How To Be Legendary

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Morpheus: Let me tell you why youʼre here. Youʼre here because you know something. What you
know you canʼt explain, but you feel it. Youʼve felt it your entire life — that thereʼs something wrong
with the world. You donʼt know what it is, but itʼs there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.
It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what Iʼm talking about?
Neo: The Matrix.
Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is?
Neo: Yes.
Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see
it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go
to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled
over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a
prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.
– The Matrix
A prison for your mind
I donʼt think The Matrix is science fiction. I think itʼs fact. I think itʼs a documentary about an average guy with an
average job and an average life who, one day, suddenly realizes that everything heʼs come to know and see and
believe is a lie.
Of course, some artistic license was taken. But if you remove the evil artificial intelligence and the martial arts action
sequences, The Matrix could be about any of us. We live in an artificial world, surrounded by artificial comforts that
donʼt fulfill us so much as make us complacent enough to remain quiet and keep doing what weʼve always done.
We hide from our human natures — those extremes of joy and anger and pain and pleasure. We organize our lives
in such a way as to keep us in the middle of existence and away from the dangerous edges, watching TV to pass
the time.
If thatʼs not the Matrix, I donʼt know what is.
Most people donʼt live their lives as humans, out in the world of the real. Most people live as drones in a bizarre quasiworld theyʼve made for themselves — a place where something like working eighty miserable hours a week so that
they can buy the nicest couches is a sensible choice, and where counting off the seconds until death in an easy chair
is a good way to spend time. Most people are placed, starting in childhood, into a slot — a role — in the world. They
look around and learn the rules of life in that particular slot in society, and then they play out their lives as if reading a
script, never wondering what else is out there.
Itʼs a prison that we canʼt taste or see or touch... and hence that most people never even realize is there. And itʼs
impossible to break out of a prison that you donʼt even know youʼre in.
The good news is that everything youʼve ever wanted is right there, right on the other side of the prison walls, out in
the real world.
All you need in order to have the Legendary life you were born to live is to break out.
The real world
Ready to break out? Well, youʼve got your work cut out for you because the doors in your mind are well guarded. Here
are a few of the obstacles you face — the conditioning youʼve learned for your whole life to obey:
You have been told — by others, and then by yourself — that there will be all the time in the world to learn to
play the piano or to found that charity or to start the curio shop youʼve always wanted to start. It sounds like
this: You can do it tomorrow.
You have been told that you should be grateful for what
you have, because others have less. You have been
told that wanting more is greedy and ungrateful.
You have been told that there are people who were
born to write, people who were born to do cartwheels
on a balance beam, people who were born to climb
mountains, people who are “good at business” or
“mechanically inclined.” You have been told that if
youʼre terrible at any of those things, that you simply
werenʼt meant to do them.
You have been told that if you
want to accomplish something,
and you work at it for weeks and
months and years and still donʼt
achieve it, that you never will,
and are wasting your time.
You have been told that there is something magical or lucky about success in anything. You havenʼt precisely
been told — but itʼs been strongly implied — that thereʼs really no point in trying to amass a million dollars as a
pauper, because if the magic doesnʼt strike, then it doesnʼt strike, and thatʼs all there is to it.
You have been told that if you want to accomplish something, and you work at it for weeks and months and
years and still donʼt achieve it, that you never will, and are wasting your time.
You have been told that learning calculus or learning how to make money is fundamentally different from
learning how to overhaul an engine, and that the people who can do it are “smart.”
You have been told that success is complicated... and maybe that if you pay someone enough, theyʼll tell you
the secret — giving you the Easy button that the millionaires and the famous and the accomplished currently
have exclusive access to.
Lies. All lies.
If you can accept that the truths about success and achievement in the real world are quite different from what youʼve
been told, youʼve got a chance.
So letʼs take a look outside.
The truth about success
In the pages that follow, youʼll learn the truth about achievement and growth in the real world. Youʼll learn how to break
out of the ordinary and begin a journey of becoming extraordinary — of becoming your most realized and fulfilled self,
which I call “Legendary.” This wonʼt be my definition of Legendary; it will be yours. You can have the things you want
and be the things you want to be.
Thatʼs not some kind of fluffy-bunny self-help bullshit, by the way. It a logical truth. If you do the right things for long
enough, you will get to where you want to go, same as how a single step at a time will eventually take you across an
entire continent.
One thing that this means — and this is a really cool thing to realize — is that success isnʼt magical. Itʼs mathematical.
Youʼll see.
This manifesto is my gift to you.
Success isnʼt magical.
Itʼs mathematical.
It was born out of frustration, and anger, and even a fair
amount of sadness. After talking to hundreds of people who canʼt get out of their own way, who struggle with lives that
are “good enough” (but not truly good enough), who have dreams and goals they canʼt reach despite the path being
right in front of them, it became incredibly obvious to me that people are their own worst enemies. And that sucks,
because it means that they could succeed, but that they wonʼt let themselves. Most people stand defiantly in front of
themselves with their arms crossed, telling themselves that theyʼll be damned if theyʼll let themselves go anywhere.
People will ask me how to build a business or run a marathon or get out of a bad situation, and Iʼll tell them something
obvious that they already know. Then theyʼll nod and agree that it is indeed what needs to be done, and theyʼll agree
that they already knew it. Then theyʼll do nothing.
And thatʼs so sad. It feels hopeless, like I think a lot of people feel every day.
This manifesto is my attempt to turn the tide... for at least a few people.
Now, before you read any further, please understand that this manifesto isnʼt for everyone. Iʼm going to tell you some
things that you wonʼt want to hear. You might even be offended by some of what I have to say, because the truth
sometimes hurts.
For instance: Iʼm going to suggest that where you are right now is your own damn fault. Iʼm going to tell you that there
is no quick fix, and that the road to what you want is long and requires a lot of hard work.
Too many people have told us the nice things that we want to
hear. But how is candy-coating working for us? How is coddling
working for any of us?
How is candy-coating working
for us? How is coddling working
for any of us?
Parts of the process to follow might be uncomfortable for you,
but thereʼs a reason for that. We all know the cliche of the man
who, on his death bed, looks back and realizes where his life
went wrong, right? This archetype of a dying man typically wishes heʼd spent more time doing things that mattered
and that heʼd taken the time to be happy and make a difference in the world. He sees that all of what once seemed so
important turned out to not mean very much when the reaper was at the door.
Well, I want you to have your deathbed experience now, while you can still change the things youʼd like to change. I
donʼt want you to suddenly “wake up” at the end of your life, after itʼs too late.
So on that note, with that warning, I wonʼt be offended if you want to stop reading right now. Iʼll give you some time to
think about it.
Still here? Awesome.
Then welcome to the real world.
Let me tell you why youʼre here, reading this
Youʼre here because you know something. What you know you canʼt explain, but you feel it. Youʼve
felt it your entire life — that thereʼs something wrong with the world. You donʼt know what it is, but
itʼs there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me.
The world that youʼve been trained to settle for is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this
very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You
can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world
that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth: that you are a slave.
Like everyone else you were born into self-imposed limitations and mediocrity. Into a prison that you
donʼt even know youʼve built, a prison you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.
But fuck that.
Itʼs time to break out, and become Legendary.
PART ONE: The lies youʼve been told
There is no spoon.
– The Matrix
Have you ever heard those stories about a person who has been in prison for so long that
they no longer know how to operate in the real world, and prefer being in prison because at least
itʼs familiar?
Thatʼs you. Sorry.
I donʼt want to beat the “prison for the mind” metaphor for too much longer, but freeing your mind
starts with understanding just how institutionalized you are. Weʼll do that in Part One. Then, Part
Two will give you the steps for becoming Legendary, and I promise theyʼre not at all complicated. In
fact, nothing youʼll read here is complicated. Weʼve been led to believe that correct answers must
be complicated. Theyʼre not.
Hey, before you go to the next page... I warned you that this process might be uncomfortable, right?
Okay, good.
The Lie of Immortality
Letʼs get this out of the way: Someday, you will die.
Iʼm sorry, but thatʼs the truth. Most people spend most of their time pretending that they will never die. Most people
waste a month doing something meaningless and figure, “Oh well, Iʼll try something different next month,” as if the
supply of months was neverending and they hadnʼt just used one up that theyʼd never get back.
