Live Your Legend | On Modeling the Impossible and How to Do Anything
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On Modeling the Impossible and How to Do Anything

On Modeling the Impossible and How to Do Anything

Unscared Model Success

Ultra Runner Brian Mackenzie

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

~ Sir Isaac Newton

Yesterday I spent the day learning ultra endurance running techniques from Brian Mackenzie at the Crossfit gym in San Francisco. He is the dude who has “Unscared” tattooed across his knuckles and has a cameo in the trailer for Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Body. There are also a couple chapters on him in the book.

Brian started Crossfit Endurance. He’s run distances up to 100 miles on multiple occasions including the famous Western States. He’s developed a running technique that requires significantly less effort than the typical approach. Whereas most people would run multiple 20-30 mile runs to prep for a 50 miler (or even a marathon), he’d stick to 5k’s, sprints and crossfit.

Think the 80/20 Rule for long distance running. Now he spends most of his time running and training others around the world through his company “Unscared.” Tough life.

But a lot of you probably don’t care a bit about running. Fine. My point is this guy is the man. And I wanted to learn from him.

This is what I seek out.

Modeling Creates Success

Modeling is huge by just about every massively successful person out there. Charlie Munger with Ben Franklin, Warren Buffett with Ben Graham and Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss with all kinds of people.

The concept has been around for centuries but the technique has been made more wide spread through Richard Bandler and Charles Grinder’s work with Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP).

Modeling defined: observing and mapping the successful processes which underlie an exceptional performance of some type.

This is a complicated way of saying: find people who are ridiculously good at something and follow in their steps.

8 Steps to Modeling Success (and doing the impossible):

1. Understand your interests – know what you want to be exceptional at. This will no doubt change over time and that’s great. We’re only interested in what matters to you right now. You can always pick something different later. My Goal Setting and Action Workbook should have helped with this. Realize you can’t be an expert at everything. So choose wisely.

2.  Pick your models – Find the best in the world. You’ll likely have different people for different areas of your life, as I have yet to come across a totally flawless human (see more in #5). Don’t just pick someone who’s top 10. Find number one. No exceptions.

3. Find an in-person model. Ideally #2 and #3 are the same person but it can be difficult to get face time with those who are the best in the world at something (although I assure you it is plenty possible if you care enough). Perhaps this is someone who’s been successful modeling the best in a given area for years. Make friends with them. Follow them around. Sweep their floor. Whatever it takes.

4. Dissect their process – Learn everything under the sun. This has become exponentially easier in the last 10 years and especially the last 5 with the massive growth in availability of online video. One of our models in our investment business (aside from Warren Buffett) is famous value investor Joel Greenblatt. The problem is this guy is incredibly difficult to get a meeting with.

We started with his books, articles and investements. Understanding them inside and out. Then one year out in Omaha for Warren Buffett’s annual meeting, we came across someone who had videos of every one of Joel’s value investing lectures from his course at Columbia MBA. Jackpot! We’ve now virtually taken what many consider the best value investing course in academia. And we did so from our office in San Francisco (and sometimes even our bedroom), for the grand total of zero dollars.

There is no longer any excuse for not being able to find enough on someone. It’s everywhere. Youtube, Vimeo, Google Video and TED Talks are all go to spots for me (and don’t forget the written world either). It blows my mind that all this stuff is free. Mastery is one of my favorite books on this topic.

5. Understand their 80/20. This is a crucial (and often skipped) step. Don’t just mindlessly do everything they did. It’s quite possible (and pretty probable) that there were a few core things they gave relentless focus to that made the majority of the difference. Do everything you can to uncover this 80/20 relationship. If you don’t you could easily wind up modeling the 80% that gave only 20% of the results. Not good.

6. Model what they don’t do. Often what creates enormous success is not only what one does but what one avoids like the plague. Charlie Munger says “I want to know where I’m going to die so I don’t go there.” Warren and Charlie are notorious for avoiding debt and complicated financial instruments (except for rare cases) and as a result they had much less to worry about during the 2008 economic meltdown –  in fact they benefitted from it. These guys spend an unreal amount of time understanding what’s made people fail. Then they do everything to avoid it.

7. Take the good. Leave the bad. Realize that no one’s flawless. Especially when you’re dealing with someone who’s the best in the world at something, they tend to have bigger shortcomings than others. You DO NOT want to model this part of their behavior. Once you start to really learn about your model, it will become very clear to you the things you want to adopt and the things you don’t.

