The first truth you need to learn about success: it’s not a one-time event.
Contrary to what you see on social media where people seem to go viral or experience overnight success, it actually does take years of effort for anyone to achieve that level.
Once you understand this and start reading biography, you will quickly find that those “successful” people seem to share something in common. That leads to the multimillion-dollar question: what’s their secret? Is there a formula for success?
Success = Discipline + Consistency
It’s no secret. Everyone knows that, everyone observes that from successful people, but few people really practise that. It’s up for a debate which one is harder to apply. Success is a series of hard work after all.
The formula does apply to any area in your life, from physical health to relationships. It is not just about the mindset, but the attitude and where you put effort in.
First of all, you pick a goal. The goal can be unrealistic. Yes, I do think it should be beyond your wildest dreams. You should always dream big. It will make sense. The second step is where you set direction for the magic to happen: set a realistic process. Be realistic about how you are going to get from point A to point B. Map out all the necessary steps. Step three: stick to the process and enjoy it. You convert actions to practice routines. You put in the work every single day, even when you don’t really see what’s the point of doing it.
I don’t practise this religiously enough either. But I surely do recognise the importance of it and I have spent years training my mind to stay focused in the lane. You will eventually experience some full-circle moments a few times in life, if you haven’t already – everything will make sense when you look at the big picture.
Magical full-circle moments
My first taste of reaping what I sow was when I got admitted to the Master of Music Therapy course without a Bachelor of Music, Music Education, nor Psychology degree. Not just because of the 2.5 months of hard work I put in perfecting my long-forgotten musical skills, but also the fact that I learnt and practised piano at a young age. I never really stopped playing piano. Changed to playing pop songs and hymns from classical music at some point, but I didn’t let all the effort go in vain. The moment I received the admission letter I realised that it took me more than 10 years of effort to actually pivot my career. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. Discipline and consistency to practise piano and play music? I surely did that.
The second one is about my seemingly shouting-to-the-void habits of uploading YouTube videos and learning languages. I started a music channel about covering songs on my handpan in 2018 and since then I have been uploading regularly. From once a month to once a fortnight, then once a week now. I upload twice a week if I’m in semester break. My channel hasn’t gone viral in any sort, and I do sometimes get frustrated about the algorithm. I quickly catch myself. It was supposed to be fun and enjoyable making song covers. If I only cared about how many people watched my videos I would never be happy as a musician. I made videos because I wanted to tell my own stories through songs. So I put my sole focus on learning handpan techniques and audio engineering in order to create better covers. I stopped caring about whether people watch them or not. As a result, over the past 2 years I have analysed and covered more than 50 songs. I learnt how to transpose keys, and I found out that I could memorise much more songs than I could imagine.
On the other hand, I started learning French in late 2018. It started off as a “productive procrastination” – I would spend 5 minutes every day on Duolingo to learn vocabularies and phrases instead of scrolling through Instagram before I go to sleep. I was able to stick to this routine from the start because 1) it’s always better to learn a new language when you are young (which means you should start doing it NOW), and 2) the app keeps me accountable. The streak gives you momentum to keep going (#notsponsored). There is no better way to spend a 5-minute in your life.
So now, you might wonder how do they all fit together? I’m not bragging about my nerdiness sticking to routines and processes. The full circle moment came when I used “Hymn For The Weekend” with a kid during a spontaneous session in my clinical placement one day. It was the forth song I covered on my channel. Then I overheard his mother mention his french lessons. So I went up to him and started speaking simple french. Did you see how the discipline and consistency of learning and practising skills all come together? I have wondered a million times what’s the point of grinding. But if you stop thinking about that and focus on improving your skills (which improves your cognitive skills and memory too), you just become a better human. It will improve all areas of your life.
So, where to cast the spell?
That being said, you need to be smart in mapping out your process, before you dive straight into it. No matter what you are working on, there are a couple of skills that everyone should possess.
1/ Speed reading and listening
→ Invest your time in personal development in a smarter way.
→ Be prepared for adversity. To develop endurance, try strength training (fitness is THE cornerstone habit everyone should follow. Read more here). Advanced level: get a coach to bring you on the ring and fight. You will learn coping skills, and realise that it’s okay to get punched in the face.
→ I consider this a powerful skill. It’s not just about how you sell yourself, but also how you touch others’ lives through your own experience. We should all have at least 5 stories in our pocket at all times.
4/ Expanding comfort zone
→ i.e. the Comfort Challenge illustrated in the 4-Hour Work Week. I’m a work in progress on this. While it’s still a challenge for me to ask for a 10% discount every time I buy a coffee, I have tried asking questions whenever I see fit and the results were always great. It’s amazing to see how much people are willing to tell you just so you ask.
Those glamorous moments of being considered “successful” are sexy. But hard work is not. Just like having defined 6-pack abs – it’s sexy AF, but the sweat behind every workout session isn’t. You just don’t get to see the unsexy side of people grinding overnight, or crying over a bug on their website.
Just forget it and focus on your own lane.
Enjoy the ride, as usual x