Tag Archives: Success

You Can Transform Your Life, But Do You Want to?

When something doesn’t work in your life, you might complain about it. You might even say that you want to change it. But that’s all on the conscious level.

On an unconscious level, you’re likely holding a belief that is causing the dysfunctional condition in your life.

I read a blog post by a person who started a new job. They didn’t receive the benefits they were promised during the interview. The management of the company was all over the place, and the company was having financial difficulties.

Thanks to the booming economy, this person started to receive new job offers with better conditions. You might think that they immediately quit their job and switched to a company with more competent management.

That wasn’t the case. That person didn’t do that. They stuck with the company that underpaid them, that didn’t provide the benefits they promised, and that had incompetent management. Can you imagine why?

This person saw their act of staying in the underpaid job as a heroic act. They saw themselves as the martyr who sacrificed themselves for a company who needed them. They derived a sense of significance, importance, and pride from this act.

If they switched to another job in a company with competent management, they’d be just another employee. Sure, they’d be paid better and receive a better benefit package, but they’d lose their status of the self-sacrificing martyr.

In this case, this person is aware of the benefit they were receiving from their unfavorable position in their career. Most of the time, we aren’t conscious of the benefit we derive from the dysfunctional situation in our lives.

David Hawkins recommends to let go of the juice you get out of a feeling to let that feeling go. You might be struggling with fear, sadness, or anger, and you might want to let them go, but have you asked yourself what juice you get out of those emotions?

Even though anger is considered to be a negative emotion, it’s also an energizing emotion. When we feel angry, we feel alive. We feel on fire.

If you can’t let go of the juice of feeling alive, feeling on fire, feeling energized, you won’t be able to let go of your anger. Then, you might ask yourself why all “the idiots” find you. You come across all those “idiots,” because you secretly enjoy the feelings they incite in you.

Sadness can be a sweet emotion as well. You might get a cup of tea, listen to Brahms in the silence of the evening, and get into that low energy state, which can be very relaxing. If you are addicted to that emotional state, don’t complain about all the losses you incur in life that trigger that feeling.

If there’s something in your life that doesn’t work that you want to change, look at the feelings that condition triggers in you. Then look at the benefits you’re getting from those feelings. Are you willing to let go of those benefits? If yes, do it, and you’ll transform that dysfunctional situation in life.

  1. What’s the dysfunctional situation in your life?
  2. Which emotions does it trigger?
  3. What are the benefits of those emotions?
  4. Are you willing to let go of those benefits?

It’s OK to Have a Belief System

Yesterday, I was listening to an audio program by David Hawkins. He said something like “everything you think is wrong.” All of your thoughts are a part of your belief system, which limits your reality. I agree with him on that.

Everything you think is wrong. All of your thoughts are a part of your belief system, which limits your reality.

So far, I made a distinction between positive and negative thoughts, empowering and limiting beliefs. Hawkins doesn’t make that distinction. He rejects all thoughts and beliefs as limiting. That implies that everything is possible and everything is.

Everything is possible, and everything is.

Let that sink in.

When I read that sentence, my mind protests. How can everything be possible? How can everything be? Does that mean I don’t have to die? Does that mean I don’t have to get older each year? Does that mean I could get younger?

The answer to all of those questions is a solid “yes.” You don’t have to die. You don’t have to get older. You could get younger.

You think you’ll die and get older because we, humans, carry it in our collective belief system. This is what we have seen from our ancestors, and we carry on the tradition.

Getting older and dying is a tradition we picked up from our ancestors that we think we have to follow.

Some scientists are already working on longevity and who knows what the future will bring. I won’t be surprised when we’ll figure out a way to back up our consciousness every night and install it in a brand new human body whenever we want.

Do you think our technology is advanced now? We aren’t even crawling compared to what’s possible.

If everything is possible and everything is, and the only thing that keeps us from manifesting whatever we want is our belief system, why not let go of our belief system?

