Success is Not a Training Montage

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You know, we’re a movie montage culture.

What do I mean by that?

I mean, we’re shown our whole lives through movies, television, cartoons, comic books, and basically any other pop culture source we’re exposed to, that success only comes to the hero after some epic-level training.  The problem is, this epic training is usually edited down to a zippy little three minutes montage set to inspiring music.

Through this, we’re trained to believe that our dreams will come to us if we work incredibly hard for just a short time.  That if we put EVERYTHING we have into something, pulling that crazy all nighter, or that ridiculous week-long workout regimen, that it will have a lasting change in our lives, and result in our ultimate victory.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way the world works.  I had to learn this the hard way.  I was tricked, like you, into thinking that massive, herculean efforts were the way to achieve my goals and realize success.  Because of this, I would procrastinate, and save my energy for that final push where I would bang everything out in one epic concentrated moment.

Part of the problem is, this worked for a while.  I’d whip up a twelve page essay in one night, and get an A for it.  I’d cram for a test for two days straight, and ace it.  I’d drill my kata for a solid week for an upcoming tournament, and win first place.

Unfortunately, this trend didn’t continue into my adult, post-schooling life, but my training montage attitude still did.

Slowly, my “feast and famine” mentality in regards to success began to poison all areas of my life.  I became impatient, and expected rewards in an unrealistic amount of time.  This set me up for failure on more than one occasion, as I put something off for a while and pulled the ol’ college all-nighter only to be met with disappointment in the results.

It wasn’t that I was consciously thinking of Goku’s condensed training scenes on his way to Namek and expecting that to be a realistic example for life.  The problem ran deeper than that.

It’s harped on pretty frequently, but we are becoming a culture defined by instant gratification.  We want everything now, and we don’t necessarily mind working hard for it, but we don’t want to work long.  We want to find the smart way to do things, the magical formula that will make all our dreams come true.

It’s a reason why all of those “would you live in X for a month/eat X for a month/do X for a month if it meant you won a million dollars?!” memes are so popular on Facebook.  It’s why people play the lottery.  It’s why get-rich-quick schemes are so popular, and take advantage of so many otherwise intelligent people.

It’s not your fault, honestly.  The media loves to glorify the “overnight success.”  The whiz kid who programmed his own social network empire in his college dorm room in one semester.  The successful entrepreneur who whipped up a visionary product in a week in her garage.  The astounding athletic phenom who wows crowds, coming from some unknown little down in Podunk, Nowhere.

The fact is, however, that if you start talking to those people, they talk about being “ten year overnight successes.”  They talk about all of the failures they had first, all the thankless hard work they had to do, day in and day out, with nothing to show for it but their own self doubt.

The fact is, this isn’t pretty.  We don’t want to see people working hard and seeming to achieve nothing.  We only want to see the last night before their massive success.  That makes for a better movie, after all!

However, the difference is not in the massive, final push.  The big difference, the real secret to success, is small changes.  Little, seemingly insignificant habits that slowly start to effect everything in your life.  Small shifts in your lifestyle over an extended period of time that start that snowball rolling downhill, picking up more snow along the way.

Now, it’s not glamorous, and it’s not sexy, I can’t promise you that.  But it is, believe it or not, easier.  It’s not fast, necessarily, but it’s a hell of a lot faster than trying eighteen different “fast” methods over the course of three years and ending up back where you started (or worse!)

The fact is, it all comes down to developing a system, and then trusting in that system.  This applies to losing weight, gaining muscle, getting stronger, getting faster, learning a new skill, or just about any other long term change you want to make in your life.

Taking 100-200 calories out of your diet every day doesn’t seem like all that much.  In fact, it’s not!  That’s one serving of cheese, or half a candy bar, or two small cookies.  However, just by taking that little bit out (not a hard change at all,) you’re going to lose twenty pounds of weight in a year!  No crazy exercise regimen, no ridiculous rules about foods that you can or can’t eat…just 100-200 calories a day.

Adding five pounds to your lifts every two weeks doesn’t seem like too much if you’re exercising regularly.  But, if you keep that up for a year, you’ll be benching 130 pounds more than you were at the beginning!  That’s a whole other person!

The fact is, small, slight, easy changes over time that you can stick with, and maintain, will always be more useful, more effective, and longer-lasting than that one crazy week-long fitness bootcamp.  Reading on a subject of your choice for twenty minutes every way will result in WAY more learning and retention than cramming two textbooks into a week of nonstop study.

If you want lasting success in everything that you do, seek to make the small, easy changes over time.  Your dreams are worth the time it takes to earn them.  Worry less about crushing yourself with work in a short time for no gains, and more about gradually building the life you’ve always dreamed of around yourself.

We’re going to succeed together, one small step at a time.

Live boldly, change the world, and continue to be awesome!

Dan “DaRatmastah” Wallace

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