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Trying Too Hard by Steven Greene

by | In the Magazine, Steven Greene

“How to Fail: Try Too Hard”

-Malcolm Forbes-

Many of us are determined to get to our definition of “Success” in our business and personal lives.

Some of us are driven. A few are desperate. That is where we can easily derail ourselves. Success is usually a work in progress. The journey is as important as the destination. One of the most significant challenges we face on the way is trying too hard. What exactly is that? What does it mean? Or what does it look like? What does it feel like?

This is a true story.

I knew a religious leader who was the chaplain at a major city hospital for 20 years. Funny thing about hospital chaplains, no matter what religion they are, during emergencies and when an appropriate religious counselor is not available and, a patient is dying and needs spiritual consolation, the on-call chaplain has to be the one to take care of that individual even if the patient is of a different faith. So after many years of doing the job, a chaplain gets a wide range of inputs from people who are experiencing long debilitating illnesses and those who are near death.

So my friend, the chaplain, tells me, “You know, I have been doing this for a long time and have heard many last words, confessions, and wishes as people lay dying. It’s interesting. I never heard one person say I wish I spent more time working at my office.”He continued by saying that, of course, some of the dying had lots of regrets about not doing this or that, some lamented about giving up on things that they should have continued, or not starting something they wished they had.

However, the chaplain with 20 years’ experience reported the major theme of most final words of the patients was that they tried too hard at the wrong things and didn’t try hard enough at the right ones.

The question is why? Why have so many tried too hard?

But the most important question to answer here is

Why do some of us try too hard?

How do we start trying too hard?

Why do we keep on trying too hard?

Many times trying too hard starts by doing the wrong thing and then keeping at it.

The false start

We start with a false set of guiding principles.

How do we manage to keep on doing it?

We follow false principles without question.

I believe:

There is only one set of principles or rules we should follow without question. A bearded fellow carried them down from a mountaintop. They were set in stone, literally in stone. Almost everyone would agree, some of the greatest stuff ever written is on those tablets. As my friend the chaplain once told me, “Those ten are not suggestions, they are commandments.”This material is not about those commandments. I happen to believe in them and hope even those who don’t believe, live by them, but that has nothing to do with this article. I set them above and apart, so as not to get sidetracked by what we are discussing here.

Okay, now let’s talk about all the rest. The rest are all the principles, rules, axioms, tenets, and concepts that too many of us mistake as commandments but really are only suggestions. Suggestions from our culture, communities, educators, grandparents, parents, siblings, peers, and everyone around us who mean well but pass on a bunch of stuff that may be valid but usually is not.

I call them FRACTs = Fake: Rules, Axioms, Concepts, and Tenets.

This problem has two parts:

1. We have chosen to believe FRACTs as our guiding set of commandments just like the tableted ten! But FRACTs are false.

2. These FRACTs are like a disease. First, they infect us. Then, they can go viral and get passed on like a dangerous infection.

FRACTs are obeyed by most of those who try too hard. Those TrytooHarders don’t remember why they are following them. Most of the time, they don’t even know that they are following them. The base of the problem is they never questioned those FRACTs. And if we are not going become a TrytooHarder, we must force ourselves to do so.

How Do We Do That?

Here Are Some Simple Action Steps.

First, you have to wake yourself up. Slap yourself in the face. Dive into an icy pool of water. Turn off the Radio, TV, Movie Channels, Facebook, Skype, Camera Apps, Cell Phone Text, Cell Phone, Fit Bit, Instagram, Pinterest, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Viber, I-tunes, Snapchat, Voice Mail, Email, Gmail, Google Docs, Dropbox, Twitter, Computer, and all of the other digital things we must monitor every moment of every day, so we don’t instantly melt into a gooey “GAME OVER” state and disappear from the earth forever.

After disconnecting, take a few private, focused minutes and ask yourself

  • What have I been taught to believe?
  • What have I been led to believe?
  • Now, what have I been told to believe?
  • What have I been sold to believe?
  • And what do I really believe when I apply all I have experienced, and all I have learned?
  • What is actually in mind, my heart, and my soul?

Do you believe all the things that have been handed down to you, pushed upon you, demanded of you? Those are the FRACTs about how your life should work, the schools you should attend, the career you should pursue, the person you should marry, the styles you should adopt, the politics you should support, and so many other prepositioned rungs in the life ladder that has been forced upon you. The problem is that if the ladder is not yours, it may not lead up. It may not even lead sideways. It probably leads nowhere.

We’ve all been given every reason in the world not to question FRACTs. TryTooHarders never do.

Reasons like:

  • It’s expected of us.
  • That’s what we have always been taught.
  • I have to; it’s been the family business for six generations.
  • Our family always does it this way.
  • I would never eat that.
  • Everyone in our family goes to college.
  • I would never do that.
  • We always vote this way.
  • I will always do that.
  • They aren’t like us.
  • I only date ____________.
  • That’s not good enough for us.
  • I would only marry _________.
  • We’re not like them.
  • That’s too good for us.
  • We believe______________.
  • It’s the family blessing.
  • We don’t believe ___________.
  • It’s the family curse.

