The Hidden Key to Success


Do you know someone you view as a success and who accomplishes an astonishing amount using the same 24 hours we all possess? Do you know someone who seems to get all the breaks and is always in the right place at the right time? Do you remember a time you got a burst of inspiration and dusted off your bucket list? You picked something you truly wanted to do, but upon reflection the task seemed so daunting you never even got started. Cue guilt, shame, throw in a dash of denial and let the hedonistic Forgetting Games begin. My game of choice starts with an “N” and ends with “flix.”


What is going on here? And what do “they” know that helps them succeed time and time again while I race round and round the track of best intentions with no finish line in sight? You may have heard the best way to hide something is to hide it in plain sight. As it turns out, there is hidden key to success that has been right in front of our eyes all along. It’s so simple, you won’t believe it, but in the past year or so acting on this has had a tremendous impact on my results. Okay, enough teasing, let’s get to the key.

The hidden key to success is to do what is easy.


The reason this has been hidden is we have a bias towards hard work being the be all and end all of success. You’ve probably heard these sayings growing up.

  • No pain, no gain.

  • Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration. - Thomas Edison

  • “Nothing worth having comes easy.” - Theodore Roosevelt

And what images come to mind when you think of accomplishing something great?

  • Scaling Kilaminjaro.

  • Winning an Olympic Gold medal.

  • Any Rocky training montage

After a while, you get the sense that if you aren’t experiencing excruciating pain and struggle, you are a slacker and not deserving of success. Okay, here is where I get to disappoint you. If you think I’m going to say you don’t need to work hard to succeed, that’s not where I’m going. And if you think I’m going to share some secret to EZ Street, you obviously don’t know how horribly bad I am with directions. Just ask my wife.


What I’m here to do is reframe the whole it’s has to be hard all the time or you’re cheating mentality. In fact, for most people, the reason they never succeed is they never even got to the hard part because they failed to do the easy thing that preceded it. In other words, the first step is usually not be a supreme test of your will and motivation. More often than not, it’s as easy as getting off the couch, making a phone call, or pressing a button.

This hard work mentality hurts us in two specific ways. First, it makes us think that every action must be hard, which I think is ridiculous. Ask anyone who has succeeded in anything. I dare you. No one, and I mean no one will tell you that it was hard all the time. Second, it stops us from taking easy first steps that get us headed in the direction of success. Let’s get back to Kilimanjaro. If you focus on the climb, you’ll never see the summit. Instead, any one of these EZPZ steps will help you more.

  1. Get off the couch and start walking more to boost your cardio.

  2. Call someone who has experience mountain climbing and learn from them and get excited about the prospect.

  3. Hit a key on your computer and read an article about the basics of mountain climbing.


All of these steps are super easy and a first step in being successful. Nobody starts scaling Kilimanjaro by scaling Kilimanjaro. That’s simply a non-starter.

A few examples from my own life.

  1. I pressed a button to apply for a KPMG task force. The application was already filled out by me earlier, I just needed to press “SUBMIT,” but I hesitated. I finally did hit the button with about 15 minutes left until the deadline and as a result, I’ve met fantastic people I never would have met and had many more opportunities to grow.

  2. I called a woman I met at a volunteer event who was recently laid off and asked her to send me her resume so I could enter her into my company’s referral program. She agreed and about 3 months later, I had a nice, fat referral check in my bank account. I felt almost guilty accepting the money, but I quickly moved past that.

  3. I got off my couch and drove to a local Aikido dojo to check out the class and pick up training after being physically passive for several years. I was rocking the stereotypical dad bod. Or maybe you prefer corporate marshmallow. After a year or so of training again, my energy and fitness levels are much improved.

Bonus tip: In everything you do, exercise the principle of EZPZ.

"In everything, be as soft as possible and as firm as it takes."

Think about your golf swing. Or disciplining your child. Or negotiating a deal.

Only fools go harder than they need to out of some sense of ego, hubris or insecurity - take your pick. Really successful people, and I don’t mean just materially successful, know how to lose AND win with grace. They know that sometimes they will be up and sometimes they will be down. They save their energy for when it matters. Finally, they have compassion for those with whom they compete as members of our shared humanity.



  • Think about that thing you keep telling yourself you are going to do, but never get around to doing. Pick the biggest and baddest one.

  • Come up with one, eensy-weensy, teeny-tiny step you could take to get started. The smaller and easier the better. We’ll call this STEP 1.

  • Commit to nothing other than STEP 1. If you think about anything other than STEP 1, I’m here to tell you that’s quite natural and what has been sabotaging you in the past. The key is not to dwell on those pesky future steps. Acknowledge them, let them pass and refocus on STEP 1.

