How To Accomplish Anything: The 2011 New Year’s Resolution Edition

Accomplishing anything can be achieved in one simple step.

I normally charge people $9,995.00 to obtain this ancient skill, but because it’s the holiday season, and the Apple Store was all out of iPads, I will give you this instead.  I hope you like it (no 3G coverage, sorry).

The Only Secret You Need to Accomplish Anything

1)  Stop telling yourself, “you can’t”.

That’s it.  You can now do anything.

See you in 2011!


(Perhaps I’ll elaborate a bit)

OKAY, so maybe accomplishing anything isn’t quite that simple.  After all, you can’t just say, “I can share romance with Erin Andrews,” and she’ll magically appear at your doorstep (no matter how many times you try).  We are bound by physics, time, space, spacetime, and all of the other laws of science that forbids the Erin Andrews teleport machine.

With that said, many of the limitations we prescribe ourselves, are far less supernatural.  Whether you’re making excuses for why you can’t move to a vacation destination, why you can’t start your own business, why you can’t get in shape, why you can’t change careers, why you can’t run a marathon, why you can’t earn that promotion, why you can’t land your dream girl/guy, why you can’t travel the world, is attributable only to your own self induced limitations.  It’s cliche, but you really are your own worst enemy (terrorists are a close second).

It’s amazing what happens when you stop nay-saying yourself.  When you expand your realm of “what’s possible”, you tap into a powerful force that previously remained undetected.

Keep in mind, this seemingly pie-in-the-sky, optimism storm is coming from someone who is a natural skeptic of everything.  The skeptic in me used to believe that motivation was a built into one’s DNA.  Being a creature of extreme laziness as a child, my path seem to be headed toward doom (or more accurately Doom).

Then I fell onto a combination of “holy shit, I did that?” (specifically, lose 50 lbs.), with a pinch of, “wait a second, science supports this?”, and then a dash of “learning how to utilize psychology to rewire neurological connections“, I realized that not believing real change is very doable, was borderline insane.  In other words, my perspective of what was insane, changed camps (like Brett Favre, without all the sexting).

The Achievement Avalanche

Like most good things in life, achievement tends to be an addictive quality.  The more it happens, the higher the bar elevates.

My work with Tech Cocktail (an awesome start-up focused website for those who don’t know), has exposed me to some truly incredible entrepreneurs.  It didn’t take long to figure out that these individuals will never be satiated.  They aren’t chasing money, or recognition, or fame.  They’re addicted to achievement.  Settling has simply been removed from their diction.

If you’ve ever met anyone who’s completed an Iron Man, you’ve witnessed this mentality for yourself.  The vast majority of these individuals are professionals, however, they are not professional athletes.  More often than not, they go onto overachieve in several aspects of their life.  They go onto earn their MD from Northwestern (Hi, Joe) or train for and complete the race in the midst of teaching multiple upper level collegiate marketing courses (Hi, Prof. Peck).   They weren’t born with a physical predisposition to running an Iron Man (no human is).  Instead, somewhere down the line, someone or some event encouraged them to challenge their “I can’t” mentality.  They defeated it.  And as a result a whole host of “I can’t’s” that once stood as roadblocks in their mind, were demolished.

A new world opened up to them.

2011: Your New World

I have a challenge for you.

If you’ve had the itch to excel onto something big in some (or many) aspect(s) of your  life, but for whatever reason have kept putting it off, make 2011 the year you quit compromising.  This year’s New Year Resolution (singular – we’ll come back to this) is the year you murder “I can’t” (I fear that I actually have enough people reading this now that I have to clarify I’m not suggesting murder of any kind other than negative voices in your brain.  And delicious meat.)

Seriously, take a few minutes (more if necessary) and write down a list of 5-10 items that you’ve wanted to accomplish, but have instead convinced yourself that you couldn’t do it.  I mean it.  Before you go to back to checking your e-mail, Facebook, or one of the many other work distractions, take out a sheet of paper, and follow through with this.  Humor me.

Note: When I say incapable, I don’t mean physically impossible (e.g. “I can’t bench press a semi-truck” or “I can’t turn a microwave on with my brain”).  I mean something you know is humanly achievable, but you personally don’t believe you have the capacity to accomplish.

Here are your next steps:

  1. Number your 5-10 items in numerical order of difficulty (with 1 being the easiest and 5-10 being the most difficult).
  2. Cross out each item that doesn’t compel you.  Here’s an easy way to determine this: if you were describing yourself to someone and you included this particular accomplishment, would it feel like a throbbing source of pride for you?  If yes, leave it.  If no, cross it out.
  3. Find the lowest numbered item that isn’t crossed out.  That’s it.  That’s your New Years Resolution.

A couple of questions you may be asking:

Why am I picking the “easiest” of my goals?

By the standard of what you consider to be something “you can’t” do, none of these items should appear easy (not at first at least).  Additionally, the purpose here is to find something that will get the Achievement Avalanche in motion.  Upon removing the first, “I can’t” each proceeding obstacle will fall with increasing ease.

Why am I only selecting one goal?

Putting too much on your plate is a big reason why 99% of New Years Resolutions fail in the first place.  As soon as you start to slip with one of your goals, you tell yourself, “I’m not any good at this”, and consequently the rest fall by the wayside.  I find that a reductionist approach is the easiest way to achieving anything in life.  Timothy Ferris, author of the best selling Four Hour Work Week and now, Four Hour Body, makes a living (a very, very, very awesome living at that) through this reductionist approach.  He’s good at life.

