You Have to Stop Thinking You Can “Hack” Your Way To Success

There’s no one trait that will guarantee productivity.

Photo by Elena Buzmakova(borisova) from Pexels

Do you know what’s weird about humans? We love to collectively imagine that bizarre traits are what make successful people, well, successful.

We ascribe their incredible and undeniable success to a single, two-dimensional trait. What’s worse is that we love to extrapolate from that trait. That means we think that a single trait isn’t just a quirk, but that it reveals a whole personality about that person.

What I’m saying is that we have a terrible tendency to say that the very reason a person is successful is because they do “that one weird trick.”

Wake up at four in the morning? Driven, not exhausted.

Flex your toes one hundred times before bed every night? Visionary, not obsessed goof.

Write in the early mornings with your windows wide open, and completely in the nude? Creative genius, not an exhibitionist.

I can’t believe I have to say this, but these weird quirks of behavior are not precursors to wild success in love, life, or money. Just take a look at some other successful people and you’ll begin to see that their odd habits or funny tricks are just that — quirks. Not the driving reason behind their roaring success.

Jeff Bezos? Never sets an alarm clock to wake up.

Marissa Mayer? Bought an array of cookbooks and used spreadsheets to find the ultimate cupcake recipe.

Bill Gates? Memorized his employees’ licence plates to keep tabs on their movements.

I’m not making these up — these are actual, real-life quirks that successful people happen to have. They are not the characteristics that drive their success.

Here’s the truth. Those successful people all have a powerful combination of talent, drive, motivation, and, importantly, luck.

But nobody likes to hear that what they’re lacking is a whole damn hard-working personality and that’s why they’re not successful.

That means they can’t tell themselves, “If only if I, too, cultivated a collection of coat hangers, then I also would be a highly respected and successful artist/actor.”

What people want to hear is that if they, too, could drag themselves awake at 4 AM, or if they could manage to down 40–50 cups of coffee per day, they would experience instantaneous success.

We love to be told that we’re only one good-but-weird habit away from being ultra-successful.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

But it’s not true! It’s a falsehood from two different angles.

First, the vast, vast majority of what we as a society deem “successful” do not have any bizarre habits. They do their nine-to-five, put in the effort, and, if they’re very lucky, they get a big break.

What’s more is there are so many people who work just as hard, but don’t get their idea seen by the right person, or get sick the day of their presentation, or miss out on making an important networking connection because their uncle didn’t donate enough to an Ivy League School to secure their entrance.

Quirky habits don’t help with that.

Second, these highly successful people contradict each other. Ben Franklin advocates letting it all hang out in the buff, while Steve Jobs told people he minimized his choices by wearing the same thing every day.

Women earn less money when they pay less attention to the way they look, whereas when men wear the same thing, we don’t notice or we attribute it to their incredible intellect. There’s definitely a gender bias in success.

One hyper-successful person will say to get up at 4 AM, while Jeff Bezos, richest person in the world, doesn’t even set an alarm. And consider that there are legions of early risers out there, who have yet to “make it big” despite waking up at 4 AM.

There’s no rhyme or reason, no minute-by-minute schedule that you can guarantee to work your way successful.

So which habit makes you successful? The truth is that it’s not a single habit that drives your success or failure. You can’t think that people rising at the crack of dawn are inherently harder-working than those that stay up till 2 in the morning.

People who are successful are hardworking round the clock. They have a passion that they follow, and they don’t compromise their ideals. They are more than just one weird habit.

I have tried getting up ludicrously early, I’ve tried cold showers to jolt me in a creative mindset, I’ve tried super brain foods. None of it stuck, and none of it made me more successful by any definition of the word.

What does work for me? Doing stuff that inspires me. Spending time with loved ones. Pursuing artistic pursuits. Trying things I’m bad at. Taking time off to prioritize myself.

At least these habits give me motivation, inspiration, money, and joy.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to success. I find myself scoffing whenever I read yet another unimaginative, unoriginal take that tells me my success is but a single alarm clock away. Maybe one day I’ll change my mind. But until then, I’ll enjoy my sleep like a normal, successful person.

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