Are You Truly 'All In'?

Are You Truly 'All In'?

When you feel as if you're working hard and growth is stagnating, it might be worth asking yourself whether you're truly giving it your all, or just going through the motions.That's what she said! There, I got that out of the way. Even as the author of this article that's intended to be completely serious, I struggled not to put that in the title. The sentiment in question is instead about effort levels. Two books posited this question to me in different ways, and the answer both times for me came out as "no". Let's go back to the beginning and see if your answer would have come out the same as mine.

My regular readers will know, I consume a lot of business books. It started as me forcing myself to do so on the basis that the top CEOs and entrepreneurs read multiple books per month and so I decided it must have value to me too. It then became a habit where I felt an obligation to read a certain amount. Now I've entered some unexpected third stage where it has become a game; I feel as if I'm "leveling up" with every book I absorb. Some books contain vast amounts of useful information, some contain just a little, but a coincidence lead me to two different books asking me a similar question to the title of this article, consecutively. 

I am going to write a full article on business books I recommend for photographers, but for now, I'll focus on just two. The first was "The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure" by Grant Cardone and the second was "Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence and How You Can, Too" by Gary Vaynerchuk. Honestly, I was severely put off both of these books by the authors. They have a lot of similarities: they're extroverted, larger than life, fierce alpha male types. I consider myself to be their antithesis, personality wise. In fact, I felt strongly that I disliked Vaynerchuk after watching a few minutes of a lecture he gave. I chalked him up as a cliche salesman and the people in my network who shared him, were often similar. But after deciding that I can't hold any opinion on someone I know so little about, I bought his latest book to escape my potential echo chamber. I dove in to both his and Cardone's books, and I'm glad I did, not only for the butterfly effect it started, but also to correct my ill-informed opinions of Vaynerchuk.

The two books that caused me to step back, reassess, and then charge back in.

Cardone's "rule" is, in essence, to work 10x harder than anyone else. Which feels very much like the world's most obvious suggestion. However, layered in between his words in that booming deep Southern accent, was a dormant sentiment that wasn't activated for me until I read Vaynerchuk's book. For him, "crushing it" is pushing out in all directions and attempting to be everywhere anyone looks, and thus ubiquitous in whatever sector you strive to dominate. And domination is the right word; both authors want you to achieve complete domination at whatever it is you're trying. These two books, when combined, raised a question that on the face of it, sounds exactly the same, but for me there's nuance. "Am I truly all in?" That is, am I leaving anything I have left to give, on the table?

The answer was yes. I've always worked hard at my career, sometimes accruing ridiculous hours worked per week, but a wave of realization came as the result of Cardone and Vaynerchuk's words. There is working hard, there is working smart, and then there is going all in (crushing it, or employing the 10x rule). Sometimes I was working hard just so I felt as if I was working hard, but I wasn't focused on the direction, methods, and results outside of the obvious financial indicators. But moreover, I wasn't pushing myself.

It was the last notion that stuck like a thorn in the paw. I wasn't pushing myself. Pushing yourself isn't just about working hard, it's about working hard in ways you're not even sure you can do. So I took all of my goals and to-do lists, and started ramping up the targets. Then I set my eyes on writing. I love writing, I call myself a writer, I've written lots, but I'm leaving so much on the table. So I looked at how many original articles I publish per month, and it was between 1 and 4. I then looked at the record number of original articles published by one author on Fstoppers in one month, and it was between 7 and 10. So I resolved to write one per day for the entire of February and obliterate the record and my past efforts.

As any writer of any website (including their own blog) will tell you, original ideas are hard to come up with. When I aimed for 4 per month, I struggled. But one thing I learned from Rob Moore's book Money, is that if you aim far past your easy targets, you unlock some hidden depths. So I sat down and wrote 40 concepts for original articles for February. Then, every day, I would try to write an article not on the list. I ended February having written 29 original articles, and I have 26 still left on my list. Every morning I was getting up and writing an article from scratch with an ease that was genuinely surprising to me, and still is. I was struggling to think of 4 per month, then I resolved to go all in, and suddenly I'm writing 29.

What started as an experiment to push myself at something I love and create genuine value for others through it, ended up becoming a habit that I am intent on maintaining for as long as humanly possible. This experiment has not been limited to my writing either. I have been looking at my most effective areas, and seeing how I can push myself in ways I wasn't, and it has been yielding great results. Many of the ways it has benefited me are too early to really call anything other than a coincidental uptick until I have more months of consistency. One thing I'm sure of is that I cannot be worse off, and I wasn't pushing myself hard enough.

So my question to you is, "are you all in?"

Lead image by Pete Johnson from Pexels

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Rob Mitchell's picture

I think there is too much emphasis on working too hard.
Maybe it's because I don't live in a society where success isn't measured in wealth. Chill, relax, don't force yourself to do anything.

And btw, the opening image of the dive, sea isn't horizontal. Pet Peeve. A little more focus on Doing, rather than Reading about doing wouldn't go amis. ;)

Work smarter, not harder.

Steven Magner's picture

I agree with your first statement. I often tell my wife who works in an office environment that the people looking like they are so busy and going nowhere with their careers are playing catch up. They get in the way of themselves and don’t think about the bigger picture.

No. It typical American culture to work long hours and have short holidays. As an Englishman you should be able to distinguish that.
Liife is a day to day thing, and family, friendships and sosial living adds most to having a good life.
Work can add to. It can give meaning and purpose. But pushing yourself to work for to people is a misconception if you want a good life. It will create a void in you soul over time.

Boris Schipper's picture

Reading the other comments I notice I think differently.
I am intrigued and interested in seeing what is the maximum I can squeeze out of my artistic mind and career and I very much relate to the feeling ‘I’m working all I can’ but am I really?!
So for me it was an interesting article that triggered me, thanks Robert

"For him, "crushing it" is pushing out in all directions and attempting to be everywhere anyone looks, and thus ubiquitous in whatever sector you strive to dominate."
In other words, spreading yourself thinly in all directions, tooting your own horn, being "current". If this is what "all in" means then count me out. There is a difference between hard work and busywork.

You don't have it quite right about what Gary Vee's saying. He says to go all in *with your strengths* and drop efforts at other things. So yes, that might mean working harder than you are now, but it also means freeing up time by dropping the things you are currently wasting time on. And that's basic advice that most success books gives: focus on one thing, and master and dominate at that. Then maybe use that dominance to branch out.

I stand corrected .. however, "attempting to be everywhere anyone looks" still seems like a path to exhaustion, not a path to art, not a path to mastery. To me if feels like dissipation. Most great art is nurtured in silence, over years, then brought forth when it is finished and ready to present. Attempting to be everywhere anyone looks .. hmmm...