Success in any field is simply practicing self-improvement.
I’ve read so many books now on high performers that the pattern is obvious. Then the title of this article appeared as a tweet in my feed to remind me.
The challenge is self-improvement gets a bad wrap. All these billionaire morning routines, yogis preaching meditation, strangers telling you to read for 19 out of every 24 hours — distract us from the point. I don’t really care about Steve Jobs’ morning routine because he was an a**hole to his fellow humans, and I don’t own a trillion-dollar tech company — and never will.
All of these gimmicks are window dressing that makes a simple art look complicated, and therefore unattainable to normal people like us.
When people hear “get rich” they instantly feel disgusted. The thing is “rich” is highly personal. Sure, some people define rich in dollars. Good for them. I define rich by how much free time I have. My goal is to be a time billionaire and do whatever the f*ck I want without the man in the pinstripe suit poking me in the back via Outlook emails every 30 seconds.
One friend I have calls himself rich. “I work a whole day for free each week at my kid’s kindergarten.” That’s his idea of rich. Good for him. You do you.
Self-improvement is useless if you don’t know what version of rich you want.
The red pill or the blue pill
The blue pill society wants you to swallow is that self-improvement is a waste of time. You should just give in to your excuses and forget about goals.
How dare you have dreams. How dare you be unreasonable enough to do work you enjoy or to have more free time with the family. You selfish a-hole. Get back to work you peasant!
Clearly I don’t think like that. I offer a red pill instead. Forget your excuses. Get what you want using self-improvement, just don’t make it stupidly complex and don’t get sucked into the overwhelming hustle culture.
The red pill is this: improve a tiny amount each day. Not 10X results. 0.01% improvements.
The misunderstood philosophy of self-improvement
The point of self-improvement isn’t to kiss Tony Robbins on his fat mouth full of big teeth, or drink green smoothies, or take a 4 am cold shower. Nope.
The main goal of self-improvement is to understand habits. Habits are what you do every day. What you do repeatedly shapes your future. So if you make tiny changes today then you improve your future and get closer to where you want to be. Makes sense.
There’s a second pillar: systems.
A habit is one task. A goal is made up of multiple tasks so you need multiple habits. Multiple habits form a system.
- Write and publish free content for 2 full days per week.
- Read newsletters every morning.
- Send direct messages to writers I admire and say thank you.
- Leave comments on other writers’ work every day to support them.
- Build a minimum of one online course every 90 days.
- Send an inspiring message to my email subscribers every week.
- Walk for 1-hour per day in nature.
- Drink at least 2 liters of water every day.
- Always have a book on the go.
Each of those tasks is a habit. Those habits form my system. Wannabes that copy a headline I wrote or re-tweak an idea I had miss the point. You can’t duplicate my version of ‘time rich’ by borrowing one step from my system. Because my system is created by stacking habits on top of each other.
Once you understand systems you understand self-improvement. The rest is surface-level bullsh*t that leads to excuses that destroy lives. A system looks like luck to an outsider. It’s not. It’s a deliberate practice.
The point of self-improvement is to choose systems over excuses so you can make progress towards your version of rich.
Many live in a bubble
There’s a further problem. A lot of people build short-term systems that suck, so they quit and blame the internet. To get rich from self-improvement you have to get external feedback to make sure you’re not living in a bubble.
The biggest killer is expectations.
It’s far too easy to become delusional about what progress can look like. The Instagram Ads selling broken dreams work against us. And good feedback is hard to find. If you ask an amateur who hasn’t got rich doing what you seek to achieve, you’ll likely go further off track.
Therefore, you’ve got to seek out quality advisors and mentors. People who can call you out on your excuses and hold you accountable. These high-quality individuals are everywhere. Jump on LinkedIn and you’ll find plenty of them with a simple keyword search.
Put together a pitch on how you can help them first. Then reach out. People often bribe me for writing guidance by offering to draw gorgeous illustrations for my articles or fix my 7 year old website that takes 33 seconds to load. I can’t resist no matter how hard I try.
There’s always a smart way to get an advisor on your team, who is rich in whatever your goal is. Find their pain. Offer to heal it.
Getting rich comes from progress
Self-improvement is a fancy way of saying “make daily progress.” Hard to argue that’s a bad thing, unless you sacrifice your health and hustle your way into a grave, which I object to.
Create a habit. Stack more habits until you have a system. Make progress. Track the progress. Get feedback.
Oh, and make sure you celebrate your wins, otherwise, the progress will look invisible to your brain that’s always panicking you will screw up your ability to buy food and pay for shelter.
If you want to get rich in dollars terms then you need self-improvement. If you want to get rich in time, or rich in family life, or rich in travel destinations, then self-improvement is the only path there is.
Progress and getting rich are connected. If you refuse progress then you stay trapped in the past and stuck in your ways. That’s the real nightmare, not self-improvement.