“What’s the most annoying thing your partner does?”
One of the top comments was:
“When they don’t tell me what they want! I have to all but sit them down and force them!”
I get it. It’s annoying.
My partner and I are both the “I don’t care where we eat” sort — and to make matters worse, we’re both the type to sort of neglect to eat altogether, especially if nothing is jumping out at us (it just kinda isn’t worth the hassle sometimes.) So I hear you.
Not everyone struggles with what they want, but those who do do it across their lives
They don’t know where they want to eat. They don’t know what they want to drink. They don’t know what they want in a relationship. They don’t know what they want regarding a lot of shit.
I see this as a bartender all the time — people come in, sit down, and then look around dumbfounded like they’ve never seen a bar before. Maybe they’ll reach for a cocktail list only to flip it over a few times like they can’t read. They’ll look at the draft list like it’s a work of abstract art. They’ll scan the bottles too fast to actually be registering what’s there.
“What can I get for you?” I’ll ask, already dreading the answer that comes with this stupefied thing they’re doing.
“I don’t know,” they’ll say, then ask: “What do you recommend?” Or: “what’s good?” Or, simply: “surprise me!”
And I think to myself, “I recommend that you make your own decisions. That’s ‘what’s good.’ How’s that for a surprise?”
People who do this aren’t doing it to be coy. And they’re not doing it because they’re afraid of being seen as “wanting a drink.” Like, I know you want a drink — you’re in a bar. It’s a deeper problem, of:
Literally not knowing what we want, and
Not wanting to figure it out and choose
WHY people “can’t decide”
Sometimes people don’t seem to understand: we are not machines with missing instructions. Things aren’t always black and white.
Maybe they’re out of touch with options
Maybe they don’t categorize experiences as a series of fool-proof “if, then’s.
“Want” is a complicated thing, because many decisions have at least two variables — short vs. long term satisfaction.
Here’s everything that goes through my head when I’m deciding on what to eat: I like salads — good salads. I’m craving something cheesy, but “tomorrow me” doesn’t want something cheesy. “Want” isn’t black and white.
To the loved ones of “people who can’t decide:”
You have a few options:
Mill about trying to “force” them to choose
Choose for or without them
Reframe the decision to help them to choose
If it doesn’t matter that much, just decide. If you’re getting hangry, just decide. If you’re short on time, just decide. If it’s what color to paint the guest bedroom walls, just decide.
My mother’s idea of a “perfect vacation” is one where she plans and decides absolutely nothing, and gets to enjoy it passively like a child in a little red wagon, tugged along and fed snack packs at regular intervals. I know this, so I just decide. If I didn’t, she’d just go ask Rick Steves what she should want to do. So I save us both time by just deciding.
When it comes to something that only involves them, however, I will often force them to choose. At the bar, I will very rarely pick for someone, unless they’re “playing the game” (i.e., “I’m curious to see what you recommend, as a fellow whiskey drinker” rather than “I’m too overwhelmed.”) But other than that, if someone isn’t picking, I’ll leave and come back as many times as it takes for them to get their shit together and live their own lives. (And buddy, I’ve got all night.)
And sometimes, I just move on. I have one friend in particular who is notorious for being unable to decide what she wants to eat. When we go out and I get hungry, I just get food — something quick. I don’t pussyfoot or get hangry waiting for her to decide, like it’s The Last Meal She’ll Ever Have. I feed myself, and she doesn’t get offended. And when she’s finally ready to decide, we simply stop again.
With my partner, we have two tools that work 99% of the time for us:
Rank options -5 to 5, -5 being “I will die if I have to do this,” 0 being “I literally do not care,” and 5 being “I will die if I don’t.” If we’re sort of wishy washy on something but both our scores together are positive, and lower than other immediate options, that’s the winner.
Take turns picking. You know that old parenting trick to keep kids from fighting over “what’s fair” — one kid divides something (a sandwich, whatever) into half, and the other kid gets to choose which “half” he or she wants. Done. Here’s how it works for deciding: one person throws out 3 options. Usually as they’re saying them, they’ve already eliminated one, or picked a favorite. Great. But say 3.) Make the other person either eliminate one, or rank them (see above — does this sound convoluted? It probably does. BUT IT GOES MUCH FASTER THAN THE “I DON’T KNOW” GAME IRL.) Once they’ve eliminated one and/or ranked them, the other person picks from those two, or ranks in response. So easy. So fast.
To “people who can’t decide:”
Start living your life, babe.
We spend all this time pinning inspirational and aspirational shit, but then we can’t even commit to where to eat or what to drink. I know it’s nice to dream of a world where everything’s handled and Prince Charming or some other hero makes all of our decisions in exactly the way we want them made, but the reality is that we are responsible for our own emotional wellbeing, and our own everyday lives.
Pick a drink. Pick a meal. Pick a partner. Pick a vocation.
Take some level of accountability. And start living your own life.
Too many people don’t pursue anything because they’re “finding their passion.”
And to these people I just want to say:
You don’t need passion.
At least not in the grossly oversimplified way we define it — as “interests” — and definitely not as a standalone thing.
If you’re already passionate…
Great — keep on keeping on. This message isn’t for you. Skip ahead.
This message is for everyone “trying to find their passion,” i.e., expecting the universe to hand it to them. It’s for those sitting around waiting for “inspiration” and using a lack of it as an excuse to do nothing. It’s even for people who consider themselves “passionate” but allow it to dictate their effort levels, which ebbs and flows day to day. (And many of us are guilty of this.)
If you’re “looking for your passion”
Get over yourself — you’re overcomplicating.
As Tim Grover, personal trainer to a number of top professional basketball players, including fifteen years with Michael Jordan, says,
“You know what passion is? Passion is an emotion. It’s an emotion without an action. Passion will get you nowhere. Inner drive will get you nowhere unless you act on it. You have to act on your passion. You have to act on your inner drive. Don’t let those feelings stay inside you. You gotta know what to do with them. You gotta know how to make them work to get what you want.”
