. In the book “Thinking Fast and Slow”, Nobel prize winner, Daniel Kahneman argues the mind can be modeled as two intertwined systems. Together these systems determine our behavior.
The Fast System, system 1, is automatic and instant. It is responsible for our fight or flight response, it will give a hurt face when someone offends us, or put a smile in case of pleasant things. It behaves like a child, impatient and firmly set in the now.
The Slow System, system 2, is conscious and deliberate. It can differentiate and make better decisions because, like a parent, it can think long term and act more carefully, considering all information.
Ideally, we would want to involve system 2 as often as possible, but our mind optimizes for efficiency and prefers system 1, because it takes a lot less energy. System 1 has access to predefined habits and thought processes that shortcut much of the effort and energy required by system 2.
So you will find yourself, more often than not, listening to that child voice of system 1 telling you about the many limiting beliefs you’ve internalized over a lifetime, feeling resistance and anxiety.
And as with a child you can not rely on logic to make your arguments. You will need to find in yourself an emotion strong enough to counter the impatiens and negativity raised by system 1.
For me this is pain. Pain of not being free, pain of living dependently on someone else’s paycheck for 30 years, pain of not being able to express myself, pain of not being able to do what I want when I want. Even if it’s just sitting around, doing nothing, I want it to be on my own terms!
It sounds childish, because it is. I grew up as a compliant and shy child. I did what I was told and thought that is how one should act. I prioritized other’s expectations over my own and did not want to upset anyone. Until my younger sister came along and showed me, I couldn’t conceive one could say No and have his own way. Thus, much of what my system 1 internalized came from this compliance and shyness that I struggled with, and that in turn created a deep seated wish for freedom.
I can use it now as fuel for my motivation. System 1 feels things are hard, well, I just point to the past. Look here, did you forget this pain? He can understand it, because he was the one that built and internalized it. Is it acceptable to continue as an employee for the next 30 years? To let others tell me what’s expected of me every day? Until I’m too old to care? It makes no sense to me. It’s raining outside, I don’t feel like it, I’m tired, it will fail… so what? Will I not push myself? Will I trade my chance at freedom for a weekend and some Netflix movies?
I have no choice, I need to go on, there is no acceptable alternative. This personal pain is a powerful motivator and I recommend you search for yours.
We don’t recognize someone as exceptional and passionate because they sailed some calm waters and got through. No, no, the passionate people we admire, are those who went through some of the roughest seas. They proved themselves through massive pain and adversity and they have earned their right to our admiration.
Passionate people don’t get better Mondays than you, that’s only in movies. There is still dread, there is still doubt, there is still inadequacy, there is still pain, there is still resistance, there’s always unending growth to be done. The only difference is passionate people are unreasonable about it and they still keep going, in spite of it all. Because they have a cause, and the pain of not advancing it is bigger than all the rest of their personal pains combined.
The general assumption is that passionate people are driven by the things they love to do. I think that is just the tip of the iceberg, and we all got a little confused. You don’t become the best athlete in the world, the best movie star, the best musician, the best anything in this world without going through immense pressure and significant sacrifice. The top of the top are there not because they love what they do so much, but because they can not stand not doing it, and that is what pushed them through the rest of their struggles.
The best cook in the world does not love cooking, he hates not cooking more than he hates anything else. A life without cooking is impossible, the pain of not cooking is the biggest pain in his life, and he will do it, despite the lousy Monday, despite the lousy boss, despite anything else.
He never had a choice, and by going at it day after day, by moving through all the difficulty, all the adversity, all the naysayers, he improved, he grew and grew and at some point people recognized him as one of the best in the world.
And now, they will ask him, how could you come so far? How did you become so good? To which he’ll just say “I was always passionate about cooking, I loved cooking.” And we go home thinking, boy, I wish I was passionate like that about something in my life. And we see just this love and the glamorous parts, not the thousands of hours of push, frustration, and pain.
We think if I were to be passionate, Mondays would be easier, everything would be pink and fluffy and I would get to do the right things all the time.
Nope! Everything will remain as hard as usual, life doesn’t magically change, you’ll continue to fail and do the wrong things, beat yourself up and all, but you’ll just be able to ignore it and push through, on and on and on. Because the pain of not doing it would be bigger.
That’s what it means to “find your passion”, not stopping, not going back, only one direction… not having a choice.
If you can, check out “The Last Dance” a documentary on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty. You don’t need to be a basketball fan or even a sports fan, the documentary is still enthralling. You can see a level of dedication, sacrifice and talent that’s unparalleled. It’s beautiful to watch.
And there are little things throughout the series, where you see Jordan take something small, rather insignificant, like someone’s comment or some team manager not wanting to meet with him in a restaurant, and turning them into the fuel that would drive him a whole season. And not just drive him but push him way beyond anything you’ve ever seen.
