GLSnext Event Series Notes: How to Conquer Impossible Goals, Featuring Rory Vaden

Published October 6, 2020

During the GLSnext Event Series on October 6, 2020, Rory Vaden challenged our audience with a fresh perspective on how to approach  impossible goals. Below are the notes from this session to help you digest and apply these helpful concepts and skills.


When it comes to being successful, conquering impossible goals and doing things we’ve always dreamed of, there can be a lot of confusion about the truth it can take to do that.

My mom used to say, “Success in life all comes down to the choices that you make.”


Here is a choice to think of to yourself:


  • Let’s say you come up with a set of escalators and some stairs. Did you take the stairs?
  • What do most people choose? Most people take the escalator.
  • We naturally gravitate toward the path of least resistance. We move unconsciously toward the short cut.

If there is one simple truth about success and anything that matters to you, it is that success is not about taking the escalator; success is about taking the stairs. It’s about doing the things you know you should be doing even when you don’t feel like doing them.

  • We don’t live in a take-the-stairs world, we live in an escalator world.
  • People in our society ask, “How do I make the most amount of money with the least amount of effort?”
  • It’s not just in our financial lives. There is always someone who is telling us how to lose our gut the easy way.
  • Entire industries have collapsed because we have people saying, “How can I buy it now? How can I have it now? And I don’t want to pay for it until later.”

This buying-on-credit mentality might work in some parts of our life, but it’s not the truth about success.




  • If I had to boil the truth of success down into one simple word, it’s discipline.
  • Even though it’s the truth about success, it’s not popular.
  • The most successful people in the world have the discipline to do the things they know should be doing even when they don’t feel like doing them.
  • It’s the discipline to take the stairs even though we live in an escalator world.




I learned about discipline as a young child. At age 5, I started studying martial arts. By age 10, I had become the youngest black belt in Colorado to ever get beaten up by a girl. I told my mom I didn’t like it, and she would say, “Enjoying it isn’t a requirement of doing it.”

Enjoying it isn’t a requirement of doing it.


Path to greatness


  • After a career of studying success, ultra-performers and high achievers in all different industries, I want to encourage you, challenge you and invite you to do the things you don’t want to do.
  • Doing things you don’t want to do is the shortest, most guaranteed path to greatness. That is the truth of success, even though we don’t see it in popular culture.
  • We want to believe in overnight success, but the reality is that success comes down to a take-the-stairs mindset.
  • Become the kind of person who will do that which others will not. Do the things you know you should be doing.
  • Discipline is not as hard as we all think once we know how to think about it the right way.


Ultra-performers don’t like discipline any more than the rest of us.


  • They have learned to train their brain to think differently.
  • They process choices through a different set of lenses than most people’s brains.
  • They choose a path that most people wouldn’t take.

We have to train our brain to think differently about discipline.

The take-the-stairs mindset can transform your life and can be the gateway to anyone conquering impossible goals.


Principle 1) Magnification principle of focus


  • If I were to go outside on a hot day, and put a piece of paper on the ground, nothing would happen. But if I were to take a magnifying glass and hold it in between the sun and the paper, what happens to the paper? It catches on fire.
  • Focus is power. Sunlight, if focused enough, can catch a piece of paper on fire.
  • Water can actually be streamlined enough to cut through steel.
  • We all know the things we should do, but we don’t do them. We don’t focus on them.
  • In the escalator culture, we put off the things we know we should be doing.

What is the word for putting off things we should be doing? Procrastination.


How much does procrastination cost?


  • 10,000 US employees in a study were asked anonymously, “In any given 40-hour work week how much of your time do you waste on non-job-related activities?”
  • The average employee self admits to wasting 2.09 hours each day.
  • Nationwide the average salaried employee makes about $40,000 a year, which means if we are procrastinating an average of 2 hours out of every single day, our procrastinating costs us an average of $10,396 per year, per employee.
  • Procrastination is the most expensive invisible cost in business today.
  • Procrastination is an invisible cost because we don’t measure it, but it is huge, and the same is true in our personal lives.
  • It’s not that we don’t have the skills, network or resources, it’s that we put off doing the things we know we should be doing, and that has a tremendous impact on our ability to conquer impossible goals.


There are three types of procrastination:


  1. Classic procrastination – Consciously delaying what you know you should be doing
  2. Creative Avoidance – Unconsciously filling the day with menial work to be busy being busy; distraction.
      1. It makes us feel productive or successful. It’s just being busy.
      2. Most of us will lose to distraction much more than we will to ever lose to not being smart enough or not having the right skills.
      3. In the absence of a clearly defined plan, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of meaningless trivia, and we get addicted to it.
  3. Priority Dilution – (Un)consciously delaying by allowing your attention to shift to less important tasks; interruption
      1. It has nothing to do with being lazy or apathetic or disengaged. We delay on the day’s most significant priorities, not because we’re lazy, but because we allow our attention to either shift either consciously or unconsciously, or subconsciously to tasks that are less important but are perhaps more urgent.
      2. This is living in a constant state of interruption—always falling for what it latest and most urgent.


You have inside of you everything that you need to conquer your impossible goals, the only thing that is missing is focus.

When you have diluted focus, you get diluted results.


Principle 2) The buy-in principle of commitment


There is a very specific principle concerning our ability to follow up on commitment, and we call this the buy-in principle of commitment.

  • The more we have invested into something, the less likely we are to fail.
  • This explains why it’s so hard to lose loved ones. It is hard to lose any relationship we care about.