Many successful people didn’t choose their “thing.”
Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin of Veuve Clicquot only came into the champagne business through her husband, who inherited it from his father and then died early on in the marriage. It was a just a few struggling vineyards when Barbe-Nicole took it on, but over her life she not only built what is still today one of the leading champagne empires, but she completely re-engineered the way champagne was produced, shipped and marketed, revolutionizing the industry forever. All of this from someone who, before her husband’s death, had probably never even considered getting into champagne.
Howard Schultz and Ray Kroc (the recognized founders of Starbucks and McDonalds, respectively) were restaurant supply salesmen who bumped into single-location shops (coffee and burgers), saw how good the products were, and blew them out. Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran was introduced to the commercial real estate business where she made her millions through her boyfriend at the time.
Andre Agassi, widely considered one of the greatest tennis players of all time, admitted in his autobiography that he hates tennis “with a dark and secret passion.”
Plenty of people succeed having spent exactly zero time pondering what interests me? Not because they were “accidental entrepreneurs,” or “just got lucky,” because they sure as hell still worked — hard. They just didn’t sit around waiting for the perfect opportunity or “interest” to fall into their lap.
They directed their energy at what was in front of them.
Buddy: “I just like to smile — smiling’s my favorite!”
Store Manager: “Make work your favorite — that’s your favorite, okay? Work is your new favorite.”
Now, obviously there are of course plenty of founders who chase intrinsic, tangible interests — Elon Musk, Coco Chanel, Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Chouinard (Patagonia) and Ford — but if you do not already have a natural inclination toward a specific system (and you would know by now — we’re grown-ass adults), it’s because your passion is actually aligned elsewhere.
Because: you can be passionate about things, sure. But you can also be passionate about other areas: people, ideas, experimentation, insight, structure, etc. And you already have these.
How do you want to feel? Recall times you felt the closest to it.
What raised your body temperature? What made you feel alert and alive? It might not have been something as literal as “playing basketball” or “learning Latin.” It might have been something less discrete, like “helping people” or “high energy environments,” or, simply: “winning.”
You already have something, somewhere — you just undervalue it.
A lot of people are going to read this section and come away thinking: “yeah, see?! So I still need to ‘find my passion.’” No. It takes 5 seconds to answer the question: when in your life have you felt most alive, most fired up, most powerful? Name 2 or 3, then say why. That’s all you need to chase.
My passion is people.
My happiest and most energizing roles are simply those where I am:
Working very closely with others. That bartender life, just for example, does right by me — there’s nothing quite like the sexy-ass zen feeling of being totally aware and in sync with the other bartender(s) movements behind the bar on a slammed Saturday night. You’d maybe think this would be lower, being an introvert (and a writer) and all. And it’s true that I hate stupid shit like “group projects” and “brainstorming sessions,” but I do love me a good group-tackle on a singular objective.
Solving others’ pain points —directly. Every job I’ve ever loved, from high school to today, was interfacing with the customers or clients. Every job I’ve hated were those I was abstracted from them.
In a high energy environment. (See: bar. Also: software.)
And the point here is: I don’t give a fuck about the product — as long as my customers care about the product. Some of my happiest roles were supporting products that I had never used, would never use, would never want to use, and in some cases could never use, but I didn’t care.
In fact, even when I had my own business, I wasn’t really “passionate” about that product in and of itself either. But it didn’t matter, because I was instead a.) passionate about the customer I was serving and b.) pissed about their pain point. I didn’t need to be passionate about what the solution looked like, just like I don’t need to personally like every drink I pour. Or every software solution I touch. I just need to care enough about people and what they want out of it.
It just needs to work.
You just need to find the one piece you need and once you find it, you just commit to and jump in on the rest.
or “I don’t know what I want to do” (no shit — see below)
or “my market is hard”
or “nobody will help me”
or “I’m doing everything right!” (lol, clearly not.)
Or perhaps my (least) favorite,
“I know! I just need to get motivated!” (Look, bud. “Motivation” is bullshit. Successful people didn’t have more sparkle juice for breakfast — they just wanted it more than you do, and were willing to endure more setbacks to get it.)
Some call it “creating possibilities” — “by looking beyond what you think is available, and… focusing on what you can offer.” i.e., finding workarounds.
One CEO (and founder!) of a billion-dollar publicly-traded company chalks his success to only two things: (1) never run out of money. And after that? (2) When it gets hard — “and it will get hard!” he emphasizes — don’t stop. (Just for context: his company was in the red for ten years before they saw a profit.)
Some of them lost their entire inventory. Or they got fucked over by a partner. Or a vendor. They lost their right-hand product person. They went bankrupt. They were revolutionizing the champagne industry in the 19th Century and struggled to figure out how to get bottles around Europe without them a.) going bad or b.) breaking. Whatever.
The difference with successful people isn’t that they never experienced setbacks — it’s that they didn’t stop.
And those who don’t see the success are all the ones who did.
Why Do We Make Excuses?
Any number of reasons… maybe it’s because “inertia” — a body at rest will stay at rest. Or because “self esteem.” Because it’s socially acceptable.
But at the end of the day, it’s really because:
You either don’t actually know what you want
Or you don’t want it badly enough
People who know exactly what they want — and want it with a blinding desire — don’t make excuses.
How To Stop Making Excuses
1.) Take ownership of your own life
Nobody is here to rescue you, Charles. Nothing outside of you matters as much as your reaction to it, and countless people have achieved more with less. Use what you have — and know that your biggest asset is your mind.
2.) Decide — specifically — what you want
“Build a business” is not specific. Fuck off with that shit. Be specific. And it’s not about “having a plan,” but it is understanding the difference between “get in shape” and “lose 20 pounds.” “Build a business” is not the specific goal — “sell x amount of x product to x people” is. Then you build the business around that, to support it.
