Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is the bestselling author of books on business, entrepreneurship, skill acquisition, productivity, creativity, applied psychology, and practical wisdom. About Josh →

3 Ways to Think About Winning

There are three ways to “win" a marathon:

When you start running, finishing a marathon is a great goal. Accomplishing that goal is a legitimate victory.

Once you know you can do it, getting better is the obvious next step. Every time you beat your previous time, you declare victory.

At a certain point, you face a decision: is becoming #1 the goal, or are you running for some other reason? If competition becomes the focus, coming in second is a failure, even if you set a personal record. No one competes in the Olympics hoping to win a silver medal.


Let’s extend the metaphor into other areas. Take business. “Winning" at business could look like:

These are three very different goals. Accomplishing each of them, in their own way, represents a very real victory for the people pursuing them.


Let’s examine this breakdown in more general terms:

Capacity, growth, mastery. Here’s what that looks like in practical terms:

Again, all are legitimate goals, but each end result calls for different strategies to accomplish the objective.


Here’s the common failure mode in this line of thinking: choosing one of these objectives for yourself, then forgetting that other valid objectives exist, assuming other accomplishments “don’t count."


Here’s how to avoid these failure modes:


Be clear about what you’re trying to do, then do it. Judge the success of your efforts by whether or not they help you achieve the desired objective.

Ignore everything else.

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Books by Josh Kaufman

The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

The First 20 Hours

How to Learn Anything… Fast!

A practitioner’s guide to rapid skill acquisition. Accelerate your learning by deconstructing complex skills, practicing the most important elements first, and removing barriers to deliberate practice. What do you want to learn?

How to Fight a Hydra

Face Your Fears, Pursue Your Ambitions, and Become the Hero You Are Destined to Be

A story about summoning the courage to face the beast, fight the good fight, & persist long enough in your efforts to secure a lasting victory.