As a kid, I used to be terrible at Math.
I’m talking horrendous. It got to the point where teachers just had to “pass me through”.
It would look pretty strange if a kid who was absolutely slaying in all his other subjects got held back because of “a Math grade”.
I was always a creative kid, and Math was drier than the Sahara (or so I thought).
I just gave up on it and decided to focus on other subjects.
It was only until I was in high school and became incredibly interested in how money works, did Math start to become exciting to me.
I figured out the “problem”. I was interested the concrete, tangible workings of Math… not the theory part. I didn’t care about “asymptotes” or theory. I was interested in pure economics.
I wanted to see numbers. I wanted to see results. I wanted to see how this would matter in the real world.
The beauty of math
It was only after this revelatory experience that I started to see the underlying Mathematical structure outlining the whole universe.
And it was fucking beautiful.
Slowly, I started to come to a realization why some people “succeed” and other people “fail”. Why others rack their minds about “how to be successful” and others just have that “Midas Touch”. It all came down to numbers.
After I came to that realization, I realized that success is a simple discipline. It wasn’t out mine or anyone else’s reach and neither was anything else.
In this article, I’m going to attempt to show you:
- Why success is truly a “numbers game”
- How to use numbers to your advantage rather than your disadvantage
- Various areas that you can use to calculate if this is working for you or against you
I love talking about theory. I love abstraction. I love entertaining crazy ideas. Just not when it comes to something as life or death as the subject of living a successful life.
If you hated Math like I did, let me make my case to why you should love it.
The fundamental structure
There are nine “real” numbers. Digits are a specific combination of these numbers. 1+2=3. 1 and 2 together= 12. Or 21.
Everything in the universe has a numerical “limit” to it but many things are non-quantifiable.
We can’t quantify certain things like the emotion of loss or the love a mother has for her son because they are not tangible. They are experiential. There’s a distinctly human element.
If there were no numbers, it would be chaos. Fucking chaos.
Could you imagine trying to construct a skyscraper without a solid understanding of the underlying numbers behind the physics? What about trying to construct a car without quantifying the amount of force that the frame needs to withstand?
Because of this underlying beauty, our ordinary lives can be boiled down to numbers.
Think about it…
You have 24 hours in one day. You probably make a dollar amount per hour or per year or per project. The working world is built on numbers…and work makes up a large part of our day. So… it’s pretty important.
The slight edge is built off of numbers.
“It’s just a numbers game”
Numbers are impartial.
They don’t give a shit about class or race or gender… They just care about addition or subtraction to and from something.
Generally speaking, the more of something you have, the better off you are (with certain exceptions).
The guy who has 1,000 dollars is much better off than the person who has lint in his pockets.
The guy who is consistently meeting new girls has a better chance of finding a lover than someone who sits in his room all day.
That means living a successful life is allllll on you, if you decide to “run up the numbers”.
Three things that will ruin your ability to play “the numbers game” when it comes to living a “successful” life on your terms are these:
- The lack of quantifiable metrics
- The desire for instant gratification
- The inability to see the end goal
What does success look like to you? Is it millions in the bank? Is it being able to feed X number of people through charity work? Traveling to X number of countries? Is it a certain GPA? What is it? If you hit the numbers that you’re looking to reach in any area, that’s a success.
Quantifiable metrics allow you to get crystal clear and have a target to aim for. They allow you to set measurable goals.
Even if you don’t land directly on the mark, at least you can course correct. Some target is better than no target at all.
Instant gratification is everywhere. It is so EASY to get virtually everything you want right now. On demand food, on demand movies, on demand…whatever. You want it, it’s there.
But instant gratification is KILLING our ability to be patient. We are training ourselves to give into our emotions (which change by the minute) and decreasing our prefrontal cortex abilities.
I get it. When it’s raining, it’s hard to imagine it being 75 and sunny. But the only way to create the future is to imagine it and work towards it. You may say “It’s so far away. I can’t wait that long.” Well, let’s say your objective will take four years. Even if you do NOTHING those four years, they will pass and go. The only question will be: did you achieve what you set out to do?
Did you set quantifiable guidepoints?
Did you play the numbers game?
Did you small chunk it?
Small chunking in three crucial areas
If you’ve ever thought “How the fuck am I going to do this?!?!?”, chill man. I sometimes think that way too. Then I remember “the numbers”.
Every goal (within reason) can be accomplished if you just break it down into enough small steps.
Let’s look at three areas that might interest you:
I’m guessing you want money because instinctively you know that “money equals freedom”.
You “make” money in two ways:
- Accumulation of money
- Providing more value to people
Accumulation comes through something like investing. Your money makes money. This is called compound interest. But let’s forget that. Let’s talk value.
If you provide a valuable service that is rare and takes time to develop working knowledge of, you will be paid more. Two ways to do this:
- Create a valuable product that people want or need (“materializing” your value)
- Become a hub of value that people need (“monopolizing” your value)
An iPhone is an example of the former, Steve Jobs was an example of the latter. There are many iPhones but there was only one Steve Jobs. An iPhone is expensive, Steve Jobs was even more expensive.
If you want to think of it in financial terms, think of it as “passive income” vs. “earned income”.
How do you get to Steve Jobs status? You do something every day and you do more of it.
