When you stir a large enough pot for a long enough time, you’ll eventually see the ingredients combine to create something you’ve never seen before. Some people call it coincidence. Others call it luck, or chance, or statistics, or emergent behaviour.
But regardless of the name, you’re always left surprised with the outcome.
In the same way, when you let seven billion unique people interact in the largest mixing pot you could imagine, you’re almost guaranteed to get a few that turn out different. They’re the people that choose to push themselves to their limits and make a statement with their lives.
When you see one of those people, you know it. And just looking at them in action makes you wonder: What makes a truly special person different from everyone around them? Why do they do what they do? What did they have to gain and lose to get to where they are? Are they born or made?
I’ve been tossing those questions around in my head for a while now — and it’s partly because I couldn’t find an answer that was satisfying enough.
But, I felt like an answer had to be out there, and I wanted to know what it was. That’s why I spent the past few years asking those exact questions to the most special people I could find. So, can you guess what I did after that?
I took all the patterns I saw in all the people I met, and created a formula to predict where anyone would end up in their lives. That’s right. Just plug in your variables and see where you’ll go.
There’s a good chance that you can’t even explain something this vague with numbers, anyway. And of course, your result isn’t going to be the exact date you’ll be a billionaire or the world’s best artist. All it can do is tell you if you’re on the right path — and even that’s just an estimate.
But, if you’re at a point where you’re drowning in ambiguity and don’t know where to go next — why not give it a shot? All you need’s a calculator, some elbow grease, and a little bit of optimism. Plus, it’ll be fun. Come on.
Say hello to my little friend: The General Theory of Life.
Now, I don’t want this to article to feel like a high school math review, since this was meant to stretch beyond an equation. Don’t be intimidated by the exponents and the psychedelic colours, either. This is pretty close to the simplest way you can express how life works with math.
Just know that these letters all stand for things that can change the trajectory of your life. They all affect your end score (s) — which reflects how far you’ll come in reaching your potential. The higher your score, the more you’ve succeeded. You can rise up as high as you want.
People who make the most out of life learn how to control these variables to maximize their score. That’s why they’re almost always the most successful.
But, success is a really messy term. What am I trying to get at here?
When I mean success, I mean success in anything. That’s why I called it the general theory of life. It doesn’t matter where you go, or what you do. Whether its health, wealth, fame, or world records — the things you do to get there might change, but the levers that control your performance don’t. You just need to have a goal in mind.
The C stands for clarity, and it’s pretty self-explanatory. And no, this isn’t a wish like: “I want to make a million dollars a second while I sip orange juice on a hammock in Hawaii.” Wrong.
Just as much as you need to know what you want, you’ve got to set a date for when you want to have it, and a plan on how you’ll get it.
You’re either clear on your goals, or you’re not. That’s why the only number that goes here is a 0 or a 1.
M stands for motivation. It’s how much you love what you do.
This time, we’re dealing on a scale of 1 to 10. A 1 means you’d rather die than work on whatever you’re thinking about. A 10 means you’d be willing to stake your life to work on it. Most people aren’t 10’s, and I wouldn’t recommend being one — for obvious reasons.
Naturally, you might have a different M value for your health than you would for the performance of your business. By talking to someone for five minutes or so, you can get a good feel of where their M lies:
That’s because different people get motivated by different things. For me, it’s competition and control. For you, it might be leading a team to victory or conquering the world.
No matter what floats your boat, your motivation is what stops you from giving up when times get tough. And trust me — times can get very tough when you’re working your way up in life. Motivation never lets you down.
F is focus.
Focus is how dead-set your are on your goal. It’s similar to motivation, but it has more to do with how much you centre your life on something.
Do you start off every day with your dream and build out from there, or is your “goal” just an afterthought?
You should be shooting for the first option.
Again, we’ll rate this on a 0–10 scale. Here, 0 means you’re bouncing around from idea to idea like a kid who overdosed on sugar. 10 means committing to plan and sticking with it until there’s indisputable evidence that you should pivot. Think of it like stubbornness, but the good kind.
Winners tend to be obsessively focused about what they’re working on, and you can count on them to deliver:
X is your “X-Factor”. It’s how gifted you are at what you want to be doing. Now, this isn’t the be-all-end-all of success, but it sure can make the process a whole lot faster and smoother.
