Choose Your Path and Follow It…or Else!

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I’ve noticed something in my own life and in the talks/e-mail conversations I’ve had with others.

That is, the most successful people I know choose something (or someone) to follow and they do it with tunnel vision focus.

Those who have more trouble jump around from one opportunity to another, or one technique to the next.

Let me give you an example…

How many ways are there to get fit?

Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands?

You can do P90X, train for a marathon, jump rope, do yoga, ride a bike, and the list goes on. Some exercise routines may be better than others, but you know which strategy will never get you the results you want?

Acting on one routine for a short while, then jumping on to another, and then another, and another without giving any single routine a chance to flourish.

I have a saying that I’ve been using for years: “It works if you work it.

In the example above “it” would be an exercise routine.

As some of you already know (thanks for taking action and e-mailing me about it!) the strategy I outlined in How To Spot Opportunity works.

Maybe you stumbled a bit along the way. Maybe it didn’t work exactly like you thought it would. Maybe you had to change something I did to fit your own style.

But you worked it.

And it worked.

Unfortunately, I also got a lot of e-mails with an attitude of “it doesn’t work, although I didn’t try it yet.”

One of the reasons I quit teaching stuff like what I wrote about in How To Spot Opportunity 4-5 years ago was because I didn’t deal well with people not taking action. These days I understand that only 1-5% of people take action on anything they learn.

That includes health, wealth, and relationships.

I still don’t deal well with it, and I wish I had the power to change that 5% to 95%, but there’s only so much I can do.

The power is in your hands.

I will not often tell you what to do, but I’m making an exception right now: Be part of the 5%.

Choose a path and follow through with it. You will have failures along the way. There will be stumbling blocks. You will get frustrated. It will usually take longer than you think it will take.

But you know what?

The pain is worth it.

Of course, if that doesn’t interest you, you do have another choice. But do you really want to be an “or Else?”

Let me know in the comments the times in your life where you have focused intently on something and succeeded.



35 COMMENTS

  1. Love this advice. I don’t deal well with it either. I find myself occasionally breaking up conversations (monologues) with friends about topics I have already listened to and given advice about. “Ahh, my back hurts.” “You should go see a doctor.” “Ahh my back hurts.” “You should go see a doctor.” “Ahh, my..” “You need to either see a doctor or stop complaining.” I catch myself doing this from time to time as well, but upon realizing this fault in myself, I do make strides to fix it… most times. I think there are a lot of factors at work to keep people from taking these necessary strides.. a couple I have read about recently.. resistance and a lack of awareness. Either way, great advice on an interesting topic.

    • Thanks for sharing Jenny!

      Resistance! Steven Pressfield’s War of Art talks about that. It’s something we all have to battle. But those who have any level of success actively fight Resistance. I know I have to fight it every day. Some people blame ADD, but I really believe we’re all ADD these days. Anybody can walk into a doctor’s office in the US and get an ADD diagnosis and bottle of pills if they’d like. Realizing that ADD isn’t special helps the fight.

      As far as your “my back hurts” example. I know exactly what you mean. I think we all have to deal with the “Why won’t you just take my advice and stop complaining?!” situation. The way I deal with it now is that I do my best not to give advice unless somebody asks. That way, the never ending “my back hurts” conversation isn’t a conversation at all. :)

  2. For me, it’s the pain level that drives the action.

    Example, in April 2008, my dream job, that I had for 17 years, crashed to the ground. The pain was fear of not providing for my family. I had one goal, and that was to get an equal or better position to provide for my family. It was my sole focus. By August I had a job paying almost 50% more than I was previously making, in a part of the country that we love. pain-focus-intensity-success

    Now I see what else is possible. And I have to decide – will I create enough of my own (positive) pain to focus and strive toward what I see as possible. Thanks for the continued challenge in this area.

    • Hi Bill,

      I love this —> “pain-focus-intensity-success”

      While I don’t think we have to experience pain to go through the 3 other steps, it’s great that it spurred you to action. Congratulations on that.

      Karol

  3. Yet another great article Karol.

    Thanks for continually producing such awesome articles and topics etc on a regular basis. I love it. Even though I don’t always leave comments, I’ve read every article you have posted as far as I know. And I’d just like to say, thank you very much.

    Just to add to the theme of this article. One of my favourite sayings is:

    You either do, or you don’t…there is no try.

    It leaves nothing to question. Once you remove all the “white noise” and the fluff/excuses its either yes, or no. Do or don’t do.

    • Thank you Kevin! It means a lot that you’d take the time to let me know you dig what I do here. :)

      “Once you remove all the “white noise” and the fluff/excuses its either yes, or no. Do or don’t do.” I’m into it. It’s very Iron-like.

  4. Will do sir…

    I think why you see such a small percent of people taking action is because they are not willing to work hard and/or sacrifice.

