Real Talk: Going For What You Want

I wanted to write this article to talk about going for what you want, and why it is that people don’t get what they want. A lot of times it isn’t that they can’t go for what they want; it’s that they just don’t.

Most people already know what the right thing to do is for their career, their personal relationships, or whatever other goals that they have. What holds people back is fear.

Fear can be good. Having a fear of mountain lions doesn’t mean you have limiting beliefs. It just means you’re not an idiot. The humans who didn’t have a fear of potentially hostile animals probably got weeded out the hard way through natural selection.

The wrong kind of fear though is when it comes to going for your personal goals. People have a fear of “what will people think.” Fight or flight doesn’t necessarily translate well into the modern world. And, if you want to change things when it comes to your career, your relationships, or whatever, you probably are going to get some pushback. I’m just being honest. I did. It’s not necessarily a good thing—a lot of time it isn’t—but you’re going to get it.

Everyone who in one way or another has an influence on you—your family, your professors, your employers, your peer group, the prevailing culture that you live in—has over time developed certain expectations for your behavior. They put your expected behavior in a mental box of theirs, if you will. When you act in a way that doesn’t fit into that box, people get confused.

“That’s not you, bro.”

“I can’t see you as _____.”

“That’s out of your league.”

“That’s only for people with ______, not you.”

“Don’t you think you should be more realistic?”

If you’re living a life right now that isn’t in line with what you really want, you’re going to need to disregard all of that and probably tell some of those people to mind their own business. I once saw a speech by Ryan Allis, who dropped out of my college to start iContact, where he said “surround yourself only with positive people. If you have negative people in your life, delete them off of Facebook.”

As far as what it is that you want, take some time to figure that out. Take 30 minutes or so, turn off the computer, your phone and any distractions, and get a piece of paper to write on and really think about what it is that you want. What kind of career do you want to have? What kind of relationships do you want to have? What are your goals for yourself as far as fitness and health goes? What are your educational goals? What kind of life experiences do you want to have—maybe travel, climbing a mountain, what kind of bucket list stuff do you want to do?

Get the list all out there. Then, if any action in your life doesn’t move you closer to that destination, don’t do it.

How to get it done

There’s all kinds of silly platitudes about “go for what you want”, but let me make it a bit more visceral for you. One day, you are going to die.

That’s just a fact. It’s not negative thinking. It’s just reality. One of these days, you are going to be dead.

Maybe you will live until you are 100 and die of old age. Or, maybe you won’t. Maybe in a month, you feel kind of sick, go to your doctor and he says that you have terminal cancer. Maybe you’ll get in a car accident tomorrow.

My point isn’t to dwell on that. My point is to accept that as a fact, because one of these days, it’s going to happen. Like the famous quote from Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club:

“On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”

Go back to the list that you made of your values and what it is that you really want. One of these days, you’re not going to be able to do that. Let’s say you do make it to old age. You’re on your deathbed in some mid-tier, somewhat maintained nursing home.

At that point, it doesn’t really matter a whole lot what people think about you. It’s kind of a moot point if some dude thinks you’re acting out of line, and they probably weren’t even real friends to begin with if they weren’t encouraging you to step up.

There’s a saying that when you’re young, you worry about what people think. In middle age, you stop worrying about what people think. In old age, you realize nobody was even thinking about you in the first place.

Making it practical

Wealth management wasn’t my thing. You can make a good career out of it, and frankly in the finance industry, it probably has one of the best lifestyle balances at the top levels. I’m happy for the friends of mine who are in wealth management and love it. That being said, it wasn’t my thing. When I was looking to get out though, I got pushback. I specifically told headhunters that I didn’t want them bringing me wealth management jobs, yet they did anyway. I was getting categorized as the “wealth management guy.”

Can you get out of being typecast? Absolutely. You got to realize though that it takes work and you may have to have conversations that for some people are uncomfortable.