How can someone take something so small and create such a drive out of it? He didn’t go, I’ll just love basketball more… he even quitted the game for a while. No, no, he used a visceral pain, something linked directly to his own identity. At the level of competitiveness he already was, you can imagine how he would put his whole being behind it. His identity of someone “who is not laughed on the basketball court”, ”who is not ignored”, ”who will not be forgotten” gave him no choice.
And every time he would feel pain or resistance, he could remember them and fuel himself. “Am I someone you ignore? Am I someone who gets laughed at on my own court? Is this how I will be remembered? Is this my legacy?”
Not standing for who he is, would mean losing his only identity, everything that he ever believed, everything that he felt he is. That kind of pain would inform all his decisions. Wake up and go to practice or lose everything? Give your all every time, or stay on a comfortable level? Grow stronger or become complacent and disappear?
He did not allow himself a choice. Not for the love of the game, but for the pain of destroying his core identity. Do becomes the only choice. When the brain believes it’s about survival anything else becomes irrelevant, you can push through anything, it’s do or die.
It’s absurd, it’s unreasonable, but that’s how you get absurd, unreasonable results. And it has less to do with what you love, but with who you are and what you believe. If it’s more painful to stop than anything else, you will keep going forever.
Passion is more pain than pleasure. This is the part where you probably dislike this. You always thought passion would make your life better, more pleasurable, easier and not harder. But passionate people will endure and struggle more than anybody else. That’s what gets them to success. They are able to go through a process that most of us would find unbearable and give up early.
Yet, it is only hard when you look objectively from outside. On the inside, if you are passionate, you are an unreasonable man with a cause, and then it’s no longer that difficult to take the hard choices. They are still hard, but being passionate means you have a big enough emotion pushing you that you’ll trump all those smaller discomforts you encounter.
For us, most of the opposing pain we struggle with is mental. But it is a real resistance non the less. That gut feeling telling you this is hard, I don’t know if I’m ready, what if I fail, I’m so tired, I don’t feel like doing this now, I get no results, what will the world think of me? why do I do this? Most of the time if we don’t have the right reasons, we’ll stop.
And this has been here from the beginning. The emotional part has always been driving us. You can rationalize all you want, you need emotion to fight emotion. You constantly compromise and do things you don’t necessarily like, because you prefer to take the little pain over the bigger pain.
Your job doesn’t make you jump out of bed on Mondays, but you still do it because not having a job is a much bigger head ache than getting out of bed. It’s that imaginary hurdle of losing it that gets you out the door no matter what.
Yes, pleasure can pull you, but pleasure is not always there, and it has a way of disappearing right when you need it the most. A bad night sleep, a fight with your loved one, a rainy day, bad energy, whatever. Pain, you can always trust in it, it’s like a rock, it will not fail you.
We already are in a hard place. We are letting pain drive our decisions daily. All our past failures are there because we stopped, we did not push through enough to find success, because we thought it was hard, it was painful, we’d needed to sacrifice too much, other things came up, we didn’t have the energy to keep everything going, we didn’t feel like it, we didn’t think it was worth it.
We’ve let pain stop us in the past and we’ve let it tell nope, this is not for you. Little by little we’ve avoided the harder things, we’ve settled, we’ve found a comfortable level, and like the young elephant we’ve let our minds limit our potential.
It’s time for a change! Find your biggest pain and use it!
Fourth step. Grow a cause.
“I want to do what I want when I want!” That’s not inspiring, it’s more of a tantrum, because it was born as one. The pain is your initial drive, that boost you need to escape your limiting beliefs. But at some point you will outgrow those beliefs. Similarly to how rockets let go of their propulsion boosters once they escape the earth’s gravity, you can let go of the pain once you no longer need it.
And then you’ll need a different kind of motivation to keep you going. This is where a cause comes in.
Let’s do a little, three seconds exercise. I know this is unexpected, but I’m serious, it will make sense, just for a second, very very easy.
Could you please raise your hand above your head? Very simple, very easy, just for one second! If you are in a public place, don’t worry, just imagine it instead, it will have similar results.
Is it up?
Now raise it some more!
Done. Exercise finished.
Ok, what was that about? 99.99% of us will be able to raise it more. When I raised my hand I did it to a comfortable level. I didn’t really feel like it but I did it to be nice.
And what does it prove?
That we don’t give our all. It’s a funny, little thing, but it tells a lot. Our family, our teachers, our bosses, they’ve all ingrained into us to restrain ourselves. Why? Because we know they’ll always ask for more.
