OH NO! Not another article by PT about success! Not again! If you have gotten the drift yet, I tend to write and speak a lot about success and failure. Hell, I wrote a 150-page thesis on the topic for my senior year capstone project and spent close to seven years of my life reading every possible book on the subject. Why am I so obsessed with it? Well, to be frank, being poor and unsuccessful sucks. Fuck, I think “sucks” is being too nice here. As much as we try to “idolize” that money doesn’t mean happiness, it does, at least so long as respect and integrity are tied to financial success. It all seems fine, until it hits you like a cold punch in the face, making you sick to your stomach.
It hits you when you stand for hours in line at the train station and get treated like dog shit only to see the first class passengers walk past you being treated like royalty; it hits you when you spend your Saturday mornings going to exotic car dealerships only to be told, “sorry, we don’t sell used Hondas here;” it hits you when people used to treat your friends and family like second class citizens because their bank accounts lack a few zeros. Shit, even thinking about it gives me a dirty taste in my mouth. I remember being six years old, wearing my Batman cape my dad had gotten me for my birthday, I was excited and felt powerful, powerful beyond measure, I was a superhero! Well, at least until a much bigger kid knocked me out with a glass bottle leaving me with a permanent scar only to remind me that my dream was just an illusion, and that in reality I was not a superhero but a victim. That night, I wore my Batman cape again and decided that I would be a real life superhero, the superhero of my own story, with mediocrity and failure as the biggest villains that I would strategically crush at every opportunity I got.
Fast forward a decade and a half, and here I am writing this article, still deeply entrenched in writing my story, not close to the climax, but far removed from the beginning. To that effect, I have gathered some subjective knowledge that summarizes three distinct traits separating winners and losers and that have enabled me to slowly actualize my superhero potential:
#1: Winners Want, Losers Think They Want
When I was a freshman in college, I found out about a merit-based scholarship that would be awarded to the student with the highest GPA in the grade. I thought I’d give it a shot and attended what was a mandatory meeting for anyone who was interested in applying. I came to the room on time and noticed that perhaps only 10 or so people had showed up. The guy leading the program started by saying how 90% of the people couldn’t make the meeting and how competitive the scholarship was. I raised my hand and asked him how many hours he thought would be required of studying to get a perfect GPA. He asked me my major and my high school GPA. Not impressed by my answer he said, “Well, it’s gonna be pretty much impossible, I mean the odds are stacked against you, there’s 3,500 students in this grade that signed up for the scholarship, so maybe like 1/3500?” I laughed at that and said, “correct your math sir, there’s only 10 people in this room. My odds are at worst, 1/10.” The other 3,490 didn’t even bother showing up to this meeting, so they aren’t taking part. You see, the guy running the program didn’t make the correlation that while 3,500 students had said, “Yes, I want to get a 4.0” and get that scholarship, they honestly didn’t care about it, I mean if they couldn’t show up to a meeting, how would they study for long grueling hours? This immediately ruled them out of the game, statistically increasing my chances of success exponentially. Everyone says they wants success, but very few actually want it. Seriously.
At my freshman orientation, I don’t recall a single person NOT saying that their goal was to graduate top of their class, get a well-paying job and change the world. Sadly, now that I have graduated, not even one of these people that I remember is doing anything meaningful with their life. Every single one of my friends is still doing the same shitty thing they were doing before. What happened? Where did it all go wrong? The truth is that they, just like the people who signed up to win the scholarship just didn’t really fucking want it. They just thought they did.
Most people don’t really want the things they say they do. Period. They say they want to drive a Lamborghini, but they want to take Friday nights off to dine with the girlfriend. They say they want to get summa cum laude but they can’t even make it to mandatory meeting and don’t want to stay up four nights in a row because it makes them feel “dizzy.” They want to make a million dollars by age 25, but go hiking with their buddies twice a month. By now some people will be like, “uh really PT? If I go out with my girlfriend even once a week I might not be a millionaire by age 25?” NO! What I am saying is that you DON’T want it badly, because you’d know that if you spend four hours a week romancing, that’s 16 hours a month that are wasted. Shit, you could have used that time to invest in some stocks or work on a new venture, hell, you could have worked at GNC for 15$ an hour and made money. If your deepest desire is to be a millionaire, every decision that you make would be about what could get you that goal, with ANY other semblance of immediate gratification taking a complete side role.
