At the time, Bezos was worth around 9 billion dollars, yet he worked from a less than impressive office, drove around in a Honda, and had a terrible sense of fashion.
Today’s richest man was working from headquarters located on the same street as a pawn shop, a heroin-needle exchange, and a “porno parlor.” His office, the badly stained carpet, the desk, made out of a door propped up on two-by-fours, all give the impression of the kind of hopelessness that people often encounter whenever they embark on the strange and perilous odyssey of building a business from scratch.
Success is not easy. Overnight success is so statistically improbable that we might as well think it doesn’t even exist.
The struggle is real. Just imagine in what kind of conditions Bezos was working when he first started his company, if this was what his office looked like when running what had grown into a 30 billion-dollar company.
The same way Elon Musk had to borrow money to pay the rent for his apartment in the early days of SpaceX, all successful people had to deny themselves pleasure and comfort in order to bring their dreams to life.
There’s no way around it, I’m afraid.
And there are certain aspects of success that rarely get talked about. We romanticize success to the point that it feels like a walk in the park. You do what you love, always a smile on your face…
Here are seven brutal truths about success that no one ever talks about.
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” — Carl Rogers
Every night is a dark night of the soul; fear and loathing overwhelm you whenever you stare in a mirror or think about your actions. You fail at everything you do. You struggle with low self-esteem, high-functioning depression, and social anxiety.
How do you change that?
Because you’re not going to change by spending all the time wishing you didn’t feel like that; you’re not going to change by writing down a bunch of positive affirmations and reading them aloud in front of the mirror every morning.
The paradox of changing oneself is that the more you want to change a negative trait you have, the more you become it.
When it comes to getting what we want, desire is an important element. Set a goal, go all in, and achieve it. The beach body, the business, or the book you want to write, all require that you genuinely want to do them.
But when it comes to changing the inner reality of who we are, it doesn’t work that way.
Did you know that you can deduce how much money someone earns by asking them a simple question?
You can, in fact, deduce a lot about them, about their principles, ethics, dreams, and goals.
What is that question?
Well, it’s simple.
“Do you believe in work-life balance?”
If it takes you less than 10 seconds to have a negative emotional reaction to what I am implying here, stop and think about why.
If you feel the need to say, “Yeah, but…” you should also stop for a minute and ask yourself if life’s a balancing act or not, and if going through life as if walking on tightrope is the only available option.
Today’s culture is saturated with articles, clever memes, and podcasts that idolize terms like “grind” and “hustle.”
Personally, I believe that assuming the responsibility to work hard for your dreams is one of the key elements of success, but at the same time, it’s equally important that we understand how to work, why we are doing the work, and what pricewe’re paying for the time and energy we invest in the work we do.
I am writing these words as my girlfriend is getting dressed for us to go out. I woke up 4 hours before her, after only 5 hours of sleep, in order to write my articles, edit them, and schedule them to be posted.
I woke up long before the sun was up in order to reply to my e-mails, check my stats, and figure out the day’s strategy.
I’m all about the grind. Always was. Mental laziness has this strange side-effect on me; it makes me anxious to the point of wanting to jump off a building.
“Every morning, upon awakening, I experience the supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dali, and I ask myself, wonder struck, what prodigious thing will he do today, this Salvador Dali.” — Salvador Dali
Dalí was famous for two things: his art and his eccentric and often ostentatious behavior.
In 1955, he delivered a lecture at the Sorbonne, arriving in a Rolls Royce full of cauliflowers.
To promote Robert Descharnes’ 1962 book The World of Salvador Dalí, he appeared in a Manhattan bookstore on a bed, wired up to a machine that traced his brain waves and blood pressure.
Dalí would avoid paying at restaurants by drawing on the checks he wrote, thinking that the restaurants would never want to cash the checks since they were artworks by the Spanish master.
We’re all self-made, but only the successful ever admit it.
After all, why ever admit that you don’t like what you see in the mirror if you do not plan on changing?
But what if I were to tell you that the root cause of unhappiness and failure are not external factors, but our inner reactions to those factors.
After all, what is required of one in order to be successful?
Is it being a billionaire? Changing the world? Find one’s soulmate?
Aren’t those things intricately tied to a lot of external factors? And isn’t our perception of those factors the result of a combination of behaviors, beliefs, thoughts, and adaptations?
After all, some people are happy while having little reason to be so, and others are unhappy even though wildly successful.
It seems to me that we are only as happy and successful as we make up our minds to be. Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure, and ultimately it’s our inner reality that that dictates our own happiness.
Back when I was in high-school, during one of my kickboxing practices, I had to act as a sparring partner for a few weeks to one of the best fighters in the country.
It was the most humiliating and excruciating experience in my life. There’s no other way to put it. There was nothing I could do to even touch the guy, let alone beat him.
Yet, even though I consistently got beat, my skills improved considerably. When I look back at the four years I spent as a fighter, I often remember that one time I got a lucky jab at him or when he broke my nose.
Quentin Tarantino once compared our work towards progress as running a race.
If we run against people who are slower than us, yes, we win, but if we race against people who are much faster, we’ll come last every single time, but our time will be much better.
We live in a society that loves winning.
Winning is the only thing. The desire to be first. To be the best there is.
There are some victories that are impossible. Sometimes, a good defeat is its own reward. Sometimes, the best we can do is fight an impossible battle and manage not to lose it.
Having to fight against someone with far superior skills would provide me with the kind of mental clarity and focus that made me be so present in the moment that everything was moving in slow-motion.
If I wasn’t careful, I’d find myself on the floor, trying to figure out what day of the week it was.
I couldn’t win, but I still struggled. And I enjoyed it so, so much.