While it is easy to understand this principle logically, it is hard to live by pragmatically.

In a nationwide research sampling of Americans, we asked, “How long do Americans follow through on new year’s resolutions?”

  • Over 60% of Americans will not make it past 30 days with a resolution.
  • 18% of people who make new year’s resolutions can’t keep that resolution even one day.

Why do we make commitments and so easily not follow through with them?

  • What most people do is make their decision based on the physical energy to execute and follow through on a commitment.
  • Let’s say at one point in your life you made a resolution to lose a little weight. And today is the day you decide to go to the gym. You go through this thought process, “Do I feel like working out right now?” And what is the answer? “No!” And for most of us that is the end of the conversation.


Here is what we learned from ultra-performers:


Emotional Energy


  • There is another type of energy being expended in our decision making. It’s not physical energy it is emotional energy.
  • Any time we make a decision, there is energy expended in just making the decision.
  • Very often the emotional energy to make the decision is even greater than the physical energy to execute that decision.
  • It’s not getting ourselves on the treadmill once we’re at the gym that is the hard part, it’s when we are sitting on the couch deciding whether or not we should even go.
  • It is the decision itself that is the hard part, not the following through.
  • Most of us lose in the decision-making process. We have more energy than we realize. It’s the emotional energy that is clouding the decision and making it feel more difficult than it really is.


Decision threshold


  • Eventually you will come up to the decisional threshold, which is where you are forced to make a choice.
  • You have two options: you can move forward OR you can turn back towards the way that you’ve always done things.
  • You can go back towards the way you’ve always done things, and this wouldn’t be a failure, this would just be staying where you are.
  • The decisional threshold is where the one degree of separation happens between the world’s ultra-performers and everybody else.
  • It comes down to the person’s attitude.




  • Attitude is simply the way you choose to see things.
  • You can choose to see rain, or you can choose to see liquid sunshine. What we don’t have a choice over is whether or not those drops fall from the sky.
  • What happens is that there are so many challenge and obstacles and rejection that we spend all this emotional energy on thinking about how we have to deal with all this challenge, that we have no emotional energy left to simply go get an umbrella and keep going.


Neutral Attitude


  • The attitude for most of us sounds like “I’m not sure yet.” It’s not necessarily negative, but it is neutral.
  • Neutral always becomes negative. Neutral IS negative. Neutral is not good enough. It is not good enough to have a neutral attitude.
  • There is one degree of difference that has a significant effect on what happens in the future, and that is the attitude of saying, “I’m in it for good.”
  • The person who says, “I’m not sure yet” gets plagued with this question: “Should I?”


Positive Attitude


  • The person who says, “I’m in for good” has a different question that comes to mind: “How will I?”
  • When we start asking the question “how?” our minds transcend all limitations. We break free of these barriers and mental prisons about what is possible for our life and what isn’t possible.
  • Asking “how?” pushes us over the decisional threshold as our creativity engages. This is what we call the pivot point.


The Pivot Point


  • The pivot point is when the leader’s thinking shifts to “How will I?”
  • “How?” creativity engages and our brain processes on the question until one day we wake up and the answer comes, or we meet someone who opens a door for us, or we learn something because our minds are set to receive it, or our team comes up with the answer.
  • The pivot point is not the moment the leader comes up with the answer, the pivot point is when the leader starts asking the right question, and that question is “How?”


The attitude of the leader creates the momentum of the team.


  • Increase your commitment by intentional creating the question “how?” rather than accidentally relenting to the question “should?”
  • We never get to stop being disciplined. That doesn’t mean that life is a big giant trip to the gym.


The RENT Axiom


  • The reason why we don’t get to stop being disciplined is because of something called the RENT axiom.
  • The rent axiom says this: No matter who you are, or who you were yesterday, or who you are today, it doesn’t really matter because success is never owned, success is only rented, and the rent is due every day. You can switch out the word success with something you care about.
      • Financial security is only rented, and the rent is due every day.
      • Being in great physical health is only rented, and the rent is due every day.
      • A happy marriage is only rented, and the rent is due every day.
      • Being a great leader is only rented, and the rent is due every day.

Maybe it’s hard to hear because it feels like there is not a finish line, but this is the most empowering truth of all. When you embrace this idea, you’ll stop wasting time looking for short cuts. You’ll stop trying to mislead yourself into believing some secret pill, or potion or hidden formula that other people know that you don’t know. Then you’ll start doing the things you know you should be doing, and when you do that, you’ll start to see results and you’ll build momentum.

One day you will wake up conquering the things that were impossible by simply doing the things you knew all along you should be doing.

The next time you’re in front of a set of escalators or a set of stairs, take the stairs.


To watch this incredible talk by Rory Vaden, click here.

For more from Rory Vaden you can go to his website for a free hour-long training on the 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time. You can also join us to hear Rory and 15 other world-class faculty at the upcoming Summit Replay events taking place on October 22-23 and November 6-7. Learn more at

About the Author
Rory Vaden Is one of our incredible 2020 faculty members for the The Global Leadership.

Rory Vaden


Brand Builders Group

A recognized expert in business strategy and leadership development, Rory Vaden a New York Times Best-Selling author, and Hall of Fame speaker. Rory’s pioneering firm, Brand Builders Group, specializes in helping leaders become more respected, trusted, recognized and influential. His insights have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CNN, Entrepreneur, Inc, on Fox News and he was named as one of the top 100 leadership speakers in the world by Inc. Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine calls him “One of the world’s leading productivity thinkers.” Rory’s latest book, Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time.

Years at GLS 2020