The Secret to Success

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What’s the difference between people who make their dreams come true, and those who don’t?

Only a small portion of people out there are living their ideal life and being the ideal person they’ve always wanted to be. They’re confident and full of integrity, and their lifestyle reflects that. They get all the rewards that come from living this way consistently. I’d say they’re a very small portion of the population – less than 10%.

As for the other 90%+ – even though some of them are successful by conventional standards – most of them are not living in a way that is satisfying or deeply meaningful. They’re either striving and burning themselves out, or they’re lethargic and lazy – just surviving and not really enjoying anything.

I want to talk about why these two groups of people are different, and how you can move from being in that 90% to being in the 10%.

Thinking the future will be different

I think the main reason that people don’t become their “ideal self” or “live the dream” (or however you want to put it) is because they think it’s going to be something different to what they’re doing now.

Some are just waiting for things to change and become different in the future – they think they’re somehow building up towards something that they’re not being now. Others are striving – acting in a way now that’s different to how they plan to behave in the future – they are “paying their dues.” Both are assuming will be a big transformation later. The key thing they have in common is that who they are now is very different from who they want to become.

And that’s the problem.

People who are very successful, in terms of integrity and satisfaction with life, are being their ideal person every day. They’re not building up to something different in the future. They’re doing it now, and they’ve always been doing it now. That’s why it works.

The “waiters” and the “strivers”

The first category of people who aren’t achieving that sort of success are what you might call the “waiters” – people who are just waiting. They delay changing for some reason – they’re waiting for more money, they’re waiting for a change of circumstances, they’re waiting till Monday comes around before they start the new weight loss program, they’re waiting until a family member moves away before they can start a new hobby, they’re waiting until they find a partner before they can travel.

They’re waiting, waiting, waiting. They’re waiting for their current situation to transform into some new situation and then they’ll become the person is supposed to be.

And then, on the other hand, you have what you might call the “strivers” – those who are working very fucking hard to achieve their goals. They’re not waiting for anything. Quite the opposite: they’re burning themselves out. But they’re doing something very different now compared with the desired outcome of their goals or to how their ideal self / life is described.

For example, a workaholic who’s doing 70 or 80 hours a week, so that he can retire and not have to work at all. He’s working very hard, but the dream is to not work at all, so his actions now are very different from what he wants. Or a pickup artist, who wants to have loving relationships with women yet is very manipulative and devious now, which is very different from the ideal picture. He’s not naturally confident now – he’s pretending.

So I’m saying that unsuccessful people can be identified by the difference between what they’re doing now and the bigger picture they dream of.

When the bigger picture does not look like a representation of what you’re doing now, you’re basically doing it wrong – you’re doing something that’s different to what you want, in the hope that the future will transform through the effort that you’re putting in. It’s like doing a lot of jogging now so that you’ll be great at doing pushups later.

From micro to macro

One of the biggest lessons I’ve ever learned in my life is to be a micro of the macro. This means that for whatever ideal self I want to be in the future – whatever ideal life I want to have – I must be doing it at whatever micro level I can manage right here and now. I’m not actually “building up” to something, I’m doing that something right now.

Now, while that will build up, it’s really important to know the difference between that and striving or waiting, which is that today I’m a shadow of what the future will be. But everything is the same, it will just extrapolate out over time.

So the key to really succeed is to be now what you’re hoping to be later.

Why? Because your dream life is merely an extrapolation of who you are now.

Present predicts future

If you want to know what your future will be, just look at who you are now. That is the most accurate predictor, scientifically speaking.

When we used to work with criminal offenders, the way to predict the crimes that they were going to commit in the future was to assess the crimes that are committing now. And of course, when the person stopped committing crimes now (and maintained this for a long period of time) their risk of committing crimes in the future went way down. It was really accurate and statistically measurable.

Who you’re being right now is basically a representation of who you’re going to be in the future. So if you’re waiting and lazy and procrastinating now, you’re going to be waiting and lazy and procrastinating in the future. If you’re striving really hard, burning yourself out doing something you don’t want to do, you better believe you’re going to be doing that in 10 years time as well, even after you achieve the goals you think are going to be enough.

If you really want success and an ideal life and to be the ideal person that you’ve been dreaming of, you need to be representing it now. That’s what’s going to make it happen later.


What will happen next is essentially growth. As you engage in helpful behaviour now, it will grow over time. You’ll become more consistent. You’ll build up extensive wisdom, knowledge, connections and skills. You’ll clarify your ideal as you experiment with it. You’ll build up your reputation, resources and wealth.

This will constantly build towards creating that critical mass which occurs when you apply yourself consistently, frequently, and regularly over time.

