“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”
If you look at the lives of anyone who has succeeded really big, you’ll find a short-span (usually 5-10 years) of extreme and focused output.
Those few years, if done right, can set your entire life up on a different trajectory and level than the “norm.”
Think about some of your favorite musicians or artists. Usually, they had a few “golden” years of creativity and focus. Then at some point, they rode the wave of those golden years for the remainder of their lives.
This isn’t to say your work is finished once you’ve up-leveled yourself.
However, radical progress usually occurs in spurts.
You get really clear on what you want, put your head down, block everything else out, and focus intensely for a few years.
You turn-off the noise and distractions.
You create an incredible routine.
You focus on extreme output, productivity, and creativity.
You start getting “rare” results in your industry. People around you wonder how the heck you’re doing what you’re doing. It doesn’t make sense to them.
You reach a new level of lifestyle, identity, socioeconomic status, daily activities, etc.
You’re now on a new platform. That “new platform” is your “new normal.” It’s where you’re at as a person in your freedom, income, perspectives, and identity.
You can then choose what to do from there.
But if you’re smart, you leverage the extreme success of those few extreme years of focus, you can stay at that new level for the rest of your life.
If you so choose, which I recommend you do, you can take your new platform and use it as a springboard for going up another several levels.
The remainder of this article will break down key principles for jumping-up levels in life in short spurts. These short spurts are typically 3-5 years.
Of course, if you’re aggressive and consistently make “POWER MOVES,” then you will be able to move faster.
But in 3-5 years, you can go from making 5 to 7 figures (as an example).
You’ll need to change your entire life. You’ll need to change your environment, your peer group, your daily behaviors, and your very identity.
But if you want to, you can.
*** Note: this isn’t all about money. If you look at the “star” athletes, they usually have 3-5 “stand-out” years that put them in an entirely different class from their peers.
*** Note #2: Dan Sullivan the founder of Strategic Coach argues that if you’re focused on “status,” then you’ll likely stop growing once you reach that status. Hence, “goals” should be viewed as means, not ends. Once you reach various “status” or level, you should shortly thereafter detach yourself from that identity, and set the next goal. While pursuing a goal or status, that goal BECOMES your identity. Once you achieve and create it, you let it go. Growth is always more important than status.
With that background, let’s get started:
1. You Need A Single, Measurable, and Compelling Goal
“To decide on your mission, simply look over all of your goals and then ask yourself: Which one of these goals would enable me to become the person I need to be to achieve everything else I want in my life. The answer to that question is your mission.”
Your problem isn’t that you don’t know what you want. Your problem is that you want too many different things.
Your biggest challenge is going to be to narrow your focus, and choose something.
People don’t go far in life because they avoid decision-making. Every decision involves opportunity cost.
You need to embrace and be excited about what you’re giving up, knowing that most people lack the courage to make such a decision.
Choose one thing, and go for that.
One major goal.
This goal needs to be measurable, definable, and something you can visualize. The best goals are numeric or experiential.
The more your brain can actually see it, the more motivating it will be. Clear and visual goals are motivating. Unclear and non-visual goals are de-motivating.
The more you can see it, the more your brain will start tracking it. Psychologists call this selective attention. Your goal becomes the filter through which you see the world.
2. One Goal, Not Many Goals
“Success demands singleness of purpose. You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.”
If you have one major goal, it can be huge. If you have a huge goal, then you will change your identity and behavior to match that goal.
Having multiple goals doesn’t require that you focus. Having multiple goals is a reflection of fear and lack of decision-making.
You need ONE MAJOR GOAL. This one major goal needs to be measurable, definable, and visualizable.
This one goal needs to clearly help and support all of the key areas of your life. This is why income goals are so powerful. If you’re a writer, that goal may be a certain number of page views or subscribers. If you’re a consultant, that goal may be the number of high-paying clients. If you’re a runner, that goal may be the time of your marathon.
One goal creates focus.
Focus creates momentum.
