Moderate Stress Is Necessary for Success

If you are reading this blog and have been following John’s journey for quite some time, then you’re probably very interested in how you can lead the dot com lifestyle yourself. You see him enjoying all the freedom in the world, flying to exotic locations, and buying a $2 million house in cash. It’s looks lavish and extravagant and carefree.

And don’t get me wrong. I’m sure the dot com lifestyle is multitudes more enjoyable than running around in the conventional rat race, working 60+ hour weeks for a company that may not align with your personal values. But to assume that success will come without stress is false and misleading. If anything, moderate stress is absolutely required if you want to “make it.”

Calm, Cool and Collected

A few years ago, an article appeared in Forbes that explained how successful people are able to keep calm under pressure, how they’re able to maintain their composure when facing the crunch. I highly recommend you read it, as it’ll give you a lot of insight into how some of the world’s richest people seem to maintain a cool head and stay in control of their situation.

One of the key takeaways from the article is illustrated with the basic visualization above. Think about where you fall on this spectrum right now compared to where you actually want to be, and what that means for your prospects at success.

It’s a common misconception that everyone living the dot com lifestyle (or some variation of it) would fall somewhere along the left half of the graph. You assume that they have very little stress in their lives and, when they do face stress, it doesn’t last for very long. While this might sound appealing at first, it very quickly leads to boredom and depression.

If life is too easy, you lose your motivation. It becomes uninteresting.

Work Hard, Play Hard?

By contrast, you’ll find that a great number of people in modern society likely fall toward the right half of the graph. They’re fighting hard to earn those raises and promotions at work, tackling far too many projects and facing far too many tight deadlines. They’re stressed, anxious and overworked. And when you’re constantly under that much tension, your performance will suffer.

A completely frazzled and overwhelmed mind probably can’t accomplish very much.

But, as with so many other things in life, there’s a “sweet spot” to be had and it falls somewhere in the middle. With a moderate amount of stress, you face fun and exciting challenges each and every day. You stretch yourself just beyond your current level of ability to see how far you can go.

Key to both happiness and success is this sense of perceived control and perceived progress. And the only way you’ll be able to reach peak performance in what you do, whether that’s blogging, Internet marketing, or anything else, is to push yourself just far enough to experience just the right amount of stress for just the right length of time.

Take It from Bill

Image credit: World Economic Forum / Marcel Bieri (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Back when his company was experiencing explosive growth, Bill Gates famously took days, even weeks off at a time to seclude himself from the rest of the world. He’d disappear, deep diving into piles of reading and research. It was during these periods of “deep work” that he was able to gain some of his greatest insights, which further elevated Microsoft to whole new levels. He was able to find the balance to achieve optimal performance.

Stress is not the enemy. It’s a tool like any other. Use a knife too much and improperly and you can expect to have a dull blade sooner rather than later. Keep the knife in the drawer and it’ll remain underutilized, never reaching its full potential or enabling you to complete the recipes you want to eat. Use it the right amount, take the time to sharpen it regularly, and you’ve got an amazing tool on your hands. Stress is the same way.

Use stress in your favor, in moderation, and you’ll reap the benefits of success soon enough.

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