THERE ARE inherent demands that exist within any goal your pursue. These demands, in varying degrees, affect the odds of which you will:
- Achieve your goal
- Achieve your goal to a certain level or degree.
The difference between the two is the difference between, say, being a professional basketball player and being Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. It’s the difference between being a professional writer, and being Leo Tolstoy or George Eliot.
These demands, so intrinsic to our goals, are often the part that we least enjoy, or like to overlook because we don’t enjoy them, or we don’t enjoy the Sisyphean-esque perspective they place on our ambitions – but these demands, that any goal has, are Sisyphean in their endless struggle because the more we engage with these demands, the greater our overall result will be.*
In my articles on the achievement of goals I have argued three principle things:
- In ‘The Do Nothing Paradox’ I argued that it is in moments of idleness that our brains find inspiration and innovation in the pursuit of our goals, and that hard work isn’t always the key.
- In ‘You Dreams Are Achieved In The Moments You Hate The Most’ I argued that 99% of any undertaking you pursue will be unenjoyable, but that suffering is intrinsic to the achievement of the goal itself.
- 2) In ‘The 100-Hour Work Week’ I argued in favor of the merits of extreme hard work as an engine of massive change in one’s life, and something that should be actively combined with the merits of idleness.
Building upon these principles, I want to explore how the effects of understanding and actively engaging with the demands of a goal, and how that affects its achievement and the level to which it is achieved.
Any task, when undertaken and achieves, carries a certain level of esteem that exists at the moment of completion. In writing, this could be publication. In sports, this could be going pro. In something like improving your dating life, this could be being perceived as being a ‘player.’
These levels of esteem can seem important to our goal, often going so far as to be the focus of our goal itself, and in this, can seem like an inseparable element from it. But this is far from the case. In any example of external esteem, it is only relevant insofar in that our goal is an externally validated goal.
For example, if our goal is to be a famous actor, we can only achieve this with esteem. However, if our goal is to be a great actor, then this goal is completely dependent on the demands of the acting craft itself, rather than the demand of public esteem.
This may seem like a trite point, but in my experience, this is far from the case. After all, who thinks more about publishing than the aspiring author? Who is more hung up on fame than the practicing actor? and who dreams more of a cheering crowd than a fledging sportsman?
The pursuit of esteem falls within the normal spectrum of behavior for anyone pursuing a goal, but it has no active effect on the achievement of that goal itself. A basketball player performing at Michael Jordan’s level is just as skilled as famous Michael Jordan playing for the Chicago Bulls, and the demands that got Michael Jordan to that level are the same for both, esteem or no esteem.
The true demands of any goal, whilst unique in their specificity to the goal itself, have general overlying themes that are present in any goal. I call these universal demands; and these universal demands, when met with strong work ethic and innovation, ultimately determine the achievement of your goal and the degree to which that goal is achieved.
- The Demand of Criticism
In our self-esteem generation, it can seem like it’s counter productive to rip your efforts apart, and constantly look for flaws, but for our goals, this is one of the central and most important demands. To find our failures, even in our successes, and learn from them, means that we are constantly improving, constantly growing and never stagnating.
In writing, I am loathsome when it comes to rewriting and editing. I like to form an idea in my head that I believe is useful to people, and then I like to shit it out onto the page as soon as possible and publish soon after.
This – provided my ideas are useful – will, when combined with a solid work ethic, probably result in an audience of some form and a potential living from my writing. But if I were to take more time editing, and improve upon my writing as much as possible; working on the points where it was bad, and forcing myself to write in ways that I wasn’t comfortable and reliant, the strength of my writing (the very engine through which I engage with my audience) would increase, and my results would increase in kind.
In your own goal, this is no different. The degree to which you can criticize and learn where the improvement areas are in your own efforts compromise the degree to which you will be rewarded for your efforts in the first place.
Far from being a negative experience, this is, in fact, a confident approach to your work. Instead of being complacent in your ability, you are active telling yourself that you have it within you to always get better.