Now What

  1. Share the News. Now that you’ve selected your New Years Resolution, it’s time to hold yourself accountable.  Tell at least 5 people about your new goal. Tell people whose opinions you respect.  Tell your parents.  Tell your siblings.  Tell your best friend.  Tell all of your friends (Facebook).  Tell strangers (write it in the comments on this post – I will hold you accountable).  First focus on quality, then quantity.  The more people who know about your goal, the more accountable you’ll hold yourself.  If you’re serious about this, you can’t skip this step.
  2. Find the Why. Next, you need to find compelling reasons that will keep you going long term.  This is important.  If we can’t come up with compelling reasons for why we’re doing something, it won’t happen.  Simple as that.  This is the part that will make your goal last longer than just a few days (the point where many fall off). Take a few minutes to think of as many benefits of achieving your goal as possible.  Include everything and be specific.  Mentally put yourself in the state as if you you’ve accomplished your goal, and describe how you feel.  Be overly descriptive.  Write down everything.  This sheet is part 1 of your “goal bible”.
  3. Find the Why Not. Equally important to why you’re doing something, is to find out how big of a piece of shit you will feel like if you don’t follow through.  Again, put yourself in the mental state of you giving up on your dream.  Think about how you’ll cope with it.  Will you start eating/drinking more?  Will you lash out at loved ones?  Will you slack off at work?  What other areas of your life will you start compromising? Will you kick the dog?  Now drag this effect out over 5 years (like accomplishing goals, being a piece of shit also carries momentum).  Again, write down everything you feel.  Err on the side of being too descriptive/redundant rather than being brief.  This is part 2 of your “goal bible”.

(Note: the more emotion you invest into steps 2 & 3 above, the more effective this exercise is.  Ideally, you’ll want to envision your goal as often, and as vividly as possible.  Again, this isn’t witchcraft.  Science is beginning to confirm the legitimacy of these practices.

Congratulations.  If done thoroughly, you’ve just completed the most challenging part of achieving your goal – constructing a determined and well defined mindset.  I’m not being facetious – the remainder will undoubtedly consume much more time and effort, but developing the proper mental foundation is the part that requires the most pattern shifting.

What Remains

A lot, obviously.  But from here on out, the work will both be fun and rewarding.  The journey is as much the accomplishment as the end goal itself.

All you have to do is find the right collection of resources (books, articles, mentors, classes, etc.) (don’t shy away from asking for help along the way), continually fueling your motivation (goal bible), and persistence.  Be sure to chart your progress, and establish intermediate goals along the way.  This will ensure that you notice the progress and prevent discouragement.

Upon defeating your “I can’t”, you will quickly realize there really is no such thing.  There’s only, “I don’t really have compelling enough reasons”.

If you want it, you can have it.  Make 2011 the year that you go get it.

  • #10 on my list… Hook up with a blogger. One who likes the Bears.

    Ha. JK. Sorta.

  • Shit.
    She stole my goal.

    Im going to have to get a new one. Ill get back to you.

  • I like what’s happening here. (Making mud pit)

  • John

    I’m going to test my limits & wander In 2011.But this year if imma wander, I’m gunna do it with a purpose… to wander 2000+ miles on a thu-hike of the Appalachian Trail . But Zach I’m pretty sure that you knew this .

  • that post is coming…

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  • Hey Zach! I’m popping over from 20sb, hello!

    When I saw the tags “quantum physics,” “spirituality,” and “psychology” all listed on the excerpt of your post, I said to myself: “Right up my alley, this should be interesting.” And indeed, I was right! But you are more right with all of your words and sentiments here and it seems you’ve really carved out a process that works for you.

    What started me on my own “Achievement Avalanche” (–love that!) was really a long process of observing my destructive behaviors of resorting: resorting to a lame life I had created and resorting to the fact that I didn’t know how to change it. But then I finally got out of my own way, and I’m continually figuring out how to do that. If that behavior to resort comes up again, I just find a way to shift myself into a place of “yes yes yes”. Just do it. Keeping moving. Push the avalance a little. And stay open. That’s the truth I’m trying to live right now.

    Thanks for your awesome post…looking forward to reading more from you.


  • Quinn,

    Thanks for the very thoughtful comment.

    It sounds like we have a very similar mentality in our approach to life. Also judging by the quantity of positive feedback on your own site, your community also seems to relate to your approach.

    It’s great that you’re sharing your experience with others so they can benefit, and learn from your trials and tribulations in the process. I have been extremely fortunate in my life to be exposed to such enlightening resources, whether they be personal interactions, or powerful books, documentaries, or even other bloggers. I find joy in spreading the wealth of information. It’s apparent you feel the same way.

    Thanks for stopping by 🙂


  • Lifebeginsat30ty

    Wow, I think this is one of the bests posts i have ever seen! Thank you Urban dater for linking to this. Although I’ve always been on the other side of things, in that ‘I can’t’ has never been apart of my vocabulary. People used to always tell me that I was ‘building castles in the air’ and a dreamer and all that. But many years later I’ve accomplished a lot of them. And you’re right, it is quite addictive! I’m in the stages of coming up with some new goals. On the other side, I’m also learning to smell the roses and enjoy the successes too.

    I encourage everyone here though to reach for the sky. You won’t get it unless you try.

  • Zach,

    Thanks so much for stopping by my own site. I’m pretty new to the blog world, but I’m finding myself so amazed by the fact that it lends itself to a direct line & connection with like-minded people. Writing for yourself is one part, and then interacting and sharing is another. They are both so important. I feel really lucky to have stumbled into this world of deeper connection and sharing. It’s exciting!

    Thanks again,