Structure is the Key to Success

Written by Charles Ngo
Written by Charles Ngo

In 2008, a plumber decided to quit his job and train in mixed martial arts full-time. He was going to pursue his dreams of becoming a UFC champion.
Over the next few years, he trained hard and battled his way through the local circuits.
Win after win finally led to him getting his UFC title shot in 2015. If he could win this match, he’d become a champion.
Standing in his way was Jose Aldo.
Jose is known as the greatest featherweight in UFC history, and he hadn’t lost a fight in over ten years.
The former plumber knocked Jose out in 13 seconds.
His name?
Conor McGregor.
Conor was sitting on top of the world.
In a few short years, he went from living on welfare to commanding 8-figures a fight. His divisive personality and strong charisma made him a must-see Pay-Per-View attraction.
But he wasn’t satisfied.
He was champion of the 145-pound division and wanted to move up to capture the 155-pound belt. No one in the history of the UFC held two belts simultaneously.
Unfortunately, his opponent pulled out of the fight a week before the fight due to an injury.
No one wanted to fight Conor on a one-week notice except for one person: Nate Diaz.
No one expected Nate to win. Nate was the #10 ranked lightweight contender, and Conor had just knocked out the undisputed pound-for pound-king.
Conor started the fight with a barrage of punches, seeking the quick knockout. Nate took all the punches.
Over the next few rounds, Conor visibly gassed out. Eventually, Nate shocked the world by choking Conor out.
Embarrassed, Conor became obsessed with getting a rematch and avenging his loss.
No one thought Conor could win.

  • Nate was too big.
  • Nate had too much cardio.
  • Nate had his number.

But several months later, they had a rematch and Conor won.
After the fight, people wanted to know what he did differently to prepare.

  • Did he find a new weakness in Nate Diaz?
  • Did he bring in new training partners?
  • Did he learn a new training method to give him more cardio?

It was none of these things.
Conor’s secret was a concept called structure.

The Key to Success Is Structure

A few months ago, I was skimming Netflix and came across a documentary on Conor called Notorious.
I’ve been an MMA fan for over 15 years. I remember staying up late to watch Wanderlei Silva, Shogun, Fedor, and Crocop fights from Japan.
In all my years of watching MMA, I’ve never seen anyone rise to the top or become a bigger star than Conor.
I watched the documentary and there was one line that stuck with me for days.

“Structure is the Key to Success”

You can watch it here: (

Here’s Conor in his own words:
It’s structure, and I feel that the key to success is structure. The key to the billions is structure.
If I look at any truly successful individual, I see structure.
Everything is kept in a specific place. They wake up at a certain time, eat at a certain time, train at a certain time, and handle their business at a certain time.

Structure is the key.

It keeps you focused. Anytime you’re struggling, you go back to the structure and everything falls back into place.

Here’s how I interpret it.
Life is chaotic. It’s unpredictable. Things will constantly stray you away from your goals if you’re not careful.
It’s kinda like being in the middle of the ocean during a storm. Structures are the systems that you put into place to keep you anchored. They can be in the form of habits, routines, and environmental changes. You can use the concept of structure in your personal and business life.

Inevitability Thinking

A few years ago I learned a concept from Eben Pagan called Inevitability Thinking. He says:

Inevitability Thinking is thinking and acting as if what you are doing is a forgone conclusion because you set up the conditions for it to happen.

Anyone can set goals.
But how can you set up conditions so that you can’t fail? How can you make it so that it’s IMPOSSIBLE to fail?
A simple framework you can use is:

  1. Determine the most efficient structure/system to achieve your goal.
  2. Create conditions so that you’ll actually follow your structure/system.

Here’s an example from my own life.
I wanted to be in the best shape of my life when I moved to Miami. I didn’t want to go to South Beach looking flabby.
And I was getting to a point in my life where everything was becoming overwhelming. I had too much going on. It was hard to achieve my physical fitness goal while also balancing work, travel, and a social life.
So I started thinking about how I could make my success “inevitable”.

