Study Hacks Blog Decoding Patterns of Success

Does Living a Remarkable Life Require Courage or Effort?

July 22nd, 2009 · 70 comments

A Non-Conformist ManifestoJamie & Cal in California

My friend Chris Guillebeau runs the fascinating and extremely popular blog, The Art of Non-Conformity. What I like about his site is that: (a) Chris is a good writer; and (b) he actually does interesting things, and then reports back about them.

On his FAQ page, Chris notes the following about the philosophy motivating the site:

  • “My target market consists of people who want to live unconventional, remarkable lives.”
  • “You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.”
  • “From time to time, people will try to stop you from pursuing your goals. You can safely ignore them.”
  • “We’re waging war on the status quo, mediocrity, and the passive act of sleepwalking through life.”

These same ideas, of course, show up again and again in the growing number of popular blogs and books that tackle the topic of building a remarkable life. At their core, they all express the following belief: the key to living a remarkable life is mustering the courage to step off the “safe path.”

In this post, by contrast, I argue that having the courage to ignore the status quo is of minimal importance for achieving this goal. The most important factor, instead, is becoming so good at something that society rewards you with a remarkable life.

(I should mention, before continuing, that Chris and I are in agreement about this philosophy — c.f., this recent post from his blog — I’m using the above quotes only to typify the standard thinking about the topic.)

An Economic Model of the Unconventional Life

Let’s start by defining our terms. I think we can more or less agree on the following definition of a remarkable life:

A remarkable life is one in which: (1) you do something meaningful that you enjoy; (2) you have a flexible schedule that you control; and (3) you earn recognition and good (enough) compensation.

The question at hand is how one constructs such a life. My argument is that this outcome can be understood as a reward. That is, society will reward you with a remarkable life if and only if you can offer in return a useful and rare service. This is a basic economic argument: A remarkable life, as defined above, is very appealing and valuable. To earn it, therefore, requires the contribution of something valuable in return.

The Remarkables

When we consider people who do seem to be living the type of life described above, we notice, almost without exception, that they validate my theory.

Consider, for example, the author Neal Stephenson. In two previous posts, I described his envious workday. He writes only in the morning, when his focus is at its peak, and then spends the afternoons working on interesting projects — typically things that require the use of his hands. He ignores most e-mail so that he can have more time to think, write, and, in general, enjoy life. He’s revered by his fans and well-compensated.

How did Neal earn this remarkable life? It wasn’t because he decided to eschew a traditional career and instead become a writer. (Plenty of people try this and fail.) What earned him his reward is that he became exceptional at writing a particular style of book. (We can assume that this was a slow process replete with lots of hard focus.)

The Danger of a Courage-Centric Approach

I think there’s a danger in focusing exclusively on the courage piece of building a remarkable life. It leads people to lionize the acting of making the bold decision to try something unconventional, but this decision, in the grand scheme of things, might not be that important.

It’s becoming increasing apparent from my study of the issue, that what matters is excelling at the unconventional activity in question. And in most cases, you make quite a bit of progress down this path before having to quit your job. (Consider, for example, the story of novelist Haruki Murakami, who waited until he had published novels and won awards, before he quit his day job as a bar manager.)

My tentative conclusion: If you’re itching to make your life something amazing, consider spending less time daydreaming about defying the status quo and answering the critics of your decision, and spending more time gearing yourself up for the challenge of becoming so good that they can’t ignore you. Ultimately, it will probably be the latter that generates the remarkable results.

I use the word “tentative” here because these are more rough thoughts than a philosophy that I trust with certainty. With this in mind, I’m particularly interested in your own reactions to the popular idea of living a remarkable life, and what it really requires.

70 thoughts on “Does Living a Remarkable Life Require Courage or Effort?

  1. BFR says:

    My philosophy, which is similar to the one described in this post, is to simply do “what works.” Whether it is conventional or not has little concern in my mind, as long as I strive to be remarkable in my field(s).

