Never Try To Achieve Your Goals Alone (There Is a “Who” for Every “How”)
Whatever your limitations, there is someone out there who can help you move beyond them. The best way to solve a problem is to find someone who already knows how to solve it, and instead of asking, “How can I solve this problem for myself?” a better question is to ask, “Who can I get to help me solve this?”
Asking the former is just asking for burnout, frustration, and inferior results. Because the truth is that there are people out there who are experts at doing the things you either hate to do, are bad at, or both, and they are more than willing to help you achieve your goals.
The reality is that we can’t do it all on our own — it takes a cohesive, well-led team to achieve massive results, and we’re killing ourselves by trying to do everything without any help.
The right person already knows how to solve your problem, so they can get to work immediately. As the authors of Who Not How explain, freeing up your time is one of the first steps towards increased financial freedom, and if you want to experience the full power of teamwork you’re going to have to relinquish at least some control over how things get done. Find your Who, so they can get to work on the How.
Even if the ideas in this book only helped you free up 5 hours per week, extended over a period of a 40-year working career you’d be saving more than 10,000 hours! Imagine what you could do with all that “new” time! This is a very simple book, but the possibilities it will set off in your head are worth your time to read it.
I do recommend reading the whole thing if at all possible, but if you really just want the key ideas, I’m going to give them to you right here. We’re going to be talking about how you are rewarded in life not for the hours you put in, but for the results you produce; we’re also going to be talking about some of the keys to leading high-functioning teams, how to use money to solve most of your problems, how to increase your vision and think bigger, and much more.
It’s a mindset shift more than anything — retraining your brain to see potential and opportunities for collaboration and ease, rather than slugging through your daily tasks thinking you have to do everything yourself. You are limited in what you can do alone, but together, there’s almost nothing we can’t do.
10 ideas to help you go faster and farther, together
#1: “You are rewarded in life by the results you produce, not the effort and time you put in.”
The hero isn’t the person who stayed at the office until everyone else had left the building, pounding away at a project for as long as it takes. The hero is the person who found a more effective way of getting it done to the same standard of high quality and then left the office early to enjoy dinner at home with their family.
It’s incredibly important to remember that in today’s accelerating, interconnected, internet age, the future belongs to those who achieve outsized results, not to those who work 100-hour weeks as a badge of misplaced honor.
The bottom line is that there are people out there who love to do the things you hate to do — or at least are way better at doing them than you are — and to whom you can delegate those tasks that don’t draw upon your core competencies, or what you are really good at. Sure, you worked 100 hours this week, but what did you get done?
The authors’ point is that:
“Once you’re committed to the result you want, you’ll find that Who. When you do find that Who, you’ll see how ridiculously simple it was for THEM to produce your desired result, then you’ll begin to see just how small you’ve been playing. You’ll begin to set bigger and bigger targets, and you’ll commit to those targets faster by getting the Who that is equipped to produce the result.”
You don’t have to do everything yourself. In fact, you’re doing yourself a massive disservice if you try to accomplish every single task yourself. You are not the best person for every job you have to do. Once you internalize the massive implications of that concept, the future belongs to you.
#2: “If you’re going to apply higher levels of teamwork in your life, you’ll need to relinquish control over how things get done.”
Many high-achievers feel the same reluctance to let go, and to realize that other people can do at least parts of their job just as well as they can. They feel as though if they delegate certain tasks, or give up even partial control over how things get done, then quality will inevitably suffer. Most of the time, this simply isn’t the case.
The right Whos are capable of performing elements of your job just as well, or even better than you can, because it’s their areas of competence. It’s what they’re great at. For example, I’m a pretty good designer, and I’ve learned a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to Photoshop and Canva, but there are literally thousands of people who are much better designers than I am, and who can create the artwork I need in much less time than it would take me to do it myself. I’m holding myself back whenever I don’t delegate design to someone more capable.
The leader of any project or team is supposed to explain the ‘What’ and the ‘Why’ and then allow the ‘Who’ to execute the ‘How.’ Explain what ‘done’ looks like, and why it’s important, and let the person you’ve hired to perform the task do it in the best way they know how.
#3: “When a team has 1) high autonomy, 2) high goal clarity, and also 3) gets regular feedback on their results, then their performance shoots through the roof.”
