We pretty much accept that success requires sacrifice and hard work. That in order to achieve a goal you have to find the time to put into it. There is, however, a great self-help delusion about where to find that time. About the real sacrifices that must be made. There’s a lot the people who inspire us aren’t telling us.
Most personal development/motivational people talk about time like it’s an endless and plentiful source and not the finite resource it is. They say there is no excuse for not finding it. That it’s about prioritising and time-management and working 15 hours a day. That you should sacrifice whatever it takes to find it. Usually your free time and sleep. Actually they talk more about making time. As if it is something you can create. But is that attitude realistic?
The Reality of Time, Sacrifice And Grinding
Having listened to a lot of the personal development and motivational type of books there is a theme that keeps popping up again and again. The idea that you have to grind and hustle, keep pushing yourself, in order to reach a level of success. Find the time to do the things you need to do. That there is no excuse for not. That you can have it all.
They’ll say there are 24 hours in a day. They’ll compartmentalise everything into nice little chunks. Sleep 5 hrs, breakfast 10mins, lunch 20mins, etc. Like life works like clockwork. Especially family life.
They’ll say that if you really want to succeed at something you will find the time to. Some say you should be getting up at 5am. Some say you should be grinding 15 hours a day, every day, like they do. Some say you should be obsessed with whatever it is you want to achieve. 10x your efforts and the time you put into your goals.
Here’s the thing. If you’re single, are financially supported, don’t have children, maybe still living at home with your parents. Then maybe that idea is feasible. But lets get real here. A lot of people aren’t in that position.
A lot of people have to work a 9 to 5, or go to school or university, maybe have kids to raise. There are responsibilities and ‘living requirements’ to take care of. Finding time only works to a certain extent. You can give up your free time, sacrifice some sleep, prioritise and time manage all you want. But ultimately that will only account for so much. You can’t magic more time out of thin air.
Oh, and let’s not even mention that grinding all the hours you can will eventually lead to burnout. That way is unsustainable. Things will break. It might be you, your physical or mental health. It might be those closest to you. The sacrifices might be ones you are not expecting.
Some Examples Of The Self-Help Delusion
There are people I admire for their hard work and dedication. Like the ‘be obsessed’, 10x, king Grant Cardone whose book ‘Be Obsessed Or Be Average’ I use to help me get motivated. Or the all-round hard man David Goggins who says there is no excuse for achieving your goals. Period. Or Gary Vaynerchuk and his unrelenting 15hr a day grind attitude.
I admire their drive, their unyielding work ethic. But let’s not be blind to the weak point in their, and other, self-help, entrepreneur, motivational guru types argument. The things they aren’t telling us.
Gary Vaynerchuk is undoubtedly a successful entrepreneur. His best-selling book ‘Crush It! Why Now Is The Time To Cash In On Your Passions’ is all about the grind. About working every waking hour and being relentless in your endeavours. He has a family also. A wife and 2 kids. If he can do it all there’s no excuse why you can’t.
He has went on record about his family life before. Primarily because he has been questioned on how can he be a devoted family man if he wakes up at 6am and works to 10 or 11pm. He does say it’s a fair question.
And in equal fairness he says he devotes his weekend to his kids, attends important events, events that are important to them, and says he keeps their lives out of his public life. He adds that we can’t make assumptions based on what he chooses to reveal and that his schedule adjusts with time.
He does seem to get a balance with his work and family life but at the same time I can’t help thinking that the things he does make public, the constant hustle and grind, the find the time no matter what mentality, is a bit misleading. Yeah, it sells. It sells a lot. Gets a lot of people running down a road where they can’t see the full picture. They only see what they are allowed to see.
An image has been cultivated. A one-sided picture that paints the self-help delusion in a great light. That you should be able to find the time no matter what. That there is enough time to do everything. That you should always be on the grind. Even though he clearly isn’t. He has weekends off. He still takes time out for his family. He seeks a balance with it all. And fair play to him for that. Pity that reality gets a bit lost in his message.
David Goggins is a man who has achieved a lot. He’s an ultra-marathon runner, ultra-distance cyclist, triathlete, motivational speaker and author, as well as being a retired United States Navy SEAL. His achievements are outstanding. All the more impressive when you know about his childhood years and the illnesses he has battled including having a hole in his heart.
The reason I mention Goggins is that in the course of listening to his book ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ I noticed something that went unexplained. Ok, so everyone is entitled to their private lives. But between tales of his great adventures and how he overcame massive obstacles and pushed his body and mind to the limits, what did I hear?
He left his first wife and step-daughter to pursue what he felt he needed to do. To follow his own path. Later he got back with, and remarried, his then divorced wife and they had a child together.
The next tale of one of his great endurance feats we hear that there is someone else there to cheer him on. Someone he then got engaged to, possibly married, and appears to have subsequently split up from. No mention of his previous family again.
In an interview I listened to he briefly said that whoever is with him needs to go with him and let him do what he needs to do. He seems single-minded. But is that really as good a thing as it is made out to be.
Ok, there are a lot of reasons why people split. It wouldn’t be right of me to presume to know the intimate details of why this has happened. Relationships are difficult. I know. I have a failed marriage behind me.
At the same time I know why that marriage failed. Because I didn’t put enough time and effort into it. It could be argued the same may be true for Goggins. The majority of his time is spent on him. That’s why is is able to achieve so much.
Goggins is determined, single-minded, focused. His achievements are staggering. But at what cost? Is the reason he keeps his family life extremely private to protect them or to protect the self-help delusion? That there is enough time to do everything. That you can have it all. And at no cost.
Yes, the man is the equivalent of a machine. Yes, he has overcome great hardship. Yes, he is motivational and inspirational in that way. And I agree with him 100% when he says that the only person that can really save you is yourself. That it’s up to you to get things done.
But don’t think that all that grinding and sacrifice comes doesn’t come at a price. It is called sacrifice after all. It’s not just sacrificing your time and luxuries. It could also be the sacrifice of maintaining a loving bond with people you care about.
A One-Sided Story
These people are just like the rest of us only slightly magnified because of their public persona. They only show what they want us to see. We all do that. We all try to present the best image of ourselves. The difference is we aren’t selling to others based off that image.
They talk a good game. Have evidence to back it up in terms of their successes. But they don’t highlight the real cost of such sacrifices. They present a very one-sided story. Don’t get me wrong though. I still find these people inspiring. I’ve even mentioned Vaynerchuk’s book as 1 of my top audio books. You just have to take their message with a grain of salt.
At the end of Goggins’ book he gives an example about a friend of his. Another endurance runner who works full-time and has a family. He does this to show that there is no excuse for you. If this family man can do it. Anyone can.
To Put Time Into Something You Are Taking It From Somewhere Else. Choose Your Sacrifices Wisely.
I’ve a reply for Goggins assertion. And the assertion of anyone who says you can have it all. A reply in the form of Olympic Gold medal rower James Cracknell.
In April of this year (2019) he announced his separation from his wife of 17 years Beverley Turner.
This was prior the 46-year-old Cracknell becoming the oldest ever winner of the famous Oxford Cambridge Boat Race in London. Turner claimed that her ex-husbands training contributed to the breakdown of their marriage
What’s interesting is the views of both parties. Cracknell had said that “there’s this perception I’ve left my family to go off to Cambridge, selfishly, but that’s a little exaggerated. And while yes, it may seem selfish, it also pays the bills” and that his athletic feat would show his 3 children that you can do anything you set your mind to.
Turner considered what Cracknell said as “bollocks”. Adding that she “wouldn’t want my children to view such an exit from familial responsibilities as something to aspire to”. When talking about her estranged partners ‘self-centred pursuits’ she had added: “I prefer the journey to the destination…James is all about the target”.
This example perfectly illustrates the self-help delusion. The delusion that you can spend all your time focusing and working towards your goals. The goals which might pay the bills, be financially rewarding, be held up as an example of what a person can achieve. The goals that makes you look and feel good. The goals that can be sold to others. But at what cost? What other part of your life is being left to bleed out?
Manage Your Time And Sacrifices According To Your Values
When it comes down to it the most important thing in your personal development/self help journey to success and where to spend your time, or what to sacrifice, is where your values lie. What is it that is most important to you? Is it you first or your family? The journey or the destination?
I guess what I’m trying to say is Yes, work your ass of as best you can. Put the time and effort into achieving your goals. Look to people for your inspiration and motivation.
But judge for yourself where that time and effort is most wisely spent. Judge what examples are worth following. Just be careful what sacrifices you make because, make no mistake, there is always a cost.
Don’t just take it on the word of someone who is only presenting the best side of their argument. Someone who is only showing you what they have achieved and not what has fallen by the wayside in the quest of that success. Don’t delude yourself into believing what they say is the 100% truth. Don’t be fooled by how pretty that picture looks.
Something worth remembering is that not everyone succeeds. Not everyone will be living the life they dreamed about or writing a book to show us how we can do that too. And because that success isn’t a sure thing would it not be wise that while seeking to attain your goals you be best to have spent some time on enjoying the journey as well.
Time is finite. And you don’t know how much you have. You should be careful in how that time is spent. Be careful about where you make your sacrifices. Don’t fall for the great self-help delusion that time is plentiful and you can find or make all the time you need. Or that sacrificing everything for your own self-centred pursuits is the way to go.
It’s Your Life. Choose Wisely
It’s also worth remembering the top 5 regrets of the dying, according to the book of the same name, which was written by a nurse who cared for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. The regrets included wishing they hadn’t worked so hard and missing out on things like their children growing up, not staying in touch with friends, and wishing they had let themselves be happier and were truer to themselves other than just doing what people expected of them.
I guess the message is this. Don’t believe everything people are telling you about how they became successful. How much work they did or what sacrifices they made. We only ever get to see what people want us to see.
Judge for yourself what is important. What you are prepared to sacrifice and what you are not. Strive to live a better life. To find your success. To work towards your goals. Just don’t forget to live that life at the same time. Find your balance to find your best life.