And that’s exactly what you do.
2) The Demand of Understanding
Comprising your goal are thousands of elements that affect the overall result of what you’re trying to achieve. In my article, The 100-Hour work week, I called these ‘You’re Fucked Without It’ factors, and 1% changes, that when totaled, add up to a massive increase in your overall performance.
In the pursuit of your goal, the true demands will exist within these factors and changes, but in a way that is unique to your goal. Finding them simply comes from a thorough understanding of what comprises your goal, and a strong and critical eye taken to your own efforts.
This is called not taking a half-hearted approach and is a natural off-shoot of criticism. It is utilizing understanding to discover where you can get better, so that every element of your goal is respected, and treated with equal importance so that you develop into someone who is highly skilled and specialized at achieving that goal.
This could be mastering character, plot, structure, and breadth of reading in writing; or it could be catch-passing, rucking, mauling, line-outs and sprinting in rugby. There are countless elements that can be improved, and where extreme criticism finds these improvements in your current performance, the elements that comprise your goal are found in a deep understanding of your goal itself.
Together, they provide a map for the improvements within your pursuit.
3) The Demand of Consistency
Work on your goal every day.
This demand, whilst obvious, and in need of no explanation, is often overlooked. In your goal, this will be showing up every day to work on it; but more importantly, it will be building the habit of showing up when you don’t want to. It will be forcing yourself to work when you’d rather be watching TV, when you need to sleep, when you’re tired, lazy, hungry, or most important of all, not feeling passionate or inspired. Because it is within the habit of showing up when you don’t want to that consistency becomes set in stone and progress becomes inevitable.
As a final word on this demand: taking a day off to collate your thoughts and give you mind room to breathe is still taking a day to work on your goal, as this step is a conscious effort to improve the mental environment in which your goal is pursued, and allow innovation to germinate.
4) The Demand of Innovation
Outside of the immediate area of your goal and current performance, there exist periphery factors that, whilst not directly related to your goal, if crossed over, can significantly improve your results.
In your dating life, this would be your own personal development and conversational ability. Whilst they have little bearing on your confidence at approaching women, they will significantly affect your results. In writing, this would be a varied life experience, as this experience gives you something to capture and share that adds value to the reader.
High-level athletes do this all the time. It’s not uncommon in modern international and club rugby to see players utilizing basketball style throws in order to keep the ball moving between the players in situations where a traditional rugby throw would be impossible. In older games, this kind of practice was not yet seen, as the innovation through basketball techniques had not yet been identified within the periphery.
This demand, whilst less important that the former demands, is the one that affects the degree to which you can add something new to your goal and separate yourself from the attempts that have been made before you.
The easiest way to satisfy this demand is to actually serve the specific demand of writing itself, which is to live a varied life with varied life experience. This kind of living naturally invites elements that are going to enhance whatever goal it is you are pursuing. If you’re adventurous and like to test yourself at improv comedy classes, that’s probably going to improve your dating life. If you’re naturally curious and like to attend ballet classes, that might just improve your posing routine at bodybuilding competitions.*
You don’t really know unless you throw yourself out there.
THE ULTIMATE DEMAND
With each demand, there is a single unifying principle that threads them all together and it is this:
You approach your goal with an open mind.
Instead of just seeing where you’re doing well, you’re looking to see where you can be better. Instead of assuming you know your goal well, you’re looking to further your knowledge of it to see what more you can learn. Instead of being closed off to the world and it’s potential, and open to the world and looking for the unexpected experiences it can offer you. Instead of viewing your goal as achieved only upon esteem, you view your goal as a continual progress of meeting its demands head on.
This openness towards your goal extends beyond its pursuit and into its inception itself. It is an attitude towards curiosity that naturally expands your life, but more importantly, naturally transforms your goal into something you may actually pursue.
After all, if you don’t close your mind and tell yourself you’ll fail, you might just actually try.
*Not accounting for terrible misfortune, like illness or bereavement.
*This is actually what Arnold Schwarzenegger did.
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