1: Dan Sullivan was frustrated with Bob, one of his clients.

And Bob was frustrated with Dan. Which was creating negative energy for the group of entrepreneurs who had gathered that day.

Dan is the founder of the Strategic Coach, the world’s #1 entrepreneurial coaching program. Every 60-90 days, groups of entrepreneurs gather to be coached by Dan and work through a set of “thinking tools that allow them to reflect, strategize, and get unique and helpful perspectives for their lives and businesses,” write Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy in their book The Gap and The Gain.

Dan asked Bob about his progress in the previous 90 days. Bob began by sharing his company’s achievements, including a new deal they had secured.

“Yeah, but none of that really means anything because . . . ,” Bob remarked.

“Immediately after sharing what they’d done, Bob began explaining that their ‘progress’ didn’t actually mean anything, because it wasn’t what could have or should have happened,” Dan and Ben write.

Dan listened as Bob devalued his achievements and complained about the situation. 

Suddenly, Dan was struck by a thought. He recognized a pattern, “a weird thing that successful entrepreneurs do to undermine their growth and confidence. This wasn’t the first time he’d heard one of his clients grumble about their progress,” he recalls.

Dan walked to the flip chart. At the top of the page, he wrote the word “Ideal.”

Then, at the bottom of the page, he wrote the word “Start.”

Next, in the middle of the page, he wrote the word “Achieved.”

Dan then drew a line connecting the words “Achieved” and “Ideal.”

“The Start is where you were 90 days ago,” Dan commented.

“The Achieved is what you’ve actually achieved over the past 90 days.

“The Ideal is where you wish you were.

“You have an ideal in your mind, and you’re measuring yourself against your ideal, rather than against the actual progress you’ve made. This is why you’re unhappy with what you’ve done, and it’s probably why you’re unhappy with everything in your life.

“You’re measuring yourself in the GAP.”

While writing on the whiteboard and thinking out loud, Dan had unknowingly articulated what would become “one of the most important, transformational, and enduring concepts in the Strategic Coach program,” Dan and Ben write.

2: At that moment, however, Bob, the unhappy coaching client, wasn’t buying it. He didn’t want to hear what Dan was saying. Instead, he stayed in the GAP and “started complaining about Dan’s explanation, pointing out why and how it didn’t apply to him,” the authors write.

However, the other entrepreneurs in the room that day “got it.” Several remarked that they could see how they were in the GAP and how it was making them unhappy.

Measuring ourselves against an ideal is “an endless race to nowhere,” Dan and Ben write. “That ‘ideal’ could be in the form of a hope or expectation. It could be a comparison with something or someone else: ‘Her raise was bigger than my raise.'”

Why is this a problem? Because being in the GAP prevents us from living within our own experience. It stops us from valuing where we are. It stops us from being happy.

When do we fall into the GAP?

Every time we measure ourselves or our situation against the ideal.

We all do it. “It’s human nature to be in the GAP,” Dan and Ben note.

Imagine we are going to a concert with our spouse. We’ve been anticipating this night. Really looking forward to it.

But we’re running ten minutes late. 

If we are frustrated and focus on the fact we are late, then we are in the GAP.

We are measuring ourselves against our ideal.

We’re not actually living in the moment.

3: Can we escape the GAP?

Yes. We choose to focus on the fact we are about to have a great night. Then, the entire experience is a GAIN.

When we are in the GAIN, we measure our success backward against where we started.

When we focus on the GAIN, we are happy.

In every situation, we are either in the GAP or the GAIN. We can’t be in both at once.

Yesterday, we looked at Thomas Jefferson’s famous line from the Declaration of Independence: “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Thomas had it wrong. Happiness is not something to be pursued. Happiness is not in the future. Not when we measure our progress backward from where we started. That is the GAIN. Our GAIN. And when we live in the GAIN, happiness is not off somewhere in the future. It is right here. It is right now.

“Thomas Jefferson was, of course, a very inspiring and significant person to America’s history,” Dan and Ben note. “But the fact remains: Thomas Jefferson was in the GAP. And that’s why he never ‘found’ the happiness he was pursuing. Unfortunately, Jefferson’s GAP-thinking has been pervasive throughout Western ideology and thinking.”

More tomorrow.


Reflection: How do I typically measure my progress? Do I measure where I am against my ideal? Or backward from where I started?

Action: Share the GAP and the GAIN with someone I love and care about.

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