I was 16 when I got my first job. I had somehow managed to get myself a place on the Football Association of Ireland’s professional soccer academy. For the next three years I got paid to play football and loved every second of it. It was also during this time that I realised it was possible to wake up on a Monday morning and genuinely feel excited about the week ahead. I remember those days fondly as Brilliant Mondays. My time at the soccer academy was a period of enormous personal growth. Each day I was pushing through old limitations in the pursuit of one-day playing football for Ireland. I also shared an amazing connection with my teammates, as we were all working hard towards the same goals and dreams. It was a truly flourishing time. I was the happiest and healthiest I have ever been. My self-esteem was sky high, and everything else in my life was falling into place. I thought things would stay like this forever…
But just two and a half years into my dream, at age 18, I broke my leg. I broke it badly. So bad in fact, that my dream of becoming a professional footballer came to a screeching halt. And I had to head out into the big bad world and get a ‘real job’. In the years that followed, I held numerous jobs. Not necessarily bad ones. I actually had some great employers. But the positions were never very fulfilling. They never really challenged me nor could I see a route forward that would inspire me enough to dig deep and reveal any of my potential. I was merely going through the motions. My time at the soccer academy had given me a glimpse into just how much I could grow if I had an inspiring enough dream to chase. But, as it stood, I spent most of my days watching the clock and praying for 5pm to arrive — hoping Friday would hurry up so I could get drunk and briefly lift myself out of the monotony of my daily existence. I knew I could never be truly satisfied living like this
because I had tasted ‘the good life’. I knew Brilliant Mondays existed – and to live any other way seemed like madness! Oliver Holmes once wrote, ‘A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its original dimensions’. Brilliant Mondays were something I could never unlearn, and I knew I had to do whatever it took to find my way back to them…
Three experiences inspired me to write this book…
‘You become the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with’ — Jim Rohn
The first time I read that quote I was 15 years old and it had an epiphany-like effect on me. It made complete and obvious sense, and I was amazed I had never before realised how much of an influence the people around us have on our beliefs, behaviours, and results. At that time however, in my young eyes, this was merely an interesting observation. I assumed that if I happened to be in the company of five average achievers, then I too was condemned to being an average achiever. The notion of removing myself from a particular group of people and strategically aligning myself with a group of more successful people, with the goal of becoming successful myself — that idea would not enter my head for many years to follow…
The moment I learned about the 80/20 Rule (Pareto’s Principle).
Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who in 1906 calculated that 80% of the wealth in Italy was owned by roughly 20% of the population. This large division of wealth still rings true all over the world. And though it mightn’t always be exactly 80/20, this figure is generally a
good guesstimate as to how wide the gap is. But, it was really the terms that Pareto used to divide these two groups of people that really made an impact on me. The top 20% of population, who controlled most of the power and wealth, were known as The Vital Few, while the bottom 80%, were called The Trivial Many. After reading those words: The Vital Few, I began to notice that within any given field there always seems to be a smaller group of people (a vital few) who stride ahead, while a larger group (a trivial many) lag and stay behind.
Remembering Jim Rohn’s words that ‘You become the average of the five people you spend the most time with’ — I thought to myself, ‘The Vital Few…these are the people I should be identifying and surrounding myself with. These are the people whose example will encourage and empower me to chase big dreams once again’.
‘I remember I went to Juventus where all the big stars were, I saw the way they were behaving, training, how professional they were, how they were eating. You study all the small details and start to do the same. Then you become one of them’ —Zlatan Ibrahimovic
A story Brian Tracy tells in his excellent book, Eat That Frog.
Mr. Tracy spent the first eight years of his working life as a labourer, travelling around the world doing whatever jobs he could find to make ends meet. But it was his first job as a salesman that changed everything. Initially, Brian struggled from sale-to-sale. His results were below par, and he became disillusioned. That was until one day, while looking at some figures, he noticed that roughly 20% of the
people in his company were making 80% of the sales. Intrigued by this, Brian began to ask those successful salespeople what they were doing to get such great results. And they told him! Slowly, he began to adopt their habits and copy their behaviours. And not long after – he started hitting the same or even better numbers. He did so well in fact, he was quickly promoted to management where he employed the same strategy –he asked the successful managers what they were doing, and again they told him. He implemented their habits and practices, and the rest is history. Brian says: ‘Use proven success methods, learn from the experts, you’ll never live long enough to learn it all for yourself’. After reading the first chapter of Eat That Frog I thought to myself ‘imagine if I could make contact with lots of people who were living the kind of life I wanted to live, and ask them how they were achieving their success’...
