Whether we want to lose belly fat, pick winning stocks, or pick up winning dates, many of us are frantically searching for one thing: secrets.

We look to people that can do things we can’t like they’re magicians, possessors of arcane wisdom. It’s a nice thought. It implies that they follow a neat little set of esoteric-yet-teachable principles and methods that produce, almost infallibly, outstanding results, and that we can somehow catch some of their lightning in a bottle.

This is pure fantasy. Delusion, even.

Don’t be fooled by their grooming–top-flight performers aren’t dainty show horses, they’re stubborn plow horses.

They’ve spent more time in their fields than any rational person should. They know every bump, stump, and hump by name. The yoke is almost form-fitted to their leathery napes.

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If we’re talking something simple, like muffin making, sure, there are a small handful of “secrets” that you can quickly comprehend and use to trot out dozen after dozen of heavenly treats.

But in any activity even remotely complex, there are so many techniques, methods, skills, and variables, some teachable and some not, that the only way to make sense of all the “secrets” is long hours of deliberate, mindful practice.

The “secret” is skill, and the only way to get it is to stop looking for the robes, crystal balls, and incantations, and pick up a pair of the overalls and one of the hammers lying around, and get to work.

Because the truth is if you don’t want to work for them, secrets will never work for you. Dollars to doughnuts, you can take that one to the bank. It’s almost axiomatic.

Reading books or blogs or tips may supply pieces to the puzzle, but you still have to roll your sleeves up and figure out how they all fit together. They can point you to the work, but then you have to do it.

If you find this discouraging, you’re looking at it wrong. “Secret hunting” is discouraging. Stumbling around in the dark, anxiously turning over rocks in search of arcana is discouraging because a part of us–the intuitive part–knows that we’re trying to catch wind with a net.

On the other hand, “donning the yoke” can be incredibly encouraging. It’s bulky and uncomfortable at first, but there’s great solace in knowing that no matter how tough the experience is going to be, it’s going to transform you for the better. As Nietzsche famously said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

The bottom line is if you want to do special things, the fields you’re going to have to cultivate are large and overgrown and full of pitfalls and setbacks.

But unlike the impenetrable gloom obscuring the great “secrets” people hope to find, the fields are conquerable. They have boundaries. There are only so many weeds and bugs and so much dirt, and it only takes so many passes until they’re yours.

So, want to lose weight? Build muscle? Make more money? Learn something new? Don’t be one of the suckers groping around for secrets. Find the field, throw on the yoke, get pulling, and eventually “magic” will happen.


What are your thoughts on chasing secrets versus doing the hard work? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!