The Pull Principle: How To Succeed By Accident
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with motivational advice. But thanks to Facebook, Instagram & Co., I’ve got completely tired of it.
To give you a taste, here are some of my least favorites:
- Work hard, play hard
- Life is a grind
- Just keep going
- You can sleep when you’re dead
Masochism at its finest.
Since I’ve been young, my teachers, parents, and family-friends have bombarded me with the same old message:
“Push forward, whatever comes in your way.“
Generally, I’m a big fan of hard work. Checking off items on my todo-list feels amazing.
But I’m getting tired of pursuing goal after goal, and it’s delusional to be productive every single day.
I also think it’s safe to say that humanity as a whole is suffering from the idea of limitless and unhealthy growth — our bodies, minds, economy, and most certainly our global environment.
Hustle Culture Is Toxic
If you’re an enthusiastic supporter of the “push-forward”-lifestyle, you should be aware of potential risks.
Mental health: It is certainly no coincidence that psychological illnesses like depression and burnout are increasing at an alarming rate. Especially in rapidly growing markets like China, people seem to trade their mental health for economic wealth.
Imbalanced life: If you’re rushing towards your goals, you tend to lose clarity and overview. Think of an entrepreneur who wants to change the world, but neglects his family and health along the way. How will money and success benefit him?
Opportunity costs: If you’re living a fast life, you’ll do careless mistakes because of your relentless speed. You won’t look left and right and hence miss out on better opportunities along the way. Always pay attention to opportunity costs. Think of a teenager who desperately wants to succeed as a musician but his personality is actually much better suited for being a singing coach.
What’s Your Hunting Style?
So what if there’s an easier, more efficient, and playful way to fulfill your dreams?
To answer this question, may I introduce you to my friend Tom. Tom is an experienced hunter. When he’s hunting animals, he’s using two kinds of strategies:
Push-Strategy: If Tom is really hungry, he goes into the forest, looks for animals, and shoots them with his shotgun. He doesn’t have time to lose. He’s hungry and wants to eat. Now.
Pull-Strategy: If Tom is well-fed and has some time to spare, he catches animals by using baits and laying traps. Once they’re installed, he checks every few days if his traps have been successful. There’s no need to hustle in the wild because he has automated his hunting activities.
If you like my friend Tom, you’re going to love my friend Sam. He’s a marketer. When it comes to selling products, he promotes products with two kinds of strategies:
Push-Strategy: When Sam has no time to waste, he literally pushes products directly onto his customers. He tries to make them buy as quickly as possible with short-term actions like buying ads, doing commercials, and cold calls. He makes sure he’s all over the place to get directly in front of the customers’ faces.
Pull-Strategy: Instead of walking up to customers, Sam goes the opposite way and creates an environment that attracts customers. He improves brand awareness, establishes channels for inbound marketing, and relies on word of mouth referrals. Basically, he’s laying traps to succeed at marketing.
To make one thing clear: neither method is better than the other. Push- and pull-strategies have their justification to exist. However, when it comes to lifestyle design, it’s crucial to understand the difference. Used in the wrong way, their effectiveness will be destroyed.
The Problem With Most Peoples’ Lives
A push-strategy is perfectly suited to achieve short-term goals like going for a run, delivering a presentation, or having an important phone call. In all of these cases, it’s a matter of just doing it. Pure goal-oriented action.
However, if you want to achieve long-term goals, the push-strategy will burn you out. Pushes are like small sprints — but sprinting all the time is exhausting. It’s almost impossible to run blindly towards your goals because you will get hit by an obstacle eventually.
Most people can resonate with push-strategies. They’ve done it a thousand times in their lives. But when it comes to pulling success, most of them are clueless. However, if you want to become a master of high-leverage action, you need to include pull-strategies in your life.
The 4 Pillars of Pull-Strategies
The pull-strategy can be summarized in one sentence:
Instead of pushing relentlessly towards your goals, take a step back, and create an environment that attracts your desired success — effortlessly.
In my opinion, pull strategies should focus on these 4 concepts:
1. Systems Thinking
“Business and human endeavors are systems…we tend to focus on snapshots of isolated parts of the system. And wonder why our deepest problems never get solved.” — Peter Senge
Everything in life is a system: your filing system, finances, health, job, even your family.
