Success Without Stress: Applying The Pull Framework
In my last blog post, I have introduced two contrary success strategies – pushing towards success versus pulling success. I have analyzed why the pull strategy is far more suitable for living a successful life without much stress. The pull-concept, however, has only been touched upon by sketching a few solution approaches and examples.
But this blog post will go much deeper than that. You will learn how to design your life, or alternatively some aspects of it, around the pull strategy.
Before we go any further, I want to make clear that I’m not an expert on the pull-based lifestyle. I’m just bored with the conventional “push-forward-under-any-circumstance“ way of life. I am convinced that there has to be a more effortless and profound way to go about goals, in every aspect of life.
This is my attempt to break it down for you.
Framework Versus Method
My presented solution will be a framework, not a method.
You may wonder why this even matters?
In comparison to a framework, a method is more rigid. It forces you to follow a step-by-step process in some way.
But success doesn’t come in a linear fashion. External ideas and concepts constantly need to be refined and adapted to your life, according to your individual skills, strengths, and weaknesses.
For this purpose, a framework is far more suitable. A framework is like a perspective – a very helpful one. It’s a unique way of looking at things.
Think of it as a picture frame where almost anything can be put in, whether drawings, photos or your coin collection. Nevertheless, the frame forces you to look into a specific direction on the wall.
The 4 Components Of A Perfect Life
If random people would have been asked “How does success look like for you?”, we will most certainly get a plethora of different answers. However, on a basic level, almost all answers will be based on the same fundamental pillars. I call them 4 life components:
- Yourself (Happiness, Skills, Vision, Fears)
- The People Around You (Family, Friends & Fans)
- The Daily Stuff You Do (Work, Hobbies, Household, Health, Finances, …)
- The New Stuff You (Want To) Do (Experiences, Learning, Dreams)
If these 4 components are sorted out, you can be sure that your life will is successful. Not only that, you will achieve a holistic lifestyle which pulls you towards success (as you will see in the course of this blog post)
Yet, on the other hand, if one of these 4 components is weak or even missing in your life, it will become a huge bottleneck. The whole system (aka your life) will suffer:
- If your daily life isn’t sorted out, you will be unproductive and overwhelmed.
- If you don’t try new things in your life, your personal growth will stagnate.
- If you have a weak social network, you will burn out because you won’t get any help.
- If you aren’t happy with yourself, all the success in the world won’t satisfy you.
As a first exercise, think about all of these areas in your life.
Where do you excel? In which areas do you need improvements? How can you start to work on your weak spots?
Introducing The Pull Framework
As you have seen in my last blog post, pulling success has a lot to do with environment design. The right environment will always pull you towards success.
By combining environment design with the 4 life components, I have designed a 4-layered framework you can live by – or at least get some inspiration from. In that scheme, every layer deals with one of the 4 components:
- Systems deal with the „daily stuff”
- Lean principles deal with the „new stuff”
- Networks deal with the people around you
- Inner & Outer work deals with yourself
The pull framework can be summarized in one sentence:
Build systems, leverage networks, apply lean principles and work on yourself.
This may sound abstract but will become crystal-clear in a few moments.
First of all, you need to know that every single layer is powerful in itself. That means that even if you implement just one of these layers in your life, you are already ahead of the crowd:
- If you meditate (inner work), you will be more grounded than most other people.
- If you experiment with a few business ideas (lean principles), you will get more business experience under your belt than most people will in their whole lifetime.
- If you participate in a mastermind group (networks), you will increase your chance of success dramatically.
- If you start to systematize your daily life (systems), you will be more productive than everyone around you.
Given the power of these layers, I will explain to them one by one. After that, I will describe how the pull framework works as a whole and how you can implement it to master your own life.
If you are overwhelmed by your daily life, there’s no chance that you will create anything better.
Or, to quote Jordan Peterson, „Set You House In Order Before You Criticize The World.“
- If you don’t have an overview of your files, does it make sense to start a business?
- If you don’t have money, how you feel about taking a vacation?
- If you don’t manage your time, how do you find the time to take action on your passion project?
To start taking control of your daily life, you need to manage your most precious life resources in the best way possible – mainly time, money and energy. A suitable solution includes concepts like organization, productivity, and automation, which can be summarized by the term „systems“.
The power of systems is easily explained – everything in your life is a system. Your job, your computer, your files, your finances, your documents, your health, even your family.
Start to understand your systems, and improve them. Break them down, one by one. Once identified, they can be improved by using better tools, redesigning processes or changing the environment itself.
Take your housecleaning for example.
How long does it take? How much time do you lose? Can it be improved by using better cleaning tools? Or by reordering your cleaning steps? Which steps are unnecessary?
Do that in every aspect of your life, and you will be amazed about the amount of time, energy and money you will save.
If you are serious about taking your systems thinking skills to the next level, I recommend my systems thinking guide. You will learn how to implement systems thinking in your life on a very practical level.
Human beings are social creatures. We thrive on emotional connection.
Thus, we are at our best when we live and act within organizational networks like family, teams, and local communities. From an evolutionary standpoint, social networks make a lot of sense. They force you to get better by exposing yourself to organized chaos.
On the one hand, they give you stability – you can go to school, drive a car or start a family within the boundaries of a (more or less) protective environment.
On the other hand, networks expose you to a reasonable degree of chaos which forces you to get better. Some examples are salary negotiations, sports club competition, arguments.
