How To Succeed At Anything By Distilling Yourself To Layers

4 min readDec 28, 2020
Photo by Simone Hutsch on Unsplash

The Foundation

The first layer is the most important. It consists of your childhood.

Most of us don’t have a fully pleasant one. This causes ‘errors’ in our brains that cause us to act out irrationally.

A parent that unconsciously abandoned us in a shopping mall, or that annoying uncle that was verbally abusive, we somehow unconsciously develop psychological defense mechanisms to protect us from these people. Long after the threat of them is gone.

These psychological quirks might impact how we chase our version of success, or even, whether we chase it at all.

In fact there is a Chinese idiom ‘三歲定八十’ which roughly translates to ‘three years old fixes eighty’. Which roughly means that ‘from the character and personality traits revealed by a three year old, one can infer that he will have similar traits as an eighty year old.’

Many rags to rich individuals often can recall the brutal poverty that haunted their childhood which drives them to work themselves to the bone.

That background is the canvas for the painting of their life.

The Skills

Life is not a static endeavour.

We can say the only constant in life is change.

Thus we see many deeply disadvantaged individuals miraculously change their fortunes through sheer willpower and drive.

It is often said that a poor man doesn’t want to be poor, it’s that he doesn’t know how to not be poor.

The skills you have are the most blindingly obvious factor to success.

We often see talent being praised in our daily media consumption.

But that’s not the full picture.

The Network

As much as western individualism tries to convince us, we cannot succeed on a grand scale alone.

What’s the point of being the richest man, best singer, dancer or artist if you are the only person in the world?

In fact all those titles are awarded to you by default because there is no one to compare yourself with.

A less extreme example is that if you are the smartest person on the planet but you choose to live on a secluded mountain. Never interacting with the outside world be it physically or digitally. Having no contact with society, your impact on the world is a big fat zero.

In fact, even when gifted with outsized intellect, without knowledge produced by the outside world we find limitations to what a singular person can know.

There are some individualistic cases of success such as the quest for self-enlightenment or self-discipline.

But compared to the grand figures of history these successes pale in comparison.

The Buddha did not keep enlightenment to himself. Jesus did not claim to come to the world to save only himself. Conquerors of history did not conquer lands only for themselves, but for their people, religion and government.

For ambitious individuals who want to change and shape the world, a selfish definition of success is unacceptable.

Going deeper into the Network, we can understand that our network is our destiny.

Here’s an example, a talented boxer with zero coaches will eventually lose to an average boxer with excellent coaching and support system.

Here is the heart of the issue:

Having a great network is a multiplier effect.

Talented individuals stagnate without excellent coaches, mentors, support systems, partnerships.

It’s cringey, but there is some truth to the phrase your ‘net worth is your network.’

These forces that surround you shape you into being better, sees your blind spots and add fuel to your drive.

I stress again. Your network isn’t everything. Many children of rich parents fall back into middle class or lower even though they have access to a great network and an excellent foundation. They did not develop the skills.

Putting It All Together


You can’t change your childhood, but you can make the best out of it.

Deep reflection needs to be done to understand what are you predisposed to since childhood.

What are the strengths you see popping up through the course of your life.

These are innate or unconscious talents that rubbed off you through the course of your life.

A child growing up watching and being surrounded by musicians will pick up quickly hidden patterns that non-musicians cannot see.

Identify your strengths.


Aggressively develop your strengths through practice and consistency.


Surround yourself in an environment that fosters growth.

Allowing you to scale the level of impact you have on the world.