Achieving Excellence – Putting in the Work

(Note: this is the final part of a longer series of articles on the subject of Excellence. For some context and an explanation to why this whole thing is happening, check out part 1 – Excellence vs. Reason)

So far in the series we’ve talked about the various obstacles we need to overcome in order to have a chance at reaching excellence. We’ve looked into how making exclusively reasonable decisions is holding us back, how our irrational risk aversion severely limits our potential for success, and how our addiction to social support keeps us stuck at a mediocre level in life.

But there’s one aspect of reaching excellence that we haven’t even scratched the surface of yet. And it’s a pretty important component too: putting in the hard work.

Ugh, such an un-sexy phrase. Hard work. That’s not what we want to hear – give us some more tricks or life hacks that promise us instant success! Anything but hard work!

Unfortunately, there is no way around this. Hard work, more than anything, is what determines whether or not you will reach excellence. Because anyone can do what’s easy. Anyone can go for the low-hanging, mediocre fruits of life.

But to go past this low-hanging fruit and reach for that perfect apple at the top of the tree – that’s what separates the extraordinary from the ordinary.

Hard Work is What Brings it All Together

If you’ve followed all the steps from the previous posts in this series, you’ve come a long way toward achieving excellence. All of these steps are vital components for reaching those goals of yours.

Unfortunately, none of this is going to be of any use to you unless you’re also prepared to tie it all together with a little hard work.

Think of all the previous steps as aiming your gun, and putting in the work as pulling the trigger. Without completing the first steps of aiming, it doesn’t matter how many times you fire that gun – you’re still not going to hit your target. Similarly, unless you actually put in the work and pull the trigger, all that aiming will have been for nothing.

When you’re making those unreasonable decisions that everyone advises you against, it’s the hard work that’s going to pull you through to success.

When you’re taking all those dangerous risks, it’s your hard work that will determine whether you win big or lose it all.

And it’s only through hard work that you can truly rid yourself of your dependence on external support and become independent enough to leave the safety of mediocrity behind.

Reaching For That High-Hanging Fruit

Building talent. Reaching your goals. Maintaining great relationships. Staying healthy. Getting that dream job. Achieving fame and riches – these are some of the high-hanging fruits of life, and they all have one thing in common; they require hard work.

This is why most people never reach for these fruits. It’s just too much effort. Besides, there’s plenty of low-hanging fruit right there, and those are so much easier to reach! Most people just can’t be bothered to put in all that extra work just to reach a little higher.

And that is precisely why you need to put in that work. Because while the rest of the world is competing for the low-hanging fruit, there’s a whole untouched canopy up there if you’re just willing to put in the effort to reach it.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. It’s never that easy.

Abolishing Our Fear of Hard Work

Unlucky for us, our brains really, really hate hard work. In fact, your brain hates hard work so much that it will convince itself to believe even the dumbest lies to get out of it.

We constantly tell ourselves that our goals are unreachable, and that any hard work would just be a waste anyway. We tell ourselves that we can’t reach excellence, because we’re just not good enough. That we don’t have the discipline to get into shape. That we’re not sociable enough to build a great network. That we’re not brave enough to travel the world. That we’re not smart enough to manage our dream job.

We delude ourselves into thinking that all these things – discipline, talent, social skills, courage, etc. – are impossible for us to acquire, so we might as well not even try.

Because if these things were possible, we’d feel obliged to work hard enough to achieve them. And subconsciously, this is something we’re desperate to avoid.

But this is where you have a choice. You can either keep feeding yourself the lies that keep you from putting in any real hard work – or you can make hard work your ally in reaching excellence.

It’s your choice.

Of course, that’s not the only choice we need to make here. Factoring in the other steps we’ve covered in this series, there are quite a few difficult choices we need to make in our efforts to reach excellence.

The first is between making reasonable and unreasonable decisions. Do we stick with the conventional wisdom of our society and make only the socially acceptable decisions that everyone else is making? Or do we throw reason out the window and give life a shot?

Which brings us to our second choice; are we prepared to face a little risk, or should we play it safe? Is the prospect of added rewards enough to make up for the risk of failure? Or will we constantly choose the safe and easy way out of life?

Which brings us to our most terrifying choice; do we dare go past the point of mediocrity, or do we stay well within the comforts of our social support systems?

These are the questions you need to answer before you will even have a shot at reaching excellence. But, as always; the choice is up to you.

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