My answer to that question is that most of us aren’t ready for the implications of the possibility of everything. It’s an overwhelming process.

It’s much easier to deal with our misery than to deal with the overwhelm caused by the possibility of everything.

And remember, those beliefs are ingrained deep into our psyche, down to our DNA. Yes, we can change them, but I don’t believe I can do that overnight. There you go, another limiting belief 🙂

On a certain level, I grasp that everything is possible and everything is. Yet, my mind struggles to accept that idea entirely. It’s been programmed to believe a particular set of beliefs. Letting them go all at once seems to be hard.

I’m not sure whether I can deal with the implications of letting go of my belief system entirely. Until I’m ready to do that, it’s OK to have my belief system, but there’s a catch.

I need to know that my belief system is training wheels. I need to recognize it for what it is. It’s just a tool that I use because I don’t know how to ride a bike on two wheels. If I attempted it without the training wheels, I might fall and hurt myself.

Therefore, my strategy is to let go of the bits and bytes of my limiting beliefs here and there. Well, even that could get me outrageous results because of the 1% improvements rule.

To be honest, I’m afraid.

I’m afraid of the positive implications of letting go of my belief system. What if I made a hell out of my life for no reason?

Let’s be honest. We all suffer to some extent. What if we didn’t have to suffer at all? That’s kind of a disappointment, isn’t it?

Three Steps to Transform Your Life with Personal Development

There are 300+ posts in my blog. Reading one of those posts and applying it in your life is much more beneficial than reading all of them just to forget them the next month.

The writer in me would prefer you reading all of my posts, but at the end of the day, those posts were written to make a difference in your life.

There are so many personal development content and workshops out there, ranging from free to ultra-premium. You can’t consume all of them even if you devoted your whole life to it.

You might be consuming a good deal of personal development content and following workshops, but do you apply what you consume in your life?

That’s the question we have to ask ourselves. Here’s a follow-up question.

Which difference does consuming all the personal development content make in your life?

Sure, reading a book is better than watching TV, but does reading a book make any difference in your life?

Make no mistake, I’m not arguing that personal development content and workshops are useless. My argument is they are what you make of them.

If you see personal development content as entertainment and workshops as social activities, you won’t make much progress in that area of your life.

Sure, that’s much better than wasting your time online or hanging out in a random bar, but you can get much more out of those activities.

What Keeps Us from Making the Most of Our Personal Development Efforts?

Several obstacles keep us from making the most of our personal development efforts. The first one is that we don’t know how our minds work.

We believe that we’ll learn a concept just by a single exposure. We read a book once. Then, move on to the next one, then to the next one, and so on.

We might end up having read ten books, but our retention rate is so low that it doesn’t even add up to a single book.

The solution to that problem is called the spaced repetition method. When you complete a book, schedule periodic reviews in your calendar.

A sample schedule is to review a book one week later, one month later, one quarter later, and one year later. That makes four reviews.

There are some books that I reread and listen again on audible, but a review doesn’t necessarily mean rereading the entire book or going through the workshop once more. It means reminding yourself of the key ideas.

An effective way to process a book is to underline the passages that resonate with you and to take notes. Then, you can go over those highlighted passages and notes during your review. Kindle makes this really easy.

You don’t need to review all the books of course. If a book doesn’t resonate with you, you can skip the review process.

Do the Work

Personal development books and workshops usually involve exercises. Some books are just a collection of exercises. Those are the most transformational content, but there’s a catch. You have to do those exercises.

If you just read the text and don’t do the exercises, the value you’ll get out of that activity will be marginal.

It’s human nature to seek novelty and avoid effort. And some personal development programs require effort, especially emotional labor to face yourself and your life entirely. It’s tempting to keep on reading, listening, or watching, without doing the exercises.

I read two books by Nathaniel Branden that resonated with me, which made me buy an audio program to listen to while doing manual work.