A person who was very aware of his or her mortality would
never piss away hours, minutes, or seconds. We all know the
Most people never get their
cliche of the man who discovers he has six weeks to live, and
wake up call until itʼs actually
who suddenly discovers that sunsets are beautiful. Then,
curtain time, when itʼs too late.
because itʼs fiction and someone gets to write the outcome,
the man usually lives and continues his life with a new
appreciation of what it is to be alive. Itʼs the very realization of
his mortality that makes him appreciate each sunset, each moment he has with his family, every chance he has to
make a difference.
But most people never get that wake up call until itʼs actually curtain time, when itʼs too late.
If you work a job that you absolutely hate — if you loathe Mondays and and look forward to Fridays — then you are
pretending that you will never die.
If you miss something you wish you could be part of because a “demand” makes it impossible (say, missing your kidʼs
bravo theater performance or a great friendʼs wedding because you really need to clean the gutters) then you are
pretending that youʼll never die.
If you ever catch yourself watching a TV show that you donʼt care about but donʼt turn it off because of inertia, then
you are pretending that youʼll never die.
I promise you — promise you — that you will die. And whatʼs more, I promise you that the day you really, truly, with all
your heart grasp the fact that you will eventually die will be the day you wake the fuck up and begin crafting a life that
isnʼt fine or “okay” or “good enough for a Monday.”
You want a Legendary life? It all starts with acknowledging and making friends with that big clock that youʼve been
ignoring — the one that says that itʼs now... or itʼs never.
Without a fire behind you, thereʼs no urgency. Thereʼs no reason to act when you have all the time in the world.
Your clock is ticking, and if you donʼt do the things you want to do now, you never will.
Break someone out of the Matrix by telling the truth about this lie on Twitter.
The Lie of Impossibility
I have a friend, Joel Runyon, who writes about doing impossible things.
Think about that. Over and over, Joel finds things that are impossible, and he does them.
When you say it like that, so baldly, it sounds ridiculous. And, accordingly, I called him on it once. I said, “Joel, the fact
that youʼre doing these things means that theyʼre possible, not impossible.” What I didnʼt say, but that I thought, was
that he was playing pretty fast and loose with the definition of “impossible.” He did some triathlons. Ran a marathon.
Did 100 pushups in a row. Got 6-pack abs. Mostly physical stuff, all totally possible.
He said, after a thoughtful pause, “Well, I guess theyʼre things I used to think were impossible.”
What do you think is impossible?
In 2009, I met a guy named Jon Morrow. Jon built an empire flipping million-dollar real estate, then moved on to
dominate the world of internet business as associate editor of one of the biggest blogs in the world. Heʼs widely
considered one of the best writers and most brilliant minds online, and is incredibly cocky about it all. He should be.
He did it all despite the fact that he canʼt move below the neck and is, as of this writing, nearly thirty years overdue to
die, according to his doctors. Jon canʼt do ninety percent of the little things I do any given morning in the way I do
them, yet he honestly doesnʼt consider himself disabled.
A bit later, I met Warren MacDonald. Warren lost his legs, and only thereafter decided to become a rock climber and
ascend K2.
After I started The Badass Project (a no-excuses site inspired by these incredible badasses that was later profiled in
Penthouse — sorry that thatʼs my first major magazine credit, Mom), I met guitar prodigy Jason Becker. After
becoming known as a rock guitar legend, Jason developed ALS, commonly known as Lou Gerhigʼs Disease. He used
to have the fastest, most talented fingers in rock nʼ roll, and today he can only move his eyes and a few facial muscles.
Despite this, heʼs still totally rock nʼ roll. Heʼs still upbeat. He still composes amazing music, and is a prolific writer
and author.
Now, Iʼll ask again: What do you think is impossible?
If you think itʼs impossible run a marathon because youʼre too
old, shame on you.
If you think itʼs impossible to one day quit your dead-end job
and do that thing you love to do, shame on you.
You will never be able to
do anything as long as you
think itʼs impossible, but the
good news is that very little
is impossible.
You will never be able to do anything as long as you think itʼs
impossible, but the good news is that very little is impossible. It
is, given our current understanding of physics, impossible to be in two different places at once. THAT is what
“impossible” means.
Joel does what he used to think was impossible, and realized quite readily that he was totally full of shit, and that most
“impossible” things were very possible indeed.
If you want to be Legendary, youʼll need to do the same.
Break someone out of the Matrix by telling the truth about this lie on Twitter.
The Lie of Responsibility
Ever been cut off in traffic? Thatʼll really piss you off, huh?
Ever had someone betray you or steal something from you? Man, thatʼll set you back.
Every day, weʼre at the effect of something. Someone does something, and it jostles us from our path. If people would
stop messing us up, we could get to where we wanted to go. If the economy would just pick up, you could open that
corner store. If your boss didnʼt demand all of your overtime, you could write that book. If your kids didnʼt need so
much attention (and hey, theyʼre more important anyway), then you could join a gym and get in shape.
Weʼve been told that what happens to us is an effect, but itʼs not true. Being at the effect makes you a victim, and
victims are helpless. If youʼre not responsible for the bad things that are holding you down, how can you ever possibly
overcome them? If youʼre a victim, someone else has to change before you can change. But if instead you take
responsibility, right here and now, youʼre empowered.
If youʼre in the crap right now, then the bad news is that itʼs almost certainly your own fault. But the good news is that
you can change it, because youʼre in the driverʼs seat.
I could go on and on and on about responsibility and excuses, but instead Iʼll just refer you to the previous section, and
to Jon and Warren and Jason.
Nobody can ever get in Jon and Warrenʼs way other than Jon and Warren, and thatʼs not about to happen anytime
soon. There are no excuses. No legs? No problem. Weʼll just find another way.
The sooner you stop blaming others, the sooner your life is in your hands... which is exactly where it belongs and
where you want it to be.
Break someone out of the Matrix by telling the truth about this lie on Twitter.
The Lie of Complexity
Are you overweight and would like to be thin? Okay, hereʼs how you do it:
Eat less. Exercise more.
Thatʼs it. Thatʼs all there is to it. If youʼre overweight and would like to be thin, donʼt fool yourself into thinking youʼre the
one percent of people for whom thereʼs more to the equation, and donʼt give me all the nuances: Well, but what about
the quality of foods and the ratios of fat and protein and carbohydrate? What about eating too little and throwing your
body into starvation mode? What about rest? What about the level of intensity of exercise, or of resistance training
versus endurance?
Stop it. Just fucking stop it. Youʼre better than that. Youʼre smarter than that. You deserve more respect than such
waffling and bullshit. If a mechanic botched your car repair job and then fed you the kind of crap thatʼs in italics above
when you raised a fuss, youʼd be insulted. So why do you accept it when youʼre the one telling it to yourself?
No form of success is complicated. Repairing a relationship involves communication, patience, and time. Learning
dance steps involves rehearsing them until you get them right. Becoming fluent in Italian requires speaking and
reading and hearing Italian and maybe practicing vocabulary. Building a business requires finding a need in the market
and filling it, and learning from experience.
You already know what you need to do. You just need to do it.
Break someone out of the Matrix by telling the truth about this lie on Twitter.
The Lie of Normality
Youʼve spent your entire life trying to be normal.
Donʼt worry. We all have. I donʼt care how “out there” you think you are; the truth is that you were raised in a society
that had rules. Sometimes the rule might be “there are no rules,” but thatʼs a rule. Try creating rules in a family or a
group that claims to have no rules. Youʼll get punished, shunned, shamed — for breaking the rules by creating a rule.
Weʼve grown up wanting to please those around us, and itʼs in our very biology as human animals to do that by being
like those other people. Some coaches even teach this stuff. How do you build instant rapport with someone? By
finding something you have in common with them. By speaking at the same cadence and volume. By using the same
body language. By wearing similar clothes. People like people they are like. Itʼs simply how we work.
Got that picture?
Cool. Now, hereʼs another picture:
Imagine a group of people. Letʼs say a hundred of them. Half of them are six feet tall. Half of them are five feet tall.
Half of them have net worths of one million dollars. Half are penniless. Half of these people have two children. Half
have no children.
In this imaginary group of people, the distribution of traits is more or less random. There are some people who are six
feet tall, poor, with no kids, and there are some six-footers who are rich and have two kids, but for any given trait, a
person is either in one group or another.
Now: Ask yourself whatʼs “normal” in this group.
