There are major ideas that repeat here, that are the foundation.

  1. Complete Focus on Outcome

    1. Willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve the outcome

    2. Disregard for norms / rules in the way of the outcome

    3. Obsessed with and insatiably addicted to success

    4. Make real sacrifices in pursuit of the goal

    5. Commitment and Persistence to the goal and outcome

  2. Self Reliant

    1. Belief in self

    2. Killer Instinct

    3. Confident that no matter what happens, you will figure it out

    4. Know exactly who you are

    5. Don’t need validation from other people to act on conviction

  3. Sense of Responsibility

  4. Extremely High Expectation

    1. Being the best

    2. Transcending limitations

    3. Not Settling for good enough - pushing yourself harder than everyone else

    4. Never stooping to others’ low standards

  5. Dark Side

    1. Drive to control everything, especially the uncontrollable

    2. Attack, control, win.

    3. Drive to conquer everything in your path

    4. Selfishness, egocentrism, ambition

    5. Zero fear of failing, excitement from risk + challenge

  6. Facing the Truth

    1. No Tolerance for ‘nice’ lies
  7. The Zone

    1. Meditative

    2. Cool anger

  8. Courage

    1. Will take on a role they’re not comfortable with, confident they will figure it out
  9. Action Focus

    1. Decisive in Decision Making

    2. Taking action instead of talking about taking action

Core concept is a complete focus on outcome. There’s a strong conflict here in my thinking generally, where there’s the tradeoff between process and outcome is real. Often they conflict at an emotional level. And Relentless was clear about which one it favored. It doesn’t care if what you’re doing is supposed to work (though this does imply extremely strong self confidence), it cares about reality and about optimizing for a particular outcome.

That said, the willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve the outcome leads to real results. I realize now that my infatuation with Soares is mostly from the display of this quality - the idea that no matter the path taken, the outcome will be achieved. The only question is what it will cost, and how long it will take. “Don’t count the costs”, or something like that. And this is also the core of what people mean when they say ‘Relentless’.

There’s a disregard for norms or rules in the way of an outcome that’s a natural result of relentlessness. It’s pretty beautiful, what stops being mattering as soon as you really care about something.

Self reliance is extremely important to decisiveness and to problem solving. It’s necessary if you want to bite of any real challenges, not knowing exactly what that challenge will hold. The lack of need for other people to validate your ideas, as long as they make sense to you, makes you this unique source of powerful value. It also lets you avoid getting sucked into huge holes around norms in a society that torpedo most people’s chances at greatness.

The strength of instinctual behavior comes out of decisiveness and conviction - it makes a slew of obviously valuable behaviors possible. Operating under uncertainty. Building up of huge advantage without explicit feedback. There’s this ambiguity to feedback in the absence of self reliance - often you can give yourself strong intuitive feedback if you’re willing to be honest with yourself. In the absence of feedback from your own intuition you’re lost in an uncertain haze of behavior, where you can’t direct yourself effectively.

Knowing exactly who you are simplifies a huge number of decisions, and enables decisiveness. It’ll be immediately apparent to you whether particular behavior is in support of your goals or not. And so decisions can come quickly and easily.

The sense of responsibility for things that you do transfers huge amounts of power to you from social perception or some other nonsense. Small sphere of control has people self-sabotage, not claiming resources or opportunities that would be available if they only allowed themselves to think that they have an impact on their own success. Ties closely in with confidence.

Performance are a function of expectations, and these are set extremely high for the relentless. This is one domain where social norms have a huge impact on outcomes. Often, the mental block of expectations is more in the way of performance than anything real about the situation at hand. The 4 minute mile is a great example of this. There’s this mentality around never settling for good enough, and driving expectations higher than the surrounding people which leads to behavior that’s different in a way that differentiates the relentless. Being the best is a way of thinking of oneself that also ties in with darkside beliefs around egoism and selfishness, where you look to be better than anyone else. Grover disappoints me here - the goal is to push human limits, and be better than any human has ever been - not just being better than the existing crop. This redefines the ranges that are possible for intelligent creatures, as far as humans are concerned.

Dark Side is a fascinating and particularly high variance part to this book. The embrace of the dark side is certainly something I’ve seen and felt. This embrace of the drive to control everything, drive to conquer. These goals are often self-centered (I want to win the callahan), though it’s good when it’s around team championships in basketball - that really makes the impact better for the teams of the players in question.

There’s this wonderful truth seeking to someone who actually cares about being the best. That’s why they go to Tim Grover - he won’t sugar coat things or try to be their friend, he’ll just tell them what they actually need to sacrifice to get what they want.l The pervasive tacit lies in society around what’s necessary for achievement or where someone is creates a complete lack of feedback that is destructive to performance. The person has to be self reliant enough to generate those feedback signals themselves, if they care about growing in the ways that matter.

Spending time in the zone is an amazing approach to performance. It intersects cleanly with Newport’s work on Deep Work and is clearly a mental space where spending time leads to great results. It’s the place to both practice and perform. My life needs more of it. I had it reading the deep learning textbook each morning, but have been strongly deprived of it since. The zone means blocking literally everything else out. And once inside, it’s a wonderful mental place to inhabit.

Courage is a major determinant of success that’s overcome by the relentless through self reliance, truth and the dark side’s sense of attraction to difficulty and fear. It takes courage to believe in yourself and make decisions that look very valuable but feel contrarian on the inside.

Action focus is a function of being decisive and caring about the end outcome. It does no good to get bogged down in side processes, and so the relentless person doesn’t get distracted by nonsense around signaling at the sacrifice of a level of ability. They recognize that often the most efficient path forward is to deeply understand the material and then simply communicate that to the people that matter.