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How bad do you want it?

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How Bad Do You Want It?

It’s not often that we post an opinionated piece here on Asian Efficiency but this is something I’ve been wanting to express for a while. It’s the idea that people just don’t want to put in the time to achieve something.

This idea was inspired after reading Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro. It’s about how to go from starting something to finishing it and going through the tough process of a creating your masterpiece. This book really resonated with me because I see people around me all the time struggling going from start to finish.

Nobody wants to put in hours of sweat to get that perfect body.

Nobody wants to wake up earlier or stay up later to work on their side-project.

Nobody wants to master their craft and become one of the best at it in the world.

People are inherently lazy. They always want the quick fix and immediate solution. I get it. That’s how we are hardwired.

We get a lot of emails from readers and customers. Lots of positive ones but once a while we also get emails from people who are looking for an easy way out.

Here’s an email we got a while back (I’ve edited it to make it concise):

“Hi guys,

Love your stuff. I’ve been reading your AE Primer and it really resonated with me. Right now I’m struggling with managing my time. Currently I’m full-time employed but I don’t really like my job so I started a business in my spare time. It’s about (redacted) but I can’t seem to find time to work on it. I’ve had this idea for a couple years now but it’s not going anywhere because I’m procrastinating a lot. Any advice?”

We get tons of emails like this and it hurts me to see people struggling like this. At the same time, sometimes I want to pick up the phone, call them and give them my rant.

Instead, I decided to write this.

You see, when you truly WANT something, you’ll magically find time to make it happen.

Do you really want to see that new episode of your favorite TV series? Somehow you’re able to do that even though you’re working 80+ hours a week.

Do you really want to hangout with your friends this weekend? Somehow you’re able to push everything else aside and make it happen.

Most people who struggle to find time to improve their lives or situation, just don’t want it bad enough. When you want it bad enough, you’ll find time to make it work.

It’s easy to find an excuse to not do something. It’s easy to say “I’ll do it tomorrow” instead of doing it now. It’s easy to lay on the couch and do nothing instead of educating yourself.

But it’s hard to wake up earlier and work on your side-project. It’s hard say no to friends on a Saturday night so you can work on your craft. It’s hard to push yourself when no one is watching you.

If you’re reading this and you struggle to find time to make things happen, you’re taking the easy route. You don’t want it bad enough.

You just kind of want it.

The person who wrote that email…he/she just kind of wants it. When you’re dabbling, procrastinating and you’re not making any progress for long periods of time…you just kind of want it.

Please don’t be one of them. Get to work. Make sh*t happen. Get used to saying no to people. Get used to waking up earlier and staying up late. Work hard when nobody is watching. Do more than you normally think you can do.

All of a sudden you’ll find time that you thought didn’t exist.


It’s been there all along. You just had to decide to take advantage of it.

So…how bad do you want it?


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Posted by Matt  | August 10, 2013 at 4:24PM | Reply

Your rant is valid, but it lacks depth.

Yes, this behavior of laziness can be observed. And it’s easy to make an observation.

This post would be more beneficial if it dug deeper on *why* people don’t seem to “want it bad enough” and also shared some suggestions (beyond “find time”).

As what has been previously said in the comments, there are many factors, many of which are personal and due to a combination of nature/nurture.

First, I disagree with this: “People are inherently lazy. They always want the quick fix and immediate solution. I get it. That’s how we are hardwired.” That’s a self-limiting belief of the world. How would humanity evolve if we all believed that about each other?

People don’t do stuff for a reason. It’s important to not disregard that reason and understand that we’re all at different places in life (and to have compassion and empathy for those).

Different factors that play into why people don’t seem to “want it bad enough”
– Parents didn’t encourage their kids that “they can accomplish anything”.
– The assembly line of education keeps you stuck within “the system” and doesn’t encourage behavior outside of the “system”.
– To “want it bad enough” requires a certain posture of vulnerability and an understanding of failure (which education systems don’t promote)

Some tips for people who seem to want it “bad enough” bad can’t seem to make it happen:
– Talk to more people. Find people and friends who can help you. is a great place to start.
– Research online on how to make something. Learn and do.
– Seek out therapy and spend time reflecting on self-limiting beliefs to break old chains.

I could continue, but I’m sure you understand where I’m going with this. :)

Let me know if you decide to write another post with more depth.

Posted by Aaron Lynn  | August 11, 2013 at 2:56AM

Thanks for the longish comment Matt.

We’ve written with depth about motivation before, e.g.,

And we have a couple of pieces about dismantling success barriers and the sort coming up for later this year.

My personal observations differ a bit from yours. Yes, I think education is a bit of a long-con, but I’m also weary of people bashing it so much. I went through the K-12-University system. Was it the best use of my time? Probably not. Did I get a lot out of it? Most definitely. Could it be better? Most definitely. Am I systematically destined to fail because of it? Most definitely not.

And I’m with Thanh – people are inherently lazy. I notice you live in the US – this is why your worldview may differ on this. Americans are some of the most motivated, high-achieving people on the planet. Every time I go there it amazes me how much people hustle and try to get ahead in life. I cannot say the rest of the world is this way. Whether it’s a socialist-paradise like Sweden or “work for the dole” folk in Australia or government-assisted farmers in rural Thailand, I’ve found that what Thanh said about people being inherently lazy is absolutely true. Beyond really, really basic survival needs (I’m talking food + water + shelter), people don’t really want to push themselves. They’d rather kick back and watch football on TV.

It’s not a limiting belief to say “people in general are inherently lazy and looking for a quick fix”. It IS a limiting belief to say “I am inherently lazy and looking for a quick fix”.

And you’re right about evolution and humanity progressing the way it has – but that is on the effort of pioneers and innovators, who are and remain a really small portion of the population (though with the Internet and sharing of information worldwide that is changing).