3.) Want it badly enough
Want it enough that you’re willing to make sacrifices (lifestyle, relationships, other opportunities, credit, etc.) and you’re willing to push through when your shit sandwich is more shit than sandwich.
Too many people think “work ethic” or “trying” means “only when it’s easy,” but trying when it’s not easy is the entire point. The universe doesn’t hand out special awards for people who can carry on in clear skies and sunshine. The universe favors those who are out there sloughing in rain and snow and hurricanes. (Metaphorically speaking. Unless it’s not for you…?)
The only thing holding you back from what you want is you. And the excuses you make — like what you incorrectly assign to other things.
You are not a victim of your own life
If you think the world is out to get you, it’s because you’ve victimize yourself and it rushes in to fill that energy void, receiving your negative energy with negative energy. You see negative because negative is what you put out.
You will never achieve what you want if you spend your life as a victim — if you do the same mediocre, hapless thing but expect great things to happen.
If you never get what you want, that is no one’s fault but your own. You are the only one who is standing in the way.
Life doesn’t owe you anything
If you want something you have to work hard for it — not make excuses as to why you don’t have it, or whine and complain.
One of my good friends is a dude now in his mid-30’s whose primary goal in life is to find his wife. He’s tall, has a fantastic job, dresses well, owns his own place, and — most importantly — has a heart of gold. In other words, has tons of the shit most people look for on paper. But the dude can’t find a partner.
But he also refuses to do anything differently. I’ve known him for over five years and he still goes to the same bars and uses the same sites. I hired aninterpersonal coach to help me with sales after a few months of running my business — a woman whose primary business is actually dating coaching: helping people find their spouse. I referred him to her, but he never called. He makes enough money — he just doesn’t want to try.
I have another friend who — same thing — also wants to find a husband. And again, she thinks she’s trying — she puts in effort for dates, she “puts love out there” right away, and when each one doesn’t work, she always asks me: “what am I doing wrong??” But the problem is that she doesn’t actually want to be doing anything wrong. She doesn’t actually want to change. She doesn’t actually want to hear the answers. What she actually wants is to keep going into these relationships doing exactly what she’s always done and for that to magically work. And I’m not saying it won’t work out for her because I’m sure it will, but it might help the process along a little bit if she actually tried a bit, too, rather than only thinking she was.
People will say you have to “work you ass off” and “work really hard” to get what you want. And yeah, that certainly helps. But so many people aren’t trying at all! They think they’re trying but they’re off in left field, doing things that don’t work and too consumed with making excuses to ask questions and experiment — and take responsibility for the outcome.
Commit to your own life
Don’t pretend your life is someone else’s job — or at the hands of the universe. Quit making it about anything that isn’t “you.”
If you want your life to get better then start, living like it. Start doing something positive in the right direction and don’t stop until you get there, and keep going even once you do.
Like most all people in western society, sometimes I get onto these “food kicks” where I amp up my already-not-that-shitty diet and try to be more mindful of what I’m eating.
The first challenge is always deciding which “flavor of crazy” sounds best — there are more diets and plans than I care to keep track of (and you should feel the same.)
You start digging into one diet and it contradicts another diet you follow. You like some elements of this diet, or hate some elements of that one (and all of this is outside of the issue of “willpower” — don’t come at me with that. That ain’t what we’re here for today) and every time I think I’ve found something, I have to bump it up against everything else and why can’t someone just organize this for me already?
Here are my “always” rules:
No, Saaandra, I don’t eat fish.Yes, eggs and cheese are okay. (Do you even know what “vegetarian” means?!)
As a total aside, even though I eat both eggs and dairy and we love to group them together, I don’t see them as the same. I love eggs like a crazy person (sometimes eating a dozen a day) and while I like cheese, I’m fully aware that the fat:protein ratio just ain’t all that.
(And DYK there are other terms for both vegetarians who eat eggs but not dairy, and those eat dairy but not eggs, but let’s quit while we’re ahead, shall we??!)
I AIN’T COOKIN SHIT!!!
Seriously, the minute one of these diets starts getting into “Delicious Recipes,” complete with photo albums of glistening glazes and garlic cloves spread about the counter just so, I click out of that shit faster than your Mormon mom tripping onto porn at the public library. I don’t care that it’s only 41 ingredients and only takes half my life. I am not here for it.
It’s not that I’m bad at it — any dickhead can read and follow directions on enough “easy peasy” recipes to fill a calendar year.
It’s more a… “better things to do with my time” thing? A “holy shit why do we need 18 ways to heat some cauliflower?!” thing. A “why would I spend all this time fucking with my food and primping it like a poodle when I could just eat it??” thing.
Ain’t nobody got time for this!
I have nothing in common with people who “love cooking.” Every time someone says this to me, I’m already eyes-narrowed and sizing them up, because all I hear is “I have no idea what to do with my day, and I need novel ways to make a basic necessity take as long as humanly possible.” (I’m looking at you, Sandra!)
Even shit like French presses seriously piss me off. I once dated a dude who only had a French press and [the one that goes on the stove] at his place, and my sheer annoyance at having to work a damn farm and mill impatiently about the stove for 22 minutes just to make coffee in the morning was literally near-dealbreaker.
My threshold for “cooking” is heating water for tea or boiling eggs (because I don’t eat them raw — I’m not an animal!) And I have been known to make a decent frittata, but purely as a show of my love for eggs, and only during a strict “courtship” period with a new love interest, after which any mention of “frittata” is received with sworn ignorance of ever having heard of such a thing. (I’m kidding. I make them periodically. And by that I mean once a year.)
Also, I will not “meal prep”
I mean, that should probably go without saying after the above, but it might be worth calling out separately. These people who take selfies with all their carefully-portioned glass containers lined up like little soldiers for the week have a screw loose.
