Extreme Success

How do you become great? Original article found here.


How can I be as great as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson?

Extreme success results from an extreme personality and comes at the cost of many other things. Extreme success is different from what I suppose you could just consider ‘success,’ so know that you don’t have to be Richard or Elon to be affluent and accomplished and maintain a great lifestyle. Your odds of happiness are better that way. But if you’re extreme, you must be what you are, which means that happiness is more or less beside the point. These people tend to be freaks and misfits who were forced to experience the world in an unusually challenging way. They developed strategies to survive, and as they grow older they find ways to apply these strategies to other things, and create for themselves a distinct and powerful advantage. They don’t think the way other people think. They see things from angles that unlock new ideas and insights. Other people consider them to be somewhat insane.

Be obsessed.

Be obsessed.

Be obsessed.

If you’re not obsessed, then stop what you’re doing and find whatever does obsess you. It helps to have an ego, but you must be in service to something bigger if you are to inspire the people you need to help you (and make no mistake, you will need them). That ‘something bigger’ prevents you from going off into the ether when people flock round you and tell you how fabulous you are when you aren’t and how great your stuff is when it isn’t. Don’t pursue something because you “want to be great.” Pursue something because it fascinates you, because the pursuit itself engages and compels you. Extreme people combine brilliance and talent with an *insane* work ethic, so if the work itself doesn’t drive you, you will burn out or fall by the wayside or your extreme competitors will crush you and make you cry.

Follow your obsessions until a problem starts to emerge, a big meaty challenging problem that impacts as many people as possible, that you feel hellbent to solve or die trying. It might take years to find that problem, because you have to explore different bodies of knowledge, collect the dots, and then connect and complete them.

It helps to have superhuman energy and stamina. If you are not blessed with godlike genetics, then make it a point to get into the best shape possible. There will be jet lag, mental fatigue, bouts of hard partying, loneliness, pointless meetings, major setbacks, family drama, issues with the Significant Other you rarely see, dark nights of the soul, people who bore and annoy you, little sleep, less sleep than that. Keep your body sharp to keep your mind sharp. It pays off.

Learn to handle a level of stress that would break most people.

Don’t follow a pre-existing path, and don’t look to imitate your role models. There is no “next step.” Extreme success is not like other kinds of success; what has worked for someone else probably won’t work for you. They are individuals with bold points of view who exploit their very particular set of unique and particular strengths. They are unconventional, and one reason they become the entrepreneurs they become is because they can’t or don’t or won’t fit into the structures and routines of corporate life. They are dyslexic, they are autistic, they have ADD, they are square pegs in round holes, they piss people off, get into arguments, rock the boat, laugh in the face of paperwork. But they transform weaknesses in ways that create added advantage—the strategies I mentioned earlier—and seek partnerships with people who excel in the areas where they have no talent whatsoever.

They do not fear failure—or they do, but they move ahead anyway. They will experience heroic, spectacular, humiliating, very public failure but find a way to reframe until it isn’t failure at all. When they fail in ways that other people won’t, they learn things that other people don’t and never will. They have incredible grit and resilience.

They are unlikely to be reading stuff like this. (This is *not* to slam or criticize people who do; I love to read this stuff myself.) They are more likely to go straight to a book: perhaps a biography of Alexander the Great or Catherine the Great* or someone else they consider Great. Surfing the ‘Net is a deadly timesuck, and given what they know their time is worth—even back in the day when technically it was not worth that—they can’t afford it.

I could go on—it’s a fascinating subject—but you get the idea. I wish you luck and strength and perhaps a stiff drink should you need it.


7 Responses to “Extreme Success”

  1. 1 Kitten mittens
    26 May 2015 at 21:33

    Hmmm I have read this like 3 times and there are things I agree with and some that I am not buying.. It is a good one for a convo though, and I would begin by asserting that this author had a very specific idea of what he feels success is, and that should be clearly defined as part of his thesis 😃

  2. 27 May 2015 at 00:40

    @Kitten Mittens: Where does the author define what is or is not success?

  3. 3 Kitten mittens
    27 May 2015 at 21:35

    That’s what I’m saying, the author should define it, cause there can be many different ideas about what success is/what it means. We have to define the end point before we can talk about how to get there. I guess we are also talking about “extreme success” and maybe the author did define it as being “affluent, accomplished and maintaining a great lifestyle” and that is where I diverge in opinion. I understand why those things; money, career advancement, and material goods can be a measure of success, I know how I have felt when having had those things in my own life, and yes it can lead to feelings of “success” or accomplishment but I like to think about success, true success, being about so much more, and actually when dissected has nothing to do with those things..
    And I have some different ideas about what’s going on when these people we think of having acheaved extreme success do so. I understand the creativity angle, but I don’t believe it is born out of survival or being different in some way.. I believe it is more about allowing oneself the vulnerability to show up authentically and dare to be creative. I believe we all have the capacity to be creative and innovate ect, but we layer ourselves with protections upon protections that ensure we don’t have to take the risk of being wrong/fealing failure/being rejected. We build up so many protections that we start to believe that we are “not creative” or “not artistic” ect.
    Which.. (This is gonna sound crazy now) I guess does go back to survival.. Damn it! I just argued myself out of my own argument lol