The audio program contained lots of exercises, which take much longer than just listening to the content. But doing those exercises was way more transformational than just reading the first two books.

Dive In

Our novelty seeking nature makes us jump from book to book and from author to author. That keeps us from getting the ideas of an author thoroughly.

I don’t argue to dedicate your life to a single author and consume only their content unless that’s what you want.

If a book resonates with you, dive deeper with other books of the same author. This will make the spaced repetition easier since there are usually overlaps in the books of an author. You’ll be reading similar ideas expressed in different ways.

There have been a few authors whose work I dove into. As a result, I understood and integrated the ideas of those authors more into my life.

Four Levels of Learning

There are four levels of learning.

  • In the first level, you aren’t aware that a certain skill exist.
  • In the second level, you’re aware of the skill, but you don’t have it.
  • In the third level, you have to make a conscious effort to use the skill.
  • In the fourth level, you can use the skill without any conscious effort.

Reading about a topic takes you from the first level to the second level. It’s those repetitions, doing the exercises, and dive-ins that will take you from the second level to the third and fourth levels. The third and fourth levels are where the magic happens.


Consuming personal development content and participating in workshops is better than just wasting your time online or hanging out in a bar. Yet, those activities provide you with marginal benefits if you don’t do the work.

To get significant value out of your personal development work, you need to do periodic reviews, do the exercises, and dive deep into the works of the authors that resonate with you.

Reading a book once will take you to the second level of learning, but periodic reviews, doing the exercises, and deep dives will take you to the third and fourth levels. That’s where real transformation happens.

Waking Up Early Can Make the Difference between Success and Failure

But there’s a catch…

Waking up early is common advice in the personal development literature. “Join the 5:00 am club.” “I woke up at 4:30 am, and my life changed.” “Ex-seal wakes up at 4:00 am every day.” These are the headlines you come across frequently.

I believe I have the credits to write about waking up early. Since 2017, I regularly wake up around 5:00 am. There have been long stretches when I woke up around 4:00 am and sometimes earlier. Today’s post will be an honest review of my experience.

Waking up early has its advantages and disadvantages. Depending on your goals and life situation, it can make the difference between success and failure, or it might not make any difference at all. In some cases, it could be counterproductive.

I recommend that you assess your life situation and goals first before committing to waking up at 5:00 am or earlier.

Let’s assume you sleep eight hours per day, and you wake up at 7:00 am to barely make it to your work at 8:30. You work until 5:30 pm. And after a hard day of working, you’re at home at 6:00 pm. That means you have five yours at your hands in the evening.

What are you going to do with those five hours in the evening? Let me tell you. Most of those five hours will be wasted on useless activities like watching TV, drinking, or hanging out. That’s to be expected because you’ve worked hard throughout the day in your day job, and you’re mentally and physically exhausted.

5 hours a day is a lot of wasted time. If you waste 240 days per year, that makes 1200 wasted hours per year. That makes 75 days if you take into account only waking hours. That’s one-fifth of every year. By waking up early, you can claim some of that wasted time.

What to Do with Those Extra Hours in the Morning?

You can wake up an hour earlier every day and squeeze in a workout there. Depending on where and how you work out, that might mean an extra 30 to 45 minutes of physical exercise every morning.

If working out every day is too much for you, you can spend the first hour on reading and learning on some days and working out on others.

If both activities are essential for you, you can wake up two hours earlier and spend the first hour on your workout and the second hour on learning. That would mean you wake up at 5:00 am.

Waking up at 5:00 am leaves you with three extra hours to spend with your family and loved ones in the evening.

You can go to your work one hour earlier, and start working in the peace and silence of the morning before other people arrive. That could make a difference if your job requires deep concentration.

If your commute involves traffic jams, you can save a lot of time by shifting your working hours one hour earlier if your job allows that.

Unlike some personal gurus out there, I’m not going to preach you strict schedules and what to do in every quarter of those hours. It’s up to you to decide what to do with those extra hours in the morning.

