Lifetime Motivation: How to Stay Focused Your Entire Life (Even After You’ve Attained Some Success)

Written by Charles Ngo
Written by Charles Ngo

One of the people that I admired the most in the world is Arnold.
You know you’ve made it when someone can just say your first name, and they know who you are.
Why do I admire Arnold? His life story almost sounds like it’s bullshit.
Check it out –  He became the greatest bodybuilder in the world in his 20’s.
Arnold could’ve easily chilled for the rest of his life promoting gym equipment and supplements. Instead of doing that, he set his sights to conquer another mountain – Hollywood.
Arnold had a lot going against him – a thick, foreign accent, limited acting skills, and he could’ve easily been typecasted.
He didn’t let his excuses hold him back. He turned his weaknesses into strengths by becoming an action star – in fact, one of the biggest box office stars of the ’90s.

So now Arnold’s rich beyond belief and famous world wide –  he has acting gigs lined up for the rest of his life.
He then decides to get into Politics and becomes the governor of California.

All this in one lifetime. It’s mind-boggling. Most people can’t even stick to their New Year’s resolutions for a few weeks.

I never had motivation issues when I was broke. I hated working my nine to five job, and I couldn’t bear the feeling of debt. Also at the age of 22, I had way more physical energy and much fewer responsibilities.
I always felt that motivation grew exponential. The more success that I’d achieved, the more I’d craved it like a drug. But actually, the opposite happened.
So, for the past few years, I’ve been wondering – how do some people stay so motivated long term?
I know people who became millionaires and legit won’t stop until they become billionaires. While I know other people who became successful but lost all their drive once they hit their initial goal.
What’s the difference?
I’ve read countless biographies, chatted about this with a ton of my more successful friends, and have tried different experiments on myself. Here are some things that I’ve discovered.

Do You Have a Mission BIGGER than Money?

I worked at a gas station for a few years while I was a student. Besides selling gas, I sold a ton of lottery tickets.
It was always fun to hear about what people would do with the money after they won.
There was always this underlying mentality that once they get “rich”, then all their problems would go away.
The ironic part is that more money equals more problems for winners. People start trying to fraud them and everyone’s suddenly their best friend.
What a nightmare.
A few years ago some research came out that there’s a point of diminishing returns for happiness at $75,000 a year.
After you make more than $75,000 a year, more money doesn’t necessarily make you happier.
I wrote a blog post several years ago that talked about what I called the “dark side of money.”
Most of us starting out have a goal of making a ton of money. We want to escape our jobs, pay off our debts, and increase our standard of living.
But after we achieve that…now what?
So if your goal is to simply make more money, it might be hard to stay motivated.

The difference in lifestyle between being broke and having $100k net worth is much larger than the difference in lifestyle between being worth $100k and $500k net worth.
This leads us to my next point.

What Do You REALLY Want?

What do you want out of life besides more money?
I don’t think people spend enough time thinking about this. If you don’t know what you want, then you’re driving around aimlessly without a destination.
The first thing to do is to strip away expectations – we’ve all been conditioned by so many people on what you should do.
Your parents, your loved ones, your friends, and society itself wants to tell you what you should focus on.
But what do YOU want?
One of the top 5 regrets of the dying is that people wished they lived a life true to themselves, and not one based on what others expect of them.
While you’re thinking about what you want, it’s tempting to limit yourself and be realistic.
Don’t place limitations on yourself.
Figure out what you want now. The execution and the game plan is for another time.
The thought of these goals should get you EXCITED.
I don’t usually like to share my goals, but I’ll share a few to give you some examples.

1. Exit a company
I’ve built two companies that have done well. However, they both rely completely on me. If I’m dead – the companies are dead.
To exit and sell a company means I’ve built something bigger than myself.
Learning about business is exciting, and there’s always more to learn.
I’m excited to start a new business one day that exposes me to new challenges: raising capital, building recurring income, thinking “valuation” rather than just income, building a brand that’s not personal, etc.
The root of this goal comes from my core value of “leveling up” and making progress.

