I recently wrote an article where I said that if you constantly keep trying to improve a certain area (or areas) of your life literally forever, it probably wouldn’t make you happy. One example I gave are men who make millions of dollars, yet still feel like they aren’t “rich” or “successful” yet and that they have to make even more, forever.
A number of you pointed out in the comments and in my email that this concept is directly in opposition to a lot of messaging in the success/self help industry.
The success industry is something I’ve been involved in, both as a consumer and provider, for most of my adult life, going back at least 25 years. I’ve heard all the same stuff you have. Be the BEST! Win! Never stop striving! Never stop improving! Constant, massive action!
Some of this stuff is quite accurate and is indeed necessary to a long-term, happy, masculine life. However, some of it will just cause unneeded stress, angst, shitty self-esteem and burn-out.
The key is to pick the good parts and discard the bad parts. I will show you how to do that today, at least from my perspective. We have to examine each one of these separate messages and see if they plug into a life of long-term, consistent happiness.
Constantly Expand Every Area of Life! Never Be Satisfied!
A common theme in the success/self-help industry is that you should constantly improve every area of your life forever. The minute you stop doing this, you start settling; in some cases (according to them) you start dying.
This is a perfect example of an accurate idea that has been warped into an inaccurate statement.
Should you keep striving for the rest of your life? Yes! Every man should always have one or two projects or areas of improvement that he’s working on that excites him to some degree, or at least something he considers very important. A man should always be doing this, from age 18 to age 80 and beyond. This is a core component of Alpha Male 2.0.
If you don’t have some area of improvement or a project of some kind that really compels you, this is bad. You will indeed start to get “comfortable” and will eventually start to waste away (figuratively) and start moving backward. Your self-esteem and happiness levels will start to take a hit. Inertia is not conducive to long-term happiness or fulfillment.
Should you constantly work to improve every area of your life, for the rest of your life? No! That’s insane. Refer again to the men out there who make a lot of money, but still think they don’t, and become stressed-out workaholics, pursuing a goal they already hit years ago. This is not happiness.
Consider the fitness freaks who get huge muscles and/or get down to 5% body fat, but still consider themselves unfit because some other guy they saw on the internet has larger biceps or whatever. So, they pump themselves up with horribly dangerous steroids and go on insane diets, getting down to 2% body fat (or whatever). Horrible!
Consider these young night game PUA guys who are having sex with five or six different women a week and still go out at night to get more because some guy on a PUA forum bragged that he gets more women than they do.
These are cases of heavy dysfunction, not achievement. These are men who have bought into the ALWAYS IMPROVE EVERYTHING FOREVER myth.
Yes, you should always strive for something new, as I just said above. At the same time, you need to fully internalize that there will indeed come a point in certain parts of your life where you are indeed “done” and don’t need to improve anymore. You may need to work to maintain that level, but improvement would not only be a waste of your time, it may even be dangerous.
In my book, I describe the Seven Life Areas that a man could have in his life, shown here:
In most of these areas, there are indeed limits. For example, in your financial life, there is a limit to the amount of money you should make and be worth. Do you seriously think you won’t be happy or fulfilled unless you’re worth a billion dollars? Of course not. You have an internal number of how much money you need to make/be worth that will create for you a maximum amount of long-term happiness, based on your personality, lifestyle, goals, desires, and how much time you’re willing to devote to your work/financial life.
What is this number? I don’t know, since every man’s is different; it’s your job to sit down, self-analyze, reflect, crunch some numbers, and figure this out. My point is that this number is probably much smaller than you think. As I’ve talked about many times, a $75,000 per year income will make most men very happy. $75K per year really isn’t that much when you look at guys on TV or online who make $500,000 per year.
I know what my number is. I hit my income goal quite a while ago. I have not hit my net worth goal, so I’m still working on that. But I promise you, once I hit that net worth goal, I’m going to be done worrying about it. I’m not going to then turn around and “push myself” to make even more money. What a stupid idea. I’ll have plenty of money at that point; I’ll be fine. I will then focus on new areas to improve, new projects to complete, and new mountains to climb. Constantly pushing myself to make more/be worth more is stupid once you’ve hit your “number.”
How about your physical life? This is your level of health and physical fitness. As YouTube fitness guru Scooby likes to explain, every man indeed has a genetic max of how much muscle mass you can gain. Once you hit this point, you literally can’t get any bigger (unless you pump yourself full of extremely unhealthy hormones and drugs). There are also physical limits to the amount of body fat you can lose before you start getting unhealthy.
Once you reach your genetic max, congratulations dude, you’re done. You don’t have to keep trying to be even BIGGER. That’s dumb. Work out just enough to maintain your current healthy body, and focus on other areas to improve upon.
However, my point is that 95% of you reading these words don’t even need to hit your genetic muscle max in order to be very happy with your physical life, for the rest of your life. I certainly don’t. I need to be trim and fit, but I don’t need six pack abs to be very happy. Most of you probably don’t either. If you do want that six pack, that’s great! Get your six pack then stop worrying about it, work out just enough to maintain it, and then focus on other areas.
I could use these same examples with your women life (seriously, how many women do you need to have sex with? 200?), social life (seriously, how many damn friends do you need? 50?), family life (seriously, how many hours a week do you need to spend with your wife and kids? 150?), and everything else.
Define what you want, define your limits, set those goals, work on those goals, and achieve those goals. When you hit a limit in one of your life areas, give yourself a pat on the back, and go do something else. Of course work just enough to maintain your level of success, but don’t spend the rest of your life “growing” every aspect of your life. That’s stupid beyond belief. It won’t make you long-term happy.
