The Crazy Word that Guarantees Success

At 7 feet tall, Kelly Olynyk simply stands out – and over everyone – in the crowd. But it’s not just his physical stature that separates him from the pack. As the starting center on the top ranked NCAA men’s basketball team from Gonzaga University, Olynyk is willing to do what most other people are not.

After two disappointing years with the Bulldogs, Olynyk did something relatively unheard of in college basketball. He decided to take a year off from all games and spent the entire season working on his skills and muscular development. Removing himself from competition gave him hours and hours of additional practice time, where he improved both his game and physical preparation. He turned himself from a boy into a man.

According to an interview in The Globe and Mail, Gonzaga’s assistant coach, Donny Daniels explained, “He sacrificed. That’s a crazy word nowadays. Very few people want to sacrifice. Kelly did.”

Daniels is right. In today’s world few are willing to make the required sacrifices that virtually guarantee success. We don’t want to sacrifice living in a larger home so that we can keep our mortgage payments under control. We don’t want to sacrifice getting a new car every three years in order to save money for wiser investments. We can’t imagine sacrificing the latest i-gadget that is on sale – we must have it now, no matter how much debt we accumulate. You can see how our inability to control our consumer desires and sacrifice creature comforts can get us into big trouble financially.

Likewise, when we take the easy road with our activity choices, we end up with pleasure in the short term but pain in the long run. We don’t want to sacrifice our morning 300-calorie coffee and donut habit, so we end up gaining weight. We don’t want to sacrifice missing an episode of the latest HBO mega-hit so we stay up late and sleep in. And we certainly don’t want to sacrifice fifteen minutes of sleep by getting up earlier in the morning when we could be working towards the more important goals in our life.

The unwillingness to make sacrifices in life slows, or even blocks our success. It practically guarantees failure.

But look at what a little sacrifice and hard work can do.

In high school, after a football injury to his non-shooting arm kept him off the basketball team all winter, Olynyk didn’t let this stop him. With his good arm, he dribbled, passed, and made 500 shots each day. He did this all on his own, alone. He persisted. The next season, even after he was back in the line-up and winning games, Olynyk would return to the court within hours after a tournament to continue working on his skills.

Today, after years working alone and sacrificing in the shadows, Kelly Olynyk is one of the best shooters in college men’s basketball- all because this young man was wise and willing enough to sacrifice.

You can’t have success without it.

Sacrifice used to mean something different. It was what we asked of young men on the battlefield, not the basketball court. In America alone, we asked the ultimate sacrifice of 405,399 men that did not return home after the war in Europe and the Pacific.

Sacrifice was once a sign of strength and nobility. In today’s politically correct world, asking someone to sacrifice anything is looked upon as unfair and unacceptable. You are labeled the bad guy for even suggesting that someone give something up in exchange for a purchase, experiences or learning a skill they desire.

How dare we ask someone else to make a sacrifice – even when it is for their own good.

Ironically, our decision to avoid sacrifice is making us less satisfied with life. According to a study called, “Does watching TV make us happy,” published in the Journal of Economic Psychology, “heavy TV viewers, and in particular those with significant opportunity cost of time, report lower life satisfaction. Long TV hours are also linked to higher material aspirations and anxiety.”

We avoid thinking and working because of the pain connected to each.

We unknowingly sacrifice – there’s that crazy word again – results and happiness in order to spare ourselves energy and pain. But if we would only choose the actions that require effort, simple, yet straightforward effort, it will bring us greater results and rewards – and even happiness – in life.

I’ll admit, I’d rather be checking sports scores or lying in my warm bed at 5:37 a.m. than sitting at my kitchen table and putting the final touches on this difficult-to-conclude article.

But that would kill my soul. Writing, no matter how painful it can be at times, is a near-spiritual experience. Nothing, no matter how acutely enjoyable, can compare to the joy of a finished product, an improved skill, a life touched, or a person changed.

The only way to achieve these long-term results is through short-term sacrifice.