Here are my “often” rules
I went vegan for approximately 18 minutes (read: 2 weeks) back in my mid 20s, and the only thing that convinced me to give a try it was when I realized “raw vegan” was a thing.
Because the biggest downside of being vegan? (Even worse than having to eat socks and losing all your friends?) All the bad, fake food. Some of it is both bad and fake (see: meat substitutes), and some of it is just bad (the sheer amount of fat and sugar in most vegan products; also, fries are vegan…) But then I heard about raw vegan and was like “oh now this is my jam!”
Pro: no scary star-shaped “chikken” cutlets made out of repurposed Barbie bodies (because for as weird as these people are about processed meats, it’s amazing how fast they wrestle to get their mitts on the vegan equivalent.)
Con: I was traveling as a consultant at the time and literally couldn’t eat anything (even roasted nuts are off-limits), trying to subside on mealy airport apples that had been thoroughly palmed by the general public until I finally lost it.
Real food please!
Not the same as “unproccesed,” because to me “real food” is also about cream over skim milk and eating the damn yolks. (No, Sandra, not all 12 a day (ffs), but 1 or 2? Hells yeah.)
Look, I’m not here to lie to anyone: I definitely eat some processed food from time to time. But given my preference, I freaking love fresh food. Like, I could eat a salad twice a day for the rest of my life and be so happy.
Problem? Most salads you find out in the wild are total garbage. I’m convinced that one of the major reasons most people think they hate salads is because most salads are sad sacks of sorrow, either all-styrofoam or half-wilt, the obvious “check the box” afterthought of a dildo chef / manager.
But good fresh foods are the shit, ride or die.
And thank god someone came up with some clever marketing for this!
So, paleo. Great. Seems simple on the surface, but then you dig in and… apparently no legumes? No black beans, peas or peanuts… No dairy (they didn’t have milk back then? How in the actual… just kidding, I get the logic — don’t @ me with it.)
Pro: finally having others rallied behind my personal disdain for corn and potato. (Those two poseurs are by far my least favorite “vegetables.”)
Cons: being the kind of person “doing paleo.” Go sit with the gluten-free fucks and vegans and think about what you’ve done.
Dude, that’s a lot of sugar…
Nobody should be eating that much sugar. Sugar should be called out — even the kind from fruit. (Do you guys realize how much sugar is in a single apple?? If not, look that shit up. I’ll wait.)
Paleo allows for honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave, and coconut. Does anybody mention that these are all sugar? Not to mention fruit! My god, people! You all need bumpers on the bowling lane!
There’s plenty out there to read on sugar detoxes if you’re interested. Lots of mom blogs, but some legit ones too. In short: sugar is bad. It’s not even sort of bad, it’s always bad. There’s no nutritional value and, unlike fat, it can’t even aid the body in any way. It’s addictive, it causes all kinds of health problems, and part of the reason fat was made out to be the bad guy was because sugar had louder lobbyists.
Con:keto breath is real. (Source: I dated someone who periodically did keto and it was pure roadkill within two feet of his face each time.) Also, the meat thing. Because, see requirement numero uno: I don’t eat it.
And that’s pretty much where I am for right now
No meat, no cooking, no processed shit, no legumes (?!), low sugar. Keeping booze to a minimum, passing on cookies, and only having a serious, for-real ugly-eat binge on a salad with dried cranberries like once in the last week. (Good on me, right?!)
I’m eating a ton of almonds (ideally raw, but I’ll take roasted), largely because they are widely available — i.e., every Starbucks has some.
And here’s where else I’m at right now…
Everything is sweet
The almonds are sweet. The dried cranberries I inhaled smelled sweet in passing for sure. The idea of beer sounds like drinking straight up syrup. And some greens taste “buttery.”
Coffee, however, is more fucking delicious than ever.
Nobody tells you (yes they do) that you will get insanely thirsty when you eliminate sugar (including or even limited to alcohol) from your diet.
Same with any kind of sugar, apparently. I am stupid thirsty. Like “pound an entire bottle of water and immediately feel like I want to down another” thirsty. Every day.
Also, cigarettes smell amazing (?)
I don’t smoke. I mean, I’ve smoked before, but I haven’t smoked for years, and even then it was that “social” bullshit so many of us do for funsies, at two different periods:
Once between sophomore and junior year of college, spanning from late spring (when I was also dating this hippie dude who was mediocre at both guitar and poetry but excellent at spending too much money on stupid shit, and went on to be a pro ski bum) to that fall, when I was studying abroad.
And another during the summer I got my first bike. (Damn. I should write about that summer I got my first bike…)
I definitely bought a pack or two of my own on occasion during those times, but I also carried them so irregularly that I had to buy a new pack and lighter any time I wanted to smoke one, so by the time I got over the smoking thing like three months later, I had like 27 lighters in my junk drawer. (Boyfriend at the time found them and was like, “can’t we throw some of these away?!” And I was like “not really, son — they all work.” But then we did anyway. Because we live in the western world, as I noted, and we do shit like that.)
Anyway, it’s been years since I’ve smoked — or even wanted to! And yet here I am as recently as today, for no discernible reason, cozying up to smokers outside buildings and striking up friendly conversation, busying myself with being positioned downwind and standing as close as possible without triggering “stranger danger” alarms.
Now, full confession: I like the smell of cigarette smoke, especially on a good summer afternoon. The reason for this is because my first experience with the smell was standing in line for rides at the amusement park, where my brother and I had season passes (and thus were, to my recollection, devout weekly park-goers.) I guess you could smoke in line (which seems crazy, right?) and now I associate the smell with that childhood bliss.
Oh, and what do “cigarettes” have to do with food? I don’t know — you tell me, bud! But the craving strikes a similar feeling as food.
Our relationship with food is fascinating
It’s amazing how infrequently I’m actually hungry when I go for something — “I’m here,” or “well, if everyone else is ordering” or everybody’s favorite go-to, the emotional eating “fuck you, crackers, get in my face!”