These three elements only work when they’re all operating together. To get an idea of why this is the case, imagine what would happen if any of these elements were missing.
If you had complete control over how you work, but no clarity on the end goal and no feedback on how you’re doing, you’d be driven mad. If you knew exactly what had to be done, but no freedom and no feedback, you’d never know if you were doing a good job and you’d be under constant stress. It’s the same with any combination of those elements — they all need to be firing together for maximum efficiency.
The authors have this to say:
“It is the role of the leader to determine the “what” — which is the desired outcome or goal — and to provide clarity, feedback, and direction when needed. It is not the role of the leader to explain how the job is done. The Who determines how they will best go about getting the job done. All they need is clarity about what specifically ‘done’ looks like.”
Provide direction and then get out of the way of your Whos! Ideally, you’d want to make it as easy as possible for them to do what they do best. Presumably, you hired them because you trusted that they knew how to perform the work!
#4: Leverage your specific knowledge and focus on your own unique abilities.
If you want to go deeper into this idea, I highly recommend that you check out the breakdown for The Almanack of Naval Ravikant. In that book, you’ll read about his income formula: Specific Knowledge + Accountability + Leverage = Wealth.
What specific knowledge means is a set of skills that society can’t train you for. If someone can be trained to do what you do, then society can train someone to replace you. So in the context of Who Not How, the ideal situation is one in which you can delegate everything that’s not a core competency of yours. A lot of times this is going to be knowledge work and creative work. A computer can spit out 50,000 words in a split second, but it can’t write a novel or come up with ad campaign creative.
For an extreme example of this, you can look to the actor, Will Smith. In his memoir, Will, he admits his near-total unsuitability for almost anything besides acting. He can’t cook, he doesn’t do his own shopping — he didn’t even write the book. Mark Manson did. Some people no doubt see this as “the typical movie star,” lost in his own world, oblivious to the realities of everyday non-movie-star life, but actually, he’s doing something brilliant. Acting is what he does best. That’s where he can be world-class. Every minute that Will Smith spends not acting, or not working on his craft in some way, is another minute where his competition is able to sneak up on him.
You don’t have to go to such extreme lengths of delegation — I like grocery shopping like a normal person — but it pays to examine what you’re really, really good at, what you want to be known for, and then hammer away almost exclusively on that.
#5: “The best way to measure your progress is by noting the amount and quality of collaborations happening in your life.”
We’re living in the Internet Gold Rush. I say that all the time, but it’s true. Never has there been greater opportunity for collaboration and connection across time and space, a greater number of ways to win, than there are right now.
I read a long time ago that you can get almost anything you want in life just as long as you help enough other people get what they want. And again, never has that been truer than today. This is how you know you’re on the right track. How many people are you networked with? How many people are you helping? Are the people around you winning?
Increasing the number of Whos in your life, and also the number of people that you’re a How for, is how you strike gold in the internet age. We’re here to help and to be helped. Social media is above all else social, and contributing to the success of the people you’re networked with gives you leverage, and accountability, two critical components of Naval’s wealth formula explained above.
#6: Time freedom is the path to financial freedom.
The relationship between time and money is much more intricate and interesting than the simple phrase, “time is money,” would lead you to believe, but one thing is certain: when you leverage your time correctly, you can set yourself up for much greater financial freedom. Time can be money when and if deployed intelligently.
A simple way of putting it is that if you can delegate everything that doesn’t directly lead to additional income for you, then you are free to do more of the things that do lead to additional income.
For example, if you are spending 10 hours a week scheduling and managing clients, you could pay someone else to do the scheduling for you, thus enabling you to take on 10 more additional clients, or billing 10 additional hours, whatever the case may be.
If you earn $50/hour when it’s spent with a client and you pay someone $15/hour to do your scheduling and administrative work for 10 hours, you’ll end up paying them $225 while adding $500 to your weekly income and pocketing $275/week. That’s leverage, and that’s the power of Who.
#7: “If money can solve your problem, then you don’t have a problem.”
Here we come to one of the main criticisms leveled against the book — not without some merit — and which I address in more detail below. But the above quote still stands. Many people’s problems can be solved completely and forever with money! Hey, why didn’t I think of that!?