For investments, I have done everything under the sun to get inside the mind of the young Warren Buffett when he was running his partnerships of the 50’s and 60’s, to understand his decision making process and his psychology towards business and investments. It’s made all the difference in success.

But there is one area of his I refuse to model: that of his family and social life. Warren is the first to admit that he did not handle the personal part of this life as well as he would have liked. For me, people and family are first priority. Simple as that. For that area I have other models.

If this means I sacrifice some business/investing success then so be it (although I don’t think it will). There will always be tradeoffs. Know which ones are worth making. Be ok with giving up some ‘success’ for keeping true to your values. In the end that is true success anyway.

8. Be Unique. That’s the beauty of taking and leaving things. You don’t want to be a clone of anyone. It won’t be interesting to the world and it certainly won’t be that much fun for you. Piece together your modeling strategy and go about it in your own way. The world will appreciate it much more and the results will show. Plus, you’re never going to be able to model any human exactly anyway – nor should you want to. Set the expectations properly.

From the Shoulders of Giants

There is no sense in reinventing the wheel.

Think about your dreams. Feel them. Now look around and notice those who are experiencing them. Take to books, the web or in person interactions. Make a study of the experts. Pick your models for success.

Warren Buffett is my model for my investment business, Leo Babauta is my blogging guru, Tim Ferriss keeps lifestyle design close in mind and my family reminds me of what I want to build with my wife. Take note of the good and the bad. Adopt the former and drop the latter. What’s left is magic. Just add hard work.

Modeling takes hard work

Putting in 100 miles…

Doing the Impossible

During one of the endurance drills last weekend I found myself between two cute girls about my age (late 20’s). We started to causally talk about the fitness adventures we’d been on. Stephanie, on my left said she had never done a marathon and was curious about my ultra experience last year.

I asked her what she had done. She responded with “well I did an Ironman last year. Some friends talked me into it over beers.” For those of you not familiar, an Iron Man ends with a Marathon (after between 8-13 hours doing the swim and bike leading up to it). Nice to meet you Stephanie.

To my right was Laura. When I asked her the same question, she responded with, “well I did an ultramarathon last year.” An ultramarathon is anything over a standard 26.2 mile marathon. That could mean 50k, 50mi, 100mi or more. It turns out she was talking about the 100 mile type…

These two unassuming ladies had each done what 99.9% of the world believes is impossible. I was in good company. And I quickly learned my place.

As I walked (more like hobbled) home that evening, a weird feeling came over me. All of a sudden running 50 miles didn’t seam that out of reach. I am not saying that’s what I plan to do, but the fact that my psychology shifted in such a way after just a few hours, is the point I want to make. Anything seems possible around these people.

To really turn your idea of what’s possible up side down, check out this TED Talk by a man who swam the North Pole.

“It always seems impossible until its done.”

~Nelson Mandela

Your reality is the company you keep – Choose wisely

The most important ingredient of doing the impossible is believing it’s possible.

This comes from surrounding yourself with people who have either done it or know they can do it. Do not underestimate the power and influence of your peer group. You either rise up to those around you or you bring yourself down to them.

We adapt to our environment.

If the people around you laugh and say your business idea isn’t possible or that you’ll never complete that race, drop them. Seriously. Life is too short. Find people who know it can be done. You’ll quickly realize a lot more is possible than you initially thought.

If you spend all your time around entrepreneurs who make $2m a year, the odds of you doing the same sooner rather than later would be pretty high (assuming that’s what you wanted). Same goes for fitness or anything else you care about doing well.

Modeling creates that environment in everything you do. This is not just about doing some super long race. That’s just the example. If you need a model to run a 5k or quit smoking or become a sharper salesman or better wife, that’s all gravy. Big or small.

Go out and find one.

So who are your models? Share them in the comments and let’s get the chat rolling!

If this post inspired you, please share it on Twitter or Facebook below. I would appreciate it, plus we all need kick ass models if we want to live big.

Image courtesy of Unscared
  • Jackie Lee
    Posted at 11:52h, 25 January Reply

    I only recently found your site, but you’re rocking my world man. I think I lost site, sitting here, working my ass off, all alone (but for a 4 year old) in my living room in the middle of nowhere, how important it is to have people to model. I’m currently going through your goals workbook, and I’m going to identify some of the people I would like to model and incorporate it into my goals this year.

    Thanks for creating such epic posts. 🙂

    • Scott
      Posted at 12:29h, 25 January Reply

      Yeahhh! Awesome to hear you’ve joined the party over here Jackie! There are a lot of big things to come for all of us I assure you. Very cool to hear you’re working through the Goals Workbook. I have been taken back in a big way with how many people seem to be getting value from that. I love it!

