Overcoming the Illusion of Effortless Accomplishment
Comparing ourselves to finished products robs us of the opportunity to improve
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Don’t be intimidated by anything. In the vast majority of professions and vocations, the people who succeed are not any cleverer than you. The adult world is not full of gods, just people who have acquired skills and habits that work for them.
The world is filled with finished products.
We have powerful supercomputers in our pockets, we’re surrounded by impressive feats of engineering, we buy products from massive corporations, and we see incredible people at the top of their fields every day on social media.
From our perspective, these outcomes look flawless and effortless.
Apple cranks out incredible iPhones without a hitch. College athletes transition from million-dollar NIL deals to 10-million-dollar professional contracts. Our favorite podcaster writes a book immediately rising to the top of the best-seller list. Even that one weird person from high school has gotten into shape and has a job we’re jealous of.
It seems like all of these people have it figured out. They know the right decisions to make, have a unique advantage, or have access to information or resources that we don’t.
This is the illusion of accomplishment. None of these people have anything that we don’t.
They are all making things up as they go along just like we are, but we only see the finished product, not what’s going on behind the scenes.
Everyone is Guessing
No matter how big the accomplishment, how precise the engineering, or how impressive the feat is, everything is built by humans.
And humans are imperfect.
The world’s biggest companies are made up of a bunch of normal people making decisions they’re unsure of. Athletes with perfect physiques like Cheez-Its and beer just as much as we do.
From afar it looks like people effortlessly rise to the top of their, but the closer we get to something the more human it becomes.
Behind the scenes, “effortlessly flawless” individuals are giving things their best guesses. If we look behind the curtain we can see all of the uncertainty, failure, and iteration, but looking behind the curtain is becoming less common as our culture evolves.
As our view becomes increasingly global, we are exposed to more people, events, and institutions, but we get less information about each new topic. This exasperates the illusion that others have something figured out that we don’t.
We all have the capabilities to accomplish and create things that look effortless and flawless to the outside world. To do so requires focus on imperfect inputs instead of idealized outcomes.
Effort —> Skills —> Results
When we focus on outcomes, we assume we don’t have the skills required to achieve the same thing. As a result, we don’t put in the effort required to develop those skills.
Instead of asking ourselves how we can achieve similar results, we tell ourselves we can’t because we’re different than the ones who have already done it. They have the skills or resources and we don’t.
This is the illusion we need to overcome. We need to consider the inputs, imperfections, failures, and luck required for others to get to that point.
No one can skip from amateur to expert without doing the work.
When we compare ourselves to the finished products of the world, we forget the years, if not decades, of work required to reach that point.
To assume others are magically superior or possess something we don’t is to rob ourselves of the opportunity to grow and develop our skills. To accomplish anything worthwhile we need to start by putting in effort to become better.
To achieve a high level of results we need to have a certain degree of skill. Developing meaningful skills requires effort. Typically lots of it.
The only difference between ourselves and the finished products we compare ourselves to is a focus on effort and skill development instead of outcomes.
Everything we see today was created by imperfect humans. There is no reason we can’t be the next one to create something great.
Thanks for reading Prompted! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Who or what do you admire that seems completely out of reach given your current skill set?
What is something meaningful and worthwhile that you would like to accomplish or create?
What type of effort or practice do you need to do to acquire the skills necessary to accomplish or create it?
A peak behind the curtain into the lives of extremely impressive people spanning across a wide array of disciplines and pursuits.
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