“Normal” is just another word for “average.” When we say that someone isnʼt normal, weʼre saying that they donʼt
conform to an average archetype within that society. And “average” is a mathematical concept. If half of the people are
six feet tall and half are five feet tall, the average person is five and a half feet tall. Thatʼs “normal.”
Run through the rest of our hypothetical traits and youʼll find
that a “normal” person in this group is five foot six, has one kid,
and has a net worth of half a million dollars.
Also notice that nobody in that society conforms to that idea
of normality.
Maybe you see where Iʼm going with this.
Nobody is completely normal.
The very idea of a “normal
person” is ridiculous, yet weʼre
constantly steering toward it.
Weʼre slaves to it.
Think of all the traits out there in our actual world — all of the
millions of aspects of life that go into what we consider to be “normal.” Thatʼs a lot of things to be normal on. Nobody is
going to match them all.
Nobody is completely normal. The very idea of a “normal person” is ridiculous, yet weʼre constantly steering toward it.
Weʼre slaves to it.
When we want to do something, we weigh it against whatʼs normal before deciding whether or not to do it — what
society expects, what our friends would accept, what our mothers would approve of. But nobody — anywhere — is
“normal.” “Normal” is the most abnormal thing you could ever be.
Legendary people have to be different and break norms in order to be Legendary. If you want to be one of those
people, you must be willing to do the same.
You have spent your whole life pursuing and being guided by something that doesnʼt exist.
Iʼd stop doing that if I were you.
Break someone out of the Matrix by telling the truth about this lie on Twitter.
The Lie of Zero Sum
Sometimes, a person will want a better job. Theyʼll complain about their current job, saying they wish it were different.
And someone nearby — a friend, a family member, a co-worker — will say, “Youʼre lucky to have a job in this
economy. You should be grateful for what you have.”
The codicil — implied if not explicitly stated — is that the desire for a better job makes you greedy and ungrateful. That
desire spits in the face of everyone out there who is struggling. How could you want more? Many have nothing!
Now, think about something.
If you got a better job, would that rob someone of their
This is a win-win world. This is
not a zero sum world.
My mom used to tell me that I should eat the food on my plate
because there were children starving in China. I never really
understood that. Was my not eating causing that famine? If I ate my brussels sprouts, would those children be fed?
The Lie of Zero Sum says that it is greedy to want to improve because your improving means that something else is
diminishing. Thatʼs what “zero sum” refers to — the idea that there is only so much “stuff” to go around, and that your
accomplishing anything takes something away from someone else.
But this is a win-win world. It is not a zero sum world. If you get the better job, youʼll probably be happier and have
more free time, and your family will benefit. Everyone around you will benefit. That barista at Starbucks youʼre rude to
when youʼve had a hideous day? Sheʼll benefit when youʼre happier, and polite, and maybe even leave a tip.
This is all true of money, too. People who end up with more money donʼt typically hoard it. Some do, sure, but most
people spend it, which helps other businesses. Many people who find themselves with more than they need will give
to charity — or, finding themselves with extra time, will do volunteer work.
Never feel guilty for wanting more. It does not spit in the face of what you have any more than looking forward to being
in Los Angeles at the end of a trip spits in the face of where you currently are. You are where you are. You can be
grateful for it, and satisfied with it. And you can also want more. Youʼre supposed to want more.
Break someone out of the Matrix by telling the truth about this lie on Twitter.
The Lie of Comfort
Weʼre an instant-gratification society. Want your food fast? Go through the drive-thru. Want to watch any movie right
now? Check out any number of on-demand services. We want internet service wherever we are, and we want it to
be fast. What, this phone canʼt record video and upload it to Facebook without opening a separate app? What a piece
of shit!
Now, donʼt get me wrong. I like my movies on demand and I like my internet fast, but I donʼt like them better than
If your finances are terrible and youʼre panicky about them all
the time and youʼre working three jobs just to make ends meet,
take a serious look at where your money is going. I know poor
people in grand houses. They stay there because they think
that comfort is more important than happiness or fulfillment. Iʼd
suggest that those people leave those houses, sell their nice
cars and furniture, and move into a modest apartment.
Optional items include canceling cable TV, canceling internet
service, and canceling their gym memberships.
Legendary lives are free lives.
Theyʼre not always comfortable
in the short term, but thatʼs
because Legendary people
understand that itʼs okay to
trade comfort now for a bigger,
better, more epic life later.
Would it be uncomfortable? Sure. Would it be inconvenient?
Sure. And in line with the previous section, might they also find themselves wanting more (and unashamed about it)?
But theyʼd be free. Uncomfortable, but free.
Legendary lives are free lives. Theyʼre not always comfortable in the short term, but thatʼs because Legendary people
understand that itʼs okay to trade comfort now for a bigger, better, more epic life later.
Comfort is killing us. Itʼs killing so very many of us.
Itʼs a lot more comfortable to watch Seinfeld reruns for three hours than to start that novel you claim to want to write —
especially since youʼll be writing that novel for months or years, night after night after night, struggling through rough
spots and uncertainty and self-doubt, closing yourself in a room away from other people. Itʼs more comfortable to
remain in the middle of life, in that “good enough, donʼt rock the boat, be grateful for what you have” sweet spot. But at
the end of your life, will you wish youʼd written the novel? Or would you rather have had padding under your ass and
Cheetos in your hand and Michael Richards pratfalling on your screen?
Break someone out of the Matrix by telling the truth about this lie on Twitter.
The Lie of Failure
Thereʼs a popular quote — one thatʼs supposed to help you zero in on what youʼre supposed to be doing with your life
— that goes like this:
“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”
The truth is that you cannot fail.
There are only two things you
can do: Succeed, or give up.
And then youʼre supposed to get all inspired thinking about
being able to achieve anything, and go out there and set your
goals. And thatʼs a pretty awesome thing, feeling like you
couldnʼt fail, and it lasts for a while until you realize that of
course you can fail, and you will fail (like you did last time and
the time before), and that you shouldnʼt even try because the idea is too big, and you have better things to do than to
waste your time.
But failure is an illusion.
The truth is that you cannot fail. There are only two things you can do: Succeed, or give up.
Thatʼs not supposed to be some manly statement, said by the commander in an overly dramatic war movie, like,
“Failure is not an option, lads!” Itʼs simply the truth.
Letʼs say you decide to open a bakery. The bakery doesnʼt do well, and nobody comes in, and the landlord kicks you
out for nonpayment of rent. What next?
You have two options. You can give up, or you can try something else. What if you baked in your own kitchen and took
your wares to farmersʼ markets and bake sales? What if you tried internet sales or mail order?
And if that doesnʼt work, what if you got an apprenticeship at a successful bakery and worked on a plan to buy the
place in five years?
If you did that, people would look at you and theyʼd say a lot of things, but unless theyʼre misusing the word, they
wouldnʼt say, “You failed at this baking thing.” Theyʼd say things like “He wonʼt give up” and “Heʼs like a dog with a
bone” and “Heʼs obsessed.” Some of these things people would say might not be flattering, but they wouldnʼt be about
failure. Theyʼd probably consider failure preferable, because right now youʼre just embarrassing yourself.
So says them. But then again, how remarkable are their lives?
You cannot fail. You can only give up.
Break someone out of the Matrix by telling the truth about this lie on Twitter.
The Lie of Ignorance
If youʼve read this far, this last lie shouldnʼt be remotely surprising.
The lie of ignorance says that you donʼt know enough. It says that your shortcoming in any given area is due to a gap
in your knowledge. It says that if you learn more, youʼll be able to achieve, but until you learn more, youʼll fail, and
youʼd be stupid to even try.
The reason I donʼt do much personal coaching is because most people expect me to tell something that will “make the
difference” for their business. Thereʼs something I must know that they donʼt, and when I tell them that thing, theyʼll be
successful. They donʼt think theyʼre paying me for coaching.
They think theyʼre paying me for a magic key.
Everyone can use support and help. A good coach will give you
that. A good book will do that. A good course will teach you a
few tips and tricks that will make what you already know more
efficient and effective. But donʼt fool yourself into believing that
youʼre helpless without any of those things.
The lie of ignorance says that
if you learn more, youʼll be able
to achieve, but until you learn
more, youʼll fail, and youʼd be
stupid to even try.
I recently hired a personal trainer named Roger Lawson (who I
highly recommend, by the way) because although Iʼve always been fit, I wanted six-pack abs. Roger told me that Iʼd
need to lose weight if I wanted to see a six-pack. To lose weight, he told me to eat less.
