The Brutally Honest Truth About What It Takes to Be Successful

Here’s the first brutal truth: The vast majority of people won’t come close to doing what it takes to be successful.

They’re not bad people. There’s nothing wrong with them. It’s just a simple fact that most people are unwilling to put in the work to have exceptional accomplishments. Part of the definition of success is doing something few people are able to do. That’s kind of the point.

I’ve reached a stage in my writing career where I’m done trying to sway everyone to become their best selves.

I cater my message to those who have ambition and potential but haven’t tapped into it yet. Usually, those are the only ones with a chance.

That’s all you get—a chance. Nothing is guaranteed and there’s no perfect formula for how to be successful. There are patterns. If you want to become one of the best in the world at what you do, achieve lofty goals, or become the type of person who’s always leveling up—keep reading. These are the tried and true patterns that I’ve found to achieve success.


The answer to this question determines whether or not you’ll be successful

Are you willing to pay the price?

Whatever you want to achieve has a price. If you’re willing to pay it, you’ll probably get it. If you’re not willing to pay it, then don’t even try in the first place.

Too many gurus are trying to twist your arm into becoming this great person. Be honest with yourself about whether or not that’s something you actually want. And figure out if you want it more than you want to avoid paying the price.

If you want to get in amazing shape, the price is that you won’t always get to eat the most delicious foods and you’ll have to put hours in at the gym every week without fail.

If you want to build a business, the price is having to work extra hours on top of your day job, not making much money at first, and going through the psychological pain and turmoil it takes to build something.

Level up the goal and the higher the price you’ll have to pay. Maybe you can build a million-dollar business with 40 hours of work per week. But if you want to start the next great unicorn company, plan on not having a social life at all and working 14 hour days for a decade.

We all come with different levels of ambition, tastes, and most importantly a tolerance for suffering. Now, you can go many rungs higher than you’re accustomed to, but you have to make up your mind that you’re willing to climb and do what it takes.


You don’t just get to “do what you love”

When people picture success, they often envision a life where they spend time doing exactly what they want to do. You can build a life that operates this way, but every path to success requires some things that just aren’t that fun. Especially at the beginning of whatever mission you’re trying to complete.

I love to write. I don’t love doing tech stuff on my website, keeping track of my finances, sending out individualized emails to pitch my work, dealing with rude customers, or answering a bunch of emails.

But, these things are part of the gig and I’m willing to do them because it helps me do what I love.

Personally, I love to work out. Others struggle with it. Well, if you want to have a healthy enough body to enjoy your success, you have to grind it out at the gym even if you don’t love it.

There are a lot of things I love to do that are bad for me. I love eating junk food and watching endless hours of  T.V. I enjoy a night of drinking. But, to achieve my highest goals in life, I have to moderate or ditch those habits altogether.

I’m all about finding your purpose and living a life of passion, but too many people confuse that with only doing what you love. All the time. Their obsession with pleasure prevents them from achieving the true happiness that comes with living a life of meaning and purpose.


To be successful, you have to be brutally honest with yourself

Most people, even self-aware people—even me—underestimate just how much we lie to ourselves.

We make tons of rationalizations to help us cope. We pretend to not want what we really want because we’re afraid of being judged. Instead of having an honest assessment of ourselves, we either fall too deep into self-doubt and limiting beliefs or we have an overinflated sense of our abilities.

Yes, you do need irrational levels of confidence to achieve lofty goals, but, in the present moment, you need to be pragmatic and objective. You can have huge goals yet understand you’re currently not the type of person who’s capable of reaching those goals. There’s a way to work on yourself without  beating yourself up about your flaws.

Cold, rational, and objective self-assessment to the point of brutal honesty is one of the most useful (and least used) methods to get what you want.

It’s hard to face yourself in the mirror and be honest about your life. It’s hard to admit you’ve made mistakes, especially big ones. If you want to dig yourself out of a hole, you have to first admit you’re in one so you can stop digging.

Be objective about your strengths and weaknesses. Instead of trying to be something you’re not, enhance your strengths or mitigate your weaknesses. For example, outsource work to others who have the talent you don’t. Some of your weaknesses are true handicaps and others are skills you can dramatically improve with practice.

I can’t tell you the exact recipe, but I can tell you that brutal self-honesty will reveal the answers.


The one key to success most gurus fail to mention


Luck plays a role in success. Sometimes you’re just at the right place at the right time. Some people have great ideas that fail for reasons that aren’t under their control. The saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know” has a ton of truth to it.

Here’s the good news for the not-so-lucky: time dilutes the effect of luck.

If you focus on getting a little bit better every single day, eventually you’ll have an explosive burst in results. When it comes to opportunities, aim for those that have a high upside with a low downside. For example, starting low-cost online businesses instead of dropping six figures on a brick and mortar business with a ton of inventory you have to sell.

The key is focusing on the long game. Don’t overreact to the little instances where the ball doesn’t bounce your way. Instead of being laser-focused on success—and a specific outcome at a specific time—focus on becoming a better version of yourself, period.  This will attract opportunities that can change your life.

Stop looking at unicorns like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg as models for your success. Both are freakishly smart and extremely hard-working, but luck played a role too—like being at the right moment in the new internet era. 

You don’t have to be a unicorn to live a well above average life. Reaching the peak of your potential is more than enough.


You’re alone on your journey

Friends and family might wish you the best, but they won’t be in the trenches doing the work with you.

And I hate to say it but, even if people are rooting for you, they don’t really believe in you all that much.

Why would they? Most people talk a big game and do nothing. It’s normal for others to expect you to behave the same way. 

Society isn’t on your side. In fact, our culture is designed to keep you locked into a life you don’t want to live. Not because it’s some hateful machine, but society needs a large group of people to do what’s necessary to keep the gears turning. It is what it is.

Most of the work you’ll do will be in isolation—sweating it out at the gym, coding for hours straight, creating marketing plans. No one will be by your side to hold your hand.

As much as I enjoy writing motivational content, I won’t be there with you. I can only give you the messages that can help you get started. You’ll spend most of this journey alone.

Sure, you’ll have people in your corner—like-minded friends, business partners, employees, fans, etc.—but the only one who can truly keep you accountable is you.

Fortunately, you have what it takes to be successful and hold yourself accountable. Own who you are. Take full responsibility. And then reap the rewards.


Final thoughts on how to be successful

I don’t use kid gloves with my readers because you don’t need them.

You don’t need to be pandered to, coddled, or filled with a bunch of empty and fuzzy motivational quotes.

You need to spend as much time as possible living in reality. Face everything that comes your way with clear eyes, instead of trying to bury your head in the sand.

Instead of wishing the world worked a certain way, accept the way it does work and operate in that frame. 

Love yourself, yes, but understand that pushing yourself is an amazing form of self-care.

Just do the work. It’ll pay off. I promise.