You might decide to have a morning routine that is balanced between physical and intellectual activities. Or you might want to dedicate all of your extra hours to a single activity.

Anthony Trollope was an English writer who wrote three hours per day before his day job. He wrote 3000 words per day and produced 49 novels in 35 years. So, never underestimate those extra hours in the morning.

The Disadvantages of Waking Up Early

I found it relatively easy to wake up at 4:00 am in the winter, as I could go to bed at 8:00 pm to get my daily eight hours of sleep. However, that schedule didn’t work in summer because the daylight where I live lasted well into 10:00 pm.

I still went to bed at 8:00 pm and woke up at 4:00 am, but it was hard to get into sleep when there was daylight outside.

I heard from Dan Peña that some of his mentees sleep only four hours a day, but they make it up on the weekend. That’s a hack I haven’t tried yet, but it’s an option that you could try.

If changing your daily schedule overnight doesn’t work for you, you can ease into it using 1% improvements. Just wake up 5 minutes earlier every day until you reach your target wake up time.

Last but not least, you don’t need to wake up early to be successful. Some people are more efficient working at night when everybody is asleep.

I’ve written my Ph.D. thesis after the dinner in the working days. I drank some green tea to stay awake and concentrated and worked well into midnight.

This is also what Gary Vaynerchuk recommends, working between 7:00 pm and 2:00 am on your side hustle.


Depending on your metabolism, life situation, and goals, waking up at 5:00 am or even at 4:00 am can have its advantages.

You can use those extra morning hours to work out, to learn, to work on your side hustle, to avoid the traffic jams on your way to work, or to squeeze extra working hours in your day job.

There are some disadvantages to waking up early, especially if the daylight lasts until 10:00 pm during the summer days, and you still want to get your eight hours of sleep per day.

Don’t forget that everybody has a different metabolism. Some people are more productive late at night than early in the morning.

Last but not least, waking up early is a tool that’s available to you. You can use it to your advantage if you know how to use it toward a worthy goal.

If you don’t have a worthy goal, if it doesn’t work well with your metabolism, or if you don’t know how to make the most of those extra hours, waking up early won’t make a difference in your life.

On the upside, those extra hours could make the difference between the success and failure in your career or side hustle.

Self-Esteem Isn’t What You Think It Is

I heard about the book the Six Pillars of Self-Esteem almost a decade ago. Unfortunately, I judged it by its name and cover and passed it.

The name and cover of the book struck me as old-fashioned back then. This was to be expected because the book was published in 1994.

I thought The Six Pillars would be another positive thinking book that would make me come up with affirmations about how I love myself and repeat them hundreds of times every day. I had enough of such self-help literature.

Branden was in his late seventies back then. He wasn’t promoting his work in the channels I was following. Back then, that was mostly blogs.

Unfortunately, I missed the work of Branden for ten years because of my ignorance, which is a significant loss when I look back.

Ten years later, I came across a piece by him in the book Meeting the Shadow. I was struck by this piece, which was taken from his book The Disowned Self. When I was searching for that book, I came across another book of him, Breaking Free.

Both books were out of print, and they didn’t have Kindle versions, which were a pity. Luckily, I found both of them in Open Library.

The subtitle of Breaking Free is How to Cut the Bonds of Childhood That Are Keeping You from Reaching Your Full Adult Potential.

The Disowned Self is about our attributes that we don’t accept, which can be an emotion that we suppress, memories that we don’t want to remember, and so on.

Those two books resonated with me so deeply that I had to read The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem. Before finishing The Six Pillars, I started an audio program by Branden called The Psychology of High Self-Esteem: A Life Changing Program for Personal Growth.

My motivation to start the audio program before finishing the book was that I could listen to it while I was doing simple manual tasks or while I was just relaxing on a couch. There’s no such luck with Nathaniel Branden.

Branden makes you work really hard. I thought I could finish his five-hour audio program in a weekend. That was a gross underestimation. I already spent more than five hours, and I’m not halfway through the program.