And maybe I’m the one with the screw loose, but I just don’t want to make food into this big that we love making it into. I don’t want to “love food.” I don’t want to poodle it up. I want to make it boring AF, because when it is, I can discern between actually wanting it and amusing myself with it.
It’s part of the reason I prefer “bad” coffee over fancy, “better-tasting” shit. I don’t want to ruin my palate for boring coffee. I don’t want to chase. I just want my coffee and I want to move on.
It’s become a game, if I’m being totally honest, breaking down appetite and desire; understanding what’s real — heyo! — and what’s not; understanding what I really want to eat.
If there’s one thing in a work-environment that makes me want to punch a kitten, it’s when people react to uncertainty with words like, “the plan,” “the process,” “the procedure.” And here’s why:
Needing “a plan” is always fear-based.
The issue isn’t plans — plans are fine, in and of themselves. The issue is people who can’t do anything without plans, whose knee-jerk, default response to any unknown is to compulsively “figure out a plan” — to get “certainty.”
News flash: there is no certainty.
And when you obsess over perfecting something that’s inherently imperfect, you immobilize yourself. Defining how the problem could be solved isn’t actually solving the problem.
“Procrastinating feels lazy… Planning, brainstorming, and discussing feels productive because you’re talking about doing stuff. If you don’t move to action, though, there’s no difference between the two.”
We’re socialized to “plan,” and that’s fine. But when you start to idealize the plan, spending more time and focus on perfecting it than executing, it becomes a problem.
“We’re told to plan ahead… to look before we leap, plan before we act… When you procrastinate working on a project, you’re not doing anything to further that project. In other words, the amount of time you’re spending on your actual task is zero. Similarly, when you over-plan, the amount of time you’re spending on working on that project is also zero.”
If you’re planning, you’re not taking action. The longer you do the former, the longer you delay the latter. They are not one in the same, and anyone who thinks planning is “the work” needs to be tossed into the deep end of the pool and learn to swim.
“Planning” is mental masturbation
When I was a kid, my mom would leave us these handwritten chore lists before she went to work. She did this every day for years, rewriting the lists over and over —which is ridiculous because: they had the same exact chores 99% of the time.
After a while we knew what to do (my brother and I still today remember: I cleaned the upstairs bathroom, he did the downstairs; I vacuumed the second floor, he did the first; I dusted, he unloaded the dishwasher; etc.)
My mother didn’t write those lists for us. She wrote them for herself. It was just psychologically-soothing to her — because list-making always is.
I love writing my goals down.I’ve got monthly goals, yearly goals, five year goals, and a loose idea of what I want next week, in six months, and by the time I’m 50. And even though they’re already written, sometimes I still rewrite them — in particularly stressful times, I’ll rewrite them compulsively, over and over, mentally masturbating over the way my pen moves to make each familiar letter and word. But, as you can guess, this isn’t actual headway.
Goal-writing, like many lists, is just self-soothing. It’s a great first step, but it’s not how things are accomplished.
Yes, experts tell you to “write it down”
Some readers are dying to tell me how the “productivity” and “success” masters all say so. And my dudes, I like Napoleon Hill as much as the next guy, but I also recognize that that circle-jerk will only get you so far.
Many people have accomplished shit they never wrote down (and many people obsess over lists they never achieve.)
For years I included “write a novel” on my long-term list, and for years I made no progress on it.
Here’s how I actually ended up writing one: two days into November 2012, I learned it was “National Novel Writing Month.” Despite a late start (and missing “Outlining October”), I wrote a 50,000-word novel in two weeks. (And I had a full-time job at the time; this was entirely after 5 pm and on weekends.)
If you want to write it down, then do it. I still do.
But when you’re actually ready, you’ll just get it done.
I know there are people who disagree
I know some of you are reeling at this suggestion, huffing and pissy like, “You have to have a plan!”
Fuck off. No you don’t.
I have built multi-million programs — and my own business — without a plan. I earned six digits by my mid-20s without a plan. I lost 20 pounds without a plan. I grew my presence on Medium without a plan. I wrote the novel without a plan.
All I had in all these examples was: a singular, high-level objective, a driving desire to achieve it, and binary metrics of success (did I hit it: yes or no?)
No diet plan in the word will overcome your self-delusion if you’re not actually deeply serious about and committed to losing weight. (And on the flip side: when you’re deeply committed, you’re never a slave to the plan.) It’s the same with anything.
And again: I know full well that people want to @ me over this, insisting plans are “crucial,” because people who crave plans are so deeply ingrained with the fear of not having them that they can’t conceptualize it, instead getting defensive about how “important” they are. But whatever — I shared what I’ve achieved without them, and I know what I’m about, son.
Give me a doer over a planner any day
I have worked with a remarkable number of “planners” who are totally useless when it comes to achieving a goal.
I just can’t with people who spend more time “updating the plan” or “overhauling the process” than they do actually doing the thing; who respond to any change — and there’s always change, because this is real life, people! — with panic and the compulsion to touch the plan. It’s all they know: plan after plan after plan. Always planning, and then more planning.
I once worked with a senior-level manager who responded to every “fire” by immediately whipping out his big ole brick of a laptop to update his project plan instead of actually resolving the problem (which of course secured the opportunity to update the plan again the next day when it only got worse.) He and I had a very real throwdown when I refused to do the same, neglecting “the plan” updates and instead running around to resolve shit. The “documents” were always out of date, but I rarely missed a deadline. (And “plans” are obsolete then minute you hit “save” anyway, losing value faster than a new car driving off the lot.)
I have managed teams of up to 20 or 25 people, and I’ll tell you this: give me a doer over a planner any day of the week. Given the choice between someone who can execute on just high-level objectives or someone who first needs to “plan” and “process” every time we have a hiccup, I’ll take the former every. single. time. With zero hesitation. I don’t have time for people who are immobilized by lack of clarity. Life is lack of clarity. The goal gives “clarity.” Go.