2. Teach entrepreneurship and personal finances to impoverished communities for free.

78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.
It’s only going to get worse in the upcoming decades as automation starts wiping out more jobs.
It’s scary.
I don’t know what the solution is.
What I do know is that most people are severely undereducated when it comes to their personal finances. And I’ve always believed that more education can’t hurt.
I can see myself teaching a class somewhere on personal finances – maybe a local community center.
I’d love to help fill in the gaps where the schools failed.

3. I want to give opportunities to my future children

My parents provided me with more opportunity than they were ever able to have, and I’m grateful to them for that.
I want to provide my children with more opportunity than I had growing up. My parents worked two jobs each, so I didn’t get to participate in that many school related activities.

There wasn’t enough money in the budget, and who was going to drive me everywhere?
So I want to make sure that I can provide every opportunity possible for my future bambinos to grow.
I haven’t really thought too much about what this means yet. It could mean private schools, traveling, summer camps, after school programs, tutoring, etc.
But regardless, all that takes time and money. And it’s also important to provide stability.
That means working hard so that a future recession won’t rock us.
That means investing time into my relationship so we’re more likely to remain married.
I become more motivated when I think about having kids one day. I’m pretty happy with my life now – thinking about them gives me a reason to hustle harder.
Anyways, these are some of my goals. Come up with your goals and ask yourself why? What’s so meaningful about these goals to you?
For me, one thing most of my goals have in common is creation.
This “thing” didn’t exist before. But your brain and abilities created it.
Bonus Points: Listen to this podcast and do the exercise.

Fall in Love with the Process

Most parents teach their kids that they’re not allowed to watch TV, go outside, or play video games until their homework is done.
If there’s something unpleasant to do, you can make the habit more effective by tying in a reward at the end.
Don’t want to work out? Make a deal with yourself that you get a smoothie.
The problem with this approach is that it reinforces that practice is an unpleasant chore. What if the practice in itself is the actual reward?
I’ve been meditating daily for over a decade – the reward is the feeling I get after meditation.
I’ve been working out consistently for over 15 years at this point.
There’s no reward system for me other than loving the feeling of accomplishment that I get.
When I read about great athletes, it’s typical to hear about how they want to win championships and make history.
What you don’t typically hear is how much they love to practice.
Kobe loved shooting in the gym. Tiger loved practicing on the golf course. That was their way of having fun. Getting better was their reward.
So instead of thinking about chasing the next reward, what if the work itself is the reward?
Fall in love with doing marketing split tests. Fall in love with analyzing the data.
I know what you’re thinking…that’s impossible. Work is work.
Well not quite. Have you ever had some parts of your work that you were excited for? You felt flow?
That leads me to my next point.

Figure Out What You’re Genetically Encoded to Do

You’ve learned the term “strength” before. There are certain tasks that you’re great at.
Jim Collins has a term that he calls genetically encoded.
Read this.
For example, I’m pretty good at building my own personal brand.
But deep down it’s not something that excites me. I’m sure you can think of a few guys that love making YouTube videos and speaking on stage.
So, I’ve stopped speaking and making YouTube videos. Instead, I’m spending more time on the things that I feel I’m genetically encoded to do.
This article you’re reading right now? This bitch took me five hours to write. I don’t need to write it – I could easily skip an article this week. But I wrote it because I genuinely felt excited about the topic.
There could be a dude out there feeling completely burned out, so maybe this article will give them the kick in the ass that they need.
I get excited doing planning and strategy. I get excited analyzing campaign data. I get excited thinking of marketing strategies.
If I spend all my time working on what I’m genetically encoded to do, I could work for the rest of my life and not want to retire.
If you’re having motivation problems, it could mean that you’re spending too much time on shit that you don’t like doing.
How long could I last if all I did was submit ads all day and answer customer service emails?
If you’re spending too much time on the shit that you hate then you should outsource it to someone, or start thinking about changing your strategy and/or business model.
One of my mentors told me something a long time ago that has stuck with me.
He said that every major decision in his life focuses on happiness.
Most entrepreneurs focus on what makes the most money.
It’s a mistake because sometimes what makes the most money isn’t the best for you in the long run.

