In today’s episode, I talk about the power of full commitment. It started with a tweet by Paul Graham, who’s had a huge impact in my life during my time at Y Combinator:
I met a guy who spent several years jumping dirt bikes. I asked him, as I often do when I meet people with unusual skills, what was the key to doing it well. His answer: “Committing.”Paul Graham
The tldr is: Choose very deliberately what you fully commit too, and then maximize whatever you’re fully committed to, and minimize all the rest in your life.
[00:00:00] I read this Paul Graham tweet. I thought it was really dope. And there’s something beautiful about it. There’s that one, the central idea of that tweet is very, very powerful. So I’ll read you the tweet. I met a guy who spent several years jumping dirt bikes, asked him as I often do when I meet people with unusual skills.
What was the key to doing it? Well, his answer committing right? let’s just say anything that’s dangerous. If you needed to do that and do that really well. The key to success is you have to go all in. You have to be fully committed when you do the thing.
There’s no holding back. When you do these crazy a mountain bike loops in the air or skateboarding tricks that are crazy. you have to fully commit you. Can’t just do it 40% and hold a lot back. You’ll die that way in some situations, but the central idea expands to anything in life.
I think a big reason why many things that we do don’t work is because we’re not fully committed [00:01:00] when we’re doing them. We’re not committing fully to them. We’re always holding back a little bit. We’re always doing it, but we’re not doing it as if we mean it fully with no hesitation, no holding back, expecting success, giving it our all.
Going all in on it. In that moment, that’s a tough thing to do a big ask for a human being because we are all survival machines, right? We all built our brains at least are designed around the idea of making us survive for as much as possible survival. Part of the game of survival is to not go all in on everything that you do, or most things are not no things to always hold back to have a second option too.
Reign it in. So when it’s not going to work, you didn’t lose too much. Right? Yeah. And it’s amazing when you see someone going all in.
Yeah, it is a magical thing. We love it. There’s magic when somebody is completely immersed and [00:02:00] fully committed in an act, a decision, something we there’s instant magic. We can tell this humans that there’s something special happening here. And it doesn’t mean that just because you fully committed, you are going to succeed.
Otherwise this shit would be easy. We’d all do it a couple of times and realize, wait a second. If I do it this way, it always will work. Of course, nothing in life will always work. But fully will not always lead to the outcomes you want, but not committing fully will almost always lead not to the outcome.
You want it, right? The heart of the thing you’re attempting or the more risky it is. The more commitment is a necessary ingredient for success. But it’s not just success. I don’t even want to just talk about the outcome. The thing that I love about committing as well as that, it can create these moments of pure magic and success is that it is simple and [00:03:00] clean and clear in.
So no matter what the outcome is afterwards, it does not leave any doubt. If it worked. It worked because I did it well, if it didn’t work, it’s not because I didn’t fully commit. It’s not because I could have given more. And that, that’s an, it’s a very powerful thing. I don’t think we, as humans truly can understand and internalize how important it is to do something in a way where afterwards we’re not going to be eaten up by self doubt and self analysis to try to figure out why it didn’t work out.
And have a million available options of here, the 300 different things that could have been the reason why it didn’t work. It’s beautiful when we do things in a way where we’re taking certain options off the table. So if it doesn’t work, the answers are simpler. And your feeling about yourself, your relationship with [00:04:00] yourself.
Yourself, love yourself, respect. You, you do your sleep the way you’re going to sleep that night after you failed is going to be a million times better because you can look into the mirror and say I gave it my all I fully committed. I didn’t hold back nothing. And it didn’t work. I committed. I gave it my all, it sucks that it didn’t work, but I know I did everything I could.
I’m okay. I’m okay with myself. I can live with that. People can live with that. I think we can maybe because it’s already that we do it, but when we go all in and we feel we can live with that, there’s a clean feeling about this. This type of failure has even a sense of pride, it’s that we’re constantly hedging on everything we do that.
We always think I’ll do it, but I want to leave options open because if it doesn’t work, what I [00:05:00] don’t want to, I don’t want to be hurt more. I don’t want to be more disappointed. I want to have good, a good rationale or reasoning for why it didn’t work. I wa I, I wanna, have some energy left because I didn’t go fully all in.
I wanna w whatever it is like with all these, these reasons that make us do things in a half-assed way. If you think about it, 90% of existence is like half assed. It was sort of half ass, most of our life, right? We’re participating. We’re like shoveled with the masses, into participating in life in many different forms.
And we’re just sorta, they’re sort of engaging a little bit going along with it, but committing that requires a different level of presence. You’re not just going along for the ride of life when you’re fully committed to something you have to stop while the masses keep flowing and, look at what you’re aiming at and decide that you’re gonna [00:06:00] surrender yourself to this.
You’re going to give yourself fully to this goal fully to this idea of fully to this decision. No matter what will happen, Committing fully is a full acceptance of the worst possible outcome. And we’re not committing it’s because we’re not ready to fully accept all potential consequences.
We’re seeing, I want to do this, but I’m not ready to break my leg. Jumping this dirt bike, I’m not ready to get hurt. And so I’m going to do it, but I’m going to do it a little slower. I’m going to do it. And if I see the first sign that Sancho, while I’m going to jump off the bike to save myself, I’m going to have all these plan BS.
I’m going to leave all these, going to build all these bridges around me. So if this path isn’t working, I can run away in all directions. Versus burning off the bridge behind me. So it’s we’re either going to fucking fight this battle and win, or we’re dying here, but there’s nobody that’s burning the ships or whatever the fuck it is.
There’s [00:07:00] nobody going back to the ships, right? There’s nobody. There’s no plan B there’s no, if this doesn’t work, there’s no other thing we’re doing it didn’t work. It’s the end of it. That means fully embracing. The worst potential outcomes accepting them. It’s not what you want, but you’re okay with it.