If you won’t take your time and make the effort to do the writing exercises, please stay away from the works of Branden. They won’t help you.

The real value in Branden’s work is in doing those writing exercises. They are simple but not easy. They make you face your past, confront the parts of your psyche and body you deny and don’t want to see. Yet, it is rejecting those parts of our lives that is sabotaging our self-esteem.

Accepting ourselves and our lives entirely boosts our self-esteem. This is exactly what I mean by the title of this post.

Self-esteem isn’t about bragging about the parts of ourselves that we already accept and like. It isn’t narcissism. On the contrary, it’s becoming aware of what we are trying to hide, even from ourselves, and then accepting and owning those parts.

Self-esteem isn’t about repeating affirmations that we don’t believe in hundreds of times a day. It’s about personal integrity, doing what we promise we do when we say we do it. It’s about doing the right thing even no one is watching.

It’s about going toward the proverbial eye of the storm, facing our childhood hurts, and setting our repressed emotions free. It’s about understanding why we sabotage ourselves and eliminating self-sabotage from our lives.

Success, Sacrifice, Happiness, Work-Life Balance, Integration

When it comes to happiness and success, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You have to find out what makes you happy and what success means to you. In this post, I’ll give you three main directions. It’s up to you to choose the path you want to go.


The first direction is the good old sacrifice. It’s been touted throughout the decades in the success literature. 20 years ago, Jeffrey J. Fox recommended working an extra hour every day to get to the top of the corporate ladder in his book How to Become CEO.

Nowadays, working an extra hour per day might not get you too far. You might need to be productive 24 / 7 / 365, and you can. However, that takes some serious sacrifice. You might need to make a decision between happiness and success. In this option, you might not get both.

The pitfall of sacrifice is that you might become obsessed with doing and miss the essence. It’s easy to lose the sight of the big picture and get drown in busy work without producing any meaningful results.

The advantage of sacrifice is that you learn to let go of what doesn’t serve your goals, which is a critical skill for satisfaction and fulfillment.

Work-Life Balance

The second scenario is work-life balance. You might settle for an average income and average working hours, but more time for your family and leisure.

Average working hours don’t automatically mean an average income. Depending on your productivity, you can be more successful than sacrifice in this scenario.

The path of sacrifice might lead to a burnout, which might decrease your productivity. You might work 100-hour working weeks but not produce anything meaningful.

On the other hand, with a proper work-life balance, you might get energized in your downtime and work with more enthusiasm when it’s work time.

Work-Life Integration

The third path is to integrate your work with leisure. In this video, Tony Robbins talks about homeschooling his children and taking his family with him when he’s traveling the world to give his seminars.

Gary Vaynerchuk recommends working from 7 pm to 2 am to turn your hobby into a business.

Some people succeed at turning their hobbies into a business. When you can do that, you have work and leisure in the same activity. When all of your working and leisure hours go to the same activity, it’s inevitable that your output will increase.

There’s a pitfall of this approach though. Once your livelihood depends on an activity, that leisure activity might not be as fun as before.


Everybody has their own definition of success, and happiness has different meanings for different people.

You have to find out what success means to you and what makes you happy. Once you find that out, you can choose one of the three directions to pursue success and happiness. They are sacrifice, work-life balance, and work-life integration.

Zugzwang and the Cult of Doing

If you read the term personal development carefully, it is obvious that it’s about becoming someone rather than doing something. But after a while, those two words lose their meaning. They become just a pointer to the meaning that we assign to them.

What comes to your mind when you hear the term personal development?

  1. Is it consuming a bunch of books, podcasts, videos, and participating in live events?
  2. Is it knowing the concepts discussed in those books, podcasts, videos, and events?
  3. Is it applying those concepts in your life?
  4. Is it becoming the person that the application of those concepts make you?

I had periods when personal development meant one of the first three explanations above. Nowadays, it’s more about the last one.