What can we do then, when asking our children, our co-workers, our clients, and even ourselves to consider making a sacrifice?

How do we turn this crazy word back into the virtue it deserves to be?

The first step is to look at what we do as “self-sacrifice.”

This version gives us power and control.

We choose to do it because we see the benefit in doing it.

We choose to do it because it gives us power and control.

This is good.

As Harry Browne writes, “You must choose between the various alternatives in order to make the most of the time and energy we do have. We choose constantly in order to bring as much happiness as possible, while using up as little time and energy as possible.”

We must choose wisely. We must make the right sacrifices. This is one of the first steps to success.

Listen, success is simple when you accept how difficult it will be. Once you acknowledge that success requires self-sacrifice, only then will you be prepared to take the action that improvement requires you to take.

Ironically, Kelly Olynyk will be featured on television this weekend during the first round of the NCAA March Madness tournament. Millions of college kids and grown men (and women) across the country will sacrifice their productivity and progress to plunk down in front of the tube for the next three weekends.

Some spectators will take the tournament so seriously they will have spent dozens of hours watching games and making bets on the results. But this will not get them anywhere in life. Unless, of course, they learn something about sacrifice from Kelly Olynyk, and begin to apply that crazy word, that virtuous trait, the combination of skill development and discipline into their own lives.

When they do discover the virtue of sacrifice, only that will make their lives better and more meaningful.

Our ETR challenge to you is to make one sacrifice for the next 30 days that can bring you greater rewards and success. What will it be? Can you sacrifice 15 minutes of television for skill development, study, or even exercise?

What sacrifice will you make to achieve your goals?

[Ed. Note: Craig Ballantyne is the editor of Early to Rise and author of Financial Independence Monthly and Turbulence Training. He is also the co-creator of the Early to Rise $100,000 Transformation Contest. Though this round of the Transformation Contest has closed it’s not too late to get access to all the helpful tools and advice that has helped many people make a positive change in their lives. Get started on your major life transformations today.]
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  • I will sacrifice 15 minutes of internet surfing (useless, aimless internet surfing, ie checking sports scores, mindlessly looking for something) for more time with family, strategic thinking to help generate revenue for my website and advisor business.

  • Barbara

    Love this article! I believe that it’s not only the sacrifice, but the commitment to the goal that makes the difference. How often do we decide to sacrifice, and commit, for 15 days, 1 month, or even longer and when we don’t see progress, or forget about the goal, we lose the discipline and give up or slide back to where we were. Any achievement is possible…and sustainable!

  • Dear Craig,

    Bravo! This was so nice to read. I agree that we have to renew our relationship with sacrifice and there is this other word that became difficult: discipline. It seems that for many, sacrifice and discipline has come to mean giving up freedom. However, I do acknowledge that it is liberating to apply these resources to get to be who we want to be. Thank you so much for your leadership in this matter.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thank you Arline!

  • paul haslam

    Thankyou so much for your sacrifice in creating an article that really “hits the nail on the head”.

    Warm Regards,

  • Asking people to sacrifice risks accusations of
    discrimination and bias. It’s as if their self-imposed
    right to have the world revolve around them is
    being threatened.

    Lots of people have their theories about why productivity
    in this country has been slipping the last few years.
    Just drop by your local coffee shop and you’ll be
    inundated with belly-aching patrons complaining about
    how tough things are. But here’s what I don’t see much
    of these days: people pouring over the Classified section
    of the newspaper looking for a job. A large portion of the
    unemployment rate is comprised of folks who’ve simply
    given up looking. Instead, they prefer to have their barista
    order and pour their morning overpriced coffee so they
    can sit in their favorite overstuffed chair and pontificate
    about how their lives are so miserable.

    The economy isn’t bad. People’s attitudes are. And in our
    house, sacrifice has always been a cornerstone in determining
    what we can be accomplished in life. Unfortunately, it’s a
    quality that is sorely lacking in our great nation. The very
    thing that can change people’s lives is avoided like the plague
    because it involves a dirty 4 letter word: work.