  2. Adam Gilbert says:

    Cal,

    Great post as usual! This is spot on.

    When I announced that I was leaving Ernst & Young my friends there thought I was crazy. They were also envious of me because they wished they could do it themselves. They also made me promise that I’d hire Ernst & Young when I became rich and famous.

    But what they failed to realize is how much effort I was going to have to put forth once I quit my job. They thought just because I was leaving – I was taking the unconventional route that would lead to a remarkable life.

    Of course, I was a hermit for the first 4 months of my business. I didn’t see anyone. It wasn’t so glamorous. Most people that take the plunge don’t ever live a remarkable life.

    But most people don’t think like this. Most people believe success will come to them just because they took a crazy risk.

    Instead, I focused insanely (and I still do) on building the best program/system in the world to help people stay consistent with both their diet and exercise.

    Also, the words “Be so good they can’t ignore you” stare at me all day long as they are on my wall.

    -Adam

  3. Study Hacks says:

    But what they failed to realize is how much effort I was going to have to put forth once I quit my job. They thought just because I was leaving – I was taking the unconventional route that would lead to a remarkable life.

    Adam, thanks for the great example.

    Also, the words “Be so good they can’t ignore you” stare at me all day long as they are on my wall.

    That makes my day.

  4. vtamethodman says:

    Great post Cal

    I have the same general philosophy of “Be so good they can’t ignore you” however I’d like to add one component that I believe has moved me from possibly to definitely succeeding.

    I talk repeatedly about having a proper mind shift, on my blog and in my tutoring company. A major component of this is believing you’re going succeed vs knowing you’re going to succeed.

    I have coached many students over the years as a teaching assistant and currently as a tutor. All ‘want’ to succeed but they have difficulty achieving success due simply to a lack of successful models to follow or becoming frustrated with a particular step.

    As an example I recently tried to work on ‘SEO’ marketing for my website. I was becoming increasingly frustrated with trying to improve my search engine rankings and was feeling overwhelmed with a sea of ‘experts’ all telling me to do different things. To solve this problem I did three things.
    1) I stopped reading any more ‘seo’ articles or books and threw out all my old research.
    2) I asked six people who were actually successfully doing SEO marketing and asked them their top three choices for a beginner like myself.
    3) I chose to purchase and implement the single source that was recommended by the most people I polled. I implemented each step of my newly purchased program and did not move on to the next step until I had finished the previous one. Some of these steps took many days to achieve, however I kept motivated in the fact that I had the best program that successful people had used to get to where I wanted to be. If I got caught up with a step I’d call upon the people who recommended the program and within a month I had transformed my website.

    This seems a little long winded but the point I’m trying to drive home is that I initially believed I was going to succeed. However, I lacked a plan and I lacked a network to coach me. After getting a plan, implementing each step separately and refusing to let myself become frustrated. I created the conditions for my success instead of trying to create success.

    1. Lindsey says:

      I appreciate your post. I am in that position at the moment. I know I will succeed, and have the desire and drive. I am currently reading all I can get my hands on for SEO optimization. Would you offer the name of the program you used so I can move past this phase of consumption to a program that has it outlined. Thank you.

  5. maureen says:

    I tend to agree with Chris Guillebeau.

    It takes a lot of courage to pursue your dreams when your friends and family want you to take the safe choice (sort of like choosing your major when your parent say “no”).

    Commenter Adam G seems pretty together and without the courage to leave the employ of a top accting firm, he would be able to be in a position to achieve his dreams (and thus attempt be remarkable).

    Personally, I don’t tie being remarkable to income as Chris Guillebeau really does not make that much ( I thought I read $45 K from his blog) considering he holds a masters degree and has gained a lot of valuable experience working in communities around the world.

    Traveling the work and living different cultures because it’s the life *you* want to lead, takes a lot of guts.

    As another commenter noted, having a plan once you start making decisions about what you really want to be doing – i.e don’t quit the bartending job until you start to have some success. And develop a business plan before you venture out are steps one can take to ensure your chances of success.

