How to Make Your Accomplishments Feel Bigger

It's time to think much smaller.

My book launched into the world yesterday. Publishing people call it my Book Birthday.

“How does it feel?” people kept asking me.

I must say — it’s very strange. In the middle of the day, my PR team sent out a round-up of what happened: I was interviewed on a Washington, DC morning TV show; did an Instagram Live with Chip Gaines; had podcast episodes published by James Altucher, Jordan Harbinger, and Donald Miller; had an excerpt run in Men’s Health; and more.

But what did I literally do yesterday? Well, I drove my kid to camp, then went to my bedroom / home office and basically didn’t leave until my wife and I went out for a celebratory dinner. It was pretty ordinary.

This is the weird thing about achievements: They may look impressive from the outside, but they often don’t feel like much.

I mean, I cannot actually feel my work entering the world. I cannot see people read it. I cannot hear them talk about it.

That’s why, of everything yesterday, this little comment on my LinkedIn post caught me unexpectedly:

How to Make Your Accomplishments Feel Bigger

D’Miche was the first person I saw, who I do not personally know, just holding up my book yesterday.

She looks so happy to have it! That really made me stop and appreciate: I made a thing that people are happy to have.

That is an incredible honor. It cannot be overlooked. I want to savor it.

But it makes me realize how weird “accomplishments” are.

We expect them to feel like we won the lottery—like massive, abrupt changes. But real accomplishments are the product of slow, gradual work. They don’t feel giant because they are not giant steps; they are instead part of an ongoing process, where every step is built upon a previous one.

After all, I did not just wake up and have a book! No, I gathered material for years, spent months on a proposal, sold it to a publisher, spent nine months writing the book, many months editing it, roughly a year preparing the marketing for it, and then, yesterday, on a date I was aware of for more than a year, the book came out.

This moment also reminds me of a story I think about often.

The writer Ryan Holiday was out mowing his lawn a few years ago, when he got the email that every writer dreams of: He learned that his book had become a #1 best seller.

So what did he do? “I saw the email come in and went right back to mowing the lawn,” he writes. “Nothing was different. Nothing changed. I was still me.”

I love that story because it reminds me what the top of the mountain looks like, and the expectations we should set for ourselves. Of course, I desire the same achievement that Ryan had. But I also must remember: When we have great success, we do not retire. We do not break through a ribbon, like a racer running a marathon. Our journey isn’t over. It just… keeps going. Same as it did before.

Therefore, we can't define ourselves by what we do not have, or what has yet to happen. Because when we get it, we won't actually feel much different anyway.

Also, Ryan’s story reminds me that I have already seen the top of the mountain — just as you have seen the top of your own mountain — and we should not overlook the importance of that. I mean, I had long wanted to run a national magazine, and then I achieved that, and I’m still doing it. But just like Ryan, when I first became editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine, I didn’t feel different. Nothing had changed. I was still just me, but now with a lot of work ahead.

How are we to process this — to account for our big successes, and find meaning in things that are so big we cannot feel them?

The cliché answer is this: You focus on the journey, etc., etc., blah, blah.

But here’s my real answer: Maybe just forget about the big picture for a moment. Don’t even try to account for it. It is too large, too abstract, too weighted with impossibility.

Instead, zero in on what you can experience. Who was impacted by your work? Who can you impact tomorrow? You can meet these people. Hear from them. Change them. Individually. After all, why do we work hard — to sit alone in a room, basking in a glory that we can barely feel anyway? No. It is to create something we're immensely proud of, and share it with others.

So that's what I'll do.

At the end of my launch day, my wife and I came home from dinner and chatted with our babysitter. She's considering a big career change, so I handed her a copy of my new book. "It's all about how to make change," I told her.

She was thrilled. "I'm going to start reading it tonight," she said.

I felt that.

I'm My Own Best Customer!

How to Make Your Accomplishments Feel Bigger

Yesterday morning, I saw a guy tweet about putting my book on his Amazon wish list. He hoped someone would buy it for him. So I did.

After all, yesterday wasn't just a day to start selling books. It was a day to unleash ideas.

Go ahead — buy one for yourself. I've got that guy covered. 😎

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Cover credit: Getty Images / Irina Logra