I lie. I do.
When writing about starting a new business or taking on a new career or making some other important change, I make the challenge seem smaller than it is likely to be. I also tend to exaggerate the likelihood of success.
I’ve often said, for example, that virtually anyone that is capable of writing a letter, even one riddled with grammatical errors, can learn to become a copywriter http://www.awaionline.com and earn six figures a year. In saying that, I point out examples – dozens of examples – of people I know that have done just that.
Reading such essays, you might think that learning how to write sales letters is as simple as learning how to bake a cake or maybe ride a bicycle.
It’s not that easy. And yet I don’t say that. I don’t want to talk about the grind and the grit and the disappointments. I want to talk only about the good stuff. So I lie. On purpose.
And I feel justified in doing so. No, not justified. I feel I’m doing exactly the right thing.
Let me explain…
You’ve always wanted to have your own business. Then one day you walk into a coffee shop. The lines are short but the coffee is weak. And it’s not even hot. You get an idea – that you could create a better coffee shop. Better in a dozen ways. And it would be easy. So easy… So you begin.
You’ve always wanted to write a novel. But it doesn’t happen. Years go by. Then you read an interview with a famous novelist who says that he writes just 500 words a day. “I can do that,” you think. “It would be so easy…” So you begin.
Beginnings are usually glimmering notions of the pleasure of completion coupled with nearly total blindness to the process of getting it done. This is especially true of the first step. First steps are rarely taken without ridiculously optimistic views of how long it will take, how much it will cost, and how hard you will have to work.
Here’s the skeleton of a conversation I’ve had more than a hundred times in my career:
“What a great success we’ve had. Did you ever imagine we’d come so far?”
“I did. Or at least I imagined it. What I didn’t imagine was how difficult it would be.”
“Me too. What problems we’ve overcome.”
“Those were the worse. Yet we persevered.”
Do you think we’d have begun if we knew then how tough it would be?”
The Physics of Success
The first law of physics – the law of inertia – states that an object at rest tends to remain at rest unless some amount of force is applied. The amount of energy needed to get it moving depends on how big and dense it is. The bigger and denser the object, the more energy it takes.
This works very well as a metaphor for what it takes to achieve major life goals.
We think of our life goals as dreams. And we tend to think of dreams as light and airy. Many of them – the happy dreams that drift into your head impulsively – are light and airy. Dreams like, “We should live here, in Paris.”
But when the dream is ambitious. When it is a goal that can vastly improve your life or the lives of others… what you have is not light and airy but big and dense. And since it is big and dense, it takes a huge amount of effort to take the first step.
That’s why most people never achieve their most important life goals. It’s not that the goal is not achievable. It’s not that they don’t have what it takes to achieve it. It’s that they are so intimidated by the bigness of the idea that they can’t drum up the energy to get it moving.
And that’s why I lie. (A little.) I know that telling the full truth has no productive value. It will only dampen ambition and blunt opportunity. My purpose, after all, is to create movement by obliterating inertia. Since I cannot provide my readers with more energy than they already have, I can at least reduce the hold of inertia by making goal seem smaller and, thus, easier to set in motion.
Physicists will tell you that once an object is in motion, continued movement is much easier. And ironically, the bigger the object, the more forward force it has and the less energy it needs to keep going.
So to turn your dream into reality, you don’t begin by making a list of every possible obstacle and problem you are likely to encounter. You deal with those things after the project is in motion. (And if you have ever taken one of my courses – on anything from starting a business to learning a financially valuable skill to becoming CEO of the company you work for now – you know that’s when I show you how to handle the hard stuff. Because that’s when you need it.)
The big problem is and always will be inertia. And there are only two ways of overcoming inertia. You can supply more energy or you can make the challenge smaller.
In persuading people to go after their dreams, the only sensible strategy is to reduce, by omission, the problems and pitfalls and exaggerate the ease, the speed, and the reward.