      A few of my Personal Freedom Coaching clients as well as all kinds of readers have been writing in. Once you’re done with it, I’d love for you to share some of your plans with all of us on the site. Best to use the workbook download page: I hope you’re up for it. Sound good?

      In the meantime, let me know how I can help.

      Welcome to the adventure!

  • Heather
    Posted at 14:17h, 25 January Reply

    Enjoyed this and it is having an impact! Thanks 🙂

    • Scott
      Posted at 14:14h, 26 January Reply

      Awesome Heather. So who’s your model??

  • Philip
    Posted at 14:52h, 25 January Reply

    Scott – awesome post yet again! I have never commented on blogs before. But you have really ‘struck a chord’ with me and, well, three in a row now!

    My brothers and I are currently working our way through running a marathon on every continent. So far we’ve ticked off Europe, the US, Australia and Asia. It started as a “wouldn’t it be cool to run a marathon” type conversation with the obligatory beers in hand. Funnily enough, once we completed one, it didn’t seem so impossible to run one on every continent! I do slightly rethink this on the starting line of each one though! 🙂

    Smart thinking on modelling the best. I’m coming to this late. An injury and my brothers rapid increase in running time have prompted me to be cleverer about what I am doing when it comes to running. I think I saw you suggest Born to Run ( Its running inspiration steroids. However, going the step further and trying to learn direct from the experts is the move I need to take next. Thanks for the push!

    I came across some lectures at the Darden Business School on Value Investing. I’m sure you’ve seen them, but worth checking out for those also interested in value investing. Start here and follow the links to #11 in total (

    Is there any way of making the Joel lectures available? I would really love to follow the course.

    Keep up the excellent work! 🙂

  • Stepan
    Posted at 18:56h, 25 January Reply

    It sounds weird, but you’re my model 😉

    You embody what you say and write completely. That’s what it takes to be the top 1%. Keep on doing what you’re doing bro, for ACTION is what colors the tapestry that is life.

    Keep up the gusto,

    • Scott
      Posted at 14:15h, 26 January Reply

      Incredibly flattering Stepan. Those are certainly big shoes to fill. It’s all about action indeed. So I will keep on it!

  • Nicolas De Corte
    Posted at 05:29h, 26 January Reply

    I think the key phrase here is to think outside the box. When you’re making plans and defining actions it is important to not always try to estimate if a certain action is feasible or not. You should just assume that it is possible and then think further.
    If it appears to be impossible after all, no damage done, but at least you’ve thought furter than most others.

    When it comes to choosing your role model, I notice that you follow the theory of Tim Ferriss to aim for the very best. They seem unreachable because nobody ever tries to reach them.

    • Scott
      Posted at 14:17h, 26 January Reply

      That is an epic quote you just threw out my man. I love it and may use it in the future. Assume that everything is possible then act accordingly!

  • Bunny
    Posted at 08:02h, 26 January Reply

    Hi Scott ! i feel this is more inspiring than many other Bigger people online.


    • Scott
      Posted at 14:17h, 26 January Reply

      Well I will gladly take that compliment Bunny! Huge thanks.

  • Jon Giganti
    Posted at 12:05h, 26 January Reply

    Great post. I’m a firm believer in this! The value get from working with someone who excels at something you’re passionate about is off the charts. I wanted to be great at GTD so I sought out a mentor and hired a coach at David co. Was it cheap? No, but the ROI was huge. I sucked at golf. Hired a coach. Went from a 22 handicap to a 12. I wanted to be a better speaker so I went to 2 day intense training and now Toastmasters.

    And, now, I want my writing/ blog to thrive so I’m starting a coaching engagement with Scott!!

    Keep the great work coming, Scott.

    • Scott
      Posted at 14:19h, 26 January Reply

      You are on the right track in a big way Jon. Going from a 22 to 12…that’s no easy feat either. I am a fellow Toastmasters patron myself. I’m very excited to start working with you on a closer level. Big things ahead!

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  • Claudia
    Posted at 12:10h, 28 January Reply

    Fantastic post Scott….of the EPIC kind!

    Totally with you on the idea of surrounding yourself with the right life models…”Pick your models for success.” is totally right-on, even if you don’t want to model yourself after them as a person, it does help to have models of people who have done near impossible things…or things that you admire and aspire to. Makes your own goals more reachable and ‘do-able’.

    …and wow, toastmaster and ultramarathon? You were in good company!

    Thanks for the great inspiration***!

