Why We’ll Never Know The Origins Of Success

You can do anything. I know because I have no idea what you can’t do. You might, but in my book, anything is possible for you.

The funny thing is most people think that way about other people — it’s just us who do the self-limiting. We choose to focus on our shortcomings. But the truth is, as long as you keep doing things, anything could happen.

Take Andreas Illiger, for example. In 2011, he released a game on the iTunes App Store. It was called Tiny Wings. Helping a chirpy bird fly through an endless landscape with upbeat music was fun — so much fun that it generated millions of downloads and dominated the charts for weeks. At 28, Illiger became an overnight millionaire.

You can do anything.

Mark Cuban shared a 3-bedroom apartment with five friends when he was 25. All of his clothes were in one big pile on the floor. He was working as a bartender and living off beer and happy hour food. Then, he started selling software for PCs. He was fired after less than a year. But he stuck with selling software. He started his own company. He sold it a few years later for $6 million. He used the money to fund a company that broadcasted college basketball, which he loved. That company grew. He stuck with it. Eventually, that company sold to Yahoo! for $5.7 billion right before the dot-com crash.

You can do anything.

In 2016, I started a website called Four Minute Books. I further condensed 365 existing book summaries in a year. It was a stupid, harebrained idea. I made about $5/hr doing it. After that first year, I spent less time on it, but it kept growing. Now, I have someone helping me, and it makes a full-time income with about one hour of my work each week.

Do you see a pattern emerge here? No? Well, neither do I. And that’s why you can do anything. Life is random. All you can do is to keep trying your best. Some things will work out. Others won’t. It is only in hindsight that you’ll get to attach the label “success.”

We define success by outcomes. We see those outcomes — a fancy house, a cool car, a big company — and they feel like a specific result, created with fixed inputs over a fixed period of time. But they’re not. They’re the result of an entire person’s life, meshed with luck, timing, and other people’s lives.

Outcomes may happen suddenly, like for Andreas, or gradually, like for me, or first one and then the other, like for Mark Cuban. But there’s no such thing as fixed inputs or fixed periods of time.

All there is is your life and everything that’s in it.

Everything matters. And because it does, you can do anything.

Andreas made everything in his game himself. The graphics. The music. The mechanisms. The code. He’d been a developer and designer for ten years, dabbling in all these different fields beyond app development. It just so happened that, in this one game, at a time when everyone was looking for fun little distractions, it all came together.

Mark took a series of steps, constantly choosing to follow one path and abandon another. Was it his knack for trends? His gut? Coincidence? Whatever it was, he stuck with the right path at the right time several times and, in a historic moment of technology breakthrough, ended up winning big. He rode a huge wave all the way to the top, and then he picked up his board and went home right before it crashed. What all went into it? Who knows. Mark just kept doing things.

So did Harrison Ford, by the way. You know, the carpenter we all know as Han Solo. And Elton John. Henry Ford. Rihanna. Jackie Chan. J. K. Rowling. There is no straight line to success.

You can do anything.

Tolkien published Lord of the Rings at age 63. Ray Kroc franchised McDonald’s in his 50s. Judi Dench first showed up in a Bond movie in her 60s.

Success can only be measured and felt after it’s done, but it can never be judged in its entirety, because we never have a complete picture of any single human’s life.

Whether it happens suddenly or gradually, one day, someone will say something, and you’ll realize: “Oh. Yeah, I guess that did work out for me.”

You won’t know how you got there or why you got there or why you hadn’t seen it before. All you’ll know is that you kept doing things and that, yes, this is success.

You had never imagined it, but now you know it’s true:

You can do anything.

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