Momentum and confidence spill over into all other areas of your life. That’s why, in the book The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg explains that when you improve one area of your life, all other areas improve as well. He calls this, “keystone habits.”
Think of your ONE MAJOR GOAL as a “keystone goal.” This one goal—by aggressively pursuing it and actively achieving it—helps you do everything else you’re trying to do.
3. Your Single Goal Immediately Creates Sub-Goals
“Success leaves clues.”
You’ll know your ONE goal is awesome when it clearly creates subgoals that you’re excited about.
For example, when I decided I wanted to become a professional writer, I set ONE GOAL: Get a 6-figure book contract with a major publisher.
That ONE GOAL then gave me a path. With multiple goals, you have multiple paths. With multiple paths, you lack focus.
Without focus, you don’t get momentum.
Without momentum, you don’t gain progress.
Without progress, you can’t have confidence.
Without confidence, you can’t do much at all.
Instead, your life looks mediocre and average, without much sense of direction and discipline.
Between you and your goal is the path. The path is “sub-goals” you need to achieve or complete in order to arrive at your final destination.
The clearer the goal, the clearer the path. The clearer the path, the more focused the sub-goals.
As for myself, once I knew I wanted a 6-figure book contract, I could then directly study how to achieve that goal. I could ask experts specific, not general questions. I could google, “How to get a 6-figure book deal.”
This is how you get down to the 80/20 of a particular goal. The 80/20 is a principle for getting clear on what actually matters, and what will actually help you move toward your goal.
80% of outputs come from 20% of inputs.
80% of results come from 20% of activities.
In other words, most of the stuff you are doing is likely wasteful and not effective for getting your desired result.
You need to clearly discover the key activities that will produce your desired outcome. Those key activities become your subgoals.
For me, I discovered that I needed to create a blog, and specifically, that I needed to get at least 100,000 email subscribers in order to get a 6-figure book deal.
That was clarifying.
Then I could google, “How to get 100,000 email subscribers” or “How to get email subscribers as a writer.”
The point is that, when you have a clear goal, you can then create a clear path to that goal. With a clear path, you can have confidence and motivation. You can focus on the high-leverage activities that actually produce results.
If you don’t have a clear goal, then you’ll look around at what everyone else is doing. You’ll then over-spread yourself and do lots of stuff. This will lead to marginal gains. You’ll have a big resume but no real results.
4. Focus on Results, Not Process (to start)
“Commitment is a statement of what ‘is’. You can know what you’re committed to by your results, not by what you say your commitments are. We are all committed. We are all producing results. The result is proof of a commitment.”
—by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, and Kaley Klemp
If you want to take yourself seriously, then you need to take your results seriously.
Look at your life right now: the results you are getting are an indication of what you’re committed to.
Don’t try to hide your results. Be completely open and honest about them. The Emperor had no clothes because he didn’t want to face the truth.
Once you face the truth, and become completely naked to what is currently happening, then you can also be completely honest and bold about where you want to go.
It takes courage to tell the truth.
It takes courage to commit to specific results.
You have ONE MAJOR GOAL. That goal is your new commitment. That goal is your new focus. That goal is your new benchmark for behavior. It is the “law” that governs everything you do.
The 2000 British Rowing team did that. They had a goal which they finally made a commitment: Win Gold.
That goal became a commitment because they used it as a filter for everything they did. They had a single question: Will it make the boat go faster?
That question was asked before any decision was made.
Go out drinking with friends? “Will it make the boat go faster?”
Eat the donut? “Will it make the boat go faster?”
Because they were committed, they got the result they wanted.
You get whatever results you’re committed to.
Once you’re totally committed to a specific outcome, then you’ll get serious about the process. You’ll focus on getting results, not just “working hard.”
When you’re not 100% committed, then your “process” will be garbage. Process only clarifies when you’re totally committed to the result. When the pain of not having what you want is now more than the pain of the work involved.
When it hurts bad enough, usually due to failure or neglect on your part, then you get committed and you get serious.
