The Paradox of Success and The Only-72

From Cal Newport, the Paradox of Success has two parts:

  1. Most people think they know what it takes to be successful.
  2. Most people are not successful.

The idea behind the paradox of success is that, if so many people know how to be successful, why aren’t more of them doing it?

Luck and drive certainly play a role, but a better explanation is that most people don’t actually know what it takes to be successful. Otherwise, they’d be able to achieve it.

In some ways, this idea is freeing. If you admit that you don’t know exactly how to be successful in a pursuit, or even that you might not know the best way, then you can allow yourself to find the methods that do work well, instead of operating on false assumptions.

It’s because of this paradox that I love personal development products.

Personal Development and the Paradox of Success

I’ve bought dozens of personal development products over the last several years. The way I see it, if I’m not successful at a pursuit, that means I can probably learn a lot from people who have succeeded. Even if every product isn’t a life-changing experience, there’s still enough good ideas that I can save years worth of wasted effort doing what won’t work.

A recent example of this was when I was trying to learn French. I had a lot of hypotheses about the best way to learn a foreign language, but I wasn’t making terribly fast progress at it. Then I discovered Benny Lewis, who speaks eight languages and regularly reaches conversational fluency in under three months. Here was someone who was much more successful than me, who I could learn from.

I used his guide, figured out some things I was doing inefficiently, and my French level improved a lot faster after that. The value far outweighed the cost.

The Only-72 “Rock Your Life” Deal

If you’ve been considering getting either my rapid learning course, or any other personal development product lately, now is the perfect chance to act. My friends Baker and Karol have spent the last month compiling $1087 worth of personal development products, including my rapid-learning course and Benny’s Language Hacking Guide.

The best part is, they’re offering this carefully combined package for only $97.

My course is normally $67, but with this, you’d be able to get over $1000 in high-quality advice for only an extra $30. Click here to see the other 21 courses included as a bonus in the deal.

The only downside is that the deal only lasts 72 hours. In three days, it will be gone, and you’ll have to hunt out your own resources and pay full price.

Check it out here.

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  • Marshall Jones Jr.

    Interesting, when I read the first couple paragraphs of this, I thought the exact opposite. We don’t need more info – we need to follow through with what we already know. It’s not that we don’t know what we think we know. It’s that we don’t do what we think we know.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

  • Arturas

    I personally recommend most the books that are being sold. This is a GREAT deal. If you are starting out with productivity and personal development, this is for you or if you simply want to have all these great books for reference. You can’t go wrong with this.

    Thank you.

    – Arturas

  • Thomas A Smith


    I agree that over-thinking is a much bigger problem than using the wrong strategy in most of us (I know it’s one of my bigger flaws), but I feel this makes the trap of just pushing onwards blindly all the more dangerous as we overcompensate and just struggle away. So while this means that, as you say, people should collect less information and just go for it, it also means that the time you spend planning and thinking is still important.

  • Jonathan

    At some point this post turned into too much of hard sell for me. Come on, Scott, “The Only-72”? Usually you divide the for-sale content and the blog content in a more subtle way. The paradox may be, your sales increase with overtness, but you risk losing the class of your blog with that approach.

    My two cents. – Jonathan

  • Scott Young


    Well it is intended as a pitch, I’m not going to hide behind that. I make my living from products and promotions like these, so there’s a necessary tradeoff.


    Promotion aside, I disagree with that perception. Action is a type of knowledge, and so the best motivational writing is not just attitude-building, but giving you an understanding of your own psychology as well as the necessary steps to succeed in a pursuit. It’s that dual knowledge that generates action.

    There are definitely cases where you can know too much, or have too much information relative to the specific action steps you need to take. But good information is an accelerant if action is the spark.