Two Essential Questions You Must Answer Before Accomplishing Anything

I was at the gym a few weeks ago when a young man approached me just after I had finished my squats. He explained that he was a beginner in the gym and asked about the best way to progress toward being able to lift an impressive amount of weight.

“Oh, that’s easy — just keep following your 5×5 program and…”

I stopped myself.

“Sorry, I misspoke. It’s simple, not easy. Just keep following your program consistently, push yourself, and good things will happen.”

I walked away from the interaction pondering what I had just said. My correction was only subtly different from my original statement, but I believe it advocated a completely different mindset. Humans are wired to take the path of least resistance, and there are few things worth accomplishing that are actually easy to do. There are clearly two are clearly two different spectrums to consider when evaluating the method of accomplishing a goal. The questions you will ask yourself are:

Is it easy or hard?

Is it simple or complicated?

Easy vs. Hard describes the distance to the goal. Something is easy if it is tangible, immediate, and low-effort. Things that are hard require sustained effort and go against our natural state of intertia. There are few “Easy” things to do that will set you apart from the average person, because if it were easy everyone would do it.

The other spectrum, Simple vs. Complicated, describes the complexity of the solution. I have found that my best accomplishments are borne out of habits that are relatively repeatable and easily communicated. Complicated things require more explanation, more nuance, and are easier to forget or ignore due to the many steps involved. When you are evaluating different paths to a goal, this is how you may see the combination of these factors out:

Easy and Simple

If your life is a bank account, the Easy-Simple situations are the withdrawals that, over the course of time, will leave you broke. It’s both simple and easy to get fast food — just head to the drive-thru and hand over your money, and you can be eating delicious poison within minutes. It’s easy and simple to play video games, or lurk on online dating sites from the comfort of your home. These solutions are accessible and require little dedication. The exception here is the direct solution to fixing a minor problem — supplementing zinc to fix a deficiency, for example. However, any large-scale change (rather than just a hack) that is marketed as Simple and Easy is likely fake.

Easy and Complicated

The wisdom to recognize these deceptive situations is of paramount importance. Easy-Complicated situations often contain a needless number of details, but promising quick and reliable results without putting in much work. In other words, this is the domain of marketing gurus. Pyramid schemes, goofy exercises, and workout supplements come to mind as things with mechanisms that are difficult to explain but supposedly require low amounts of effort to show results. The complexity of these solutions is often baked in to distract you from seeing the true hard (but simple) solution.

Hard and Complicated

Some things worth doing will fall into this category—achieving mastery, rather than competency, in an area is often Hard-Complicated. However, for the majority of life’s goals, a solution in this quadrant means you are not taking the most efficient path to your goal. Which brings us to…

Hard and Simple

These are the solutions you should search out for most of your problems. We live in a world where most goals have an established blueprint for success, and more often than not these steps are easily communicated in a few sentences. However, the implementation of the advice will require dedication, sweat, perseverance that few are willing to muster. Want to build muscle? Start a business? Improve your diet? Make more money? These things all have fairly simple steps, but require significant effort to execute over the long term. Key indicators for these methods is that they are sustainable and easy to summarize, but you must fight against your inner inertia to do them over the long term. They also tend to show small but incremental returns that help verify their worth

There are exceptions, but for most goals in your life, you will be best served by following the Hard and Simple methods of making progress.

Read Next: How To Get Everything You Want

26 thoughts on “Two Essential Questions You Must Answer Before Accomplishing Anything”

  1. This is a personal favorite topic of mine. Thanks for writing on ROK about it. Too often, the easy and the hard are confused with the simple and the complicated. These word choices actually influence the life choices of less inquiring people and I’m certain are a cause of no small amount of regret in later life for many people.
    For instance, a kid suggests to his father, who is non-academic, that he wants to go to space. The father, with his perception distorted by his own acceptance of non-accomplishment, says “Son, that’s too hard, do something realistic, like become a plumber.” Son trusts dad, so son accepts the perspective that learning science/math/etc is too hard, so he falls into the simple categories of careers (albeit some are difficult), and never pursues something he might have an aptitude in.
    I’ve seen this sort of thing happen in my own family. My dad wasn’t treated all that well by his father, and as a result my dad had almost no confidence in his scholastic abilities. Result? I’m the only child among 5 who felt they had any business going to college (STEM). The rest all work for retail or find odd-jobs where they can. I still have no doubt that any one of them could learn all the things I did, if they only spent the time, working a little bit each day as I did.

  2. For naturally clever people “complicated” can be gratifying in its own right. I believe getting good at or actually enjoying “hard” requires some growing up and developing the right philosophy. It’s anything but natural.