It may seem counter-intuitive. A single FRACT can fall into not trying hard enough but when your entire universe of beliefs is fake… is not yours… it causes you to Try Too Hard.

Try to hard

Trying too hard means you are stuck following a set of beliefs that lead you down a path that is not your own. So even though you keep on persevering, banging your head against the wall you can’t seem to break through! But that wall is built of FRACTs. It’s not your wall. It’s a wall that someone else built with their ideas, not yours. That makes your true concept of Success impossible to achieve!

You can’t succeed if you are trying hard to get over, around or through someone else’s wall of FRACTs. That wall is impenetrable. It’s too long, too high, and too strong. It’s made of stuff that you don’t really believe at your core. It’s made of stuff that you don’t want to deal with. Things you never asked about, never questioned, never handled. Therefore, you can’t ever get where you want to go.

What happens is, you try to be the everything, at all times, to everyone. The Internet makes that trap even easier to fall into. I must learn everything, sign up for everything, and try to encompass it all. Then I can get it right. Well, you can’t. Period. You just can’t. No one can. So don’t.

Begin To Fix It Today

Question the FRACTs you have made into your commandments and walls. Start to figure it all out.

Be careful. If you do all of this, you may discover the beliefs you have adopted as your own are not really yours. Then you will be forced to find what is true for you. You will most likely discover that you are trying too hard to live by someone else’s rules to get to someone else’s dream.

First, do the hard work and figure out what it is you actually believe in. What are the rules that rule you? What are your commandments? That is where the path begins to stop TRYING TOO HARD.

There is another piece of this fix. You may have used your unquestioned FRACTs to choose the wrong goal or the wrong way to get to the goal. For example, you may say my goal is Success but what is Success to you? Have you delineated it; defined it? Worked it out in thoughts, and then in words that are written? Yes, you have to write it down and review it periodically, just like a business plan. This is the business of YOU!

Here is a perfect example of what I am talking about. Albert Einstein figured out what Success meant to him. It’s slightly different than the standard meaning. We all need to look at the subtleties and changes to our standard definition of things. That’s how we get rid of FRACTs.

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather a man of value.”

-Albert Einstein –

That’s Albert was quite a smart guy; much smarter than me. So I have chosen to model my life after this meaningful quote. This is my commandment. It was not handed to me or forced upon me. I decided it was for me. So if anyone asks me what is your purpose, Steven? I tell them, “it is not to become a man of Success, but to become a man of value.”That Non-success is my Success!

Here is another true story.

I know a guy name Michael Senoff who runs a great website for entrepreneurs. It’s named  This guy gives away more incredible information that most people charge money for. His site is a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to access a huge treasure trove of valuable information. (BTW-I don’t receive any commissions or benefits for this mention. I just want to share a great resource.)

One of the things Michael does is buy used courses, training, mentoring sessions, tapes, and videos from “wannabe” entrepreneurs. Michael found out that you can’t buy a course and make copies of it, then resell the courses. That would violate the creator’s rights of ownership, and be unethical, as well as illegal. However, if you approach an individual who has an original hard copy of a course, tape, video, workbook, etc., you can buy that original course and resell it.

It’s just like the person who sells their vinyl record collection, individual videotapes, discs, or game cartridges. You can’t copy them but you can sell the originals. Michael, being very clever and entrepreneurial, did exactly that and built it into quite a nice business niche for himself. Anyway, Michael told me a very interesting story that, I believe, supports the fact that TryTooHarders always want to do too much, so they wind up doing nothing much.

He told me that many times he contacts a student about a course that they purchased years ago. They look around and find it stored in a garage or an attic. Now many of these courses were originally created by some of the most renowned founders of the marketing information movement, like Jay Abraham, Gary Halbert, Dan Kennedy, or Ted Nichols.

On many occasions when he receives the material that he purchases for a very low price, he finds that it still has the shrink wrap on it. In other words, the course was never opened by the purchaser. Now, some of these courses sold for over $20,000.00 dollars each. Further discussion with the sellers reveals that these folks often bought many of these crazy expensive courses from several different super guru trainers. In addition, many went into serious debt to make these purchases.


Now I was thinking about this story when I was working out at my gym and remembered that the owner and I had been talking about the 80/20 rule of gyms, diets, exercise equipment and routines bought from infomercials. You know 20% of the people actually try to use the membership or the purchased material occasionally and, 80% use it rarely, if ever.

I brought the same subject up in a Mastermind group that I belong to. We all agreed that 90% of the current purchasers of the trainings of how to make money on the internet, learning Facebook, social media, building websites, flipping houses, getting real estate, mortgage or contractors licenses, selling e-books, creating and launching new products, selling on Amazon, selling on e-bay, becoming happy, becoming healthy, or becoming efficient never get through the first 3rd of the course and never try implementation. Neither do the people who join membership sites on how to have a better social or spiritual life.

