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Inner Game

The Success Process: Getting From Where You Are to Somewhere That Doesn't Suck

bridge“Whoever told you the process of success was quick, easy or even fun, lied to you.” ~ Darren Hardy, CEO Success Magazine

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” ~ W. C. Fields


“Buy houses with no money down!”

I had been surfing through channels desperately looking for something – anything – that might spark an ounce of hope in me and keep me from pulling the trigger.


I subtly paused on a Girls Gone Wild commercial by accident but ultimately settled on a random old guy talking about buying real estate without any money, credit, experience, brains, conscience, self-esteem or clothing.

“This is it,” I thought. “My dreams are about to come true. I don’t have hardly any of those things.”

According to this guy you didn’t need anything but his CDs to buy a bunch of houses and start going out on boats regularly. I wasn’t sure how it worked exactly, but based on how easy he was making it sound, I figured you just took the CDs, handed them out to people, they listened to them and then handed you the keys to their house.

Simple enough.

I set the Nintendo Duck Hunt gun down, picked up the phone and dialed the 800 number on the screen.

operatorCall Center Operator: Hello! Welcome to the life of your dreams and the end of your personal nightmare – how may I sell you? I mean help you?

Me:  Wow. It’s 2:30 am. I wasn’t sure anyone would answer the phone. What are you guys in India or something?

Call Center Operator: No sir. We’re in Utah. We DO NOT SLEEP here, sir.

Me: Oh, ok. Well send me those CDs. I need them now. Can you have one of your Mormons same-day courier them to me with their special powers so I can get started this afternoon?

Call Center Operator: Of course, sir. That will be a $49 Magical Mormon Shipping Fee, which brings your total to $348. Would you like to super-size your order with a $15,000 coaching package?

Me: No thanks.

Call Center Operator: Damn it. Ok, well thank you sir! Your package will arrive in about 15 minutes. Enjoy the dream!

I hung up the phone more excited than I could ever remember being that whole entire week.

Goodbye Rat Race, hello Freedom. I couldn’t wait to break the news to my boss.

3 years later …

“I seriously hate my boss.”

I was sharing at a local AA meeting. I didn’t even drink, but these people were really good listeners so I just came to vent about whatever was irritating me that particular week.

“He’s holding me down, man. The system is rigged against me. I don’t see a way out.”

drunkDave, one of the regulars who, as it turns out, was a multi-millionaire with a penchant for Goldschlager first thing in the morning, stood up and slurred the following words that changed the course of my life:

“Shon … at hwon point hyou had a dweam. Gyo back to that.”

“Hmm. Ok did you just say ‘son, at one point you had a dream – go back to that’?”

Apparently he passed out because he had decided to lie down on the floor and not respond.

“Someone make sure he’s breathing please.  And why do we keep having these things in the morning anyway? You know that’s a bad time for Dave.”

But I got the point. I did have a dream, and it was to get rich with real estate. True, passing out those CDs three years ago hadn’t worked. But there had to be another way. I made up my mind to make it happen no matter what the cost. I marched out of that meeting a man on a mission and got to work.

Within just a few months I was staring at a check for $19,000 payable to someone that went by my name. I had to punch myself in the face to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

It was from a house I had bought and sold – no money down.

The following is a brief explanation of how I went from Death By Duck Hunt to $19,000 Payday and why that was the last check I’d see for another year until I finally became a multi-millionaire.

“Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result.” ~ Oscar Wilde

After building a number of different businesses and attempting to achieve a host of lofty goals, a distinct pattern has emerged – a way things tend to happen.

Let’s call this The Success Process.

The Success Process

I want to share this process with you now, but with one caveat: this applies strictly to those of us who have previously gone through the inner-Success Process. Meaning we have done the hard work of improving ourselves holistically to the point where we are strong and wise enough to make it through the outer-Success Process if we just know how it works.

If we neglect the inner-Success Process, then our lives are going to be a repetitive and insane series of tepid tiptoes out of our comfort zone and mad dashes right back in.

Kind of like this …


It’s like a Polar Bear Plunge except pain is chasing us out instead of icy water.

Let’s begin.

The Success Process starts with the Imagination Phase. We have an idea, vision or dream of some sort. It could be a new business, a novel project within an existing business, a different career path or a work of art of some sort.

It’s something that resonates deep within us and generates excitement.

It’s bigger or different than anything we’ve done in the past, but we believe we can do it.