He told me a lot more than that, of course, but all of those details were refinements on one central premise: EAT
LESS. Iʼm not insulting Roger or his expertise when I say that his help wasnʼt strictly necessary. He knows that. Yet I
paid Roger each month for a handful of months, knowing that I already knew the most important concept. What Roger
gave me was support and accountability and a bunch of refinements on that central theme that got me to where I
wanted to be better and faster, but he did not give me the key. I already had the key. I already knew the most
important part of what I needed to know.
Itʼs easier to believe that there is a critical missing piece of information than to believe that youʼve had what you
needed all along but were too blind to use it. The latter version of events is much more painful, but itʼs the truth.
You already know what you need to know. This is very good news, because it means that all you need to do is to act
on it.
(This is all true of this manifesto too, by the way. Think about it. Iʼve told you that youʼll die one day, that achievement
involves steady and progressive work, and that you have to begin something in order to finish it. Real revelations,
Break someone out of the Matrix by telling the truth about this lie on Twitter.
The Truth
You will get old and then you will die, so thereʼs no point in waiting and no point in hedging
your biggest bets. Itʼs truly now or never.
Almost anything is possible if youʼre willing to be flexible about the problem and its solution, and
if youʼre willing to break some conventions.
Nobody controls you but you. Nothing anyone does to you can ruin things for you unless you allow
it to.
Everything is simple, but very little is easy. If you fail, it will be due to lack of effort and persistence,
not lack of knowledge.
Nobody is “normal,” so you should stop trying to be normal, too.
Wanting more does not make you ungrateful for what you have. Receiving more does not take
something away from someone else.
Satisfaction often comes at the cost of some discomfort, but it is always worth it.
You cannot fail. You can only quit.
You already know everything you need to know to get everything you want. All thatʼs left is to do it.
These are the truths of the real world. Itʼs in your hands to put them to use, and to become Legendary.
PART TWO: How to be Legendary
I can only show you the
door. Youʼre the one that
has to walk through it.
– Morpheus
The first thing to understand
The first thing you need to understand about your pursuit of being Legendary is that it will never end — not until the
time on the big clock runs out, and you die.
Until that time, your job — your very purpose in life — is to grow as much as possible in the ways that matter to you
and that will make a positive difference in the lives of others. The latter is especially important, but you donʼt need to
worry too much about it because it will happen automatically.
People who live Legendary lives canʼt help but inspire and
If your life is Legendary, the
engage others. Legendary people leave turbulence behind
world will be different in twenty
them in the stream of time, and the people around them will
years because you influenced
feel that turbulence. You will do things, and someone will see
those things and be forever changed. Iʼve had a lot of those
someone who influenced
Legendary people in my life. If you like this manifesto, you can
someone. In a hundred years, in
thank them.
a thousand years, in a hundred
If your journey never ends, you can never arrive during your
lifetime. But thatʼs okay. You will arrive at the end... and if you
do it right, you will enjoy the hell out of the journey.
thousand years, your influence
will resonate in untold numbers
of people.
Herodotus said, “Call no man happy until he is dead,” which
basically means that you can never truly judge a personʼs life until itʼs over. Death stops the clock, and until it does, the
ball is still in play and the results are uncertain. You canʼt say who won a game until the game ends, right? Itʼs the final
buzzer that decides whether it was a good or a bad game, a win or a loss. This game isnʼt you versus others. Itʼs you
versus you, and thatʼs a game you can win.
The awesome news is that your “win” is forever.
If you have a Legendary existence, the universe will know that you were here. If your life is Legendary, the world will
be different in twenty years because you influenced someone who influenced someone. In a hundred years, in a
thousand years, in a hundred thousand years, your influence will resonate in untold numbers of people.
You are the butterfly effect. You, here and now, are flapping your tiny wings, causing great changes in the distant
future. Be deliberate with those flaps. They matter.
In a way, Legendary people actually do live forever.
In a way, every Legendary person truly becomes a Legend.
The second thing to understand
The second thing you need to understand about your pursuit of being Legendary is that only you will know if youʼre
doing it right. Nobody has any right to tell you that youʼre going in the wrong direction or that youʼre not doing as much
as you could do. It doesnʼt matter what you do or how much you do. What matters is that you do the best you can do
relative to what youʼre able to do. This is not a game of money or material rewards or traditional definitions of success.
Itʼs a game of you versus you, and only you have any business steering your own ship.
Is it Legendary to be a fantastic mother, nurturing children who will be remarkable? I think so, but the final decision is
the motherʼs. Only she will know if she did her best.
Is it Legendary to be a man who cleans toilets all his life, but is
friendly and kind and inspires his friends with his unflagging
positivity? If youʼre thinking that heʼs not Legendary because
heʼs cleaning toilets, then I ask: Who the fuck are you to
decree what is a noble or right way to spend a life?
Nobody has any right to tell you
that youʼre going in the wrong
direction or that youʼre not
doing as much as you could do.
You get to decide on your life. They get to decide on theirs.
Youʼll be able to feel it when youʼre going the right way, and youʼll be able to feel it when youʼre going the wrong way.
So wake up and pay attention.
The third thing to understand
The third thing you need to understand about your pursuit of being Legendary is that it is a slow and steady progress.
You will not make huge leaps down the path to becoming Legendary overnight.
If youʼre expecting instant results, Iʼm sorry, but you arenʼt
going to get them. So if you require them, you should really
stop reading.
There is no easy button.
There is no magic pixie dust.
You will get what you want
if you constantly, every day,
make small improvements,
and never give up.
The path toward becoming Legendary is long and is paved
with small improvements over time. Every day and every week and every month, your goal is to become a little bit
better than you used to be. Your goal is not to make huge leaps and bounds. Your goal is to improve, step by step, day
by day.
The Japanese call this concept Kaizen, and Tony Robbins calls it “constant and never-ending improvement.” Itʼs very
unglamorous. It would not sell for thousands of dollars as a quick route to getting everything youʼd ever want right
away. But itʼs the truth, and it works, and you should pay attention... because if youʼre like most people, youʼve tried
the quick fixes and have found that theyʼve gotten you nowhere.
I want you to understand, right here and right now, that you are in for a long journey. A lifelong journey. You can be, do,
or have almost anything you could ever want, but you wonʼt have it tomorrow. You wonʼt learn to breakdance
overnight. You wonʼt quit your twenty-year corporate job and start working at home, making a fortune, next week.
But you will get what you want if you constantly, every day, make small improvements, and never give up.
The Legendary formula
Get this.
Iʼve created an infallible formula for success in anything, and I promise it is the key to achievement.
If you follow it, you flat-out will succeed. Itʼs the ultimate tool in becoming Legendary.
Iʼm not even going to charge you anything for this incredibly valuable formula, even though itʼs
worth millions of dollars. Iʼm that cool.
The surefire formula to become Legendary
Step 1: Begin
Step 2: Do the work
Step 3: Ship
Step 4: Repeat
Almost nobody truly does all four. Those who do inevitably become Legendary.
If youʼre rolling your eyes, stop it.
Think of something youʼve wanted, but have been unable to get. And ask yourself:
Have you formulated a possible solution and begun work on it?
Have you shown up every single day to work on it, seriously and studiously, putting in hours and hours and
hours working, researching, analyzing and (most importantly) taking action in the pursuit of perfection?
Have you, after completing a phase of your project, put yourself and your ego on the line by putting it out into
the world to see if it works?
If it didnʼt work, did you find another way to approach the problem, learning from your last attempt, and try
again and again and again until you got the result you wanted?
Cʼmon. No you didnʼt.
STEP 1: Begin
Most people are fountains of worthless ideas.
Iʼm not saying that to be a dick. The ideas are worthless because they remain ideas and never become plans — not
because there is anything inherently wrong with them.
You get no credit for the ideas you donʼt pursue. Have you ever thought how stupid and simple the Pet Rock or the
Hula Hoop mustʼve been to invent, and thought, “I couldʼve done that?”
Well, tough shit. You didnʼt do it, and that makes all the difference in the world.
The first step is to begin.
If that seems too simple, go back a few pages and re-read the section on the Lie of Complexity. Very few things are
actually complex. You canʼt achieve something you donʼt begin, so the first step is to begin.
If this is still bothering you, think of all the things youʼve never begun.
