During my junior year of college, I took a class where I was required to interview someone that had a career I thought I might be interested in pursuing one day. At this point in my life, I still didn’t have a clue what I wanted to be when I grew up, but was intrigued by the concept of investing. As a result, I was introduced to an older gentleman who had built a good bit of wealth over the course of his life investing in real estate. We sat down over a cup of coffee and he began to share his life story. There was one point he made that still sticks with me today. “Mike, I want to share a philosophy with you,” he said. “I call it The 100 Man Rule and it goes like this. For every 100 people when they die, 94 of them will die penniless. 2 of them will barely be above the poverty line, 2 will be firmly middle class, 1 will be upper middle class, and 1 will be independently wealthy.” He went on to say, “It took me awhile to understand what that story actually meant, but what I finally realized was this…if you follow the herd, you're probably going in the wrong direction.”

That philosophy fundamentally changed the way I looked at life and has stuck with me ever since. What it means to me is that in order to achieve success, regardless of how you choose to define it, you have to be willing to challenge the status quo. I don’t just mean in the social and political sense, but more so in regard to the self-imposed constraints and limiting beliefs we place on ourselves and those we serve. To become the best version of yourself you have to be willing to take chances, do what’s not been done before and even go against the grain of what is considered standard practice. You have to be willing to vacate the perceived safety of your comfort zone.

The reason The 100 Man Rule resonates so strongly with me is because it’s such a great analogy for how the vast majority of people choose to live their life. Most people refuse to deviate from life’s current path because it’s just easier that way, or it’s the way it’s always been done. They reject the notion of thinking and acting differently because it would require leaving the perceived safety, and acceptance, of the herd. They want life to get better but are unwilling to make the necessary changes. So the solution most often chosen is the “easy” one because it feels comfortable and/or safe.

I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but success doesn’t come easy, which is why so many people fail to achieve it:

  • 92% of people don’t achieve their goals
  • Less than 20% of Americans say they are living the American Dream
  • Only 33% of Americans say they are very happy
  • 67% of businesses won’t survive past their tenth year in business

Our biggest obstacle in achieving success is the image that stares back at us in the mirror every morning. We stand in our own way. Our minds are wired to find outcomes and solutions that “feel” safe and comfortable. But comfort doesn’t lead to success. Success comes through discomfort and struggle.

“Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.” - Orison Swett Marden

The first step on the journey to achieving success is the one just beyond the edge of your comfort zone. It’s the willingness to know you may stumble and fall, but then having the courage to pick yourself up to continue on. We all have a choice between a life of scarcity or one of abundance. Or as Norman Mailer put it, a life that “…is growing into more or retreating into less.” Whether you choose to follow the herd or challenge the status quo is entirely up to you. Which path will you choose?


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