    Being so good you can’t be ignore sounds good but what if you want to pursue your own path before you are at that point? For that you need courage to believe in yourself and get back up when you fail. Steve Martin probably worked in a lot of dives before he reached his potential as an entertainer.

    Disclaimer: I’m no longer a college student but turned to Cal’s advice to help me with some night classes I was taking about a year ago. Because I work and see a lot of people in the workforce “putting in time” I see the courage to take a new path and venture out (even before you’ve become “too good to ignore”) as more valuable.

    You have to believe you *will be* too good to ignore (though you may not be there yet) to venture off the safe path; and that takes a lot of courage and self-belief.

  6. Paige says:

    Hi Cal,

    Thanks for this post. As a massage therapist back in school to be an acupuncturist, I needed this as it is easy to get caught up in the ‘idea’ side of things and neglect the constant plugging away at developing a good base of skill and knowledge that will make me a better healer. Glad to have found your blog.

  7. supergirl says:

    I think what you’re saying is true to a point, but once you reach a certain point you can’t do both your day job and your really cool pursuit. Then you need the courage to quit the day job. And depending on the pursuit, you might still be a long way from being too good to ignore. (I’m thinking of dancers who have such a short career shelf life to need very intense specialized training early on, but such a competitive and badly paying field [and also one where a broken leg might end it all very quickly] that there’s no guarantee [or likelihood] that dropping out of college to go to dance school will be worth it even with a really talented dancer.) I suppose it’s about trade-offs and taking calculated risks rather than dumb ones, really.

  8. Study Hacks says:

    You have to believe you *will be* too good to ignore (though you may not be there yet) to venture off the safe path; and that takes a lot of courage and self-belief.

    Maureen, these were interesting thoughts. Something that it makes me ponder is the difference between “courage” and “confidence.” Does one produce the other? Are they the same?

    A potential distinction that comes to my mind is that “courage” exists in isolation — it’s an intrinsic trait of a personality — hereas “confidence” is based on experience. So maybe one way of framing the above topic is to say that confidence — stemming from an acknowledgment of how hard a path will be, and proof from your own life that you have and can continue to put in that hard word — is more important than courage…

  9. Study Hacks says:

    I suppose it’s about trade-offs and taking calculated risks rather than dumb ones,

    This is probably true…

  10. @Cal,

    Thanks so much for this insightful post. As you mentioned, I don’t think we’re that far apart on philosophy.

    One problem with avoiding the “courage imperative” – to use pseudo-economic terms – is that whenever someone chooses to follow a remarkable path, they will inevitably deal with criticism and confrontation from the status quo. Thus, a certain amount of conflict is unavoidable, and many people are unable to overcome this obstacle – which leads to my focus on the need for courage and independent thinking.

    As for being excellent, doing great work, and so on, I completely agree with your sentiments.

    Thanks as well for the insightful comments of others. I’m honored to be a part of your community.

    -cg

  11. Corina says:

    Cal, I have to say you’re clear judgement on the topics you write about puts me in awe a lot of the time. What I like most about what you write is that it is based strongly on logic and substance, not the momentary hype or clichés. What I also appreciate is that you don’t have the i’m-so-cool self-centered attitude, which is common for blogs and other media.
    (However, you also wrote a stupid comment once: “.rtf is for girls”)

    At your recommendation I just checked the Art of Non-conformity blog. It certainly seems entertaining, but, at first view, also a bit too much into the (young) nonconformist type, globetrotting is being quite glamourous lately, and is not necessarily non-conforming.

    From my experience, I find non-conformity relatively easy to put into practice, whereas choosing to master something hard, even if somewhat conventional (and therefore with a developed harsh competition), which takes many years of constant hard work is way more difficult. Pursuing a path that entails working hard for a long consecutive period of time, is way harder than trying out courageous and non-conforming things for short bursts. Especially in this age of instant gratification.