Be the Best!
“Be the best!” is another strong message from the success/self-help industry. Is it necessary for long-term happiness? The answer depends on two things:
1. Whether or not you really, truly need to be the best in order to be long-term happy. Most of you probably don’t.
2. How big the pool is in regards to you being the “best.”
I shall explain both.
Whenever I’ve sat down to define my goals in life that I know will make me happy, none of them involved me being “the best” at anything. Instead, they are goals that would make me happy, regardless of what the rest of the world or Societal Programming thinks.
When I started my first business at age 24, my goal was to make $100,000 a year. I had no interest in being “the best” computer consultant or businessman in the city or in the world. That never even crossed my mind. I was so excited about making $100,000, my own goal, that I didn’t care how that compared to any other person in my business area. 3.5 years after setting that goal, I hit it, and I was making six figures. Still wasn’t “the best,” but I was too happy to care.
When I was starting out in the dating world back in 2007 after my divorce, I didn’t care at all about being “the best” lover or seducer or pickup artist or any of that crap. I just had my goal: getting sex with hot women three times a week, with maximum ease, without having to promise anyone monogamy. Two years later, I hit that goal. I still wasn’t the best. I didn’t care; I was too busy having sex.
Even today this is true. At one point, I had a goal of getting into the top 10 manosphere sites. Today I’m there; the Blackdragon Blog is number 10. That’s perfectly fine with me. I don’t need to be number one (“the best!”) in order to be happy, or even number two or three. With my business and marketing skills, the income I receive from being number 10 is plenty (particularly considering that my Blackdragon business is a part-time business!).
What if you’re not like me, and you really want to be the best? In other words, you’ve sat down and through a lot of soul searching and self-analysis, you’ve determined that what would make you happy would indeed be if you were the best.
The next question you need to analyze is, “the best of what?” The larger the pool of competitors, the less likely success will be, and thus the less likely you’ll be happy, even if you’re amazing.
For example, if your goal is to be the best attorney in the world, then with all due respect, you’re screwed, and that’s a terrible goal to have. You’re in direct competition with millions upon millions of other attorneys; no matter how good you are, regardless of how you measure it, you’re not going to be the best.
If instead you set a goal to be the best attorney in Kansas City, now that’s a more achievable goal. It’s still very difficult, but it’s achievable.
Another variation is if you set a goal to be the best geology patent law attorney in the world. That’s much more achievable than the best attorney in the world. It’s a much smaller pool and therefore, much more doable.
I say this as someone who actually is the best in the world at something. I am, at least based on all the information available to me, the best online dating guru in the world, at least when it comes to normal dating sites like OKCupid, Plenty of Fish, etc. I have not seen anyone else provide the quality of online dating advice that I have provided to a larger audience than I have. Even if there is someone out there who fits this bill, they’re probably new, and I’ve been on top of this for years before them.
But even then, I never set out to be “the best” online dating guru. I couldn’t care less about that. Instead, I had various business and income goals surrounding the sale of my online dating e-books and advice, and through these, I came out being “the best.” In other words, being the best was required to hit my goals, but my goals never revolved around being the best… at anything. They still don’t.
I hope this all makes sense. Strive and achieve, but if you’re focused on improving forever or being the best, you need to look inward to see if this will really make you happy long-term.
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“..I had a goal of getting into the top 10 manosphere sites.”
Where is the source?
The old list from two years ago is here, which shows me at 15. Today I’m 10 (though sometimes I’m 9 or 11). If you want more detail on the rankings, read the comments under this article.
The struggle of “trying to be the best” is something I’ve always had on my mind, especially being a fitness lover.
When you’re young It’s really hard to balance your fitness life with your other goals. This happens mainly because you have to deal with A LOT of pressure from your peers to become “Huuuge” or any other useless crap. Suddenly something you previously enjoyed may become a bad obsession and hinder everything else that’s important to you. Been there, done that…and it’s not pretty.
Also we all know there’s still this very strong (false) belief that you have to show a perfect muscular body to score the best girls. Takes a lot of time and patience to completely detach from this stuff and optimize your time and dedication in this area.
Right. I made the mistake as a younger man to conform the the goals other people had for me rather than the goals that were truly within me.
Hi there Caleb!
Awesome post as always.
Most people want to be “the best” because their self-esteem is linked to their achievements, and thus if they are not “the best” they feel something is wrong with them.
Of course, as being “the best” is a moving target, they never achieve that, so they become success junkies instead.
Conditional self-esteem is a deep problem in our society, and is rampant in the PUA world.
Psychologists study this as “toxic shame”, the feeling that you are not worthy except for your accomplishments. I reverted to a healthy self-esteem via hard work and NLP techniques to develop a proper self-image, but it’s a long route and not one that the majority of people want to take.
I wanna be the very best like no one ever was.
Here’s the problem.
Nearly everyone “settles” too much, and that’s why I argue that yes you should improve forever, even if sometimes you don’t want to. Because let’s face it, settling is WAY easier than wanting to keep getting better and better at stuff. I mean let’s face it, are there not tons of dudes who think that they are “happy” with their wage slave $20000 a year job and dating and (maybe) having sex with average and overweight chicks? I know that most of the beta males I come across at least on the surface appear much happier than alpha (1) males.
So that’s the major paradox: while you shouldn’t ever feel like you have “arrived” its also important to know that you don’t need to be the best compared against everyone else. You should try to be the best when compared against what you used to be.
I’m interested in impressing myself more than anyone, and I think if more followed that they would be way happier.
Yes, but that doesn’t change anything I said.