How to Succeed at Anything

Da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man" is more about Body, than Mind and Spirit. But it's still what I think of in my head when I think about this stuff. Stop looking at his penis.

Da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” is more about Body, than Mind and Spirit. But it’s still what I think of in my head when I think about this stuff. Stop looking at his penis.

It’s not easy.

But it is simple.

If you want to succeed—in anything, whether it be love, or work, or sports, or academics, or building bridges, or telling jokes, or solving crossword puzzles—you need only do three things. Just three.

The three steps to success:

1. Attempt

2. Observe

3. Repeat

One of the world’s smartest content marketers wrote that in a blog post yesterday. I’ve spent the past 24 hours thinking about it when I wasn’t too busy thinking about football, or sex, or food, or how bad my iron shots were on the golf course yesterday.

Brian Clark is the author. He founded Copyblogger, and if writing is your thing, you may want to give them a visit even if you’re not looking to sell anything. There’s a lot of good writing and good-writing tips to be found there.

Clark writes: “Here’s the truth. You’ll never be truly ready, because the process doesn’t start until you start.

“Successful people start before they feel ready. And the only way to absolutely, positively know if your [whatever you’re working on] rocks is to put it out there.”


He’s saying: Try.

Just try!

If you’re anything like me, there are a million things you never try. You’re scared. Not like little-kid-sees-monster-in-closet scared. But general human fear.

Of failure. Of rejection. Of humiliation.

I spent all 12 years with my ex wife avoiding snow skiing. I don’t particularly like snow.

Yeah, I live in Ohio. On purpose. (If you haven’t heard, I make bad decisions.)

But more importantly?

1. I’m afraid to try things in front of other people that I’m pretty sure I’m going to suck at.

I can’t begin to tell you how true AND debilitating this can be. I don’t do much dancing because of this insecurity. I know that when I go snow skiing, I’m going to fall getting off the ski lift at the top of the run. Everyone will laugh at me and I won’t be able to quickly ski away because I’ll just fall down again. And then they’ll all laugh some more.

2. I procrastinate.

My best friend from childhood is my son’s godfather. He handled all of the legal work for my recent marital dissolution. Free, of course. He’s the best. I think of him as family. I’ve known him since I was 6. Because one of the things I’m good at is writing website copy for businesses, I told him in April—in APRIL—that I would rewrite his law firm’s website copy and optimize it for search engines. I’m not even halfway done yet. Five months. I’m a bad person.

Don’t be like me.

Be brave. Seek adventure. Try new things.

Otherwise you’re just going to get old and sad and eat at the Golden Corral a lot and get diabetes and die after a doctor does a shitty job amputating the lower half of your fat leg you weren’t exercising. And then whoever’s left to collect the money from the medical malpractice suit will go on a bunch of adventures while worms eat your body.

The difference between true failure and just another leg on the journey to success are steps two and three.


Our lives are the sum of our choices.

How have these choices contributed to where I am now?

Mentally, I feel best when I’m reading regularly. When I’m getting decent sleep. When I’m mentally sharp at work, and on top of my chores at home, and when I’m thinking ahead as it pertains to my son’s and household’s needs.

Physically, I feel best when I’m eating well. When I’m exercising daily. When I’m connected physically, emotionally and spiritually with someone between the sheets.

Spiritually, I feel best when I’m doing things I think are right and when I’m avoiding things I think are wrong. I feel good when I volunteer. I feel bad when I don’t make time for prayer or church. I feel good when I’m giving. I feel bad when I’m taking.

Mind. Body. Spirit.

This begs the question:

Why would we make choices that make our lives worse?

I’m about halfway through my 35th year of being alive. I have a really nice data sample now of what the expected results of a particular action might be. And STILL I do retarded shit. Still.

One might conclude the human race is doomed. Or we can just limit it to me—a bad-decision-making self-fulfilling prophecy.

I think we need to think more about the choices we make that keep us from succeeding in whatever we set out to do. And make better choices today. Different choices. Then observe those results.

If you like what you see?…


I understand what Brian Clark is saying here: Do shit. See what happens. If the results are good, repeat. If the results are bad, try something else. It’s the most rudimentary form of the scientific method.

Clark says it with a little more grace and professionalism. He writes: “The difference between true failure and just another leg on the journey to success are steps two and three.

“Pay careful attention to what happens when you try, figure out why, and carry on with a smarter perspective.”

I do believe in outside influences and extenuating circumstances.

But I also support the notion that we are often our own worst enemy. That our biggest roadblock to success in our various endeavors is something seemingly harmless.


History’s greatest minds taught us what inertia is. Newton. Aristotle. Copernicus. Galileo. Einstein.

But their focus was on the physical, observable world around us.

I believe inertia also affects us on a metaphysical level.

We get so comfortable with ourselves and our routines and our habits, that our fear and resistance to change overpowers the logical parts of our brains which tell us that change will improve things.

Two things tend to help you overcome inertia in your daily life.

1. Something awful happening.

2. Choosing yourself. Choosing to be the best version of you that you can possibly be.

Too often in my life, I’ve let something awful happening to me be the catalyst for positive change. Too often, I’ve had to learn lessons the hard way.

It’s the curse of procrastination. The consequence of self-doubt, fear and resistance to change.

And I’d like to do things the right way in this next chapter of my life. To choose myself. To do the right thing because it’s the right thing, then reap the many life rewards that come along with that.

A sharper mind. A harder body. A healthier soul.

It doesn’t take some cosmic or magical event to experience these things.

It just takes a little self-awareness.

And the courage to choose yourself.

To choose today to do one little thing differently. To do it better. To give just a little more.

To win. At everything.

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4 thoughts on “How to Succeed at Anything

  1. littlekeiko says:

    Nice post Matt and I agree… don’t let the opinion of other ever keep you from trying new things. Live to your fullest and try everything you have the opportunity to. Just wanted to add… has Mr Brian Clark ever watched the audition rounds of talent shows like American Idol or SYTYCD? His 3 steps do not guarantee success. Sure.. you might get a little better with practice, but you have to be realistic about your capabilities too.


    • Matt says:

      Thank you!

      Per Brian Clark, I don’t believe he was trying to promise success here. Simply providing the basic plan of attack for getting started, learning what works and what doesn’t, and moving forward from there.

      Life is one huge journey full of failure after failure after failure marked by brief moments of success.

      I spend most of my time writing about the failing part!

      There are no guarantees we won’t fall on our faces. The courageous always try, though. And when they fall again, they stand up, brush themselves off, and try harder, and try smarter.

      I don’t want to speak for Brian Clark. But what I think he’s telling me is How to Make a Cake; not necessarily How to Make a Gorgeous Award-Winning Cake that Everyone Wants to Eat.

      But if I make 50 cakes, each one should theoretically look and taste better than the last.


  2. Aspen'sProudMama says:

    Gee, thanks Matt. Now I want cake!

    Loved this post, as I do them all!

    Thanks for being here!


  3. Aspen'sProudMama says:

    Oh yeah, shh, don’t tell…I was looking at his penis, about died laughing when I got to the “and stop looking at his penis”. As I said, it’s been over 9 years, just making sure they looked like I remember. Don’t Judge Me! [She says with a big smile on her face! Knowing you never would!]


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