The dangers of measuring success, the difference between wisdom and cliché, and how to finish what you start

Building Blocks: Actionable insights to build an Intentional Life

Hey everybody,

Here’s another batch of actionable insights to start your week off right, so you can be more intentional with how you live, work, and create.

Let’s get started.

Insight 1: How to measure success

How do you measure success?

More specifically, how much do you measure success by external vs internal benchmarks?

External benchmarks are hedonic (like the Hedonic Treadmill). We chase more attention, more money, more fancy things.

This more, more, more mindset rarely leads to happiness, and never leads to fulfillment.

Internal benchmarks are different. When we embrace them, we do it for the journey itself and to pursue self-mastery, self-understanding, and self-acceptance. Internal benchmarks often lead to quiet contentment and fulfillment.

But they’re not mutually exclusive. You can pursue both. The trick is striking the right balance for you.

Morgan Housel’s latest article, Lifestyles, explores a fascinating story of how the benchmarks we use for success can steer us toward fulfillment or despair:

“Fifty-four years ago this month, in a push for publicity, The Sunday Times offered £5,000 to whoever could sail solo nonstop around the world the fastest…

​Nine men joined the race, one of whom had never sailed. Just one man finished, 312 days and 27,000 miles later.

But it was two participants who never completed the race that generated the most news. One ended up dead, the other found himself happier than ever. Both outcomes came from decisions made at sea, but neither had anything to do with sailing.”

Insight 2: The difference between wisdom and cliché

What’s the difference between timeless wisdom and cliché ?

If you agree and put it into practice, it’s wisdom.

If you agree but don’t put it into practice, it’s cliché.

I spent 12+ years getting a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. I learned a ton. But most of modern psychology is rooted in ancient philosophy:

  • Exercise, eat right, sleep well, and connect with others.
  • Focus on what’s within your control.
  • Don’t let your emotions rule you.
  • Create meaning for yourself.
  • Embrace lifelong learning.

Yet here we are, thousands of years later, saying the same things and calling it psychology.

Just think of all the advice you’d give yourself 10 years ago (that 10 years-ago you was given and chose to ignore).

It’s only a cliché if you don’t put it into practice.

If you want to explore some advice to put into practice, check out this article by Sam Altman:

The days are long but the decades are short

Insight 3: Use mental models to finish what you start

Are you great at starting projects but suck at following through when the shininess wears off?

Here’s a question I got last week that I want to share:


“What is the best resource you have come across when it comes to improving your ability to follow through?”


“I do a lot of things, and get a lot done, but I want to improve the completion rate for stuff I start. I am looking for books, YouTube videos, newsletters…about being more selective in taking on projects, time management, psychology, discipline, focus whatever. My problem isn’t that I don’t get anything done, or that I don’t like what I’m doing, it’s that I open a lot of loops at a time and don’t close a lot of them.”

My Response:

Another book, video, podcast, etc. probably won’t help you— they’re just procrastination veiled as self-improvement.

Instead of trying to find better answers from other people, ask yourself better questions:

Every goal or opportunity has the potential to get you one step closer to, or one step further away from, a life aligned with what resonates with you (call it fulfillment, reaching your potential, or what I call an Intentional Life). Does this new shiny thing get you closer to a better life?

Also, memento mori. You’re going to fucking die one day. What is most worth your time—aka, a segment of your life—to pursue?

Before you try to get better at what you finish, be more intentional with what you start.

Question for the Week

Everything has an opportunity cost. Every time you say “yes” to one thing, you’re automatically saying “no” to a dozen others. And every time you say “no” to what doesn’t matter leaves you available to say “yes” to what does.

This week when you have a decision to make, ask yourself:

“Is the opportunity cost of this decision worth paying?”

Share Your Insights

Know someone who’d love this content? Share it with them!

My goal is to help entrepreneurs be more intentional with how they live, work, and create.

So if you enjoy Building Blocks, I’ll be forever grateful if you help me spread these insights by sharing this issue with one person.

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Let me know what you think and what you’d like to see in future issues. I’m always working to making Building Blocks more valuable for you.

Until next time—memento mori,

Corey Wilks, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Executive Coach


Course (Cohort 2 Coming Soon): Intentional Life Design