All These People Are Trying Too Hard

We may have all been a TryTooHarder at one point in our lives or fall back into being that person once in a while. But we all have to stop. Immediately.

How Do You Stop Trying Too Hard?

It’s actually not that hard to stop. Just stand your old philosophy on its head.

Old Philosophy

If I sign up and purchase all the courses, classes, memberships, self-empowerment gurus’ master classes, and mentorships, I will be on my way. I know I can’t do all of this at one time but I will get to it eventually. I have to sign up now or, I will miss the chance. It says the offer will be withdrawn soon and will never be offered at this price again. Anyway, having made the purchase is significant because it means I have made the commitment and have taken the first step and started. That’s exactly what the person offering the course said in the promotion, only the real doers like me make the commitment, take out their credit card, and buy!

New Philosophy (Just The Opposite) Say It Out Loud Before Taking Action.

Purchasing courses, classes, memberships, self-empowerment guru’s master classes, mentorships, weight loss programs, health & fitness equipment, and routines mean nothing. The receipts for these purchases are not symbols of Success. Rather they are evidence that I have succumbed to the marketing mastery of others who have created a sense of urgency in their pitch that I believed. I did not save any money. Having many of these products in a library waiting for me to take the time to focus on any one of them has cost me money. The stress of worrying about what I was missing has cost me peace of mind. I did not make a commitment I made a purchase.

Trying to balance all the thousands of products and services launched each day, with my ability to maintain my everyday life, and work while trying to learn something new has frozen me in place. Because I have made several purchases, I am on the “sucker list,” or if I have spent a lot of money on the “whale sucker list.” That makes me a likely target for every offer out there.

Even trying to learn the material is only a first baby step which I have not taken. The only thing that counts is implementation. Purchasing is not commitment. It is spending money to relieve my anxiety about commitment.

I promise, swear, and commit to this:

I will never buy another course, or purchase any mentoring services, or self-help products or join any groups until I fully go through every step in my last purchase and implement that purchase fully. Success is measured by the implementation, not purchase receipts! Lots of purchase receipts for these types of products is proof that I am Trying Too Hard.

I will do one thing at a time as far as these matters are concerned. Only one. Only one! After I do one, then I can do another, and then I will have done two. I must do one first. It always starts with finishing one.

A very successful business person who was one of the greatest teachers of marketing and sales reminds us, “Becoming a master is not about doing 4,000 different moves, it’s about doing 12 moves, 4,000 times.” This knowledge is from the book, THE ULTIMATE SALES MACHINE, by the late Chet Holmes with whom I was lucky enough to have had a few conversations. It is a book that everyone who wants to succeed in business should read.

Mastery is about the repetition of fundamentals. Pick a few things and get good at them. Rather than touching many things that you never get to understand or implement.

In his well-known and often quoted book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell has an entire chapter devoted to “the 10,000-hour rule.” The rule has been modeled by every world-class Success from the Beatles to Mozart to Bill Gates to every major recognizable professional athlete. Besides talent and opportunity, you must practice for at least 10,000 hours to achieve mastery.

So if you figure in the necessary time to live; things like eating, sleeping, dating, showering, going to school, or having a paying gig, it is highly unlikely that you will get where you want to go if you try to juggle many things at once. Focus on 1 or 2 and become a master. Then worry about adding to your repertoire.

This is the type of thinking will help you break out of the TyTooHarder mold.

How to Learn… How to Learn How To Really Listen

Didn’t you just hate it when Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Boyfriend, Uncle Gino, Busybody Neighbor, Girlfriend, Teacher, Pastor, Coach, whoever said,

“(Your Name Here), you’re just trying too hard!”

Because we believe we are not trying too hard. What do they know? Can’t they see the truth? The problem is they can and you probably can’t. This is one of the few cases where you should probably listen to others. They are not imposing a philosophy or a belief system they are just making an observation. If you came to work with blue hair one day and someone remarked, “Why is your hair blue?” Would you get mad at them for noticing?

The “Trying Too Hard” talk always makes us uncomfortable.

But it shouldn’t. You are getting a signal from a human smoke alarm, alerting us that where there is smoke… there may be a fire. If it is so apparent to people that we are Trying Too Hard, then maybe we are pursuing what we think we want in the wrong way.

Maybe, we should listen and review. Maybe… and look around and see what we are doing and expecting.

You know what that smart guy Albert said about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Well, Einstein said it was “insanity.” I say it is the definition of a TryTooHarder. Sometimes you have to stop and evaluate your actions. Maybe you have been trying too hard without directing your actions. Maybe some of your actions have been based on FRACT’s i.e. false assumptions. Stopping and reassessing is not giving up. Trying Too Hard may have stalled you.

Now it’s time to try hard enough with the direction and purpose you have chosen, not those chosen for you!

 About Steven Greene

Steven is a published author and produced screenplay writer. He is the winner of numerous prestigious awards.  His “out of the box” innovative thinking, true creative credentials, along with C level experience and influence have enabled him to produce added value for clients, in addition to becoming  sought after as a corporate speaker and consultant.

Reach him at

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