Research shows that your ability to persevere is directly correlated to your likelihood of success. Those who can hang in there when things get tough, studies show, are the ones who regularly succeed. It’s no wonder why this is the case: those who persevere are the only ones who come out on the other side, while everyone else has called it quits.

One primary reason why many of us quit anything is simply because sometimes things are difficult — but only to a point. By definition, things that are difficult are things that can be overcome, understood, and dealt with. Part of our ability to overcome difficult things is linked to our close personal network, but it’s also a matter of whether or not we’ve set the right expectations for the challenge ahead. When we pursue a new habit, start a new job, or otherwise undertake a new challenge, our assumptions and expectations about the work required of us is one of the most important factors for ensuring we’ll make it through to the end.

Ben Casnocha gives us the playful anecdote of learning how to draw an owl:

I believe a key reason so many people on the road to mastery call it quits is not because drawing a beautiful owl in pencil is superhumanly hard. It’s because they thought it would be easy.

Drawing an owl can be difficult (particularly if you aren’t an artist by trade), but—like starting a new job, trying to create a new habit, or working your way toward prominent success—it can be done. The first step isn’t simply to start, it’s to set your expectations and ensure you’re ready for the task in front of you. I call this step zero.

If you’re starting a new job, step zero for you is to talk to your manager or team about exact expectations for you from day one. If you’re starting a new habit, your step zero may be to create a list of everything you’ll need to do in order to make the habit stick.

As Casnocha explains:

Step one is always start, and step two is always keep going and going and going until you’ve nailed it.

Before you start any endeavor, focus on the step before starting: establishing the right expectations and planning how to tackle them.


  • Guest

    A group of us, along with many others I would guess, are starting the 100-day “Make Something Project”. This is where it all started:

  • G Nice

    I like this. Seems to go right along with proper goal setting.

  • RenaissanceRules

    Well done, and worth repeating! As Lewis Carroll said,
    “Begin at the beginning… and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

    • Therese Awad

      Franklin Covey said in Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
      Mental creation precede Physical creation
      If you know what you want to achieve, define the purpose, focus, set your goal and objective.

  • Christine

    I really like the idea of the zero step. Before you start something, you need to prepare, put a plan together, and get organized. Also, thank you to those who made comments below about the “Make Something Project”. I’m really behind and had not heard of it. So, I checked it out and started my 100 days yesterday.


    Thanks for this article. I’m currently wrestling with my debut novel. As a result I’ve been trying to find different solutions in order to finish my book. I never set any expectations though I most certainly didn’t think it would be easy. It’s been almost two years now.

  • Ivy Patrick

    Real success starts with real expectation and unremting efforts. People usually know what they want to do, but they don’t have powerful motivation to encourage them keep doing.

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