Have you ever wanted to ask someone out but lost your nerve?
Have you ever seen the same workout commercial on TV over and over and thought, “I really need to start
exercising,” but have never quite gotten around to it?
Have you ever wanted to do something that seems complicated — say, start a business — and analyzed and
researched and planned and analyzed and researched and planned... but never actually stopped the analyzing and
researching and planning so that you could actually start that business?
Thatʼs kind of a problem.
Your homework
This manifesto has “how to” in the title. In my mind, that means youʼve got to do some stuff. If you read
and do nothing, thatʼs just one more great idea that is worthless because itʼs never begun.
So hereʼs what you need to do for Step 1:
Right now, right here, before you read about step 2, think of something youʼd like to be, do, have, or
pursue. It doesnʼt matter what it is.
Maybe itʼs something big, like wanting to make a million dollars.
Or maybe itʼs something small, like remembering that your motherʼs birthday is coming up and wanting
to be sure to get her a card.
Right here, right now, your homework is to begin that thing.
Now remember, this isnʼt doing the thing. This is beginning it. Beginning, mechanically speaking, is
not hard. You just take a step. Any step. If youʼre 300 pounds overweight and want to become a fitness
model, beginning might mean calling a gym. Just calling, and finding out when theyʼre open. Thatʼs
a beginning.
Do it now, before you read any more.
STEP 2: Do the work
Thereʼs a book by Steven Pressfield called The War of Art, and it changed my life. I got it from my friend Adrian, who
sent it to me because he said it changed his life. I gave him the “Yeah, yeah, Iʼll eventually read it” line, and he rightly
concluded that meant Iʼd probably never get around to it, so he bought a copy and sent it to me — again rightly
concluding that if he bought it for me, Iʼd feel I had to read it if only so I could report back and thank him.
The War of Art is the reason I finished and published my first novel — a book that had been sitting in my closet for
twelve years. Itʼs the reason I totally revamped the structure of my business, and now do only work that I love. Itʼs the
reason that I continue to write, no matter how hard it gets. Itʼs the reason I push myself at the gym and almost never
miss a scheduled day. Itʼs the reason I almost never make excuses anymore, and get a lot more great stuff as a result.
The War of Art is short, and if you can find the time to read it yourself, I highly recommend it. But if you canʼt, let me
sum it up its message in one sentence:
Stop making excuses, and have the discipline to do what you know needs to be done.
Or in other words:
Do the work.
Some people are great starters. If you read the last section and breezed through it, congratulating yourself on being a
person who has ideas and acts on them immediately, then thatʼs awesome. So let me ask you: When you start things,
do you then show up every day and do the work required to make it happen?
Doing the work is hard. Hard.
If you want to lift two hundred pounds and can currently lift ten, doing the work is showing up and exercising for
months or years until you lift two hundred.
If you want to build a business, doing the work is creating the systems and the branding and the website and the
product and doing the networking. Itʼs picking yourself up when something doesnʼt happen the way it was supposed
to. Itʼs riding out rough times and budgeting during good times. Itʼs taking profits and doubling down at the right times.
Itʼs adapting as the market changes. Itʼs researching. Experimenting. Split testing.
If you want to quit smoking or drinking, doing the work is fighting cravings every day, maybe forever.
If you want to write a novel, doing the work is sitting down for a few hours every single day and putting words on the
page even when you suspect theyʼre horrible. If youʼre currently a bad writer, doing the work might even mean writing
a few 100,000-word go-nowhere manuscripts full of terrible prose while youʼre learning, and then simply throwing them
away. Oh, and doing the work might entail a lot of rejection, too.
If you want to lose 300 pounds, doing the work is several years of dieting and exercise.
Doing the work is not for the faint of heart, but it is the key to achievement. Have you ever noticed how very few
people are truly, truly, truly committed to a goal? Thatʼs why so few people achieve truly remarkable things.
Using a term from The War of Art, Pressfield would say that The Resistance got them. It stopped those people from
doing the work, and as a result, they accomplished nothing.
A caveat on doing the work
Doing the work takes a lot of time. So right now, you might be thinking about how you didnʼt do the work on that thing
that mattered to you because you just couldnʼt find the time to do what needed to be done, and how that was a real
shame because you were totally committed otherwise.
Stop it. Just stop it.
The “I donʼt have time” excuse is the lamest excuse ever to exist. It makes me angry, because itʼs so flagrantly bullshit.
You have 24 hours in a day. I have 24 hours in a day. If you want to write a novel but canʼt find an hour a day to write
but I can, thereʼs something wrong with the laws of space and time. Itʼs so simple. Just use one of the 24 you have —
the same 24 that I have. How hard is that?
You may have noticed that Iʼm a stickler on the definition of the word “canʼt.” “Canʼt” means “literally unable.” When
most people say “canʼt,” they donʼt really mean “canʼt.” They mean mean “wonʼt.” They mean that theyʼre choosing
something else — work, family, appointments, TV, sleep, eating, sex — over the thing they claim to want.
Of course you can find the time. The truth is that you arenʼt.
If you truly want to do something and it requires an hour of work, ditch an hoursʼ worth of something youʼre currently
doing but that matters less to you. Want a simple one? Sleep less. If you truly want something, going from seven
hours to six per night is no big deal.
If, on the other hand, you want to do something but are unwilling to give up anything currently in your schedule to get
it, then you donʼt really want it. And if thatʼs the case, then stop being a whiny asshole and admit that you donʼt want it
badly enough to put in the work required to make it happen — which is a totally legit choice if itʼs made deliberately
and consciously, by the way.
Then, move on to something that actually does matter to you. Or, stop reading right now and settle into a mediocre life
with the knowledge that nothing is stopping you and that you are choosing to stay there.
Your homework
Think of something that youʼd like to achieve and that youʼve begun, but that you havenʼt yet put in
much if any work on. (It doesnʼt have to be the same thing as from step 1.)
Then, commit to doing whatever it takes to get that work done, every day until itʼs finished. Make a
plan. Put the plan on the calendar. And by the way, be honest with yourself. Cheating on doing the
work is like cheating at solitaire. Sure you could pretend that youʼll get fit by eating cake and walking
once a week, but who are you trying to fool? Supposedly, youʼre doing this thing for yourself. If thatʼs
the case, you know what needs to be done, so donʼt be a punk. Commit to reality, not fantasy.
And then, when those “do the work” appointments show up in your calendar, get off your ass and work.
A second caveat on doing the work
At this point, a lot of people object that it canʼt be this easy, because theyʼve had the Lies of Complexity and
Impossibility and Ignorance drilled into their very souls. It canʼt be as simple as “just doing stuff,” can it? Donʼt you
need to do the right things? Donʼt you need to know what to do?
Maybe an example would help.
A lot of people that I run into would like to quit their jobs and have their own businesses. If thatʼs you, itʼs tempting to
look at where you are now and feel that itʼs impossible, because thereʼs so much you donʼt know. You canʼt just show
up and “do stuff.” You need help.
Well, help might speed things along, but getting and then actually acting on the advice you get (versus falling into
analysis paralysis) is part of doing the work. You work, you ask for help or research or whatever, and you do some
more work.
And if it still seems impossible? If the idea of starting a profitable business still seems too big and too hard?
Maybe a further example would help.
Letʼs pretend that “doing the work” on your business means getting up an hour earlier EACH AND EVERY SINGLE
DAY and sitting down and working toward that goal. Do you really doubt that in 365 focused hours this year, filled not
with thumb-twiddling and dreaming but with real, hard, effort-filled WORK and RESEARCH and NETWORKING and
some serious progress toward building a business that will one day sustain you?
STEP 3: Ship
Author Seth Godin has a concept he calls “shipping.” It basically means that once youʼve begun something and have
done the work on it every day for long enough, you must eventually declare that project is finished and put it out into
the world, where it can be consumed, lauded, applauded, and judged by others.
Like the other steps, the idea that you need to “ship” the things that youʼve completed may sound simple and obvious.
But very few people do it, despite its obviousness.
A lot of people actually manage to begin their projects, which takes those projects out of the realm of ideas and
into the world of reality. So far, so good. Then, some of those people manage to show up every day and do the work.
Still good.
But then, a lot of those same people stagnate and canʼt quite pull the trigger and ship the damn thing. They canʼt quite
bring themselves to put the product up for sale, submit the art to a gallery, ask for the date, or open the doors of the
business. Instead, to prove to themselves that theyʼre not chickening out on something that matters to them, they do
more work, and more work.
