What's preventing you from achieving your 10 year goals inside of 6 months?
Peter Thiel is, without question, one of my biggest role models and heroes. He started his career as a judicial clerk and speech writer, and went on to co-found PayPal at only 32 years old. By the time he was my age (35 years old), he had been CEO of PayPal for 3 years and sold it to eBay for $1.5 billion. Since then, he's help to fund and found a tremendous number of world-changing businesses.
So, for all of December of 2019, I've been asking myself Peter's famous question:
“What's preventing you from achieving your ten-year goals inside of six months?”
-- Peter Thiel
Thought exercises like this are phenomenal, and I suggest you put something like this at the top of your daily bullet journal or somewhere you can look at it each day, and rotate the message you're reading daily on a regular basis, so it remains fresh and continues to help you flourish in new ways.
By analyzing this question every day for the past month, I realized that there are several behaviors and qualities where I have fallen short, at times. I wanted to come up with a mnemonic to help me remember what ingredients are most valuable for solving problems faster and generating more results in less time.
In December of last year, I came up with a simple mnemonic that served me well throughout 2019: DEAR. That stands for: Diligence Equals Accelerated Results.
That phrase has definitely stood out in my mind this year, but I've come up with a more detailed mnemonic I want to share with you, as a daily reminder we can use to be more productive, and produce value even sometimes with less effort! These keys are super important to getting maximum value out of every day.
This year, as my mantra in 2020 – the year of hindsight – I'm staying FOCUSED:
When I pull myself in too many directions, nothing gets done well. I need to stay focused on a couple of primary goals in order to achieve excellence in any of my goals. I'm going to put at the top of my list the projects and goals that, by virtue of getting completed, can accelerate my other projects and goals later. The order of operations is at LEAST as important as the work itself!
Without a solid plan for each goal (e.g. a well-designed curriculum for education, or a well thought-out exercise plan I can use daily), even the best efforts are ill-applied.
If you're trying to learn to play the piano, it doesn't matter that you're spending an hour each day on it, if you don't have a plan in place. Conversely, the person who invests 30 minutes of piano practice daily, with an organized plan in mind to learn specific things they didn't know yesterday, will far outpace the person who's spending an hour a day with no organization.
The same holds true for projects! In order to do the right things in the right order, you need to spend enough time to adequately plan your objectives, and afterwards, determine how well you are meeting your milestones as the project moves forward. If a project ISN'T making any progress, you need to either cut bait (you can always come back to it later!) or invest some serious time into better organizing its efforts.
You can't become great at something unless you are following the right habits for that goal EVERY SINGLE DAY. Whether your goal is to get better at playing an instrument, or singing, or acting, or if your New Year's Resolution is to get more physically fit, or if you have the world's BEST start-up business or app idea, it doesn't matter... your success (or failure) hinges on whether or not you are consistent in your habits!
When you've started to master a new skill, and you're getting really good at it, but then you fail to continue to keep up your daily practice, you are sabotaging your success. Later on, when it comes time to return to that habit, you'll have to re-learn or familiarize yourself with where you were when you last left off.
Even WORSE: neglect is how habits DIE!
It takes three weeks of nurturing a habit every single day for it to take root and begin to flourish. By comparison, you can accidentally (and sometimes permanently) KILL a habit by neglecting it for ONLY three days! Almost everyone alive can relate to this: you set a New Year's Resolution to get fit, and you start dieting and exercising for a while. If you get past the first 3 weeks, you can probably keep it up for 3 months! But sooner or later, you miss a day at the gym... and then, another day... and by day three, your habit is DEAD.
The moral of the story is: It only takes 3 days of neglect to kill a habit you've been nurturing for months! Consistency is KING!
Just about everyone knows that procrastination is the number one thing that cripples output. That means that you shouldn't put off to tomorrow anything you can finish today. I've been watching some videos lately of older folks, towards the end of their lives, giving advice to those who are younger.
What's crazy is: they all seem to be saying the same things!
- Don't waste any time following your dreams.
- Make the most of every single day, because soon there won't be many left.
- Your life will go by in the blink of an eye, and you don't want to have any regrets.
- You are the sum of your daily habits. Make good choices all day, every day, and you will lead a good life.
It's only because we all live in this moment, right here, right now, that we fail to appreciate how short and precious our lives (and by extension, our time) really is. Time is the only truly 100% non-renewable resource in the entire universe!
As a thought exercise, pretend you just got the news that you only have six months left to live. There's no cure for your disease: You are going to die someday. In this thought exercise, that day is coming SOON. In six months, to be exact. Everything you ever wanted to accomplish has to happen inside of the next 6 months.
How does that change how you live out each day? Would you spend less time playing silly video games and watching Netflix? Would you tell your mom that you're “not feeling too hot” and miss an opportunity to see her in person, because you just didn't feel like leaving the house? Would you continue to put off everything until “tomorrow”, when in your heart you know that day will never come?
Master the art of understanding the urgency of your life's brevity, and you will master your day and take control of your life!
In the last 2 months, I've begun reading a lot more on the subject of stoicism, and started habits like meditating every day. I must continue to meditate and study stoicism, so that I may subdue my passions and minimize negative emotions and urges. These habits are improving my ability to stay focused, to not get anxious or depressed, and to take on more work with joy in my heart as I do it. It's making me a better leader, father and friend.
If you're interested in learning more about this subject, one great place to start is The Daily Stoic:
In order to achieve my goals in 2020, there are a few subjects I must endeavor to study aggressively. I want to follow a specific curriculum of study to get better at subjects like machine learning. I'm going to kick off the new year with a well-designed curriculum in mind, and continue investing at least 30 minutes every single day to continue that self-enrichment.
This is a huge one! Without mastering discipline, all of the other habits may fall by the wayside and fail to stick. To help myself succeed, there are a handful of habits I'm employing in 2020:
- I must remove obstacles and make it easy to make the right choice. This includes things like laying out workout clothes for the morning, and removing foods I don't want to eat from the house, so it's easier to make good choices, and more cumbersome to make bad ones.
- I need to continue starting each and every day by journaling and asking myself some High Performance questions (I'll do a blog post on this later, I promise!) Waking up early and answering these questions has had a tremendously positive impact on my life over the last 2 months.
- I'm going to continue to try to finish the hardest or most obnoxious thing on my plate each day – what I refer to as my “Big Frog” of the day – before 11am, if possible! This serves several purposes: it builds inertia, to get my day really rolling. It helps me to tackle the things I am procrastinating on (usually for no good reason!) Perhaps most important of all, even if the rest of my day somehow gets eaten up by meetings and unexpected fluff, I have something very meaningful to show for my day when it's through.
This is my game plan for making 2020 the best year of my entire life (so far)!
I would LOVE if you tried something similar for this coming year, and let me know how it goes! Send me a message on Twitter or Facebook to tell me how your daily plans and habits are helping you succeed at the biggest goals imaginable!
(Sidebar: If you have a bunch of reasons I shouldn't look up to Peter Thiel as a role model, I honestly don't care to hear them... I choose to focus on the behaviors and traits in a person that I want to model. A lot of celebrities seem to have demons in their closets. When it comes to my heroes, I prefer to focus on their best qualities; that doesn't mean I have to be a carbon-copy of someone or model their worst behaviors.)