    I’m thinking about a marketing analogy: choosing to put a high-value product out in an extremely competitive market, or choosing to put out (and hype) a niché product, something maybe of little intrinsic value, and market it’s non-conventionality. The second strategy can also bring success, because there’s enough people to ‘buy’ that This is an extrapolation as most endeavours fall in between.
    Of course, one can also be a non-conformist of the quality type, not the hype type, which is to be respected.

    In conclusion, Cal, thanks a lot for posting your reasoning.

  12. Scott Young says:

    Great article Cal,

    I had to chime in because we discussed this exact topic earlier. I completely agree (one of the reasons I made a similar post on my blog).

    Another way to put the idea is Ramit’s “rich vs sexy”. Doing the boring things that, over time, lead to success, versus the glamor of an Ayn Randish defiance of society.

    Hope you’ll blog more about this. You’re a great thinker!
    -Scott

  13. Study Hacks says:

    I had to chime in because we discussed this exact topic earlier. I completely agree (one of the reasons I made a similar post on my blog).

    Scott, I keep meaning to link to some of your excellent recent articles on this (and related) topics. In the meantime, I highly suggest all readers of these comments to checkout the following article by Scott for another nuanced take on the topic:

    http://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2009/07/09/what-are-you-going-to-be-exceptional-at-in-10-years/

  14. Study Hacks says:

    I’m thinking about a marketing analogy: choosing to put a high-value product out in an extremely competitive market, or choosing to put out (and hype) a niché product, something maybe of little intrinsic value, and market it’s non-conventionality.

    This is an interesting analogy; I’m letting it stew…

    (You’re never going to let me off the hook for the .rtf comment, are you? :) )

  15. mr-crash says:

    I love this post.

    Because I feel like I see this growing horde of self help blogs (which are strangely addictive to read – probably because such a practice for me at least, means I avoid doing something genuinely productive).

    I think that for most people who achieve significantly in one field, they can be grouped as either as being an expert in something that is socially well recognised or in something that isn’t. Like Chris, or even yourself as a writer. Chris does some interesting stuff and contrary to comment Corina posted above, I’d suggest that Chris’s work reflects a concerted effort in a consistent direction. One that I’d imagine has evolved over time. I don’t think this is different whatever field you work in.

    And I think what seperates these groups isn’t so much the correctness of some philosophy, but more that their values or interests meant that they wanted to do something that was already out there or something that wasn’t. And maybe in the latter case it meant building something yourself.

    Perhaps complicating this, though, is the fact that occasionally I see someone in a position of authority or with a recognisable name who seems to fit more as a generalist. Like say, Steve Jobs or Mervyn Peake. Mervyn Peake was mentioned on either lateral action or copyblogger quite recently and I love a few things about his writing. Particularly that he was of the opinion that he should pick a medium to suit his message, and wasn’t bothered whether that meant he painted or drew or wrote. So I suppose these people still have to move forward with a clear goal in mind.

    This is further complicated by my own absolute indecision over what i’d like to do later on in life – so I suppose rather than focusing on where all these other people have (apparently) ended up, i’ve just got to remember where it begins. Hard work and enough of an open mind to recognise when opportunity knocks.

  16. Cal-I agree that consistent, focused effort can make you remarkable and reward you with financial and time freedom.

    But ironically, it takes great courage to take advantage of this freedom. In thefourhourworkweek.com, Tim Ferriss talks about defining your dream lines before cutting back your hours because you’ll slip into overworking if you have nothing to fill the void.

    In transforming my own schedule and empowering my clients to live more balanced lives, I’ve found that taking advantage of new found freedom without feeling GUILTY is a huge challenge. You have to develop new habits, wean yourself off of stress-induced adrenaline, and have consistent accountability to make it happen.

    Although it takes diligence to create a remarkable life, it takes courage to enjoy its fruit.

