On Doing Hard Shit
Success can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations we are willing to have, and by the number of uncomfortable actions we are willing to take.
- Tim Ferriss
Want to be more successful?
Do more hard shit.
In this article, you’re going to learn:
- Why the little voice in your head that tells you it’s okay to take the easy route is sabotaging your success
- How you can use an “identity pact” to rewire your brain for success
- How mastering “micro commitments” can lead to you making dramatic improvements in all areas of your life
Here we go.
INTRODUCING: YOUR WORST ENEMY
You know that voice inside your head that says “nah, you really don’t want to do that!” all the time?
This is the voice that:
- Says “BLEGH. I’m still so tired... just hit the snooze button for 15 mins” when your alarm goes off
- Says “eh, screw the healthy stuff. I know you’re trying to eat healthier, but this can’t kill you to have this once...” when you’re deciding whether or not to eat something unhealthy
- Says “PSH. Gym? No thanks.” when you get the idea that you should work out
That’s the voice I’m talking about.
My theory is that the more you learn how to overcome that voice, the more success you’ll have in life.
Let me prove it.
THE HARD THINGS AREN’T GOING AWAY. SORRY.
Life is full of shit that you don’t want to do.
Even the world’s most successful people have shit they don’t want to do. But they do it anyways.
Once you tolerate the voice in your head that tells you it’s okay to snooze, you also subconsciously tell yourself that you’re okay with being “pushed around” by the voice.
Then the voice gains momentum to sabotage other areas where you might succeed.
So while you may not think that snoozing in the morning will really make a difference in your day or life, think again.
With every microdecision you make, you’re actually training the voice and giving it more power to influence other big decisions.
“Oh, this big project you don’t want to do? You can just start on it in 15 minutes after you check your phone...”
Before you know it, all of those microdecisions compound until you literally don’t have autonomy over what you want to do.
You get pushed around like a pinball every day, week, month, and year of your life.
... until you decide to kill it.
WHAT INSPIRED ME TO KILL MY WORST ENEMY.
This year, one of the best books that I read was Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins.
As a kid, David was brutally abused by his father. And, like many people who grow up in hostile environments, he started making bad decisions.
Before he knew it, he weighed almost 300 pounds and was spraying for cockroaches for a living.
But then he decided one day that he didn’t like the person that he saw in the mirror. He was sick of not having control over the voice.
So he set a goal to become a Navy SEAL.
Fast forward a few years, and David went on to...
- Become a Navy SEAL and graduate from Army Ranger school with the distinction of “Top Honor Man”
- Run 18+ ultramarathons (which are 100 mile races)
- Set the world record for most pull ups in 24 hours (4,030)
- Publish a bestselling book and travel the world speaking
And you know what he attributes a good chunk of his success to?
- Ignoring the voice in your head that begs you to take the easy route
- Doing hard shit instead
But how can you start to do hard shit and kill your worst enemy?
HOW TO KILL YOUR WORST ENEMY PART 1:
CHOOSE AN “IDENTITY PACT”
How many times do you let the bitching voice in your head “win” throughout the day?
Seriously, think about it.
- Did you get up right when your alarm went off this morning?
- Do you allow yourself to eat unhealthy foods on a consistent basis?
- Do you let the voice tell you that it’s okay not to work out?
- Do you put off important tasks?
If you answered “yes” to one or more of those questions, you might have some work to do.
And that’s okay, we all do.
So what can you do to start fighting back?
On top of Can’t Hurt Me, another two books that impacted me this year were Indistractible by Nir Eyal, and Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Both of those books argued that true behavior change is identity change.
So if you want to change your habits, you should focus on shifting your identity.
In Atomic Habits, James gives the example of two different people who are trying to quit smoking, when they are offered a cigarette.
They give two different responses:
- No thanks, I’m trying to quit smoking
- No thanks, I’m not a smoker
Which is more compelling?
They both refuse the cigarette, but the second response is an identity shift. The second person no longer identifies as a smoker.
The person who shifts their identity is significantly more likely to follow through with kicking the bad habit.
Similarly, in Indistractible, Nir talks about how one of the most powerful ways to become more focused towards your goals is to use something called an “identity pact”.
As Nir defines it, an identity pact is a precommitment to a self-image that helps us pursue what we really want.
Before I even heard Nir talk about this, I started doing something similar where I told myself “I don’t snooze.”
This was an identity pact, and I began telling everyone that I never snoozed.
After awhile, the voice that tells me to snooze in the morning has no chance, because not snoozing has become a part of my identity.
In both Atomic Habits and Indistractible, they point to the fact that if you truly are serious about destroying the annoying voice in your head letting you take the easy route, the best thing you can do is to stop identifying with it, and instead shift your identity to someone who does hard shit.
HOW TO KILL YOUR WORST ENEMY PART 2:
COMMIT TO MASTERING ONE MICRO DECISION WITH YOUR IDENTITY PACT
So how can you start training yourself to do hard shit?
I think the best place to start is actually not with trying to “beat” the inner voice at all.
The inner voice will never go away. But you can give it less power.
The first step I took to doing harder shit was to first become aware of the inner voice.
Your first step should be the same.
Throughout the next couple of days, simply be aware of how often you let the little voice win.
That could mean:
- Hitting the snooze button
- Not eating healthy
- Not going to work out
- Not focusing on high priority work and getting distracted
- Not doing something that you said you were going to do
If you want, you can try to stop it right then and there. But I think it’s important to realize just how stupidly impactful this little voice is.
Once you’ve started to notice it, start small.
In my opinion, the best place to start is with the snooze button.
Almost everyone starts their day with a blaring alarm.
If you’re honest with yourself, how often do you let your inner voice win and hit the snooze button?
If your answer to that is “a lot”...
... then start with the snooze button.
Focus on getting up when you say you are going to, even if it sucks. Then, print out a calendar and start marking an “X” over the days that you successfully avoid the snooze button.
Focus on building up Xes over time, and don’t break the chain.
After you do this for awhile, start to move onto other things that the voice has control over.
The more I’ve continued to do this, the more I’ve realized two things:
- When my brain tells me that it doesn’t want to do something, but I do it anyways, I feel SO GOOD every time I do it
- Your brain has a LOT of things it’s telling you that you shouldn’t do throughout the day
The combination of these two realizations has been incredibly powerful for me.
Whenever you start to feel that resistance, lean in.
HOW TO KILL YOUR WORST ENEMY PART 3:
COMMIT TO HARDER AND HARDER THINGS
Once you’ve mastered a single microdecision, focus on another.
Over time, you’ll build up a resistance to the voice that tells you to take the easy route.
Once you have momentum, you can commit to harder and harder things.
The more scared you are of it, the more likely it is that you should commit to it.
You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish if you simply commit to doing things that you thought were impossible.
Slowly but surely, you’ll watch yourself accomplish incredible things...
... all because you began by killing the “easy route” voice in your head.
FEEDING THE WOLF
There’s a parable about an old Cherokee man teaching his grandson about life:
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
I also believe that the evil wolf is the voice that encourages you to take the easy route.
The good wolf is quieter. But the good wolf wants you to rise to your full potential.
All you have to do is feed it.