For example, the average person doesn’t have much of a chance at playing in the NBA. That’s mostly because the average person isn’t 10-feet tall. That task’s outside most people’s capacity to play basketball.
Does that mean you can’t play in the NBA? No. The shortest person who played in the NBA was 5"3. You can find equivalents of that person in any other game. But, I could bet you anything that those players have to outwork their competition hundreds of times over.
Yeah, that’s unfair. But if you wanted a fair world, you’d need a world with seven billion exact replicas of each other.
Talent’s a huge advantage in anything you do, but it can only take you so far. People are born talented, but nobody’s born the best. You have to put in work to get there. If you want to play the game of life at a high-level, enter a game that you’re at least strong enough to have a fighting chance. Most people who dominate the world also happen to dominate the fields they’re in:
T stands for time. Assuming your don’t get Arthritis in your seventies, things only get better as it goes on. As you start picking up traction and building on the resources you already have, things multiply themselves to give you meteoric growth. Time’s your best friend, and you can really make some big things happen if you let it help you out.
Everyone knows that we can invest money into companies, but barely anyone knows that we can invest our time into goals. Even fewer people realize that they’re investing their time in something right now.
Unlike regular investing, though, you don’t get great returns when you diversify your time too much. Most people who do anything significant in their lives dedicate their time to one main area. Take the hint.
A stands for arrogance. Notice how it’s on the other end of our fraction, since you don’t really associate that with success.
You can find your arrogance in the space between what you think you’re worth, and what you’re actually worth.
Any deviation between your mental picture of your self-worth and your actual self-worth is a poison. A large enough discrepancy could misalign you so badly that you mentally break. Too much arrogance, and you can’t get over yourself. You’ll suddenly think you can’t lose and stop relying on other people for help. Worst of all — you won’t even realize it.
There’s nobody in history that’s experienced long-term victory when they were fuelled by a false sense of superiority. Most of them just got executed. Keep very close track of yourself, and surround yourself with people who’ll put you back in your place when you get high on your own supply. You don’t want to get executed in your own way:
D stands for your dependence on people’s opinions. It’s how much you value the “advice” of people without processing it against your own beliefs.
If any successful person today took most people’s advice to them, they’d probably be hiding in a corner somewhere while they questioned the validity of their dream.
This isn’t about ignoring other people. After all, that’s the definition of arrogance. The point here is to not rely on other people’s opinions to the point where you can’t think for yourself. We call successful people successful because they do things no else is willing to do.
Every once in a while, you’ll have to break away from other people’s expectations to follow what you think is right. Following most people’s advice is going to make you do the things everyone else is doing. Why? Because most people are normal, and that’s what they’d do if they were in your position:
Sometimes, their advice might be right. Sometimes, it might be garbage. it’s your job to make the final call with the information you have. Just remember to stay true to the plan you end up choosing and take responsibility for whatever comes out of it. It’s your life, and you have to live with the decisions you make.
That’s all there is to it. Rate yourself from 1–10 in motivation, focus, talent. arrogance, and dependence, and either a 0 or 1 on clarity. If people constantly remind you that you’re arrogant, it might be better to get somebody else to do the scoring. Just make sure that person’s reasonable and don’t hate your guts.
One final thing. The scores I’ve highlighted below are meant to display your life potential. Think about how long your career would realistically be, and use that value (in decades), to get your answer. Most people go for four or five, but it’s all about how long you’re willing to dedicate into your goal.
Now, just dial in your personal analysis of those numbers into a calculator and get your result. It’s time to analyze what your score means.
You see, I took this formula really seriously. I designed and tested it so that certain scores would align with certain people at different stages of achievement. All you have to do is plot your score against these ranks:
0 — Normal.
0–10 — Still pretty normal.
10-1000 — You’re dedicating yourself in the right way.
1000-10K —You’re starting to grow to a different level.
10K-1M —You’re working towards your potential.
1M-100M — You’re approaching your full potential.
1B+ — You’ve reached your full potential.
Now that you know how the formula works, it’s hard to see life as a cloudy, ambiguous thing. You know exactly what you can and can’t control, and you know what you can work on — starting right now — to push yourself ahead.