    Thanks so much for a wonderful article. What a great way to
    start the weekend!!!!

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Happy to help!

  • i like this write-up it points out what you have to do to move ahead.time goes by so fast.great points made.



  • Victor

    Craig, as a long time ETR reader, I have to say this one of the most accurate, yet simple, articles you have ever written. I agree with it in its entirety! The word sacrifice has absolutely been distorted from the positive attribute that it is, to the negative characteristic that it has been given. Ultimately, almost every “problem” can be linked to a failure to make the right choice and “sacrifice” in some form or fashion. Hats off for, once again, telling it like it is. Keep it up and I will keep on sacrificing some sleep to get up early and read it! Victor M.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thank you Victor!

  • Marianne

    Great article–it has inspired me to make this change:

    to sacrifice half an hour of useless internet surfing in the evening, so that I can get to sleep on time and start my day right.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Well done!

  • Rabea

    I really appreciate this article. It’s given me renewed purpose behind doing the right thing – I was having one of those pitiful moments, thinking that doing the right thing was unfair. I’m re-inspired and refocused. Thank you.

  • Ryan

    Thanks for this Craig!

    I think, as I refocus on my goals (writing, getting out of debt, working out, etc.), I know that much of how I achieve everything I want is to sacrifice to get there, etc. achieve my dreams.

    I have been real lax lately because I realized I’ve been afraid of “sacrifice” and have been trying to find short cuts to getting what I want.

    But, I know that’s not how I’m going to achieve everything I want. I do have to put in the work and sacrifice to get closer to achieving my goals and creating the life I want for myself.

    Thanks for this article!

    Enjoy your weekend!

  • Those who experienced sacrifice early in life are much less immune to it’s intimidation later in life. Yes, our nation’s population may indeed object to sacrifice as a noble means of eventual success. But nothing a little adjustment from mother earth…the economy…parents who care enough…volunteer organizations…i.e., God…can’t take care of. It’s part and parcel to people experiencing what they “need” rather than what they “want”. But it’s important that folks understand sacrificing is the exception, rather than the rule. We are not meant to sacrifice forever…just long enough to get new perspective and experience some desired goal of our own soul.

  • Sheryl

    Craig your article made me realize that this is the ingredient that has been missing since I had earlier successes. Somehow I lost my way, got tired and decided it wasn’t worth the effort. Now, facing an unhappy life I am renewing my commitment to give up at least 15 minutes per day to work on decluttering and redirecting my life. Thank you for the wake-up call.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Happy to help, Sheryl!

  • Either I am getting soft in my old age or you have become a vastly improved writer. This is the second time this week that I have felt compelled to comment on an excellent article of yours.

    You are absolutely correct with your assertion that people expect to win the glory and the rewards without making the sacrifice.

    I am an ex-Rhodesian and dispossessed Zimbabwean farmer, been a business owner, farmer or otherwise self employed for more of my life than as an employee. Also ran ultra-marathons.

    Believe me, I know what sacrifice is, nothing worthwhile is possible without it.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thank you Peter, greatly appreciated. I look forward to more comments and will work hard to earn them!

  • Craig, your writing is beautiful, touching and inspiring. When I first studied psychology four decades ago we called “sacrifice” delayed gratification – a behavior of self-actualizers (as per Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers). In an age of instant gratification I see many clients in my coaching practice who find it impossible to stay on a diet or an exercise regimen, or to complete a project or even put in an honest day’s work because they can’t concentrate on a single prioritized goal and devote themselves to it over time. They are too distracted and overwhelmed by all the other things they could do or have. This is the down-side of living in the digital information age. So many people now consider themselves “ADD” because they simply haven’t developed the capacity to devote themselves to a few meaningful pursuits and goals.

