When it comes to writing this article this will probably be the first of many times I will write it throughout my life, and honestly this definitely will not be close to the best version of it being the first time I’m writing it. Presumably it will be the worst, the very worst; but it is OK TO FAIL given we can learn from the things we do. With that said I’ll be OK if you go and read something else even if I’d prefer you stick around.
I’ll be able to see the time people are on this page and learn there, a few people might go and leave comments and I’ll learn from that. Or noone will read it, I’ll see a big fat 0 in my page views, and I will still keep learning to keep doing a little better each time. Are you catching the theme here?
In this day and age of technology and instant gratification it’s very easy for someone to only devote an initial 15 seconds of attention to something that is the “best in the moment”. If I didn’t have your attention by this point then you would have been on to the next article, next YouTube video, or next mobile game. It has been proven I have 15 seconds to grab your attention with my worst version of this article and that’s it. If you’re still here, congratulations, you have probably made it farther then half of the people who will read this and for that I thank you.
Saying no to instant gratification
The marshmallow test says that a person can determine how likely a child is to succeed by putting one marshmallow in front of them and telling them they can either eat this one marshmallow now, or they will go away and when they come back in 10 minutes you will give them one extra marshmallow if they wait to eat it. The children that wait for the second marshmallow are believed to have personality traits that they can subconsciously put off instant gratification with the optimism of receiving more later and will achieve more success.
Some variables that can affect this experience is how hungry is the child and how likely is the person offering the marshmallow to stay true to their word to give another marshmallow when the tester comes back. If the marshmallow eater doesn’t have much trust in people to do what they say, the eater will likely just eat the marshmallow now and just take what they get. This is not a good way of thinking; because while the experiment above may put the control in the person giving the marshmallows life is not really like this. People have the ability to fight for what they get and if you can tuck away your one marshmallow now and put it in a compounding marshmallow account you can end up with 5 or 10 later. Save them, tuck them away in hidey holes, push yourself to grow your marshmallow hording skills and save those and you’ll end up being a marshmallionaire.
With that realization; one of the things that really helps me to achieve more is recognizing the things I can do that will lead to more long term value by sacrificing short term results.
Here are the things I’m doing to add more long term value:
- Driving a 9 year old car that is paid off. Granted I likely made a mistake buying this the way I did, and an even bigger mistake by making payments for it with student loans. However, those loans are some of my biggest motivators to conquer the financial game; so maybe the education from this experience makes up for it. As cool as a Tesla or a new Corvette C8 would be, it’s really not needed.
- Picking up books and putting down game controllers. When it comes to clear cut instant gratification machines, video games are king and I played wayyyy too many of these in my 20s. I like to think I’m wiser now and have been reading a lot more lately to continue growing my education in self awareness and in my career.
- Going to the gym, eating nutritionally balanced, and sleeping on a routine schedule. Doing these three things has been the greatest positive habits I’ve started incorporating into my daily life as it’s given me more energy, a better mood, and will likely add a couple years to the tail of my life.
- Investing money over splurging. With the miracle of compound interest 1$ today on average is worth 2$ 20 years from now and 5$ in 30 years, and with the wondrous and continuous advances in medical technology I’m hoping to live another 60.I also spend conservatively by packing lunch at least 3 times a week and only drinking a fancy coffee once every other week, compared to some people’s 5 Starbucks drinks a week.Lets say I save 20$ a week through these efforts. Put into an investment account after 20 years that ends up being worth 33,600$. Which is a little less than the average cost of a 4 year degree. I know with inflation it won’t be in 20 years but it will definitely help someone out.
- Building blogs and watching less Netflix. The productivity project points out how easy Netflix makes it to watch Netflix. You just sit there and it just plays movies it thinks you like based on what you’ve watched and what other people like you have watched. YOU DON’T EVEN NEED TO THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT TO WATCH! How convenient does that sound. Now building blogs is challenging, you are putting your thoughts up there for everyone to read and judge. But over time as your skills grow and your audience increases you have something you can be proud of! How many people can even name every movie they watched on Netflix last year?
Reflect on what success means to you
When I was really young I used to think success meant having 10 million dollars. I blame Ed McMahon and the Publishers Clearing House for this. My mom had me convinced they were going to come and make us rich during a rough patch in our life. I architected out a recreational building that we would build with the money that had a wood shop, a sports car garage, and a bowling alley. Boy was I fooled. I watched all of the Steelers verse Cowboys super bowl only to watch them give the money to someone else.
From that moment on, that was my goal. Only I had no real plan to accomplish it or ultra successful people around me to learn from. I did have access to American Online but I used it to chat with older girls instead of reading biographies of Ben Franklin, Henry Ford, or Andrew Carnegie. You can see I wasn’t very focused when I was younger, hell I don’t even think I knew who those guys were back then.
High school comes around and now I think I have a plan to become a Dr. I started to think I actually wanted this enough to get a good GPA and ACT score and some scholarships to college. I learned from my 7am biology class I’m still not very focused and end up trying to switch my major to business in the middle of the semester. Turns out scholarships require you to finish so many classes a semester to keep them, whoops.
I learned in that moment that success didn’t mean to me what I thought it did. I think I was bitter for the next 10 years after that over my own unpreparedness but like a lot of people do, I blamed it on everything but myself.
Anyways I got to a point where my success meant proving to myself I wasn’t a quitter or a drop out, and now I am in a place where it means to give security to my family and being able to teach people from my mistakes to inspire growth. I have noticed having a definition of success that transcends myself has finally helped me to start have the focus I’ve lacked in my childhood to snowball the results I achieve in the goals I set for myself.
Don’t be scared of failure
Have you ever watched a toddler walk? They wobble, they fall, and then they cry, but then they get up and keep doing it. A vicious cycle of bumps and bruises that goes on for months. A typical adult would never deliberately fail so hard at something so repetitively. Somewhere along the road we have been over sensitized to failure. If you get an F on a test your teachers scold you, then your parents ground you and take away all your toys. The education system teaches you failure makes you a loser and a person people avoid like you’re a plague victim. And years of beating this over your head turns you into a failure avoiding scaredy cat. You avoid failure so much you actually fail more then if you learn to completely embrace it to the point you seek out failure as a way to learn and overcome it. Growth is slow and deliberate, unless you add failure as a catalyst to speed that up more then succumbing to analysis paralysis.
If you want to be instantly more successful, go out there and fail! Just make sure you think about why you failed and try to fail a little less next time. There’s a famous saying that Edison found 10,000 ways to not make a light bulb. But even today we are still coming up with smarter and more efficient light bulbs. Quit striving for perfection and instead seek out to be better, and the only way to do that is to get out there and take action even if it means falling and eating some dirt a couple or 10000 times.
To quickly recap the secrets that have helped me grow the most in the past few years is to say no to instant marshmallows for long term results, to think through what success means to me to create a mission that expands beyond myself, and to not be scared of failure. I hope you’ll join me in going out and failing more today to make a better future for yourself and the other people you can share your success with!