The Most Important Choice

I still remember the feeling in my stomach when I saw the grade I had gotten. The details are a little bit fuzzy now, but I’m pretty sure it was in the B- range.

There I was, sitting in 7th or 8th grade, feeling my world crash down around me. All of a sudden, I got all hot and my heart started racing. Everything seemed to fade away and I was left there just staring at the page. Mr. Straight A student had just bombed a test.

I don’t remember anything much about the test. All I remember is the feeling that big bright red B- created in my gut.

It was an awful feeling.

These days, I have such a lack of interest in the world that grades people on their ability to recall and regurgitate largely useless facts, facts that effectively dampen someone’s ability to engage in critical thinking.

But back then, that was my world. I was well-trained. And with a somewhat photographic memory, it was darn easy to tell everyone exactly what they wanted to hear.

The funny thing is, I can’t remember any compelling reason why getting perfect grades was such a priority for me back then. There was a reason; I just didn’t know what it was at the time.

The Difference between School and the Real World

There’s an interesting dynamic that exists in schools. Pleasing others (teachers) will get you liked (by your teachers), and it will make you “successful.” If you do what you’re told in school, everyone is happy. Better yet, get good grades, which makes you look even better.

Things are setup in a way so that following the rules and conforming is rewarded. How convenient. Step out into the real world, however, and you run into a problem very quickly.

This problem can actually be quite mysterious and very dangerous. That’s because you can exist with it for years without ever realizing that it’s sabotaging you. You see a steady stream of annoying things happen in your life, but those are easily explained away as bad luck or just a lesson you’re supposed to learn.

Those “annoying” events are really the symptoms of the problem I’m talking about.

The “Perfect Burger” Epiphany

I was reminded of this problem the other day when some good friends came over for lunch.

At various times in my life, I get pretty deep into cooking. So much so that I make it impossible for my family to eat a meal out that’s better than what we’re making at home.

On this particular day, I was making the “perfect hamburger.” It’s darn good. I was standing there with my friend in the kitchen and we were talking about his business challenges.

I have this weird thing happen to me over and over again where I attract people to me who have important messages for my life. It’s odd, but it’s consistent. I’m finally learning to pay attention to it. I have a lot I want to accomplish in my life, so I’d rather not get stuck repeating the same lessons over and over again.

At one point during the conversation with my friend, I turned to him and said, “Hey, it sounds like you’re more interested in being liked than in being successful.”

It was a very timely message delivered to myself, with the help of my good friend.

In the real world, being liked and being successful don’t really go together. The reason why is that real success grows out of who you are and what you want as an individual.

When you live that out, it can create friction in the lives of others who aren’t willing to do the same for themselves.

And that’s when you have to make sure your priorities are clear.

Are you more interested in being liked or are you more interested in living your life and building your business the way you see fit?

The Challenge with “Breaking Free”

There’s a challenge with giving up the priority of wanting to be liked. The challenge is that you have to put some other priority in its place.

If I’m no longer trying to please everyone, then what exactly am I trying to do?

Such a simple question.

This is when you have to jump start your critical thinking machine. No one can provide you with answers to questions like this. If you allow them to (and avoid the responsibility of doing the work yourself), you will suffer.

It could be decades from now when you finally “wake-up” and realize that you’ve worked really, really, hard to successfully build someone else’s life.

Talk about regrets.

Most of the dumb decisions I’ve made in my life and business can be directly traced to my choice to be liked rather than be successful.

The good news is that you can change this mentality very quickly. All you need to do is make a different choice. One new choice at a time. Before you know it, your entire life is transformed.

[Ed. Note: Jason Leister is an internet entrepreneur, direct response copywriter and editor of “The Client Letter,” the daily e-letter from, where he helps independent professionals create success. You can contact him via his website at]