  4. 27 May 2015 at 21:59

    @Kitten Mittens: But why should one define success when success is going to vary from one person to the next? Heck, it will even vary within one person throughout their life. The author specifically states that you don’t have to be Richard Branson to be “successful.” He hints at the definition of success as “affluent, accomplished and maintaining a great lifestyle” but those things don’t necessarily equate to “money, career advancement, and material goods” as you have mentioned. I think that you are imposing your own ideals or the societal ideals as to what this article is about.

    I think he is saying nothing of the matter. If one says that success is defined as “affluent, accomplished and maintaining a great lifestyle” then money, careers, and toys are something the end-user has determined how they will measure success by. That is not what the author has defined them as.

    As for what makes some of these people “very successful” (aka, extremely successful) is not a cookie cutter method and doesn’t apply just to certain personality types. It takes many things to create success. You could have all the right pieces but you are, as they say, “just ahead of your time.” Galileo, Thoreau, and Poe were all much more famous after their death than when they were alive. But I think one thing is true of their success even though they didn’t get to enjoy it – they were all obsessed with what they did.

    Again, I think the article isn’t a blueprint to success or extreme success. I do not read it like that at all.

    I think that it is a call to toss fear to the wayside and follow that higher calling. It is an urge to be obsessed, be obsessed, be obsessed and do what you love.

  5. 5 Kitten mittens
    27 May 2015 at 22:52

    Okay.. Fair enough, but what is affluent if not financially successful? I thought that’s what that meant. And to projecting my own or societies ideals, true enough. You even mentioned being famous, and that many have not achieved that until after their death. Is that succes in this context It seems that is something very different than but that’s why it would be good if the author defined it more what he is talking about. Perhaps it was the be obsessed that threw me off in the first place. Working hard, maintaining focus, and “throwing fear to the wayside” is very different in my mind than “being obsessed”.

  6. 28 May 2015 at 01:30

    Affluent to me is to be “wealthy” in whatever – whether it be money, happiness, recognition/status, karma, etc. I supposed traditionally the way most people use it (and the first definition in the dictionary is that of wealth.

    Is it success in regards to the context of the article (postmortem success)? I think so. The author states, “They do not fear failure—or they do, but they move ahead anyway. They will experience heroic, spectacular, humiliating, very public failure but find a way to re-frame until it isn’t failure at all. When they fail in ways that other people won’t, they learn things that other people don’t and never will. They have incredible grit and resilience.” It doesn’t say that they will be living in a beach-front condo sipping margaritas at 25 years old. To me it says that they will keep working towards their vision no matter what. When people see failure, they see a learning opportunity and a chance to re-frame and push on. Sometimes they are recognized by society and other times they are not.

    It is kind of like happiness – what may be happiness to me may not be happiness to you (or even the world). Likewise, my success may look totally different than yours. I know when I’ve traveled around the world I’ve learned that happiness (and as a close brother, success) is different depending on where you are geographically. Some of my most sobering moments as a human have been when I’ve been abroad and seen people who probably only have a house and a bed to their name. That they don’t even use electricity and instead opt for candles at night. While we may scoff at them and say that they haven’t achieved anything – that they haven’t succeeded at anything – that they couldn’t possibly be happy – they are probably thinking that they are doing great. They probably feel accomplished that they have a house and multiple meals a day when their parents migrated from a crumbling USSR where they starved in a bread line. They are probably happy because they don’t get rained on. They probably feel like they’ve achieved a lot by working hard and persevering. Maybe they haven’t had “extreme success” where they have donated millions in the name of global philanthropy but they have been able to provide a much better life to their kids and thus their grand-kids.

    Is it possible that they have achieved extreme success from their own perspective? Or is their only one definition of success/extreme success?

    “I want to define success by redefining it. For me it isn’t that solely mythical definition – glamour, allure, power of wealth, and the privilege from care. Any definition of success should be personal because it’s so transitory. It’s about shaping my own destiny.” – Anita Roddick.

    “Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.” – George Sheehan.

    As for the obsessed part – I can understand the confusion. But I think this article isn’t about success… it is about extreme success. To me there is a difference and that difference is setting goals far beyond what what you may even think is possible and yet still having the drive to pursue it – fail or succeed! To do that, one must be obsessed. One must be ready to go after that dream even if people will only see their genius (or hard work) after they die.

  7. 7 Kitten mittens
    28 May 2015 at 08:02

    Mmm you should have written about success yourself. You are much more eloquent.

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