How to Become a Momentum Machine: Combine Powerful Psychological Principles to Boost Motivation, Build Self-Esteem, And Be a Winner Every Day

blake-spiral-stairs“You’re a machine!”

“You’re always doing some stuff, it’s like you’re a machine man.”

“You’re a freaking machine dude — you just keep going forward.”


A lot of people have told me I’m a “machine” over the past 3 months.

The funny thing is that none of these people even know each other.

Anyway, this is probably the most flattering compliment I’ve ever got –because I feel I’ve earned it.

If I’m a “machine” now, I certainly was not a few years back. It took a lot of work and smart strategies to get where I’m at right now.

And I had to learn something important. . .

. . . Can you guess what that important thing is?

I think you can.

That’s right — it’s the concept of momentum. . .

. . . How to gain it. And how to keep it.

All high-achievers understand what it takes to create an empowering routine. They know how to implement positive habits. And they’ve mastered the fine art of becoming motivated. These people know all this stuff first-hand.

They may not understand the psychology behind it.

They may not understand of the processes behind it.

They may have just pulled it off intuitively thanks to having a strong internal compass. Maybe they got lucky?

I don’t know.

But I do know that. . .

. . . Every high-achiever has entered deeply into the positive feedback loop of momentum.

And today, we’re going to break down what this means. Here’s a glance at what we’ll talk about:

  • How self-esteem is built.
  • Why it’s usually best to use the process of incremental change to improve your life over the long-term.
  • How to use several powerful psychological principles to increase motivation and consistency of execution.

And. . .

  • How to win every day!

This is going to give you the magic formula for creating the kind of long-term motivation you need to become successful.

[Note:  This is a long-ass article, 5930 words. I could have turned this into an article series of 2-4 parts if I wanted to. But I think it would be less helpful to do it that way. All the things you’re about to learn are strongly interconnected and should therefore be memorized and used together in combination. And this is best done by first immersing yourself and taking in all this information in one sitting.]


Gentlemen: Open up your commonplaces, get ready, and let’s start with. . .

The Truth About Positive Self-Esteem

A lot of people nowadays think that having positive self-esteem means “being O.K with who you are”.

There’s something called the feel-good movement. You may have heard about it.

It consists of a bunch of “self-help experts” who run companies, write books, and give speeches on the agenda that you are already good enough as you are, no matter who you are.

In other words. . .

. . . They’re in the business of telling people whatever they want to hear. And guess what?

Inconvenient truths about success, motivation, and self-esteem don’t rank high on that list. It doesn’t sell.

These nasty bastards tell people things like:

“It’s perfectly fine to be a fat piece of shit if you are a few pounds overweight. You’re good the way you are. It’s not the outside that matters, it’s only the inside that counts.  Start loving yourself and blablabla. . .”

And then the little loser believes that. Because it’s comfortable. It’s a convenient truth. Plus he wants to believe it. If he takes on that belief he doesn’t need to lift weights or develop discipline.

So, the little loser tries to convince himself that he’s good the way he is (obviously that won’t work) by taking on some B.S “feel-good-belief”.

And guess what?

That’s a really dangerous belief to have if you’re looking to step up in life and become successful. Because success (in any area of life) is all about adaptability.

And if you think you’re already good the way you are — and that you don’t have to change your ways — what will happen?

I’ll tell you what. . .

You’re not going to set goals and have the motivation to execute on them consistently. Which, by the way, is how you build real self-esteem (more on this soon).

So a lot of people buy into various B.S “feel-good-beliefs” to cover up their lack of positive self-esteem.

And that’s fine. . .

. . . If they want to be losers.

If they want short-term consolation.

If they want to sit on their asses and do nothing.

But, it should NOT be confused with having positive self-esteem.

Positive self-esteem can only be earned by getting first-hand experiences of success, where success is defined as moving closer towards your goals.

Positive self-esteem is about trusting yourself to do the right thing. . .

. . . And what is the “right thing”, you ask?

The “right thing” to do is whatever you want and desire. If you have positive self-esteem you’re automatically going to step up and get whatever you want in life. Because you’ve built that habit:

Active habits are strengthened by repetition but passive ones are weakened

–Joseph Butler

It’s really that simple.

And the more you ACT on your desires the stronger they get and the better your self-esteem becomes.

So you see, positive self-esteem has absolutely nothing to do with that passive “feel-good” B.S.

That’s just a consolation prize for losers looking to delude themselves into feeling better about their lack of achievements.

And it’s weak, disgusting, and pathetic.

Those nasty bastards of the feel-good movement are professional liars.

For example, just the other week I was out jogging and I ran past a newspaper stand. On the front page was a news story on “The Dangers of Working Out and Eating Healthy”. The premise of that article was basically that you shouldn’t care about the ‘fitness fad’ so much because. . .

. . .You’re good just the way you are. And don’t even try to look like a movie star because you can’t, and it’s not good for you — says the expert — and it’s perfectly O.K if you want to have some candy and. . .

Yeah right.

You know, probably the #1 health issue in the western world is the combination of having a sedentary lifestyle mixed with a poor diet. And what kind of people abide by this hazardous combination?

It’s the lazy and unambitious people who are hooked on unhealthy modern food. They unconsciously use it as consolation. And guess what?

The last thing these people need is yet another excuse or justification for why it’s “O.K” to stick to their unhealthy habits.

The truth of the matter is quite simple, really. . .

People who sit around doing nothing condition themselves for what? To keep doing nothing.

And this is the very opposite of entering the positive feedback loop of momentum.

You should look at life as a long series of repetitions. And to change your life you have to deliberately induce the right sort of repetitions. The sort that carry you towards your goals and build self-esteem.

The question then becomes: What does it take to. . .

Build Positive Self-Esteem

In the movie Fight Club, Tyler Durden had it right when he said that:

You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. . .

Because none of those things matter much for your self-esteem. Your self-esteem is subjective — and it’s built on one thing only: Knowing what you want in life — and getting it!

And how do you get what you want in life?

First you ask yourself these three questions:

  • What do I want?
  • How can I get it?
  • What do I need to do specifically?

Then you have a goal. Nice.

But you want to make the goal more efficient by:

  • Making it measurable


  • Turning the goal into something you can do every day (a daily action that you can implement as a habit)

When you’ve done that,

  • You start executing on your goal like crazy.

Like a general.

This — my friend — is how you build real positive self-esteem. Highly confident and successful people got that way by doing this. They’re deep into the positive feedback loop of momentum.

No wonder those people are so much cooler than the people in the feel-good crowd.

There is nothing strange about it.

Confidence is the natural result when your brain gets used to having its ideas come into reality.

You begin to believe in yourself.

You start to feel great about yourself.

You eliminate doubt from your mind and stop second-guessing yourself.


Now you know that positive self-esteem is built by executing on your goals. But it can be tough moving towards your goals every day when your motivation is low, right?

So, the question becomes: How can you boost motivation?

And here’s how: You boost motivation by learning to combine powerful psychological principles.

And this is what we’re going to talk about for the rest of the article. Starting with. . .

How to Get Into The Positive Feedback Loop of Momentum

Did you know that many of the most highly skilled and successful people in history started “practicing” (getting experience) while they were still young?

Yes, it’s true.

Entrepreneurs and businessmen in particular. Now, have you ever wondered why?

It’s because they were lucky to have some smart older person nudge them in the right direction when they were kids.

I recently read a book about the richest people in Sweden. About half of them come from elite bloodlines. The other half are self-made.

For example, the richest Swede is self-made: Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA. And the 10th richest Swede is also self-made: Bertil Hult, founder of EF (they sell language-learning trips).

These two men come from completely different backgrounds — and it’s fascinating to study them. Why? Because they both had a clear turning point in their lives. This happened when they got into the positive feedback loop of momentum.

For. . .

Ingvar Kamprad

This happened very early. He displayed entrepreneurial skill already at age seven when he started buying and selling stamps and things like that. Of course, he failed a lot. . .

Ikea ingvar kamprad self-esteem

Ingvar Kamprad has built one of the best businesses in history

. . . But he was fortunate in that his grandmother quickly discovered his inclination for entrepreneurship, and made it her mission to support him any way she could. Each time young Ingvar failed she would  motivate him into trying again.

And every time he sold stuff (he imported lots of things) she would always buy from him.