This is how you create skill. Skill is how you create value. Value is how you “make” money. Money is how you create your vision of success.
All building blocks. All Math.
It’s not crazy. It’s just calculation.
Sales is awesome.
It helps to develop your social skills, your persuasive abilities, and most of all – yourself.
Let’s take a hypothetical situation. You an I are both outside salesmen for a booming company.
In order to make sales, we have to make cold calls and go out prospecting for new leads.
If I want a leg up on my competition (you), I simply make more calls and meet more prospects (by the way, I believe ‘competition’ is you vs. you but it holds weight here).
I make twenty phone calls and you make nineteen, I’ve made one more call than you. Not significant today. But what about tomorrow? What about at the end of the week?
At the end of the week, I’ve made 100 phone calls. You’ve made 95. I’ve made 5 more calls than you.
It only takes one call to make a sale.
What if that one call is so enthusiastic on the product that they want to buy me out of all my stock? 10,000 right there. Cha-ching!
I just made 10,000 more than you did in a single week – all from one call that you neglected to make. At the end of the year, I’ll most likely be more eligible for a promotion than you, all other factors notwithstanding.
Think of it, this way – you’re aiming for a 100,000 a year.
100,000 (dollars)/12 (months) = 8,333 (per month). 8,333 (per month)/4 (weeks in a month) = 2,083 (per week). 2083 (per week)/5 (days in a typical working week) = 416.25 (per day)
Who/where’s the 416 dollars coming from today?
It’s not crazy. It’s just calculation.
Get Fit or Get Out
You either want to gain muscle or lose weight (or even lower your resting heart rate/run a mile in X amount of time). But let’s keep it simple and to weight.
If you want to do either of those, you need to know your numbers.
How much do you weigh right now? What is your target weight?
How much do you bench right now? What is your target bench?
How much body fat do you have? How much do you want to have?
Here’s another number that many people overlook: calories.
If you eat more calories than your basal metabolic rate + additional active calories, you will gain weight. If you eat less, you will lose weight.
If you’re trying to gain weight, why aren’t you eating more? Why aren’t you lifting more?
If you’re trying to lose weight, why aren’t you eating less? Why aren’t you being less active?
If you’re surprised you’re not gaining or losing…check the numbers.
That ice-cream sundae you ate…that extra meal you forgot to eat… they’re both calories.
That day you skipped the gym…that half mile you “forgot” to do…they’re both ways to get fit.
You don’t gain a gut, Arnold-sized biceps, or Usain Bolt-like speed in a day. It’s the numbers over a series of days.
It’s not crazy, it’s just calculation.
Don’t blame the numbers
When a lot of people don’t succeed, they like to point the finger on anyone except the person in the mirror.
That’s cute…answer me this:
Who decided to watch TV when they could have been reading? Who decided to play video games? Who decided to hang out with friends instead of improve themselves? Who decided to spend less time studying for their GREs or BAR exam?
You say you want to be a better guitarist. You’ve been “playing” for five years yet you somehow can’t hold a tune. How many new songs have you learned in the past month? How many chords?
You say you are broke, broke, broke. Yet, you spend your money on things you really don’t need. How much money have you made since you started working at 18? Those dreadful summer jobs, chores for neighbors, and paper routes add up.
What would happen if you started investing in the stock market at age 18, putting in only $2,000 then never touching that again (with an average of 10% return)? If you never touched that money again until 65, you’d have 176,394.97 dollars…
Where are you putting the hours in your day? What are they going towards? Are they towards reaching your version of success? Or are you just dissipating your resources?
You can do anything you want. I’m not trying to criticize you. I myself used to be blissfully IGNORANT of the numbers. I then wondered why I didn’t achieve my “goals” (not really goals, they were more wishes b/c they weren’t written down and quantified).
You need to be knowledgeable about the cause and effect relationship.
Once you start to internalize the building block capacity of numbers, you will start to become disgusted with waste.
All of the bullshit, the bad habits, the bad friends, the bad relationships, you will purge them from your life.
You will absolutely despise anything that wastes your time, your money, and your energy.
These are the fundamental building blocks of your vision of success and you need to be very protective of them.
Build up the foundation the right way, and the rest will follow.
Run up the numbers in YOUR life
Here’s some ways to run up the numbers in your own life.
- Start thinking in terms of numbers – Quantify different aspects in your life. The hours you’re spending on different activities, the amount of money you spend on different things…as many things as you can.
- Think of parts vs. the whole – Remember when we broke down the numerical relations in that sales example? Think in terms of: where is X coming from today? What is the best use of your time today?
- Pick ONE area to implement this into – What area would benefit from you keeping score? You want to read more? Read 30 minutes a day. If you do that everyday, you will have read 210 minutes a week, 3 hours and 30 minutes a week.How many books could you have read in a year?
- Use the Tower Technique – This is a time management technique that is built on this principle. I’ve used it to great effect.
- Be patient, be consistent – Patience and consistency are the two secret weapons of the high achiever. Use it and you’ll blow past obstacles with ease.
- Continually make progress – Life is progressive. Therefore, do more than you did last time. If you benched 135 for 10 reps, go for 11 – or increase the weight. This is also known as “deliberate practice”.
It’s that simple. Understanding it is simple. Executing it is a different story.
Let me know in the comments: how are you using this in your life?