BLOG#17 The Staircase

In all of the stories ever told about winners and losers, failures and successes, there is just one thing that separates the two: the failure gave up, the winner didn’t.

It’s that simple.

In an interview I saw yesterday with Al Pacino, he proclaimed:

“Determination can beat talent!”

…and it made me think about how we classify some things as being optional and others as guaranteed.

How long do you give a child to learn to walk? At what point do you decide to give up on them and accept they will have to crawl around the rest of their life?

Learning to walk, learning to have a conversation, learning to write… these things we conquer as children are immeasurably more difficult than the things we routinely quit as adults: Getting a 6 pack, becoming a millionaire, publishing a book, building a successful business…

Why doesn’t everyone with any goal succeed?

Why don’t we just get it done, then move onto the next? Like kids do.

I think it’s all down to the staircase…

My little boy Jake is 14 months old and learning to walk (we’ve not given up on him yet), but he’s been an avid stair climber for months. He loves the stairs and any time he gets himself to the bottom, I stand behind him and follow him up to catch him if he falls. His Sherpa.

I will never forget the historic moment he first made it to the top unaided.

The first few stairs, no problem. He paused only slightly about a quarter of the way up to glance over his shoulder at me. Already he was as far as he’d ever been before.

The next few stairs, mechanically reaching up one arm and then pulling up one leg at a time, he was on a mission and now he was past half way.

Then, for no apparent reason, he paused, uncertain, looking up at the path ahead and peering back down where he’d come from. I could see he didn’t have many stairs to go, but he was close to reaching for my help, which meant the end of the expedition.

I lowered my head to his level, “Keep going Jakey” I told him close to his ear, with as much proud dad enthusiasm as I had ever had.

But before I stood back up, I glanced upwards and downwards as he had and immediately I realised something: to him the staircase was never ending.

Looking up it was just more of the same as he’d already climbed, more hard work with no end in sight. He was so close to the stairs he couldn’t see the top!

And looking down, all he could see was how high he’d climbed and how far he had to fall. His confidence was disappearing and fear was taking over.

But from my view, standing back up, l could see was how far he’d come and how close he was to the top. I had to get him to keep going just a little longer.

“You’re nearly there, keep going Jakey!” I banged on the stairs “go go go!”

I mimicked him crawling up the stairs with a beaming smile at him.

He looked at me blankly, then suddenly smiled at me and, with a crazed look on his face, grabbed the next step, pushing himself upwards with his chubby little legs and just a few seconds later he was sat triumphantly at the top of our staircase, looking down at how far he’d come from a whole new world he could now get to.

I thought what an awesome lesson he’d just learned, stick at it and you get there. I hope that spirit never leaves him and I reinforced the satisfaction of getting to the top with an over the top celebration of cheering and whoop whoops! so that the emotions might help to embed the lesson into his nature.

Who knows if it will.

I’ve thought a lot about the staircase metaphor, the relentless grind of anything we set out to achieve, the lack of any visible progress along the way or any hint of the destination in sight.

And without anyone around you there will be little to no encouragement along the way (some arseholes will even revel in seeing any glimpse of you failing), no rewards or pats on the back for sticking at it, nothing but the same pain and discomfort you had yesterday without any promise of it ending soon, the fear of it all going wrong and a fading desire to even reach the destination any more.

Talking yourself out of achieving your own goal.

Ask anyone who’s done Weight Watchers and they will tell you that it was the group that helped them reach their goal; the regular encouragement they received, the success stories from people just like them and not wanting to let the team down.

But out there on our own, no wonder we give up. The staircase is unforgiving.

But it’s just a staircase. Ask anyone who’s climbed it; the guy with the 6 pack, the millionaire, the best selling author… they see a different view. They know that all you need to do is keep going.

It’s that simple.

Now, keeping going might not mean keep banging your head against a wall, it might mean stopping for a breath, taking a fresh look at what you’re doing.

If you don’t want to succeed then listen to the opinions and advice of people who’ve never accomplished what you’re going after.

If you want to succeed then only listen to the people and stories of those who’ve climbed the stairs already.

Regroup. Adapt. Improvise.

If we keep going we will get there.

It’s that simple.


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BLOG#13 The Next Best Thing to a Gun to the Head

Let’s be brutally honest:

You already know how to accomplish anything you want. Or if you don’t know exactly what to do, you certainly know how to find out.

If you want to lose weight, you know which foods are healthy and you know you have to work your arse off every day exercising. So eat nothing but healthy food and do a tonne of exercise every day. It’s that simple.

If you want to get rich, millionaires write books that tell you exactly how they did it. Some people have spent their lives studying rich people and written books that tell you step by step formulas that have worked consistently. Read them. Then do what it says.

If you want to learn a skill, find the people who are best at it, ask their advice, read their books, watch their videos, practice every day as many hours as you can until you have it.

