June 10, 2011 — 24 Comments

You know that feeling you get when you haven’t been to the gym in a few days? A bit doughy. Irritable. Claustrophobic. Uncertain.

That is how people who don’t fulfill their potential feel on a daily basis. Only the cause and effect is obscured. It’s sublimated beneath general anxieties about money, about their status, about bullshit office politics and ego. They mask it in depression or other manifestations of pain—back injuries, carpal tunnel, that bad knee that is always acting up. But deep down it’s stress from the cage, the position the human animal isn’t built to know how to tolerate.

And so they try to find a cure without knowing the disease. Buying themselves things, going out, fucking, careers, vacations, divorces and new loves. The cycle is so vicious precisely because these things don’t have any affect. The person only feels worse about themselves, like it’s their fault the medicine doesn’t seem to take.

The solution is simple and doesn’t really need to be said. To keep with the metaphor though, it’s only possible when you realize the reason you feel like shit is because you gorged yourself the day before and haven’t exercised. Then you know that all you have to do is get off your ass and go work out.

Ryan Holiday

I’m a strategist for bestselling authors and billion dollar brands like American Apparel, Tucker Max and Robert Greene. My work has been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube and Google and has been written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company.

24 responses to Potential

  1. Among your best Ryan. Thanks man.

  2. When are you writing a book? I’d like to read something long form from you, putting all of these thoughts together.

  3. yes, the grand illusion to keep us preoccupied and numb.

  4. Though I may disagree that this is among your best – A False Sense is among others I would pick – I think you have done it. I read the following tonight, and I thought of this blog. Two sentences are starred because they really stuck out to me.

    “A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within… Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. *In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty*…
    There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion… *The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.*”

    Well you have done it, haven’t you Ryan Holiday?
    Now it’s my turn.

  5. Very good.

    Have you ever read steven pressfield’s “the war on art”? It’s pretty similar, at least in the point it’s trying to make.

  6. How do you personally go about choosing which potentials to fulfill?

    • How do you go about choosing your goals for the gym?

      • I think it’s kind of a cumulative thing. A little bit better than where you left off before.

        • In the gym, you can shift goals. In life, you’re looked upon negatively if you don’t commit to hyper-specialization over time. This is what scares me. In order to achieve a potential, you have to sacrifice others. Every incremental gain has incremental cost. In fitness this is “the law of specificity”. In life this is a reality that is weighing very heavily on me. I know you get farther by accepting harsh realities, but I don’t know how to integrate this one properly.

          • Nathan, I relate to your feeling about avoiding specialization but I think the assumptions are wrong. In fitness, for example, endurance athletes will have their own level of understanding because they are competing in the same field, while a conversation with a weight lifter will combine mutual respect with some lack of understanding. But people who are great in their areas generally want to be around those who are great in other fields, rather than those who are mediocre in the same field; this second one is more common.

            If you commit to a skillset, others will place you in that pigeonhole before you’re even good at it, and this can be frustrating. But I think you’ll find most exceptional people will be less interested in your speciality, and more interested in whether you are any good at it. If they bring up your specialty in conversation, its not to place you in a box but to make you feel more comfortable in conversation.

            I think Derek Sivers expresses this well: http://sivers.org/donkey


  7. I’ve been reading this blog for a while now, and this is, by far, my favorite post. I see this from other people, and God help me, I’ve acted this way myself. Great post.

  8. Well that about sums my life up.

  9. The more of your site I read, the better it gets. Straightforward, hard hitting articles. I wish I could write like this.

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