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Accomplishing Everything

How do you accomplish everything?

People often ask me this question. For a while, it puzzled me. Do I really accomplish more than other people? I keep in touch with a lot of active, busy people all doing fun things, so I’m not sure I’m the exception.

But if it’s true, well, I think there are essentially three related answers.

First of all, I don’t accomplish everything –

I don’t like to talk on the phone, so I make an average of two phone calls a day. I don’t watch TV, I don’t drive, I don’t go to meetings that exist for the purpose of having a meeting, and I don’t do things out of obligation. These things can take up a lot of time if you let them. Stop doing them, and you’ll have much more time.

Second, I love what I do –

It’s much easier to accomplish “everything” when “everything” consists of things you are incredibly excited about. This makes a tremendous difference in comparison to trying to accomplish things you are dispassionate or only semi-motivated by.

It’s easier to trip over this concept if you have a job or other ongoing commitment you don’t enjoy—but if that’s the case, it just makes it all the more important to spend the rest of your time on things you’re motivated by. (If you lose 40 of your best hours a week to something you don’t care about, don’t you want to make the most of the remaining hours?)

Third, I accomplish a lot of things because I work at them –

This is perhaps the answer that some people tend to miss the most.

I work as much as I can, every day, from wherever I am. I carry a paper notebook with me everywhere, and my laptop bag almost everywhere. I outline ideas and project notes on the bus. I write emails in the back of taxis taking me to or from the airport. When I go to sleep, the notebook is on the floor beside the bed in case I remember something I need to do in the morning.

Two weeks ago in Toronto, I had a great gig at Indigo Books with Neil Pasricha and a bunch of other fun people. The whole gig, from setup to mingle to talk to Q&A to signing to “bookstore stuff” to small afterparty, took about four hours. Great turnout, great people, grateful author.

After it was over, I went to Starbucks and replied to emails for two hours. Then I started writing this post. The next day, I had a day off from the tour, but I didn’t do much sightseeing. Instead, I went back to another coffee shop and worked for most of the morning and afternoon. I like seeing fun people at the meetups, but without all the time I spend working by myself, no one would care and no one would come out.

Please understand, this isn’t bad or unhealthy—I have a great life. I do what I want. I visit 20+ countries a year. I just wrapped up a book tour to every U.S. state and Canadian province. Everywhere I go, I hear amazing stories from remarkable people. This is the life I’ve freely chosen with no regrets.


Perhaps one final example would better illustrate the third answer. Steve Cohen, the “Millionaire’s Magician,” was profiled by my friend Jonathan recently. I loved this quote from Steve in the interview:

I want to address the incoming emails I receive from magicians around the world who ask me to teach them how to replicate my career. They come visit my show, which is sold-out weeks in advance, and say, “I want that.” The problem is that they only see the final result. They do not see the years of struggle and creative thought that went into creating that result.

Here you can see the behind-the-curtain: the years of struggle and creative thought. Many of us don’t like to hear about those things, but that’s how it goes: nothing works unless you do. Without an ongoing struggle to conquer resistance and produce something meaningful, there is no path to success or renown, at least not the respectable kind.

Don’t accomplish everything; just do what counts.

Spend as much of your time as possible doing work you love.

Work smarter and harder.

That’s pretty much it.


Photo by Monica