Years later, when she died, they found many boxes hidden away. The boxes contained all the items she had bought from young Ingvar. She never used any of those things. She only bought them to encourage his “entrepreneurial practice”.

So, from a very early age Ingvar Kamprad was rewarded for going after what he wanted and for taking risks. He started getting into the positive feedback loop of momentum at age 7 and he still hasn’t come out of it at age 88.

Next we have. . .

Bertil Hult

Who wasn’t nearly as fortunate as Ingvar Kamprad.

Hult had a tough childhood. He started school at age six and quickly realized that he didn’t like it. The school system was strict. Children had to read out loud and follow orders.

If they didn’t comply they were hit and yelled at. This was a problem for little Bertil — because he had severe dyslexia. So every time he tried things — and failed — he was punished. And this happened often. He “learned” from his “mistakes” and stopped trying in order to minimize punishment.

As a result everyone thought he was stupid and he was soon put in a class with slow and retarded kids. For the next 10 years he was ignored by the teachers and he didn’t learn much in school. He drifted into a state of learned helplessness.

In his late teens he dropped out of school and his self-esteem was at an all-time low. He then got a job as an errand boy for a bank. At the job he had to wear a certain uniform. One day his boss told him to hand in the uniform.

Hult got scared and immediately assumed he was being fired.

But he wasn’t. The boss returned his uniform to him, with the pant pockets sewn shut. The boss told him:

“From now on, I want you to walk with your back straight, your head held high, and never to put your hands in your pockets again.”

The boss had noticed that Hult’s loser tendencies were reflected and manifested in his body language, and decided he would help him fix it.

From that point on Bertil Hult’s life improved dramatically. He had finally been noticed after 10 years of being ignored. And he started working insanely hard to make his boss proud.

He put everything he had into his job and got promoted several times over the next few years. Then the bank even offered to send him to London and pay for him to learn English (this was 60 years ago when Swedes still sucked at the English language).

Again, Hult’s dyslexia posed a big problem. But thanks to his highly developed listening skills he was able to pass — just barely.

When he got back to working for the bank he realized something very important: That there was no way he would ever run the bank — and make it to the to top of that industry — because of his dyslexia. He then took a major risk by quitting his job to start a business of his own. And the rest is history.

As you can see, these guys started “winning” early in life. . .

. . . And never stopped.

Kamprad’s grandmother helped him win from an early age. Hult’s first boss helped him win in his late teens.

There are literally “winners” and “losers” in life, and not just because I’m saying so. Winning turns you into a different person. It changes you on a cellular level, and if you want to get into the positive feedback loop of momentum you need to. . .

Use the Winner Effect

alexander winner effect self-esteemWhich is a term used in biology. I first learned about it from neuroscientist Ian Robertson while reading his book (which goes by the same name).

Basically, what the winner effect means, is that once you get the taste of winning you don’t want to go back to losing. Each win increases your self-esteem little by little. Winning actually transforms your biology.

Winning increases the dopamine receptors in the brain, which makes you smarter and more bold.

–Ian Robertson

The winner effect was first coined by biologists who noticed that an animal which had just won a fight for territory, was more likely to win its next fight as well. Can you guess why?

It’s because the winner gets an increase in dopamine and testosterone. (That’s right — winners become more manly and dominant than losers.)

And vice versa. If you’re consistently losing or failing at things you’ll have lower testosterone and dopamine levels. You’ll become timid and insecure. For example. . .

. . . Bertil Hult was in the “loser effect” until his boss helped him get out of it. That meant his stress levels (cortisol) were high and his testosterone was lower than it should be.

Skilled sports coaches understand the winner effect. This is proven by how they match up weak opponents for their athletes, to incrementally help build up their self-esteem.

Cus D’Amato who mentored and trained the young Mike Tyson, was very big on doing this. For several years he deliberately matched up Mike against weaker boxers, to build a long streak of victories for him. Cus referred to these opponents as “prey” or “food”.

And they were.Tyson winner effect positive self-esteem

Mike would knock them out early in the first round. When he was 16 years old his opponents feared facing him. Some would even back out or plead no contest. At this point Mike had a powerful winner effect going for him.

Much later, when Mike Tyson came back from his 3 year jail sentence and planned to reclaim his title, Don King used the same strategy. He gave Tyson two easy fights before the title to build up his confidence. Tyson scored a first-round knockout vs Peter McNeeley, and then a third-round knockout vs Buster Mathis.

When he finally faced the current champion, Frank Bruno of the UK, Mike won that fight (unimpressively) on a TKO and reclaimed his belt. If he hadn’t scored those two easy wins he might not have even done that.

In other words: The winner effect is important for your motivation and self-esteem.

And, fortunately, the winner effect doesn’t just apply to beating people up. For example, chess players and (video) gamers are affected by it too.

Some of the main ways you can use the winner effect, and get the positive boosts in testosterone and dopamine, is by:

  • Consistently outdoing yourself
  • Breaking (personal) records
  • Winning competitions
  • Rising to the top of a social hierarchy

And the question then becomes: What is the smartest way for doing this?

That, my friend, is via incremental change (improvement).

By deliberately setting yourself up for a streak of “small” consistent victories.

But wait. . .

. . .There’s more.

There’s also another psychological reason why it’s better to pace your progress towards your goals, as opposed to making sudden spurts. And this reason is that. . .

 You Want Positive Things to Happen Incrementally

And vice versa — you want the bad stuff to come all at once.

Why is this?

Well, it’s because of how the brain’s wired.

Here’s an excerpt from Peter Bevelin’s Seeking Wisdom:

Mary never wraps the kids Christmas presents in one box.”

Since our experiences seem longer when broken into segments, we like to have pleasurable experiences broken into segments but painful ones combined. That is why Mary puts presents in many boxes. Frequent rewards feel better.

Frequent rewards feel better.

Read on, and this will make more sense.

We prefer a sequence of experiences that improve over time. Losing $100 first and then gaining $50 seems more rewarding than gaining $50 and then losing $100. We want to get rid of the bad experiences first. Immediate losses are preferred over delayed ones. Just as we don’t like bad experiences, we also don’t like waiting for them. We like to get over them fast.

So, the implications of this are that:

  • To boost motivation and good emotions: You want to set yourself up for a sequence of consistently improving events, even if just slightly.
  • To minimize drain on motivation (sadness, grief, etc): You want the negative stuff to be over with as fast as possible.

 This is important to know.


Now you know how to build self-esteem, set goals, and keep yourself motivated in executing consistently on your goals each day. But I know what you’re thinking: Are there more motivational tricks I can use?

Yes there are.

So let’s go over a number of psychological tricks that you can — and should — combine with what you’ve already learned. Starting with how to. . .

Understand And Use the Power of Consistency

Because your brain is biased for consistency in many ways.

First, I want to show you a few ways in which most people unknowingly use this against themselves. And you want to avoid that.

For example, if someone tells you something nice like: “You’re so confident and smooth”, guess what will happen?

You’ll want to live up to that. And you will want to act in congruence with the expectations placed upon you. Skilled negotiators know this, and give their opponents compliments early in the negotiations to get a better deal:

“Wow, you really did a good job giving us all the details. You’re such a nice guy Rob, you always give us a great deal.”

When Rob hears that he’ll unconsciously want to act nice and give the other guys a good deal (if he’s a poorly trained negotiator). This is sometimes called “The Pygmalion Effect“. (More on this soon.)

Another aspect of the consistency bias is the concept of cognitive dissonance. If you take some specific action you will post-rationalize your thoughts to create a compelling narrative which explains why you did it.

For example, let’s say you’re driving on the highway, and you see a guy on the sidewalk who looks like he’s cold and hurt. But for some reason you’re slow to react to this, and you unwillingly drive past him. What will happen?

Here’s what you will probably think:

I should’ve stopped to help him. . . But. . . Whatever. Some other person driving past will help him anyway. Besides, I need to get to my meeting now. Yes. I’m really busy. I don’t have time to turn back.

Here’s another example, assuming you’ve skipped going to the gym for some bullshit reason:

“I didn’t go to the gym because I. . . I. . . felt tired. That’s right. And they say it’s a bad idea to lift weights when you’re tired. Yeah. . . I could get seriously hurt. And I don’t want to risk my life.  Yeah, I’m too smart for that. Good thing I didn’t go to the gym!”

