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Success = Playing the Hard Mode

Balkrishna Agarwal 5 min read

So Saurabh shared this blog by Naval & triggered so many tangents that it deserves a blog post of its own. From the moment we start thinking, success becomes the most important thing to chase for all of us, of-course other than the enlightened ones. The definition of success can vary for many but the path to achieve it is the same. So what is it? It’s Playing the Hard mode or Renunciation or Delayed Gratification, all of which are the same.

One sure shot way of achieving value is to figure out a way to solve the toughest problems faced by the people around you. If you do that, you will become the valuable person in that community. A sure shot way to be valuable lastingly is to continue solving the toughest problems, remember problems keep evolving. In the same way if you solve the toughest problem solved by the world, one becomes the most valuable person in the whole world. Can you imagine your world today without Google?

Here's one more thought from Naval. “The best person in the world for anything, gets to do it for everyone.”

Naval writes a different perspective of the same thing, “Playing the Hard Mode” is about happiness without material comfort or a more simplified (but less exact) version is “Being happy even in poverty”. So Is naval asking everybody to become a monk? No. He is just discussing a theory. So what do we take from this? Let’s mesh this idea with Renunciation or Delayed Gratification.

I have a personal theory of sorts that, which kind of is validated by the Indian spirituality also I think. The theory is that “You get/attract what you renunciate”. You want lasting power, Renunciate it. Gandhi renunciated power & he holds power on us even today. Now think about Lord Ram. Hitler wanted power, he got it temporarily but that name itself has become a insult today. You want money? Renunciate it ;) Ok enough of personal theories.

Read-up on Stanford’s famous “Marshmallow experiment”. Here is a YouTube video, a TED talk on the same subject.

Here is a summary from wikipedia for the ones who don’t have the time so read/see through the above.

The Stanford marshmallow experiment was a study on delayed gratification in 1972 led by psychologist Walter Mischel, a professor at Stanford University.[1] In this study, a child was offered a choice between one small but immediate reward, or two small rewards if they waited for a period of time. During this time, the researcher left the room for about 15 minutes and then returned. The reward was either a marshmallow or pretzel stick, depending on the child's preference. In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores,[2] educational attainment,[3]body mass index (BMI),[4] and other life measures.[5] A replication attempt with a more diverse sample population, over 10 times larger than the original study, showed only half the effect of the original study. The replication suggested that economic background, rather than willpower, explained the other half.[6][7]

Now you can’t affect the economic background that you were born into so the only thing you can control, Delayed Gratification = Success.

So the question being, can you slog through(in the right direction) in the initial years to make it big later? Can you “Play in the Hard mode” initially to make things easy later on? Why do founders end up with out-sized returns in a venture? They are able to delay the material (money/cash) incentive early on in their life. Relative to their contribution, they take no cash or a paltry amount early on. They delay the gratification. They play in the hard mode early on.

If you are young & know somebody who is solving the most difficult problems, go join them in solving it. You will attain skills & knowledge which will take you to a different universe than anybody else. If you don’t know anybody like that, search for them. Shoot them a email, letter, call, tweet. If they don’t reply, approach people from their organisation or their friends & family. Nobody will say no to such a driven person.

This is the same concept around Compounding. Can you let go consumption today & save money to let it compound & have a bigger pir tomorrow? If you still thinking loans & credit cards are dope. Consider this tweet

But let’s not forget that direction is more important than motion.

That’s it from me.

Play long-term games with long-term people. -Jeff Bezos.