To Chase Success, You Gotta Put Yourself Through Psycho-Emotional Hell
Sometimes I feel like a total freak. When I read writers whose success I strive to attain a modicum of, I know I’m on the right track. They have odd, near obsessive routines. But, more than anything, they put themselves through the equivalent of psycho-emotional hell. Yet, they appear to not only enjoy, but get off and thrive on it.
If you want to be financially free then be prepared for the emotional rollercoaster. Anything worth doing — like being financially free — requires a huge metal farm silo full of emotional reserves that you can draw on.
This is the hustle. Having the emotional resilience to keep going.
To put in massive amounts of work for little reward — at the beginning. To gradually ramp up your success. To balance confidence and humility. To be off-kilter enough to realize you’re doing things other people simply won’t be able to do, but you keep doing them. Because if you don’t, you’ll fail.
And failure is not an option. I tell myself I have no place else to turn. I need the things I’m working on right now to bring financial freedom. Because if they don’t, I’m screwed. I’m finished.
I put my back up against the wall, even though it’s not necessary. I know I’d come up with a Plan B. I just make myself believe one doesn’t exist. There’s nothing like desperation, even if it’s a lie you make yourself believe.
Moving through my second full month on Medium, I’m on pace to make considerably more than $1,000. In my first full month, I earned $109.88. In my first two weeks on the platform, I only collected $5.98.
People fail on Medium because they can’t get past the first month or so. Some can’t even get past the first few days or weeks. I had at least two Medium accounts I opened and closed within days of receiving literally no views. Then, I took what I learned from my success elsewhere and what I observe watching the successful on Medium and went absolutely all-in.
When somebody new follows me and only a handful of others, I look at their list. They’re following Medium’s top authors and… little old me. I must be doing something right.
But what does “doing something right” actually look like? We like to call it “the hustle.” The hustle risks turning into a generalization, if not an annoying buzzword, if it hasn’t already.
On the ground, what does the hustle actually look like for you? Here’s what it looks like for me. During every period of success I have realized in my relatively long life, I observed these specific elements.
In my world, they define the hustle.
#1 You Wake Up at Four in the Morning
It happens like clockwork, I go to bed between 10 and 11 p.m. I wake up, almost without fail, at 4:15 in the morning. I have to check my phone. I can’t stop myself.
Did that publication accept my article? Did I get curated? How many views am I at on Seeking Alpha. What else sits in my inbox that I can’t wait to deal with when I start the day.
If a 4:15 wake up didn’t wreck me for the rest of the day — I know it does — I’d climb down the ladder of my loft bed right then and there.
#2 You Can’t Fall Back to Sleep
It usually takes an hour or so for me to fall back to sleep. Sometimes I’m anxious, but mostly anxious about getting started with the day.
Because I’m not one to meditate, I take this time to center myself. Try it when you wake up too early in the morning. Psyche yourself up for the day. Line up what you’re going to write, what you’re going to respond to, who you’re going to hit up. Vision how it’s all going to go down, making room for the things you can’t anticipate. Getting organized before dawn in semi-consciousness — and being excited about it — can, oddly, bring calm.
Then take a deep breath. Maybe 4–7–8. Inhale quietly through the nose for 4 seconds. Hold that breath for 7 seconds. Whoosh it out through your mouth for 8 seconds. It sets your thoughts aside and puts you back to sleep. I do this most mornings — definitely Monday through Saturday.
When I wake back up, I feel refreshed. I spring up and jump out of bed. There’s no rolling around to wake up. The time I have been waiting for is here. I don’t wake up in the shower. That’s procrastination. If you need to wake yourself up, something might be wrong. If the gift of being able to make more progress doesn’t make you alert and ready to go, reconsider what you’re doing.
During most every rough patch in my life, I made my mornings longer than they needed to be. Laying in bed awake when I could have been up doing. Gathering my thoughts during a long shower. Classic avoidance techniques.
Be hungry to hustle every morning. That’s what the people who are better than you do.
#3 You Don’t Work Weekends (But You Do)
When you love your work so much — and are so committed to winning with it — you blend work and life effortlessly. Everything I do is part of the process. Fuse seeing a friend, taking a walk, reading a book, having a good cry, making love, going to the coffee shop as integral elements in making your day flow.
You’re not taking a break from work to live life. You’re not putting a pause on life to work. Blur the lines. Live the seamless life. You’re no longer in the mindset that you “work weekends.” You do the work of life seven days a week. If your work sucks and you’re not excited about it, you separate it from other components of your day-to-day. We accept this as “the grind,” but it’s inherently self-defeating and not necessary.
#4 You Have Unbridled Enthusiasm, but You’re Cautiously Pessimistic
As I hustle, I’m constantly reconciling the feeling that something great’s about to happen with the lingering concern something’s going to go wrong. Both will happen, so blend naive optimism with cautious pessimism. Keep yourself from wallowing too long in your lows and bathing incessantly in your highs.
Remember: You’re only as good as your last game.
Be cautiously pessimistic that something’s gonna come and take you down a notch. But don’t lose the fire idealism. Balance humility and confidence, insecurity and arrogance. Be fully aware the shit’s going to hit the fan and blissfully ignorant at the same time. It’s this psychological game that keeps you level.
Tarzan in the trees/Cowboys in the yard
Didn’t know they’d be afraid/Didn’t know life was hard
— Tom Petty, There Goes Angela (Dream Away)
You’re fully aware life can suck. It throws stuff at you on the regular you don’t want to handle. But you have no choice. I used to let bad news render entire days unproductive. I’d get nothing done because anxiety over the latest problem left me paralyzed. I literally couldn’t live life, which meant I couldn’t work. At day’s end, when everything turned out alright, I’d lament the time I wasted. Somebody chased success while I allowed the hustle for it to stray wildly from focus.
Most things I worry about never happen anyway
— Tom Petty (also), Crawling Back to You
If you put your back against the wall and literally consider success the only option, you can force yourself to live and work hard enough to win. But if you keep a Plan B — some easier route — in the back of your mind, you’re doomed to fail.
It’s psychologically easy to map a neat and tidy escape route for ourselves when we take risks. It’s easier to quit after a few days or weeks and go back to what we’re comfortable with, even if it’s less lucrative and satisfying.
Put yourself through hell. If you do it thoughtfully, it feels amazing and produces incredible, surprisingly quick results. Your hell won’t look like mine. But find your hell and embrace it. It’s the best way I have discovered to deal with and overcome odds stacked against you.