Breaking down Virat Kohli's No. 1 rule for success
Virat Kohli is unlike most others in the sense that his vigor and zeal seem to increase, rather than diminish, with age. It’s his 31st birthday today and while he is growing “older” on paper, he still seems to possess bottomless reserves.
As a tribute to this champion on this auspicious day, I’d like to expand upon the first of his success mantras that I had highlighted in my article from last year:
"If I work 120% everyday, I am answerable to no one"
Kohli has said this line, or some version of it, numerous times during interviews. Below is a clip of him saying it while accepting an award:
In my opinion, this success mantra of Kohli's has been most important in his jaw-dropping rise to the pinnacle of the cricketing world. All of his other success formulas and mantras are off-shoots of this base principle.
While this mantra is short on words and even sounds a tad trite, it is long on wisdom - and I’ll do my best to explain why. For the sake of clarity, let me break this gem into two parts:
- Work 120% everyday
In the aforementioned phrase, "work 120%" signifies intensity while "everyday" signifies consistency.
Examples of intensity:
- run a marathon
- write a book in 30 days
- silent meditation retreat
Examples of consistency:
- don't miss a workout for 2 years
- write every week
- daily silence
Most people either operate at full throttle and then rest (intense performers), or they operate in third gear but do so for long stretches of time (consistent performers). Very few can do both i.e. consistently perform at peak intensity day in and day out.
Kohli is no doubt one of these few. He is unarguably the personification of the lethal concoction of CONSISTENCY + INTENSITY.
What is the fuel that propels his consistent intensity? I believe that first and foremost it’s his limitless love for the game.
Secondly, he recognizes that a professional cricketing career spans only around 20 years at the most. Thus, leaving fuel in the tank that could have been burnt would mean disrespecting the game that has given Kohli everything. It would also mean not making every second of his short career as a professional cricketer for India count.
Another factor that spurs Kohli to “work 120% everyday” is the motivation to ensure he is “answerable to no one''. And that “no one” includes himself.
Putting your best foot forward, or in Kohli-speak, “work[ing] 120% everyday”, is the best safeguard against your conscience pricking you. When an outcome doesn’t go your way, you typically tend to experience guilt and bitter disappointment only when you know you could have done a lot more.
On the other hand, when you know that you put your best foot forward, even when the outcome does not go your way, it doesn’t sting as much. You may be disappointed with the result but you sure do not feel disappointed in yourself.
Having said that, the mainstream media and the general public do not spare you if the desired outcome doesn’t materialize, even though you may have given it all you had. In such cases as well, “work[ing] 120% everyday” is the most robust safeguard.
All Kohli can fully control is the amount of effort he is putting in (input); he cannot control the outcome (output). By controlling the controllables (input) to the best of his ability, Kohli prevents all the external noise from rattling him.
Moreover, he knows that as long as he is being honest to his endeavor by putting his best foot forward, his endeavor will not be dishonest to him. That makes him rest assured that even if success doesn’t come his way on one day, it’s only a matter of time before it will.
In a nutshell, Kohli is impatient with actions (input) but willing to be patient with results (output). But given the consistently intense nature of his input, he sure doesn’t have to wait all that long for the desired output.
Now you might ask: How do I know if I am giving my 120%?
Trust me, you know. You can lie to others but it’s hard to lie to yourself. Your conscience pricks you when you’re doing something that you know you shouldn’t be doing.
Try this simple exercise: right before going to bed tonight, reflect on how you spent your time throughout the day. Dissect your day in as granular a manner as possible. I bet you’ll be able to think of chunks of time that could have been devoted to more useful activities.
For example, you could have gone to the gym instead of spending an hour on social media. Or you could have read a few pages of a book instead of mindlessly watching Netflix.
But even when you know that it’s something you shouldn’t be doing, why do you still continue doing it? That is because our brain values how we feel in the short-term more than how we feel in the long-term.
In other words, we’re made to seek anything that gives us instant gratification, and avoid anything that gives us immediate pain.
But oftentimes what gives us short-term pain provides long-term gain (e.g. exercise), and what gives us short-term pleasure is followed by long-term pain (e.g. smoking cigarettes). Thus, when faced with a choice, pick the one that’s harder. Hard choices, easy life; easy choices, hard life.
How do I get from where I am to a 120% work rate?
Start small, think big, scale fast. Focus on getting rid of one bad habit at a time or building one good habit at a time. I’d suggest starting with a daily exercise routine. The reason I suggest exercise is because it’s a keystone habit i.e. a habit that leads to the development of other good habits.
When you start working on your physical fitness, you automatically start eating healthier, your confidence increases, your mental fortitude improves - among many other secondary benefits.
Strive to become just 1% better everyday, and let compounding work its magic. This 1% carried out over a long enough time frame will pay massive dividends.
After all, there’s a reason that compounding is considered to be the 8th wonder of the world.