By Aidan Cunniffe – Entrepreneur, @TEDTalks Speaker, Inventor, Humanist and Runner
Originally posted on AidanCunniffe.com
All men get what they seek. And everything else is luck.
Humans are incredibly capable beings. We’ve created everything you see around you, made it in and out of the world’s most inhospitable places, learned to fly, left the planet, and even probed the very nature of the universe.
It’s clear that we are capable of just about anything we set out minds to. We each carry around on our heads a device, our brains, capable of retrofitting both our mind and even our physical body for any new goal we put in front of it.
We are not all rags to riches stories but there ARE rags to riches stories
Not all underdogs win but there ARE underdogs who do win
Some of us struggle with mental illness but there ARE people who recover
Not all 5’9 people are good at basketball but some ARE Calvin Murphy
So whatever barriers you see standing between you and your goals, know that someone else has broken through, and so can you.
All men get what they seek.
Well as we all know, not in practice.
Seeking the Right Things
I contest that a healthy human being, even one of average intelligence will reach the goals they set for themselves in their lifetimes. For some reason though, the world is full of people who never reach what they set out to achieve.
So why don’t some people reach their expressed goals?
Most people only focus on their expressed goals, that is the goals they are consciously aware of and proud to talk about. I want to be rich. I want to go to an Ivy League College. I want to lose 50 pounds. I want to have a 9 figure exit. I want a 4.0.
What they don’t realize is that there are dozens of other subconscious goals that sometimes work in active opposition to reaching an expressed goal. I want to party each night. I just want to be lazy. I want to watch all these shows I like each week. I really want more cookies!
Everyone has subconscious goals, but most people don’t take inventory of them. That is absurd. If you had two expressed goals written in your journal that directly contradicted one another “Get a 4.0” and “Never do homework after 4pm” you’d consider rewriting one or both of those goals OR figuring out a clever, disciplined way to make both possible. Yet we rarely do this kind of reconciliation between our expressed goals and our subconscious goals.
Remember, all men get what they seek. Keeping this in mind, the informed question we must ask ourself is not CAN I accomplish X but what is it that I am really trying to accomplish? And to know that you must take the sum of both your Expressed Goals and your Subconscious Goals?
(Value of Expressed Goals) + (Value of Subconscious Goals) = [Life Direction]
If your direction is
a) positive — you move towards to your expressed goals
b) negative — you move further from your expressed goals
c) zero — you won’t get anywhere new
The only reason it appears that people don’t reach their goals is because we aren’t honestly appraising the total sum of all the things they seek. When you finally do the math, you find that reality lines up with expectation.
Some Personal Stories
I meet a lot of other entrepreneurs and their private struggles along with my own, things that rarely end up on Medium posts, have led me to develop and believe the philosophy I just shared. I have permission to share these quick stories anonymously.
A middle aged man had an incredible idea for something like Siri around 5 years before Apple released it. This man wanted to make this into the next Microsoft (Expressed Goal). He had the talents, connections and the vision to make this happen, but he never left the stable job he had at a big company. The man had a wife and 5 children and he craved financial security (Expressed Goal and Subconscious goal). Because of this his hands were tied. He could never leave and make it happen.
The subconscious goals for being secure, for not letting his bank account run to zero, they all made it impossible to reach his expressed goal of starting a world changing firm. On the surface it may seem like he failed, but he got exactly what the sum of his goals logically lead. All men get what they seek. Him too.
Story 2— I’ve seen similar things happen independently to many people
A young man right out of college wanted to be an entrepreneur and build a company that helped people (Expressed Goal). He didn’t really know how to be an entrepreneur though. All he knew was how the media perceived and evaluated different entrepreneurs. He also knew his parents would feel better about his choice to leave school if he had an income (Subconscious Goal — don’t rely on parents for money).
So this young man raised millions and millions of dollars from the wrong people, before his company was ready or needed to raise that kind of money (Subconscious Goal — media praise). He became a remarkably good pitchman and on paper his reputation, wealth and success grew. Then things went south. Investors wanted to see different metrics, things that were a tragic mix of unattainable and foolish to chase. Money, time and willpower were wasted fighting windmills (Subconscious Goal — try to make investors happy). The things that would make the customers successful and happy became disentangled from the short term things that would make the investors happy. The downward spiral began.
All men get what they seek. This young man ended up getting exactly what he set out for: A company that looked good on paper (for a time), a stable income and a good learning experience. Because he hadn’t built it to last, it didn’t. Both the company and the income are gone.
Learning How to Seek
- Conduct an Audit of your Expressed and Subconscious Goals
– Which goals are in conflict?
– What is your trajectory right now? Are there any subconscious goals holding you back?
– The hard one: Are there any of these goals I am not willing to give up (having a baby, starting a company, my laziness)? Do I need to give up a conflicting goal to accommodate them? Is there a disciplined way to make both possible?
- Change your goals until they are in alignment
– It’s easy to change an expressed goal because in some ways these are the most loosely held goals you have. They aren’t yet engrained as habits as most subconscious goals are.
– If you need to change a subconscious goal, that’s another beast entirely and takes a lot of work. There are some great resources out there to help with new habit formation. I’ll direct you to just one to start: The Power of Habit
– It’s critical that the changes you make leave you without any goals in conflict otherwise you’ll move nowhere.
- Once all your Expressed and Subconscious Goals are in alignment. Do it. It’ll work.
And Everything Else is Luck
You’re not going to become a better swimmer than Michael Phelps just because you’re focussed and your goals are aligned. At best, you can hope to become the best Swimmer YOU can possibly be. There are some people who have special talents or abilities. You may never beat someone with natural incredible talent who also works as hard as you to get the most out of it. But there are undoubtably other fish-men with unique builds like Phelps, maybe some with even better builds, born all over the world who never use or even know what gift they’ve been given. Maybe they were born inland or never liked the water…
Regardless of how lucky/unlucky you get in life, the top 1% of most any field is yours for conquest through grit alone. Reaching top .00001% may take some luck, but you have to reach as far as you can first for luck to find you.
All men get what they seek.
Disclaimer: No, I’m not one of those conservatives who uses palliatives of self responsibility to oversimplify and ignore the complex social issues that makes achievement difficult for certain groups. If you think that, read again — if anything this is a practical guide for overcoming some of the mental blockers that hold people back.