    1. In my experience, clever people stream-line and simplify – they break down complicated factors and take away the superfluous.

  3. I have found that a pint of beer on an empty stomach is a good way to test an idea. If you get the idea while having the beer, see if it’s a good idea later. If you had the idea before having the beer, see if it’s still a good idea after you had it. I have managed to avoid getting into some crappy time-wasting projects with this test.

    1. Ayn Rand, a notoriously cunty woman, wrote about strong powerful women who were dominated by stronger, more powerful men.

      1. She seemed to understand the red pill of male/female relationships, no matter how cunty she was in real life (and, frankly, she was). In fact she seemed to have a rather keen grasp of a lot of perils we’re just now waking up to. Say what you will about her, but she was observant and able to articulate her observations well.

      2. On the level of motivation and as an individual striving to be as independent from society as possible, rands works make for excellent motivation. Taken as a solution to all macro world problems or as a large philosophy I would not say so. I am rather fond of talebs small city states ideas instead

  4. Having goal in life is like hanging a carrot in front of your own nose. Culture makes sure she provides the whipping … regularly.
    Whatever goal you have put for yourself, once you reach it you will want to expand it further and further until you reach the edge of your incompetence and you fall off the cliff like a cannon ball. All goals eventually lead you to that cliff.
    Ultimately, it is the culture which set your goals. You only fool yourself these are your own goals. Can you live without a goal. Nope, as society will condemn you as loser.

    1. So we should have no goals in life? Should we just sit around and smoke weed and play video games all day? What pseudo-sophisticated bullshit.

      1. Take a moment to think about it. This sort of thing actually occured to me about five years ago when I realised how many of my ‘hobbies’ revolve around impressing women. Just stand still for a second and take the time to question your motivations and how ‘your’ ideas got in your head in the first place. Personally, I was amazed at the trivial and random circumstances which led me to take on time consuming activities.

  5. I personally enjoy easy-complicated paths, because I genuinely enjoy the gratification and applicable experience garnered from learning a new skill, process, etc., but I am incredibly impatient. Patience is a virtue I lack badly it seems, and a lot of the things I enjoy are complex but show progression quickly. This is a personal character fault I need to work on… and at almost 30 I feel like I should be further along in this aspect of my life than I am. I am piss poor at managing long term goals, such as body building, saving money, learning a language, etc. I tend to be absorbed by things that are more tangible and hands on like playing an instrument, fixing/building things, writing, drawing, recording music. I love to learn and progress, but I hate to wait; that’s why I am drawn to easy-complicated things. Something to work on…

  6. Great treatment on self-mastery. The frequent contributions on physical fitness aren’t bad, but that is only one sphere of exercising the will, which is essential for any kind of philosophical, intellectual development as well.
    Mass media and advertising promises instant gratification through consumption. You brothers inspire one to listen and develop one’s will in opposition to all that commercial seduction.
    However self-mastery is just one step in pursuing fulfillment. If we don’t swallow the empty goals pitched by the advertisers, how do we find a meaning or mission worth dedicating our living and struggling? If we reject Madison Avenue and Hollywood and all their empty promises, where else do we find something better. No offense to many of the pickup-artists among our brothers, but I hardly find banging contracepted sluts a satisfying mission. What else is there to choose.
    While the will to become physically fit, professionally successful and prosperous is an important (and potentially) beast. It can only carry us on a journey that we command.
    If the will is the beast of burden, we are the drivers that choose the destination.
    Do we have the heart, courage and wisdom to drive?

  7. Keeping it simple is a great way to save money too. Look around at an average American house and notice how much shit it has that you don’t need. The kitchen, for instance; 99% of your cooking needs can be handled with 2 pots, 1 frying pan, a spatula, a big spoon, and a good set of knives. There isn’t much I’ve found that justifies spending a lot of money on except mattresses, durable clothes, chainsaws, and good scotch.

    1. A major red pill moment was when I found that women were more attracted to me when I was living in a plywood box in the back of my truck then when I had a good white collar job while living in an apartment in a hip part of Seattle.

      1. This is your hamster rationalising….and it goes against everything that we think of women being hypergamic beings.
        Your logic should say:
        ….I found that women were more attracted to me when I was living in a plywood box in the back of my truck AND BEING RED PILL…
        ….then when I had a good white collar job while living in an apartment in a hip part of Seattle AND BEING BLUE PILL.
        Having a nice and expensive car just like having a nice and expensive apartment with nice and expensive furniture and nice and expensive clothes demonstrate higher value….which turns women on….being red pill is the rest of the formula.

  8. Added to my favorites list. I’ve been in this questioning state for some weeks now. Kudos

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