If you’re not focusing on doing what makes you happy, then what’s the point of all this?

Think Big and Keep Raising the Stakes

I read Grant Cardone’s book 10x several years ago.
I remember one section in the book where he mentioned his biggest regret in life is not thinking bigger.
When I think about the best athletes in the world, they all think HUGE.
Lebron’s bar wasn’t set at being the best basketball player – it was to be the best in history.
Tiger woods set a goal at the age of three years old to beat Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major wins.
Where do you think they would be if they were “realistic.” Would they have been as successful if their goal was simply to make millions as a professional athlete? 
Once you conquer one mountain, start looking for the next one to climb.

Are You Exhausting Your Motivation Muscle?

Burnout is real.
In China they have a phrase called 9 – 9 – 6. It means you should work from 9am to 9pm, every day, six days a week.
Go on social media and it seems that every entrepreneur says shit like vacations are for the weak, and I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
It’s a dangerous mindset.
Some of these dudes look miserable and out of shape. I don’t want to live like that.
If motivation is a muscle, then it’s possible to overuse them. The solution is rest.
I have a simple system that keeps me from burning out:

  1. I set boundaries on when I work. I work from 8am every day to around 6pm. Laptops and phones are off after 6pm
  2. I don’t usually work on the weekends
  3. I take the holidays off
  4. I take a quarterly “re-charge” trip

Before each quarter starts, I take a long weekend off to myself.

My quarterly trip is coming up soon. I’m taking a two hour drive and renting a lakeside cabin.
I’ll leave the laptop at home. I’ll bring a physical notebook and my Kindle.
I do a lot of thinking and reflecting.
I let my brain decompress.

Have you ever seen Formula 1 car racing?
The cars don’t just keep driving over and over. They take pit stops.
Think of these breaks as pit stops to refuel yourself.

Spend More Time Around Killers

I stopped talking to a friend several years ago.
I had the realization one day that this person isn’t great to be around. He was constantly pessimistic and overall just a toxic person.
I’m a better person because I don’t talk to them anymore.
Then I have other friends in my life. I feel amazing every time I talk to them. I love spending time with them, and I love hearing about what they’re doing in life.
The more successful they become, the more motivated I feel.
Look at your circle. Look at the five closest people that you spend the most time with.
So, what happens if you don’t have any friends that are successful or want to be successful?
You could be from a small town, or maybe your culture doesn’t encourage entrepreneurship.
In that case I have two recommendations:

Anything you can learn online – Books, podcasts, YouTube videos. There are some people that I’ve been following for years.
They have no idea who the heck I am, but I consider them a friend.
Maybe I’m that person for you.
Go to in-person events, e.g. conferences, workshops, seminars, masterminds, etc.
Every time I leave an event I always end up motivated.

Foster Your Competitive Side

I’ve noticed that there’s a negative connotation when it comes to being “competitive.”
“Hey Little Timmy, here’s a participation trophy for coming to the game!”
Being seen as “competitive” seems to be more of an insult than a compliment.
One thing I’ve noticed is the most successful people are also the most competitive.
It’s a tight rope to balance.
You want to be competitive and use that energy to fuel you, but at the same time you don’t want to come off as a dick to others.
First, you should focus on competing against yourself. I’m always setting up challenges for myself.
For the longest time, I meditated for only 10 minutes a day. This year I upped it to 20 minutes a day.
I challenged and beat myself.
Second, don’t make excuses whenever you lose.
I rolled with a guy the other day in Jiujitsu that tapped me out. I was pissed. He’s only been training for six months, while I’ve been training for 3.5 years.
He outweighed me by 50lbs and out-muscled me.
I caught myself thinking, “If we were the same weight, I would’ve fucked him up.”
But that’s not a healthy mindset. I’m making excuses that are going to hold me back.
Instead, I told myself that I need to train more and sharpen my technique. I used that negative energy and channeled it into going to an extra class that week.
Finally, consider entering competitions.
Something that I regret about high school is that I didn’t compete much at anything. Not in sports or in academics.
The value of competition is that it makes you want to be better.
I enter Brazilian Jiujitsu competitions twice a year.
I haven’t done that well to be honest, but those competitions act as “key stones” in my life.
I’m more disciplined because of these competitions.
Are there downsides to drinking soda and eating fast food? Sure.
But a lot of these effects are more long term so it doesn’t seem as bad.

