An “All-or-Nothing” Mindset May be the Biggest Excuse of All

We have all heard the authoritative advice.

You must wake up early, exercise, network, work long hours, and do it all! Just writing that is exhausting. Alejandro and I meet people weekly who think we are “robots” with an infinite source of energy. They believe everything we touch turns to gold, yet they do not see 90% of what we do fails.

We are both high-achievers, yet we are more relatable than most could imagine. Alejandro is a full-time MBA student taking intensive courses, a teaching assistant, leader in many student organizations, and attends 200+ networking events a year. I (Matt) have a family, a pregnant wife, two businesses, and attend 2-4 networking meetings a week.

Some look at that as impressive, we look at it and get tired. The thing is, both of us are “all-in” type people. Our personalities demand us to put everything we have into our projects, yet that can be detrimental. What happens when we aren’t completely all-in? We get lethargic and don’t put forth our best effort.

In these times we search for motivation just like everyone else. Our desire is to help you identify your motivation when you don’t think you can do anymore. Over the next three weeks, we will explore ideas on constantly moving forward. This week will be about motivation, next week is centered on dealing with nagging stressors, and the third is actively placing yourself in situations which are a struggle to conquer motivation.

What Happens When You Don’t Want to Wake Up?

MATT:

Do I have to wake up at 6:00 am? Do I really need to work out today? Can’t I just relax?

Every weekday morning, these are immediately my first thoughts. The alarm is ringing, my dogs are excited, and the day has begun. It will likely be another 12- or 14-hour day going non-stop.

People think I am a morning person. No, instead I have trained myself to be productive in the morning. I have a disciplined morning routine which sets up my day. This has not been easy, and I want to do more. My goal is to wake up earlier, but I have this psychological hiccup where anything before 6:00 am feels way too early. Even 5:59 am makes me wince just seeing that “5” in the hour spot.

I say all this because I absolutely love being an entrepreneur. Every day is a new adventure, yet it is difficult. Motivation is a battle which is fought daily. To quote our current most famous Houstonian, J.J. Watt.

“Success isn't owned. It's leased, and rent is due every day."

We all must come to the conclusion there are no easy days. You do need time to relax and recuperate. Don’t get me wrong, an ideal day for me is a mid-morning breakfast with my family, going to the museum with my wife and son, a late lunch (preferably at Gatlin’s BBQ), and then a relaxing evening with my wife watching Netflix. Those days are amazing.

But success demands work.

I don’t have a hack for you to maximize work or get you out of bed. You can set multiple alarms, place an alarm outside arm's reach, or you could even pay someone to come and slap you every morning. Yet, those are not sustainable approaches to motivation.

The advice I have is to simply re-frame your mental approach to work and life. Here is the mental approach, there are no single solutions, instead, finding motivation will be a constant struggle your entire life. Accept it and see where you continual effort takes you. I will leave you with my favorite author

“Aspiration leads to success (and adversity). Success creates its own adversity (and, hopefully, new ambitions). And adversity leads to aspiration and more success. It’s an endless loop.” ~ Ryan Holiday, Ego Is the Enemy

ALEJANDRO:

Have you ever been told you are intense?

Some people say it like it’s a bad thing. Well, it is actually neither good or bad. It is just a thing. Some of us have that intensity ingrained in our soul.

Looking back, I can definitely see my intensity was taking control instead of me using it as a tool, and directing it to valuable areas of my life.

Do you get excited about a new project and go all-in? Then maybe you get bored and jump to another new project?

Welcome to the club. That used to happen to me all the time. I wanted to do it all, and I wanted to be the best at everything I was doing. This is the perfect formula for failure.

It is impossible to be the best at everything we do. I have to remind myself this constantly.

You can be average, or a bit above average, in many areas or you can be great in maybe one or two. What path will you choose?

The biggest problem over-achievers face is most of them have been there and done that. You probably have been in the top 10% or 5% in something you’ve done in your life. Maybe in several things.

This is when the “if I wanted to I could do it” recurring thought starts to appear, which in fact is the biggest excuses of all for not putting the work needed. Beware of using the “all-in or nothing” mindset as an excuse for not trying. Beware of using that mindset as a shield to not be vulnerable.

Not so long ago I was in the best shape that I have ever been in. Lowest body fat % ever, eating very healthy every day (no simple carbs, no sweets, no alcohol, etc.). I had a great group of people to train with and the best training partner. We trained 6-7 days per week (Rest day? How do you train the rest muscle?). This was when I was living in Panamá, and none of my friends from Venezuela believed I was waking at 5:00 am every morning.

Afterward, I came to Houston to start my MBA at Bauer. I tried hard to maintain my health and training regimen, but could only do so for the first semester. We only have 24 hours in a day, and we have to align the activities we do with our goals. This meant focusing on my school activities.

But I made the mistake again, the “all or nothing” mindset came back, and I almost abandoned all type of training. The way I fight it now is that I’ve made my peace with maintaining.

There are some areas of your life, the ones you currently want to take to the next level, that will take most of your time. But you should at least maintain what you have in other areas.

My health/training goals used to be, lift “x” amount of pounds on the deadlift, squat, or press. Now the goal is to do at least 10 pull-ups per day. Just 10 pull-ups, nothing else.

I’ve found that most of the time I will do a bit more than 10, but in the worst-case scenario I always do something and I avoid the “what the hell” effect. 

Again, we cannot be the best at everything we do. It is IMPOSSIBLE.

Take the time to sit down and think about what you want your life to look like in 5 or 10 years. It can be as specific or as general as you want. Think about the different areas (family, friends, career, health, wealth, etc.), and think about where would you want to be in each of those.

Pick a couple where you want to excel, and make your peace with maintaining the others. Feel free to re-evaluate as often as you think it is needed. 

Don't Worry We All Struggle

We all struggle. In fact, the ones that struggle more are the ones that accomplish more.

We have to embrace the struggle and understand that it will always be there. Getting comfortable with uncomfortable is key.

Strive to develop relationships with other high-achievers. It may be with someone who is a role model or a mentor for you. Strive to develop strong enough bonds so you can ask: what are you currently struggling with?

The answer to that question may be something you don’t expect. That conversation will accomplish many things. It will show you we all struggle, and it will allow you to be OK with not being the best at everything you do in life.

Prioritize and pick wisely the areas in your life that you will focus on. Set goals, take action to accomplish them, and review often so that you are at least maintaining what you have in every area of your life. 

We want to hear from you. Let’s keep the conversation open. Your story can have a big impact in someone else’s life.

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Alejandro I. Sanoja & Matt Avery