We believe this because we have the perfect combination of high hopes, fantastically high levels of self-confidence and complete ignorance as to what exactly we’re getting ourselves in to and just how excruciatingly painful it will be.

“All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure.” ~ Mark Twain

So far so good.

If whatever goal we’re trying to achieve is something outside our expertise, the process moves in to the Preparation Phase. Here we learn everything we can in every way we can about this new thing.

We seek out a mentor, read books, go to seminars – the whole shebang. We immerse ourselves in this new world. If we don’t get overwhelmed and drown in the ocean of knowledge we get to move on.

Next we proceed to the Action Phase where we take concrete action toward our goal. This inevitably requires us to overcome a fear of some sort. If nothing else, a fear of the unknown.

If our goal is to start a new business we begin creating the product.

If our goal is to write a book, we begin writing.

hollywoodIf our goal is to be an actor, we sell our soul to Satan and book a one-way ticket to hell – I mean L.A.

And so on.

Once we’ve gone out on a limb and taken somewhat of a blind step of faith, something genuinely amazing tends to happen: we have some sort of immediate success.

It might be big; it might be small. Whatever it is, it’s always significant.

If we’re working on a new business, maybe the product just effortlessly comes together and it’s mind blowing. Or we score a big deal of some sort right out the gate.

If we’re writing a book, possibly the first chapter quickly flows out of us and shocks us to death with its profundity and wit.

If we’re acting, we get an immediate opportunity to exchange sexual favors for a supporting role in a reverse mortgage commercial.

We’re always pleasantly surprised, but we shouldn’t be because it’s just a part of the process.

Life is rewarding us for taking a step of faith and whispering, “keep going.”

Without this immediate success the next part of the process would be simply unbearable. We’re getting a taste of the dream to whet our appetite and provide the motivation necessary to make it through what I call “This Part Of The Success Process Sucks Big Hairy Knuckles.”

But before we get to that, let me just say this: you may be sitting there thinking to yourself, “Wait a minute. I’ve tried things in the past and didn’t get that immediate success. What the heck? You are a LIAR, Preston Ely. I’m going to continue to read and buy every single thing you put online, but you are a LIAR, sir.”

If that’s you then, first of all, screw you for calling me names, man – that’s messed up. But here is what happened; it’s one of two things…

  1. You attempted something without first going through the inner-success process, in which case nothing you do will ever succeed.
  2. You weren’t supposed to keep going. You were on the wrong track. Be grateful for that so-called failure and look for the hidden lesson.

“Failure is success if we learn from it.” ~ Malcolm Forbes

So we’ve tasted sweet success and have “arrived”.

“It’s going to be this easy forever,” we think.

bootcampUnbeknownst to us we have just unwittingly “arrived” at something akin to a Navy SEAL tryout. One hundred people show up … maybe three live to tell the story and strap on a navy snorkel for duty.

Everything up to this point has been a mere pre-screening process.

It’s like someone has handed us an MPK5 machine gun to use on a target dummy, we experience the joy of violence, and then they take the gun back and say, “Ok, see how fun that was? Now sign up for this thing over here. I know, I know – it says ‘Hell Week.’ Hahaha. Never mind that. It’s just a funny name for it. You’ll survive most likely.”

Enter the Hairy Knuckle Sucking Phase.


Have you ever sucked on a big hairy knuckle?

It. Is. Horrible. You feel like you’re gagging on a whiskery ball of devastation. You beg for God to do a hairy knuckle Heimlich maneuver on you and end your misery, and He does – in about twelve months.

Our job during this phase is merely to stay alive and don’t stop trying to breathe.

The ease with which our initial success came? Replaced with resistance.

We may as well be trying to bench press two planets connected together with a plutonium barbell for all we can tell. And we cannot do that in case I’m not being clear.

The initial excitement about our dream? Converted to torment.

As the reality of what it really takes to succeed in our chosen endeavor sets in and the true level of our abilities is exposed, the bliss of ignorance is promptly transformed into the pain of reality.

The ideas stop flowing.

The money stops coming.

We stop smiling.

ceilingAt the climax of this apparently sick cosmic joke we hit what appears to be an invisible wall. It’s like an invisible ceiling except for all races and genders equally.

Things stop working.

What made so much sense in the beginning now seems like utter nonsense.

The things that appeared so easy are now almost unbearably difficult.

Whereas previously we were prancing freely and joyfully across a field of wheat like Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, we are now marching painfully and miserably through what appears to be a mixture of boiling hot tar and quicksand.

And this, my friend, is the defining moment.