Especially if you want to live a pull-based lifestyle, you must learn to harness the power of networks. They provide massive opportunities for leverage and growth, including ideas, know-how, resources, and countless possibilities for win-win situations.
Finally, there is the question of how to build and manage your social network. If you want to learn that precious skill, there are countless web resources on the web to do so. As a starting point, I found these two resources to be helpful:
- Tim Ferriss – How To Network
- Rafael Sarandeses – How To Network With People You Don’t Know And Get The Job You Want
3) Lean Principles
Systems and networks will provide stability in your life. However, once you have set up these structures, there’s a danger lurking around the corner. Your life will start to feel “safe” and stop trying new things. According to the motto “if it is not broken do not fix it”.
Fortunately, this can be easily countered by doing two things, 1) applying minimalism and 2) performing lean experiments.
By living minimalistic, you will remove the ballast in your life, whether we talk about living conditions, social media or finances. A nice side effect of minimalism is that it will make your systems and networks easier to handle. You will avoid a lot of artificial complexity in your life.
When I mean experiments, I am not talking about some crazy laboratory experiments in your basement. No, I am talking about constantly implementing new ideas and projects, learning useful new skills and expanding your knowledge. In the worst case, you will learn something new about life. And in the best case, you will hit a home run. Even giants like Airbnb or Google have started as innocent small side projects.
Thus, think of yourself as a fisher, who keeps throwing out little baits until he catches a big fish, while, at the same time, being completely satisfied with just fishing itself.
In case you want to learn how to perform experiments in a methodical manner, I highly recommend the lean startup methodology. While this method is mainly designed on business, it can be transferred to every area of life.
4) Inner & Outer Work
I’m sorry to disappoint you, but this is probably the hardest part. Living a pull-based life requires work on yourself, externally and internally.
External work includes everything that can be seen and experienced by the world, your hard skills (i.e. programming skills, writing, marketing) and soft skills (i.e. communication, teamwork). A key step here is to determine your unique advantage and finding a way to use it in the best way possible. A great post about this topic has been written by Tim Urban.
Internal work, on the other side, is about facing your own demons. This topic has a lot to do with your fears, bad feelings, and negative thoughts. Working on these things may be unpleasant, but is of utmost importance. Because if you can’t handle your internal state, your outer actions won’t be nearly as efficient as they could be.
As you have probably noticed in my previous blog post, the implementation of the pull-strategy especially requires patience and emotional control. These internal virtues won’t come overnight and are a massive topic by itself – but things don’t have to be complicated.
If there are only 2 solution approaches you need to remember, then it’s 1) awareness and 2) facing your fears. If you only do these two things, you are already ahead of 99% of mankind. Everything else will come naturally. I promise.
Putting It All Together
A lot of ideas have been bounced around, I understand.
But that’s where the big advantage of this framework comes into play. The layers are highly interconnected but thematically still independent. This fact leads to two huge benefits:
- You can work on one single layer without paying attention to the dynamics of the other layers.
- If you improve one layer, it will have positive effects on all the other layers.
Here are some examples of these positive effects:
- If you reduce your possessions (minimalism), your files will become easier to manage (systems).
- If you have good systems, you will have more time & energy to improve your network.
- A good network will make you become more confident (inner work) because you will meet new people and ideas. Thus, you will grow as a person.
An improvement in one layer will multiply the positive results of the other layers. In other words, the layers will lift each other up. And once you have several of these positive inter-dependencies, you will get a snowball-effect that pulls you toward success.
How To Start
It’s time to take action. Given the thematic independence of the 4 layers, you can follow simple steps to implement the pull-strategy:
1. Choose One Layer
Decide for one layer you want to tackle, preferably the one which will the easiest for you to improve. For many people, this is the systems layer.
2. Improve Layer
Stop reading this blog post, and improve the easiest thing within the dimension you chose (for example your wardrobe). Once achieved, tackle the next biggest thing within this dimension (for example your files system). At some point, you will have achieved solid results in your chosen layer. If that’s the case, go on with step 3.
3. Choose Next Layer
It’s time to add the next layer to your life. Thus, have a look at the figure above, choose the next dimension, and repeat step 2.
4. Manage Your Layers
Keep repeating these steps until you have made major improvements in all 4 layers. At this point in time, you need to manage all layers as a whole to avoid imbalances.
Here’s What Will Happen
If you follow this process, something magical will eventually happen. Here’s an example:
You start off by getting your current life in order. You create effective systems, one by one. You organize your files, you structure your wardrobe in a more efficient way, and you start to think about your nutrition more systematically. Slowly but surely, you crawl out of the mud. You start to master your daily life.
As a result, you have more time, money, energy. Sometimes, you even will feel unchallenged – which is good. Because with this surplus of resources, you will automatically start to think about new stuff. You will start to dip your toes into new ideas, projects, and experiences.
Equipped with these new impulses, you reach out to like-minded people. You start to share your vision and attract a bigger tribe around you. At any time, you can use these new opportunities to meet more people, increase your influence, or even make some extra money.
All of this will make you feel more confident, which is a great foundation to keep working on yourself.
Congratulations, you just have created an upward spiral in your life. You pulled success without chasing any particular goal.
To get one thing clear: I’m not bashing the push-based lifestyle. I don’t have anything against setting goals. To be quite frank, hard work is an important prerequisite. Sometimes, life is a grind.
However, goals and hard work shouldn’t be an end in itself.
A coherent lifestyle, based on the pull-based strategy, will be far more effective, sustainable and, ultimately, fun. Because in the end, life is a marathon and not a sprint.