“Preparation” is not the same as “perfectionist planning”
Nobody is telling you to walk into a client meeting or an interview unprepared. Nobody is suggesting you go all renegade on shit and Jackson Pollack your entire life. (Though you probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear that I do veer into this territory.)
There’s a difference between preparing for discrete events — buying some baby shit for the arrival of an infant — and planning that shit into the ground. I bet the number of moms who throw out their beloved “birth plan” is higher than those who keep them.
It’s about headspace and mentality
Someone armored with “the perfect plan” but still crumbling internally by fear and uncertainty is going to perform worse than someone without a plan but full of confidence. Someone who is petrified, and clutches their plan as though it will protect them, is going to cave under pressure and go running back to it, whereas someone who’s just fucking ready is going to be fine.
Nobody likes networking events. But getting yourself into the right headspace is eons better than having a detailed plan and flash cards of conversation starters.
Confidence comes from action — and focusing on the right thing
The difference between people who are confident without plans and those who are emotionally dependent on them is that the former group’s “certainty” comes from their focus on the high-level goal rather than the execution of minutia. They can make adjustments, adapt and keep taking action, because all they care about is the thing that actually matters, which is getting what they set out for.
“Planners,” on the other hand, often get so tangled up in “adhering to the plan” that they lose focus on the thing that actually matters — or confuse it with “the plan,” honestly thinking that moving through their checklist is the most important thing, and “success” is following it exactly. (Doesn’t matter if we had fun on vacation — we did everything on the list! We didn’t land the deal, but we followed the plan!) I just can’t with these people.
If you want progress, stop giving in to fear and a compulsive need for “certainty.” Build confidence through action, not outlines. Focus on the end goal, not the game plan. Adapt. Act.
“What belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life? And what two things do you think makes people so successful?”
Bud, I don’t even have to give you two. I only need to give you one. (And actually, you know what? I’ll break that one into two just to humor you and really get down into it. See “how to get” it, below.)
It’s not planning. It’s not passion. It’s not introversion or extroversion. It’s not intelligence.
The number one thing is PERSEVERANCE / GRIT
Taking action, regardless of setbacks, rather than making excuses. Pushing through. Relentlessness. Work ethic — but even in the face of adversity. Hunger.
The difference with successful people isn’t that they never experienced setbacks — it’s that they didn’t stop.
I know a lot of readers just skimmed this post for “the one thing” answer and a lot checked out after reading it, like: “yeah yeah yeah okay— I get it!” Which is adorably ironic, because they don’t. Many of us — myself included, often — don’t internalize what perseverance, grit and relentlessness means enough to harness it.
Perseverance is not surface-level.
If you think perseverance means making a show of productivity, or working half-heartedly, without alignment with a deep underlying goal, then you’re wrong.
Perseverance isn’t stand-alone. It’s always rooted in something stronger than itself.
In other words:
Grit and relentlessness may be the number one CAUSE of success, but they themselves are EFFECTS of something deeper.
How to get grit
The two things that make it up:
1.) Knowing with absolute specificity what you want.
2.) Wanting it more than you want anything else.
Get those two things, and the rest resolves itself. You won’t need plans, you won’t have to fall back on or recall your “passion.”
What “want” looks like
It means not having to be told what to do. It means ownership. Most of us slack on this — myself included.
As Tim Grover wrote in Relentless,
“Tell yourself what to do, and stop waiting for others to lay it all out.”
Desire is intrinsic and instinctive, not extrinsic or authority-based. It’s action and ownership over excuses.
It’s not thought. It’s not even emotion, really. It’s energy; certainty; flow.
How do you “know what you want?”
Fam, I don’t know what you want. I can’t tell you that, because I’m not you. You need to work out the details for yourself.
But: you just know. Engage and see where you lean. Whatever is authentic; whatever makes you energized; whatever gives you flow and certainty and power.
What “specificity” looks like
It either has metrics defined in the goal (lose 50 pounds) or parameters are defined by external systems (win a chess tournament.)
But “lose weight” is not a goal. “Start a business” is not a goal. “Be the best basketball player” is a goal, but “play a sport” is not. Be a top chef, yes, “learn to cook” no. “Find a hobby” is not a goal, and neither is “discover my passion.” If you think any of those are, your real goal is “figure out your shit.” And the solution isn’t to sit around daydreaming up a big plan, or “soul-searching,” because that quickly becomes navel-gazing. The solution is to chase what interests you.
What wanting it “more than anything else” looks like
Here’s what people don’t internalize:
Wanting it ‘more than anything else’ means: making sacrifices.
If you are truly “all-in” on one thing, you give up other things. So: what are you willing to sacrifice to get what you want?
This is why I have absolutely zero patience for people who claim to be “100% focused” on things like “finding a spouse by [x age]” — but then immediately cite a checklist of total bullshit.
Fam, no. It’s adorable to hold out for both when you have time. But as you get down to the wire, you have to decide: you either want someone within that timeframe — and you’ll relinquish your lame checklist, or you’re willing to hold out for perfection — and risk never finding them. You are always choosing one of these, whether you actively do so or not.
And it’s the same with any goal.
Perseverance is not inspiration or motivation or “feeling like it”
Serrriously fuck off with this shit.
I say this all the time, but:
‘Inspiration’ and ‘motivation’ are the greatest crocks of the universe.
Too many people think that successful people are more “motivated.” Dawg, I don’t even know what that means, but if you mean “relentless hunger,” then go get it — you have everything you need.
Anything who’s accomplished anything of value does it outside of the hours of feeling “motivated” to do so. Successful people do it regardless. I’m not saying you don’t get inspired — that’s wonderful, Susan — but inspiration is never what carries anyone to the goal line.
Elizabeth Gilbert called it “working like a mule.”
In his book Relentless, Tim Grover wrote, of the hard work required of excellence:
“I’m not telling you to love it. I’m telling you to crave the result so intensely that the work is irrelevant.”
