When you were young, your imagination knew no bounds. You dared to dream big because you were encouraged to do so. If you wanted to be an astronaut, you could do it. If you wanted to feed every hungry person, your teacher was proud. At some point though, you stopped thinking that way.

You learned better.

You were taught to be practical.

You were encouraged to be reasonable.

You were coached to set small goals so you wouldn’t be disappointed when you didn’t reach them.

You were taught to live a mediocre life.

You learned to doubt yourself by asking, How can I possibly do what I enjoy all day long? How will I pay my bills? Who else do I know who’s accomplished such a thing? Don’t you remember your friend James who quit his job to pursue his passion only to crash and burn? It’s called “work” for a reason. It’s not supposed to be fun.

If you don’t hear such things internally, you’ll hear them from the people in your life. Everyone dreams about doing what fulfills them and still making money. Many have tried and failed, and that’s the reason for the warnings you hear. Everyone is trying to save you from disappointment.

But what’s more disappointing: trying and failing, or never trying at all out of fear and dying with regret?

Many dream, but few take the necessary actions to turn those dreams into reality. You have inside of you everything it takes to do whatever you want in this life, but being able to do what you want will require sacrifice. You will have to make commitments, you will have to give up some things, and you will have to say “No.”

Your dream will not automatically become a reality. Our default state is to let life happen to us. You must actively fight that default to get the life you want. The moment you’re passive is the moment your dream slips from your fingers. The future you envision will never come to pass on its own. You must choose to pursue it actively every day. If you haven’t pursued your future today, you’re that much further from reaching it.

See the Future

If you want a clear picture of what the future holds, look at your actions today. The actions you take now are shaping your future. Look at the past six months of your life. If you repeat those last six months, are you happy with where you’ll be? If not, something needs to change. What’s going to change? How are you going to become that disciplined, driven version of yourself if you don’t make a commitment today? What action are you going to take today to become the person you want to be?

The future will be a result only of your present actions. The only way to guarantee that you’ll be closer to your dream in the future is to take a step toward it today—and every day—until you achieve it.

Claw Out

Most people choose average over greatness. You can say you want greatness, but saying and doing are very different things. Many want greatness, but they’re not willing to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve it. The people who give up on the pursuit of greatness look for excuses to make themselves feel better about their mediocre lives. Average people mock, criticize, and belittle those pursuing greatness. They live with crab mentalities.

Crab mentality refers to how crabs act toward each other in a bucket of crabs. Any one crab could escape from the bucket on its own, but when it tries to escape, the other crabs pull it down.

People are like this too. When someone has resigned themselves to a mediocre life, nothing is more threatening to their comfort than seeing another person attempt to escape the bucket of mediocrity. There’s no greater threat to their way of life than witnessing someone else start from the bottom and pull themselves up by sheer will and determination—because if one crab can do it, so can any crab. The average person doesn’t take action because they’ve given up, and seeing someone else succeed is a bitter reminder of that fact. To numb their pain, they deride those who attempt to succeed.

If you choose to pursue greatness, you will encounter this kind of opposition. People will mock you and criticize you no matter what you do. It doesn’t matter how noble your pursuit is, the ridicule will come. Expect it. You cannot blame them. Their only alternatives are to face their own lack of accomplishment and mediocrity, and to claw with all their might at the one escaping crab.

Focus on One Fox

You will encounter resistance, but other people are only a small part of it. The only person who can truly stop you is you. You are the greatest barrier to achieving your dreams. You are the only one keeping you from the life you want to have.

No one can stop a determined person.

To be determined is to be single-minded. Discipline is critical but effective only when applied to a single pursuit in service of a well-defined goal. Therefore, clarity must come before discipline. You have to know what you want before you can pursue it.

The word pursuit means the act of following someone or something. You cannot pursue multiple things. Imagine that you’re standing in a field holding three orange foxes by their bushy tails. One fox growls and struggles to escape your grasp. The other two pull in opposite directions. You hold on for as long as you can, but after a few short seconds they all wiggle free and scurry off in different directions amidst the tall grass.

If you try to pursue all three, you won’t catch any. Your only chance of catching a single fox is if you focus on one.

That’s pursuit.

Get the Life You Want

To get the life you want, you must pursue it with every fiber of your being and pursue nothing else. To pursue multiple things is to pursue nothing. You must first define what you want and then pursue it.

Typically, the very best athletes in the world are not also the very best musicians in the world. Conversely, the very best musicians in the world are typically not the very best athletes in the world. You can be mediocre at many things, but greatness requires dedication. Where is your greatness hiding?

  • What is something you do when, after what feels like a few minutes, you look at the clock and find four hours have passed?
  • What are you most passionate about?
  • What makes you come alive?
  • What fulfills you?

You’re either thinking of one thing without a doubt or you’re thinking of so many possibilities that you’re overwhelmed. There are several reasons why you may have difficulty focusing on your passion.

Most commonly, it’s because you’re aware that you’re good at many things. But get this: we’re all good at many things. Even the very best athletes in the world are good at more than just one thing. They simply chose to dedicate themselves to greatness in one area.

For you, such dedication means saying “No” to pursuing all other things—and that can be scary.

Default to No

By default, you say “Yes” because it sounds more polite and positive. No sounds rude, and you don’t want to come across as impolite. But that’s just a story you tell yourself. Really, you have a fear of missing out. You can’t stand the fact that there are things you won’t get to do if you say “No.” You want to do it all, and you want to have it all.

You can do it all, but you cannot do it all well. You cannot perform at a level of greatness in everything. Saying “Yes” to everything is the path to a life of mediocrity. Those who cannot say “No” often and by default will not achieve greatness.

If you want greatness, your automatic response must be “No.” There are a few things in life you can do—a few choices you can make—that will lead to the life you want to have, and then there’s everything else. Saying “Yes” to everything else will be your downfall.

“Yes” and “No” are not right and wrong, good and bad. They’re left and right, up and down. Learn to see the words “Yes” and “No” as directional, not emotional.

Imagine that you’re the captain of a ship steered by the words “Yes” and “No.” A cluster of icebergs float ahead and to your left. If you say “Yes,” you’ll turn left into the icebergs and sink your ship. If you say “No,” you’ll steer right and avoid destruction. “No” isn’t just a direction here. In this case, it’s survival.

If you can adopt an objective view of the words “Yes” and “No,” you will be successful. Those two words will allow you to navigate life and get you where you want to go.

Key Takeaways

  • Many dream, but few take the necessary actions to turn those dreams into reality.
  • You have inside of you everything it takes to do whatever you want in this life, but being able to do what you want will require sacrifice.
  • To get the life you want, you must pursue it with every fiber of your being and pursue nothing else.
  • If you repeat the last six months of your life, are you happy with where you’ll be? If not, something needs to change.