Consistency bias is a powerful thing, and it has a wide range of application.

It applies to ideology, beliefs, and your actions.

Say you decide to go to the cinema with someone on a first date. Then the two of you sit down to watch the movie, and 30 minutes into it, you both realize that the movie SUCKS.

Your date is headed for disaster!

You better do something.

The rational thing then is to do something else. Something different: To leave the cinema and choose a course of action that yields a higher value for the time the two of you spend together. Right?


But that’s NOT what will happen.


Here’s what’s going to happen. . .

. . .You’ll both shut up about it and pretend watching the movie is fun.

Why is this?

It’s because:

  • You’ve invested money in buying tickets
  • You’ve invested 30 minutes of time watching the movie, plus the time it took you to walk to the cinema
  • You’ve invested your social status — and you don’t want to “make a scene” by walking out of the cinema while everyone’s watching the movie
  • And, maybe the most important psychological aspect in the case of a first date: You’ve invested yourself emotionally. . .

. . . And so, you care — a lot — about how you’re going to be perceived by the other person. You want that person to like you.

Meaning: You don’t want to admit you made a bad decision. Because it could backfire and make you or the other person — who is equally invested — lose face and get uncomfortable. And the other person may dislike you for pointing it out!

So in all likelihood, you’ll shut up about it and endure the boredom. And what happens next?

You guessed it — cognitive dissonance!

You start convincing yourself that the movie really is good after all. And that you really did make a good decision. And you will probably be successful in deluding yourself about this. . .

. . .Just like the losers (who don’t have real self-esteem) that I told you about in the beginning delude themselves with “feel-good” beliefs.

Then, as you and your date walk out of the cinema hand in hand, you both agree it was a great movie and you had a good time.

Then you never talk about it again.

Because it wasn’t a good movie and you don’t want to admit you made a mistake in watching it.

Alright, so now you know. . .

Now you know — and can anticipate — some of the ways in which your brain tricks you out of doing the “right thing”.

Let’s turn it around and look at how you can use this stuff to your advantage, starting with how you can. . .

Tap Into the Power of Consistency

Because it’s powerful.

And as you realize, most people are using various consistency principles against themselves.

Now, the first thing you want to know when it comes to using your brain’s bias for consistency is. . .

The Pygmalion Effect

Which is a catchy name for explaining the fact that our expectations or thoughts of ourselves are self-fulfilling. If you think good things about yourself you will form higher expectations of yourself. Higher expectations make you bolder.

In Greek mythology, Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with one of his statues and wished it would come alive and marry him. Then it did -- and got pregnant.

In Greek mythology, Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with one of his statues and started kissing it in hopes that it would turn into a real woman. Then it did — and it got pregnant.

This is one of the reasons why affirmations (autosuggestion) and complimenting other people improves self-esteem and performance.

If you think that you are a winner — you soon will be.

This means that starting now you will. . .

. . .Never think, speak, or write negatively about yourself.

Because it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy that puts you in a “loser effect”.

On to the next one. . .


The Consistency Chain

Which is my own catchy name for building up a streak of consistent actions.

The power of the consistency chain lies in the fact that once you do something every day consistently — without fail — for a long time in row you will want to continue what you’re already doing. It’s based on a combination of psychological principles like loss aversion, the sunk cost fallacy, and formation of habits.

This changes your thinking from, “I shouldn’t smoke a cigarette today” to, “I haven’t smoked for 40 days, and I’m not about to start today!”

Once you’ve started you don’t want to “break the chain”.

"Don't break the chain!"

“Don’t break the chain!”

The longer you do it, the easier it becomes to simply continue what you’re already doing.

But there’s more. . .

Next you will involve a visual element to remind yourself of your achievements.

This will help you put your work in perspective, which is a big motivation booster.

Here are three famous examples of the consistency chain:

  • Will Smith’s father forced Will and his brother to build a brick wall. It took them 1.5 years of daily work. At first they wanted to quit, but after they had laid the foundation they didn’t want to stop
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger would write on the gym wall using chalk for each set he did
  • Jerry Seinfeld used big calendars where he put an “X” for each day he wrote jokes. (You’ll find a free printable calendar like this at the bottom of the article)

Here’s how you combine the consistency chain with goal-setting:

  1. Choose a goal.
  2. Choose a deadline for when the goal will be completed (18 months is a good time frame)
  3. Transform the goal into a format that allows you to take action towards it every day. You do this by. . .
  4. . . . Making the goal measurable. Break it down into parts. Like this:

Let’s say your goal is to write a book that’s 200 pages and your deadline is 2 months. That means you need to write 3,33 pages per day. That’s no problem for you, right?

Writing 3,33 pages per day is an outcome-oriented goal.  You could also choose to make it a time-oriented goal by writing for 2 hours per day.

The time-oriented approach may be better if your self-esteem is low. Because it’s easier to put in time than it is results. And that might be a good idea, because — like I said in the beginning — self-esteem is built by consistent execution.

It’s up for you to experiment and find out which works best for you.

Now, onwards to the last psychological trick.

Finally we have. . .

The Commitment Tendency

Which means that if you commit to doing something you’ll increase the chances of success.

At some point you’ve probably heard about research claiming that people who put their goals in writing are more likely to follow through. But is this really true?

Yes, it’s true.

So be sure to write down your goals.

And after having written your goals you will look at them daily to improve pattern recognition.

There are a lot of smart people who never transcend mediocrity — despite their talent. Guess why.

It’s because they don’t have the balls to commit to any definite course of action. They’re scared to set goals and stick to them. They’re scared to fail. They’re scared of embarrassing themselves. . .

. . . And the reason I’m telling you this is because everyone benefits from making commitments. You might not be comfortable doing it, but you will benefit from it.

Everyone will not necessarily benefit from making  public commitments and becoming accountable to other people. However, some people will. You should experiment to see which type you are.

(I’ve talked about this before when it comes to goal-setting: should you talk about it or not?)

Here’s something for you to consider. . .

. . . Given the things I write about on SGM, under my own name, do you think this makes me more or less motivated in stepping up my personal development?

What do you think?


That’s about what you need to know about the psychological principles of consistency.

Now, let’s look at some typical questions excuses.

FAQ on Momentum, Motivation, And Consistency

Help! I am not in the positive feedback loop of momentum and I am over 30 years old! Is it too late for me?

Calm down.

No, it is not too late for you. Never think that.

Never think a thought that hinders your success. Choose to be delusionally positive. Use the Pygmalion Effect. Think like a winner and soon you will be one.

Many people self-sabotage themselves before they even take action. They do this because. . .

. . .They’re in homeostasis. And their brains try to keep them from using more energy than they’re used to. If they’re inactive they’ll find any reason to remain inactive. The brain doesn’t want to evolve. But remember. . .

. . . Your brain is not your boss. Nor is it your friend. It’s your employee.

Treat it as such.

You have to anticipate this resistance — homeostasis — when you’re changing your habits and entering the positive feedback loop of momentum.

Now, whether you don’t have momentum right now is irrelevant. Put that out of your head. It was out of your control until just now. Don’t waste energy blaming yourself for things you didn’t know about.

But you do know now.

So do what it takes to force yourself into it. Combine these things you just learned.

Be pragmatic.

Help! How do I use the “winner effect”?

First, you want to have a clear goal for what you’re going to do.

Second, you want to start making incremental progress towards this goal.  You do this by deliberately setting yourself up for a series of small consistent victories.

And it’s important that these victories are consecutive. You want to win as often as you can, preferably every time. Frequent rewards are best. How can you ensure this?

By starting smaller than you would otherwise. . .

. . . And stepping it up a little every time.

Here are some personal examples of how I’ve used the winner effect with positive results:

  • Last month I ran almost every day. I started small and stepped it up incrementally. The first day I ran for 35 minutes and the last day of that month I ran for 95 minutes. I think most of that change was mental (not that my legs got stronger).
  • 2,5 years ago I started taking cold showers. I started with lukewarm water. Then I lowered the temperature a bit each time. At first I had trouble breathing and couldn’t stand in the cold water very long. Today, I can take the coldest water on my head for minutes and still breathe somewhat normally.
  • 3+ years ago I started reading. I replaced video games with reading books. At first I couldn’t read for longer than 15 minutes without losing my focus. After a month I could easily read for over an hour.
  • 1,5 years ago I started writing in my commonplace book every day. Setting up the system was troublesome. But once I’d done that it was easy to continue. I’ve been working on improving the system ever since. Oh, and by the way: Imagine how much I’ve committed/invested into this process — the consistency bias ensures my ongoing motivation.
  • A little less than a year ago I started blogging seriously and began guest posting. When I did this I deliberately started out small to pace my progress and incrementally build my confidence. Now I feel comfortable writing for just about any big site in the world. No way was that true one year ago.

