In October 2016 I decided to take on a year-long challenge to focus on hardcore personal development. It was designed to maximize building quality traits, learning new skills, and generally reinforcing a mind of steel. The result: I failed.
Despite my big talk and exhaustive plans, I horribly failed to reach my goal. I have talked about the importance of failure before, but this was something entirely different. It wasn’t a moment of weakness, a wrong choice at the wrong time, or a temporary lapse in judgement. It was a willful, long-term ignorance of what needed to be done for achieving success; well, one part of it at least.
Each step of the way, I knew I was failing the challenge. I was aware of all the contrary choices I made regarding my end-goal. Almost every time I was presented with an option, I opted for something which went directly against my determination.
However, despite failing to complete the challenge, I actually came closer to my goals than I ever have before. Even though I probably should, I don’t regret the choices I’ve made. The reason for this paradox is that, while my challenge did have clearly set goals, I was simultaneously chasing another type of success.
As a result, I managed to achieve one, but failed to achieve the other.
WORK HARD, PLAY HARD
One of the deepest problems that have plagued me for the past decade is my inability to commit to a certain success path. To be more clear, I am committed to two, opposite paths.
When most people think of success, they think about things like getting rich, having their dream job, running their own company, launching their passion project, etc. Generally, it’s about being in charge of their own destiny.
That’s the generic representation of what it means to become successful in life and that representation is focused on getting things done – putting in the work, focusing on building things, and making it your main occupation.
It’s the backbone of every famous story out there, from Mark Cuban working as bartender in his mid-20s to Eminem selling copies of his first album out of a car.
Let’s call this the “Hustle Success” – sacrificing a lot of things now to reap the benefits in the future. It’s what people mean when they claim they’ve “made it” or have “blown up”.
“Hustle Success” is something I’ve always worked towards. Since the early grades of elementary school I’ve spent countless sleepless nights working on my projects, learning, and improving my skills. The Year of the Bat Challenge was designed to provide an energetic boost and propel an individual closer to their life goals. The concept was based around putting in hard work for a whole year, which would in turn allow you to get 5x the benefits you usually would have.
But hustling is just one part of the overall success – and the other one is naturally more enticing and enjoyable.
For a long period of my life, I had an unhealthy mindset and harmful outlook on life. This resulted in missing out on a lot of things of the social nature. Reasons often varied, as sometimes it was simply because I was shy and secluded, while other times it was because I was learning and practicing new skills.
Today, my life is led by a feeling that “I’ve missed out on so much” and that it’s high noon I not only get all those experiences back, but also rise well above the mediocrity most people settle for.
It’s what I call “Social Success” – gathering a large amount of social experiences. It’s the “living” part of life.
As much as I want “Hustle Success” with every fiber of my being, I want to achieve the “Social Success” with an equally powerful intensity. It is precisely this constant struggle which has slowly been killing me for the better part of a decade.
Whenever I focus on getting things done, I feel I am missing out on yet another set of social experiences, only deepening my anxiety and regret – a state of mind popularly known as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
On the other hand, whenever I am out in a social setting, developing my skills, gathering experiences, and chasing the social side of success, I constantly feel ashamed of the fact that, for all my big talk of hustling, I am yet again chasing the temporary satisfactions rather than making sacrifices for a brighter future.
This constant struggle has been ripping me apart from the inside most intensely over the last year: I am never satisfied. I can never win. Whatever I do, I feel bad for not doing the other.
Both of these things mean “success” to me. Improvements in both of these fields complete and shape me into a person I want to become. Main problem with this situation is that these two paths are completely opposite.
“Social Success” requires you to to spend time with other people, out of the house, away from work and responsibilities, while “Hustle Success” requires the opposite – skip the party, stay inside, and focus on your work.
It’s a horrifying feeling of constant dissatisfaction and the reason why I failed to complete the YOTB Challenge; instead of focusing on working towards my life goals for the past year, I have actually spent most of my time on developing social skills more than I ever have in my life so far.
And herein lies the silver lining.
THE HUSTLE FOR SOCIAL
When you put hustling against socializing, they don’t weigh the same. Of course, most people would rather go to a party than stay at home and work into the night. Some people are naturally more sociable than others. For some, socializing is part of their “hustle” process.
Looking back at the past year, I have personally done quite well. While I haven’t been working as much as I should’ve, I’ve traveled to multiple countries, met hundreds of people, and established dozens of connections.
It isn’t just about being social; it’s about developing skills and improving yourself, just in a different setting.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
The Year of the Bat Challenge was designed to improve yourself as an individual independent of the people around you. It is about personal development and growth through hard work and dedication. As far as the challenge is concerned, I undoubtedly failed; but for what I lacked in one part of my accomplishment, I gained in the other.
My bucket list has items from both hustle and social sides, and within the last 365 days I have crossed off quite a few. Looking back, I have no regrets. Looking forward, it’s time for a change.
Since I have spent most of last year being social, it’s time to switch it up. So instead of invoking you to enjoy your vices, I am once again urging you to focus on what you need to do, rather than what you want to do.
Because the paradox within the paradox is this; the more value you achieve through struggle, the better opportunities you will have for spending time away from work. In a way, hustling more right now will allow you more opportunities for socializing in the future.
“Hustle” comes before “social” and “success” both in dictionary and in real life. It’s hard, scary, and offers no guarantees.
I’ll be the first one to admit it – I failed. But I don’t give up. Every time I fall on my ass, I pick myself up, dust myself off, and go right back at it again. Maybe throw in a curse or two for good measure.
With that in mind, I am starting the YOTB challenge once again. I am challenging myself not to go down the same path. I am challenging myself to be different than people around me. I challenge myself to say “no” to social gatherings so I can stay home and work on my future.
You know, this whole thing reminds me of a panel from a Batman comic I read a while back; it was recapturing the scene where young Bruce Wayne falls down into a cave and gets surrounded by bats, an event which would later lead him to create a symbol out of his greatest fear.
The narration text explains how everybody is scared of something, how it’s normal, and just part of being human. In that moment, Bruce rises up amongst a swirl of bats around him and asks:
“What if I don’t want to be human?”