You’re saying, yes, I’m ready to accept those outcomes. And when we’re not committing, because we’re saying I’m not ready to like, I want the positive outcome, but I’m not willing to accept the worst possible scenario. And that unwillingness to accept the worst is hin hindrance towards the best it’s stopping us from executing at a full potential executing with the level of flow and zone and focus and energy we need, and that we have, whether it’s life or death, when it’s do or die, when it’s, this is your chance. Magic happens, women, humans, when they’re under that level of pressure. But to get there, you have to [00:08:00] fully commit all in let’s go and.
We don’t like that. And so most of us participate in life. Sometimes we’ll give it a bit of a better effort than other times, but most of the time we’re not fully committed and we haven’t given it our all. And that to me is a much larger reason. Why some people are very unsatisfied about life, no matter what is happening, then the actual outcomes that we’ve lived.
If I’ve lived a life of never being fully committed, no matter what my life looks like, good or bad, the person I’m looking into the mirror always knows the person. Looking back at me from the mirror, always knows who I truly am and how I truly live my life. And how much I hold back from life and from the things that I, that I do.
And there’s no substitute for that. Like you can’t, [00:09:00] you cannot buy self-respect. You cannot purchase that. You cannot win the lottery and then have self-respect you cannot go and get plastic surgery. And now when you look in the mirror, you have self-respect, you cannot. You cannot do anything you cannot create purchase or hack your way to.
There’s no shortcut to self-respect the way to have self-respect is to know that you’ve lived a life where you’ve kept your words and where it mattered and what mattered most to you. You went all in you fully committed. You gave your all, and you gave your best. No worries. Is that more true than for people that are risking their lives?
If you do something like the, the free solo, right? When you, have you ever watched free soul, by the way, Yeah, what an amazing, who hasn’t watched it by now, but when you and I, for a while, there was probably like a four month period where I watched like all the, all the documentaries about like climbing and free climbing and all kinds of stuff.
I was super super into that when you [00:10:00] watch, people do these extreme sports, like climb without any kind of safety without any, any rope. Thousands of meters off the earth where every movement could be the fall into your sudden. Yeah.
When you’re that person, there to do this as well as it needs to be done, you cannot be hesitating. You cannot be guessing. You cannot have doubt. You just have to be in the zone. And by the time, like I remember. Alex said, humbled, that’s his name, Alex. So when you, we, when they interview Alex about, about this whole thing and not just him, I noticed this with many climbers, they always go, they always see something along the lines.
So oftentimes they’ll refer it to something. Once you start climbing within the first minutes you have now, now you’re fully committed. There’s there’s no way back, you’re, you’re on the climb once you’ve done the first couple of movements now you’re in it, right? There’s no, there’s no space or room [00:11:00] for doubt, for second guessing for maybe I should start Oh, there’s not even any, any real room in most cases for quitting.
The moment you start your ascent, you’re in it to win it. You you’ll go all the way you’re fully committed. And yeah, when you see these kinds of extreme sports, we all recognize intrinsically that these people cannot, you cannot do some crazy motorcycle. Jump up in the air. Seven loops, crazy stunt.
And while you’re doing it, be like, ah, I’m not sure the say the third loop is good. Maybe I should have improved. We all understand that if somebody had that kind of an inner dialogue or I’m going to do the 17 loop attempt, but at the 12 loop, if I don’t feel good, I’ll, I’ll just abort at that point.
We all understand that, that if that is going on in your mind, you are dying. You’re going to die. This is not going to work. This is most likely going to end in tragedy. [00:12:00] But at the end of the day, these extreme sports or extreme stunts, what are they? Aren’t they just a compressed metaphor for life, like watching free solo, watching Alex Honnold go up that mountain.
Isn’t that just a metaphor for like, isn’t that just a beautiful metaphor for humanity, like edits best, but also the kind of challenges. The kind of courage, the kind of preparation, the kind of heart that it takes to get to the point to commit fully and attempt such an act, right? It’s just a con it’s a compression, it’s a more extreme moment of what it means to be alive and what it means to be a human.
And so there’s a lot of wisdom in it. the thing you need to do to succeed at the 17 loop dirt bike jump is the exact same thing that it needs for you to live a great life in general. It’s just not as extreme, not as compressed, [00:13:00] but the same wisdom applies. So what does all this leap towards?
Well, first for me, This tweet led to writing down what are the things right now in my life that I’m actually fully committed to? And what are the things that I’m engaged with that are participate in, but I’m not fully committed. And does it make sense? Does it make sense to like, what are the areas of life where it makes sense for you to participate and what are the areas in life where it makes sense for you to commit to go all in?
That was an important question for me to ask. I haven’t asked myself this question in a while and there’s always surprise if you asked yourself. These types of questions. Honestly, at least I find this for myself. When I asked myself these questions, honestly, there’s always a surprise waiting for me while I write down the answers.
There’s always at [00:14:00] least one thing that when I look at the paper, it looks back at me and I am surprised by it. I’m like, Oh, I didn’t realize this thing until I started writing the answers. So. Checking in on life, like hitting, hitting the pause button once in awhile and asking, am I really committed in the areas of my life that I need to be all in and fully committed?
And if not, what does it take for me to surrender fully, to go all in, to really commit? And what are the areas where I’m. Just sort of participating it doesn’t, it doesn’t make sense. Some areas in life. It does make sense, but some areas maybe instead of just participating, just going through the motions, just being part of it, but not fully in it.
Maybe it’s better to strike them off your life. Just make some room for some real shit. It’s an important question. Am I really committed in life? What am I truly committed to? Write down the question. See if there’s an answer that surprises you.