Can you reach your fullest potential (while still young)?

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.

Albert Einstein

You know that feeling when your life is going great?

You graduated from a respectable university. Got a stable job, have a supporting and loving girlfriend.

The future was never so bright.

If the life was a checklist of things you have to do, you would then get married, buy a BMW, sign a mortgage and start a family.

Yet somehow you still feel unfulfilled and stuck.

If you have similar feelings, then its time to ask yourselves.

“Am I where I want to be? And if not, how do I get there?”

If your answer is yes, then good for you. You may stop reading.

The rest of us, who are not so lucky, we have to step back and reassess how we define success in life.

Is it being promoted to a middle management position in an international corporation? Is it getting an MBA from top 100 university or maybe is it being rich enough to be able to afford brand new BMW? The sky is the limit right.

For the majority part of my life, I thought these goals were the cornerstone of a successful life.

But what if I told you, that by pursuing and achieving them, you will feel miserable.

Why is that?

Because instead of reaching your personal maximum potential, you are reaching someone else’s potential.

Life checklist filled with potentials scripted by society, media and your peers.

Fortunately, I realized soon enough, that following this middle-class road to success won’t bring me happiness.

Like, apart from quick dopamine shot you get after buying a new shiny gadget or climbing corporate ladder. Was it even worth it?… In the long term.

Will you tell your grandchildren stories of how you had a great time working all-nighters just to get 10% salary bump after two years?

Will you brag about your big house with swimming pool to everyone at 20-year high school reunion knowing you are 10 years apart from repaying mortgage?

Nah doesn’t sound like success to me.

The true success…

Brings long-term joy and satisfaction in the form of, surprise, surprise, success in any kind of activity, you actually personally enjoy.

You see the change in the mindset.

Success is not an event or a thing, that happens to you anymore.

It is a combination of both process leading to an event or a thing and eventually achieving it afterward in a domain you enjoy.

Reaching your potential and not enjoying the process only brings you ulcer and regrets.

On another hand NOT reaching your potential, but enjoying the process in a domain you deeply care about with small progression successes leads to satisfaction of time being well spent.

Now the question is…

Can you reach maximum potential in your lifetime doing things you enjoy?

It’s freaking hard. But It’s not impossible.

Let me explain why.

According to the book Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, the key to achieving world-class expertise in any domain, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours a.k.a the “10,000-Hour Rule”.

Now most of us work the 9-5 job, sleep 8 hours a day which leaves us with mostly 3 hours of active free time a day on weekdays and 8 hours a day on weekends.

Sum it up and we have…

56 hours a week, 224 hours a month or 2688 hours a year in total.

In order to master one domain, you would need 3 years 8 months and 12 days of dedicated focused attention.

By that time, you would most probably lose your girlfriend and your friends would be like “is he even alive?”.

So multiply the 3 years 8 months by 3x if you want to have any social life outside of work. Are you ready spending more than a decade maxing just one area of your life?

Let’s assume the average lifespan is 70 years and in the early 30’s you realize, you always wanted to be master magician – rocket engineer – cat behavior consultant – pornography historian – chocolate beer specialist. You have 40 years or 35840 hours to succeed.

Limited free time equals limited choices.

Should you start doing magic tricks or deep dive into the physical limitations of combustion engines in a space vacuum. If you choose one, you will regret not starting with another.

As they say, life is full of compromises.

In 35840 hours you can reach max potential in 3.5 domains, but in reality, you probably master only one domain if you’re a lazy ass like me.

Who would want that, dedicating all productive life to practicing just one domain only to reap the fruits of reaching master expert level shortly before your time runs out?

So what can we do about it?

It turns out a lot. We can’t stop time, but we can control the total amount of free time available in two ways.

First

You can live longer by having a healthy lifestyle. That way the longer you live, the more free time you have in total and the less downtime you spend on recovery while being sick.

The best part is that the process of living healthy is dead simple, just follow few rules every day and you are on the right path.

Second

The amount of free time depends on how much of your time (and your life) you sell for money by doing a 9-5 job.

You give up 5 workdays just to have 2 free days each week every week.

In those 2 free days, instead of actively spending free time on domains you want to max out, you recover from sleep deprivation in bed and or in front of a tv playing Xbox so you are recharged and fresh for the next 5 working days.

So how can you break from this routine?

Well, just stop selling your time for money. Instead, figure out how to make enough money so you won’t have to sell your time ever again.

How much is enough you ask?

That depends. In my case, I live frugally so the monthly income should cover basic living expenses and support the learning process in any domain I want to max out.

I know it is easier said than done, but you know what they say.

The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.

And mine started with this blog post.

In order to reach maximum potential in multiple domains, I need to have more free time. To have more free time I need to sell less of my time for money.

Logically the very first goal is to get my shit together and start to make 100$ of side income each month on average for 3 consecutive months.

Is it too low?

Maybe not for serial entrepreneurs, but for people like me coming from a family of an engineer and primary school teacher with no sales experience, who always followed a middle-class path to success, it’s pretty damn hard.

Anyway, 100$ perfectly fits the criteria of being a SMART Goal

Setting goals SMART way means goals are:

  • Specific
    • The goal should have a clear answer to questions Why and How.
      • Making 100$ month will validate the idea that anyone can make money on their own without doing a 9-5 job.
      • The goal will be achieved by leveraging all my available resources, but mainly time.
  • Measurable
    • Progression should be quantifiable e.g. lines of codes written, units sold.
      • 100$ of side income each month on average for 3 consecutive months.
  • Achievable
    • Achieving or learning goal should require nothing more than free time and available resources.
  • Relevant
    • Achieving goal should take you to the next level and closer to your end goal.
      • 100$ monthly can be invested in money generating ideas which will consequently produce more money as a result.
  • Time-bound
    • Setting timeframes should help you to make risk-adjusted decisions.
      • Better to spend 10 years of trying than 40 years of giving up.

So to recap

  • Happiness is defined as reaching one’s potentials
  • Potential in one domain is reached by practicing for around 10000 hours
  • 10000 hours of free time is accumulated after 10 years of doing a 9-5 job
  • Multiple potentials in 10 years are reached by having more free time
  • More free time in the same period is reached by selling less of your time (and life) for money
  • More money is earned by selling more of your time or by inventing and executing money generating ideas

So finally the answer to the question in clickbait title is yes you can achieve your one max potential while still young, or multiple potentials in a lifetime if you are willing to swallow the red pill and start now. Or not.

I don’t know how this journey will pan out, but I am sure I will definitely grow as a person, so wish me luck and see you in the next post.

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Made with ๐Ÿ”ฅ by Viet Phan 2018