The Only Three Things You Need To Know To Succeed
- Posted by James Altucher
I once went to a Landmark Forum seminar because I liked the girl who invited me. “YOU HAVE TO GO TO THIS!” she said. I was going to have to sit for three hours and listen to people say stuff and how much Landmark helped them. I can’t even remember what they said. I’m sure it was enlightening but I can’t remember at all. I was nervous when she introduced me to the group in the beginning. I remember that. I also remember afterwards when I was tag-teamed by two members: “so when are you going to sign up for our [expensive] weekend course?” There was ZERO chance I was going to sign up for it.
So they then switched tactics. They said to my friend, “looks like your buddy is afraid of making committments.” Whoah! Saying that to a girl!? Saying that in front of me. I almost signed on the dotted line. But I didn’t.
Any “teaching” that involves sales techniques should be avoided. Then it’s a business and not really out for your best happiness (marketing is the gap between truth and sales). Not to mention a weekend of time. What the heck? An entire weekend? Nevertheless, that girl really had nothing to do with me afterwards. Even right after the seminar we went to a bar and she hung out with all her Landmark buddies at a table and I sat at the bar. It’s like the exact definition of “Loser” right there.
So I feel bad writing a post with this title. It sounds like the back of a Rosicrucian pamphlet you might find on a subway floor at 2 in the morning when you’re wet with your own urine. Not like this, err, has ever happened to me.
But forget it. You just need this article. I can even stop blogging after this (but I won’t).
Oh, one thing first. I use the word “only” in the title. That implies it’s easy. In fact, it is easy, but for some it will be hard and take a lot of self-discipline. There’s nothing wrong with that. Self-discipline is a good skill to learn but stick with this one approach in the discipline process and you will be ok: try to catch your thoughts and label them “useful” or “not useful”. Don’t get stuck on the “not useful” thoughts. That might take practice. So bear with me.
The three items you need to know are: things, others, yourself.
#1: Things: This means “the things you need to know to make a living and survive in the world.” You can’t make a new clothing company without knowing everything about clothes. You can’t do any one THING without knowing everything about that thing. So while “things” sound general I’m really referring to the one thing you want to do in life.
Let’s take skin creams as an example. Here’s what you need to know:
- - the biographies of everyone in the business
- - what’s in all the popular skin creams. How does each chemical work, smell, etc.
- - what’s the importance of smell in skin creams
- - what are the popular brands out there? How do they work?
- - who are the celebrities doing marketing in the businenss?
- - what are the popular mechanisms for selling skin creams (multi-level marketing, party planning, informercials, direct marketing, informercials, internet advertising)
- - what are the top 10 websites for skin creams and what are the common features among all of them (usually: celebrity sponsorship, a starter kit, testimonials, before-and-after shots, beautiful photos of the packaging, plus an FAQ on how to look beautiful)
- - where can you make the creams for cheap
- - what’s necessary for your starter kit (morning, afternoon, night stuff – and every item should run out in a month)
I say all of this knowing nothing about skin creams. This is just where I would start should I want to go into that business. For any business you’re in, or for any career (writing, painting, the arts, social gaming, comedy, television, investment banking) you need to know EVERYTHING.
How long should it take you to know everything. It’s like the learning curve of everything that’s worth learning. You can get 80-90% there in about 6-12 months of pure study. And then the final 10-20% takes years of experience but that’s ok. If you’re in the top 10-20% you’ll start to do fine or at least get on the right track. Malcolm Gladwell says the Beatles needed 10,000 hours. Ok, thats the Beatles. And they were #1 on the planet. but it’s not so bad if you’re in the top 1% (i.e. the top 60 million on the planet) for your area of interest.
When I started writing about finance from scratch, for instance, it took me about 1 year to make money, 2 years to make decent money, 3 years to make a lot of money from it.
#2: Others: In other words, the other six billion people on the planet. That seems pretty hard, right? How can I know everything about everyone. It’s ok. Don’t panic. I’m going to give you my secret. By the way, I just got an ad to sign up for a newsletter for $2900 a year for a “lifetime membership”. It looks like a good “life” and marketing newsletter. But you don’t need it. I’m giving it right here. Keep your $2900.
So what’s the one secret you need to know about the other six billion people on the planet? They all have problems. Every single one of them. I don’t need to list what they are. You already know most of the problems.
This leads to the only thing you need to know to deal with all the others. Sympathize with them. If someone is rude to you in a restaurant or on a message board, don’t worry about it. They had a bad night. Or they are arguing with wife/husband/kids/IRS/whatever. Or they are nervous about their job. Or their novel got rejected. Or their parents beat them. Whatever. They have problems. You don’t need to know what they are. 100% of them have something.
So sympathize. Not pity. Nobody cares about your pity. But always have sympathy. They are people like you (you have problems too) so you can sympathize/empathize/feel compassion towards them. Not overwhelming (don’t give them the clothes on your back) but enough to not let them bother you. Put yourself in their shoes a little bit, and show them either that you care (if you are selling something) or that you don’t care (if you need to just get the check in the restaurant and move on with your life). That’s sympathy. And it’s the only thing you need to know about others. By the way, this includes even the people you love or even the people who you want to have love you. By the way, this includes even yourself. Your problems are no different or worse. So have sympathy for yourself.
Yourself: What do you need to know about yourself? Here’s the good news:
If you follow the above two items, what would you ever need to know about yourself? Oh, you were abandoned as a child so now you are afraid of abandonment? No worries, the only people who this will affect are the ones that you might leech onto out of that fear. But that’s ok: focus on sympathy for the others first and you don’t have to worry about your abandonment. Beaten as a child? No worries: if you have compassion and sympathy for everyone else (including yourself!) then you won’t beat others and project your own anger onto them.
You don’t need to know anything about your past. I lost a lot of money in the past. I have a lot of regret about it. But that’s not a useful thought for me right now. When the regret comes up I think to myself “not useful”. The other day someone asked me, “what would you change if you could change anything?” The answer for me is, of course, nothing. No matter what problems I had or have. If I changed anything then everything would be different for me. I don’t want everything to be different. Then my kids would be different. Or I wouldn’t be with Claudia. Or I wouldn’t be writing this to you. I’M TRAPPED in my present. There’s nothing I can do about it.
What if I wanted to be a skin cream specialist but all I know is Internet companies and Wall Street. No problem: I’ll spend the next year if I have to reading everything I could about skin cream and I’ll get ahead of the 98% of the people competing against me. I’m going to put “skin cream” in quotes because it could be any endeavor. So that’s it: Things, Others, Yourself.
Does this sound overly simplistic? Of course it does. If it’s simple then the multi-billion dollar self-help marketing machine can’t market to you anymore. They want to make it complicated! You need to go to the “No Excuses!” seminar and pay $4995.50″ for five days of starvation and lecturing and sex with strangers at night (doesn’t sound so bad but its a lot of money and lecturing).
But what if I were beaten as a kid? What if I was always afraid of my family running out of money? What if grew up in the ghetto? No problem. I’m here now. And it’s perfect here.
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