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Obsession Is the #1 Habit of Highly Successful People

by | May 15, 2023 | Success

My wife says I’m a little b*tch.

Injections scare the crap out of me. The thought of a needle piercing my precious skin and blood coming out is enough to make me go as white as a ghost.

Two years ago, during the height of the bat virus that sent us into lockdowns, my nanna got sick.

“She hasn’t got long to go. Come here now and make sure you’ve had the flu shot.”

I haven’t had the flu since 2014, coincidentally, the same time I changed my diet. So I never have the flu shot. That year I got the jab of life to see my nanna one last time.

Minutes after the shot, I went white and nearly passed out.

This year I had to get a flu shot for a different reason. When you have a baby the doctors insist you get one because the flu might not kill you, but it can kill your precious ball of poop. So I got it to protect my daughter.

Within 1 hour of getting the flu shot I had the flu.

It was brutal. Massive headache, congested nose, nasty sore throat, and a head cold. It knocked me out for 2.5 weeks.

The whole time I kept writing. I didn’t stop. I couldn’t stop. My family thought I was weird. Friends thought I’d gone crazy. Even my baby girl looked at me in a funny way. “Why doesn’t dad stop his obsession?”

That’s the thing about obsession — it takes over. It’s a virus.

“The people who succeed are irrationally passionate about something”

(Naval Ravikant)

I’ve studied every successful person from Steve Jobs to Serena Williams.

It fascinates me how the best in the world do what they do. I used to believe it’s how they think that makes the difference. That’s part of it but it’s not the whole story.

People who succeed are a little crazy.

  • They don’t have goals.
  • They don’t hedge their bets.
  • They don’t have lots of interests.
  • They don’t have lukewarm behavior.
  • They don’t get stimulated by the idea of habits.

No. They’re overly passionate about one thing: People who love the same thing as them and do it with as much passion as they do get it. Everyone else doesn’t understand — that’s obsession.

The average person is “interested.”

They’d like to know more. They’ll investigate their interests when they have time. But their interest isn’t a priority. They don’t live and breathe it. They never end up falling down the rabbit hole and getting stuck for decades like obsessed people.

Businessman Tim Grover said it best:

“Interested people watch obsessed people change the world.”

The underrated benefit of obsession that took me 15 years to understand

Most of us know the power of flow states.

It’s that feeling where the perception of time gets warped and you do some of the best work of your life. There’s not a lot of thinking and just straight doing. Motivational obsessed guy Zach Progrob helped me understand:

When you truly follow obsession, flow state never ends.

That’s how I feel about my obsession. I used to have defined periods of flow. Now I feel like I’m always in flow except when I’m sleeping.

I’m so sure of what I’m doing and how important it will be to change the world in some tiny way, that nothing can stop me. Not even the flu.

Imagine living in an endless flow state. That’s the power of obsession.

The strategy for an out of body experience

At 16 years old a weirdo friend of my brother’s spoke to me about out of body experiences.

It sounded whacko.

He claimed to be able to go outside of himself and observe his self/body. I didn’t believe him and still don’t.

But as I’ve got older my definition of an out of body experience has changed. It’s less about woo-woo ideas of looking down on your body from the stars, and more about your perception of reality.

When I’m in a state of obsession I don’t notice my body. The need to drink water or go to the bathroom disappears for hours at a time.

Zach Progrob said out of body experiences can happen when you leave your phone at home. There’s a deeper meaning though.

When we get out of the distracted state most of us live in it sets our mind free to think. Our phones are one of the worst state-killers that exist.

A phone chops up your focus into tiny pieces that render each piece useless. You can’t do anything life-changing in a state of stupidity — and that’s what app notifications do.

They make us dumber than a plank of wood. They mess with our dopamine levels and take our eyes off whatever we could be obsessed with.

Limit distractions if you want to follow obsession to the ends of the earth.

Holidays and weekends hit different

I got taught at my 9–5 job to worship days off, weekends, holidays, and public holidays.

Writer Dan Koe said it best: “You don’t need a day off when your work is what you’d be doing on your day off.”

That’s what an obsession is. You always want to be doing it. The goal is to find a way to monetize your obsession so you can do it full-time. I’m lucky I get to do that and it’s the best feeling in the world.

I don’t need to be told what to do because obsession took over my brain 9 years ago. I just want to do more of what I’m doing. Every minute doing it is a holiday away from mindless work that destroys the soul.

Obsession isn’t comfortable

What keeps us away from obsession is comfort.

The modern comfort crisis tells us we can be obsessed when we retire at 65. For now it’s about survival and paying the bills.

But when we stay in comfort and live life on easy mode we end up with the emotional maturity of a teenager.

I often think of my old job as an adult daycare.

  • Everyone got to work at the same time.
  • They all wore the same penguin suits.
  • They all got told what to do — even the CEO.
  • They threw tantrums when their project didn’t succeed.
  • They all drank coffee to wake them up from their nightmare.
  • They all worked in comfortable air-conditioned offices that kept them away from nature and fresh air.
  • They got access to nap pods.

They occasionally got to go to a few conferences and training sessions that acted as their playtime. But for the most part their jobs never involved much more than attending a Zoom call or sending an email.

You could hide away in the corner of an office for decades and nobody would notice you. This way of life made me feel like a caged animal in a zoo.

Following my obsession forced me to mature.

I had to learn new skills. It scared the crap out of me. Every day presents new risks. There’s no career plan. Monthly income isn’t guaranteed and varies like crazy. I have to proactively build relationships.

After a few years of doing it the discomfort now feels normal. In the old life other people hunted the prey, killed it for me, then fed me. Now I have to do it all. I have 100% personal responsibility.

Maturity leads to true freedom.

Giving up the sure thing for the best thing

The decision to prioritize an obsession above everything else is hard.

There are no guarantees, other than you will be challenged and some days you won’t feel like showing up. But the decision to follow obsession is one of the best things you can do.

Because even if you fail, obsession teaches you more about life than being lukewarm “interested” in something and then never going all-in to see where it leads.

We’re programmed to fear one wrong decision. One decision can destroy everything we’ve built. But one great decision can also change your life and that’s a far bigger prize worth focusing on.

Even if you lose everything you can always start again. So the downside of following an obsession is zero.

Final Thought

I realize a lot of this sounds wild.

That’s why you want to study obsession. It’s also why you want to experiment with an obsession to see if it’s true in your life. I’m willing to bet it will be.

History shows us obsessed people change the world. There’s no better meaning for your life.

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