There might be a person who hasn’t heard the term mindfulness, who hasn’t read a book on mindfulness, and who hasn’t meditated for a second in their lives, but they might be more mindful than another person who read dozens of books on the subject, participated in multiple retreats, and meditates for an hour every day.

Consuming, learning, and even applying doesn’t make any difference. It is becoming that makes the difference.

That’s a critical distinction to be aware of. That distinction is missed entirely by our culture, which is obsessed with doing.

The Obsession with Doing

Our culture is obsessed with doing. When we are in the school, we are packed in classrooms and given a bunch of tasks to complete. As if that wasn’t enough, we’re loaded with a bunch of homework.

What’s the goal of that?

I’m afraid no one asks that question. When I ask that question and try to find answers, I come up with the following.

  1. Keep the kids busy while their parents are at work so that they don’t get into trouble.
  2. Make them hard workers in the industrial complex.
  3. Make them great at something like math.

The first one is a legitimate goal. If you let kids by themselves, they tend to get into trouble, for example by playing Superman.

The second goal is slowly but surely losing its meaning. Industry jobs are getting replaced by automation and outsourcing to developing countries.

The third goal is the only significant one among the three. Yes, some kids are naturally good at some disciplines, and some become great by sheer effort, thanks to their growth mindset, but we shouldn’t miss the point here.

It’s not about effort and doing things. It’s about becoming somebody.

We’ll get the best results only when we keep that goal in sight and make our plans accordingly. The alternative is filling our to-do lists with a bunch of stuff that don’t even matter and mindlessly checking off those tasks, or worse, just doing whatever is in front of us without even thinking.

The Cult of Doing

You can see the obsession with doing in the industry. People are supposed to work 40 hours a week and 50 weeks a year and do something in those 2000 hours a year. You’re a bad employee should you do nothing in one of those 2000 hours.

One can clearly see where that mindset is coming from. Back in the day, there was a direct relationship between human effort and the output of a business. That is how the cult of doing emerged.

That relationship is already broken in most industries in the developed countries thanks to the automation and outsourcing, but most people haven’t realized it yet.

Nowadays, it isn’t the employee that works the most hours that produces the most value for the business. It’s the employee that comes up with the most valuable ideas and gets them implemented.

That ideation process requires taking some time off and reflecting on the problem. That’s literally doing nothing, not even thinking. The ideation process involves asking a question and letting the ideas bubble up from the depths of your psyche. The biggest enemy of that process is distraction.

Busy work is the most dangerous distraction. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The Virtue of Doing Nothing

Doing nothing is hard work. If you don’t believe me, give it a try for a day. Wake up, do your essentials to stay alive, like drinking water, having your meals, and so on, but for the rest, do nothing. Let’s see if you can succeed.

No, don’t turn on the radio or TV. No smartphone or computers. No working out. No chatting. No stuffing yourself with snacks or smoking or drinking. Just sit on a couch and do nothing. Soon, you’ll realize it’s an impossible feat. Yet, sometimes, we’re better off doing nothing.

Zugzwang is a chess term. It means all the available moves are hurting a player, but they have to choose one and execute it. They’re better off doing nothing and skipping a move, but the rules of chess don’t allow that.

Unlike chess, life gives you the opportunity to skip a move, to say “no,” to let go of busy work and distraction, and to not indulge yourself in mindless, aimless action. Use it.

The Secret to an Amazing Life

It must have been more than a decade since I read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Among other ideas, a thought experiment in the book stayed with me over the years. That is imagining your own funeral.

Maybe, the idea was dramatic. Maybe, it’s the fact that I discussed it with my family. Or maybe, it’s the combination of both that made it stick in my mind, but to this date, that idea still fascinates me.

The underlying idea of the funeral exercise is to remember your own death, or memento mori as it is referred to in philosophy. The whole idea is sobering, especially the formulation by Pema Chödrön.

