How to Be More Successful

Are stuggling to succeed?

Do the things you want seem unreachable? 

Does it sometimes seem like you're spinning your wheels, trying over and over again to achieve things that somehow don't come to you? 

“There are only two options regarding commitment, you’re either in or you’re out. There’s no such thing as life in between.” – Anonymous

However you define success, one thing is crystal clear ... if you want to become truly exceptional at what you do – or if you simply want to be the best you can possibly be – you have to commit completely. As the quote above states, there are only two options regarding commitment: either you’re in or you’re out. There’s no room on the quest for greatness for life in between. Those who go on to become truly exceptional are the ones who commit completely. 

One thing I see in a lot of younger people who are struggling to raise themselves is that they have trouble choosing a single path and focusing on it single-mindedly. DO choose your path and resolve to stick to it for at least one year, whether or not it seems like success will come quickly. 

I realize that, after some time, you may discover you aren’t passionate about it and decide to switch to a different version of it ... or even leave the field altogether. We learn things about ourselves over time and our tastes and opinions change. I get that. The business, sport, or personal development path you choose today may not turn out to be your final one. But here’s the thing – how you commit to your first major life activity will set the tone for how you do things for years to come.

And this I’m sure of … your best gains NEVER come from cynicism. They ALWAYS come from fully embracing what you do. Make it your mission to give yourself completely to your first activity for at least one year. 

Complete Commitment

Let me share a quick story with you. If you follow my work, you know that I was able to win the All Tokyo Iaido Tournament at my rank level for four years in a row. That’s no small accomplishment – no foreigner had ever done that before, and as far as I know, none have done it since. I worked very, very hard to be able to accomplish it. But a huge part of the reason I was able to do so well was my total commitment. 

I got introduced to my mentor, the late Yamaguchi Katsuo-Sensei, through my teachers in the Shudokan Martial Arts Association. At the time, I needed a personal introduction to be accepted into his private dojo. Yamaguchi-Sensei was without a doubt the most incredible swordsman of his generation. His iaido could silence an auditorium full of people. He was a demon at kendo and could easily dominate much bigger, younger fencers. Training one on one with him in his home dojo was a very intense experience. I idolized him. I wanted to move like him, look like him, and be able to perform swordsmanship at the same incredible level.

I had truly “emptied my cup,” as they say. If he told me that I had to jump off a bridge or play in traffic to get good at iaido, I would have done it without question. Thank goodness he never did!

But because of my total commitment, his teachings poured into my soul without any barriers. I learned very, very fast. I practiced with total intensity, total focus, and with joy and passion. I was double-promoted at my first grading, won my first tournament, and never looked back. Back then, I didn’t understand the learning process the way I do today, but I now realize that I succeeded because of my total, all encompassing commitment to and love for my teacher, and because of that, to the art as well.  

That approach has shaped almost everything I've done since.

Row your boat to shore and set it on fire!

When you decide to pursue your career, your sport, or your avocation, remember that the most valuable aspects can only be discovered if you bring a very high level of commitment to it. There will be times when you struggle, days when you have to drag yourself to work or to the gym, even days when you’ll wrestle with the commitment you’ve made, but I’m telling you, I’ve seen it many, many times – those who truly make the commitment are the ones who outperform the others, again and again. They don’t “wait and see” if they like the art. They give all of themselves first, and therefore the rewards they get are many times greater than those gotten by folks who treat their pursuits as a casual hobby.

It’s no coincidence that those who completely immerse themselves also tend to be the ones who enjoy them the most. It may be a “chicken and egg” problem, but I’ve seen it so many times I have absolutely no doubt that it’s true – if you dabble in your passions or constantly second guess your involvement, you’re going to have less fun and get less of their essence. The very act of approaching your passion with reserve means you’re dooming yourself to miss out on many of its most profound, valuable aspects.

How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything

If you commit fully at the outset, you’ll bring much more of yourself to your work, be more immersed, have more fun, perceive more, and learn faster. To those of you who are cynics, I say don’t worry about finding out later that the path isn’t the one you want to spend the rest of your life pursuing. If you throw yourself into it, you’ll really find out what it’s all about, and if that turns out not to suit you, then you can move on with confidence. Otherwise, a huge part of the reason the thing doesn’t seem amazing is probably because you really don’t understand it in all its glory. But be careful ... the very fact that you’re thinking about your exit strategy when you first start – or anytime – is keeping you from realizing your full potential.

I hope I’m making the point clearly enough because everything else flows from this one decision.   

Catch, Kill and Eat One Rabbit at a Time

And here’s another point you should get very clear about as you consider your future as an extraordinary human being. Whatever you do, DON’T start with more than one style or type at first. DON’T pick two passions and dabble at both. You’ve probably heard the old cliché that goes something like this: “the fox who chases two rabbits is likely to catch neither one.” Like a lot of stereotypes and clichés, there’s more than a little truth to this one. 

I see it again and again with my students who get involved in multiple martial arts too early in their careers. Sure, they’re having fun doing both the arts they like. Some do pretty well in both martial arts at first, but the vast majority of them stagnate after a while. There’s just too much information coming in, and it’s too difficult for the nervous system to absorb the core thematic movements of two or more arts.

Unless they’re incredibly gifted or have time to practice far more than 90% of martial arts students, the interference from one martial art is too great, and their progress slows. For my first three decades as an adult in martial arts, I put in four to six hours a day, five or six days a week. When I lived in Yokohama between 1988 and 1992, eight to ten hour training days were not unusual. But it’s about both quantity and quality. Even those who seem to think they’re getting a lot done because they’re training so many hours each week end up making very little progress. There’s a difference between just working hard and working effectively. Your aim should be to do both.

Choose a single career or hobby for your first year and commit to it completely. This greatly simplifies things. You’re exposed to the core thematic aspects of your chosen path – and no others – so you can really study them, execute like crazy, and get them into your nervous system. You’re not distracted by a lot of detours. Even the most highly focused among us occasionally gets sidetracked, and the more arts you’re trying to learn, the more dead end paths you’re going to end up on. Don’t worry about missing out; if you achieve greatly in one activity, you’ll learn many essential keys to greatness that can be applied to others.

Instead of saying, “I dabble in a few jobs. I do stock trading on Thursdays, study hedge funds on Saturdays, and work as a bank teller on  Mondays,” you’ll simply be able to say, “I study stock trading!” or “I am a hedge fund manager!” As simple as that sounds, it’s part of the joy of truly focusing on one path, and it will make a lot of difference to your psyche – and your learning – as you work.

Get Clarity at Permission

For some, it's very tough to decide on a path, much less focus on one for a year. One of the most powerful tools to help sort out your thoughts is setting aside the time to do so in an immersive environment.

One of the many reasons I created Permission – The Event was to give people like you a chance to spend a day in total immersion – to enjoy guidance and frameworks, along with support, praise, and warmth from an entire audience of like-minded people. Outside, there are many distractions, so a day like this can be life changing! If that sounds like something you’d like to try, read more about it here.

Whatever you do, if you wonder what you can do to stop figure out your life's path, I urge you to ask whether you're giving yourself the space and the right kind of environment to truly explore your options. If not, make the time. I'd love to see you at the next Permission event and help you work through the obstacles that are keeping you from living your dream life.

Mutual success is a great bonding agent. Wouldn't it be great to find your path to success?

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