If you want to find a partner, quit smoking, adopt a new habit… in the same amount of time it takes to watch Eastenders, you can find several proven experts who will tell you pretty much exactly how to go about it, or at the very least where to learn how to go about it.

Then when you know what to do or where to start, do it! Every day for as many hours as your body and mind can tolerate it, and don’t give up until you achieve it.

Accomplishing pretty much anything is that simple. You know it and I know it.

Now we’ve removed the “I don’t know what to do” excuse, we’re left with the only reason you haven’t already done it:

You don’t have the self-discipline.

It can be masked as all sorts of different excuses you tell yourself, but there are examples everywhere you look of people in much tougher situations than you who have accomplished what you want to do.

The only real excuse you have is that you’re unable to make yourself do what you need to do consistently.

We’ve all made promises to ourselves when we’re charged up with enthusiasm, and probably stuck to it for a few days or even longer. But as soon as you slip up once, it’s easier to slip again because you know inside that you’ve lost the battle.

Ok, I feel like we’re making progress (said one part of my brain to the other a couple of days ago).

We’ve admitted that knowing how to achieve our goal isn’t an issue. What’s stopping us getting there is our own self-discipline.

Now, an extreme solution that’s guaranteed to work:

If I put a gun to the head of the person you love most in life (your partner / your child) and promise to shoot them if you don’t do what you need to do every day to succeed in your goal, you will achieve it. No question.

That’s called Motivation – from the Latin meaning “the compulsion to get off your arse and do what needs to be done”

So the question is – how can we create this level of motivation without the gruesome scenario?

Well yesterday I signed up for something pretty close. It’s called and here’s how it works:

Step 1 – Choose a commitment. It can be anything you want to achieve, whether it’s giving something up, improving something, adding something new to your life… and it can be a one-off (with a deadline) or an ongoing commitment.

If you’re like me you probably have one thing in particular in mind, mine is “Get up at 6am every day”. It’s something I’ve been trying to do consistently for way too long now, but the snooze button nearly always beats me. Pathetic!

Step 2 – Set the stakes. This is where Stickk is more effective than anything else I’ve tried before. First you select a recipient of your money (yes your hard-earned cash) if you don’t stick to your commitment.

The options are super smart: you can choose a charity you like or a person you like (which isn’t that much of an incentive), or (a much bigger incentive) a charity you hate or a person you hate. Ah-ha! I chose a charity I hate from their selection.

Then you set the amount at stake. This is putting the “gun to your head” entirely in your hands, so if you really want to succeed then the gun needs to be as scary as possible.

I chose $100 per day, which means if I miss even a single morning its going to cost me $700 for the week which I seriously can’t afford to lose.

Then enter your credit card details. No joke.

Step 3 – Get a referee. This is where you nominate a person you know who will honestly report whether or not you stuck to your commitment. Just enter their email address and they will receive an email explaining what you’re doing and they click a button to agree. You can then agree with them how you’ll prove you’re sticking to your commitment and once a week they will get an email from StickK asking them to give you the thumbs up or down.

I’d recommend choosing someone brutal who won’t let you get away with any excuses. I chose my wife.

If she reports that I stuck to the commitment, all good. If she reports that I didn’t, my cash is debited from my card right there and then. It’s a real transaction, you’ve signed an electronic contract so no crying to your card provider. It’s fully legit.

And this is no dodgy back-street business. As I write this article, there are just short of $25,000,000 on the line in StickK contracts. This is obviously working for a huge number of people.

Step 4 – Share with your friends for their support and banter.

This isn’t just some twisted idea, its based on long-established research about how we make decisions. The phenomenon is called Loss Aversion and in basic terms it means we’re all wired to prevent losing something above gaining something of equal value. In real numbers that means you will work harder to prevent losing £100 you have, than earning an extra £100.

In other words, it means that keeping something tangible that you already have is more motivating than getting / achieving something which is just in your head or would be “nice to have”.

Although StickK will let you out of a commitment contract if you can prove you have a genuine reason (like you’re very sick or dying), its pretty much impossible to get out of the contract. And if you’ve chosen your referee well they shouldn’t let you off the hook either.

Just as if some maniacal mentor really did have a gun to the head of your loved one, you have no choice but to achieve what really is important to you and improve your life. Son of a bitch!

If you’re like me and have something you want to accomplish but struggle with self-discipline, this really could be the answer. I’m 2 days in and going strong (which is nothing to be proud of yet) but I’ll report back at the end of my 8 weeks, which incidentally I’ve chosen as a duration because it should be more than enough repetition to embed a new habit.

If you create your own commitment contract (which is completely free by the way) then please share it with me at

Good luck!


p.s. If you want more from life than average, my blogs are written just for you. Enter your email address and hit subscribe to get every one of them. Or if you know someone who might enjoy reading this article then click below to share.