I recently did some soul searching and came to a conclusion that has changed my outlook on a lot of how I treat my day-to-day activities and how I structure my big-picture goals. Like many, I was taught in my youth that success was measured by finishing in first place or in the top 1%. For most of my life, anything outside of the 1% was considered a failure and, thus, led to self-imposed disappointment and depression.
Aspiring to be great is admirable. Aspiring to be perfect is stupidity. Frankly, if you are wanting to be a well-rounded individual, it is almost impossible to be in the 1% of any group due to the time it takes to become a master of something.
As part of my reading list, I recently read “Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live Your Dreams” by James Altucher. (If it isn't on your reading list yet, I highly suggest it!) In the book, the author talks about his remarkable success and his lack of perfection or 1% mastery of anything in his life. Altucher considers himself truly mediocre and yet he is highly successful, has made millions (and lost it multiple times), and lives his best life.
The thought is simple. If you want to be in the 1% of something, start when you are 10 years old and dedicate 12-16 hours a day over the course of a decade or two to the pursuit of mastery. Then, maybe, if you had any natural talent in the task to begin with, you can truly be in the 1%. To aim for this seems highly irrational and quite self sabotaging! For someone like me who is a self-proclaimed “multi-potentialite” and desires the pursuit of many different careers and paths of mastery (currently in the US the average adult pursues 8 different careers in their lifetime), the pursuit to be in the 1% is not ideal.
Instead, Altucher makes a case for the pursuit of the 10% margin. With hard work and moderate time invested, you can easily, and without mental pain, strive to be in the top 10% of anything and find success therein. If the impetus of success is there and some hard work (not too much) is mixed in, then this is totally plausible.
What exactly is this? This is complete brain restructuring. Start by understanding that not being in the 1% is totally okay! You are not lesser because you are not perfect or the best — you are exactly who and what you need to be. Once you begin to accept being a 10%er, you can start to see what you want to pursue! Maybe you hate your current work and want to pursue something else. While still paying the bills at the current job and with the pursuit of the 10% lifestyle outside of that work, it is possible to make a transition over time.
There are some other fundamental ideas that I think the book introduces to help with finding and understanding personal “success." For me, however, the understanding and accepting of not needing to be the best was a remarkable start!
Go get the book and please let me know what you think and if this has helped you at all!