There is No Hack or Shortcut: A Life of Excellence Requires Pain & Suffering

Marvin Liao
3 min readApr 20, 2024

The All in Podcast is one of my must watch shows every week. I don’t really particularly like them as people but I respect them as tech operators and investors. They really shine when it comes to commentary about startups and Silicon Valley, the American economy & the culture wars, tech investing and investing in general. Even though the geopolitics angle they speak about is just plain wrong and awful. But as they say, the best people are spikey.

However, in Episode 139, there was a great discussion about work and excellence in general. It’s a long section but it’s worth a read. Here it is below.

JCal: “Idealized jobs. I just want young people to understand also. Be careful of what you wish for. This job has seemed easy. Just like it seems easy for Tom Cruise or Christopher Nolan. What you don’t see are all the people who have tried to be Tarantino. Who tried to be Tom Cruise”

DFriedberg: “Ten to Fifteen years before they realized that they were not.”

JCal: “And they did not have the fundamental skills or the work ethic to become Tarantino…..their knowledge of films is so unbelievable. And the detail that they talk about that is so crisp…….

We have a deep, deep understanding of this business that comes from thirty years within it or twenty years. I think you have to, I know it sounds corny, You have to pay your dues. You have to put 60–70 hours in a week to get that elite job. And the problem today I feel is, and for people who are listening who are young people coming out of schools, if you are not willing to sacrifice 60–70–80 hours a week for a decade or two, you are just not going to be successful in that career.”

CPal: “By the way, young people push back on this, and I think the simplest way to reframe it is in the following. Do you really think, for example, let’s pick NBA basketball. Do you think that you would be really interested or find it credible that the best player in the NBA only practiced 3 hours in the week? Does that happen? Or do you think they are practicing 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon and they give up their lives.

The most incredible thing that I saw in the NBA was that all of these men literally gave up their life to play that game to perfection. That’s true for anything. So I dont understand if you want to be a filmmaker, or an investor, whether you want to be an athlete, actor, a surgeon, it’s an immutable law of physics. So get over it. Which is you need to put in tens of thousands of hours and if you cannot or won’t, you should not expect the success and you should not complain. Because it’s not free.”

Amen. Life is supposed to be hard. Nothing is free. There is no guarantee that this hard work and sacrifice will be successful. But you increase the odds of it if you do the work.

However, if you don’t do the hard work and time in, I can guarantee that you won’t be successful. Absolutely 110% guarantee.

Assuming you have found the industry, job or business, the next step is going all in. Put in the hard time, make the mistakes and learn. Treat it like a craft. Be a Shokunin or artisan as they say in Japan. There is no easy path or hack to be the best. The sooner you realize this the better off you will be. This is the road to excellence in life.



Marvin Liao

Ever curious: Tsundoku, Reader, Aspiring Shokunin, World traveller, Investor & Tech/Media exec interested in almost everything!