So if you want to improve your life, you need to improve the systems that run your life. This can be achieved by using better tools, redesigning processes, or changing the environment itself.
I have, for instance, created a simple system to improve my daily writing routine.
But let’s take anything, your housecleaning for example:
How long does your cleaning routine take? Can it be improved by using better cleaning tools? Or by reordering your cleaning steps? Which steps are unnecessary?
Ask these kinds of questions in every aspect of your life, and you’ll be amazed at how much time, energy, and money you’ll save.
“Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting.” — Ivan Misner
If you want to live a pull-based lifestyle, you need to harness the power of networks.
Social networks provide massive opportunities for personal growth, new ideas, valuable know-how, and exciting win-win situations.
A quick example: let’s say you want to build a business, but you’re a bad marketer. Why should you do everything by yourself? Why not teaming up with another person who complements your strengths and weaknesses?
“Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.” — Robin Sharma
To make a home run, you need to try a lot of things. There’s no way around it. But try to take your chances in the most efficient way possible.
If you’ve never heard of the term “Lean Startup”, google it up. It basically says that any new idea is based on unverified assumptions that have to be validated with small experiments.
So let’s say you want to write a book; don’t make the mistake to write the whole book in one go. Instead, write the table of contents first, and then show it to customers. If they like it, write the first chapter, and show it to customers again. If they don’t like it, ask them why. If they like it, keep repeating until you’ve finished the book.
4. Know & Work on Yourself
“When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate.” — C. G. Jung
As you’ve probably noticed, the pull-strategy requires a solid degree of patience and wisdom. It takes time and thinking to create systems, networks, and experiments.
That’s certainly not easy in our dopamine-addicted society, where instant gratification is commonplace.
To set yourself apart, you need to practice self-reflection. Do whatever suits you best to take a break from the hectic world around you— meditation techniques, extended walks in nature, praying, or practicing the philosophy of stoicism.
Pulling Success in Daily Life
Now that we know the 4 pillars of pull-based strategies, let’s apply them to real-world scenarios:
Goal 1: Losing Weight
Push-Strategy: With your perfect bikini body in mind, you register to a gym nearby to workout 4 times a week. It’s hard, but you keep fighting until you reach your bikini figure. At the end of summer, however, your motivation declines, and you’ll eventually experience a YoYo-effect. You have to start all over again.
Pull-Strategy: You realize that losing weight is a long-term commitment. So before you start working out, you create an optimal environment that increases your chances of success. This includes an individual training plan, a nutrition schedule (1. Systems thinking) as well as joining a mastermind group (2. Networks). Besides that, you choose a type of sport which is fun and makes you stick around (4. Knowing yourself).
Goal 2: Finding A Romantic Partner
Push-Strategy: Your mindset is simple — the more people you meet, the better. You go to parties, socialize at work, and do Tinder. After endless dates, rejections, and emotional up&downs, you’ll find a potential partner.
Pull-Strategy: You focus on living a balanced life, which includes your social life, work, fitness, and recreational activities. Now, you start brainstorming new social activities you’d like to try out. Based on these findings, you identify locations in your city where you can pursue these interests — for example, the museum or a sports club (3. Experiments). At these places, connecting with like-minded people becomes effortless (4. Networks). After several months, you’ll meet your future partner.
Next time you set goals for yourself, don’t rush it. Take a step back, cut out the motivational advice, and ask yourself:
- How can I create repeatable systems to save time, money, and energy?
- Does my social network provide enough ideas, opportunities, and win-win situations? If not, how can I improve it?
- Am I losing myself in new ideas, projects, and goals? Or am I testing new things in my life with smart experiments?
- Am I working regularly on my patience and wisdom? Do I have a good relaxation-method to take a break from the chaos of the world?
Once you’ll apply pull-strategies in your life, things will start falling together like a domino chain reaction. You’ll be pulled toward success — effortlessly. To strangers, your success may seem like luck. But you‘ll know it better — you’ve increased the chance of magic by designing the right environment.
Build systems. Leverage networks. Do experiments. Work on yourself. And succeed by accident.