We hopelessly wish for a shortcut, the quick path, instant gratification. To obtain the gratification of accomplishment fame and fortune. In reality, it is the mundane, the monotonous daily grind that leads us to success. I believe that outside of the limelight all great human beings have a simple but effective system that accumulated into their accomplishments. A system the mainstream contuses ignores because it isn’t exciting or flashy. There is no excitement, story or obstacle to overcome in these basic systems for success. Just get up, sit down and do the work. Read, train, take notes, and improve, little by little. This method I believe this to be effective. But sadly would never be made into a movie because it’s just that, monotonous and boring. The road to success is so simple we can’t believe it to be true. We wish there was something unattainable to achieve success. So we can at the very least avoid blaming ourselves for not doing so in our lives.
When it comes to obtaining our goals and ambitions. It is imperative that we have a daily routine or an established system that removes all obstacles and aspects of distraction. A system so simple we dare not believe that is all it takes to reach nirvana.
All great athletes accomplished great feats, not because of DNA, race or social class. But through practice, practice and more effective practice. This idea of reflecting on what one has learned and understands through criticism. What did they do wrong in order to help improve upon those shortcomings? This method of learning is effective because it gives the student a chance to understand one’s limiting self-belief or basic mistakes that can cumulate into failure. Reviewing one’s fault is not a bad thing but rather a strength in understanding where one can improve upon. “But death and life, success and failure, pain and pleasure, wealth and poverty, all these happen to good and bad alike, and they are neither noble nor shameful—and hence neither good nor bad.”.[^1] One should not shy away from one’s mistakes but embrace them in order to understand and build upon them, towards success.
Effective practice is where one does something, a task, reflects and criticises it in order to understand and improve upon the very thing that is reviewed. A method that shows proven results in multiple scenarios at accomplishing the desired outcome, result or achievement. “A best practice is a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark. In addition, a “best” practice can evolve to become better as improvements are discovered.” [^2]. Once you find a system, process or practice that consistently gives you desired results that can be applied to multiple fields you have the key element in producing what we consider a formula for success. Think about a sports coach that does the same thing day in and day out to the athletes to win the championship. This is that very system.
A daily routine is a system each person does individually that helps them reach their goal. One can not simply go to the Olympics to complete it because they feel like it. It is earned through a daily grind over years and years of practice and training. That privilege is earned bit by bit, day by day over extended periods of training in one specific field or category. “even if you’re moving slower than you’d like. Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits. Your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits. Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits. Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits. Your clutter is a lagging measure of your cleaning habits. You get what you repeat.”[^3]. It is the daily routine of going to the gym that produces the end result. Not the newest stadium, the brand-new shoes or a health bar. It’s the individual’s ability to do the work, get in the gym and train.
Fitness and greatness are heavily linked to DNA and genetics some would say. Running fast, ethnicity and muscle construction plays a big role. The size of one’s body can heavily dictate one ability to gain massive strength. And this argument is not wrong. DNA plays a vital role in our success. They are the cards we have been dealt at birth one could say. Someone born with osteoporosis would not be advised to become a weight lifter. And we should know our own strengths, weaknesses and our physical shortcomings. In order to be realistic. But is this entirely true?
When we think about basketball players we think of athletics, fast and tall. Many people would consider being tall an advantage, not a necessity when it comes to the sport professionally. But I would say that learning your hand-eye coordination and ball-dribbling skills is far more important along with shooting skills. But many would go straight to the physical limitations rather than the fundamental skills necessary to succeed at the sport. The average height of an NBA professional is 6’6 foot. This did not stop Muggsy Bogues from becoming a pro player, he was only 5,2 tall. He played 14 seasons of professional basketball. I would say his ability to practice came before acknowledging the publics physical limitational beliefs to obtaining success in the sport. “No one knows how big your potential is, how big your heart is when you start.”[^4] Discipline and determination are what makes you, not your race, social class or DNA. Sure not everyone can be the best or a world record holder. But living your dream, and obtaining those goals regardless of your physical limitations, that’s a success to me.
One does not have to have a doctorate in any field to understand it or even practice in that field. One only needs the discipline to research and have a system of lifelong self-learning in their daily life. I believe that success in academia is a willingness to ask questions and continuously learn and challenge one’s ideas. In order to build upon what has been done before to make better conclusions and move ourselves forward.
The pen remembers fare better than the mind. Note-taking and linking ideas are what makes papers. The Zettelkasten system is a very simple system that Niklas Luhmann created using only a pen and a note card. This system helped him publish more than 70 books and 400+ articles over his lifetime. He wasn’t a genius or even a scholar for most of his writings. He was just a man with a straightforward system of taking notes, ideas or readings and organising them for later use. “intellectual endeavour starts with a note.”[^5]. One does not need an IQ of 130+ to be considered smart. No one just needs a pen and a bit of paper. A system that can remember fare better than any brain could even dare to achieve.
Having a daily routine which one can learn and work from. Be it writing at a specific hour of the day. To a specific location to do work. A way to easily express one’s thoughts, a daily system. It takes time, it takes hours and hours of reading, writing, researching and reflecting, and critiquing one’s work to slowly improve over time. No system is sexy, desirable or the quick fix to all our problems. There is no drug that can instantly give us ‘discipline’ and a state ‘flow’ a word I’ve begun to loth, because of its association with toxic self-improvement and the desire of the corporate sector to obtain from its workers. Everything you do is linked back to you. Everything that you are is an accumulation of all your tiny habits and daily routines. You are what your default day is.
Access to knowledge and the ability to reflect is a luxury in academia. Not everyone can do this, especially in our modern lives where money and time are scares. Everyone is different and everyone obtains and learns differently. Sitting down and doing the work might not work for most peoples learning styles. And to that, I say don’t give up so easily.
There are free public institutions like public libraries. The ability to use paper and a pen or pencil is all one needs to take notes and reflect. Finding a system is up to the individual. Learning through trial and error. One does not just simply sit at a keyboard or typewriter and become the next Jane Austen or Haruki Murakami. We need to find what works for us and what is our learning style. “Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits.”[^6]. The key word here for success is a habit.
Something simple and basic is all one needs to achieve success. And the ability to execute that system on a daily basis. Through repetition and daily routine. It doesn’t need to be grandiose. It’s definitely not sexy sitting down and just doing the work. But that is all that is needed to achieve one’s desires and ambitions. A daily routine, with a simple effective system in place that works for that individual. A system, free of distractions and resistance.
Without systems, routine or a place of work. One can not consistently achieve greatness in their field. There will be the small percental that achieves wonders through sheer luck and ambition, but they are not the norm they are the exception. Us normal everyday people, we must take the less glamorise way to achieve our goals. And the knowledge that there is not quick or short way to achieve success for us. We must slog it out, and take it step by step. Reflect and improve day by day as best we can. So what are you waiting for, your goal for success will take a lot of daily grinding over an extensive period of time. So plant that seed now so the future you; can reap its rewards tomorrow.
[^1]: Aurelius, Marcus. Meditations (Modern Library) (p. 20). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
[^2]: Santo, Jason. What Are Effective Practices?. Brightspace Community. Website link 11, June 2015.
[^3]: Clear, James. Atomic Habits (p. 18). Random House. Kindle Edition.
[^4]: Muggsy Bogues
[^5]: Ahrens, Sönke. How to Take Smart Notes (p. 9). Sönke Ahrens. Kindle Edition.
[^6]: Clear, James. Atomic Habits (p. 18). Random House. Kindle Edition.