    • Scott
      Posted at 21:31h, 30 January Reply

      It really is amazing what your environment can do for your goals’ achievability Claudia. Thanks for the thoughts and I’m so glad to hear this stuff is striking a chord. Let’s keep the action coming!

  • Ryan Renfrew @LifestyleDesign
    Posted at 08:04h, 29 January Reply

    What uuuuup Scott,

    I like your choice of models. Three Models of mine are, Seth Godin for his martketing abilities and insight, also Dan Kennedy for his marketing and sales abilities, abd finally the great Gary Vaynerchuck for his social media insights.

    Great post Scott, Thankd for making me think about this. I am going to review my models for all aspects of my life.


    • Scott
      Posted at 21:33h, 30 January Reply

      Love the signature Ryan. I’m with you big time. Seth and Gary are two people I am definitely going to be spending more time with this year (with their work at least ;). Thanks for the reminder. Seth’s stuff is so right on and Gary’s energy is unbelievably contagious!

  • Juanita
    Posted at 01:04h, 30 January Reply

    Scott! What an awesome post!

    As you outline at #1 you need to know what it is that you want to become good at.

    I would like to know your thoughts on finding people to model specific aspects that you want to model. I find it hard in my industry simply because people keep things very close to their chests or I haven’t found them yet.

    This is not an excuse! I have been looking for a considerable time. Is there any alternatives that I can look at? Any suggestions?

    • Scott
      Posted at 21:38h, 30 January Reply

      You bring up an important point Juanita. In really competitive spaces it can be tough. Ideally when you find your proper model, part of that good fit will be in that they are dedicated to bringing up the people around them and not purely focused on themselves being at the top. Another idea is to model someone who is retired and no longer interested in staying on the top. In fact you could even model someone who’s no longer alive. Charlie Munger has done this in a huge way with Ben Franklin. Obviously makes it a little more difficult to do the in person but still just as powerful. When you pick the absolute best, there will either be so much public info on them due to their fame that they can’t hide it, or hopefully they will appreciate your interest in their success and open up. You know someone did the same for them when they were coming up. It all starts with reaching out.

      Hope that helps!

      • Ailec
        Posted at 00:53h, 11 August Reply

        Hi Scott,

        Your blog was suggested from one of the people from Haket Summit. Oslo, Norway.

        First “Thank you” for creating a blog that can bring new blow of fresh air to many of us. As a former ex- San Francisco resident, I can perceived a lot of the city energy in your writings.

        I would like to point an observation, as you mentioned before ” is amazing what environment can do for you goals´s achievability”

        Taking this statement I would to ask for any suggestion regarding ” surround yourself with passionated people” when you find yourself in a new country, which been friendly is not their cup of Tea!

        From Bern, Switzerland

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  • Saran
    Posted at 10:28h, 08 November Reply

    Hiii,Im Saran from India,i jus came across this site and yes..Its mindblowing 😀 i love value investing too 😀 i was wondering if u could torrent greenblatt’s classes (It’s amazing to know..even in a country like India,Greenblatt is extremely popular) 🙂 ITs a huuuuuuuge favour I’m asking but well worth the knowledge shared buddy 😀 😀 keep rocking \m/

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  • Oberon De Monet
    Posted at 04:18h, 02 July Reply

    Hi Scott,
    Just found this site, and loving what Im reading so far. I agree with Juanita; sometimes it can be hard to find a good business model, if the area you work is tight-lipped about the ways they work. I run a business in partnership with Avon (yup, Im the Avon Lady lol) and I have decided to model the number 2, rather than the number 1. I know it sounds strange, but it was only after a bit of digging that i found out the #1 was only there through a few…sharp practices, and in fact my chosen mentor had made it to the second pace through hard work and more honest channels. So I do think its worth checking to make sure your chosen model is worthy of being modelled!

    ‘first wish then do – thats when wishing comes true’

  • Hassan Qadeer
    Posted at 14:13h, 31 October Reply

    Hi Scott,

    A nice and profound post.I loved it.Especially the the part that you have to believe that you can do the impossible thing.Of course,spiritual teachers have always taught us that you have to believe it,before you see it.

    Best wishes and keep rocking!

  • Stacy
    Posted at 21:04h, 09 December Reply

    Thank you for the awesome post. I am in the process of leaving teaching (something I have done for twelve years) and starting a new company to empower young women. Your post inspires me to keep going in my journey! Some of my favorite models are Brene Brown-I love her frank honesty and incredible message, Sheryl Sandberg-her TED talk was amazing and helped clarify my path, Chris Guillebeau-his book is inspiring and makes the unbelievable believable and lastly John O’Leary-an incredible motivational speaker who shares his story about being burned over 99% of his body as a young child and the lessons that it taught him.

