Back when I secretly coveted the physique of those hard-bodied fitness people on Instagram, I was always searching for that “one weird trick” in the hope that it would magically help me look like them. And of course, them being gurus in the fitness business, they would happily share these tricks with me:
“Cut out all carbs and sugar!”
“Drink water with lemon and cayenne pepper. Every morning.”
“Put butter in your coffee, yo.”
I’m not proud to admit it, but I tried a lot of these. And yet sadly, I never got those shapely arms or a butt shaped like a giant peach. Darn…
But hey, those tricks sounded so shiny and sexy!
Successful people always make it seem as if those strangely specific actions are the reasons why they’re “successful.” But as I later discovered, the truth is:
Every successful person — fitness or otherwise — has a series of habits that they’ve developed over time and woven into their day to day. Sometimes those habits are so subtle they don’t even realize they are habits at all. And when you ask them what they do, however, they tend to play down their behind-the-scenes hard work and instead tell you that one exciting or novel thing they swear by.
In many ways, fitness is a lot like entrepreneurship. The journey to success is long and meandering and rife with hard work, hair-tearing doubt that anything is working, and setback after setback. Unfortunately, most of us are overly optimistic about our own path, and we don’t fully prepare ourselves to be thrown for a loop over and over again.
And so we ask questions like, “What’s the best way to be a successful entrepreneur?” or “What do the most successful entrepreneurs eat/read/drink/wear/think about while meditating on their perfectly feng shui’d patio?”
Seems like harmless and helpful questions, but pay attention: What we’re really asking is, “I don’t want to do the hard work. I don’t want to struggle. What’s the shortcut you know that I don’t?” As if there’s a safe in an underground vault with a magic pill that will jump you to exactly where you need to go.
What’s more, the gurus of the internet will gladly prey on this naiveté and feed the short-term tips and tricks most people want to hear:
“I have a hyper-specific morning ritual where I meditate for 20 minutes and 18.7 seconds, then make coffee out of this very expensive bag of coffee that I also happen to sell.”
“I practice gratitude every day by writing down the 50 things that I am grateful for that all have to do with my billion-dollar net worth.”
“I read 435 books one year and suddenly I’m the CEO of a successful startup.”
“I love lamps. Oh, and don’t forget the coconut oil.”
I poke fun, but it’s not that I think these gurus are necessarily lying about doing these things. These tips probably do help them.
But let’s get real.
Those isolated bits and pieces make up only a microscopic part of their whole success picture. Otherwise, it’s like LeBron James saying his incredible career is entirely due to him wearing a Gatorade-soaked headband every game night. In reality, most successful people follow a specially coordinated series of habits that they rarely talk about that help them put in the necessary work daily, weekly, and monthly, without fail.
This is what I learned in my own fitness (and later entrepreneurial) journey. That hard work is necessary, for sure, but also that I needed to have the built-in habits to commit to that hard work consistently.
That meant I went to the gym four to five days per week, diligently following a weight training program. I prepared meals at home and carefully tracked my macronutrients every day. Not to mention, I prioritized a tightly controlled rest schedule, proper hydration, and adequate sleep. It took about five months to make the progress I hoped for (far longer than those four- or eight-week programs some gurus shill). Just plain ol’ boring, steady, slow, consistent progress.
And still, the results were not as I initially expected.
There are no secrets, one weird tricks, or shortcuts that separate successful entrepreneurs from the perpetual “wantrepreneurs.”
We all want to want what that seven- or eight-figure–making entrepreneur has and instantly get it for ourselves. It’s normal to want to seek out shortcuts.
But it’s the thinking that there are short-term tactics and shortcuts that becomes extremely toxic for your motivation and mindset. You’re led to believe that these entrepreneurs’ success was pure happenstance, luck, or just a collection of these bullshit tactics and hacks that might work in the short term; but in reality they keep you running in place, constantly seeking out one magic bullet after another because it feels good and it feels like you’re actively making progress.
Except you’re really not, and the worst is that you may not even realize that you’ve actually gone nowhere until … well, you finally stop fucking around with random tactics and get to the real work, even if “talking to your customers” (as an example) doesn’t sound sexy.
So the next time you read an article or see some guru talk about his or her morning ritual for “supercharged productivity” or whatever hack, just remember: only hacks use hacks.
And reality is much, much more boring.