“When a defining moment comes along, you can do one of two things. Define the moment, or let the moment define you.” ~ Kevin Cosner, Tin Cup

What are we going to do? Are we going to keep plowing forward despite the pain and lack of results? Or are we going to quit?

Contrary to what you may be thinking, either way is equally noble depending on the circumstances. But before I explain why, let’s answer this question:

Why does the Hairy Knuckle Sucking Phase (HKSP) exist in the first place?

I want you to start a new habit. Pretend you’re four years old, and start asking “why?” again. Ask it about everything.

There is a reason things happen.

Don’t just assume the worst – or the best – out of ignorance. Ask “why?”.

Look for the reality behind things. Become a truth seeker.

Not doing this would be like going your entire adult life with a guy in a big red Tickle Me Elmo suit following you around and Russian leg sweeping you every 5 minutes and hating it but never really wondering “why is this happening?”

It’s not an exact analogy, but it’s pretty close.


The HKSP exists for the following purposes…

HKSP Purpose #1: To Initiate You.

One of the main goals of things like male initiation rites of passage, fraternity hazing, and military boot camps is to get you to identify with this new group of people and way of life – to alter your perception of who you are – on a deep fundamental level.

This works in part because we are at our most programmable state when at our wits end and highly charged with emotion.

Once your new identity is solidly in place you will act accordingly.

Consider the horrors of the HKSP your personal rite of passage.

You go in a burrito maker and come out a  _______________________ (fill in the blank with … whatever you want to be).*

HKSP Purpose #2: To Prepare You.

As much as you might like to just dive headlong into the sea of success and start swimming the dream, life is too kind to let that happen. The water is full of sharks you see. And you’re just a little baby sea horse. Your death wish shall not be granted.

If you want to swim with the sharks you have to slowly morph into a freakishly large sea horse that breathes fire out of its nose even while under water. This will really impress the sharks who will consequently not eat you and might even help you find some sea horse success.

The HKSP will assist with your metamorphosis.

HKSP Purpose #3: To Protect You.

Success gained quickly is suicide. Without the humbling process of the HKSP the success will go straight to your head and you’ll self-destruct.

Small souls cannot sustain success (say that ten times fast). Your heart must be softened and enlarged by the pain of stretching outside your comfort zone for an extended period of time.  Not many people are willing to do this, and, frankly, I’m thankful for that. Can you imagine if I had to deal with a thousand other people writing blog posts about sea horses, hairy knuckles, and Tickle Me Elmo’s? That would suck!

mouseHKSP Purpose #4: To Perfect You.

Your original vision for your venture or project was good, but it wasn’t sufficiently thought through. Most people with the courage to step out and do something big on their own are visionaries with relatively weak structural skills. When forced to systemize the dream they find it extraordinarily hard to bear.

Through the HKSP your original idea will be crystalized and something way cooler than you had in mind will appear.

HKSP Purpose #5:  To Qualify You.

Every human being that has ever been and ever will be was born with a mission to accomplish. All our gifts, talents, abilities, inclinations, passions, successes, and memorable experiences up to now have been clues as to what this mission might be.

We’ve had a sneaking suspicion that this new thing we’re attempting may be, if not our main mission, at least a step in that direction. The HKSP is here to let us know if our suspicion was right or not.

If it was right then we will find the desire within us to persevere through the pain and succeed. If it wasn’t, we won’t. We’ll appreciate the lesson learned, scratch that thing off the list of potential callings, realize it was a training exercise for the real deal and keep it moving. And who knows … sometimes “the real deal” is the exact thing we’re scratching off. The timing simply wasn’t right. Remember the three years in between my infomercial CD’s and the $19,000 check?

“I don’t believe in failure. It is not failure if you enjoyed the process.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

Sometimes life takes us down a certain road for no other reason than to allow us to experience the joy of that particular journey.

“My dream has been shattered,” you say. Maybe so. But underneath the pieces of your broken dream lies something infinitely greater and more real, if only you don’t lose heart.

So we come to our defining moment – the peak of pain in The Success Process. A still small voice in our head whispers, “Quit now or I am going to kill you myself”. We have no idea who this voice is, but it sounds fairly sincere. The pain demands an answer, but we hold off as long as possible unsure of the right thing to do.

This is when being familiar with the process becomes critical. If we are unaware of what’s really going on, we will assume the pain is a sign to stop. But if we understand the process, we know we could be “three feet from gold” as Napoleon Hill put it.