– Aaron

Posted by Andrew  | August 1, 2013 at 1:20AM | Reply

I can relate to the ’emotional issues’ mentioned and to the feeling that people who say ‘you don’t want it bad enough’ are like Michael Jordan telling a 4’11” guy he can’t dunk bc he doesn’t want it bad enough. In other words we all start out w varying degrees of training, genetics & nurturing which form an identity and self-perception that can give us a head start in life or cause us to struggle w obstacles others aren’t familiar with. Everyone has their demons & weaknesses; and once the victim mentality has been adopted you’ve lost. That said, the brain works with established pathways that are very real and if they lead to negative outcomes the source must be addressed. I could ramble on but if there is a central theme to this comment it’s that arriving at the point where you truly realize that ‘wanting it’ will yield results is an accomplishment in itself, and it’s a longer journey for some than others.
– Andrew

Posted by Thanh Pham  | August 1, 2013 at 8:14PM

Well said Andrew. Totally agree and I can tell you know what you’re talking about.

Posted by Doug W  | July 31, 2013 at 1:33PM | Reply

I have to profoundly disagree here. As someone who has struggled with doing the things that I want to do, I was always flippantly told “well, if you really wanted it, you would just do it”. I am calling bullshit.

For me, the emotional issues around how badly I wanted my big-hairy-dreams and felt paralyzed to do anything about it were what was stopping me. I had no trouble “finding time” to do things like show up to work on time, work a difficult management job, teach myself an IT career, raise a family, all of which are *hard*. It wasn’t inherent laziness that kept me from my heart’s desire but the intensity of the desire and the fear of not getting it. Coming to terms with my emotional issues around my deepest desires has allowed me some measure of relief. But you wouldn’t look at me and think I am just lazy. I was simply working hard on things that were not as threatening to my identity—and therefore not as risky.

So in the most generous spirit possible: frack you you and your snarky little “if you *really* wanted it, you would find time for it” line. Have a bit of compassion for other people.

Or at least that is how it looks to me. :)



Posted by Aaron Lynn  | July 31, 2013 at 7:00PM

It’s 5.50am here and I’m on the train on my way to the gym. By the time I’m done working out and headed back home, most people will just be starting to head out to work.

Also, on my phone so will keep this brief. I think there are many variables in the equation of finding time for something, including:
* Existing commitments.
* Emotional issues.
* How badly you want it.
* Ease of getting it.

Some are barriers (like ease and emotional issues), others are pull factors like motivation and how much you want it.

Everyone has a different balance of these factors in play, but none are insurmountable. Human beings tend to be really good at bare survival activities (and I do mean really bare) and at things that help us maintain a consistent identity. We tend to suck at things that will improve our quality of life or help us build a better future.

This is all a long way of saying – emotional issues can be handled. I’ve been there, Thanh’s been there, so have a lot of other people we’ve talked to. Thanh would say “if you want it bad enough you’ll find time to handle the emotional issues and get to what you want”. I would say “sometimes you have to remove the roadblocks instead of pressing the accelerator”.

With as much compassion as I can at 6am, don’t think of it as being lazy or others seeing you as lazy. Just see it as things you have to do, want to do and haven’t done yet. Then work out what needs to be done, some great reasons why and if there’s anything standing in the way.

– Aaron

Posted by Doug W  | August 1, 2013 at 9:43AM

Aaron —

Thanks for the reply. I don’t actually disagree with you, but there is a very profound difference between saying “if you want x enough, you will find a way to do it” and “if you want x enough [and realize that you have issues other than simple laziness preventing you from making progress] you will find a way to do it”. For me, I thought I *was* just lazy and that there was something wrong with me and spent years berating and hurting myself. I didn’t know that there was another way or that I had emotional issues around the topic. That was part of the way my issues played out in the real world.

But anyway, yes, emotional issues are absolutely solvable and that may be the best first action to take. Assuming you can figure out that you have them and that you can solve them. I just react very strongly [I am sure that no one noticed :) ] to the flippant comment that “if you *really* wanted it, you would do it”.


== Doug

Posted by Carl Pullein  | July 31, 2013 at 8:04AM | Reply

Thank you for this post guys.

I think another reason things don’t get done is when we try to focus on too many projects. I discovered this when I did my half-yearly review and found I had not completed any of the projects I had planned to have at least nearly finished.

As a result I put on hold a large number of projects and gave myself just one major writing project to do and finish by the end of August. In just one month I have done more than I had in six months trying to do everything under the sun. Suddenly I feel I have enough time to complete the project.

Spreading yourself too thin with too many projects can result in that horrible excuse “I just don’t have time”

Posted by Thanh Pham  | July 31, 2013 at 11:23AM

Yeah that’s true too Carl. Less projects = more focus.

Posted by Marcos W  | July 31, 2013 at 6:34AM | Reply

That is so true. I was just listening to Earl Nightingale’s The Strangest Secret and the message is kind of the same. If you really want something you’ll find a way. You see that concept time and time again with lots of different authors.

What do you want more than anything? What makes you get up in the morning? Just write it down in a clear and concise way and take a look a it several times a day. Imagine yourself doing it.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | July 31, 2013 at 11:23AM

Exactly Marcos. I think about that a lot too – what makes me get up in the morning? That thing will push me 99% of the time to get stuff done.

Posted by Andres  | July 30, 2013 at 2:01PM | Reply

Hi, I really like your blog :)

I think part of the problem here is wanting, instead of choosing.

Wanting expresses a desire, but it is also part of daydreaming. Choosing to do something implies that you sacrifice something else. It’s really about defining who you are.

Keep up the great work :)

Posted by Thanh Pham  | July 30, 2013 at 7:18PM

Thanks Andres!

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