  • Great article Craig. I have learned lots of things from reading your post but this hits home for me. I waste so much time talking and mindlessly surfing the Internet that it’s ridiculous. I commit to sacrificing my social time and my mindless internet surfing for actually achieving results. Which it doesn’t really seem like sacrificing because it’s activities I don’t really enjoy that much anyways. Thanks Craig for another well written article.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thank you, happy to help. Stay strong Michelle!

  • Michelle Desgagne

    I can truthfully say that the word sacrifice is not the word that I would choose to describe what I’m doing.
    I get up early, I write, stay off the internet until unless it is a scheduled task to do so, I tweak my goals, go for a hike, eat home-cooked meals, I make my calls & just in general-follow my lists. I leave some room for spontaneity & the other stuff of life BUT my focus is my long-term vision.

    To me these are the most pleasurable things that I can & do with my time.
    If this is what is meant by sacrifice then I’m All-In.
    Thus far it just feels fantastic!

    I have wasted too much time already & as you have stated in your 12 rules…there is precious little time to achieve extremely important goals.
    Out of necessity & desire, I’ve embraced your ideals on the subject & those of others as well as fully & completely as I’m able to-now.

    Thank you Craig & please continue!

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Yes, will do!

  • Elze

    Craig it is always a pleasure to read your articles. You have been a great inspirations to get my thoughts and actions a lot more focused and working towards a long term goal.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Happy to help, thank you so much!

  • David

    Fifteen minutes a day, five days a week ads up to one 40 hour work week over a years time. S,o do I value my time or do I value wasting my time?

  • Tatjana

    Dear Craig,
    as somebody else said, this is one of the best articles I read so far. And what I liked the most is the tone in which you are writing – it makes me feel strong on one side, but on the other side I would be ashamed if I do not listen to you and start sacrifice. You are such a great motivator. So, I will sacrifice for 30 days and would not eat cakes and candies, all white sugar killers. Write soon about progress.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thanks, I really appreciate the feedback!

  • grace

    very beautiful article, am so inspired, love reading ETR every day. thanks for good work.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thanks Grace!

  • Steve

    Assuming the definition of sacrifice is giving up something of greater value for something of lesser value, this was a difficult article to understand. Let me explain.
    If the soldiers valued their country and loved ones more than their lives, there was no sacrifice. But if they valued their lives more than their country and loved ones, they DID sacrifice.
    If I value long term success more than TV time, wouldn’t it be a sacrifice to watch TV?
    Either I have the wrong definition of sacrifice, or human behavior is a result of some deep-seated psychological motivations I can’t even begin to understand.
    It’s a conundrum. I’ll have to read this again, keeping Occam’s Razor in mind. Thanks much for the thought provoking article.

  • Another great and informative article, Craig.
    This one too is quite helpful to me because now, even as I respond to your article, I am deciding whether or not I want to make the sacrifice, and do the huge amount of work that will launch my career and desire to be a well known highly paid inspirational speaker and author.
    I made the sacrifice in the writing and the getting published of two (2) books, but I still have not, as yet, decided to jump in to the work with both feet and heart!
    Your articles are very helpful in many ways because they keep reminding me of the possibilities that can become reality, if I want them badly enough to DO the WORK!
    Thank you
    Barbara J. Henry

  • This article hit the nail in the head!

  • himagain

    Beautifully done article. You can be proud of it.
    One small comment though, the very use of the word “sacrifice” is always self-defeating.
    It is virtually always used to confuse the need for simple discipline in our world today.
    Strangely, it is true: discipline is its own reward.
    AND it is instant.
    AND it is not tied to success.
    AND it is cumulative.

    Just get up 45 minutes earlier every day for one week – no matter what.
    The bonus is vastly less Cortisol in your system, shortening your life and stalling natural happiness.


  • I will sacrifice 30 minutes a day of television work and practice yoga or some other form of exercise.

  • Virginia

    I agree with others to use positive words like discipline and enjoyment. The points you made are so valid – regardless of what word you use. Choosing to do one thing over another is what leads to improvements.