    Elizabeth
    Work/Life Brilliance for Women in Business

  17. You are right.
    When you first think of doing something else than everybody is doing, you think you need to have a perfect plan. You talk to people, they say you are dumb, you keep thinking, but you don’t get any further with your plan. But when you start, you get somewhere, you will have problems on the road, but you can overcome them.

  18. Ryan Freed says:

    Great Post! Effort is exactly what is needed. You need to have the courage to take risks, but this will not be rewarded on its own. If you take the effort to become the best at what you do than you will be rewarded.

    Your definition of living a remarkable life was very good. I would like to add to it by saying living a remarkable life (being succesful) also requires being healthy, and having a great family to support you. Living a remarkable life is very hard to define, but I agree with your definition career wise.

  19. Ashlie says:

    Maureen is so right (in my book at least.) Thanks for the encouragement and inspiration Maureen!

  20. Jonas says:

    This is an exceptional insight which I’d love to see elaborated upon. I’ve spent literally years waiting for my scattered incidents of off-beatness and hotly mustered courage to one day magically change my life. It hasn’t happened. I don’t think it will. The only things which are paying me dividends are those activities where I committed a series of focused days/weeks/months to developing a certain skill/attitude/ability. An example that comes to mind is typing. Back in my 7th grade typing class, very few fellow students of mine took the class seriously and spent most of their time playing the typing game or even the Oregon Trail. I learned my keys finger by finger, and in a month I was the fastest typist in the class even though I started the class half a semester late. The skill has served me well for a decade.

  21. Me! says:

    Hurry up and make a new post already!

  22. NomadicNeil says:

    On the other hand, what if you don’t have a clear idea of how you will contribute to the world and what skills you need to develop in order to do that?

    Is it not better in that case to mix things up a little and see where the road takes you?

  23. Study Hacks says:

    Is it not better in that case to mix things up a little and see where the road takes you?

    It’s a question that fascinates me: What is the ideal balance between exposure to randomness and hard effort. I think some people develop a sense early of where to put their chips down. Other people takes a while more. Many people, however, never stop searching because their criteria for what constitutes a fit are too stringent. There is no cause embedded in our DNA.

  24. Octav Druta says:

    Is it not better in that case to mix things up a little and see where the road takes you?

    Cal, thanks for mentioning this question. While exploring an answer you inquired about the notion of balance. Balance is actually tricky, because it implies compromise. Living a life fully is a life free of compromise. This is what I think.

    I believe that committing myself to hard effort means to execute a tactic that supports a strategy of my own. I use dreams to design my strategy.

    Once I connect to my strategy with tactics and I start the execution (i.e: walking on my road) I find out that being curious in a proactive fashion opens up new insights. One of the insights that I apply is:

    – “If you want to go fast, walk alone. If you want to go far, walk together.”

    This insight taught me that curiosity can allow me to discover people that are inspired by my road and want to join. People come at me in a random fashion, I meet them while walking on my road. Curiosity allows me to listen, discover those people and learn.

    From this perspective, balancing hard effort and exposure to randomness is just like deciding which is the most important: the engine or the wheels of a car? They’re both important for the car to exist just as hard effort and exposure are both important for an exciting experience of walking to exist.

  25. Frank says:

    so true. It’s the difference between passively wanting success and actively pursuing it with all your heart. You’re not going to get anywhere until that ambition drives you instead of entertains you.

  26. Max Marmer says:

    The process that I have seen work is:

    1) Realize sticking with the status quo isn’t going to get you a life you want
    2) Begin learning about alternative paths
    3) Start entertaining thoughts about leaving and making a path for an exit in the near future
    4) Meanwhile, experimenting with what you’re going to be really great at
    5) Make the leap to leave the status quo not as soon as your famous but as soon you see that investing energy in the status quo gets you next to nothing and you have something that you think you might want to be great at.