If you have something that you want to do, you’re willing to endure the social pressure, but you just need the specific knowledge on how to get it done, get some coaching. Get a mock interview. Get your resume professionally reviewed, not just a look-over by one of your drinking buddies. Holler at people on LinkedIn who are doing something that you would like to do. Go offer to buy them coffee or drinks to see if you can learn something from them. I did all of the above.

If you don’t have someone in your personal network who can give you the specific advice that you need, use money. Wall Street Oasis can put you in touch with hedge fund analysts, equity research people, or whatever for a fee. Pay the fee.

It’s ridiculous that people are hesitant about spending time and money on their education and career development when that has some of the highest ROI that there can be. Don’t think that you’re above the process or that you know everything, because you don’t. Even Michael Jordan had coaches like Dean Smith and Phil Jackson, plus an army of assistant coaches for his shooting, strength and conditioning, and so forth. Coaches like Freddie Roach helped train MMA fighters like Georges-St. Pierre and boxers like Manny Pacquiao. Tony Robbins gives coaching to CEOs.

This doesn’t just stop at your career. If you have some fitness goals that you’ve been working toward but just haven’t quite got there, get a personal trainer. Check out some of Elliot Hulse’s or Mario Tomic’s material on the internet. Check out Jim Wendler’s books on strength training.

You have a colossally valuable resource at your disposal in your wallet, and it’s free: your library card. We’ve had about 4000 to 5000 recorded years of human history. Chances are, just by probability, someone has already done what you wanted or been in your situation. You can get the knowledge of those people by reading their books. Nassim Nicholas Taleb was once asked what he recommends that people study, and he recommended studying the classics. Tai Lopez talks about reading a book per day. If that’s a bit much for you, start with one per week. Yes, you can do that. Just stop wasting your time on Buzzfeed and “catching up” on some series on Netflix as if it’s anything valuable.

Take this quote:

“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinions of others.”

That was written in Book 12 of Marcus Aurelius’s “Meditations” in 180 AD and still applies as if it was written yesterday. That knowledge is out there. It’s on you to go and get it.

Check out the book list on my website for finance books. Also check out the book lists on Market Folly. Read books that were written by practitioners, i.e.: people who actually know what they’re talking about, since they actually were managing a fund at some point or actually doing the stated activity.

Don’t read books just for the sake of reading books. Read books that matter. If the title is “15 Cool New Steps to Make Money in Stocks” written by some B-list journalist who has never managed money professionally in his or her life, skip it. Start with practitioners like Peter Lynch, David Einhorn, Joel Greenblatt—they have all authored books and talk about what they have seen in the markets. Read biographies like the biography on Steve Schwarzman or the autobiographies of Sam Walton and T. Boone Pickens. Learn from the top performers and disregard the mass-marketed tripe.


I want to wrap this with one of my favorite quotes from Robert Greene from his masterpiece book The 48 Laws of Power:

“Understand this: The world wants to assign you a role in life. And when you accept that role you are doomed. Your power is limited to the tiny amount allotted to the role you have selected or have been forced to assume…

The character you seem to have been born with is not necessarily who you are; beyond the characteristics you have inherited, your parents, your friends, and your peers have helped to shape your personality. The Promethian task of the powerful is to take control of the process, to stop allowing others that ability to limit and mold them. Remake yourself into a character of power.”

If you’re in a position that you don’t like, get out. If you’re in back office and want to make the jump to the front, figure out what you need to do, and then execute hard. Maybe that means going back to school if you have to. If headhunters keep bringing you jobs that you have no interest in after you have told them what you are looking for (and do that first, since they can’t read your mind), stop responding to their emails. Don’t encourage that behavior; it’s not good for you, and it’s not even good for the hiring company either that some unprofessional headhunter is trying to push hires for someone who might not even be fully bought in. Quit looking from a distance at that cute girl you see every week at the bar or in class and actually go talk to her. Hit the gym and start lifting heavy.

Lastly, if you want to do something maybe off the beaten path and outside of finance entirely, I can’t tell you what to do, but neither can anyone else. Definitely reach out for advice, but ultimately that’s a decision that you got to make on your own. Kind of like everything else in life also.

Keep hustling,

Alex Cook

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