Being a competitor forces me to be on my A game.
I don’t want to be getting my ass kicked in a competition and be thinking “ah man, I shouldn’t have eaten all those cheeseburgers.”
What hobbies are you into that you can compete in?
Salsa dancing? BBQ competitions? Beating your own marathon time?
Sign up to compete in something – it’ll awaken a new level of discipline in you.

Are You Healthy?

Your health can affect your levels of motivation.
My friend was an absolute killer in his 20’s. I’ve never seen anyone hustle so hard before. He was never “off.”
Once he entered his 30’s, he started having massive motivation issues. He couldn’t figure it out.
He started wondering if it was a physical problem rather than a mental one. He went to the doctor to run some tests.
It came out that he had low testosterone. This is something that affects a lot of men entering their 30’s.
Anyways, he went on Testosterone Replacement Therapy (and got kinda jacked).

His motivation levels came back.
Sometimes the solution to your motivation levels isn’t to watch more YouTube videos.
Something could be affecting you physically.
Get regular check ups with your doctor and blood tests.
Make sure your exercise, sleep, and diet are on point.

Is Something Else Sucking Up Your Competitive Energy?

We all have bad habits – some of these bad habits can have a negative effect on the rest of your life.
One vice in my life is video games.
I can’t play games like DOTA 2, League of Legends, Starcraft, or Tekken 7. I’m too competitive for my own good. I hate sucking at things.
And it’s hard for me to accept that as a 34 year old man with responsibilities, I can’t be as good as some of the teenagers these days.
Video games hijack your reward system. You play for a certain amount of time and you “level up” guaranteed.
Real life doesn’t work that way, and the results don’t come as fast.
When I play competitive video games – there’s not much competitive energy left for the other areas of my life.
I still love video games – but these days I try to limit them to single player games like Sekiro.
So, think about what vices you have in your life: social media, dating, drugs, gambling, etc.
Everything’s ok in moderation, right?
I don’t know about that – that’s not true if you have an addictive personality. I prefer complete avoidance.
That’s why I don’t do drugs, I don’t gamble, and I don’t do social media. Moderation requires too much energy – I’d rather just avoid certain behaviors that aren’t great for me.

Set Road Maps

It can be tough to stick to goals if it feels like they’re so far away.
I want to run a marathon one day.
The thought of it scares me because I suck at running.
You can reach the goal easier if you design a roadmap with milestones. A simple example is:
1 month
Go to the running store and buy running shoes. Sign up for a 5k run.
3 months
Run a 5k
6 Months
Run a 10k
1 year
Run a Half Marathon
3 Years
Run a full marathon

When you hit a milestone it feels like an achievement. This feeling lets you know that you’re on the right path.

Nothing Will Matter In the End

I’m not sure what happens after we pass away. I hope there’s a heaven. I hope there’s reincarnation.
But for the most part – I think that literally, nothing happens after we’re dead. Our bodies go back into the universe and that’s it.
So, I think a lot about life when I’m 80. What really matters to me?

  • Being surrounded by loved ones constantly
  • I learned a lot about life
  • I passed on what I learned to others so that they can suffer less
  • I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone
  • I had no regrets
  • I’m independent – I took care of my retirement so I’m not a burden to anyone when I’m older

At the same time, a lot of the things that we worry about now – won’t matter.

Oh shit someone doesn’t like me or said something mean.
Dude when I’m 80 years old I won’t have any idea who this person is.
It’s always been tough to balance being motivated versus being content with where you’re at.
It feels like they’re polar opposites.
It’s a crime to not strive to reach your full potential – there’s so much talent inside of you.
To not aim higher is to rob the world of your gifts.  
I recommend reading Total Recall by Arnold and Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict.
Featured Image by April909

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                The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

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