If you got a much lower score than you were expecting, you might be too hard on yourself. Try and confirm things with a second opinion. If nothing changed (or if things got even worse), think about how you can fix it. We’ll go over that, too.
**Side Note: If you got above a billion, you’re either:
a) Lying to yourself
b) Headed for massive growth and should definitely email me.**
Sorry about that. Golden opportunities like those don’t come often, you know.
But aside from all of that, let’s realize something.
There’s a good chance you’re at zero right now.
Don’t worry — most of us are down here. Why? Because almost none of us have clarity on what we want to do. When clarity doesn’t exist, your entire equation for life boils down to…zero. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. Even if you did, you’d probably wouldn’t even recognize you arrived.
There’s nothing wrong with being at zero. What’s wrong is staying there.
That’s why your first step here has to be figuring out what you want out out life. Sure, it doesn’t sound like much, but getting from 0 to 1 is a big deal. Most people live out their entire lives at that single digit, and you’ve transcended that. Now, you can start building the rest of your life up.
And you can probably already guess what the next logical step is. Just taking a quick look at the formula, why not start with finding something you want to do for the rest of your life?
Take some time to look for something (of course, don’t take too long), and make sure that it’s something you’re motivated enough to work single-mindedly on for the next ten or twenty years. And if you’ve already got a knack for what you want to do, then what you’ve landed on is really, really valuable.
By finding the right thing to chase, you’re automatically putting yourself at a huge advantage. Just don’t take too long to find the perfect thing. Fire, and then aim as you go. When in doubt, try something out.
If you’re really stuck on what to do, just start with something. Anything. In the worst case scenario, you’ll at least know something you don’t want to spend the rest of your life doing.
Finding the right thing to work on is the biggest favour you could ever do yourself. You can get a long way by doubling down on the variables at the top of the equation. But eventually, you’ll hit a wall. To get any further, you’ll have to take part in the much longer process of minimizing your faults.
Even the most talented, motivated, and focused person can fall into the trap of arrogance and dependence. As soon as the do that, they create a ceiling to their growth that suffocates them as time goes on. A ceiling can kill your dreams a lot faster than a lack of focus or motivation can.
With a little bit of experimentation, you’ll see that anybody who falls into the highest category of success has the lowest arrogance and dependence possible. Those two weights eventually get so heavy that the only way to keep climbing is to throw them away. It’s just another part of the process for anyone who wants to fly above low altitude:
But of course, since when did life look like a flawless exponential curve? If you could graph life in any realistic way, it’d looks something more like an amusement park ride. Those variables? They change every day. Your trajectory changes every day. But, I’m guessing you already knew that.
What matters in the end is how you did throughout your life. As long as you’re headed up, a few speed bumps along the way won’t make much of a difference.
Oh, and one more thing. Realize that if you’re young and have literally nothing, time is the one thing you have going for you.
That’s exactly why 24-year-old billionaires score so low when you check their score over half a decade of progress. It’s because they have so much more of themselves left to unravel. If they maintained their focus and motivation for another ten years, they’d impact that many more people. They aren’t at a billion just yet, but they sure could be.
The highest place you can fall on this scale is your full potential. Not a certain amount of recognition, or power, or money. It’s your potential. If you get there, it’s pretty safe to say you lived a good life.
I can’t stress this enough. Time is the only thing you have. If you’re already late to the party, then you’ve got some catching up to do. Even if you aren’t, get it in your head that you aren’t immortal. You have time, and you’re losing it just as quickly as the next person.
At the same time, try seeing the grand design. There’s so many people that are headed for a billion but don’t believe it because they aren’t there right now. They don’t understand that they’ll experience almost all the results of their work ten years from now.
But don’t put any of this off for tomorrow, either. That’s not how it works. Tomorrow’s always going to be a day away. Start now, and you’ll find yourself a lot closer to where you want to be.
In such a huge mixing pot, you can always expect successful people to appear. You’ll just never be able to predict who they’ll be, or where they’ll come, from or why they could do it. The only thing predictable about the world is how unpredictable it is.
Life’s a journey where you take all that uncertainty, and find a way to make something out of yourself and the world. Those seven variables make all the difference. It’s something you’ll really understand when you experience it for yourself.
Will you experience it for yourself? Well, you can certainly try.
Thanks for reading,