He also wrote,
“You can read clever motivational slogans all day and still have no idea how to get where you want to be. Wanting something won’t get you anywhere. Trying to someone you’re not won’t get you anywhere. Waiting for someone or something to light your fire won’t get you anywhere.”
So what will, you ask? It’s like you didn’t even read, because the answer is:
Knowing with absolute specificity what you want.
Wanting it more than you want anything else.
And how do you know “what you want?” To reiterate:
It’s either screaming in your face, or others are. Sometimes it’s both, but you only need one.
Do the work — even when it’s hard
Be uncomfortable with the uncomfortable.
Keeping going when things get hard. Because they will.
And if you want it badly enough, youwill.
Note: if you want further reading, I highly recommend “Relentless” by Tim Grover, as noted in the post.
Let me just walk you through two high-level binary scales, the second of which is broken out into four sub-groups.
1.) YOU ARE EITHER GOOD AT “PEOPLE” OR YOU ARE GOOD AT “THINGS” (or you’re good at LOGIC or FEELING)
We’ll get to the last two in a second.
THINGS are tangible objects. Things are also systems.
Science, engineering, mechanics, and medicine are all things. Art, perhaps surprisingly, is also a thing.
What’s not a “thing:”
“Logic” is not a thing. “Ideas” are not a thing. “Organization” is not a thing (or system.) “Philosophy” and “theory” are not things. “Action” is not a thing. “Business” is not a thing. This article isn’t even a “thing.” These fall under other categories. We’ll get to that.
PEOPLE are, of course, people.
They are individuals or groups. They are friends, family, clients, customers, colleagues, teams. “The market” is people, and unless you’re heads down on product or establishing / maintaining systems, “business” is people. Creating something within the direct context of someone else consuming it is “people.” (Conversely: creating something simply for the sake of creating it,regardless of whether anybody likes it, is “thing.”) “The human experience” is people.
What’s not “people:”
“Extroversion” is not people — it’s just extroversion.“Sensitivity” is not people.It is “feeling.”
If you’re best at LOGIC
Good on you! But even if this is true, you still secondarily fall under people or systems/things — and it’s probably not the one you think.
If you get off on playing devil’s advocate or debating just for the fuck of debating, I know this is going to fire up your defensive engines and piss you right off, but: logic is, even if only secondarily, “people,” not “things.”
True “things” people don’t care enough about people to even debate shit with them or get angry over logic.
And I say this as one of you. For years I didn’t think I was “people” oriented because a.) I am an introvert, b.) people are not as important to me as what’s in my head, and c.) I would keep them at arm’s length with “logic.” But what do we feel compelled to do with logic? And how do we feel when people don’t “get it?” Wanting to articulate logic is “people.” Wanting to debate with people is “people.” Being affected — or angered — by people’s “lack of logic” is “people.” “Things” people don’t care.
Regardless of your field, if your focus is primarily client or prospect-facing, or “market-driven,” then you are “people,” not things. And I say this as someone who has a degree in finance and started my career in private equity and corporate banking. My focus was always more logic and people than systems.
Note that this also includes people who just like tinkering for the sake of tinkering — even when it’s tangible shit, like mechanics. They touch things, but their real drive is “understanding,” and they are still primarily logic (people.)
Aren’t “systems” logical?
Yes, but “systems” people are still primarily motivated by the systems themselves — getting them into place, maintaining them, using them to achieve specific goals — and the “logic” behind systems is simply a means to an ends. “Logic” people don’t really care about systems — they love “logic” in and of itself.
Systems are exacting, specific, singular, and meant to achieve something. Logic is stand-alone.
If you‘re best at FEELING
If you are sensitive, self-expressive, authentic, and unique; someone who speaks their truth or loves adventure etc.—then make your art and have your journey, because you are “things.” (It’s just that your “things” are not science and engineering, but objets d’art or expressions.)
True “people” people don’t really care about art (or poetry or performance or crafts, etc) — and they don’t care that much about being unique — as much as they just want people.
IMPORTANT: WHY “LOGIC” or “FEELING” should still align with people or things
Look, if you’re happy with where you’re at, and have all you want, then that’s all you have to have! Go for it. You don’t need to align with people or things.
But for people who want more:
The reason to embrace either “people” or “things” is because nothing happens in your head!
Statistically speaking, the highest-earning people are those whose primary, driving focus is one of those two. (The lowest earners are those who don’t.)
If you have less than you want, it’s because you spend too much time mulling over your thoughts or emotions and not enough time putting shit out into the real world. So when you’re ready, that’s where it has to happen: people or things. If you’re logical, apply it to people (“the market,” a team, or open debate.) If you love your individuality and experience, apply it to “things” (or art, adventure, or performance.)
Can’t I be JUST “logic” or “feelings?”
No. They’re always paired — logic and people, feelings and things. You’re just stronger in one than the other.
Can’t I be “logic + systems” and “feelings + people?”
Not technically. I know that seems the most logical (lol), but it’s not the way cognitive functions work, for all of the reasons I explained above.
Plenty of “feelings” people make more headway with people than physical expressions, and plenty of “logic” people are more comfortable with tangible things. You do you.
If you feel like you’re not on this list
First of all: you are. Everyone is either people, things, logic or feeling (either primarily or secondarily.)
But if you prefer insights, ideas, organization, action, etc. — we’ll get to that.
How this plays out…
In business: you have to love the product — or you have to love the people.
“Things” people will double-down on the product or system. They’re obsessed with it, consumed with knowing its in and outs, digging all the way to the depths of what it is or what it could be (though rarely both), knowing it front and back, in a linear fashion, or developed in a multitude of ways.
“People” people love: taking care of and coaching their teams — or being cared for by their manager. They love their clients or customers. They love their market.
As leaders: you have to develop and invest in people — or you have to develop and invest in product and systems.
