Win the daily battle

I’d just arrived home from a festival. The house was empty. I decided to join them.

My parents were house sitting for some family, and one of the books I packed for the trip was Napoleon Hill’s The Law of Success in Sixteen Lessons. For some reason I had bought this, rather than the more obvious and recognised Think and Grow Rich. Hill’s book is the culmination of his time spent interviewing and researching one hundred people for twenty years.

He talks about developing the Master Mind, saving, self-confidence, initiative, over-delivering, self-control, not being an asshole, failure, tolerance, and of course, the golden rule.

Revisiting the book, I realise I didn’t take notes on it, so I can’t find the most succulent passages and quotes. I read it before I started to deface books with marginalia.

One thing I do remember. I created an A4 piece of paper, with each of the sixteen lessons briefly summarised. At the top I wrote in capitals:


How glad I am to have learned this early in my life.

In Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire there is the advice to make habit your champion. If you can win every day, advance every day towards your goal, your grand strategy, or as Hill put it, towards your definite chief aim, you’ll eventually get it. Showing up every day is one of the best habits to acquire at a young age.

But when trying to win every day, you quickly realise something. You can’t. Events conspire to thwart you. They form a circle around you, laugh in your face and pelt you with stones. Somedays the best you can do is to not lose, to minimise the damage.

I recently attended a workshop with Dan John. He wrote this on the whiteboard.

– = +

Less equals more.

A fairly universal statement. It instantly reminded me of Nassim Taleb’s via negativa approach, which favours acts of omission before acts of commission. An obvious example; stop smoking before you start to go to the gym. It also brought to mind the daily battle.

If you are going to fight, to strive for daily progress, there are three possible outcomes. First, you win. You advance your position. Second, you manage to do just enough. You satisfy your minimum requirements for the day. Third, you lose. You get nothing done. You lose momentum. You end in a worse position than you started.

– = +

The important thing to remember, as Pressfield observes in Turning Pro, is that you have to show up every day. You won’t always win. You will lose. Sometimes you’ll draw. Occasionally, you’ll beat everything you attempt into submission. These are good days. Savour them. But as long as, over the course of a week, a month, a year, you advance more than you yield, you’ll be okay.

Two of James Altucher’s lessons from interviewing a ton of interesting people:

“A life is measured in decades.”

“A life is measured by what you did TODAY, even this moment.”

Show up every single day, for decades. Fight. Do something every day to forward your progress. End the day better than you started. Advance more than you yield.

Win the daily battle, and you might just win the war of life.