“Since death is certain and the time of death is uncertain, what is the most important thing?” Pema Chödrön

Sometimes, I’m looking forward to a weekend or a vacation. Then, that weekend or vacation comes to an end in a heartbeat. I don’t even understand what happened. Nowadays, I remind myself that fact in the first few hours of a weekend or a vacation.

“This weekend or vacation will end in a heartbeat. Soon, it will be Sunday evening. Soon, I’ll be on an airplane traveling back. What do I want to make of this weekend or vacation?”

I can’t help but think about the same about my life. Even though that last day seems to be too far to be concerned with, I know that when it comes, it will feel like it came too soon. On that last day, I don’t want to feel like I have wasted my life .

You might think that I’m being pessimistic and dark. That’s not my intention at all. Thinking about my own death can feel sad at times, but at the same time, it incites the desire to make the most of my life. In a way, memento mori makes me think carpe diem, seize the day, because I have one opportunity to live and it can end any time.

Thinking about your own death can help you let go of what doesn’t serve you in your life. Do you really want to have spent your days being glued to your smartphone, hung out with people that you don’t care about, or indulged in whatever your bad habit is?

Do you really want to have spent your life working for the future only? Some people are only interested in their legacy. That’s fine if that’s what you want. But I also want to have experienced some beautiful memories in my life.

Sure, my work in the past provides me with a life that I’m grateful today, but it’s the memories of exceptional moments that make me glad that I was alive for 39 years.

It’s important to have a decent lifestyle, but it’s also important to collect some memorable moments throughout your life. So, I’d rather balance both as I go through my life. And we’re all better off letting go of our habits that serve neither.

Surrendering to Success

What comes up to your mind when you think about a successful person?

  • A hard worker who forces themselves to work day and night?
  • Self-discipline, lots of stress, even anger?
  • Aggressive, competitive, argumentative?
  • A take no prisoner approach to life and work?
  • A go-getter?

Sure, that’s a way to become a success if you manage not to kill yourself or someone else in the process. There’s another gentler way to success, which I’ll call surrendering to success.

What Does Surrendering to Success Mean?

Surrendering to success means letting go of what keeps you from succeeding.

Surrendering to success is not forcing yourself to work. It is relaxing yourself to work.

Think about a minute and answer the following question.

What keeps you from succeeding?

  • Is it your distractions?
  • Is it hanging out every night?
  • Is it lashing out to your colleagues?


  • Is it not getting yourself to sit down, concentrate, and do the work?
  • Is it not summoning the courage to take risks?
  • Is it not being able to make that hard decision?

Whatever it is that keeps you from succeeding, it has an emotional charge that is powering it. Your urges are pulling your strings to distract yourself. Your anger makes you lash out to your colleagues.

It is the stress of unprocessed emotions that keeps you from concentrating on your work. Your fear is preventing you from taking a risk and making that hard decision.

Look for the underlying emotion that fuels your obstacle to success. Is it anger, fear, desire, or another intense emotion?

Whatever that emotion is, you can discharge it. Once you let go of the emotions that keep you from doing your best work, you’ll do whatever is necessary and reach success on autopilot.

Forcing Yourself to Success

Forcing yourself to success is like driving a car while the emergency brake is on. You’ll wonder why you can’t accelerate even though you drive at full throttle.

You’re spending a lot of effort, but most of it gets wasted on your inner resistances. You don’t make much progress to justify the energy you expend.

When you release the emergency brake, you realize that you accelerate at a much faster pace even without slamming the throttle.

How Can We Release Our Inner Resistances?

We can release our inner resistances by discharging the underlying emotion. That means becoming aware of the emotion, staying with it without trying to express, suppress, or change it, and waiting until it subsides.

Yes, that’s a lot of emotional labor, and it takes time, but so does forcing ourselves to override those emotions.

The advantage of the letting go method is that the unwanted emotions dissolve over time. When we force ourselves to overpower them, those emotions stay where they are. Same or greater amount of force is needed to overpower them.

