It’s 12:03 at night and I just completed my French Lesson for the day. “Bon travail, copain!”, you might be thinking. And really I did go the extra mile, squeezing in a lesson after 12 hours of work when I could just as easily have gone to bed. But the awesome part is that I wanted to…
I really wanted to do that French lesson.
Again, you’re probably thinking, “good job little buddy.” But this little buddy quit French a total of ten times over ten years before he finally stuck with it. And I only learned how to stick with French within the past year by dropping my insane, “If I’m doing it, I’ve gotta do it every day” attitude, developing a gradual love and passion for the language instead.
Out of failure, (gradual) success!
Last year I started my French lessons for the 10th time. I was ambivalent about starting because my history of ignominious failure had been so painful to my psyche; I couldn’t let myself down like that again. But this go round was a bit different, because I’m a bit different.
I’m less a slave driver to myself and more of an encouraging friend.
Whereas before I’d feel super down on myself for not doing French every day (which led to task aversion and inevitable failure), this time I let myself get acquainted with French at my pace.
If I did one lesson a week at first, which I considered to be the baseline obligation for pursuing an interest, that was enough for me. And I always encouraged myself even for that minimal effort. I repeated many lessons twice or three times, even, paying no heed to progress. I just wanted to get familiar with it.
Then after a month I realized that once a week wasn’t quite doing it for me, and I upped it to two weekly lessons. A month later I had completed basic French and surprised myself by thinking in French for the first time—“woah, that was really cool,” I remember feeling. But I didn’t push it. I did my twice weekly lessons until I was hungry for three—which was about three months later. By that time I had completed French 1 and was speaking en Francé to family and friends, engaging in light conversation with acquaintances, and really feeling ownership and pride in this stupid little thing that I’d always wanted to do but never was able to before.
It’s all because I stopped putting so much dang pressure on myself.
Now I’m midway through French II, lightyears ahead of where I ever thought I could be. I still have a long way to go…but I could survive if I woke up on a Parisian bench tomorrow morning. I’m averaging four days per week now, and last weekend I even fit three lessons in one day. But that’s only because I really, really wanted to.
And I wanted to because I’ve gradually developed a strong love for practicing this language over the last year. It was the opposite of a hardcore approach. But this softcore style helped me become hardcore consistent. It might work the same for you.
The softcore approach to success can work for you, too
There are guys like Tim Ferris who want to learn a language in 10 seconds, just like every other skill they pick up. More power to ’em if it works. Then there are average people—people like me, and maybe like you since you’re still reading. We’ve got families and domestic lives and dozens of other pursuits, and the stress of diving “all systems go” into something that we haven’t acquired a love for is just plain stressful.
But we do it because it’s in vogue. And when we quit for the umpteenth time, we say, “Maybe it’s just not meant to be.” But I say that it is meant to be… we just need to take our goshdang time and stop pressuring ourselves silly. I’ve recently gained newsletter marketing sales for my coaching services. I’d always wanted my clients to come through the newsletter, but I’ve only just managed to get my first steady sales after over two years of trying—which is a big deal to me.
For the first year and a half I told myself I’d post every day; and of course, I burned out and quit. But then I changed and started doing what seemed realistic for me: once per week has been my number for several months. It’s not crazy volume.
But the important thing is that I gave myself room to be consistent, to establish rapport with my audience, and to develop a love for sharing life-changing and inspiring content with them. The result has been sales on my terms—I send the newsletter; I get a sale.
Again, this started with a once weekly ‘softcore’ approach. I unwittingly used this approach to start my writing career, and, more recently, and more intentionally, to get incredibly fit after years of inconsistency.
And if you’re someone who’s struggled with burning out in the things you’ve wanted to pursue, it’ll work for you too. So give yourself more time and space to naturally develop a love for whatever it is you’re doing. Set the bar pretty low, but be consistent—once per week is fine at first.
Hold yourself to that weekly endeavor for a couple weeks or months – or hire an accountability coach, if you need it. And if it is a genuine interest, you’ll gradually become familiar with the ins and outs of it, you’ll grow a stronger passion for it, and you’ll naturally increase the frequency at which you practice.
Then one day you’ll realize that you’re doing it every day. Maybe you’ll be making money at it, if that’s the goal! But definitely you’ll have increased your value, confidence and quality of life through it.
And that’s what counts the most.