“Many people have lots of experience but very little learning,” -Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy
1: Dr. Benjamin Hardy’s spouse, Lauren, makes a home-cooked meal most nights for their family of six kids.
“Sometimes, our kids get to the table and complain that the meal isn’t their favorite dish,” Ben Hardy and Dan Sullivan write in The Gap and The Gain: The High Achiever’s Guide to Happiness, Confidence, and Success.
Complaining about a home-cooked meal is what Dan, the founder of the Strategic Coach, calls “the GAP.”
Imagine a sheet of paper. At the top of the page is the word “Ideal.” At the bottom is the word “Start.”
The word “Achieved” is in the middle of the page. Achieved is where we are now.
We all have an ideal in mind. Perhaps we enjoy fettuccine alfredo. It’s one of our absolute favorites.
We show up for dinner, and our spouse has made spaghetti with red sauce.
We are in the GAP when we measure our current situation, a hot serving of spaghetti in front of us, against our ideal, fettuccine alfredo.
We are in the GAIN when we measure our present situation versus where we started. Which, in this case, would be a plate with nothing on it.
“The truth is, they’ve just GAINED, right?” Ben writes about his kids. “They weren’t appreciating the meal in front of them—or their lives for that matter—because they were measuring their experiences against an ideal in that moment.”
“Are you in the GAP or the GAIN?” Ben asks the complaining child. “They’ve heard it so many times at this point that sometimes it actually sinks in.”
“Thanks for making dinner, mom.”
2: At any moment, we can choose to be in the GAP or the GAIN.
“The GAP makes every experience a negative, which means we’re worse off than we were before that experience,” Dan and Ben write. “The GAP makes any form of progress a letdown. Whatever we’ve done isn’t enough because the ‘standard of success’ keeps moving.”
When we think this way, we prevent ourselves from finding happiness in the present.
“And just as bad, we’re actually making everyone around us miserable with our GAP-thinking,” the authors note.
Being in the GAIN means we measure backward, against where we were before.
We “measure our own progress. We don’t compare ourselves to something external,” Dan and Ben write. “We don’t measure ourselves against our ideals.”
We all have experiences in life. The big question is: “Are we truly valuing those experiences? Or are we comparing our experiences to someone else’s?” they ask.
When we are living in the GAIN, our life is based on our actions and results. Not what we could have or should have done.
When we’re living in the GAIN, our life is based on our progress and results. Not what could have or might have happened.
“Winners don’t have a to-do list. They have a ‘done’ list,” performance coach Tim Grover says.
When we’re living in the GAIN, we “focus on what we’ve actually done,” Dan and Ben write. “We measure our GAINS and use those GAINS to create more and better GAINS in the future.”
3: What about when something bad happens?
“I’ve discovered that when something very emotional happens to me, it stays with me until I’ve converted it into lessons,” Dan reflects. “Before I knew this was the case, I could become paralyzed by negative experiences for long periods of time.”
Whatever happens, we can choose to frame it as a GAIN “by creating new lessons, insights, or standards for ourselves,” Dan and Ben write.
When we transform an experience into a GAIN, we become better, and our future becomes bigger.
“Every experience can be transformed into a GAIN,” the authors write. “Being in the GAIN makes us psychologically bulletproof. It doesn’t matter what actually occurs, we can turn the experience into a GAIN.
“Lose your leg in a car accident? Measure the GAIN. Turn it into a GAIN.
“Your spouse cheats on you? Measure the GAIN. Turn it into a GAIN.
“Your business fails? Measure the GAIN. Turn it into a GAIN.
“You lose your money in a Ponzi scheme? Measure the GAIN. Turn it into a GAIN.
“These may seem like extreme examples,” Dan and Ben write. But “any experience can be transformed into a GAIN.”
Which is fundamentally different from when we are in the GAP about our situation.
“When we’re in the GAP about any experience, that experience becomes somewhat of a trauma to us,” they note. “The word trauma may sound extreme, but trauma, by nature, is an experience we’ve framed as negative, which we avoid, and which creates ongoing dysfunction and debilitation in our lives.”
When we are in the GAP about something, we haven’t learned from it. We “haven’t taken ownership of it.
What happens when we haven’t actively learned from a GAP-experience?
“We won’t be able to move forward until we frame the experience as a GAIN,” Dan and Ben write. “Until we choose to be grateful for the experience and better off because it happened.”
When this transformation happens, we become better. We’re no longer bitter.
We’re grateful for every experience.
We live our lives based on our own “success measurements—which we have chosen,” Dan and Ben write. We “embrace ‘failing’ (i.e., learning) because we’re actively converting every experience into learning and growth–GAINS.”
It’s the difference between seeing life as something that happens FOR us.
Not TO us.
“By defining our own measure of success, and by actively growing through our experiences, we’ll continually be shocked by how far you’ve come,” the authors predict.
“We’ll regularly look back at where we previously were and see accelerated growth.
“We’ll see increasingly tangible and measurable progress.
“Our progress will be startling to most outsiders because many people spend enormous amounts of time in the GAP, which means they aren’t converting their experiences into learning. It means they aren’t utilizing every experience to refine how they define and measure success.
“When we’re in the GAIN, our progress becomes increasingly measurable to ourselves and everyone around us.
“Yet, the more we’re in the GAIN, the less we compare, compete, or even care what other people think about us.
“Being in the GAIN leads us to becoming increasingly unique and self-determined as a person. By no longer measuring ourselves against externals and by transforming every experience into a GAIN, we become a highly unique and incomparable person to anyone else.
“We’re playing your own game.
“We’re seeing new progress every day.
“We’re defining what our own experiences mean.
“We’re loving our lives.”
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.