The Difference Between You and People Doing Awesome Things



I read a fascinating story in National Geographic a few months ago about a guy who hiked the perimeter of Alaska.  All he carried with him was a backpack full of gear, a kayak and tent.  He’d trek to various state parks every day and set up his tent at night before heading out again the next morning.

As I read, I wondered about the guy.  Was there something special about him that could make him do something so amazing?

Then I thought more broadly.  What makes people do awesome things in general?  A lot of people wish they could pursue some crazy adventure or dream, but many don’t.  What’s the difference between someone who does awesome things and someone who doesn’t?

The Difference

I’ve met a lot of people who are doing some really crazy things with their lives.  Many quit their jobs to start up a business or follow a dream.  I just met someone recently who moved from the US to Belgium and has lived there for the past 20 years.

So what is the key difference between someone who packs up all their stuff and treks around Alaska and someone who doesn’t?  It might seem like people who do awesome and crazy things like this have some sort of special quality.

But it comes down to one key difference:

They get extremely committed and take action to follow through on their awesome ideas.

This is not a special quality.  In fact, anyone can do this.

You have to more than just want to do something.  Anyone can want something.  You have to NEED to do it.  There has to be a drive inside you that tells you life is simply incomplete until you’ve done it.

For instance, I found I NEEDED to do these things:

Once it reaches that point when it stops becoming something you want to do and becomes something you need to do, you find a way to make it work.  Finding the drive and motivation becomes much easier.  And you take a lot more action on making it come true.

Over the years, I’ve had other ideas of things I wanted to do, but never developed a deep need to see them through.  So I didn’t take much action on them.  Of course, those ideas didn’t go anywhere.

There is No Other Difference

I know that it can seem daunting to pursue a dream project like traveling around the world or starting up a business.  Even someone with an adventurous spirit like me wonders just how someone who treks around Alaska could do that.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it is that there really is no significant difference between those who do awesome things and those who don’t.  If you’re looking for some physical or mental difference, you’re not going to find it.  There are none.

It just takes a leap from wanting to do something to needing to do it.  After that, taking action to make it happen becomes much easier.

So if you’re not following your dreams now, it doesn’t mean it will never happen.  In fact, most people don’t start out living an adventurous or exciting lifestyle.

Most people start out living in the daily grind.  That’s the starting point, the default lifestyle everyone has to go through.

Just take a look online.  How many blogs do you read of people who worked in boring workplaces doing something they hated before taking a leap to something exciting?  Breaking out of the daily grind to pursue a big goal or dream project is a really common theme.

That’s no coincidence.  It goes like this:

Work the daily grind for several years and THEN ditch it for something awesome.

But all of these bloggers were only able to move away from their boring daily grind towards something exciting when they found a need to do it.  Then they found a huge motivation to make it happen.

So they took action and did it.

So really, there’s isn’t much of a difference between you, the person sitting next to you, people online or anyone you read about in National Geographic.  It’s a matter of determining to do something and following through with a ton of action.  It’s actually pretty simple.  And sometimes, it’s the simple things that are the best approach.
photo credit: code poet

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  1. I disagree with it being something you need to do. You just need to take opportunities – life is about 10 things: Health, Comfort, Excitement, Adventure, Knowledge, Fun, Laughter, Opportunities, Achievements, and Good Company! Just realise that whatever happens, you can handle – stop making excuses why not to do it now (or why you should do something) and just do it! Just enjoy life :)

    • I think enjoying life and just doing things come your way is a great approach. You could do a lot just by doing that. I think you can make the argument about seizing opportunities. A lot of the things I’ve done came from seizing an opportunity. But I’ve known other people who have had opportunities to do awesome things, but didn’t. When I first traveled to Southeast Asia, six or seven other people told me they thought it was really adventurous and wanted to come along. Despite having the opportunity, they all backed out at the last second.

      • And what would you say about the awesome people who manage to complete impossible dreams – I want to become a pro wrestler but at 18 that dream is becoming more and more distant. I also want to one day own a double decker bus and completely revamp it into a party bus and go on road trips every day but these just seem like small fantisies. I want these goals to one day happen but feel like there is no path leading me in that direction even though I feel like I need to do it :(

        • It might just be that it will take a while. There are still things I feel like I need to do, but haven’t done them yet. I’ve had things I felt I needed to do and didn’t see how I could make it happen. Then one day I found a way and did it.