Mediocre managers are lukewarm on both. Great leaders are obsessed with one of the two (and too few fall in this category.)
On a team: You have to be competent or you have to be likeable.
(And yes, Janice, because I know you’re just dying to ask — of course you can be both. But most people are more one than the other, and being successful at work means leaning into the right one, and having the right job.)
Job security depends on one of these. I once read that employees are either good, likeable, or deliver on time, and that you have to be at least two of them. (The point was that you could slip on the third and nobody would care.) And sure, that’s true, but it’s also true that you have to be either great at what you do or personable, regardless of whether or not shit’s done on time. (And, it goes without saying, you have to be at least decent at the other one in most workplaces.)
If you want to build a business: you have to be a builder, or you have to be a seller.
Obviously builders are “things” people; sellers are “people” people.
And it’s worth noting:
Builders don’t need permission to build. They don’t care about whether or not anybody wants to buy it, because all they care about is building it.
Sellers don’t need to sell their own product. They don’t care what they sell, so long as it’s good, and they don’t give a fuck if its “their” sweet baby product or not. They’d rather work for someone else, selling a better product, than work alone selling something mediocre that they hobbled together.
Pretty much every business ever starts with two founders — one who knows the product and one who sells it. If you want to be a founder, you’d better figure out which you are. (And if you don’t know which you are, knowing whether you are “people” (or logic) or “things” (or feelings) helps out a lot.)
And with only a few exceptions (one being Sam Walton at Walmart (systems/thing), another being Zuck at facebook (thing)), most all of the great founders we think of were “sales” people, with the “builders” tucked away somewhere in the back — the public-facing “founders” of McDonalds, Starbucks, Apple, and Nike were all built by “sellers” who just knew how to throw down on a good product when they saw one — and communicate the right feedback to the “builders.”
If you wanted to start a business but weren’t sure what to do — or actually thought you could get away with being the “ideas” person (lolol) — you should realize by now that it’s only one of these two. “Ideas vs. execution” is a thing, but only later. Early on, it’s everyone’s job to have ideas. And it’s everyone’s job to actually execute on more than coming up with them — i.e., doing either product or sales.
There are many entrepreneurs who get away with both building and selling — I certainly did when I had my business — but they either cap themselves out as a “lifestyle” business, burn themselves out, or eventually hire for whichever of the two they’re not as good at.
If you’re still just internally screaming, “neither people nor things are my favorite!”
(And presumably neither is “logic” or “emotion” — because, like, dawg, we covered that.)
If you’re thinking, “I love ideas the most!” Or “I just want to experience things!” Or “I get off on insight!” or “whatever — I just want things clearly-defined, organized, planned-out and stable” then I will say: yes, chickadee. I see you. And we’re getting to that right now:
2:) YOU EITHER LIKE IT ABSTRACT OR YOU LIKE IT CLEARLY-DEFINED
What?! KG, this is literally not at all what I am thinking or just said!…
I know, bud. Hang with me here…
Like living in the fray, existing at the outer edges of society and doing what they want to do regardless of what other people are doing.
They don’t just have a high tolerance for ambiguity — they actively seek it. They don’t plan for the future — they live there, in their heads. They don’t just “think outside the box” — they often don’t even care about it.
There are two sub-types of “abstract” people:
“Ideas” types: never-ending brainstorming; a constant stream of expansive options, opportunities, adventures, experiences. They want “everything.”
“Insight” types: they don’t want “everything;” they just want singular, universal truths. This is me.
“Abstract + People/Logic:”
+ “Ideas:” like “logic” more than “people;” often master debators, theorists, inventors, “idea person” entrepreneurs. (Also love leaving “logical” rage-comments and/or troll.)
+ “Insights:” philosophers, writers, humanitarians, and coaches.
“Abstract + Things/Feeling:”
+ “Ideas:” poets, artists, adventurers, motivated by their own experience.
+ “Insights:” discrete systems (i.e., engineering) or expansive ones (i.e., conventional corporations.)
Want things literal, clear, and black and white. And even if they are more adventurous or less conventional or more well-traveled than their peers, they fundamentally do not want to live in the fray. They like things simple, and succinct. They almost always like history.
There are two sub-types of “concrete” people:
“Organization.” Like planning and structure. Might also enjoy “brainstorming,” but only as it fuels “the plan.” They don’t live and breathe brainstorming above their need for specifics.
“Action.” Those who just mothafuckin love action, regardless of “a plan”
“Concrete + People/Logic:”
+ “Organization:” teachers, project managers, etc.
+ “Action:” they’re, well, active — high energy levels and usually athletic. They often like “logic” over “people,” yet are almost always in professions involving others (sports teams, sales, etc.)
“Concrete + Things/Feeling:”
+ “Organization:” systems, system admin, accounting, insurance, risk mitigation, security
+ “Action:” often performers or crafters, channeling their emotions towards creative outlets
The people most comfortable with change: the “expansive abstracts” and the action-oriented “concrete” types — both “things” and “people” oriented.
The people most comfortable with this post: the “abstract” ones
The people most pissed off by this post: the “logical” and “emotional” ones (who, to be clear, are still totally different people, Bob!) even though we already went through it.
Why should I care?
If you’re happy, then you do you, boo boo.
But if you’re not happy, I’d be willing to bet it’s because you’re caught up in your head. You’re hung up on wanting to do “everything” (ideas), or rejecting everything, or being hyper-critical, or caring more about debating shit and “winning at logic,” or doing “what’s right,” and you aren’t getting shit out into the real world. Not “plans” or “organization” or “on paper/in my head” shit, but real shit — either people or products/systems.
If you want to see things happen, you have to make externalized efforts.
And knowing which type of person you are helps to direct those in the most meaningful and impactful ways. Throwing ourselves at “insights” or “logic” in our head will only end in circle-jerking, but conversations or tangibles + action triggers meaningful results.