Quick Takes:

  • There isn’t one path to success
  • However, there is a correlation between effort and success
  • But, that correlation isn’t always positive
  • Identify the path that you’re on

…Duh. Tell me something I don’t know. Although, if you know this, then you’ve successfully done something that’s hard and made it easy. Congrats! But for the rest of us, those who’r facing a challenge and blindly hoping it will get easier one day, it’s not as much knowledge as it is hope.

Hope that we’ll break through and achieve our goal. Hope that we’ll put in enough sweat equity to succeed. Ultimately, hope that people are right: that it’s only hard until it gets easy.

It doesn’t matter what your goal is. If it’s lofty enough – worthy enough – then it’s going to be hard to achieve. And if you haven’t achieved it before, then there’s no guarantee in your mind that you’ll be able to achieve it at all. However, to succeed, to achieve that goal, you’ll need to go all in, or all out, and nowhere in between.

It’s an investment – or a gamble – that you need to ponder: is the juice worth the squeeze? Is the known resistance worth the potentially unknown reward?

Barbell Approach to Success

There are two types of successes in the world, gradual success and barbel success. Conversely, and if you remember from the last post, life is full of contradictions, there’s an opposite to success: and that’s effort. And just like these two types of successes, the level and nature of effort needed for each is a natural counterpoint to the other.

Take a corporate job, for example. This is what’s know as “traditional success,” but for this article, we’ll refer to it as gradual success. This career path has a smooth, upward slope of success because it’s achieved through gradual promotions, raises, and increases in scope / responsibility / impact. The risk, other than job loss, is low, and the level of achievable success reflects that.

Conversely, the level of work and sweat equity needed to achieve higher levels of gradual success decreases over time as you’re placed on the “fast-track,” or you accumulate subordinates to do the dirty grunt work you started your career doing. Sure, the responsibility might  be greater over time, but the level of effort and exertion decreases, shown below:

hard until easy

Now forget about that corporate job, and take a freelancer, business owner, or entrepreneur instead. I’ll lump these three together – even though they’re technically different – because the work / reward relationship is much the same. For these types of barbell successes, the risk of success is high and the amount of work needed on the front end is comparatively massive.

Think about starting as a freelancer with no book of business and no warm leads. Imagine starting a small business with fixed overhead and no revenue. Envision yourself as a tech entrepreneur with millions of VC dollars invested and no market share to speak of. The chance of failure is high, and therefore, the level of effort required to pull success out of the jaws of defeat is also high.

But, if you’re able to climb the mountain and float over the swell of exertion, the success on the other side is massive compared to the declining amount of effort needed. Think lifestyle business: it may take you a year (or more) to curate a list of recurring clients, but once you have their loyalty and prove your value, you can put processes in place to reduce your work time and increase the efficiency of your business, shown below:

hard until easy

And that goes for everyone. You don’t need to be Elon Musk and exit with PayPal to have barbell success. Anyone, freelancer or tech entrepreneur, has the chance to put in massive sweat equity on the front end, and reap comparatively massive rewards on the back end.

Believing it to be True

Well, that sounds great. If I framed it up correctly then it sounds like  people would opt for barbell success. Might as well put in work during your 20s so you can travel the world on your free cash flow in your 30s, right?

But we intuitively know that this isn’t the case. A much larger percentage of the working population opts for traditional success over barbell success. Why?

Well, the answer lies in the risk. There’s a chance that you’ll put in maximum sweat equity on the barbelled front end only to fail and reap zero rewards on the back end. Traditional success, on the other hand, is less risky in that the path is much clearer. Sure, you may have some level of job security risk, but at least you know that Manager becomes Sr. Manager, which then becomes Director, and so on.

Barbell success, on the other hand, is much murkier. It’s like there’s this giant mountain of work, stress, and belief in front of you, and it’s impossible to see what’s on the other side. There’s no clear path to success. Maybe what you think is on the other side isn’t even worth it, or isn’t even there. Or maybe it is, and the mountain is just too high to climb, and you only find out half way up.

There’s more inherent risk with barbell success, but the converse rewards are comparatively larger.

But if it matters to you, then you don’t really have a choice, you have to believe that what people say is true: it’s only hard until it gets easy.

And if you believe it to be true, if you believe that the juice is worth the squeeze, and that there’s a fresh tap on the other side of your “risk and effort mountain,” then you really don’t have a decision to make, only an action to take. You have to start climbing.

Hey guys and gals! If you found this post interesting and valuable, don’t hesitate to share it around. If you do, leave a comment and I’ll give you a shout out.