Business is a game just like everything else in life.
The school game is played to get grades. If you do the assignments the teachers tell you to do, and get the answers they expect you to get, then you win.
In business, you need to create a product people want, convince them to pay you for it, then deliver it to them in the way they expect (or better). When you get paid, you win.
But there is a deeper, more internal game at play when you’re in the early stages of a business. Before you’ve started your business, it doesn’t exist yet. It is only an idea. You need to win the belief game.
At one point, Facebook existed solely in the mind of one person. Now, several billion people around the world believe it exists. Mark Zuckerberg won the belief game.
In reality, your idea is just that — an idea. Before you start, this thing that you want to change lives and move the world is in its weakest possible form. You might not even believe in it yourself. I’ve had so many good business ideas that I talked about and never brought into reality. There are tons of reasons why they never happened, but it boils down to one thing: the belief game.
Every time I talked about the idea, it was clear it was just an idea. In reality, that’s all it was. Nothing more. So when I would talk about it, it would come off that way and whoever was listening would understand the reality that it’s only an idea. It takes a lot of energy to bring a cooperative system like a profitable business into existence. All the odds are against you. I would say it’s like pushing a stationary train up a hill, but it’s more like building a train, putting it on the tracks, THEN pushing it up a hill.
Here’s how to win the belief game:
First, convince yourself to believe that your idea is more than just an idea. This is where I’ve failed in the past. I let the reality that my idea didn’t exist blind me from the fact that I could change that reality. You won’t be able to convince anybody that your idea is real until you can fully convince yourself. Your idea should feel like an inevitable lucid moment in your future.
When it becomes real to you, your score goes from 0 to 1. Then you can start convincing other people.* When other people start to believe your idea is real and tangible, you’ll start gaining momentum. That’s how you win the belief game like Facebook did.
*The best way to convince people your idea exists is to do stuff that makes it exist.
What do you intend to do?
There is always an intention even though it may be difficult to articulate. When you start a new job or get yourself into a new situation, get clear on your intention first. What is it that you are trying to accomplish? Why?
Sometimes you need to start doing things even though your intention is unclear — it will become more clear as you make decisions and act on them.
Intention drives everything.
Regrets are for when you didn’t learn anything. Every negative outcome is acompanied by valuable, new firsthand knowledge.
If things didn’t turn out the way you planned, what can you take away from it? Why didn’t they? What could you have done differently?
Don’t try. You won’t love what you pick.
Search for the thing that pulls the very best part of yourself into action. Not the thing that makes you feel comfortable or confident, the thing that makes you nervous and excited at the same time. Do things that truly challenge you and force you to think hard and act using your best capabilities.
Doing what you love is not about picking a thing you feel passionate about. It’s about setting up your environment in a way that will push you into the uncomfortable situation of doing the things you’ve always wanted to do.
Your life is a series of decisions. Each time you make a decision, you are deciding not to do something else. Set up your life so that your only two choices are:
- Do the hard thing
- Quit/do nothing
When you do hard things, you feel alive. You feel tested and challenged. You grow. That’s what life is about and that’s where fulfillment comes from.
When stagnation is your only other option, you’ll find out just how much you really can do.
“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”
I like this quote. It applies not only to conversations but to situations in general. Usually, the more uncomfortable you are, the more opportunity there is to grow from a situation. Conversations are very real and the feeling is very relatable.
I’m taking a short break from my Building a Business series because I have other things I’d like to write about. The series will be back, but until then…
I remember looking at my feet and feeling how hot my toes were inside my shoes. My heels felt hot, too. I wasn’t even sure my shoes had bottoms anymore. My breathing was in rhythm with my footsteps, slow and steady. My knees were aching and my calves were tight. My thighs were on the verge of cramping for what might have been hours.
With every step forward, I worked hard to fight off the incessant thoughts of doubt and quitting. 8 miles left. All I wanted to do was fall down on the ground and not move a muscle. It’s all I could think about. Even at this point, I wasn’t sure I would make it all the way. The finish line seemed like a hazy, distant, uncertain dream.
I ran my first marathon in October, 2014. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I didn’t train nearly enough for it, and I had no idea what to expect. Despite the snippet of the story above, I finished the marathon. All 26.2 miles of it. Here’s a picture of me after the race:
It wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve done because of my physical unpreparedness, but because of the mental battle that took place during the race.
Around mile 16, my body was in pain. It was sending signals to my brain telling me to stop moving my legs. I had to consciously ignore those signals and try to think of something else so the pain wouldn’t be so prominent in my mind. But the pain is so piercing that even when I won the mental battle and ignored it, it came back just as strong within seconds.
There’s not much else to think about. Multiple times each minute, I had to fight and win the battle against my screaming body.
This went on for almost two hours. I used every water station as an excuse to stop for 5 precious seconds, even though starting back up was harder than if I just kept going. I walked several times, but I never stopped. My mind and body were simultaneously pushed far past what I thought their limits were.
For most of my life I believed running a marathon was physically impossible. Whenever the topic of running came up in conversation, I would proclaim myself as “not a runner.” I didn’t believe I had the ability to run 26.2 miles at once. It was hard enough bringing myself to run 2 or 3.
Something interesting happened when I paid for my marathon registration. The fuzzy dream instantly turned into a clear, inevitable reality. There’s something funny about deciding and committing that shifts the way you view things. That moment of decisiveness turned the thing I always believed was impossible into something that I absolutely knew would happen.
Committing comes in many different forms. It could happen when you pay for a marathon registration, or when you announce your intention publicly, or when you write down a definitive statement. But all of those things are not committing, they only trigger the feeling of committing.
Committing creates a visceral shift in your psychology. It makes you take yourself seriously. It makes you train for your marathon even on the days you hate running. It makes you write blog posts every day even on the days you have nothing to say and don’t want to write anything. It adds self-discipline. It extends the limits of your mind and body. It makes the impossible possible.
I wonder what else I want to do that I haven’t fully committed to yet.