Monday, March 26, 2012


As I sat in the theater yesterday watching The Hunger Games, I was reminded how much I love a good story. As I was walking out of the theater after the movie was finished, I had an strong sense of longing. I wanted to re-live the time, before I read the books, so that I could experience reading the story again for the first time. If you’ve seen the movie and haven’t read the books, you should. The story only gets better in "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay."

Another reason I felt longing though was that I want my life to be a good story. I would say I had a great story going several years ago, but if you were reading my story over the last 2 years, you’d probably be skipping pages out of boredom. It’s time this changed, and I’m making it my mission.

On the bright side, someday I'll long for these days back so I can re-live reading my own story again for the first time. Book one is drawing to a close. Books two and three will blow you away.

“You will not be measured by the easy decisions you make, but instead by the most challenging ones.” – Martin Rooney

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Success by the Numbers

Just a note before I write, this blog is more or less an advice column to myself. Not that many people read my blog as it is, but I don't want the ones that do to think I've got it all figured out and I'm trying to give them advice. This is all just me trying to figure out my own mind and figure out ways to motivate myself and accomplish things. If you get something out of it, that's great. If you think I'm kinda crazy, you're probably right.

A while back I read a great post by Derek Sivers, one of my favorite entrepreneurs/bloggers. It only takes about 2 minutes to read and you can find it here. In it, he talks about how a great idea is worthless unless it has great execution. While it all made sense, I really wasn’t sure how to achieve great execution (and therefore success). After some thought, I came up with a formula.
x  = W(a^p)
x = execution
W = hard work
a = ability
p = performance
(For this who haven't done math for a while, the ^ stands for "to the power of" so the formula reads:
execution equals hard work multiplied by (ability to the power of performance)

As it happens with most people when they age, I'm starting to understand a lot of the misconceptions I had when I was younger. The longer I’m alive, the more I realize that achieving anything worthwhile takes a lot of hard work, and herein lies one of my biggest misconceptions.

For the longest time I thought I knew what hard work was. As a child, I watched The Karate Kid and was highly influenced by the montage, where in the course of a week, Ralph Macchio went from being a weakling to being a karate king that could take out all the black belts at the tournament. When I started Judo in 2nd grade, I thought the same would be true for me and in no time, I'd be kicking Eric Headley's butt (the bully next door). That didn't happen, and after about 2 months, I quit Judo. Now that I've seriously taken up martial arts again at the age of 30, I really wish I would have stuck with it when I was a kid (and I wish I wouldn't have quit wrestling as well).

Now 30 years old I (finally) understand that hard work must be carried out consistently over a long period of time to accomplish anything worthwhile. I was and am the king of working on something furiously for a week and then losing interest. This pretty much accomplishes nothing but frustration.  

Looking back at the formula though, hard work is only part of the puzzle, and its not even the most important part. Performance is all anyone really cares about. It doesn’t matter how hard you study if you can’t perform well on the test. It doesn’t matter how hard you practice unless you can perform well in front of people or in a stressful situation. Performance is what makes your hard work tangible.

In all reality though, there is another factor that weighs in and that is of personal ability. Your performance in any given subject is only going to be as good as your natural abilities allow you to be. This is not to say that if you are not immediately good at something, you should quit, but on the other hand it does mean there will be certain things you just weren’t made to do (there’s no amount of hard work that could bring my basketball performance level up high enough to compete in the NBA). Some things really are just out of our grasp. While some would consider this a negative point of view, I feel it’s the opposite. Knowing that I’m never going to play in the NBA, fly an F-35, or be a famous actor allows me to seek out and focus on the things I can be, rather than pout about what I cannot.

So if this post wasn't nerdy enough, let's plug some numbers into the formula. I would suggest grading yourself on a -5 to 5 scale. The following examples are hypothetical, but feel free to think about some things in your life that you're trying to accomplish, honestly grade yourself in each area, and plug in the numbers. Then change some of the numbers. What if you worked a little harder? What if you performed a little better? What if you started working on something new that's well within your abilities rather than grinding away at something that isn't? I personally think the magic number to hit is 100 and the higher you can go, the better. So what do you need to do to get there?

Let’s say I decide today that I want to play in the NBA and I practice 8 hours a day for the next year. Will it happen?
Hard Work (W) = 5
Performance (p) = 3
Ability (a) = -3
5(-3^3) =  -135 (not likely)
Let’s say I practice guitar really hard in my bedroom and I'm a naturally talented musician, but I’m terrified to play in front of people.
W = 5
p = -3
a = 5
5(5^-3) =  .04 (not likely)
Same example as above but I'm not terrified of performing, I’m just not really that great in front of a crowd.
W = 5
p = 1
a = 5
5(5^1) =  25 (better but not likely)
Same example again, but I work really hard on my performance skills and get a lot better on stage.
W = 5
p = 3
a = 5
5(5^3) =  625 (looking good)
Let’s say I’m an intelligent person and I study real hard and ace the Bar Exam.
W = 5
p = 5
a = 5
5(5^5) =  15,625 (very likely)

Obviously, there are a lot more factors that go into truly being successful, but I think this is a good base model, and it's a model I plan to use to help decide whether or not to start a new project, figure out what's holding up a current project, and even as a basis for when to quit a project. I'm sure I'll let you know how it works out.

PS One of the projects that I ran the numbers on and have chosen to take up is computer programming, thus the fancy colored numbers and letters above. Just practicing a bit :)