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Read enough “success” books and you will be left with the impression that keeping a positive attitude and working hard for long hours is the definitive recipe for getting everything you want in business and life.
Winning Through Intimidation author Robert Ringer, though, points out that both “qualifications” are entirely arbitrary.
What is a positive attitude? Does repeating affirmations into the mirror every morning make you a more positive person? Isn’t “positivity” ultimately in the eyes and ears of another? How do you quantify your own positivity? What happens when you don’t feel like being positive, or circumstances dictate otherwise?
What does “working hard for long hours” look like? What one considers long and hard might appear a vacation for another, and vice versa. I know that Tom Bilyeu of Quest Nutrition claims to work 18-hour days, but even that will appear a vacation to some, outlandish and draconian to others. There’s no benchmark, standard, or target to hit.
You can see how conventional success philosophy starts to fall apart when you tug on the string of the already unraveling sweater. It doesn’t take much to get a sneak preview of what’s underneath.
So, what do we get when we discard conventional wisdom? Is it worth dismantling the notion that a positive attitude and a work ethic will get you everywhere? What do you get in return?
Ringer says he doesn’t expect most deals to go through. To the contrary, he expects most deals to not go through.
Personally, I’m recognizing that I have bought into the “positive attitude and hard work” philosophy as much as anyone else. And the only thing consistent about it is that I live fast and add one to my age each year.
Ringer has a term for this – he calls it the “Uncle George Theory.” You work hard, and in exchange, you sacrifice your life. We all know someone who has worked hard their entire life (i.e., Uncle George), and still hasn’t gotten the rainbows, unicorns, and endless stores of gold they were promised.
I have accomplished a great deal, and I’m not going to step over any of it, but in the grand scheme of things it has mostly been in the realm of desire adjacent.
When what you really want is X, but you end up with Y, even though Y is close to X (closer than B to X), it’s not the same thing, and that keeps you in perpetual motion for X. It’s literally the difference between a Rolex and an Aventino. They’re both watches, and they’re both great, but one is a luxury brand, and the other a mid-tier. You’re grateful for Y, and you appreciate it, but what you’re really wanting is X, and you continue to work hard for the day you can have it.
Like Ringer, I’m embracing the philosophy that most deals won’t go through. Most things won’t work. That sets me up for the right mindset. I don’t expect any one thing to work out. Instead, I look for the many paths to accomplishment, and execute in urgent concurrency, fully expecting that most things won’t work, and surprised when they do.
The deferred life is unsatisfying. I won’t one day wake up to be exactly where I want to be. I intend to go and get the good things as soon as possible – now. No more waiting. I am creating a list of items to acquire and debts to settle, and I’m putting it all in order of priority and viability. And I will act on the plan.
Living as if life is a dress rehearsal is overrated and boring. What’s the point in getting safely to your grave? Step out of your equally arbitrary “comfort zone,” and take a chance on yourself. Never wait for permission. Choose yourself.