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How to Accomplish Big Things, Even When You Feel Small (unstoppable.me)
213 points by rspivak 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments



Has anyone else given up TV and noticed beneficial effects?

"I replaced all TV time with reading time. TV is full of stories of murder, betrayal, and pain. It’s riveting, but it also messes with your mind. Once I figured this out, I started going to the library every day instead of watching TV."

This part resonated with me and I want to give it a shot. I default to TV when I have nothing to do, but I recognize how passive and lazy it is. You basically outsource your thinking for a couple hours a day. And I hadn't thought about how the stories we watch might be subconsciously changing the way we think.


I replaced "passive" TV watching. I now mostly watch TV/movies if I'm really focused on it. I no longer just turn the TV on because it's there. This has led me to seek out other things when bored. Reading, taking random classes around town(archery, weaving, bicycle building), and listening to music/podcasts while cleaning up around the apartment.

It mainly comes down to: I no longer have a default activity to when bored, so I fill the time with other, more engaging/deliberate, tasks.


I don't think there's anything intrinsic about TV that makes it bad, but rather this:

> I default to TV when I have nothing to do

All of us have different defaults and if you replace that with something better, you will probably be happy with the change.

I'm actually trying to fit a little more TV in my life.


We don't own a TV and our Netflix time is limited to kids shows these days. We do the thing he mentioned though of just going to the local bookstore and reading them. It's like a library, but has a good selection and no wait lists.

Literally almost every evening after supper, we go to the bookstore until they close. Buy something from the cafe, and then just sit and read. Chit chat with the other regulars now and again. It's a nice low-key way to get out of the house.


I eliminated TV 4 years ago and noticed these benefits:

- Finished 3 years qualification in record time - Doubled my salary - Managed to complete 3 profitable side projects - Improved my software development skills tenfold - and more...

In the process, I lost friends. I used to host 300+ people parties. I doubt I can be able to bring together 20 people in one place for a party.


Sounds like you replaced more than TV with your learning and working.

You can be a couch potato and have zero friends too.


I am sure that you can rely more in those 20 people than 300+.


That's the beauty of it. I am left with real friends, not those who were hanging around me because I used to throw cool parties.


Keep a journal of the things that you watch. Take notes when something interesting happens or you learn something new. Pay special attention to visual or dynamic elements that you wouldn't get able to glean directly from literature. Occasionally reflect on your writings.

Visual media is actually quite rich, even if it's true that the subject matter isn't always wholesome. What's important is not consuming passively unless you mean to, and for your active engagement to be something you can fold meaningfully into your overall experience of life.


I did. I haven't watched much TV ( and facebook too) for almost 6 years. I feel strange like alien whenever I see people watching crazy news and dramas. I login to facebook if only someone PMs ( like twice-thrice in year ) but believe me those few seconds are like hell and want to get out of it as soon as possible.


I replaced "normal" TV with occasional documentaries, news, educational programs, TED talks, etc. If I'm feeling lazy and don't want to read a book, something like Vice on HBO is pretty legit.


You're still possibly 'learning without doing'

I can watch Bon Apetit videos but until I start actually making desserts in my spare time, I won't actually be able to frost a cake


This is a great insight. Very actionable for any cooking, home improvement etc type shows


> I replaced all TV time with reading time

Super profitable if you're a sci-fi fan.


How exactly does he make money? (sorry if I missed this in the article). As far as I could make out he is some kind of productivity guru?

Great story, but the writing has a very new age, 'will a new reality into existence' Tim Ferris productivity porn vibe to it, which makes me just a little cautious.

EDIT: added after scribing the above:

Some Googling reveals:

"Over the last decade, Jon helped build three of the most popular blogs in the world, Copy Blogger, KISSmetrics, and Boost Blog Traffic (now Smart Blogger). Collectively, they have garnered over 200 million page views, earning over $50 million in revenue.

His main passion is Smart Blogger (fomerly Boost Blog Traffic) of which he is founder and CEO."

He seems to make money from devising traffic increase strategies for blogs and training courses for bloggers (at least that is what I could make out)


>...Tim Ferris ...

The most regrettable thing about Tim Ferris is his popularity essentially annihilated discoverability for a great science writer with essentially the same name.


Can you share a link please?


I'm guessing it's https://www.timothyferris.com/


He's earning 0.25 cents a page view? I'll admit, if true, that's some voodoo level conversion. (I get it, not every page view earns him money, but still)


I’m sure advertising isn’t the only source of their revenue


> Not only did I get a job, but I used speech recognition software and a lip-operated mouse to start an online magazine that’s now worth millions of dollars.


and which magazine 'worth millions of dollars' is this exactly?

EDIT: see edit in the GP post. I think 'magazine' means 'blog'.


Any info on how to convert traffic so profitably? That’s an impressive pageview to dollar performance!


Inspiring story for sure. But even if you pull the trigger and make all of the needed sacrifices, you can still be a lifelong failure.

Hard work, an appetite for risk and resilience are required for success. But they are in no way a guarantee.

