Apathy before finding your fit

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Finding your best personal fit in different areas of life is probably the most important thing to do if you want to prosper and be happy. When you find something that you know is right for you, you get motivated, you’re willing to accept all challenges, your outlook becomes positive, and so on. You know you’ve put the ladder against the right wall and you’re ready to start climbing.

I’ve seen people working in companies where they fit in and where they don’t. The difference in their level of happiness, productivity, motivation etc. is like day and night. I’ve seen people struggle with a sport just because it was supposed to help them lose weight the fastest, and people who were doing sports they are talented for and really like. The first ones gave up very soon, the second ones made real lifestyle changes. I’ve seen people who settled for the first partner they dated as well as people who made up their minds about what kind of a partner they want and then started searching until they found someone close to that. The probability of long-term happiness is much higher for the latter. That’s why finding your personal fit is so important.

Same goes for all other areas of your life. The prerequisite for being successful in life, no matter in which area, is finding your own fit. Values (what you find important) are those that determine whether you fit with something or not. When you find the right fit, passion awakens in you. You find yourself in something. You know that you can be successful in this. You see potential. It makes you happy.

Few people are so lucky in life that they just find the right fit by chance, without going through a long and hard process. Even rarer are people who understand that they’re persisting at something that isn’t their fit, and that’s one of the main reasons why they’re miserable and unhappy. Unfortunately, the fake feeling of security and clinging to certainty usually prevail over going on an adventure to find a better fit. People lock themselves in a safe to feel safe. But who was ever happy and successful while locked in a safe?

Process versus event

The fact that people usually prefer to stay miserable in a company, a relationship etc. than to find a better fit for themselves shows that the process of finding a new better fit is not that easy. It takes a lot of courage, a really good strategy, knowing yourself, being prepared to learn from failure and much more. It forces you to stand up again and again after life knocks you down.

Finding the perfect fit is the first important milestone towards a final event, an outcome you want. But a process always comes before every event that you want to achieve in life. Just remember the saying that the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. Most events that people achieve (getting rich, marrying the right person, working for an awesome company…) are usually the result of a carefully orchestrated process. It’s easier to see an event as luck for other people, but in most cases it’s not.

Getting rich is an event. Working hard on developing your business idea, finding the product/market fit, building a dream team, raising funds and then solidly executing for years is a process that leads to that final event; if you do it smartly enough.

The process is painful and takes time. Most people aren’t willing to invest into the process, because it just takes too much will, stamina and hard work. But if you settle for the average, if you take what life hands you on a platter, you usually get an average life; and average is not good. Average isn’t even close to good and even less close to great.

Process versus fit

As we’ve figured out, the process of coming to an event, the final outcome you desire, isn’t that easy. If you want to get rich, there’s so much to learn, you have to be really good with money, you won’t get rich only by having a job (except for rare occupations), and so on. If you want to get really fit, you have to invest an enormous amount of your time and energy into diet and exercise. Before every great outcome, there is a long and vigorous process.

The process of getting to your desired event (final outcome) has two phases (and more sub-phases but more about that in another post):

  • The first phase is before you find your fit (search mode)
  • The second phase is after you find your fit (execution mode)

The search mode is the hardest. After finding your fit, things get a little easier. You still have a long way to go, but you feel a little bit safer. Managing execution and growth isn’t easy, but things get much less painful emotionally and psychologically. It’s simply because you know that you’re fighting for the right thing. You’re motivated to fight. You see the first results and every early win motivates you to do more.

It’s much easier to go through all the daily challenges and tasks if you love the company you work for or own. It’s much easier to fight for a relationship if you know that you really fit well together with the person. It’s much easier to keep on working on your weight loss schedule, if you see changes on your body and feel much better, while doing sports and eating things you love at the same time.

The process before you find your fit is the really painful part of it. We can call it the apathy before finding your fit. You try new things, they don’t work. You think you’ve found something good, and in the next step, you realize you haven’t. This starting phase really is best described with the quote that success is going from failure to failure without giving up.

The process before you find your fit really sucks. It sucks even more because at the beginning, you’re a newbie and your character and skills aren’t that good. You’re a beginner and you have to face the toughest challenges. For example, you’ve just gathered the courage to start dating, but your dating skills suck, so you get rejected again and again. But it’s the necessary part. It’s the life test of whether you really want something and whether you’re prepared to fight for it. It’s the part of the process where you learn and develop the most.

Before you find your fit, a part of the process enables you to learn a lot about yourself and the world; if you do it systematically and scientifically. “At least I’ve learned something new” can often be an excuse for failure, but validated learning is pure gold. If you get to know yourself better, if you better understand what you really want in life, the limitations the world has for you etc., they will all enable you to perform better in the long term. First, you have to understand.