Help! I’m afraid other people will think I’m arrogant and cocky for talking about my goals or ambitions.

Well, in that case just keep it to yourself.

But. . .

. . . If you are the kind of person who benefits from becoming accountable to others (public commitment) you should find a way to use that. Like Muhammad Ali did when he told everyone he was “the greatest”. And remember, he kept that up for years until it eventually became true.

"Now who's the greatest?"

“Now who’s the greatest?”

Most people don’t have the guts to do that. They’re afraid people might think they’re arrogant, and that they’re bragging.

But . . .

it’s not bragging if you mean it.

There’s a big difference between being cocky and being confident. If other people aren’t smart enough to understand this — screw ’em.

Tell yourself you are the best and act as if it were true.

In some countries — like Sweden — people losers will tell you to be more humble. How do you deal with this?

You don’t. You ignore them. No one cares for a humble loser anyway.

You can be humble when you’re a winner.

Got it?


How to Be a Winner Every Day

Now that you know about the positive feedback loop of momentum you want to start using it in your own life.

Here’s how:

  • You build real positive self-esteem by executing on your goals. And you set goals by answering the questions:
  1. What do I want?
  2. How can I get it?
  3. What do I need to do specifically?

Then you turn that goal into something measurable that you can take action on every day. Time-oriented or result-oriented daily goals. And then? You execute like a madman.

  • Your self-esteem isn’t just based in achievements —it is mostly based in your consistency of execution. You build self-esteem incrementally, bit by bit every day by breaking records, doing scary things, and creating new references points.
  • You want to set yourself up to use the “winner effect” as soon as possible. You deliberately set yourself up for a series of consistent victories and build confidence a little at a time. You enter the self-reinforcing cycle of dopamine and testosterone.
  • Incremental change builds more motivation than sudden change does. You want the good stuff — the rewards — to come incrementally. And you want the bad stuff to come all at once.
  • Your brain is wired for consistent behavior. There are many explanations for how consistency tricks your thinking. This can be both a bad and a good thing. For most people this is a very bad thing. Because they unknowingly let it work against them. You must find ways to use this to your advantage by using. . .

–The “Pygmalion Effect” by only ever thinking, speaking, and writing positively about yourself.

–The “Consistency Chain” by turning your goals into a format which allows you to take action towards it every day and lets you build a long chain of consistent execution. Then you add a visual element to remind yourself of your progress and achievements (see resources below).

–The “Commitment Tendency” by putting your goals (no matter how small) in writing or by stating them in public and making yourself accountable.

When you combine these psychological principles you will become a machine–a momentum machine.


If you like this article, check out my book Breaking out of Homeostasis.

You’ll learn (1) how to be more adaptable and stress-tolerant, (2) what it takes to change your life, (3) how to use your brain and feel more alive–with 200 unique exercises, (4) how to increase mental vigilance (5) how to learn faster through pattern recognition, and (6) the most important thing for choosing your career before age ~30.

“Breaking out of Homeostasis is one of the most important books I have read in a long time. You read one or two books every few years that completely change the way you see the world and this is definitely one of them.”
~Martin Sandquist, Billionaire (Founder Lynx Asset Management) 



  1. Raphael says:

    It is impossible. But what if the whole world was full of winners ? Do you think Ikea ar else would still be what they are ? That there would be mega-rich people and mega-poor ? I don’t think so…

    Also this blog is obviously a positive thing, but sometimes I sense you let yourself be submerged by “confirmation bias” or whatever biases… I mean, there are probably a ton of worthy people who never made it, without being their fault, without being WEAK.
    I’m not accusing you, but I think sometimes you might forgot that it’s not all about will and genetics.
    Also you said Kamprad started for nothing then prove it’s false since his grandmother was helping him. I mean, ressources aren’t always monetary, so, he did not started from nothing.
    I tend to think that 99% of people at the top have had help from wise parents/protector, giving them an unbelievable edge. For exemple : Do you now the name of Mozart’s father ? Probably not. But the fact he was a music teacher (not rich or famous) has made Mozart a true genius.
    I did not read the whole article btw, trying to avoid information overload, which is my biggest weakness hahaha.
    Keep up the good work.

    a French fellow.

  2. “The real reward isn’t success… it’s becoming a human success *machine*”.

    -heard that somewhere

  3. A great long post! totally worth reading.

    I have read most of your blog posts and now I’m reading them again, taking notes and giving you positive constuctive feedback.

    You’re making a great work distilling the great wisdom that is out there from all the incremental noise in this information society.

    Vi ses!

  4. This article is too good, I’m struggling to find the words…
    Life changing shit.
    Love how you leave no stone unturned when it comes to making an article, helpful, memorable, entertaining, visual etc etc
    Thanks you so much man

  5. i just landed on your site the other day and i have to say im impressed with the content you have posted on it. i myself struggle with motivation. i waste time playing video games and watching tv. and not going to the gym and eating unhealthy. but im looking to change all this i just don’t know where to start.

    • Start by quitting video games cold turkey and replace it with something that satisfies the same stimuli (dopamine rush), but more character-developing.

      –I did that, and started by reading books 20-30 min per day (my concentration was horrible at time) and incrementally worked my way up by forcing myself to read 5 more minutes each day. That turned things around.

  6. Kenny Ross says:

    This is one of the best blogs I’ve stumbled across. This post was truly engaging! Good stuff!

  7. George Costanza says:

    best article on self-development ever!!

  8. Michaël Karim says:

    This is just amazing.! So much to absorb from this site. Thank you.
    I started reading 3 blogs/day + making summaries on commonplace. Gotta start somewhere!

    Creating momentum (if you remember) ! :D

  9. One thing I’ve done since March was cleaning…. I’ll start cleaning my room and my house and it will get me going to where I have laser sharp focus.

    Then I’m ready to write articles. You ever experience or try this?

  10. Hi Ludvig. I liked your post!

    It inspired me to make a journal entitled “I am a Winner” to document my daily achievements.

    Thanks a lot!

  11. Matias Page says:

    I had to stop by for a minute and post something.

    I just read this article for the third time. This time I wrote it by hand in my journal. It took me three sittings of a couple of hourse each. I wrote it as if it was a book by DaVinci. Each letter was written with care. This way things get engraved in my mind forever.

    As I was about to finish, I was listening to Audioslave (Cochise, Show Me How To Live, etc) and it was a great little moment.

    My point is that this is an absolute kick-ass of a post. This is timeless and precious “diamond-meets-gold” quality. You managed to put so much actionable power and knowledge of the mind into such a small space! I fucking love it.

    Thank you.
    Cheers from Argentina!

  12. self motivation is real sticking point for me so glad I stumbled across this article. Its very detailed and actionable, keep up the good work

  13. Hi Ludvig,

    Amazing job – if you could see me I would be clapping

    Great actionable post too. You’ve laid out great foundations that even the most simplest of people can understand and act on.

    Congrats on all the comments too – Fantastic turn out

    You’ve mentioned various people throughout which is new reading material inspiration for me!

    Thanks, Naomi

  14. Ludvig,
    I stumbled onto your blog a few weeks ago, and I think its fantastic my friend. You think exactly like me about life, the difference lies in that you’re 10 steps ahead of me. You’ve got a level of discipline and know how that I hope to achieve in a few years, much in the way you did.

    It particularly excites me when I found out about people like yourself because nearly everyone I come across day to day basis, is a fat lazy slob that works at a job he/she hates so they can play video games on the weekend.

    I read a post of yours every morning, I find it to be quite the kickstart of my day. Keep inspiring people man!

  15. Wow – powerful post. And it came a at really convenient point for me, reading this is exactly what i needed. Its funny bc often when i read SGM i find that what i read is in good sync with what i need at that moment! (How do you do that!? Do you believe in synchronicity?)

    Btw, when i read this part:

    “They do this because. . .

    . . .They’re in homeostasis.”

