Prasanna Natarajan

Success means doing cringeworthy things

Have you ever had that feeling where you had to slide down to sink underneath your chair because one of your friends or colleagues said something that made everyone in the room cringe?

You and everyone else present there would want to erase from history what just happened because it’s embarrassing.

And then when the friend realises what he said, either immediately or some time later, the cringe that he’s experiencing is several folds intensive. It’s precious to witness it. He’d want to hide his face inside a hole like an Ostrich, and probably also would want to murder everyone quickly so this doesn’t get propagated.

Have you ever had the courage to share something into the world, via facebook, instagram or blog, that you know would make you cringe?

(Or have you shared your friend’s cringeworthy posts right into his face just to mock him?)

Being able to survive this and not giving a fuck about what others think of your work is perhaps the most critical elements of success these days.

Let’s say you are a programmer (replace this with your actual field work). Would you dare to start a website called “I Will Teach You To Program.com”? Just think about this for a second. The first thought that might prop in, is “What would my friends think of this? They’d probably laugh their ass off.” You’d also be worried about that non-friend senior colleague who reviews your code and constantly pushes it back saying you can improve this a bit. Your imposter syndrome might even kick in.

Yet this is what Ramit Sethi did with “I Will Teach You To Be Rich.com”. Pause for a moment to realise the arrogance behind this naming decision? It has to be either arrogance or stupidity or naivety. But it’s proved now to be arrogance (aka self-confidence) because he’s actually rich and in fact teaching people to be rich, for well over a decade. And he started this site when he was just in college with no actual money, but just money skills.

Would you be able to do something similar and walk with a straight head?

This is what Steve Pavlina did with “Steve Pavlina.com”. He started it in 2004 when he was a nobody in the field. His competitors were giants like Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy etc. Yet he had the guts to tagline the site as “Personal Development for Smart People”. I cringed when I came across it the first time 8 years ago. Now he’s successful too and is preaching what he practices and vice versa.

How do you think a guy positioning himself as a fitness and weightlifting expert should look like? Somebody with over-sized biceps, venuous forearms and carved out calves, right? Just like your regular gym coach probably. But Mehdi Hadim is one of the most successful guy in this field (earns 6 figures with his app), and he only weights 77 kg, doesn’t take supplements/steroids, and doesn’t even look like a he lifts when he’s clothed and at best looks like a hobbyist with his shirts off. Yet he created the most visited weight lifting manual in the internet StrongLifts.com. Throughout all of his guides he might come across as being arrogant when he says things like “You should do this only like this, else you are stupid”. There’s a section of the internet that hates him with passion. But he’s 99% right and his method gets results.

Would you be able to pull that off?

what was the last thing did that didn’t align with 99% of the people around you?

Are you afraid of that one friend’s sarcastic reaction?

Are you afraid of being taken as immature?

If so, get the memo right here: You’ll live a pretty ordinary, worthless and uninteresting life.

So, the lesson here is, go and intentionally do things that make you cringe. This is what the age old aphorism said it simply: Run towards your fears and face them.

Show what you are creating, teach what you want to learn more and share what you found useful.

Another way to think of this is: Maybe you are wrong in thinking that these are cringeworthy things to do. It means your priorities are laughably wrong. What really matters ultimately is if you’ve gotten the better side of this deal called Life. Everything else is there to distract you from this ultimate goal. The sooner you realise this the quicker you’ll grow up.

If your current social circle is not supportive of it, give them a nice finger and go ahead and do your thing. It may not be art, but it could be something useful to others now.


PS: There’s no comments section here, but I’d love an email from you @ prasanna@npras.in discussing this (or life in general). Wait, you could actuall call me too @ +91 80955 36527. (Who’s cringing now)