Instead of publishing their novel, theyʼll rewrite it. Or maybe theyʼll declare that the first novel was just practice to learn
the craft, and theyʼll put it in the closet and begin work on a second novel. (I should know. I did this. My first novel sat
in a closet for twelve years before I finally shipped it.) They wonʼt call it an inability to pull the trigger and ship. Theyʼll
call it persistence or perfection, which would be noble if it werenʼt just an excuse — if they ever had the guts to fail on
the real proving ground before starting over.
Shipping seems simple, and it is simple — but itʼs not easy. In fact, itʼs very hard. If you never ship the novel, nobody
will see your intimate art and be able to wound you by saying itʼs no good. If you never open the doors for business,
you will never find out that nobody may want to patronize it. If you never ship, you can never fail, and thatʼs quite
But if you never ship, you will also never accomplish anything. The end result of work/repeat, work/repeat with no
shipping is the same as never beginning the project at all. Or rather, itʼs much worse because you waste a ton of time
doing all that work before giving up. If youʼre going to give up, at least do it early, before youʼve spent weeks or months
or years pursuing something youʼll never act on.
If you want success in anything, you must ship. Period. One day, you must stop working on whatever youʼre doing,
and pull the trigger.
The manuscript in your closet is helping nobody. Publish it. Even if you think itʼs terrible, publish it. Publish it under a
pseudonym if you must, but put it into the world and let it take its lumps or soar on its own. Publish it so that you will
know that youʼre done with it and can move on to the next book, and make that next book better.
The business plan that you havenʼt presented to the bank for a loan does you no good. Present it. If you get rejected,
refine it and try again.
If you want to ask someone out on a date, ask.
If youʼve finished that handmade birdhouse, put it up on eBay for sale, or at the very least put it up in your backyard.
If youʼve polished that speech, get up on stage and give it.
You can never succeed with something that is never given a chance to succeed. Or, as Wayne Gretsky said,
“You miss one hundred percent of the shots you donʼt take.”
So take those shots, and accept that yes, sometimes you will miss. Itʼs okay. Thatʼs what the last step of the formula
is for.
Your homework
Ship the thing you need to ship.
You know what thing Iʼm talking about. Itʼs that thing you finished awhile ago but then either put in the
closet or kept working on, and working on, and working on because you really want to “polish” it.
Stop waffling. Stop polishing.
Itʼs done, okay? So ship it, and commit to being okay with the results regardless of whether it soars or
falls flat because even a flop is the valuable feedback youʼll need to do better next time.
A caveat about perfection
Just now, at least half of the people reading the last page thought about the thing they need to ship and convinced
themselves that okay, okay, they will ship it... but not just yet, because they need to get one more thing about that
project right first.
A lot of people who never ship do so because they want to get whatever theyʼre working on perfect before they do.
And while that may sound good on paper, itʼs crap.
Let me share a little secret with you: Perfection is for cowards. Perfection is a delaying tactic used by people who are
afraid to ship.
Nothing can ever be perfect. The greatest pieces of art and the greatest businesses and the greatest movements in
the history of mankind were born with huge flaws. Do you think Apple was perfect when Steve Jobs and Steve
Wozniak started it in 1976? Do you think Jobs ever held up his hands and said, “Well, hang on a second there, Woz...
I want to make sure we perfect retina display touchscreens for iPads before we release the Apple I with the handmade
wooden case”? Or, instead, do you think he did the best he reasonably could with what he had at the time, and then
improved and launched further iterations later, content to improve over time?
Hell, Bill Gates didnʼt even own an Altair computer when he contacted its maker to let them know heʼd developed an
emulator for it... but if he hadnʼt leapt boldly and imperfectly, the world wouldnʼt know Microsoft.
Do you think Picasso was ever totally satisfied with one of his paintings?
Ask any established author, today, what he or she thinks of their first published book. They may hate it. They may be
embarrassed. But theyʼll also understand that without that first imperfect book, they never would have gotten to the
better books that came later.
You will never be perfect, so you might as well stop trying to be. Ship what you have now, with warts and all. Would
you rather have taken an imperfect step toward your Legendary life, or would you rather have produced an absolutely
perfect and flawless pile of... of nothing at all?
Be bold. Take imperfect action.
STEP 4: Repeat
One of the greatest tragedies in life is when someone actually has the guts to begin a project, to put in a ton of work,
to ship it... and then, when it doesnʼt go as well as theyʼd hoped, they quit. It doesnʼt feel like quitting, though. It feels
like this thing we call “failure.” It feels like something outside of you has decided that you wonʼt have what you want,
but thatʼs just a perceptual error.
To see what I mean, letʼs define two types of failure — one of which shouldnʼt really be called ʽfailure,ʼ and one of
which doesnʼt even exist:
LITTLE FAILURE is what happens when you try to jump a hurdle and miss, falling on your face. Itʼs what happens
when you try to sell a product and nobody wants it. Itʼs what happens when nobody reads what you write, when you
get rejected, when you donʼt pass a test, or when people give you critical reviews.
BIG FAILURE is something that happens to you, from the outside, that makes you unable to achieve what you want.
The first one isnʼt really failure. Itʼs simply feedback. Itʼs an unsuccessful attempt.
The second one doesnʼt exist.
People give up on a thing when they experience a little failure and erroneously believe itʼs a big failure. They fail the
test and think it means theyʼll never pass. They produce a flop in a given endeavor and think theyʼll never produce a
success in that same endeavor.
Let me ask you something I once heard Tony Robbins ask: How long would you give your average, healthy child to
learn to walk?
Assuming the childʼs legs and motor skills work okay, how long would you let him practice walking before you picked
him up, put him in a stroller forever, and said, “You poor thing; at least you tried”?
The idea of letting a child keep trying until he succeeds seems obvious — and yet we, as adults, try things once, fall
over, and then cut ourselves off from trying again. And our friends and family say, “You poor thing; at least you tried.”
If you open a store selling hand-knitted oven mitts and have to close it when nobody buys your wares, thatʼs a little
failure. Thatʼs an unsuccessful attempt. It is not “big failure,” because “big failure” does not exist.
When your oven mitt store closes, you have two options. Option one is to quit. Option two is to try something else. You
might try selling your oven mitts online. You might sell at a craft fair. You might get your oven mitts licensed by a big
box store like Bed Bath & Beyond. You might create a video course on how to knit your own oven mitts, and try to sell
that. You might get a job in an oven mitt knitting factory. And if none of that works — if it becomes obvious that nobody
wants hand-knitted oven mitts — you might pursue a totally separate, unrelated method of making income, and knit
oven mitts in your spare time to give away for free.
You cannot fail. You can only quit.
“Little failure” is part of the learning process. Itʼs as natural as breathing. A kid fails to ride a bike dozens or hundreds
of times before he finally discovers his balance and rides successfully. Even evolution is defined by failed attempts.
For each successful adaptation — for each fish that crawls out of the primordial ocean and manages to breathe air —
there are millions upon millions of dead ends in fish that crawl out of oceans and suffocate. Evolution is a thousand
monkeys working at a thousand typewriters for all eternity, trying to produce Shakespeare. There are a lot of botched
manuscripts, yes — but the relentlessness of effort has created the world we see around us.
If you want to become Legendary, you must be tenacious. You must risk other people saying that youʼre a dog with a
bone, that you wonʼt give up on that thing you want to do, that youʼre obsessed. You should be obsessed about the
things that matter to you. I have a friend who once told me, “ʼObsessionʼ is a word that lazy people use to describe
dedication.” And itʼs true.
Fail with courage. Fail with a smile on your face.
Then, try again.
Your homework
That thing you tried, and that didnʼt work? That thing you wish youʼd been able to succeed at?
Try again.
A caveat about not being a dumbass
Now, donʼt be a total idiot about this. Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and
expecting a different result, and itʼs true. Yes, step four is “Repeat,” but that means to repeat the previous three steps,
not to repeat the exact same thing that you just tried in the exact same way.
When you try something and it doesnʼt work, learn from that attempt. Adjust your approach and try something different
next time, building on what youʼve discovered.
A caveat about the Dip
Iʼve said that you canʼt fail; you can only quit.
What I didnʼt explicitly say — but which youʼve got to understand — is that sometimes itʼs okay to quit.