You’re either growing or you’re dying
Human beings are designed to flourish. We are designed to seek both growth and continuous improvement. It is this basic need to grow that has enabled us to evolve from the cavemen era to where we are today. Growth feels fantastic. Stagnation however, which is where a lot of us spend our lives, is not a fun place to be. At times it can even feel suffocating. Don’t let others convince you to stay in a stagnant situation. Growth, progress, success, and extraordinary achievements are not vain pursuits. We are wired to strive towards them. And we should set up our lives to have regular victories, big or small. Progress equals happiness. Each and every one of us holds unique qualities and treasures that only we possess and only we can bring to the world. This human need to grow is a mechanism designed to encourage us to reveal these unique qualities.
Interestingly, when I reflect on my time playing football, I didn’t actually need to achieve my vision in order to experience Brilliant Mondays. I never did get to play for Ireland, yet my life was completely fulfilling because I had an exciting vision that I was moving towards, and the growth I experienced through the pursuit of this vision was amazing. It is important to note that this growth also gave me a very valuable insight into how far I could push myself if the conditions were ‘just right’. My larger theory is this: Regardless of the area a person is excelling in, the principles they are applying can be used to grow and excel in any other area. For this book, I have interviewed more than 60 people from a wide variety of fields and backgrounds to try and gather evidence to support my theory. I have asked each of them the same questions in order to identify the common denominators they share and the guiding principles they follow. Some of these people are rich, some of them are not. Some of them are famous, some of them are not. But regardless, they are all ordinary people, just like us, ordinary people who have achieved something extra-ordinary. They are all living in an engaged and inspired way. They are all experiencing Brilliant Mondays. Over the course of this book I will introduce you to 12 of the interviewees and highlight the valuable lessons that their stories have revealed, and show how we can apply these lessons to our own lives. This book is not a scientific study. But I am searching for evidence and inspiration. Proof that if they can do it – we can too.
Before we dive into this book, let me share with you one of the most interesting trends I noticed amongst the people I interviewed. Essentially, it was the presence of an early achievement that served as a catalyst for them to go on and do bigger and better things. I call this a ‘Breakthrough Goal’. An achievement which, in the eyes of the world, was probably very small, but to my interviewees was huge – it was big enough to change the way they looked at themselves and it gave them the confidence to ask the question ‘What else have I been telling myself I couldn’t do that maybe in fact I can’?
Let’s take a hypothetical case: John really wants to run a marathon. It’s something he has always dreamt of. He also has a much bigger ambition. He’d love to go to college and get a degree. Unfortunately, in his own mind, John can’t see himself being the type of person who can get himself to train regularly for a marathon. As for college, ‘His sister is the one in the family with brains’ he tells himself. He just doesn’t think he has it in him. And even if he did manage to get into college, he’s sure he would probably fail and embarrass himself in the end. These are the types of stories John tells himself anytime a glimmer of ambition crosses his mind. But in truth, that’s all they are…stories! Now, if John were to sign up for a marathon and surround himself with people who are training for the same goal, if he pushed himself on the days when he didn’t feel like training, and overcame his selfdoubt, if he pushed through all those obstacles and finished that marathon. He would come to have an enlightening realisation. It would be his own ‘Breakthrough Goal’ and he would forever be changed. John would see that there are many different sides to him. And, by digging deep, it’s possible to achieve great things.
Thus, this breakthrough experience would have the potential to give John the confidence not to just sign up for college, but to finish his degree and so forth. A spark. A catalyst. As you read about these ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I hope that their stories will inspire you, in your own way, to do likewise one day. However, such things take bold actions that can only be mustered by those who have earned real self-belief through setting and achieving smaller goals. One step at a time. Success leads to more success.
If you do decide to set a ‘Breakthrough Goal’, which I highly recommend you to do. It should be challenging enough to stretch you, yet feasible enough to achieve within a few months. Each of the following chapters will contain a task that will encourage you to actively and strategically begin to set and achieve some goals. Each task has been placed in a specific order, so I recommend you read the book as it is laid out. Before reading on, take a few moments to ponder what ‘Breakthrough Goal’ would act as a catalyst for you to go on to bigger and better things.