5. Create A “Success Narrative”
“The stories of our lives, far from being fixed narratives, are under constant revision. The slender threads of causality are rewoven and reinterpreted as we attempt to explain to ourselves and others how we became the people we are.”
—Gordon Livingston M.D.
“Never mind searching for who you are. Search for the person you aspire to be.”
Don’t create your narrative based on who you’ve been. Create a narrative based on who you’re going to be.
When people ask you who you are, talk about your ONE GOAL.
In the musical, Hamilton, there is a song: “Satisfied.” This song depicts the “party” where Hamilton meets the Schuyler sisters, which ultimately he marries one.
Hamilton first meets Angelica. The usual questions arise, focusing on status and class.
“My name is Angelica Schuyler.”
“Where’s your fam’ly from?”
“Unimportant. There’s a million things I haven’t done but Just you wait, just you wait…”
Alexander didn’t have an amazing past. He didn’t have incredible circumstances. He wasn’t “rich.”
But he had dreams. His narrative wasn’t based on where he currently was, or what he had formerly done. His identity narrative was based on what he would do.
Was he considered a dreamer? Absolutely.
And you will be too if you commit to a MAJOR GOAL that is so big that you are practically embarrassed to share it. Remember, your ONE MAJOR GOAL needs to be so big and so compelling that it will change your entire life if you achieve it.
Shoot for the moon.
- What is the ONE GOAL that would change your entire life?
- What would your life be like if you actually achieved that goal?
- Who would you need to become to achieve that goal?
- What “miracles” or circumstances along the way would need to occur for you to achieve that goal?
- Your “story” and “identity” are now based on that ONE MAJOR GOAL. That’s where you’re going. Who cares where you’ve been?
Where you’ve been is status-based. Where you’re going is growth-based and will require you to relinquish your current status.
6. Base Circumstances On Goals, Not Goals On Circumstances
“Man is not the creature of circumstances, circumstances are the creatures of men. We are free agents, and man is more powerful than matter.”
The goals you set should not be based on your current circumstances. Rather, your circumstances should continually become a byproduct of your goals.
More specifically, when you set your MAJOR GOAL, that one goal needs to become the filter for your circumstances.
What about your environment, boundaries, relationships, routines, etc. needs to now change based on this goal?
If you’re committed to that goal, then you’ll immediately see tons about your current circumstances which you can change.
As you boldly advance toward your goal, your circumstances will change. Eventually, you’ll find yourself in the circumstances of your goal complete. At that new platform, you’ll need to set another goal which need not reflect your circumstances then, but your desired future.
7. Base Identity (and “Labels”) On Goals, Not Goals On Identity
“The more labels you have for yourself, the dumber they make you,”―Paul Graham
We live in a world that is obsessed with personality tests. In 2019, Facebook had to ban several apps because over 87 million people gave away personal information to take a silly test.
The point is: people like to give themselves labels.
“I’m an introvert.”
People give themselves labels to explain and justify their behavior. The more labels you give yourself, the less open to change you become. Also, the less mindful you become to alternative options.
As Harvard psychologist and mindfulness expert, Dr. Ellen Langer has said:
“If something is presented as an accepted truth, alternative ways of thinking do not even come up for consideration… When people are depressed they tend to believe they are depressed all the time. Mindful attention to variability shows this is not the case.”
Sadly, people often base the goals they set on the labels they’ve given themselves. This is a really limiting way of living. Yet, people really want to defend their labels. They are incredibly committed to those labels.
I like the story of Jeff Goins, who did something different. Rather than setting goals based on a label he’d consigned himself to, he gave himself a label to help himself achieve a goal.
He’d always wanted to be a writer, but could never get himself to do it. Once he proactively labeled himself as a “writer,” then that label helped him achieve his goal.
Case and point: Labels should be in service of goals. Goals should never be in service of labels.
8. Create For 60-120 Minutes In The Morning
“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
―Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”—Mark Twain
If you have a MAJOR GOAL, you need to spend time on that goal. Every single day. If not every day, then most days.