    The only way to know is to give yourself permission to focus hard. You jump when the value of focusing hard on something, even if you eventually abandon it, is more valuable than stalling in the status quo. You don’t jump when you don’t even know what to focus on, though even maybe you should, what are you gaining sticking around in the status quo? The only value I see is a subsidized jump due to money and credibility from society’s run of the mill institutions. So you’re just waiting until you have something worth making a bet on. Even if the bet doesn’t pan out you’ll learn how to play your hand better next time.

    It seems like when ever you make that big bet someone comes by and hands you a 500 check point chip . Even if you bust you get to buy back in at 500. Then after the next failure you get to buy back in at 1000. And eventually through combination of luck, timing and experiential muscle you win a hand. It doesn’t even have to be a big hand. And that gets it’s own kind of pass where you get access to the VIP room where only people who have won hands are allowed. This is where you meet your partners in crime, your mentors, who carry you on to the next big thing. And it starts with the courage to make the bet but requires committing hard focus to try and play the hand successfully.

  27. Study Hacks says:

    5) Make the leap to leave the status quo not as soon as your famous but as soon you see that investing energy in the status quo gets you next to nothing and you have something that you think you might want to be great at.

    It’s an interesting formula. But I’m wondering why the focus on demonizing the status quo? That is, why not just say: if you want a remarkable life, be remarkable at something that people value. How you accomplish getting remarkable can really vary depending on the situation.

  28. One of the most important things to living a remarkable life and getting so good that they can’t ignore you, especially in the early stages, is to let your passion be your guide.

    If the status quo is crushing your passion and there is a deep calling in you to just launch yourself off the cliff and go for it, then it is critical to heed that call. Because the passion that is unlocked at that point is actually necessary to utilize as you slog through the hard work of actually getting good.

    I say that, probably not surprisingly, because I was one of those people. I could not handle the status quo life and felt trapped and sick inside of it. When I left it, the passion that was unleashed launched me into a new strata of energy that I used to do, do, do and practice, practice, practice.

    I am quite sure there is another way (heretofore labeled the 37signals/Murakami path), that is more balanced and works for those who are already happy, but it sure wasn’t the one for me. And I just want to encourage those who deep down know it ain’t the one for them either–but are too scared and are hedging their bets and sticking with a life that doesn’t work for them–to take the plunge and jump off the cliff!!!

    Otis

  29. Amanda Smith says:

    But what if, the thing you happen to excel at is not the thing that you find remarkable?

    For instance, i’m a transportation engineer/planner. I have two engineering degrees because I am good at math. A lot of people think that is remarkable, but I dont. And I hate kids, so i’m not going to teach. However, i’m interested in the arts.

    Perhaps part of the equation is also finding something that one PERsonally thinks is remarkable, and then figure out how to contribute to that with your strengths.

  30. krayxience says:

    this maybe like what Karl Marx have when he wrote his ideologies. I say this quote to my mind often ” If you don’t have it, its not because you don’t have it but your not working for it.” got this from Buscaglia’s book.

  31. Saoirse says:

    Some of the ideas posted here I can relate to easily. It’s a frightening and agonising thing to try to figure out what is the way to a remarkable life, but I think no one knows simply because anything can happen and no one can tell the future. I used to have the symptoms that you described as ‘saving the mental energy for day dreaming the dream job’ and unintentionally letting the opportunities right in front of me slide. As a result I am paying for that misstep that I took, but right now I am trying to figure out how to get back on track, whatever that track is and what it holds for me. It’s easier to just go on day dreaming but really I think one can only try to be really brutally honest with oneself and stay clear of the day dreams, taking one step at a time and stay focussed.

    This is my first ever post on this site even though I have been following the subscriptions for almost a year now. I wish I found it earlier. Thanks for your posts!!!