Time perspective

The worse that your starting position is, the more time it’ll take to find your fit. The worse your starting position is, the longer the apathy will probably last. Just to clarify, the worse position simply means that you don’t yet know yourself and what you really want, but even more so a lack of resources (inner and outer), an absence of leverages (market trends, social capital etc.) and being in an environment that doesn’t support your goals (going against the flow).

Nevertheless, let’s look at some averages that most people need to get through the process and achieve the final event in different areas of life:

  • In the start-up world, it usually takes one to three years to find the product/market fit (search mode) and then around five to seven years to build a stable company (execution mode). In total, up to ten years.
  • In business life, it usually takes changing three to five companies (search mode) to find the right one and then around three to six years (execution mode) to achieve the career plateau. When reaching the plateau, it’s time to do some changes, of course. Before even really starting out in business, it usually takes trying three to five different positions to find one thing you’re really good at.
  • In personal life, it usually takes dating seven to ten people to find one to really commit to. After a few months of dating, you know each other well enough to know how well you fit together (the search mode ends). If you decide to stay together, decades of different execution phases wait for you (decorating home, having kids, raising kids, retiring…). You may find out that you don’t fit together anymore, especially between different execution phases, and you’ll have to go back into the search mode. Not fitting together simply means that there is no more real love or that you don’t function well together in everyday life.
  • It usually takes testing three to four different diets to figure out what works best for your body. For every diet, you need between three and six months to see how you feel and how your body is responding. It usually takes trying from five to seven different sports to find the one that fits you best. In the execution phase, you need the discipline to stick to the optimal diet and the best-fitted sport. You can see the first results in around four to six months (losing weight, feeling better etc.), but to become really fit, for example fit enough to be on a magazine cover, it takes around two to five years of exercising five times per week and counting calories daily. It’s not easy.
  • On average, we need around one to two years to learn how the monetary system works and to really understand different saving and investment opportunities, assuming we read about it for a few hours per week. We have to be prepared to lose around $10,000 on different products before figuring out our investment strategy and investment opportunities that best fit our character.
  • It takes around two to three years to develop a new skill. If you want to learn how to program, how to lead people, speak a new language or any other skill, it will take you a few years of focus to develop an average level. But if you really want to master something and be amongst the best in the world, it’ll take you around 10,000 hours (eight to ten years).

As you can see, it usually takes years of searching and then years of execution to achieve the desired outcome. It’s not easy, but once you do it, you open a whole new possibility for living a really quality life and achieving your maximum potential.

Surviving apathy

Surviving apathy is no easy job, especially if your starting point sucks. There aren’t many people who can do it and don’t give up too fast. That’s why we have so few people who can pose for a magazine cover, so few people who own successful businesses, so few rich people and so few people who are happily married. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Some people are lucky and born in families with many resources (inner, outer), some people are lucky and find their fit very naturally, for example by winning the lottery, but for most of us, life wants us to fight. The fair part of today’s world is that if you want it badly enough, you have the chance to fight and really achieve it. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. That’s also how you develop your character, that’s how you grow, that’s how you really deserve what you have.

Since it’s not that easy to do it, you have to be smart about it. You need an environment that’ll help you achieve your goals and keep you disciplined. So let’s look at some techniques to help you survive the apathy before finding your fit, without giving up.

Don’t be naïve

First of all, you shouldn’t be naïve. You have to be aware that it’ll probably take a few years of searching and a few years of execution to achieve your big final outcome. There are no shortcuts. Don’t be soft and naïve. Manage your expectations. Master the rules of life.

Long-term view

You have to see all the rewards that will come in the long term. You have to see all the inner resources you’ll acquire (skills, psychological capital etc.) as well as the outer resources (renown, wealth…), and you will deserve both based on your own work. It’s what’s worth living for. The harder road will become easy.

Validated learning

In the search mode, you have to reflect and write down what you’ve learned about yourself and your environment. You have to see your progress when systematically and scientifically learning about yourself and the world. You haven’t failed, you’ve just found one way that doesn’t work for you.

Supporting environment

Have visual aids for your desired outcome (pictures, wallpapers…). Have people around you who understand and support you. Build your personal mastermind group. Cut off all people who drag you down. Talk with other people who are going through the same process and support each other. Read biographies.

See it as an adventure

You do only live once. You want to experience as many things as possible. You don’t want to do anything really stupid, but you also don’t want to live a boring life. By searching for new things, you should feel a little bit like an explorer on an adventure. And never forget: with time, the harder road becomes easy and the easier road becomes hard.

About the author

Consulting and management coaching

Blaž Kos has managed venture capital investments over the past 12 years and participated in the development of the start-up ecosystem in the region. Today, he advises companies on growth strategies, process optimization, the introduction of lean agile methods and the digitalization of business. In addition to the Slovenian blog, he also writes an English blog, which was selected among the 50 best bloggers in the world in the category of personal and business growth.
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