1. Determine the most efficient structure/system to achieve your goal.

A. I needed a strength training program based on barbells.

B. I needed to hit my allotted daily calorie amount.

Determining the structure was easy. But how could I set up the conditions to make it happen?
After all, everyone sets New Year’s resolutions with good intentions, but most people don’t accomplish their goal.

2. Create conditions so that you’ll actually follow your structure/system.

A. I hired a personal trainer to work out with me 3 times a week. There was built in accountability because I had social pressure from him to show up. If I don’t show up, he doesn’t get paid. And when I was at the gym, I couldn’t be lazy.

B. Diet is important but meal prepping was becoming a huge hassle for me. I couldn’t keep up with the groceries, cooking, cleaning, etc. So, I found a meal prep delivery company that delivered three meals to me every morning.

Working with a trainer 3 times per week and having all my meals pre-made for me made my success inevitable.
I got into the best shape of my life.
Everyone relies so much on willpower and motivation, but they’re not always there for you. Your willpower is a muscle that decreases with use.
Some interesting applications I’ve seen of inevitability thinking:

One of my friends stopped having business success. He had moved to a new country and fell into a life of constantly dating, doing drugs, and partying. He needed a change. He moved back home to live with his parents and got his business back on track.

I wasn’t consistent with my Brazilian Jiujitsu training in Miami. It took me 45 minutes to get there because of traffic, and sometimes I just didn’t want to make the commute. When I moved to NYC, I picked my school, and moved next door. I’ve trained 5x a week since I moved here.

Jesse Itzler is a successful entrepreneur. He’s one of the owners of the Hawks, and he sold a private jet company to Warren Buffett. He was having discipline problems, so in order to improve his structure, he hired a Navy Seal to move in with him for 31 days.

When Conor lost the fight, he realized that he lacked structure. So what did he do?

  • Rented a mansion in Las Vegas to set up his camp.
  • Brought in the best people possible.
  • Started training at night. Why? Because the fights are always at night. He trains his body to get used to the adrenaline at 12am.

Adding Structure to Your Work

Work can be chaotic.
You have everything perfectly planned for the next day. You wake up to a barrage of emails. Something unexpected happened. A competitor
A few ways I’ve added structure to my work.
1. Quarterly OKR’s
This is the company goal setting system used by companies such as Google and Amazon.

It sets goals at a COMPANY WIDE level, and employees or teams can take over mini goals. There are also ways to score if you achieved the goals or not.
Read: Measure What Matters
2. What’s the Wildly Important Goal?
What’s the one thing? What’s the lead domino?
No matter what situation you’re in, there’s always ONE thing you can do that would make all the difference.
And it’s important to think about the actions that lead to what you want. Obviously, every business wants more revenue. But that goal by itself doesn’t do anything. What’s the ONE thing you need to focus on to generate more revenue?
The answer’s not that obvious. It could be launching more campaigns, hiring media buyers, networking more, etc.
3. Predictable Meetings

Most companies have too many meetings, or meetings that are inefficient. I like the structure of having predictable meetings with agendas.
This includes daily huddles, weekly meetings, strategic meetings, 1 on 1’s, monthly meets, quarterly meetings. Make them predictable, keep them short, and have an agenda.

Discipline Equals Freedom

One of my favorite quotes is “Discipline equals freedom” by Jocko Willink.
I remember one of my friends commenting that my life was too “rigid” when he saw my calendar. (I have every hour of each day scheduled ahead of time.) He said he couldn’t live with so many routines and rules. He felt like they would restrict his freedom.
I can see his perspective because I used to think like that. There was no way in hell I thought I would voluntarily wake up at 5 am every day.
But what I’ve realized is that structure is the most effective way for me to get results.
I can take the entire next week off if I want to. If he wants to take a week off, he has to ask his boss. I’d argue I have more freedom.
Featured image by Imagesetc

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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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