    I started laughing out loud
    bc i read it as:
    – ‘ they do this because…
    … They’re HOMOSEXUALS”


  16. The “loser effect” seems to be the same thing as” learned helplessness “. Is here a difference?

    • They’re very similar, but not the same. “Learned helplessness” can be in regard to a particular situation, and is generally acquired by actual failures. The subject has learned that a certain situation or task is hopeless. The “loser effect” reflects /generalized/ learned helplessness; the subject learns to think of himself as a failure at most or all important things, and can be motivated partly by mere criticism (including internalized criticism).

      Learned helplessness can be deliberately taught to animals; for example the “electric fence” sometimes used to contain dogs. Once the dog has learned not to leave the yard, the fence can be turned off for years and the dog will never test it. The “loser effect” requires cognition, not just conditioning, so it is largely a human monopoly.

      • Thank you Abrund. I just googled, using what i got from reading your comment, and found similar explanations.
        By the way, a really good example of learned helplessness, according to Paulo Coelho, is elephants who have tiny chains used to bind their feet. As you say, with the dogs, they get taught early that they can’t break the chain and when they grow up and are stronger they can break the chain but they do not even try it.

      • Learned helplessness is readily induced in animals which are intelligent enough to learn but not smart enough to understand when they are being manipulated (a category which includes many specimens of /homo sapiens/). This is very convenient for animal trainers, school teachers, employers, and rulers.


    • Here’s what I think on the difference vs loser effect & learned helplesness. I’,m not disagreeing with you guys.

      Loser effect:
      You’re playing a fighting game versus a friend and you are both very competitive people. Your friend loses. As a result he’ll have a drop in testosterone and dopamine. And he’ll feel bad.
      Learned helplesness:
      After your first win against your friend in the video game you play 10 more games. You win dem all. In that 11th round it’s unlikely that your friend will stand a chance. His self-asteem is shattered.
      I think the difference is “the loser effect” can count as short-term, whereas learned helplesness takes a bit of time to get into.

  17. Also a question i hope someone can answer:

    Is the winner effect the reason why if you put a guy in a leading position, like promoting a regular employee guy into a manager or something, he adapts and soon becomes more bossy and dominant?

    I read this somewhere but i can’t remember where. I hope you will recognize it

    • No, it’s situational. When a guy gets promoted above his colleagues, they resent it and often he is insecure in his new position of authority (and responsibility) and wants to prove himself. It’s worse if the people now under him used to like him, because then they will expect him to go easy on them – but a manager has to be hard on people sometimes. If the people who promoted him thought he didn’t have dick potential, they’d have left him unpromoted.

      • Yeah, that makes sense. But I don’t think that’s the whole truth of the matter here. And, like I alluded to in my comment, I have read about experiments of promotions and such where the guy gets increased testosterone levels and, via the “Pygmalion Effect”soon grows to actually become more dominant/manly and also has a higher sex drive. Damn, I can’t find the study now, but I KNOW I have read it somewhere.

        “If the people who promoted him thought he didn’t have dick potential, they’d have left him unpromoted.”

        Hahahaha. Don’t you think this is somewhat harsh? I find that most people, as a rule, are promoted because they have done a great job in their current role, and sometimes this is a bad idea by the managers because just because you do good in one role (say as a salesman) doesn’t mean you will do great in another role (as a sales coach). Do you get what I am saying here?

      • “But I don’t think that’s the whole truth of the matter here.”

        Even if I knew the /whole/ truth, I’m not sure it would all fit on the Internet. I’m really talking about my observations of people I’ve encountered who fit the “success breeds arrogance” pattern. There is another class of people, especially where management is concerned, for whom advancement is personally disastrous. They can’t handle the increased pressure and (though they may be dicks to some people) can’t be dicks to their subordinates. Such people invariably fail in management roles, which is why (mostly) the people choosing them try to select for dick potential.

        And yes, I get what you are saying there. It’s called the Peter Principle.

  18. You mention Bertil Hult was dyslectic. But did you know that Ingvar Kamprad was also a dyslectic??

    Imagine if Hult had had a nice grandmother like Kamprad? Maybe he would now be the richest Swede instead.

    I like the Swedish examples. I think you are too globally focused in your writings otherwise.

    • Yeah, I read that.

      But I’m not so sure it’s true. It seems to be a marketing ploy so that people feel sorry for him. And to make his success story more humbling.

      ” I think you are too globally focused in your writings otherwise.”

      — Haha.

  19. Jeremy S. says:

    Hey Ludvig,

    I was pleasantly surprised to see that you featured my comment from the previous article. I’m glad I could add something to the dialogue.

    I’m a bit later to this piece but it was a good swift kick in the behind I needed. I’m actually studying abroad in Copenhagen and am totally overwhelmed but at the same time, this could be the pivotal moment that you mentioned in the article–a time and place to gather myself and gain momentum. I started recording “Daily W’s” in my One Note about the different things that I felt successful about. And sure enough, that day I had a lot of W’s without even realizing it immediately!

    Do you feel there was a pivotal moment in your life that turned you in the right direction?


  20. The Pygmalion Effect: I would have called it “The Delfos Effect”. You know, because that oracle was famous for having Self-fulfilling prophecies.

  21. Excellent article, Ludvig. I’ve been exceptionally busy the last few weeks, but finally here are my tardy comments:

    A “magic formula” for motivation? No, nothing magic about it. Magic is something that can’t be explained. This is all science and common sense (i.e. experience).

    On self esteem: You have it absolutely right. Self esteem can /only/ be earned. All the phony “self esteem” crap that is fed to people in school and by the media just results in stooges who have no genuine self esteem, don’t understand what self esteem is, and don’t know how to get it. Some of them are arrogant borderline psychopaths preoccupied with demanding from others a recognition that they have never earned and never will. Every young person in our culture, and more importantly every *parent*, needs to understand (and have) self esteem.

    I don’t know who first pointed out that children need conditional love more than they need unconditional love. The love of mothers is usually unconditional; that of fathers is usually conditional. If a child fails a grade in school, Mommy will be consoling but Daddy will be pissed off. It is well known that the children of single mothers have an extremely high chance of becoming involved with drugs, crime, and/or welfare; the children of single fathers perform just as well as children with two active parents. Fatherless children often acquire a strong sense of entitlement without any actual self esteem.

    In a related issue, I think that modern Feminism has been a psychosocial catastrophe for women; to a lesser extent “backlash” racism has been similarly disserviceable to black people, at least in this country. Both are highly concentrated vectors for entitlement mentality and phony, unearned “self esteem”.

    “The ‘right thing’ to do is whatever you want and desire.” The hard part, often, is figuring out what this really is. There is no subject on which most people are so confused as what they really want and desire. Lots of people have vague, jealousy-driven notions of wanting wealth or fame, but they never do anything that could lead to either one. Then they rationalize that it’s all a matter of luck and there’s no point trying, and drift into a self-taught learned helplessness when the truth is they never figured out what (if anything) they really want,

    On using the winner effect: “Outdoing yourself” has limited scope if you concentrate on one area. A painter can’t paint one masterpiece after another; a weightlifter can’t increase his max bench press every single week; an entrepreneur can’t raise his income every month. I think an important point here is to *branch out*. If you are stalled in one thing, do something else – learn a new skill, for instance, or lay a new girl.

    Also: there’s nothing wrong with frequent wins, but a man needs losses as well. And a win without effort doesn’t count for much. There should always be exertion and the possibility of failure.

    On the consistency effect: Consistent effort is more important than efficiency, self-sacrifice, or a spectacular but isolated effort – recall the fable of the tortoise and the hare.

    On breaking goals into parts: This is the way everything is done in the world of work and commerce. It’s the only way anything important ever gets done. The longest journey doesn’t begin with a single step; it begins with a map.

    On putting your goals in writing: there’s another important advantage to putting goals (or ideas) in writing: you are forced to clarify them. It’s easy to have a vague feeling that you never act on, but when you write it down you have to either analyze it or admit it’s stupid.

    “Your brain is not your boss. Nor is it your friend. It’s your employee.” I don’t grok the duality here. Who are you, but your brain?

    “Help! I am not in the positive feedback loop of momentum and I am over 30 years old! Is it too late for me?” LMAO @ that.