          • Things don’t just happen like that though – I’m not going to become a wrestler before I take wrestling classes, so the first thing we need to do is start. That for me is the hardest thing to do due to not knowing where to start. But we do always find a start, which leads us on a journey reaching many milestones, at which point we can see how we’re doing :)

          • What we have to realise is that there are certain things we are capable of. Do what you’re capable of, because you are. You’re powerful and worthy of that. Do do what you want to do – people will start to care once they realise how good you are :)

  2. You said it so succinctly Steve.
    “there really is no significant difference between those who do awesome things and those who don’t.”

    Lately i’ve been getting a little complacent here in France. I’ve been looking for my next big thing. I keep saying i’m goign to take action on the the thing but there’s always been an excuse why i am not doing it. Mainly making money and working on my blog but still, I think it’s time to just make time….

    Anywho, thanks for the kick in the pants…

    • Sometimes you just need to make time. There are things I’ve put off in the past, but it’s always better once you get down to it and get things done. You can only use excuses for so long. It all comes down to the actions we take.

  3. That’s an interesting way to look at it – want vs. need. And what defines “need” is really very personal. Need to just for something different? Need to for health reasons? Financial? It doesn’t matter – need is subjective and it’s up to the individual to decide if and when it is time to make a move.

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more. Those who accomplish or do amazing things make what it is that they are pursuing an ‘absolute must’ as opposed to just a ‘should.’

    I’ve personally found in my life that when I’ve been passionate about something I’ll find a way to make it happen.

    • Yeah, being passionate about something and needing to do it often go together. I get a lot of drive and motivation to do things when I feel I “must” do them. Even when it’s tough, I still seem to find a way. Without that drive of needing to do it, I find it’s tougher.

  5. The key here is in the word “doing.” We all want to do awesome things. But few of us ever make it a priority. It means stretching ourselves too far out of our comfort zone. It means taking risks. Maybe even taking some hard shots on the chin.

    That’s where we start to falter. And so we kill the idea. It was never really in the cards for us anyway. We could never be *that* person.

    It always comes down to action. The doers vs. the dreamers. When you master both, then you will truly be living.


    • It definitely is important to stretch outside our comfort zones and take risks. And most dreams mean taking some setbacks. I think that’s what makes them so hard for people.

      Making awesome things a priority is good. It means making them important for you to do. It seems the more important something is, the easier it is to take action on them.

  6. Hey Steve,

    We just finished biking across the country. We, as in a family of four (the youngest being 8).
    We met many that had some awesome adventures under their belt. We met many who talked about wanting to do it.
    If an adventure is big enough for you, you will do it. Also, planning is important to a point.
    Many plan and never do. I’d rather plan little and face repercussions when and if they come. They seldom do.

    Will I still be talking about the planning next year, or will I be talking about the adventure had? And, planning the next one?

    • Hey Rob, that sounds like a great adventure. There’s a lot of places you could go in the country by biking through it.

      Planning is good. I always plan out my travels before I go so I can fit as much in as I can. I leave enough room for changes though so I don’t tie myself down to anything. But you’re right. Many people plan and never do. They stop just short of taking action. In the end, taking action and doing it is more important than planning.

  7. I agree that the difference between those who do and those who dream is a level of commitment. When you want to do something it’s still just a wish. If you haven’t made an action plan or seriously given thought to how you’re going to make it work for you then you’re not entirely committed to the idea. I know that for myself personally, if I haven’t followed through on something I thought I “wanted” to do within a certain amount of time I realize there must be a reason. I then go over my reasons for inaction and at that point jump in with both feet or just let it go because sometimes some things just aren’t meant to be.

    • Yeah, wanting to do something isn’t enough for the big goals. Anyone can want to do them. Unless you get committed and take action to make it happen, you’re just wishing for it to come to you. That doesn’t work.

      The big difference between the things I’ve done and haven’t done came down to what I really needed to do. Somehow I had to make it happen, so I did.

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