I started working on a PhD in genetics when I was 22. I hated the work, and it was literally giving me panic attacks, but
I didnʼt want to give up because I donʼt like to quit. It felt like this was something Iʼd committed to, so I should keep
trying until I succeeded. I told myself to tough it out until I got that PhD, no matter what.
Fortunately, I didnʼt labor in idiocy for long. After about four months, my panic attacks got bad enough that I was forced
to confront two truths.
For one, I was pursuing the PhD for a really dumb reason. My reason was “I wanted a PhD.” But for what? Why would
I want a piece of paper?
And two, I realized I didnʼt actually want the fucking PhD. At all. I hated the work; I hated the environment; I hated my
hour commute; I hated that I didnʼt see my wife much and wouldnʼt see my kids much once I had them. I realized that
if I succeeded — if I got the PhD — that my reward would be to keep doing more of the same.
The fact that it took me so long to realize that still gives me chills.
Seth Godin calls the place in any endeavor when you experience difficulty and resistance “The Dip,” and explains that
the reason so few people succeed is that when they experience the Dip and the going gets very hard, they quit. He
then adds (and this is the really important part) that most of the time when you hit the Dip, you really should quit.
We can only do so much, and we can only truly be — or would truly want to be — excellent at a small percentage of
the opportunities that cross our path. The sooner you recognize the areas in which youʼd be better served by not
pushing through the Dip and quitting now, the better.
I could have pushed through the Dip with grad school. But if I had, Iʼd have been a miserable and probably a bad
scientist. Why would I want that?
Be obsessed and never give up on the things that matter.
But also, quit the things that donʼt matter as soon as humanly possible.
But wait... thereʼs more!
You deserve a bonus section, right?
What follows are just a few notes. A few details. A few things to keep in mind while youʼre out there
becoming Legendary.
Check ʼem out. Theyʼll help you along your journey.
You are already Legendary
Maybe youʼre inspired by what youʼre reading here. Maybe the idea of becoming Legendary is compelling. But maybe
also, in a way, it still sounds kind of... well... impossible.
If thatʼs the case, I want you to think very carefully about something:
There is something that you are excellent at that other people find impossible.
Maybe youʼre very good at being creative — at art, writing, composing, or something similar. Maybe youʼre great at
math. Maybe youʼre strong, or fast, or tough. Maybe youʼre rich. Maybe youʼre an excellent networker and have great
connections, or maybe youʼre just really good at making friends with people you come across. Maybe youʼre a great
parent. Maybe you have a beautiful garden or lawn. Maybe you have great fashion sense.
Do yourself a favor and go to Google and spend some time searching for information on how to do what it is that
youʼre excellent at. Youʼll find stories of frustration from people who canʼt make it work — people who would give
anything to grow beautiful red roses or get their teenager to talk heart-to-heart with them.
So if looking at people who have reached your goals gives you feelings of awe and desperate jealousy, just remember
— there is something that you can do that causes the same feelings of awe and desperate jealousy in someone else.
You may have gotten used to your own Legendary ability or achievement, but that doesnʼt make it any less amazing
or Legendary.
Think about that the next time you see something you wish you could be, do, or have... and think that you could never
get there.
Practice makes perfect
The notion of taking small steps every day over a long time in order to reach a big goal is a really important one, so Iʼm
going to repeat it in a slightly different way to make sure you get it.
At the age of seven, my son Austin is already a much better illustrator than my wife. Now, thatʼs not saying a lot; Robin
never really tried to be very artistic. But it is true that he can draw better than her, and some of that might be due to the
way his eye talks to his brain talks to his hand, but a lot of it came from daily practice.
Austin likes to draw, so he draws. And the more he draws, the
better he gets.
The last section was about how youʼre already Legendary in
some way. Think about that right now. Think about that talent
you have — that excellence that, in all probability, you havenʼt
been giving yourself enough credit for.
How did you achieve that thing
that millions of people are out
there searching the internet for,
desperately wanting to be like
you? You practiced.
How did you become a great parent, a great networker, a vice
president of something or other, run a marathon, or do
whatever it is that makes you amazing? How did you achieve that thing that millions of people are out there searching
the internet for, desperately wanting to be like you?
You practiced.
And like Austin, you probably didnʼt even think of it as practicing. But if youʼre a great wood carver, Iʼll bet youʼve spent
a lot of time carving wood, probably just because you enjoyed it. Iʼll bet that you created some horrible carvings early
on, and Iʼll bet that when you did, you didnʼt quit and declare that it was just too hard. Because you were having fun
and not thinking of it as work, Iʼll bet you learned from those bad carvings and did better the next time. Iʼll bet that your
wood carving abilities today are better than they were five or ten years ago.
If someone asked you to teach them how to carve
and lamented how much better you were at it than
them, youʼd probably say something like, “It took
me a long time to learn how to do this well, and it
may take you a long time too... but if you practice,
youʼll get it in time.”
Maybe itʼs time you take your own advice.
The only real difference between your journey to
what you want and your journey to what you
already have is that the former may feel like work
and practice and the latter probably did not. But
the steps and the work and the long, slow
progression that may take years to develop are
the same regardless of what you call it or what it
feels like.
Ignore others
People are going to tell you that your ideas and aspirations are stupid or foolhardy or impossible or a waste of time.
Itʼs inevitable.
The first chapter in the story of every great success inevitably
includes the term “that dumbass.” The Wright brothers were
dumbasses to think people could fly. Thomas Edison was a
dumbass for not giving up after a thousand failures with light
bulb filaments. Nelson Mandela was a dumbass to think he
could end apartheid, and he was a super-dumbass when,
proving his critics right, he got his dumb ass thrown into prison
for 27 years.
You donʼt have to tell them
theyʼre a dumbass for staying in
the Matrix, but I think we all
know what the real score is.
When people imply that youʼre a dumbass, consider the source. Are they living their dreams? Are they on the way to
becoming Legendary? Will people look back on their accomplishments and marvel at the amazing legacy they left
behind them?
You donʼt have to tell them theyʼre a dumbass for staying in the Matrix, but I think we all know what the real score is.
Accept that you will get confused
A few months ago, I decided that I wanted to start playing the game Dance Dance Revolution.
When you first start playing it, that game is hard as hell. Youʼve got to hit this arrow with one foot, then this one with
the other foot, then somehow get back to this one, then hit two at once. Itʼs like fast Twister with a soundtrack.
Not only was I terrible at it, but I couldnʼt possibly see how Iʼd ever get any better. Every time I played, I was confused
and frustrated. Moving between levels — from Novice to Basic, to Advanced, to Expert — were quantum leaps.
I couldnʼt do any of it. I donʼt know why I kept trying, because my progression just consisted of failing while moving
Then, one day, I realized that I could do anything on Basic.
Another day, I realized that Difficult had quite suddenly and
unexpectedly become easy, and I wondered why I used to
think it was impossible.
Today I can do a lot of the songs on Expert.
You will slog on, wondering why
youʼre bothering at all because
youʼre not making an iota of
progress. And then, quite
suddenly, it will make sense and
youʼll get it.
Most new skills are like that. You will start trying them and feel
confused. You will put in your time trying to learn them and feel
totally baffled all the while. You will slog on, wondering why
youʼre bothering at all because youʼre not making an iota of progress. And then, quite suddenly, it will make sense and
youʼll get it.
Youʼve got to understand that being confused while learning is natural. Donʼt expect to see progress all the time. Even
though it may not feel that way, youʼre always progressing. Your learning brain is smarter than you, and it doesnʼt
always bother to tell the rest of your brain that itʼs actually improving.
Pay the price
My friend Jon Morrow, who I mentioned when I talked about the Lie of Impossibility, once gave me this advice:
When you decide what you want to do, donʼt just figure out what it is and how to get there. Find out what
the price of that thing is, and go ahead and commit to paying that price.
In other words, what you want doesnʼt come free. In earlier sections of this manifesto, Iʼve given you a few
components of the price of most things: doing hard work, opening yourself to criticism, accepting the setbacks that
youʼll be inclined to call “failure.”
Before you start pursuing any goal, think about how much hard work will need to go into it. Think about how much time
youʼll need to dedicate, and if there are other things youʼll not be able to do (watching TV is an easy one), then make
sure you know what youʼre giving up. Sometimes thereʼs a monetary price. Sometimes thereʼs a price in terms of what
others will think of you. Think about all of it so that you can get a true picture of what your pursuit is going to cost you.