In my day job, I work with such people ALL the time. They come to me with lofty goals of doing X and driving Y car, but if I tell them OK, let’s meet at 3:30AM today for a call with a client overseas they roll their eyes; “Um, I am sleeping by then.” The minute they say that, I hand them their termination agreement and tell them to fuck off. While I might sound like a prick, I am just doing them a favor because they don’t really want it. If they really wanted to drive Y car, they would have never thought twice. Their brain would not allow them to have such thoughts. No wonder they end up driving a Mini Cooper, they never wanted a Mercedes in the first place.
People always say, “You get what you deserve.” I have always felt it should be: “You get what you really want.” If you really want something, you will move Heaven and Earth to make it happen. People who want something don’t get tired, don’t feel sleepy, don’t feel unmotivated, don’t feel hungry and don’t burn out. They just work.
SELF TEST/HYPO: Say I tell you, right now that if you stick your legs out shoulder width and drop down to the floor (also called a squat) you will reach the goal you have set for yourself in your life, immediately. Would you do it? Hell yeah, you are asking to do just one squat.
Now let me change the scenario, would you still do it if you had to:
- add 100 lbs on your back?
- add 100 lbs on your back and do it 50 times?
- add 400 lbs on your back and do it 100 times?
- add 1,000 lbs on your back and do it for six hours straight?
- add 1,000lbs on your back and do it for two months straight?
- add 2,000 lbs on your back and do it for a whole fucking year, non-stop?
You see, reading this, there came a point where you thought, “uh, ok it’s not worth it anymore.” This point is different for every person. Person A might give up at 100 lbs for 1 rep, Person B at 400 lbs for 100 reps and Person C might go as far as adding 1,000 lbs for six hours straight. What separates these different figures is a cost-benefit analysis one’s brain makes between the end goal and the means of getting there. This is the difference between those who achieve their goals and those who don’t. Those who achieve their goals don’t care what it takes to get there. For them, the cost-benefit analysis will ALWAYS be skewed in the favor of action because the end goal is PRICELESS. For everyone else, there is a MAXIMUM price they are willing to pay, and beyond that, their goal just isn’t worth it anymore. In the hedge fund world, we call this a “ceiling,” once the ceiling price is met, you cut your losses and move on. Having a “ceiling” for your goals means you don’t want your goals badly enough because you are setting a price as to when you will quit. The loftier the goal the quicker such a ceiling arrives, when life kicks you in the balls and the market fails, increases in demand and prices, you will put your hands in your pocket and walk away forever kissing your dreams bye-bye.
#2 Winners Have Endurance
I have spoken about this briefly in a video we did some time back, but it deserves to be mentioned again especially as it ties in with the previous point, but endurance is perhaps the most integral characteristic for success. Having motivation is one thing, but having endurance is what will carry your success, because success and winning is a lifestyle, and not a one-time thing. You want to get summa cum laude? You can’t just get an A+ once, you need to get in on EVERY test for all four years. You want to be a millionaire? You can’t win a good deal just once, you need to be winning almost ALL the time. You want to be a pro athlete? You can’t just have one good game, you need to be the best every fucking season.
The reason why so many people don’t talk about endurance is because they fail to realize that you don’t need endurance at the start of the game or at the end the game. Rather, where you need it is in the middle, the part that’s drawn out and filled with unpredictability. Most people never make it to the unpredictable part, and the few who do just lack the fucking stamina to keep going.
You started on a new venture, people loved it, you were excited about it, and it all was going well. All of a sudden, it’s been three years and you have no money in the bank, your co-founder is a slacker, and your girlfriend thinks you are a bum. Do you keep going or do you stop? This is where you need endurance.
You have an exam tomorrow and you haven’t slept for three days straight and you feel your heart palpitating from the lack of sleep. You might pass out, but you risk not getting an A+ if you don’t study. Do you go to sleep or do you do whatever it takes to keep those fuckers open? This is where you need endurance.
You just had three midterms and lack sleep and your crush texts you a flirty message saying she wants to meet you in her dorm, but you have to train legs tonight. Will you skip your training or have the best workout of your life? This is where you need endurance.
