“I never took a day off in my twenties,” says Bill Gates, writing about his early days at Microsoft, “Not one.” Steve Jobs concurred, saying he too worked incredibly hard in his 20s, “Literally seven days a week.” His motto during this period was, “Work! work! Work!” and took no vacations or weekends off.
Musk was also in accord, saying that during the early days of Tesla and SpaceX, he took the combined leave equivalent of 2 weeks. A thing he advises young men to do is to “make sacrifices while you’re young, because as you get older, your responsibilities increase exponentially, which leaves you unable to take really big risks which are necessary to make a real impact in the world.” Nobody has ever changed the world working 40 hours a week, he believes.
“But I’ve been working hard my whole life and am still not ahead, ‘’ said a middle aged man to an elder.
“Then you lack one thing,’’ was the reply, “Foresight. For to work hard merely for the sake of working hard is no different than a donkey grinding a millstone, working all day in circles, having no purpose beyond doing what it is told. When the day is over and the body is weary, it is rewarded with fodder and rest, only to repeat the cycle the following day. It dies, having accomplished nothing for itself except having lived a meaningless life.
Most of us live a life that resembles the fate of Sisyphus, pushing a stone up a hill, only to have it roll down again to repeat the next day. Do not waste your youthful vigor on a purposeless life, in the words o f W.Clement Stone, “Set your mind towards a definite major purpose and work hard to achieve it.”
His own definite major purpose was to “change the world in a meaningful way.” Unlike many in the self help genre who only find success by teaching how to find it, he found it first, then taught it, sharing the principles he had learnt throughout his life. He founded dozens of companies and organizations and chaired hundreds of others throughout his career. I trust the words of a man who achieves a thing first then teaches it, then the man who teaches it but never achieves anything. Through his philanthropy efforts, he was a true custodian of the yardstick set by Andrew Carnegie who’s own definite major purpose was to accumulate a vast amount of wealth, then give it all away before he dies.” He accomplished his task to the letter, becoming one of the wealthiest men in history.
Find a definite major purpose, and when you go after something, don’t come back until you’ve achieved it, was his most important principle. To change the world significantly requires us to do significant things. High achievers — in all areas of life — recognize that the only way to attain anything extraordinary is through grit, graft, sacrifice and work. They recognize the true power of transmutation, whether of time or energy, and the importance of focusing it on a single thing until it is done.
If you will farm, be a good one and feed many. If you will code, build great applications that will transform humanity. If you will invent, think far out into the future, if you will teach, be the best teacher, infuse your mind with the lessons from history, philosophy, technological progression and futurism, so as to direct the minds of young men and women in the best possible direction.
All these things are to the cultivation of purpose — let every man have a purpose. A purpose to leave the world a better place than we found it, so that though we have ordinary jobs, we make the best of them, and make meaningful impactful contributions to the societies we live in.
Conversely, the people of true value in society are those with the ability to truly transmute their energy and time towards their definite major purpose, so that they not only push the rock up the hill, but actually reach the top and roll it over the next hill. They fulfill their true potential hidden within them, a much better fate than that of Sisyphus. To work, eat, sleep, having never discovered what you’re truly capable of and making no dent in the universe is as meaningless and mundane as the donkey grinding the millstone. We can only hope that in the quagmire of that pitiful existence, they are all happy.
We must strive for better things, knowing that hard work and sacrifice will be the staples of success. To be a spectator is easy, but to be a player takes sacrifice. Each person is confronted with a choice early in life whether they want to be a spectator or a player. Many choose to be spectators because to be a player is hard. Time has no loyalty to him and is the enemy of comfort. His purpose takes time away from friends and family, from birthdays and celebrations, from holidays, festivities, anniversaries and commitments. His purpose says time is the cost to achieve really big things.
“Cleaners,” says hall of fame coach and trainer Tim Grover, a term he uses for high achieving individuals, “get what they want but they pay for it through solitude. Excellence is lonely. They never stop working, physically or mentally, because it gives them too much time to think about what they’ve had to endure and sacrifice to get to the top. They understand they don’t have to love the work to be successful; they just have to be relentless about achieving it, and everything else in between is a diversion and a distraction from the ultimate prize. Being relentless means demanding more of yourself than anyone else could ever demand of you, knowing that every time you stop, you can still do more. You must do more. It means never being satisfied. It means creating new goals every time you reach your personal best. If you’re good, it means you don’t stop until you’re great. If you’re great, it means you fight until you’re unstoppable. It means engineering your life so you never stop until you get what you want, and then you keep going until you get what’s next. And then you go for even more.”
Highly ambitious people understand that they will be away from their families for extended periods of time, and the loss that comes with that is the price they are willing to pay for their achievements.
“But whatever you resolve to do, “ said Obama in a motivational speech to young college students, “commit to it. I know that sometimes you get that sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work — that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star. Chances are you’re not going to be any of those things. The truth is, being successful is hard. You +won’t love every subject that you study. You won’t click with every teacher that you have. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right at this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try. That’s okay. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures.”
Read more in my new book! The Trials And Triumphs of Hyperachievers