Read Homer’s Odyssey and you’ll feel awful for the hero. After 10 years of fighting Trojans at the end of the Earth, Odysseus and company swarm out of the wooden horse and finally sack the city. But Zeus holds a grudge, and his voyage home takes another decade.
In that time, Odysseus is shipwrecked, trapped and sent to Hades. At home, scores of suitors try to take his wife and his fortune, and plot to kill his son. That’s only the first few chapters.
The lesson? Stop striving.
Building a remarkable life is hard and realizing your destiny is not for everyone. You want to enjoy life, right? So stop breaking your back to get somewhere! Here are a few surefire ways you can sidestep those annoying life challenges.
1. Stop talking to new people.
They have a wealth of new ideas and inspiration to distract you from your routine. Working with the same stale information in quiet desperation might not get you ahead fast, but building new relationships is time consuming, and you’re busy.
But if you must grow, commit to setting up three coffee chats per week with new people. Use LinkedIn, Meetup.com, and TenThousandCoffees.com to find allies in your industry, business partners or a mentor.
Why? Keith Ferrazzi, author of the business classic Never Eat Alone, believes that connecting with others is one of the most important life skills. “People do business with people they know and like,” he writes.
Start talking to strangers. Pitch your ideas and challenges to them and ask about theirs. A new perspective can help you leap your biggest obstacle. Plus, you might be introduced to someone who can save you years of time and effort in getting to your goals.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” —Albert Einstein
2. Don’t waste time reading.
Ideas are inferior to action. Cluttering your head with knowledge will overload your brain and keep you from acting. It’s better to simply do, do, do. The hard-won expertise of others can’t compete with the value of your own experience. The 21st century business wisdom is infallible: Failure is good.
However… If you want a shortcut around failure, you could stand on others’ shoulders. Reading cuts into your social time, but what if your next book contains the idea that makes you $50 million?
Most leaders are readers. Jim Rohn said, “Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.” Warren Buffet reads for 80 percent of his day. Bill Gates: about a book a week. They are not outliers. Author Steve Siebold interviewed 1,200 wealthy people and saw a commonality: They are insatiable readers.
3. Tell yourself you deserve another hour of TV.
Twenty-four hours is a looong day. Eight for sleep, eight for grueling work, then your musts: commute, cooking and showering. When do you get some “you” time? That horizontal hour of Netflix and wine is sacred—don’t skip it. If an hour feels good, imagine how two would chill you out.
You can build your side business tomorrow, when you’ve recharged your batteries. Or on the weekend. Or next month. You can’t do quality work when you’re tired, right?
Yet this is exactly what remarkable people do. They show up when they’re sleepy. They lace up their shoes when the idea of running is indistinguishable from 20 years in a labor camp. Why? They know that the only pain is in the pre-start dread. The work is usually bearable, if not enjoyable.
Use persistent starting to overcome procrastination. “Keep on starting, and finishing will take care of itself,” says author Neil Fiore. Commit to the bare minimum: Work for five minutes, write one sentence or do only one push up.
Anyone can step over a low bar, even when they’re dog tired. Starting is key. You’ll find five minutes often turns into 50, and that the work wasn’t so nauseating after all.
4. Skip the gym—you need rest.
Physical exercise is taxing. Lifting weights creates microscopic tears that leave you sore for three days. The myth that running causes joint problems has been debunked, but a five-mile run guarantees soreness. Never mind that this pain helps your muscles get stronger; pain is pain, something to avoid at all costs.
Then again, if you’re a sadist, you’d point out that physical activity is better than coffee for boosting energy, because it increases the supply of oxygen and nutrients to your cells.
Personal trainer Jon Joachim says that, in addition to boosting energy, “Exercise can help you manage cortisol levels, which reduces stress.” It also helps your brain stay focused, and avoid burnout.
5. Don’t pat yourself on the back.
Pride goes before the fall. Overconfidence can lead to bad choices, so don’t get cocky. Most people can’t stand the smugness of the successful. If you want to get along, don’t stand out and don’t chase your ambitions. Chances are you’re not some genius that will change the world, anyway.
And there it is, the biggest lie we tell ourselves: that we are inadequate. When I attended his four-day seminar, Tony Robbins asked the audience, “Who believes they are not good enough?” In this room of 10,000 leaders, 95 percent raised their hands, myself included.
Trading tough-love for self-love is a direct route to better performance. Dr. Lois Frankel, author of Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, says, “High self-esteem has a positive correlation to not only success but also satisfaction.” This in turn helps us become “more resilient and positive.” It’s time to start loving ourselves.
The Odyssey is fiction, but its lessons are timeless: Striving comes with hardship. Staying home will save you heartache, but there is no greatness without pain.
This story has endured for nearly 3,000 years because the human experience is synonymous with triumph over hardship. Odysseus suffered, but (spoiler alert) in the end, he wins.
Want a remarkable life? Keep challenging yourself.