“In moments of doubt in the present, the memory of past experience rises to the surface. Filled with trust in the process, [Masters] trudge on well past the point at which others slow down or mentally quit.” ~ Robert Greene, Mastery

If we find the motivation within us to plow through this point of no return and break through the HKSP barrier, we then enter the final phase. I call it Heaven On Planet Earth (HOPE).

HOPE is where you’ve always dreamed of being but have refused to pay the price of admission.

HOPE is what you feel deep down in your bones life is supposed to be like but can’t figure out how to make happen.

HOPE is what you were made for; so expect to be miserable until you get here.

The HOPE phase brings us back full circle to when everything was easy and exciting but with one small difference: it’s a thousand times easier and more exciting.  And it doesn’t go away for a really long time.

We stop seeking for opportunities. Opportunities begin seeking us.

We cease striving for money. We may as well be printing it in our living rooms it comes so easily.

We no longer chase after people. People chase us.

(The only time HOPE goes away is when it is time to move on to something even greater and more intimately aligned with our ultimate life’s mission. Expect to repeat the entire Success Process at that point only on a much more intense level.)

We have paid our dues and have arrived.

It’s like we’ve been arduously climbing a snow-covered mountain for what seems like a decade wearing nothing but underwear and a foggy ski mask. All of a sudden we reach the top and are handed some Gucci winter clothes, the ability to move things with our mind, and a solid gold sled worth a million dollars to slide down with.

All the way down the slope there are tiny elves cheering us on and throwing snowballs at us full of hundred dollar bills that feel like sex when they hit us.

climbLife is nothing more than a series of mountains placed before us – each bigger than the one before it, each leading us closer and closer to Home. When we get to the end and look back, it won’t be the golden sled rides we value; it will be the snowballs.

Just kidding. It will be who we have become in the process:

A mountain mover.

Question: Where are you at in this process right now? Does any of this ring a bell? Leave a comment below or Elmo will leg sweep you later today when you least expect it.

Recommended Reading: Mastery by Robert Greene

Ancient Wisdom To Memorize: “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain ‘move from here to there.’ It will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Affirmation For The Week: I eat hairy knuckle sandwiches for breakfast.


*Note: So let’s say you’re trying to become an actor. And let’s say this because it’s been the funniest example so we’ll keep rolling with it.

You’re trying to become an actor, but you currently have the identity of a burrito maker. This identity is so deeply ingrained in you that you have a hard time not speaking Spanish at auditions. And you don’t even speak Spanish. You have to bring a translator with you to interpret your lines. You sound like Erik Estrada after ten shots of tequila. It’s a mess.

You’re in the new world of acting going through the motions of an actor … but you’re not an actor yet. Not in your mind at least.

tacosYou’re auditioning for Hawaii Five-O, but you feel like a chef at Taco Bell because actually you still do that during the day.

You taste a little success with the reverse mortgage gig. Then you enter the HKSP for years. The closest you get to stardom is a back up dancer in a Justin Bieber video. You can’t dance, but the director spotted you in the reverse mortgage thing and you had the right look so they CGI’d your face over the winner of last year’s So You Think You Can Dance body. The video goes viral on YouTube.

Right when the Hairy Knuckle Heat is at it’s hottest … you get your big break. You land a role co-starring with Brad Pitt in a blockbuster movie that will be subliminally preparing the general public for the actual end of the world!

It’s the twenty-sixth movie about the end of the world in one year, and that’s not at all suspicious to you even though you know that the richest most powerful sociopaths in the world finance all the movies and pull all the strings on world events. You’re about to be famous! That is what matters.

Because you paid your dues leading up to the shooting of this movie you’re not just mechanically prepared, you’re psychologically prepared. You did so many of those reverse mortgage shows that you eventually became the star of the commercial once you turned fifty-five years old, joined AARP, and started seeking out restaurants with early bird specials.

You are no longer a burrito maker in your mind. You are an actor. World War Z is a hit, and your career is finally launched. Sure, it took thirty-two years, but it was worth it. Had you received this role thirty years ago when you were acting on the outside but folding burritos on the inside you would have messed the whole movie up. The zombies would have won.


Do It To It! Immediate Action Steps

Familiarize yourself with the Imagination Phase.

Familiarze yourself with the Preparation Phase.

Familiarize yourself with the Action Phase.

Familiarize yourself with the Hairy Knuckle Sucking Phase (HKSP).

Enjoy the Heaven on Planet Earth (HOPE) Phase.

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