    I know when I am not succeeding at something it usually comes back to the approach I am taking and usually hard work and sacrifice (…or lack thereof) are the reasons.

    David Damron
    LifeExcursion

    • Not willing to work hard or sacrifice? It may just be the wrong focus. Unless we “see” and “believe” in any desirable result why bother trying. I can focus on the process which often is unpleasant (have to, hard work, sacrifice etc.) and never start. Or I can focus on the result (something I really want) and be done almost before starting.

  5. I have no patience with people who don’t take action when they know better. And man, I do hear a lot of defeatist “do it while you can” when I talk about the actions I AM taking. Arrrgh.

    At the same time, I find it impossible to force myself to do something unpleasant for long, like exercising. What’s worked to get me active for the first time (a whole year now) is focusing on other things that exercise brings … peace of mind (through yoga) or energy, or strength. Things I do find pleasant, that I value. That said, I still think of exercise as an ugly word and its most widely accepted form, an ugly concept.

  6. I sit here at 1:22 in the morning reading your blog and happen on this post. It is a great motivator. Just saw your interview on The Jet Set Citzen. I have been a subscriber for a while. One of the things I like about your blog is that you are accessable! I really like Kevin’s comment about “there is no try, only do or don’t do” I remember seeing that quote in the “karate kid”. It is true you only do or don’t do! My life is far from what my prospects looked like when I was a kid, one small boy out of five in my house. I had a good upbringing but never had much convidence in myslelf. Got married and failed at that due a bad decision in choosing a mate. I thought I was a failure! Since then I have travelled to five different countries, and am learning a second language, progressed to having a great paying job (better than most of my classmates and siblings) and have my eyes set on a course that will take me to greater places than I have ever been. It’s people like you that help me stay focused in life and always challenge me to never settle for second best! Thanks

    • Hey Randall! Kudos to you for flipping the script and going from “feeling like a failure” to “no way, I’m a success!” I love that!

      I’m happy to know that I’ve in any way helped you focus and challenge yourself. Thank you!

  7. I lost over 30 pounds on the Atkins diet.. and kept it off ;)
    (typical answer for a girl, isn’t it?)

    It’s funny you mention the 95 vs 5%, because I’ve seen that happen as well..
    When people noticed how quick and (appearantly?) easy I was losing weight, Atkins became all the rage in our church. For a while, there were about 20 people ‘trying’ it. And 18 of them just got fatter because they gave up and lacked the discipline to well.. ‘work it’!

    Other than that.. my mum and I started a little business (in give-aways for weddings) from absolute scratch. We made a $500 initial investment (read: buying some material) and then we worked and worked and worked until we got a pretty nice little internet-store. Basically, we just finished the little bunch of materials, paid for a larger inventory and did that a couple of times.. surely, we didn’t make ANY money in the beginning.. but we also cut out the risk of investing our own money in something that might not have worked…. better safe then sorry, so to say ;)

    Greetings from the netherlands!

    • Hey Linda,

      Congrats on your successes! Your business strategy was very smart. Consistently reinvesting profits is a fast/lower risk way to build a business.

      Thank you for sharing,
      Karol

  8. Ha, my friends have learnt to stop complaining to me because I always give them action plans, then when they don’t follow them (or do anything!) about their issue, except complain to me again, I shout at them…Of course, then my housemate finally went part-time on her job, and even took a month off to find a better one!
    Personally, I went vegan pretty damn quickly. I found out about the environmental impact of agribuisiness, decided not eating meat and dairy was akin to not driving a car, and over a couple of months, stopped. It made sense, it was what I wanted to achieve and so I did it.
    I also don’t understand people who won’t try to do what they want to do, and point out that not even starting ensures a 100% failure rate! Yeah, I have definitely had this conversation with a lot of people.

  9. Success is all about commitment. Commitment to one course of action is focus.

    We have so much choice now that we are afraid to commit to one choice out of fear that we made the wrong decision. Most people jump around from one idea to the next like flipping channels on a TV. Committing to a single decision even if it is only 50% optimal is many times better than doing nothing while waiting for the perfect opportunity.

    • Right on John. Committing and doing an ok job is much better than doing nothing.

      And again, right on, a lot of it boils down to fear of making a bad decision…i.e. fear of failure.

      Thanks!

  10. I have been the guy that tried to do everything perfectly – I mean perfectly, every detail counted – from Monday to Wednesday (max), then my energy flushed down the toiled and I was slacking. Thursday till Sunday was a big mess, I don’t cared at all, about nothing. You know how you handled exercise books in school? You wrote beautiful letters on the first two pages, the rest was a mess. Basically, my entire youth felt like that. Monday was great, Tuesday faded and so on.
    Till that one day. I had to sent in the application for my art and design university, with examples of my work. I “worked” for six weeks with no acceptable results, then on that day I realized that life is no exercise book from school that you can throw away. It’s real. It’s progress. It’s here, right here, right now. And we have to deal with it and move on.