    “Help! I’m afraid other people will think I’m arrogant and cocky for talking about my goals or ambitions.” Learning not to care what other people think is one of life’s most important lessons.

    “You can be humble when you’re a winner.” Amen. When other people respect you as a winner, or at least as serious competition, humility is a virtue. Otherwise, it’s just giving them permission to disregard you.

    • “It is well known that the children of single mothers have an extremely high chance of becoming involved with drugs, crime, and/or welfare; the children of single fathers perform just as well as children with two active parents. Fatherless children often acquire a strong sense of entitlement without any actual self esteem.”

      –I haven’t heard this before. Interesting. Do you remember what this information is based on?

      “In a related issue, I think that modern Feminism has been a psychosocial catastrophe for women;”

      –Funny timing. I just hung out with a girl and we talked about this.

      “Lots of people have vague, jealousy-driven notions of wanting wealth or fame”

      –Yeah. This is natural. They associate it with happiness and well-being (often mistaking cause for effect).

      “Then they rationalize that it’s all a matter of luck and there’s no point trying, and drift into a self-taught learned helplessness when the truth is they never figured out what (if anything) they really want,”

      –Yes. This is the definition of mental weakness. If you “decide” you can’t do it — fine. But don’t try to delude yourself. (Yet it seems to be the hardest thing)

      “Outdoing yourself” has limited scope if you concentrate on one area.

      –Yes, that’s true. It’s hard to find a ‘one-size-fits-all-solution’.

      “a weightlifter can’t increase his max bench press every single week;”

      –I do (almost). I did a 47.5kg dumbbell benchpress today 1 rep.

      And generally speaking, if I fail, at least I give it my very best shot. If I fail I get angry. And. . . ‘you don’t want to see me when I get angry’. . .

      . . When I get angry I get excess energy which I can transmute into doing another set. It seems to work pretty well for me.

      “recall the fable of the tortoise and the hare.”

      –Nice one!

      “On putting your goals in writing: there’s another important advantage to putting goals (or ideas) in writing: you are forced to clarify them. ”

      –Yes. This is something I’ve practiced lately. Got some suggestions from Richard (who made epic comments on the Incremental change article). He helped me get them down to 2-4 word mantras, Guy Kawasaki style.

      “Your brain is not your boss. Nor is it your friend. It’s your employee.” I don’t grok the duality here. Who are you, but your brain?

      –Identity/self is a complex thing. No one knows exactly what it is — so I won’t pretend like I do. I like Antonio Damasio’s theories (you can google Damasio + 3 selves) best for the moment.

      Anyway. . . Remember the whole theory of BOOH? Sure, you ARE your brain. But at the same time, there are powerful unconscious forces which do NOT want you to use more energy, think more deeply, or do something that is physically/mentally painful or uncomfortable. AKA homeostasis. And YOU CANNOT trust it by default. Consider you brain a constantly shirking employee.

      “Help! I am not in the positive feedback loop of momentum and I am over 30 years old! Is it too late for me?” LMAO @ that.”

      –Haha. I get a lot of emails.

      “When other people respect you as a winner, or at least as serious competition, humility is a virtue. Otherwise, it’s just giving them permission to disregard you.”

      –Well put!

      Thanks for the great comment Abgrund. The things you say always force me to think.

      • Concerning the statistical fate of the children of single mothers: lots of research has been on this in the U.S., and if a person had any doubts all he would need to do is pay a little attention to people around him.

        On increasing your bench press every week: it should be obvious that this is not possible. If you added just 2.5 lbs. to your bench press every week for ten years (that’s a pair of the smallest weights I’ve ever seen), you would be benching 1,300 lbs. (plus whatever you started out at). And for most people, I think week-to-week fluctuations will be greater than 2.5 lbs.

        On consciousness: I will be reading Damasio. I have some other thoughts on this, but that is for another time.

        “The things you say always force me to think.”

        Likewise, thank you.

  22. Just wanted to commend you on your site Ludvig. It’s one of my favourites.

    Tons of great content and no filler. Keep doing what you’re doing!


  23. sidingilizwe ndiweni says:

    May l suggest you read The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy.And pay particular attention to Sir Percy Blakeney aka the Scarlet Pimpernel…lm curious about the Scarlet Pimpernel Effect.

    • Sidingilizwe,
      I just skimmed the wikipedia section about it. Seems interesting, I’m putting it on my list. But I probably won’t read the book anytime soon.

      “l’m curious about the Scarlet Pimpernel Effect”

      Could you tell me more?

  24. Anonymous123 says:

    In your example with the consistency bias of driving past the guy on the highway there are other psychological effects at play as well. Like sunk cost in having already driven past the guy. Then maybe also
    Bias of wanting to reduce stress/doubt/uncertainty.

  25. Hey Ludvig,

    Been reading your blog for a while now and this post compelled me to post my first comment here. Very interesting read, one of the best I’ve read from you.

    I’m actually in a nice flow of momentum right now in my own life, and nothing feels better. Finding out how to build and maintain momentum has been one of the most important things I’ve ever learned. I used to go in and out of momentum streaks until I learned how it all works behind the curtain. I agree with everything you’ve said here. Winning really does change your biology and how your brain actually works.

    Keep up the killer posts, you’ve won another long-term fan.

  26. sidingilizwe ndiweni says:

    great stuff as usual…many thanks lm inspired.

  27. i have a hypothetical question which is going to sound stupid but i am serious.

    For example what if my desires are “bad” desires? Like watching porn and drinking soda? Should give into them? Will this build my self-esteem?

    I’m not saying im going to do this, but i would like to know what you guys think

    • Hey Peter,

      No that wouldn’t build self-esteem because doing those things don’t have to do with success (moving closer to your goals). . .

      . . . Unless your goals are to get fat, unhealthy, and have poor discipline.

  28. Ludvig, I get what you’re saying about self-esteem and I think it makes a ton of sense. But im not very into neurology/brain stuff – i can understand it, but i prefer more psychological stuff. Can you recommend any good book related to this topic? Some self-development or psychology book please.

    • Sure, August.

      Read Nathaniel Branden — The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem. It’s a book that describes pretty much what I’ve been saying, using psychological principles and terms. It’s a good book, and most of the things Branden says are now backed up/confimed.

  29. Hi Ludvig, great post. I’ve used your principles already with guest posting. It works very well.

    I’ve started to guest post with Mike from D&P. Although he is “quiet high in the food chain” I tried anyway because he wants to help men like us. Now I use thous references (and tips from your post on BAD) to pitch to other bloggers… When I’ll do 10 guest post in the “middle weight” category I’ll start to pitch higher, using momentum…

    My other small victory is that people are finally starting to find me through organic keyword searches.

    Once again, great post, as usually!

  30. Nice post, altough a “bit” verbose. The whole meat is in the part about pursuing your goals every day.

    I’m writing the book about consistency (working title: staying consistent) and I found much of your advice congruent to mine.

    I invite everyone interested in consistency to join
    It combines social aspect and building streaks (“winner effect”). With several streaks well over 100 days I feel quite like a winner ;)

  31. First off, thanks for taking such a hardcore approach to the feel-good movement. I’ve seen way to many people fall into its trap.

    I did some research recently and almost 60% of deaths in the U.S. are attributable to diseases of affluence. My high school health class however focused more on personality types than healthy lifestyles. They even supported somatypes, rather than encourage continuous improvement.

    “Like a general.”
    This was a good line. Really, the military is a great analogy for any successful life: hard work and dedication. However, people seem to shy away from that analogy at times to avoid the exact same things.

    The pants pocket idea is neat. It reminds me of a section from Atlas Shrugged, where Dagny is talking to a cigarette salesman in a subway station. Dagny remarks on how quickly everyone is moving. The vendor tells her that they have always moved fast, but that the reason had changed. It use to be that they had places get to . In the dystopian now, they had places to leave from. Now, whenever I walk, I try to walk like I have a place to be, whether I do or not.

    I wonder how our current “reward children for everything” approach to childhood works in terms of the winning effect. Does it work with empty wins like that?

    Some of the great advice I got while doing my Exciting Life series was to stick completely true to your word. If you slip and say you are going to do something, you better do it. Seeing this again in your Power of Consistency section really cements it’s importance to me.