Instead of taking an all or nothing mindset, you can choose to invest in yourself over the long term. Financial investments, education. Maybe this won't be enough to achieve your goals, and you'll still live with regret. And maybe you'll die before you reap the benefits. Or maybe this will be enough for you.

Who knows. The only certainty is death. Doing something is better than nothing.


It's not about success. In fact it is never about success. It is about finding the process you love and if you die doing it, you will be still happy instead regretting. Pull the trigger to get yourself on the process and stick to it. Fast lifestyle of our generation has made it very difficult to figure out what does success really mean to us as individual.


Great peace of advice. Thank you


> Hard work, an appetite for risk and resilience are required for success. But they are in no way a guarantee.

If you don't do any of these then you are guaranteed to fail. These things give you a better chance of success.

Nothing is guaranteed here it's that kind of planet/universe. Maybe when you are designing the next planet or universe have no laws of probability always have guarantees, but then you will miss out on all the chance encounters and surprises.


Agreed. How does one become more resilient though?


Mentally and physically human beings are "anti-fragile". Applying the right amount of load and stress to ourselves we become less fragile.

Too little and we don't grow. Too much and we break. Do something uncomfortable. Fail a few times. That will make you more resilient.


Great article! I admire him for not giving up and even becoming a successful entrepreneur under these severe circumstances.

Yet, I'd like to post a warning here. Putting the metaphoric gun to your head, as the article suggests, may sometimes be the only feasible option, but it can also lead to psychological problems later on. Not everything works better with force. In fact, there are things that require the opposite. It's easy to unlearn that when you put yourself under constant force and pressure, and your success becomes based on that solely.


I feel like the gun to the head thing is a good way to get started on things, which is what people struggle with the most. If you put a gun to your head trying to learn or study something and you’re hating it you won’t get great results, if you overcome your initial inertia against starting and find you enjoy then I think depending on the enjoyment is likely better.


Anyone have tips on self imposing pressure? I perform extraordinary under pressure. Literally, I become unstoppable. However, I have a bad habit of rationalizing (almost in a Nietzsche way) that the pressure is artificial if self induced, and it won't work. I can't pscyhe myself out.


It depends on your situation.

Part of mine is that I've had 3 bosses straight up steal money from me over the years. So the fear/pain of getting screwed by another boss is greater than the pain of starting a company.

Apart from that, I don't know about you, but I came to the realization of how short life is awhile back. You have 70 or so years to do your thing, then that's it. You're dead. For me at least, the pain of dying and not having done anything with my life, is more than the short-term pain of working on your dream.

So I don't know man. I'd say it's more what do you want out of life vs self imposing pressure.


This is a profound and compelling perspective. Thanks for sharing, I have quite a bit of things to rethink of in my spare time...


Well stated. Being aware of death is transformative.


It helps to have a job you hate. Then, assuming you're doing something that might eventually allow you to quit your job, allow yourself to dwell on how bad it is at work whenever you're about to give up.


Funny, I’m the opposite. I perform horribly under pressure induced by other people, but great under pressure that is only self-induced. I ran track in college, and my coach was always annoyed that my fastest times would be at practice on the track by myself rather than in a race with competition. Same with research in grad school, and to some degree programming in my full time job. I’d like to swap with you for a while haha.


Realize that your time is limited on this planet and you don't know exactly when you'll die.


> "Because we don't know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five time more. Perhaps not even that. How many times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless."

Graven on stone of the resting place of Brandon Lee.


Get someone else to apply it?


I thought this was going to be some typical blogspam type article, but I was wrong.

I really enjoyed this piece - highly recommended.


You know, I was thinking about the US founding fathers, and how people back then accomplished so much when they were teenagers - teenagers! and it occurred to me:

1. No smartphones

2. No internet

3. No social media

4. The news came maybe once a week (correct me if I'm wrong)

5. No TV or movies

6. If you wanted to be entertained, you would have to physically go somewhere

7. Otherwise, you would have to create your own entertainment yourself - like playing an instrument or writing something


you forgot the big one. Especially when you talk about founding fathers

8. No government. Government restricts and funnel much of what we do now. Responsibilities ment freedom because there was no one to do it for you and no one to tell you not to.

We need distractions because if we didnt have them there would be nothing for us to do. America has created subsistence of mediocrity. No way to win or lose. You dont get to have a say in your society because its not yours.

Remember to vote because this is the only chance you get to effect your surroundings that the government allows without tons of red tape. And we know that it really doesnt matter that much. Where's the border wall? What democrat would really change wallstreet banking and think of the little people?

Government will be out of our way when we stop relying on politicians to act. I dont care what side you are on. Our politicians are thin veils to give the rich access to powers that the constitution would not normally grant.


I personally would attribute most of our current standard of living to better technology and better healthcare.

Besides, we live in an innovators paradise, where thanks to the cloud you can build whatever you want for peanuts and there are VC's lining up to fund the next big idea. Starting a business is not hard, it's staying in business that's the hard part.


You aren't wrong on any of the accounts, but you also have to include that these were not ordinary people (half had a college education, which basically nobody had at the time) and that they were given responsibilities from a very early age.