The more often you can be your ideal self here and now, the quicker this will grow into that bigger macro-level achievement you dream of becoming in the future.

The 4 types of people

Essentially, I think there are four types of people when it comes to dreams and ideal living:

The Survivor

This is the person who has no dream, no clarity around their ideal self. They just survive day by day. They plod along to work a job they hate, then they hang out with people they don’t really connect with, and then they drink themselves into oblivion every weekend.

They’ve got no purpose, no sense of where they’re going, and no idea of who they’re supposed to be. They’re just kind of plowing through day by day.

The Striver

Then you’ve got other people who are only thinking about the future – the macro – and they’ll sacrifice whatever they have to here and now to achieve that macro.

Like the person who’s obsessed with money so he overworks and neglects his family, even though his big picture dream is to take care of his family. Or the bodybuilder who strives hard, injures himself, engages in unsustainable diets… in order to be healthy.

This approach involves a lot of sacrifices, pain and irreparable damage to achieve a higher goal which they don’t even really understand the motivation behind in the first place, like how so many people are obsessed with buying a house but can’t explain how this is important to a meaningful life. This approach quite often also includes sacrificing their integrity, like the person who does sneaky things for money even though they know it’s wrong by their own standards.

The Philosopher

There are some people only live in the now. These people are often big fans of Eckhart Tolle, Buddhism or Stoicism.

They’re constantly focused on living by values or virtues, and being present and mindful. And that can be a really satisfying life. These people can develop strong self-confidence.

The only issue is that they are only ever in the micro, there’s no macro; they’re not aiming towards some big future goal. They’re not trying to build this thing up towards anything. They’re just here.

Now, that could be a very satisfying life, but it’s ultimately a selfish or at least a self-serving life. The bigger problems in the outside world – environmental problems, political problems, all the suffering and pain and fucking misery going on in the world – these people do very little to counter that beyond some unintentional role-modeling. They just live their own little life and then they move on.

The Game-Changer

The great leaders of the world – the game-changing individuals who we remember through the ages – can serve both the micro and the macro simultaneously. They’re very clear on what it means to be ideal right now – to live by their values do the right thing. They know what doing the right thing is, and they don’t sacrifice their integrity now just to serve a future goal.

However, they’ve got the big picture in mind as well. There’s a greater cause to why they’re living this way now – they’re building up to a big goal in the future. There’s an extrapolation from this micro to a macro. These are the people that reshape the world and make it better.

For example, Nelson Mandela

I’ve just finished his autobiography so I’m fresh on his story right now.

This is a man who’s a perfect example of someone who consistently lived in the micro – always living by his values and standing up for a cause he believed in, fighting the good fight. But he wasn’t always the president of South Africa. That came later. That was a macro – an extrapolation of what he was always doing.

First, he did it as a lawyer. Then he did it as a rebel. Then he did it as a prisoner. And then he did it as a president.

These things accumulated. His connections accumulated, his wisdom grew, his oratory skills developed, and eventually that led up to being president. But all of those things accumulated from living by a strict set of principles every single day, in all the little things that he did, from helping destitute clients to running the ANC to fighting for prisoners rights.

Work backwards from the end

It can help to start with the macro. Who is your ideal self? Who is that guy or girl? What terms, values or principles do they live by? What’s their code of honor? What would they need to do to be proud of themselves? You can list all of that: honesty, courage, compassion, resilience, respect etc.

What’s the kind of life that they might lead and the kind of things they might have because of being this way? What does this build up to? What major problem do they solve? And you can list all those out too: leader, wealthy, well-connected, business owner, family, activtist etc.

Then you narrow it down to today. What would today’s representation of that look like?

If that macro person is honest, courageous, and compassionate, then be honest, courageous and compassionate today, in whatever small way you know how to be. Take whatever small opportunities are available to you today.

If this person is a great leader in the macro, then lead something small here now – start a little group or organise a dinner party to connect interesting people. If this macro person is really abundant with time, find a way to save yourself a couple of hours this week and work a bit less. Do the micro action that reflects and serves the macro.

That’s how success is truly built. Not the long way around with striving and doing something different to what you’re supposed to become, and not the very long way around with waiting for life to hand you something for free.

Be a representation now of what you want to be tomorrow, next year, next decade… and forever.

I hope you enjoyed that abstract ramble. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel, comment below and share it around if you liked it.

And of course, if you want to figure out what your macro level life looks like and how to break that down into the day to day actions that you can take right here and now, then get in touch and we’ll talk about how to make that a reality.

My favourite comedian Bill Burr talks about here too:

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