  32. Stanley Lee says:

    Cal,

    Great discussion with Chris Guillebeau (not sure if you will read this comment). I think living a remarkable life requires both: the courage the denounce ownership by others in favor of self-ownership and take back the control of your life (as a birthright) rather than letting others control it for their interests and pray they will take care of you in return. The effort however needs to be exerted in the right place. In other words, providing value for the rest of the economy to reward you whatever you want in return. This is the central theme of the Sovereign Zen philosophy (I introduced this term in my guest post on Martin Hughes’s blog 2 months back) that I will define very soon on my site, which builds upon the Zen Valedictorian framework but aims to be more applicable to all walks of life to keep one’s sanity, impressiveness, and well-being.

    Stanley

  33. Meri says:

    I too strive to lead a “remarkable” life, and I think that “becoming so good that they can’t ignore you” is only part of the story. Having a strong support system is also important. This is something that I (being a very independent person) have ignored over the years and am now revisiting. Having your own personal cheerleaders in life, people who are happy when you succeed, who will be there to give you a nudge when you need it, is pretty darn important. History is filled with people who were incredibly good at things but who didn’t get social recognition. Sometimes we don’t know how good we are until someone else tells us.

  34. JP Adams says:

    Cal –

    Thanks for the great post. I particularly like the insight about as Steve Martin says, “being so good at something people can’t ignore you.”

    I have to disagree strongly however with your definition of a remarkable life.

    “(1) you do something meaningful that you enjoy; (2) you have a flexible schedule that you control; and (3) you earn recognition and good (enough) compensation.”

    The above are all elements of a remarkable life for sure. However the aspect of giving back, giving joy and happiness to others, giving something back to your society, building tools and services that others use to improve thier lives (like your blog) is entirely missed.

    I only mention it because often self improvement techniques are described as tools to improve only the individual using them. This is the pit fall of self-improvement. Indeed, we need to aspire to make ourselves better in order to help others.

    Ironically, once others benefit from our efforts it will make us feel better than any personal improvement we made in our own lives.

  35. Sri says:

    Dear Study Hacks, have you read the book, “The Power of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz? There are a lot of things involved in success that aren’t quite as well explored as the obvious — They talk about issues that crop up because of lack of adequate energy in 4 dimensions — health and physical, mental/intellectual, emotional (e.g. the quality of relationships) and spiritual (which is about connecting our work to deeper things like we value — and it goes deeper to the very root of our belief systems which color the way we see everything.)

    Personally if there are reasons why people excel at something, contribute remarkably and still don’t like it, it’s usually because something is screwed up in these 4 areas. I like your blog very much, but I seriously suggest you give the book a read. I’ve been through the best college in my country and I find that people start hating the academic life when they slog through sleepless nights and yet don’t get good grades when they “think” they have worked hard (and this is so WRONG) — physical and mental energy is gone and failures frustrate.

    A great deal of support comes from family and friends in helping people out in their success. I know a genius violinist who had a career of over 60 years who set the bar in his system of music — and at the back of it he had the full support of his parents in his formative years and later his wife who literally was his manager both in business and at home.

    Besides one thing, have you explored how successful people react when they are faced when the tide turns against them and things fail? Again there you can see fascinating ways in which people react to them.

  36. Jim Loving says:

    Hi Cal:

    I had never heard of you before today. I have not read your books and had not read your blog before today. I came upon this blog post and the section on your definition of a “remarkable life.” Today for me has been about reflecting on my life – all from an article in today’s Washington Post by Michelle Singletary, where she references the book Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … And Pays the Bills. After following many links/reviews from many authors, I came upon your site/work. I happen to be 58, my wife is 62, and we both retired from our working careers last year. By your definition, we both have lived remarkable lives. Before today, I never considered my life to be “remarkable.” I think my career at IBM probably followed your guidance from your latest book – I developed skills that were valuable which enabled me to follow my passion. The same holds true for my wife. While early in retirement, I am thinking about what I want to do with myself beyond the plans my wife and I have laid out so far. I think your 3-part remarkable life guidance still applies for us, we just need to think about it a little differently than when we were working. Keep up the exploration, you and your readers will continue to be rewarded. JL

  37. Ray John says:

    I like your point of view. Be awesome and you will be remarkable.

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