Washington was a surveyor, working on the fronteer at 13.


Definite devaluation to information since the internet came along. I used to read books and magazines cover to cover when I was a kid as there was nothing else to do! Sundays were especially bad. Thank god for books.


This guy makes several pretty clear references to needing his mom to do things like take him to Mexico and turn pages of books for him.

Does anyone think _she_ thought "hey why don't I accomplish big things" or "what do I need to sacrifice to get to where I want"? No? Was sitting in a library turning pages of books for someone part of her life ambition plan?

Accomplishing big things sometimes is getting a lot of help from your family and friends. They're not telling themselves Fight Club quotes as they're lending you money, talking you off the ledge or making you your favorite dinner every Sunday. They do it because it's the easiest thing in the world.

Maybe it's the most valuable too, even though no one, like, actually writes about it.


Fight Club is such a great motivational story for the first half or so. And then it goes completely off the rails.

I often credit my current position in life to watching Fight Club with a friend when I was 16 and forming my views on the broader world and how I would fit into it.


Similar experience with Mad Men

For a show about how work will not save you from the emptiness inside, it really motivates you. Guess it's better to be sad and rich then just sad


I'm curious - could you give an exmample of how it framed your thinking?


I guess the message I got from it sort of was that most of us live in boxes that we've built around ourselves that aren't actually there.

"Working jobs we hate to buy shit we don't need" was a big one for me.

Also "You're not your job. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your f-ing khakis."

"First you have to give up. You have to know, not fear, that someday you're going to die." and the Raymond K Hessel thing from the article. You only have a limited amount of time and there's no point wasting it waiting for "someday".

There's just a very real current of minimalism and intentionality underneath the absurdity.


Great points - I'm going to have to re-watch it. It sounds right up my alley, as I'm a bit too defiant and minimalistic. "You're a slave to the system, working jobs that you hate for that sh!t you don't need" - Papa Roach


It's a shame that most people reference the film, instead of the book. The book deals with a harsher critique of society that doesn't come off as so heavy handed. It has a lot more satirical elements to it as well.


For me the second half (or so) was what made Fight Club more than just a motivational story and a proper classic, precisely because it went off the rails.

The way I see it, the first half asked questions and explored various problems in society that many of us see and experience. It was cathartic and motivational.

But the second half was more of a warning. If we can't replace the things we reject with something 'greater', the result is ugly.

I credit Fight Club for helping me turn to various life philosophies (stoicism among them, and in particular Buddhism) rather than hedonistic abandon or angry nihilism, or something like utopian socialism, because I sure as hell didn't want things in my life to become some variation of the second half of the movie.


This was pretty intense. I often think that the world could use more of this brand of intensity.


I have a deep respect for him overcoming what looks like unovercomable circumstances to achieve what he dreamed about.

Judging only the article however - what always lacks in my opinion in those kind of motivational articles is an approach to achieving minor, everyday goals. Not all of us have a desire to "threaten themselves with a gun" to achieve a goal - sometimes we just want to do something but nor think about it every second of our lives.


For that, I highly recommend the book “Atomic Habits”. One of the major takeaways is that every time you do something, you’re making a vote for the type of person you want to be in the future. And from that mindset, if gives a lot of advice about how to turn actions into habits.


The way I like to think about this is that every decision I make helps build the brain I'd like to have. After all, each decision stimulates a certain series of neural pathways. The more those pathways get used, the easier and more accessible they become.

I still fail, a lot, but I try to keep the phrase, "build the brain you wish you had" a lot. Which is really just synonymous with building habits, but there's something more physical about influencing your brain.


I haven't read Atomic Habits yet, but I read 'The power of habit' by Charles Duhgig. I think motivational quotes, inspirational stories are overrated and habits are underrated. Inspirational stories are great to make you realize that you too can achieve something, but they stop there, they don't take you any further.

Recently, I stumbled on a website called Focusmate and I think this is going to help me in the long run.


He did cover some of this when he discussed ideas like surrounding himself with people in places he wanted to be, to give him insight into them and inspiration. The gritty details tend to be more specific to an individual thing, but giving the sign posts and the inspiration is reasonably universal.


Amazing story!

I had a student in one of my software engineering classes with a similar disability, a few years after I dropped out I found he developed a VR game and Playstation bought it!

Sometimes I wish I had the same willpower.


"Most people think it’s a tale of courage and persistence, a feel-good story of a young man and his mom who overcame the odds, and I suppose it is, but it’s also a testament to the astonishing, almost limitless power of having a gun to your head."

It's not about willpower.


You do, you just haven't chosen to start using it yet. It's there waiting for you when you want to.


"I refused to hang out with other disabled or impoverished people."

Uh... wow. I've got my complaints about disabled people being used as Inspiration Porn, but throwing that in really makes it clear how much this piece is an insult to the disability community.

Grats to him for being in a situation where his disability didn't get in the way of what he's talented at, but not everyone is so lucky. And "avoid minorities" is... really shitty advice, no matter how you phrase it. Why not just focus on the groups he did join, instead?




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