    As of late, I’ve been using a variant on the calendar trick to build up good habits like meditation, working on my blog, and working out. Taking a hint from reddit, I made a 7×7 grid of boxes on a notecard. Each day I do my new habit, I mark it with an X. If I don’t I write why I didn’t in the box (so far, only one miss, because I had to pick up family from the airport). It’s a great portable alternative to the calendar.

    “Your brain is not your boss. Nor is it your friend. It’s your employee.” That may truly be the most important line I have ever read. Time to use it.

    For about two years a while back I tried really hard to be humble. But it just wasn’t for me. I ended up really unhappy. So, when my family and I moved, I took the chance to change. I became arrogant. According to some pretentious even (won’t lie, that one stung a bit). But I was happy, so I really didn’t care about how I came off. I’m happy, and I’m going places.

    I would strongly encourage anybody who is trying to implement these practices to start a blog. It is an easy way to get some straight forward feedback on your goals, and it is also great for learning new things and associating with different people. A blog can both serve as a goal in itself (with easily measureable stats like pageviews) and a step towards a goal.

    • Hey Michal, I can’t speak to the difference between your generation and mine, but as a 15 year old, it seems to me like the kids in my (AP) classes know the difference and either care or don’t. Ultimately I think that it comes down to suspension of disbelief: whether or not somebody will be willing to forget that their victory is hollow.,

    • Hey John,

      Regarding affluence:
      Yeah, the brain isn’t fit (by default) for modern society. People “go with their gut” on things where they shouldn’t. Like eating for example.

      Regarding the military:
      It seems that the military either turns you into badass or a brainwashed sucker, depending on your belief system.

      Regarding Atlas:
      I remember reading that. Great example. Love that book.

      “As of late, I’ve been using a variant on the calendar trick to build up good habits like meditation, working on my blog, and working out. Taking a hint from reddit, I made a 7×7 grid of boxes on a notecard”

      –You’ll be amazed where this is going to take you 18 months from now.

      Regarding blog:
      You’re absolutely right. I started SGM like that.

      Thanks for a great comment John.

    • “…stick completely true to your word.”

      Integrity: the single most important attribute of a man, or of a woman.

  32. Hey Ludvig, thanks for bringing OneNote to my attention. Now I’m organized enough to start writing articles for BragisBarbells, read, etc– and I even have enough time left over to think about doing my homework. Imagine that, right?!

    Definitely much better than EverNote

    I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I love how densely you write. There’s not a skimmable piece of info anywhere, and you still manage to make your shit easy to read. That’s just inspired.

    • Also, if I can ask, you mentioned that self-discipline is a cumulative process. I’ve definitely noticed that. However do you think that the rate of improvement increases, decreases, or stays the same over time? I’m only asking to know what I should expect.

    • That’s awesome — that’s what I was going for (regarding the writing).

      Hmm. I’m not sure about the rate of improvement, because it happens way too slowly for you to notice.

      All I know is that it’s way easier for me to force myself to do things now than it was a couple of years ago. I actually feel like I’ve made the biggest improvements over the past year.

  33. “Your brain is not your boss. Nor is it your friend. It’s your employee.”

    Love that Ludvig.

    I really liked the concept of “the winner effect”. I’ve heard this before as “being in an upward spiral” vs. “being in a downward spiral” only it never sank in deeply. Thanks for that, great post man.

    6000 words, wow. You’re a machine ;)

    Take care,

    • Thanks Simon.

      Alright. Well, there are many names for it. The point is that you want to train your brain so that you get to the point where it’s just natural for you to be ambitious and want to do big things.

  34. Nice article Ludwig,

    It covers different grounds. As an entrepreneur for years, I agree with boosting motivation and building self esteem.
    1) As you clarified, boosting motivation happens at an early stage, usually by family. Its a way of allowing you to try different things because you are brought up believing you are “special.”
    2) Building self esteem on the other hand is an exhausting task. It is risky, because everyone who wishes to become successful needs self esteem which leads to confidence. The problem is that if it stops there, that is where success really lies.
    However, if you keep pumping it more you shift to the third part you mentioned, the winner effect.
    3) The winner effect. Ask any successful person and they will gladly tell you that you can not always win. You do not control all factors related to whatever field you are within. Losing early sometimes helps in learning how to correct one’s path so as to avoid a major defeat or fall as you and some of the readers have mentioned.
    One of the greatest people who went through this dilemma was someone I really admire, Napoleon Bonaparte.
    His mom treated him special. She motivated him. His career was full of quick promotions because of small incidents (prey as you called them). He then began a quick rise and was the Head of France at the age of 30.
    The winner effect despite boosting his confidence and that of the French, was the exact same reason why he lost in Russia- Arrogance. He became blinded by his winning spree. The same went for Mohamed Ali, when he tried to come back but lost terribly. Mike Tyson, when he tried again vs. Holyfield, and Napoleon himself who had a great comeback after escaping Elba to regroup and fight in Waterloo. He lost.
    He lost his edge. He could not adapt. I respect what you said about that: (Because success (in any area of life) is all about adaptability).
    Building motivation and Self esteem are absolutely necessary for success, but the winner effect can blind the person from the need to adapt, because the person at that stage believes he is invincible, until that punch comes out of no where and knocks you out. You are left wondering wtf just happened. I never lose :)

    “I can no longer obey; I have tasted command, and I cannot give it up.”
    -Napoleon Bonaparte

    Keep up the great posts!!

    • Well said, Sal Mir!

      “Losing early sometimes helps in learning how to correct one’s path so as to avoid a major defeat or fall as you and some of the readers have mentioned.”

      –Yeah. It’s not as easy to use the winner effect in business as it is in working out, dieting, or implementing habits. But its implications should explain why it’s worth it to work a little bit harder than you perhaps feel like. Because you want to get into the positive feedback loop, and soon you’ll be naturally inclined to outdoing yourself.

      PS: Napoleon is one of my role models as well.

      • There’s nothing wrong with having many victories, but they shouldn’t be unearned or *too* easy – that’s the same as losing. An occasional hard-fought loss is better than a dozen unchallenging wins, and makes the real victories that much sweeter.

  35. Very good article. Exactly these kind of stuff/ideas that I’ve more or less implented in my life recently. It’s sweet to actually read about this, in one same article. Great job!

  36. Long time no speak Ludwig. Fantastic post.

    I have a problem. When I started reading this post I thought “well, I’ve won many times but I still think and act like a loser often”. I don’t feel like I’ve been re-wired even when I thought these accomplishments would instill something in me. Even when I became a father there was no “spark” that often hear people talk about when people become parents.

    I think about my business when I think of goals and success. I’ve had months where I’ve made $50k, but it did not motivate me. This is over a period of 3-4 years.

    I’m a college drop-out and I know what makes me unhappy, but I’ve done everything from business goals to relationships and yet it seems I still don’t know what will do it for me.

  37. Anonymous says:

    I can totally relate to Bertil Hult. It’s never too late to start winning in life, to an extent. It’s preferable to start out when you’re young to build up momentum. But if not, set goals and work on them daily. Don’t hang around bitter people if you can allow it.

    –From a winner that is going for even more.

  38. Excellent point about how having success starts to change you, at a very small level. You practically replace the old problematic identity with someone else, better, more courageous. We are generally taught to fear this, but change can come easier if we actually start to embrace the new identity.

  39. Very interesting Ludvig!

    I can tell you put a lot into this article and created true value. Thanks.

    I used to work for EF, while the guys success story is indeed inspirational, unfortunately the ethics behind the business model are a different question altogether. Nonetheless, they are very successful at what they do – making money!

    I can relate to what you’re saying with regard the consistency chain and the reluctance to walk away from time invested. I myself am working toward a target weight of 210lbs of lean muscle. I started at 185 about 6 months ago, and just recently I reached 205 (getting there!).

    This was a HUGE boost to my motivation and self esteem, as for the first time in my life I am within reach of the thing I’ve tried and failed to do probably 4-5 times. Even though I’m currently injured, I couldn’t NOT go to the gym because I don’t want to lose it.

    Also, as a blogger, seeing that in the last month alone I have recieved 20% of my total traffic in the life of the blog (almost a year) is quite a thrill. The rewards are so important.

    Thanks again, I enjoyed this.

    PS: Have you thought anymore about possible relocation?


    • Thank you G.

      I’m not surprised about EF. They send out a ton of spam. Their “newsletter” is crap. I’ve always been surprised at the size of that market.