Think about our jobs. Are you giving 100%? Every day? Maybe you did in the first week, first month when you needed to make a good impression. But once you settle in? One year in, two years in, three years in? How’s that going? Are you all in? Hand can’t go any higher? Are you so passionate? Can’t wait for those juicy Mondays? Do you pour your all every time you can? Really feel it in your bones? Pushing, pushing, always to the limit and not giving out? Are you on Michael Jordan levels of focus and determination?
For most of us it’s so absurd it’s a funny thing to ask. I mean I like what I do, don’t get me wrong. I am satisfied, I could continue doing it more, but do I really feel passionate, do I love it, do I jump out of bed on Mondays, do I feel fulfilled?
Nope… Why not? Because it feels like it does not matter! One more email, one more report, one more meeting, one more design review, one more sprint, one more company tool to learn, one more town hall, one more meaningless change, one more meaningless hour spent waiting for the next paycheck.
By design our positions are replaceable, no matter the beautiful words on the walls we know we are cogs in a bigger systems. The more you give, the more you’ll be expected to give. And if you are not there tomorrow, the company will simply churn on.
I like my job, I love my colleagues, but in the end all these things add up to “It’s just a job. It is not worth burning myself in the ground for it.”
No matter how much you love using your skills, being a writer, a designer, a developer, an analyst, a QA, a trainer whatever it is that you love to do, you can not give 100% if you are not fulfilled at the end of the day. If you can not clearly see that relation between your work and a meaningful end result.
You need to feel you are advancing a cause, that no matter what you are doing and how small it is, you add to it. Not just any cause, but one that truly matters to you, personally!
That is how you get passion on Monday mornings! Knowing you matter, knowing you would be missed, knowing that no matter how small, you make a difference for something you believe in!
Think about any exceptional person, any hero you have. They all have a cause that drives them way beyond normal or average. Think Steve Jobs, Elon Musk… even Batman. Does he go jumping on rooftops on rainy nights because he loves beating up bad guys? He is a billionaire, he could do it like a normal psychopath, in the comfort of his mansion.
No, he pushes himself in spite of it, doing things he clearly doesn’t love, because he has a cause he believes in! He can not stand injustice, and he can not stand for those who are weak to remain unprotected! So he will go beyond doing what he loves, beyond comfortable, beyond average, beyond commitment, beyond maximum effort. Because he believes in it!
We are emotional creatures. The word itself has motion baked right into it. Feelings move you! Only feelings move you! There are studies on people with head trauma, where the emotion centers were affected and they would not be able to even start their day because they couldn’t decide whether or not to put their socks on.
You can rationalize all day, but if you don’t feel moved, you don’t act. You need that gut feeling to tell you, yes this is the right direction, yes, we should move! I might not like it, but I’ll do it!
And in order to start building something that you wish to be unreasonably devoted to, in order to be able to sustain unreasonable levels of focus, determination, and growth, you need your gut feeling to tell you “Yup, this is the right thing to do. This the only thing to do, it makes a difference!”
You need to have your cause.
Together the inner pain pushes and the outer cause is pulling. And while one will grow weaker, the other will grow stronger. And this keeps you going. To the stars and beyond, what all unreasonable people dream.
Search your feelings. Find what you believe about this world, what it is you feel you can stand up for, what inspires you, and make it your mission.
It is not the how and what, but the why that unlocks our true power. It’s your why that sets the destination on your map. The what and how are just the roads you take to reach it. You will get there, just not the way you expect it. Life can not be planned for. You will evolve and stumble upon other opportunities, there is no only one set course, having a powerful why will shine the paths for you.
My cause is to enable freedom. Freedom to find ourselves, freedom to grow, freedom to pursue our happiness. My what is to build tools that enable others become more independent, to express themselves and take control on how they can exchange their value with the world. To help them start side incomes that can lift them up and give them the security to live life on their terms. I wish to leave this world a little freer than I found it.
Will I steal other people’s freedom just to increase my own? Become an internet guru, that sells ten dollars worth of compiled knowledge as thousand of dollars seminars? Show you a flashy Lamborghini rented with your hard earned money and say it’s easy, just sign up below, I’ll give you my 99 regurgitated secrets. Or will I do my best to make an actual difference in people’s lives, to follow what I believe is true, and leave a bigger than myself legacy? Only time will tell 🙂
I’m sorry to say, you already know all the secrets you need to achieve your dreams. It’s just a ton of work and perseverance.
Find something that moves you, and push, every day, every week, every month, every year. You will make it. You can not fail if you just keep going long enough.
First step. Believe more.
Second step. Become unreasonable.
Third step. Find a driving pain. Find your why.
Fourth step. Grow a cause. Refine your why.
Spend a few days with yourself. Search your past, unearth your beliefs, find that deep seated why and build a cause around it. I promise it will be worth a thousand times whatever time and effort you invest