Take the Stairs

"The truth about success may not be popular, but it is certain. It may not be easy, but it is simple. In fact, it's so obvious that it can be elusive. And while it may not be what we want to hear about success, it is the only guaranteed method of high performance in any endeavor. It can all be summed up in one simple word... discipline."

- Take the Stairs, page 191

Escalators – they are great aren’t they? Effortless, not to mention convenient. But what if that mindset was preventing you from becoming successful? Motivational speaker Rory Vaden, author of Take the Stairs, believes that the difference between average and exceptional is all about taking the stairs.

He explains that what he calls “the take the stairs mindset” is “about making better decisions in order to improve your self discipline and your life.” Everyone knows they should be more disciplined in order to see better results. Even armed with these truths we don’t always do what we know to be best, if it were otherwise I’d eat a lot more brussels sprouts. So then how does one go about actually implementing discipline?

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Take the stairs

"Success is often not the result of our major decisions, but more deceptively it is the aggregate sum total of all our small and seemingly insignificant ones. Success comes down to choosing the hard right over the easy wrong, consistently."
- Taking the Stairs, page 23

Vaden explains that taking the stairs is a mindset focused on making more disciplined choices day in and day out. We live in a “I want it now culture.” “We almost never finish things that we start; at least not if they aren’t convenient or comprehensively entertaining,” he says. Rather than save and invest, people play the lottery, rather than eat properly and exercise we’ve invented new medical procedures and drugs to address the symptoms of obesity. The take the stairs mindset encourages us to stop this tendency and make better choices in the long run even if they are more difficult.

At its core the take the stairs mindset really is quite simple: make sacrifices in the short term that will pay dividends in the long term. If it is so simple then why don’t more people do it? The same reason people don’t eat their vegetables and exercise. Again we may know what we should do, but it is when we actually do those things consistently that we find success. Unlike buildings, there is not an escalator to the top of success, you need to develop the discipline to take the stairs. Vaden quotes Dave Ramsey as saying, “Discipline is not a microwave; it’s a Crock-Pot.” Taking the stairs will invariably take more time but in the long run you’ll be better off.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Pay the rent - the rent axiom

"...success is never owned, it is only rented–and the rent is due every day–the only question now is am I willing to pay a price that is greater than everyone else?"
- Taking the Stairs, page 92

You’ve heard the cliches, “don’t rest on your laurels,” “don’t coast through life,” “you’re either moving forward or backward.” Turns out those sayings are cliche for a reason. Taking the stairs requires daily commitment. You may have gone to the gym yesterday but unless you continue to go you won’t see results (are you seeing a pattern here?)

Vaden calls this reality the rent axiom. He explains that we can never own success. Success is not a status we are able to purchase like a first class airline ticket or something on the shelf at Wal-Mart. Instead success can only be rented and unlike other bills success must be paid on a daily basis. You have to continually work towards success. Taking the stairs is about continuing to move forward day after day.

The rent due isn’t necessarily measured in the quantity of time but rather the quality. But the price required is not cheap, and it will not be easy. The sacrifice will pay dividends, but it just might take a while for them to materialize. What rent do you need to pay every day?

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Law of diminishing intent

"Most people set out on fire to achieve their goals because our intent to take action is strongest the moment we create that intention. Unfortunately, however, over time our initiative starts to erode..."
- Taking the Stairs, page 180

We’ve all been there. You read something, you watch a video, you are stoked and ready to roll, you are going to make a big change. Then a few days pass, then a few more, and something jogs your memory “Oh yeah, I was going to do ____.”  Vaden calls this phenomenon the law of diminishing intent. We have to decide today and again tomorrow and the day after to take action and pay the price for success. Making the decision once won’t last.

It is easy to be excited about something right after we have an idea. It is harder to be ecstatic three weeks later after days of “real life” have wedged their way in between our intentions and actions. That run that I felt really good about a few weeks ago quickly stops paying dividends.

Unfortunately, I’ve had this truth confirmed recently. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind with various responsibilities and I knew extra time would be at a premium. Therefore, I started reading this book ahead of when I knew I had to have the summary completed. I finished the book two weeks ahead of schedule. In a bit of cruel irony, I did nothing for nearly two weeks. The law of diminishing intent is real. Each day I planned to start writing, but then something would come up. After a week of this I no longer believed that I would get to it during the week and so I thought Saturday, yep I’ll get it done Saturday. Yet, here I am Sunday night scrambling to combat the law of diminishing intent.

Taking the stairs is a simple concept, but it is slippery in its application. My grades last semester don’t mean a whole lot to my professors this semester. Each credit of that success has to be paid through daily study. I know this, but it is not always easy to match my actions to my knowledge at 3pm on a Friday when I am done with the week. It is those decisions, that if made consistently, lead you up the stairs to success.

Next time you have the opportunity, take the stairs.

In the comments below, let us know how you plan to take the stairs.

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Jakob Browning

ABOUT Jakob Browning

I am Jakob Browning. This fall I'll start my final year of law school. I enjoy running long distances. I have three younger brothers who will all probably be taller than me soon...
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