The story of Michael A. Singer is an excellent example of surrendering yourself to success. He has documented his life from a confused college student to the CEO of a billion-dollar software company in his book The Surrender Experiment.


There are two ways to success, forcing yourself to success and surrendering to success.

Forcing yourself to success involves trying to overpower your inner resistances with ever greater force. It is like driving at full throttle while your emergency brake is on.

Surrendering yourself to success is about letting go of your inner resistances in the first place. It is like releasing the emergency brake such that your car accelerates much faster at the touch of the throttle.

Maximum Motivation

Sentient beings, including humans, are mostly motivated by the principle of pain and pleasure. I want to add two variables to that formula, the belief in one’s capability and the perceived pain of taking action.

Motivation = Actual or Anticipation of Pain + Anticipation of Pleasure + Belief in One’s Capability – The Perceived Pain of Taking Action

If the amount of motivation exceeds the threshold of resistance to take action, the person takes action.

The interpretation of this formula in humans is more complicated than animals because unlike animals, we can feel pain and pleasure from abstract concepts.

A person can make great effort to work on a piece of art or play a musical instrument because they derive pleasure from them. They can also sacrifice their life for their country because of the pain they feel when they perceive their country to be in danger.

Pain Is a Greater Source of Motivation than Pleasure

Pain is a greater source of motivation than pleasure, and the exact ratio seems to be 5-to-1. This is reported in multiple areas of applied psychology.

An average investor feels five times more pain when they lose a certain amount compared to the pleasure they derive from the profit of the same amount. A basic leadership rule is that an instance of critical feedback has to be balanced with five instances of positive feedback to offset its effects.

The 5-to-1 ratio stems from our negativity bias. We tend to see the world as more negative than it actually is. This helped our ancestors to survive in the wilderness, but it doesn’t serve us anymore. We can overcome our negativity bias by training our mind to be more optimistic.

When you look at the formula, and when you consider the 5-to-1 rule, you’ll reach an interesting conclusion. Increasing your perception of pain will increase your motivation much more than increasing your anticipation of pleasure. This is the dark side of motivation.

The Belief in One’s Capabilities

In some cases, the pain or pleasure might not be sufficient to trigger someone to take action. A person also needs to believe that they are capable of avoiding the pain or accomplishing the goal that would give them pleasure.

I might know that building a successful business would give me pleasure, but if I don’t believe in my capability of achieving that goal, I won’t tolerate the pain of taking action toward it.

We can cultivate a belief in our capabilities by setting realistic goals and actually achieving them, or by breaking down our big hairy audacious goals into milestones and achieving those milestones, in other words, by putting our goals into perspective.

The Connection between Pain and Pleasure

Even though pain and pleasure seem to be distinct phenomena, they are tightly connected to each other. The absence of something that gives you pleasure can give you great pain. That might be something inessential like alcohol or recreational drugs. The alleviation of a certain pain can give you pleasure.

I’d say be careful of which pleasures you allow to your life because they can easily turn into pain. Don’t be too afraid of pain because it can lead you to greater pleasure, or more accurately to greater satisfaction.


When our sensations of pain and pleasure and our belief in our capabilities exceed the pain of taking action, we take action. This is the formula of motivation.

In the formula of motivation, pain plays five times greater role than pleasure due to our negativity bias. Therefore, anticipating or feeling pain is a greater motivation than the anticipation of pleasure.

Believing in our capability of achieving our goals to alleviate our pain or to reach pleasure also increases our motivation. We can cultivate that belief by setting goals that we can achieve and actually achieving them.

Pain and pleasure are tightly connected to each other. The lack of what gives us pleasure gives us pain. Acting despite the perceived pain and reaching our goals gives us satisfaction.

In a nutshell, we can optimize our motivation by regulating or perception and anticipation of pain and pleasure, and by maximizing our belief in our capabilities.