Interestingly, I often ask people how much time they spend per week on their biggest goal, and it’s often less than 5 hours per week!
What the heck are you spending all of your time on?
In the book, The Road Less Stupid, business expert Keith Cunningham explains that if you have a shift in priority, you must also have a shift in allocation of resources.
If you’re truly committed to your ONE GOAL, then you need to prioritize that one goal. If you prioritize that one goal, then you need to allocate the resources to that one goal.
These resources include your time, attention, thought, money, etc.
The more time and attention you give to the “important” things, and the less you give to the urgent, the more your life will improve and upgrade.
If you give all of your time to the urgent, you’ll stay exactly where you are.
It’s smart then, to wake up with a fresh brain and mind and get straight to work on your major goal. Get yourself into a flow-state and focus for 60-120 minutes.
Do this before you do any “urgent” stuff.
Now, you may immediately have a red-flag pop up. Let me guess, your current circumstances would never allow 1-2 hours of focus on the “important”?
I get it. I have 5 kids. I started and grew my business and writing career while I was getting a PhD.
I’ll explain the notion of “boundaries” and “negotiation” in a minute (see #13).
9. Avoid Wasteful Consumption At Night
“A mistake repeated more than once is a decision.”
The end of the day is a time for relaxation and reflection: not unhealthy consumption. This doesn’t mean you can’t watch your favorite show with your spouse.
It simply means you need to be careful.
After a bunch of decisions have been made throughout your day, your willpower will be low. With low willpower comes high consumption. Mostly the seeking of dopamine and pleasure.
If you engage in consumptive behaviors at night, these behaviors will conflict with your ONE MAJOR GOAL. They will derail your confidence and confuse your identity.
You’ll feel incongruent and like a fraud.
What I’m talking about here is stuff like social media, other pointless media, and food high in fat, carbs, and processed sugar.
These are the usual suspects.
Spending quality time with loved ones is different, and a very high and powerful way to rest and recover.
Be careful not to over-consume junk just before bed. This will create negative momentum that will negatively impact your sleep and your next morning.
10. Create Short To-Do List For Next Morning (To Avoid Decision Fatigue)
“Once I made a decision, I never thought about it again.”
One of the most important things you can do in your evening routine is spend 5 or so minutes creating a short (1-3 item) to-do list for the next morning.
This short to-do list should be what you do during your 60-120 minutes of “CREATION TIME” the next morning.
If you don’t take the time to plan out exactly what you’re going to do, and what “success” looks like during that “creation time,” you probably won’t do it.
If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.
If you wait until the last moment to make a decision, you’ll make a bad decision.
I can speak for myself here. Everytime I try to get myself psyched in the morning to write or do creative work, I usually just drift straight to consumption and time-wasting if I don’t already know what I’m going to focus on.
Having a plan means you’ve set yourself up for success. You’ve put the pieces in place so you don’t have to do much thinking. You can just get straight to creating.
Planning and “prep” are what Dan Sullivan calls, “Buffer” activities, which are necessary to successfully focus on your “Focus” activities.
It shouldn’t take long. But at night, give yourself some “Buffer” time to prep and plan for the next morning, so you can wake up, know exactly what you’re going to do, and focus.
When you wake up the next morning, you won’t have to think about anything. Because you already know what you’re going to do, you’ll be excited to get out of bed.
People who push the “snooze” button set themselves up for failure the night before. They didn’t give themselves something meaningful, specific, and exciting to work toward the next morning.
11. Go To Bed 1-2 Hours Earlier
“If you’re not in bed longer, you can’t get more sleep. For me that meant getting to bed 10 minutes earlier, then another 10, and so on.”
This concept is mindblowing for some people, who have been trained by social culture to go to bed at a certain time.
Don’t go to bed based on cultural norms, but based on your goals.
If you want to have 60-120 minutes of focused CREATION TIME, then you’ll probably need to wake up earlier. If you want to wake up earlier, then go to bed sooner. It’s really not that difficult.