      Great job with the BB and blogging. Way to go man.

      I am not relocating. My plan depended on two things — and those two things went sideways. But if I ever go I will be sure to contact you.

  40. What is your favorite/preferred way when it comes to the consistency chain? For example, do you say to yourself you will lift 5000 kilos in the gym or do you say you will work out for an hour?

    I am just about to start going to the gym after having not done it for 3 years. Decided to fucking do this now!

    • I don’t use it for the gym. I have zero motivational problems when it comes to working out. I only use “the consistency chain” for things I might struggle with. I like to look at it as part of my “motivational toolbox”. I have tool, but I might not always need it.

      Speaking of the gym. . . I knew a guy who used to measure kilos like that, he did German Volume Training and wrote in his journal each time.

    • Whether you value the process or the results depends on what you are trying to accomplish and how measurable it is. If you want to be a competitive powerlifter, you had better consider your max lifts. If you are wanting to develop self discipline and confidence, by all means consider your time in the gym. Etc.

  41. Great article. I saved it in Deliciuos with best-ever tag. I have taken more than 4 pages of notes. I am going to try it.

    My notes and questions:
    – I think it is really important to know that a brain want to remain inactive. I heard that a brain evolves on its own until you are 14 years old, but then the nature stops improving you without any effort, and then you have to work on it yourself. You can see it on some under average people.
    – I don’t like how you say “Never think negatively about yourself”. No one can force his thoughts or unconscious. You just cannot. It is like advice from The Secret. Let’s say you want to change something although you had failed in it over and over. I don’t think it is important to tell your self “You can do it” nor it is possible to turn of your thoughts and not thinking in your head that it could go wrong …
    – lets say I need to do exercises for my posture every day (new goal). It should be possible for me to exercise for 30 minutes a day (and doctor said I should – about 2 years ago). However, I have never been able to do it consistently. So how should I set my daily time-oriented goal? Should it be really low like 5 minutes? It feels it is too low because I know I should already do more. So how should I set my daily goal? Should I be sure that I can do it – no matter what? Or should it be a little more challenging?


    • Wow, that’s a lot of notes Marek. Great.

      Regarding not thinking/talking/writing ill of yourself:

      –Sure you can do it. It just won’t change overnight. It takes a while. It’s not about micromanaging your thoughts ever waking minute. It’s just about noticing when you do it, and doing so less and less. Lots of people should do this. . .

      . . . For example, a guy I was doing some work with told me he had applied for a pretty popular job in another country. I said: “Wow, that’s awesome.” He said: “Yeah, well…One can always dream, right?”

      That’s not being explicitly negative, but it’s a stupid way of thinking and speaking. That guy is awesome and would be great for the job — he’s a natural leader and extremely charismatic. He’s just not very confident.

      Regarding exercise: What kind of exercise will you be doing? Gym? Running? Some pushups at home?

      Maybe start with 15 minutes and increase by 1-2 minutes per time until you reach 45-60 minutes?

      Personally, I don’t work out every day. But nearly. The trick is to get yourself addicted to it so that you don’t have to make a conscious effort to think about it.

    • Marek: the important part is not how much time you assign, but that you keep doing it. You will quickly discover whether the time you are spending is too much or too little. Just pick a number and start, you won’t go to Hell if you adjust your routine later.

  42. Hi
    How does the winner effect work for me as a woman? Will I get more testosterone and become more “manly”?

    I wouldn’t say that Hilary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Angela Merkel, and other very succesfull women are particularly attractive so I don’t want to look like them. But of course I would like to be as successful as them!

    • Beth,

      You should check out Kathryn Minshew – New York enterprising lady. She’s gorgeous, smart and successful: ––

      You have to determine what it means to be successful / a winner to you. It’s a tough one for women because you are judged on your looks far more than men, and also men often become resentful of successful women who may deem to “undermine” their masculinity.

      Perhaps you’d like to describe how you’d like to be successful? Although I’ve thought a lot about the role of femininity in success, I’ve never considered specific examples.

      If you’d like to email me, Ludvig will be able to pass you on if you want (don’t want to intrude on his blog). His email is


      • Yes, women are judged by their appearance, and so what? Men are also judged by arbitrary standards. In this regard, a woman needs exactly what a man needs: to learn to disregard the judgment of other people.

        I don’t think the alleged fear that men have of “successful” women is relevant. A man may very reasonably want a wife who is content to raise children and doesn’t aspire to be a talk show billionaire; the woman who wants to be “successful” by male standards certainly doesn’t want to be that wife, so why should she care?

    • I wouldn’t worry about it, Beth.

  43. Wow best article Ive read all week! Keep it up!

    Anyone else thinks Pygmalion was a perv?

  44. Curious Keith says:

    The reason i ask is because Im pretty inclined to make extreme and big changes (tho ill admit i dont change as often as I would like).

    I should also add that I dont have much experience with using the winner effect like you explain you have done over a long time to boost motivation but I feel pretty damn tempted to make a try :P

    • Well Keith,

      Tough question. I don’t really know.

      I’m the same way. I like extreme measures. So I don’t use incremental change or the winner effect unless I’m serious about something.

    • I think big changes are safer when you have some kind of mentor or someone who controls and helps you with the process.

  45. Curious Keith says:

    Nice stuff man great read.

    Even though i will admit i didnt know about the concepts of incremental change or winner effect until reading this article and the last i still think i get it pretty good.

    But when do you think it could be an even better idea to make a big and drastic change instead?

    • Keith, in case you’re still curious: sometimes it’s time to make a big, sudden, dramatic change – quit your job, sell your house, divorce your wife, move to Alaska, etc. The only answer I know to “when” is “not too often” – the immediate cost of such changes is very heavy. Usually, it’s impossible to have any meaningful idea of the outcome, either. Hence, most people avoid such drastic changes, maybe more than they should.

      My advice: the time to run away and join the circus is when you have a serious problem that you have tried and failed to solve, or when you are stagnating and have no clear path forward. Don’t wait for the problem to get worse or for things to spontaneously improve; don’t wait until the circus is your only option.

  46. It’s interesting you discussed D’amato’s confidence building trick with Tyson. In this particular case I believe it was also one of the reasons why he peaked too soon and struggled in the ring during the 90’s.

    His opponents were defeated before the first bell rang. They were terrified of this raging bull pacing around in the opposite corner. You could see it in Bruno’s eyes in their return fight – he was on the verge of shitting himself.

    Something happened, however, when Tyson lost to Buster Douglas. He became overconfident. Cocky. Believed in his own hype. Douglas, on the other hand, didn’t buy into it – and he wasn’t affected as a result.

    Afterwards – with this defeat on his record – others thought ‘he’s not a machine – he’s a man’ (Rocky IV quote there), and when I say that he struggled – his antics and reputation failed to have an effect on Holyfield, who was arguably the only true world class fighter Tyson fought in his prime.

    Two men of equal ability with one difference. Tyson built his confidence from an external source – preying on the weak fighters fed to him via his trainer and promoter. Holyfield built his confidence by beating a series of legends and world class opposition and winning multiple titles across two weight divisions.

    Holyfield had that solid foundation, forged through years of positive feedback. Tyson’s foundation was based on a lie. You could draw parallels with Prince Naseem Hamed. He beat every fighter he came across with ease – up until he faced the first guy who believed him himself more than the hype. Hamed never recovered from this defeat and virtually retired thereafter.

    A bit of a ramble there – but your article made me think of the difference between what we believe ourselves to be and what we know ourselves to be.

    • Hey Jamie,

      Yeah, the Bruno example is funny. He really was scared shitless.
      Also a great point about “breaking the machine” (like when Roger bannister ran a mile in 4 minutes)

      And while you may be right about Holifield’s confidence, I also think it’s important to remember that Holifield is much bigger than Tyson. Tyson was a very small heavyweight.

    • jamie flexman this is something new for me.

      Who is this Prince Hamed by the way? A rich oil arab boxer?

      • Prince Naseem was the Tyson of the featherweight division in the late 90’s. Knocking everyone out with crazy arrogance. Check out YouTube. He was not a real prince, obviously.

        Ludvig – Tyson always struggled against the taller guys – even when he was knocking out bums – he took longer against the big boys. I think Holyfield wasn’t too dissimilar in weight, but a good few inches taller. Similar in stature to David Haye I think.


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