Then make damn sure youʼre okay with paying that price. If youʼre not, donʼt begin. Itʼs better to decide early that the
price is too high than to waste a bunch of time before quitting, or paying a price you donʼt truly want to pay.
For example, hereʼs Jon again paraphrasing billionaire Felix Dennis:
He said, “You have to be insane to want to be a billionaire, because you have to give up everything. Give
up having kids that love you. Give up having spouses that love you. Give up having friends that love you.
Give up having anyone that cares about you. Go ahead and commit to be alone and fighting your entire
life. You want to be a billionaire? Thatʼs how you do it.”
Can you be a billionaire? Of course. But are you willing to? I wouldnʼt pay that price, personally, but if youʼre willing to
pay it and would like to be a billionaire, then best of luck to you.
Donʼt just pick your goals and dreams of the blue sky. Make sure that youʼre willing to pay the price required to have
them, and then pay it.
Live consciously
I have my biases.
I want to spend time with my family, be in shape, and have a decent amount of money and a lot of free time. But what
youʼve got to understand is that those are my biases, and mine alone.
If, in this manifesto, Iʼve suggested that you should aim to be
rich, thin, or family-centered, I hereby take it back. Be what you
want to be.
I wouldnʼt want to be a smoker, for instance. If I did smoke, Iʼd
have a very immediate goal to quit. But thatʼs not the same as
saying that nobody should smoke, so if youʼre a smoker and
want to remain one, more power to you. If youʼre poor and
want to stay poor while you pursue a different goal in a
different area, thatʼs totally your choice, and itʼs okay.
Live consciously, fully aware
of the decisions youʼre making,
why youʼre making them,
and what those decisions are
likely to mean for you and for
your future.
What I ask is that you truly understand what youʼre doing. I ask that you live consciously, fully aware of the decisions
youʼre making, why youʼre making them, and what those decisions are likely to mean for you and for your future. Every
decision — even so-called “right” or “good” decisions — has a price. Make sure youʼre aware of the prices youʼre
paying, and make sure youʼre okay with paying them.
If itʼs what you want, itʼs fine to decide consciously to live life as a pauper. But what many paupers do is to become
poor accidentally, through unconscious decisions.
Thereʼs a big difference.
What to do when youʼre afraid or mad, or
when things really seem to not be working
This isnʼt an easy journey. As Iʼve suggested, there will be times when you feel like youʼre getting nowhere, making
zero progress toward your goals, and failing (“little failure”) constantly. There will be times when pressure from others
becomes unbearable, when youʼre laughed at, when nothing is going right, when you get scared.
When that happens, my advice is to do a bit of analysis to make sure the path youʼre on does indeed seem to be the
right one, and then to dig in deeper and work harder.
All humans are creators. All humans are artists. What we create may not always look like art, but it is. Compassion is
an art. Building and repairing things is an art. Relating to others is an art. In every moment, the things you do that
make a difference are acts of creation.
Art is intensified by well-directed emotion and intensity. (The more common way to say the same thing is, “art comes
from suffering,” but thatʼs unnecessarily pessimistic. All sorts of truly human situations create good art, not just the bad
ones.) So if youʼre feeling intense, use that intensity to create more of your own unique art.
Chuck D. from Public Enemy said, “When I get mad, I put it down on a pad; give you something that you never had.”
In other words, he doesnʼt just get pissed off. He gets pissed off and writes lyrics. Thereʼs a lesson in that.
Oh, and while weʼre at it, letʼs expose the persistent bullshit myth of the unshakable idol. Do you think the people you
look up to — the people you see doing Legendary things — are always confident and sure of themselves? Do you
think they were born being amazing, and never suffered through — and maybe even continue to suffer through —
what youʼre suffering through?
What about me? Do you think Iʼm never nervous? Do you think Iʼm never afraid?
Excuse me while I bark ironic laughter.
Find others like you
Thereʼs an expression: “If you lie down with dogs, youʼll get up with fleas.”
If youʼre going to be Legendary, you canʼt lie down with dogs. Youʼve got to find other people like you — people who
are also living life consciously and deliberately, traveling down the same path.
Find people who are after what youʼre after. Spend less time
with people who donʼt share your optimistic attitude and
aspirations. Read things you find inspiring and that make you
want to become more Legendary. Watch things that uplift
and inspire you. Listen to inspiring audio in your car instead
of idiot deejays.
Putting more Legendary stuff
into your brain will re-acclimate
you to the idea that Legendary
is possible, Legendary is right,
Legendary is the way to go.
The more you surround yourself with what you want to
become, the more likely you are to become it. Right now, you
might be surrounded by the world I describe in part one of this manifesto — in the Matrix instead of out here in the real
world. Putting more Legendary stuff into your brain will re-acclimate you to the idea that Legendary is possible,
Legendary is right, Legendary is the way to go.
If youʼre lying down with dogs, stop. Look around. Find others like you. Find communities. Interact. Talk about
Legendary stuff.
Start lying down with Legends, so that you can get up Legendary.
Thatʼs it.
Thatʼs pretty much all you need to know.
What, too simple?
Not enough steps? Not enough pages? Not enough secrets and techniques and tricks? No secret codes, no
admission to secret societies and good-old-boy networks? No certifications or classes or tests or hidden back doors?
Look, Iʼm sorry to give you such a simple formula, but it really is that simple. Donʼt believe me? Ask anyone you think
is doing or has done great things and theyʼll tell you. To become Legendary, youʼve got to begin pursuing what
you want, then do the work (including adjusting as you go and learning, but mostly just gutting it out), ship it
when youʼre done, and then adapt and repeat until things start to work. Thatʼs it.
I know itʼs simple. If that makes you uncomfortable, I suppose you could do it while solving linear algebra equations
and juggling tiki torches. Up to you.
So why, you might be asking, do so few people become Legendary if itʼs so simple?
There are two answers.
For one, most people donʼt realize how simple it really is. Remember my “prison for your mind” analogy from the
beginning? Most people are still there, still plugged into the Matrix.
The other reason is because while the path is simple... it most definitely is not easy.
Having the guts to get up and take action isnʼt easy. Showing up every day and working is very hard. Shipping what
you create or committing to do what you want to do makes you vulnerable and involves exposing yourself to rejection
and criticism. Trying again from scratch after a letdown is haaaaard.
Itʼs not easy at all, and thatʼs why so few people achieve truly amazing things. Itʼs why so many people live ordinary,
unlegendary lives. Itʼs why so many people collapse on the couch and eat Cheetos and let Threeʼs Company reruns
lull them to sleep between one twelve-hour period spent doing things they donʼt enjoy and the next twelve-hour period
spent doing things they donʼt enjoy. Itʼs why so many people live their lives on autopilot, with nothing to really get
excited about from one year to the next to the next. Itʼs why most people, at the ends of their lives, look back and
think, “Meh. That was okay, I guess.”
I donʼt want that for myself. And if youʼre anything like me, you
donʼt want it for yourself, either.
Living a Legendary life takes a lot of work, but itʼs worth it.
By living a Legendary life, you make a difference. By living a
Legendary life, the world will know you were here, and know
that you made your corner of the world a little better.
At the end of my life, I want to
look back and say, “That was
fucking awesome!”
You know how, in Braveheart, Mel Gibson said, “Every man dies, but not every man truly lives?” Itʼs true.
At the end of my life, I want to know that I lived as much as I could in the time I had. At the end of my life, I want to
look back and say, “That was fucking awesome!”
Do you?
Share the Legendariness
Did you enjoy reading this? Did it make you want to dedicate your life to becoming Legendary?
If so, here are some ways you can spread the message and help more people unplug from the Matrix and begin their
own journey to becoming Legendary:
Tweet about it
Share it on Facebook
Share it on Google+
About the Author
Johnny B. Truant is a prominent author and podcaster who began the
ultimate stage of his own legendary life – earning a full-time living
solely from his childhood passion of writing fiction – in 2013. You can
get Johnny's books for free here.
He hosts the popular Self Publishing Podcast and the far less popular
(but more fun) Better Off Undead, both of which are available in the
major podcast directories as well as on Stitcher Radio.
Johnny is also the creator of the nonprofit Badass Project, which celebrates so-called “disabled”
people who kick the asses of most people who dare to call themselves “able.” He makes his home
online at
If you'd like more from Johnny, click this: What Defines You?

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