  • brand
    Posted at 23:04h, 22 December Reply

    Amateur 18

  • brand
    Posted at 23:04h, 22 December Reply

    Hi there,I am a professional pianist and Ive came up with a silly rule that allows me to have a fifteen minutes time out every one hour of training. So, each and every break I have to do some thing completely different, so usually I go to Search engines and look for the recommended last hour blog. It is enjoyable to do anything diverse and to examine new points each and every day. Btw, right now Im practicing. Beethoven. Your web page is great, I wish I could stay longer, however I have to get back to play In the future Ill drop by again.

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    Posted at 19:38h, 06 March Reply

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    Posted at 02:12h, 10 June Reply

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  • Iza
    Posted at 14:19h, 09 September Reply

    I know it’s an old post but it really into me. I felt like at home, surrounded by ppl that always by my site. Ppl who’ll never say You won’t do this, it’s not for you. That’s an amazing feeling 🙂

  • Petronella
    Posted at 06:57h, 19 September Reply

    Hello Scott, you’ve challenged me to really reach out to my models: Oprah, Gayle King, Chase Jarvis, Jeremy Cowart, Lara Casey, Liene Stevens, Jasmine Star, Clayton Austin, Jamie Reichman, Eric O’Connor, Sasha Leahovcenco & Ross Tanner, Liz Forkin Bohannon, Susan Stripling, Jason Groupp & Cory Booker

  • البريد الاكتروني
    Posted at 20:45h, 07 November Reply

    There’s definately a great deal to learn about this topic.

    I like all of the points you made.

  • Kendra (LoveSpell) Foster
    Posted at 20:09h, 10 December Reply

    Hi Scott

    I am starting my own revolution and one of the terms that will be widely used is ‘ Guardian ‘. Any persons who I have been honored to gain understanding from to apply in the process of designing the Paradise of my life, I consider my guardians. A few of my guardians are Enoch Tan, Tania Katsos, Andy Shaw, Nathaniel Stevens (my dad) and now You and Jonathan Fields. I am so excited to get to say that to you because hey I don’t know if we’ll ever meet in person. I am so grateful for the energy of you and all my guardians known and unknown. Because of your positive creation (LYL) I and so many others are benefitting in our own realities.

    Thank you,

    Love Hugs & Kisses to you and your team!!!

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  • Jeremy
    Posted at 08:01h, 18 March Reply

    Scott, for some reason the share bar for this particular post is right smack in the middle, causing me much difficulty in reading.

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    Place one particular bed behind the other against the wall, and produce a storage partition in among.
    Now you should have a good feel for what has been
    published in your area and what hasn’t been done, what
    is selling and what is not selling, how much you can charge for your book, etc.
    Edit: To clarify, this means that the “Ground War” gametype has been removed from at least the current-gen consoles.

  • Fidel
    Posted at 05:57h, 24 April Reply

    Hey everyone, I don’t comment much on posts but I wanted to let Scott know how much the course is helping people. After going through the course, I started a blog and a podcast with the help of Modules 8 and 9. I feel like I’m finally on the right track and just want to say “Thank You Scott” you truly are making a difference.

    • Fidel
      Posted at 06:03h, 24 April Reply

      I just did an entire podcast on how I used Module 7- Modeling the Impossible to run a Marathon distance in just 7 weeks. I don’t recommend it but here’s how I did it

  • Daniel
    Posted at 10:25h, 01 June Reply

    I was lucky enough in that finding several people at the top of the field was the easy part. Having people to model is NOT the problem.

    I was going to college as a pre-med, but found wildlife biology, and absolutely loved it…and was exceptionally good at it… The hard part in modelling these people was that the biggest thing was getting “out there” and putting in the hours/days/weeks/months of honing my skills. I had all of their advice on what to do, how to do it, where to do it, etc. The biggest problem was having the financial means to do it. The best I’ve ever been able to do is “get out there” once a week. Often is was only a handful of times a year. You can’t make a career out of something you can only afford to do 3-4 times a year.

    A huge pile of medical bills severely limited my ability to get out there and do it. It’s taken me almost 20 years to do what should have taken me a year at most. I’ve seen many people come along and run right on by. In many ways I’ve lost more ground than I’ve gained.

    Still hoping that someday my eat-work-sleep-pay bills will get me enough money to be able to take a decent shot at that life.

    For me, the easy part is done. Now I have to do the really hard part. Get the money to do it.

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