Winners have cultivated their endurance to the point where these setbacks and testing times, don’t bring them down, but build them up. I compare this much like sprinting. The best sprinters aren’t the ones who have the best starts, the best sprinters are those who beat everyone during the “middle portion” of the track; you see them almost coming out of nowhere and slowly but steadily leaving every person behind them. You see, all of us have this moment where we watch some exciting sports movie, listen to this kick-ass song, drink our favorite caffeine drink, work on our latest and greatest start-up and feel just completely ready to tackle any task. I am sure you can relate. Now think if this “high” never wore off, much like you are on 24/7 drip of Campus Elite’s Onyx. Now shit is getting scary. You don’t need endurance when at the start or the end the game.
So in a nutshell: what separates the successful is that their motivation is not a “moment” but a lasting phenomenon that just never ends. In the toughest of times, shit will hit the fan but the ones with the greatest stamina will stay the longest. Man, you can have all the talent and skill in the world, but if you can’t keep running during overtime, you are done. Go take a seat.
#3 Winners Know Exactly What They Want
This is a big one, but the people who have succeeded the most in my life are the ones who know exactly what they want, down to the T.
Last week I went to a networking event with some of the brightest minds in the current venture capital world. I overheard a conversation:
“So John, what do you want to be in 10 years?”
John said, “I want to be the CMO of a Pharmaceutical company based out of Cambridge, I want a five-garage house in Newton, and have a Rolls Royce Dawn, a Tesla, and a BMW i8. I also will own stock in four different companies and will have a vacation home in Gstaad, Switzerland. In seven years, I will have done a successful market launch of my product and the CEO will announce a new team on my eighth year in March, at that time he will assign me as CMO. There really isn’t any way around it.”
Now let’s compare this to a recent conversation I had with my colleague from college during lunch:
“So Tina what do you want to be in 10 years?”
“Well, I can see myself…you know doing something that’s just out there you know, something different. Something that impacts people.”
“Do you have an industry in mind or a role?”
“No, I mean I am just continuing to develop and see where it takes me”
Tina doesn’t know what the fuck she is doing in her life and is setting herself up for failure.
Firstly, if you don’t know what you want, how will you ever get something?
When I was a kid, my parents asked me: “PT, what do you want for your birthday?” I said I want this particular item, with this particular color, from this particular brand (I am not referring to tailor made suits here, but to Batman dolls). My Mother said, “Ok and what if we can’t find it?” I used to say, “Well, then leave it, I don’t want a gift. If I want a gift it’s this, and if I can’t get it then I don’t want anything.”
Now, is it any surprise that I have one of the best and meanest Batman collections? Nope. I asked for it, I knew what I wanted, and I got it. If I would have said, “Oh uh, anything is fine,” well fuck, I would probably have a collection of ugly Christmas sweaters and toys I didn’t give a fuck about. No, I wanted Batman dolls. In the same way, you cannot go around life not knowing what you exactly want, because if you don’t know what you are looking for, how will you ever find it?
Secondly, it’s important to understand that we only have limited amount of time in our day and during this limited amount of time if we practice and focus on the wrong things we are going to set ourselves back. Tina wants to perhaps work in a startup that “impacts people” without knowing which industry and sector, what location etc.
Tina works a 9am-6pm job, comes home and spends all her time networking with people in the education field, only to realize after 12 months that her passion does not lie in education but in clean tech. Then she goes to networking evens in the clean tech space in Cambridge. After eight months she realizes that Massachusetts isn’t where she wants to be. Then she goes to conferences across the country in clean tech and the same shit happens. She then realizes that her passion is working with the Girl Scouts Organization…ok you get the drift. The point is pretty clear, since Tina didn’t know what she wanted, she was working hard but she was working on the wrong things. She wasted almost two years of her life meeting people she didn’t want, going to places that didn’t help her, and failing to make any meaningful connections that would serve her in her industry. Tina, take a seat.
John on the other hand, has his shit down. In the same 20 months, he has networked with the right people, attended the right events, learned the right lessons and made the mistakes that help him get better. The chances of John finding success are almost 10,000% higher than Tina.
Bottom line: Know what the fuck you want in life, because if you don’t know, there’s a 100% chance are you will never find it.
Alright, so there you go, these are the top three lessons I have learned in the last decade and a half busy writing my own story. You sure as hell know I won’t stop here so keep tuned because there’s more to come.
Be the superhero of your own story.