Even if you’re not in a position to do so yet, it’s important, I believe, to cultivate this mindset from the beginning and to start looking for “money problems,” or problems that can be resolved simply by paying someone else to take care of them. They’re everywhere once you start looking for them.
If your roof is leaking, you can pay someone to fix it. If you have bad teeth, you can go to the dentist. If your computer is running slowly, you can call tech support. The list could go on and on, but you get the idea. Once you start thinking in this way, you start to realize that almost any problem you will ever face in your daily life can be solved — or at least alleviated — by paying for someone’s help, by finding a Who.
Again, it’s a totally legitimate criticism to point out that the ability to do this is not everybody’s reality. But if you are in this enviable position and are still on the fence about whether to pay someone to solve your problem, think of it as an investment.
Look at the opportunity cost of having to do everything yourself and all the other things you’d rather be doing with that time. Factor in all the time it would have taken you to learn how to solve your own problem, and we’re talking about hours and hours and hours saved and added back to your life.
To get started, set an arbitrary value on your time that’s higher than you feel comfortable with. Say, $10/minute, or even more. Long before it’s your actual reality, think of your time as literally this valuable, and whenever you encounter a problem that can be solved for less than that, aim to have someone else take care of it eventually, instead of trying to do it all yourself.
#8: “In life, you get what you tolerate.”
Whenever I hear this quote, I hear it in Tony Robbins’ voice. Weird. Anyway, it’s absolutely true, and the essential thing to understand here is that when you raise your standards, the quality of everything else in your life starts to rise along with them. If you “tolerate” earning minimum wage (which is absolutely fine for some people), then you’re not going to be sufficiently motivated to take a step forward and increase your income. The same goes for your physique, relationships — everything.
You also “teach” people how to treat you by the way that you respond to them and by the way that you present yourself. Bullying is wrong — in all its forms — but in a very real sense, if you let people treat you that way, or present yourself as an easy target, that’s exactly how some people are going to treat you.
Now, of course, it takes time for the circumstances of your life to change. Making the decision today — immediately — that you won’t tolerate working for minimum wage doesn’t mean that you can waltz right into work the next day and negotiate a competitive salary. Instead, this is a mindset shift, and something to pay attention to each and every day. Ask yourself, “What am I tolerating in my life? Where am I settling? Where can I raise my standards and resolve to move through life at ‘world-class?’”
#9: “Every time you invest in a vision, your commitment to that vision increases.”
Psychologists call this “escalation of commitment,” and it has to do with the deep, internal need for human beings to remain consistent with their former selves. We pay attention to our own actions as clues to who we really are, and so, just like how you teach other people how to treat you, you also teach yourself what you are really like.
Not only that, but humans come to value those things most highly that they worked the hardest to get. If it comes easy, you won’t appreciate it. However, if you toiled and slaved and pushed and finally succeeded in achieving some worthy goal, then you’re to appreciate that achievement immensely.
Knowing this, you can use this knowledge to achieve those goals. Every time you do something hard, every time you take action, every time you expend more effort in achieving a result, your commitment increases, thus enabling you to keep going and stay motivated.
#10: “If you work on something important for twenty years, it will transform everything around you.”
It’s said that we overestimate what we can accomplish in a day, but underestimate what we can accomplish in a year — or a decade. But twenty years!? You won’t even recognize your former self. If you work on something big and important for twenty years, there’s virtually nothing that you can’t accomplish. With the exceptions, of course, of anything that goes against the laws of physics or reason.
I’ll say something radical here: 50 years old is still young. Hell, who am I to say that 90 isn’t still young, depending on what you want to do? I’m such a big believer in human potential that I won’t count out anybody based purely on their age. It’s foolish to deny the reality of aging, and the toll it takes on one’s body and mind, but still, twenty years is a long time, and more than enough time for radical accomplishment.
My advice is to start thinking in decades. Think 10, 20, 30 years into the future and realize that just because something is impossible now, doesn’t mean it’ll be impossible forever. Twenty years is 7,300 days. If you start tomorrow, you’ll only have 7,299. The time is going to pass anyway, what do you have to lose by going all-in on your vision and executing?
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This post was previously published on medium.com.
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