It actually feels AMAZING going to bed early. Last night I went to bed at 7PM. I knew I wanted to be focused this morning. I knew I had a lot to do.
Why waste my energy at night when I’m already fried?
12. Wake Up 1-2 Hours Earlier
“Lose an hour in the morning, and you will spend all day looking for it.”
Get up early and start getting after it.
If you wake up early and immediately begin making POWER MOVES toward your dreams, you’ll build confidence and momentum that will ripple through the rest of your day.
You’ll make better decisions and come-off as far more congruent to those around you. As a result, you’ll start having better 24 hour periods.
If you improve your days, you’ll improve your life.
If you wait to wake up until you have to, and thus only engage in “urgent” activities,” then you won’t make meaningful progress in your life. You’ll maintain the status quo, and as a result, your time will fly by.
The days, weeks, and years will pass you by and you won’t make meaningful progress.
13. Renegotiate Your Schedule With Loved One’s (For parents)
“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.”
I’ve made these types of recommendations and inevitably, I get a message from an angry person who claims I have “White Privilege” and that their circumstances can’t allow for waking up early and working toward dreams.
To be absolutely clear: I have 5 kids and have found a way to make this work, for me. Of course, I couldn’t possibly do what I’m doing, with 5 kids, without an amazing wife who supports me.
The dumbest thing you could possibly do is try to achieve big goals BY YOURSELF.
You need other people.
There are two types of relationships: Transactional and Transformational.
- Transactional relationships maintain the status-quo. You both get exactly what you put in.
- Transformational relationships, on the other hand, transform everyone involved.
In transformational relationships, both parties are committed to a specific end. They are united by a purpose. That purpose allows them both to be changed, through the relationship, as they advance toward their goals.
1+1 = more than two.
Or, in the words of leadership expert, Stephen Covey: “Synergy is better than my way or your way. It’s our way.”
My wife and I have come to an agreement that if I’m going to be gone in the mornings, then I need to be done with work in time to pick the kids up from school and help them after school.
My wife is totally down with this. Is it a “sacrifice” on her part? Yes and no. Yes, because she has to do stuff, like the morning routine with the kids in the morning by herself. No, because this shared decisions affords her circumstances she wouldn’t otherwise have.
We are both happy with our roles because our roles support our goals.
All it takes is having a conversation and being flexible with each other.
Talk to your loved ones about what you’re trying to accomplish. They will likely make adjustments to their lives to help you do what you’re trying to do, so long as it is clearly supportive of the “whole” of the relationships, and not just self-centered.
14. Make “Power Moves” Weekly (Daily if You Can) To Upgrade Your Subconscious
“Personal confidence comes from making progress toward goals that are far bigger than your present capabilities.”
If you’re going to achieve your ONE MAJOR GOAL, you need to be courageous. You need to take bold steps in the direction of your goal, regularly. Daily, if possible.
Any bold move toward your goal is a POWER MOVE. Power moves reset what is “normal” behavior for you.
POWER MOVES take courage.
Think about it: how often do most people proactively exercise their “courage” muscles?
Not much. Most people avoid courage because courage involves some form of risk and potential loss or pain.
Your subconscious will try to keep you stuck. It will try to stop you from making power moves. Your subconscious reflects what is normal and average for your, right now.
Your ONE MAJOR GOAL is way above what is “normal” and “average” for you right now.
Courage is required when an action is above or outside of your comfort zone. Courageous power moves set the new baseline, and eventually, your subconscious “catches up” to your behavior.
Eventually, your POWER MOVES create a new identity and new circumstances that become your new normal.
How many power moves have you made today?
What would happen if you made POWER MOVES a daily part of your routine?
What if your organized your life to make more power moves?
Power moves require courage and build confidence. As you build confidence, your vision for your future, and your desire to pursue that bigger future, will grow.
If you build confidence every day through courageous power moves, you’ll stop being defined by the past. You’ll be more flexible in how you see yourself. You’ll be more willing to attempt bigger and bolder stuff in the future.
Your life will change faster.