    I had no sleep that weekend, completed my application and was accepted a month later.

  11. F- Yeah! This post cuts to the bone, Karol!

    @all the above posters esp Jenny, Kevin, David: Great comments.

    I call the people who can’t stick to a program “seekers”. Always on some magical quest for the holy grail of whatever they think they need in their lives to solve all their problems with no effort. Gah!!

    Put up or shut up. That’s all I have to say about that.

  12. Hey all,

    This post wasn’t meant to attack anybody or to put out negative thoughts/energy.

    I’m not perfect. I don’t always do what I want to do. I don’t always follow advice I probably should. Sometimes I’m in the 95% that doesn’t act.

    The point of the article is to realize when that happens and do something positive to change it.

    Thanks!
    Karol

  13. haha I love this post. I get so pissed when people assume something doesn’t work even when they haven’t tried it or think it takes some sort of special power to achieve the goal. For example, I run marathons. I always get people who are like “ohhh I want to run a marathon, that would be so great. I would lose so much weight” So I invite them out to run with me on short runs, I let them pick the pace, the place, the time, everything… because anyone who runs long distance knows that any company is good company when you are logging double digit miles… Anyways, these are the same people who always have the same excuse… “Let me work up to it and drop these 10 lbs and I will run with you.” The next day they have pretty much forgotten that they ever had any inclination to run. The cycle will repeat itself about every 2 months, eventually I get pissed and won’t invite people at all which really sucks because I might be able to help one person find the joy in long distance running, but the other 95% of people discourage me from extending the invitation.

  14. Karol, I can always count on you saying the words I need to hear, when I need to hear them! I’ve spent the last few years throwing my time and energy in all directions because I have so many interests. The result? I’m okay at a lot of things but not (at least in my mind) really great at one thing. This situation suits a lot of my friends, because I’m then the go-to person for almost any situation (shoot some photos, tutor their kid in math, solve their website problems, answer a gardening question, help build a shed, etc.) It doesn’t suit me, though, as I’m left feeling mediocre and that I’m not reaching my potential, which is why I have decided to focus solely on my photography, promote myself, and to ignore all my past excuses for not doing it.
    Thanks for the words.

    • Hi Liisa,

      That sounds wonderful! While there’s no problem with having lots of interests, it’s good to keep our focus on just one thing at a time. I think you’re going to love what happens with your photography when you focus hard on it.

      Karol

  15. A problem for me has always been losing the passion that spurred me to start working towards a goal in the first place. One strategy I use is cooling my jets- when I get really excited about taking the next step in a process, I make sure to evaluate how much I want to do that day vs. how much I can reasonably accomplish without unnecessary stress. I allow myself to relax and accomplish a goal in manageable steps. That way I stay excited about the process for longer and don’t get burned out.

    • Hi Caleb,

      You’re not the only person who has that problem. I think most people do. And your strategy is a great way to make things happen. Thank you for sharing. :)

      Karol

  16. Thanks for this post, Karol..
    As much as I don’t want to admit it to myself, I think for the past year or so I have mostly been in the 95% category of not taking much action with some things…. I’ve created a lot of work with my art and photography, but living with family has made me lazy about getting off my butt and really fending for myself and bringing in enough income…..
    but I’m jumping into some big changes in the next few weeks. I’m moving somewhere new and making myself leave behind the comforts that have made me lazy. I’ve been anxious about it and hesitant, but reading this post has made me realize how much I need to make the jump.
    Thanks :)

    • Hi Daisy,

      The fact that you acknowledged you were in the 95% is a massive step towards fixing that. And removing yourself from the lazy environment will help quite a bit too. :)

      Thanks for commenting!
      Karol

  17. Hi Steve,

    Your story is so cool! Thank you for sharing. And that’s awesome that you’re actively taking control and putting yourself in the 5%. :)

    Thanks again,
    Karol

  18. I have to admit that for most of my life, I’ve been in the 95%.

    What’s been getting me into the 5% is a version of hard work and sacrifice. Several years ago, I was inspired to buy ‘Write It Down, Make It Happen’ by Henriette Ann Klauser.

    I read it, became convinced that her precepts and exercises were correct, attempted to follow them – and failed to stick with it.

    Then I reached a point in my life where I wanted to make changes, picked it up (books wait for you until you’re ready for them), was inspired to do daily free-writing asking for what I want, and stuck with it.

    EVERY SINGLE THING I wrote about daily and asked the universe for – I received.

    • That is awesome Dan! I saved that book in my Amazon account so I can remember to find it when I get back to the US. (It’s not available on Kindle.)

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