Happy accidents: Unplanned revelations of what appear to be universal patterns for accomplishing any goal

There are two things you can do in life ever, you can either work towards goals you have, or you don’t. I’m going to ignore the latter and talk about what it takes to work towards a goal. I started reading thousands of pages of books to hunt down exactly what it takes to make someone achieve a goal, no matter how big that goal may be. I focus a lot on the entertainment industry, because it’s my passion, but my research took me in to many many sectors other than entertainment. The pursuit of this, which started after I read the book The Slight Edge, since then I’ve been all over the map:

  1. Baseball (Moneyball)
  2. Entrepreneurship (Crossing the Chasm, Positioning, The 80/20 principle, Nail it then Scale It, The Personal MBA)
  3. Habits of successful people/principles of success (Mastery, Good to Great, The 10X Rule, The Slight Edge, Outliers)
  4. Zen and motorcycle maintenance which ended up being a provocative thought bender on the concept of quality, and what it is
  5. Investment strategies (A Random Walk Down Wall Street, The Millionaire Real Estate Investor)
  6. Autobiographies (Born a Crime)
  7. The Olympics in Nazi Germany (The Boys in the Boat)
  8. Buddhism/Mindfulness (Mindfulness in Plain English, The Practicing Mind, 10% Happier, The Buddha Walks into a Bar)
  9. Traits of leadership (Leaders eat Last, Start with Why)
  10. and even a sci-fi/western/time-travelling/magic casting 7 volume adventure

The craziest part about all of these books is that all of these, in one way or another, have given me chips, chunks, parts and pieces of an extremely big picture puzzle I didn’t ever expect to stumble on. That’s still boggling me now, that I never expected to find these patterns, they just kept showing up as I continued researching about these topics. What was most interesting, they seem to apply no matter what the specific topic is. 

Now then, what common threads ARE there across all mediums? I think backing it up a bit with some background might help the context, and set the groundwork for stumbling on the common principles/threads. I studied mechanical engineering, which taught me many concepts I’ve come to discover can be applied in a bigger picture way to help improve my life. In particular, there were two major principles to approaching life I took away from my education, and it’s funny because they have nothing to do with the details of mechanical engineering really.

First, it’s taught me how to be an effective problem solver when faced with a challenge, in mechanical engineering, it boils down to pulling ideas out of thin air, that will eventually be manufactured into something that will do something that someone needs. For example, a wrench, it’s a piece of metal with one main purpose, to torque nuts, bolts and anything else that has a flat surface the wrench head can grab. The side effect of learning how to design mechanical solutions is that I started to apply this thought process to bigger issues in my life, so if I have a problem, I now break it down into smaller problems and try to systematically solve them one by one until they’re all checked off, therefore solving the larger problem (that’s all big problems are anyways, an accumulation of smaller ones). The byproduct of problem solving though is that it boils down to pattern recognition. An engineering problem to me, at it’s core, is a repeatable pattern that is looking to be altered to our benefit in some way. In the wrench example, the pattern would be that we have bolts that are loose, and no way to tighten or loosen them. Until we have a wrench, that pattern of encountering un-alterable bolts will continue.

Second it’s taught me to keep it simple. K.I.S.S. is an expression that was taught to me day one in engineering classes, which stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. Repeatedly I’ve been defeated in my pursuits by solutions that were so blaringly simple, I have probably achieved the facepalm heard round the world on several occasions. For example, if a simple ramp will get a ball moving, there’s no need to build an entire machine that may accomplish the same thing that gravity will, or if a hefty sized stick will move a boulder out of the way, no need to get a crane. Those kinds of things. Not only that, but as I continue to dig deep into what it takes to achieve a goal, I’ve found that the patterns I’ve noticed universally, are incredibly simple, for achieving a goal, and to a high standard.

Needless to say, here’s a list (without getting into detail) of patterns (I call them patterns, but I guess they could be called strategies) in life I’ve recognized by reading about all wakes of life, that will likely help you make a goal become a reality:

  1. Process is infinitely more important than the end product it creates.
    • A byproduct of this is to embrace failure. Learn to accept it, learn from it, and move forward from there.
  2. Set deadlines. If you don’t put a date to a goal, you’ll likely never accomplish it, but putting a date to a goal, will make you accountable, even if only to yourself, to get the work done.
    • A byproduct of setting deadlines is Parkinson’s law. Learn to take advantage of this law, by shortening your deadlines and you’ll be amazed at yourself.
  3. Focus is mandatory.
    • While I personally am a bad example of focus, my research has undeniably proven to me that focusing on a single thing, and putting all your efforts towards it, will ensure it gets completed.
  4. Have a long term plan. (5 year plan, 10 year plan?)
    • If you’re not thinking 10 years out, ALWAYS, then you’ll likely fail.
    • Of all the books I’ve read, the bands, leaders, politicians, businessmen, businesses, or anything across the board, the turning point in their quest almost always happened after 8-10 years of putting time into it. If you think you can do it any sooner, you’re likely fooling yourself.
  5. Be flexible with your path.
    • There is no one way to accomplish anything, so if what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else. with a 10 year plan, there’s likely infinite ways to achieve it.

I’m hoping to get into more detail with each of these. Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, or what patterns you may have noticed throughout life, goals or otherwise? Cheers!

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