There will undoubtedly be tremendous turbulence in our lives that will test our faith. But controlling what we can control is a vital part of growth and happiness.
My favorite thing to control is work ethic. Because I realized early on I neither had the mental or physical talent to surpass my peers, the only way to get ahead was to study more after school and train harder on the tennis courts.
Unless you have a severe disability, it doesn't matter whether you are rich or poor, Asian or Native American, gay or straight; we all have the ability to control our work ethic.
We can fail due to superior competition or unforeseen exogenous variables, but we must not fail because we didn't try our best.
Things We Can Control To Get Ahead
Besides work ethic, there are plenty of other things we can control to give ourselves a higher chance of success. Here are some:
Attitude. You must develop a positive mindset. If you do not believe in yourself, nobody will believe in you. The world is already an incredibly competitive place. You must attack each challenge with a can-do attitude. Just be aware of reality if things aren't going as you planned after years of trying.
Respectfulness. It's important to show the proper respect and courtesy to those who are older, wiser, and/more successful than you. It's the kid who says, “thank you coach,” after each practice that makes me want to spend more time developing his skills. It's the job candidate that writes a handwritten letter, thanking the interviewer for their time that increases her chance of getting the job.
Preparedness. There are many ways to attack a problem. It's up to us to devise different strategies to achieve our goals. Each of us also needs to plan for multiple variable outcomes in order to be as prepared as possible. Those who say “you think too much,” or “you plan too much” are lazy losers. Do not fail to plan.
Self-Control. We know that kids who demonstrate self-control tend to do better in school. Adults who are able to demonstrate self-control are fitter, richer, and happier because they're better able to regulate their diet, save more aggressively for the future, and not be as easily triggered by other people's opinions.
Resilience. Success is a numbers game. Those who give up will never succeed. But those who learn from their mistakes and keep on trying have an infinitely higher chance of achieving their goals. Remember, if the direction is correct, sooner or later you will get there.
A Personal Example Of Progress
About five years ago, I enlisted my father to start regularly editing my posts. I thought it would be a good idea to give him more purpose in his own retirement while also developing a stronger relationship with his son.
I also paid him for a couple years as a 1099 contractor before he decided to close his international consulting business he was doing for fun.
He has a Master's degree in foreign policy and was a career U.S. diplomat who wrote official reports for decades. Given his experience, he is an excellent editor and I'm lucky to have him.
Despite his editing help, it's sometimes tough to get your work cut up so thoroughly after trying so hard. I've got to imagine creatives are more sensitive to criticism than non creatives because we regularly put ourselves out there.
For each 1,000 words I submit, my father will find at least 50 errors, which I always find amusing. When I've asked my wife to edit the same post, she'll often only find 5-10 mistakes max. And most of the time, when I dare publish a post that was only edited by me, nobody really seems to mind.
One time after editing a post, he mentioned, “I'm concerned I'm still finding so many of the same errors after all these years.”
That was tough to hear because it showed I wasn't improving as a writer, despite all my efforts. But instead of giving up, I decided to study his edits more carefully rather than taking a perfunctory look and copying and pasting his edits as I did in the past.
Admittedly, I do not edit my posts thoroughly before submission. If I submitted an error-free article, I would take away his purpose.
Despite my lack of writing progress, I told myself to keep on going, no matter what because production outweighs talent every single day of the week.
Seeing The Objective Data
Then one day, my father told me he should send me a report on how I'm doing accordingly to Grammarly, a writing software he started using 40 weeks ago to help edit my work.
I was afraid to see my grammar score due to all his historical edits. I also think in a way he wanted to show me my grammar score to prove how bad my grammar really was!
So I told him, “Dad, you've got to take into account production frequency along with grammar quality. My mission is to publish three times a week for 10 years. I could surely improve my grammar score if I spent a month working on each post. But I've got too many ideas to share and a promise to keep.“
Despite my defense, I told him to send me the report anyway. I could handle the truth!
He was probably rubbing his hands with glee that he could finally use objective data to prove how poor of a writer I really was. Have a look at the data yourself.
Phew! In my mind, I thought I would get a 30% – 50% on my Mastery (grammar) score by the way my dad was discussing my work. But instead, I got a 78% for the past 40 weeks of writing. A “C” grade is not great, but not terrible compared to expectations.
But the number I'm most proud of is the 99% Productivity score because it is purely what I can control. I know that no matter how hard I try, I’ll never have a perfect Mastery score. Further, there are tens of thousands more words that haven't gone through the Grammarly software in this time period.
There is no coincidence that I'm more productive than 99% of Grammarly users while Financial Samurai is larger than 99% of all websites.
The correlation with effort and reward is strong in my world, which is why anybody who believes in themselves should consider doing something entrepreneurial.
When it comes to work, entrepreneurship, athletic training, and more, showing up and producing is much more important than pontificating.
Talent And Perfection Are Overrated
People who are too afraid of being criticized never bother to try. Instead, they'll just hate on others to make themselves feel better for their inaction.
One of the strangest things I've observed is the inability of amazing editors to write amazing content. If you've got the writing tools, surely it's much easier to write great prose. We've all got the imagination and creativity to make things interesting.
The same oddity goes for journalists who aren't willing to start their own websites to own their own content, especially as the journalism industry hollows out. If you have the research, writing, and reporting skills, there's no reason why you can't create your own profitable website.
Meanwhile, people who wait for perfection take an unnecessarily long time to press publish or ship a product.
It is foolish to wait for perfection when there is no perfect consumer. Tastes are always changing and you can never please everyone all the time. By the time you think your product is perfect, your consumers may have already moved on.
Are you really going to let people like me with only a public school education, a poor grasp of the English language, and minimal talent gain all the spoils? Not if the Governor of Virginia can help it!
Are you going to allow your colleague to get promoted over you because he consistently gets to work 30 minutes before everyone else?
Are you really going to allow a smaller and weaker opponent beat you because she trained her mind to be fearless in battle?
Of course not!
Just imagine what you could do if you had some talent and coupled it with a tremendous work ethic. You would destroy the competition!
Over the long run, production is always more important than talent. And if talent is what you want, don't worry. Over time, talent will come.
What are you waiting for? Let's rock!
Readers, are you waiting for perfection before shipping? Why do people waste their superior talents? Why do we give up when we can just keep on going? Why does criticism and ridicule stop you from trying to do something you really want to do?