  • Finally, as soon as you can, perhaps now, do STEP 1 and see what happens.

Good luck!

If you try this, I’d love to here how it goes. Please email me or leave a comment below. Thanks!

P.S. If you need a little inspiration, look no further than a Rocky training montage. Which one is your favorite?

The original is the classic and obvious choice, but then again, I’m torn between the transformation that results from Rocky and Apollo training together in Rocky III and the scenes from Rocky IV training in the Soviet Union juxtaposing his low-tech, natural regimen with Ivan Drago’s high tech, chemically-enhanced regimen.

Connection Chat: Burned by Reality


Over some spicy food had a chat with Turtle about some career angst. Turtle had recently started a new job and was killing it. Now the big boss wanted to work directly with Turtle on special projects. What's not to like? The problem was Turtle had been burned in the past by bosses who were great in small doses, but a horror show in firefighting mode. The new boss had a different style than the old boss, but could Turtle trust them? Would encouraging this new dynamic be a disaster? Was there even a choice?

Turtle’s past traumatic experiences were coloring the current situation. When we are deeply disappointed by someone it's typical to react with, "I'll never let this happen to me again."

We talked about Principle #3 of the Connection Counselor's 4 Perspective Principles - REALITY.

We’ve all been let down at some point or another. That’s human. The thing that makes it hurt the most, however, is when we are hurt by those we never imagined would hurt us. In a way, by putting an unrealistic expectation on another person, we set ourselves up for a bigger fall.

"We are all capable of divine beauty and unimaginable horrors."

Or to steal a line from Victoria Aveyard’s the Red Queen, “Anyone can betray anyone.”

It’s not that certain people, say our parents or friends don’t owe us a duty of care or loyalty. And totally disconnecting from others based on fear is tragic and not admirable. It’s about accepting the reality that those who “should” be there for us sometimes will not be and that others who owe us nothing will sometimes surprise us.

Once we accept reality and let go of the entitlement of “should,” the hubris of thinking we are an expert judge of character, and the righteousness of our opinions about correct behavior - the disappointments are less tragic and the surprises are less astounding.

Accepting reality allows us to move forward without the crippling fears of disappointment and to have a more balanced reaction to the unpredictable swells of life.

I don’t know how things will turn out, but I hope Turtle will not allow the past to dictate the future. We have to decide how to live life knowing that we cannot always predict the heroes and villains. Sometimes we will get it right, sometimes we will get it wrong. All we can do is choose the best perspective for ourselves.

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How to Make a Change that Sticks


In the Mirror Series: How Seeing Ourselves More Clearly Can Make the World a Better Place

Part 4: Your Greatness Bottled

Have you ever noticed that when you are actually trying to gain or lose weight, your body always seems to drift back to a set point, like a thermostat?

In "The Hungry Brain: Outsmarting the Instincts That Make Us Overeat," Stephan J. Guyenet Ph.D. reveals why this happens and how we can overcome this tendency in order to finally lose weight and keep it off.

This got me thinking about how people, myself included, also have a Misery thermostat. You might alternatively call it a Happiness thermostat.

Think about a person you know that no matter what, is always at the same, miserable level. Good weather or bad, good fortune or bad luck, they always gravitate to a certain level of misery. Take a moment and look in the mirror and you may notice that you do the same thing. Whether our set point is high or low, we always gravitate back to it regardless of life's events.

So if this is true, are we just stuck, Joe? Like our weight, is there anything we can do to move the set point permanently?

Great question!

To change your Misery thermostat, find the joy in your misery and fill it in a different way.

What this means is you must first determine what goal being miserable serves in your life. Once you figure that out, you can replace the misery-related activities with more positive activities, but always in service of the same goal.

For example, let's say a person has a miserable attitude towards school. They place low expectations on how they do in school because they don't want to compete directly with their older sibling, who has always been exceptional in school. So they learn to dislike school and and check out of the competition.

What goal does this serve? The goal is to not be hurt by lack of their parent's approval or love.

So by being miserable in school and not trying they hope to avoid any comparison with their older (in their mind, better) sibling which might negatively affect their parent's love for them.

Once this dynamic is understood, they can then replace the dislike of school with other, more positive activities that serve the same goal of positive attention from their parents. As long as the ultimate goal was their parent’s approval, no amount of other remedies related to making school better or changing schools will matter.

There isn't a single answer here, but the person might instead get more involved in a hobby or interest of their parents, find a specific part of school that they can excel at, or even face the competition and do their best with the realization that their value is not determined by the evaluation of other people, including their own parents.

Your Move: What things have you done to move your Misery Thermostat? What do you plan to do?