In an interview Will Smith was asked how a poor kid from Philadelphia with no connections in Hollywood made it big.
Smith, who has often credited his success to his “ridiculous, sickening work ethic,” answered this way:
“The only thing that I see that is distinctively different about me is, I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, but if we get on the treadmill together, one of two things is gonna happen: Either you’re getting off first, or I’m going to die.”
Simple answer? Yeah.
Yet there is SO much research based wisdom in Smith’s analogy.
In 1940, well before The Fresh Prince was rapping in West Philadelphia, researchers at Harvard conducted a study examining the characteristics that helped people live happier, more successful lives.
They gave 130 college sophomores a 5 minute treadmill test.
The researchers set the treadmill to be so steep and so fast that the test was practically physiologically impossible to do, but they didn’t tell the participants that.
What they found were the participants fell into two categories:
1. Those who quit when it got hard.
*Most tapped out well before 4 minutes, some at the one minute mark, commenting “I can’t do it” or “It’s too hard”.
2. Those who refused to come off that treadmill for 5 minutes. They just wouldn’t quit, no matter what.
The researchers knew this wasn’t simply a fitness test. It strongly correlated to how willing the subject was to push himself or quit before the circumstances become too harsh.
Every two years after the study, researchers survey the 130 participants regarding their income, career advancement, sick days, social activities, satisfaction with work, marriage, and use of psychiatric medication.
All that information was then compiled into an estimate of the men’s overall psychological adjustment in adulthood.
It was almost like those researchers were prophets…
Because 40 years after the study, psychologist Dr. George Valliant went and found every single one of those 130 participants to do a follow up.
And as he looked back on that study the #1 factor Valliant found in the participants success in life was simply the ability to refuse to give up when things got tough.
The ones who stayed on the treadmill for the full 5 minutes had greater income, more career advancement, healthier marriages, and lower rates of depression.
It wasn’t IQ. It wasn’t talent. It wasn’t genetics.
It was work ethic, simply refusing to quit when things got difficult.
That test had less to do with fitness and everything to do with how hard you’re willing to push yourself.
It turns out Will Smith was onto something.
Your career, your sport, your academics and your life…. They’re a treadmill.
Want to succeed… Just refuse to get off that damn thing.
No. Matter. What.
You wire your brain by thinking something over and over again.
It’s the simplest thing in the world. All you have to do is tell yourself you’re NOT going to quit.
So now that you know strength of will is the one thing that will determine your success or failure in any endeavor; how far will you push yourself?
Wanna know the best way to stay on the treadmill?
It’s to surround yourself with people on the same mission as you. And luckily for you, you can do that here: