Greatness is Simple

December 18, 2023

I have a tendency to overcomplicate things.

All of my pursuits – whether mandated by work or guided by my own curiosity – are plagued with the same questions:

“Is this novel?”

“Is this enough?”

“If it’s that simple, why hasn’t everyone done it?”

I’ll sit in front of a screen and research, plan, and ideate, just trying to find some “magic bullet” that nobody else sees.

“But what if there’s more?”

“What if we combine these two ideas?”

“I can’t move forward until I completely understand.”

Meanwhile, my 2023 was similar to 2022 and 2021 and 2020… at least as far as my New Years Resolutions are concerned.

While I’ve grown in many ways, accomplished lots of cool things, and made even more mistakes, the annual goals are the same: pray consistently, lose weight, build muscle, learn skills, write more, etc.

Other people are doing these things. I feel like I’m pretty competent.

Why can they do them and I can’t? What do they know that I don’t?

I listened to a lot of Founders Podcast this year. David Senra has a way of telling the stories of great entrepreneurs in a way that keeps you hooked and gets you motivated better than anyone else. But the beauty of Founders Podcast isn’t any one story – it’s the through-lines that you see between each story that he covers. They all just worked hard for a long time.

Patrick O’Shaughnessy – the founder of Colossus, the podcast network that Founders is a part of – put out a series of tweets this year about finding your “life’s work.” He defines your life’s work as “A lifelong quest to build something for others that expresses who you are.”

_ “A lifelong quest.”_

David talks about this in his podcast too. The greats do the things they’re known for a long time. Once they find their life’s work, they do it forever.

Paul Graham wrote about this in “How To Do Great Work”: what is the thing that you find interesting enough that you can do for the rest of your life?

How do you find that thing? By doing lots of work until you find it.

I don’t know why, but all of this really clicked for me in the last couple of months. It’s simple advice – really simple advice.

They just do it.

All of the best advice is simple advice.

How do you get closer to Allah? Pray consistently.

How do you get better at writing? Write consistently.

How do you build a great company? Talk to customers and build consistently.

How do you get fit? Workout consistently.

I’ve written before about how my biggest vice is a lack of consistency. That’s actually a bigger problem than I realized.

Just showing up and doing the work – whatever the work is – is what makes you great. That’s the silver bullet. That’s the magic potion.

A great case study: look at all of the people who started creating content during COVID. The most popular podcasts, newsletters, channels, etc. today are the ones that didn’t stop after 2 months. That’s really it. They weren’t really better than everyone else. They just kept going , and they got better by putting in the reps.

This is true for everyone you consider great. Every single one of them. They were prolific. They just kept putting in the reps, whatever the reps were.

We shouldn’t build our lives around ideas or goals or visions of the future – we should build our lives around putting in the reps.

I have a tendency to overcomplicate things, so let’s not do that with this piece.

Here’s what I learned in 2023:

It’s simple.