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What are you willing to sacrifice?

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

What are you willing to sacrifice?

Scott Miker

Achieving a goal requires hard work and sacrifice.  Read any meaningful autobiography and you will likely hear about great sacrifice for a single goal.

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

But what goals are you setting that require great sacrifice?  Many will sacrifice their leisure time to work extra hours to pay for their child’s college.  Or they stay at work late to help a coworker finish an important project.  Or they set aside years of their lives training to be the best in their field.  Or they sacrifice relationships so their business could prosper.  Or they sacrifice peace for freedom.  

But sacrificing for your goals isn’t something to be taken lightly.  The costs can be extreme and can out-way the wins associated with reaching the goal.  Most people see the famous businessman and the millions of dollars but they don’t realize the years of hard work and relationships that were thrown away to get there.  

In a previous business venture I set out to reach a goal and spent years working hard and sacrificing many things to push towards the goal.  I finally reached a point where additional sacrifice would be needed.  

I spoke to a mentor of mine who had great success in the industry I was in.  He told me about the journey and then, almost nonchalantly said “yea but I guess I should have spent more time with my kids.  They barely know me now.  But it was the sacrifice I had to make.”

This took me back.  I always thought sacrifice was about giving up leisure time, being willing to outwork others, and being willing to be resilient in the face of adversity.  Suddenly I realized what was meant by sacrifice for a goal.

Years ago I was invited to a birthday party that took place on a $2 million dollar yacht.  This is incredibly unusual for me so I was curious what the owner of the boat did.  He preceded to tell me about his business that he grew from a few hundred dollars invested into a multimillion dollar company.  But again he emphasized the broken marriage and sacrifices he made in order to reach that goal.  He even went on to talk about the sacrifice of his health for years at a time.  

Several times in my life I reached a point where the sacrifice suddenly outweighed the reward.  This is different for everyone.  They key is to know what is important to you.  Putting blind ambition behind a goal is a recipe for disaster.  The sacrifices you make could be far beyond what you could receive from reaching the goal.  I remember hearing that as a local politician was being sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence he said “I did it all for my family.” 

Some people are willing to commit criminal acts in order for their family to be raised in a nice neighborhood or so they could buy expensive gifts for their spouse.  Some people sacrifice their family and all relationships in the pursuit of a goal.  The only way to avoid making the wrong sacrifice for you is to intimately know your values and what is important to you.  

Understand that sacrifice is necessary for success and great success generally comes with great sacrifice.  But be unwavering in your values in order to avoid making a sacrifice that isn’t worth making.  

“One life is all we have, live it as we believe in living it.  But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.” - Joan of Arc