The Gap and The Gain by Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy

The Big Idea: When you measure yourself against an ideal, you focus on the GAP. When you measure yourself against where you where before, you focus on the GAIN. Focus on the GAIN for happiness and success.

INTRODUCTION Why Most People Aren’t Happy

“There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

By embracing the pursuit of happiness, we rob ourselves of happiness in the here and now.

You’re in the GAP every time you measure yourself or your situation against an ideal.

Being in the GAIN means you measure yourself backward, against where you were before.

CHAPTER 1 EMBRACE THE FREEDOM OF “WANTS”: Avoid the Attachment of “Needs”

People in high-stakes situations make the best choices when in a state of gratitude.

Naval Ravikant said: “Training yourself to be happy is completely internal. There is no external progress, no external validation. You’re competing against yourself—it is a single-player game.”

There’s a common perception that in order to be the best at what you do, you’ve got to be completely obsessed.

You can be 100% committed to something and simultaneously not need it.

Obsessive passion is highly impulsive and fueled by suppressed emotions and unresolved internal conflict.

Harmonious passion, on the other hand, is intrinsically motivated and healthy.

Harmonious passion is related to having high levels of grit, whereas obsessive passion is not.

You’re playing the long game. You’re playing your own game. You’re not competing with anyone else.

You’re genuinely happy. You also love what you’re working on and building. You’re committed and focused,

Being in the GAP means you’re still trying to free yourself FROM something. You’re trying to fill a GAP.

The GAP is based on an unhealthy “need” or attachment to something outside of yourself.

The GAIN is based on being in harmony with what you want, and knowing that you don’t need it.

When you’re in the GAIN, you live your life based on intrinsic motivation and harmonious passion, which creates flow and high performance.

CHAPTER 2 BE SELF-DETERMINED: Define Your Own Success Criteria

Being fixated on outside reference points puts you in the GAP. Being directed by your own internal reference points strengthens being in the GAIN.

Social media is largely designed to put people into the GAP.

The antidote to being in the GAP is to measure yourself by the GAIN. More specifically, you measure your own GAINS,

“Before you start the process with a new goal, make sure to recognize and appreciate the progress and achievements you’ve made so far.”

Spend 20 to 30 minutes with no distractions writing down your answer to this question: “I know I’m being successful when…”

Defining your own success criteria is how you become self-determined.

With every decision or opportunity, every member of the rowing team asked themselves: WILL IT MAKE THE BOAT GO FASTER?

External reference points make it impossible to feel successful because no matter what you’ve done, the success criteria are always moving.

The GAP means your life is determined by someone or something external.

When your reference point is internal, happiness and success are always right here and right now.


If you’re continually stressed or upset, you’re wearing your physical body down.

Being in the GAIN is restorative, healing, and empowering.

Optimistic people often live 10+ years longer.

Comparison makes you unhappy.

The GAIN also has a tangible physical effect—it is light, energizing, freeing, and confidence building.

Stop comparing and start practicing gratitude.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Being grateful helps you appreciate your GAINS.

Call yourself out when you catch yourself in the GAP.

Tell five people you know and love about The GAP and The GAIN. Give those five people permission to call you out when you’re in the GAP.

Mental subtraction is one of the most effective science-based techniques for boosting gratitude and happiness. Imagine life without something and you will learn not to take it for granted.

Have a pre-plan for how you’ll deal with obstacles. Have a pre-planned response for any situation.

BJ Fogg, a behavior scientist at Stanford University, has a breakthrough method—called Tiny Habits — which is a simple and practical way of applying implementation intentions.

CHAPTER 4 ALWAYS MEASURE BACKWARD: Increase Your Hope and Resilience

If you’re not regularly reminded of the GAINS, it’s easy to go into the GAP and lose hope.

Seeing GAINS gives you hope, confidence, and motivation to keep going — even when progress is difficult.

It is incredibly powerful and important to keep journals, records, or “annual reviews.”

“There’s only one way to measure success. You measure success backward by looking at where you are now compared to where you were before.”

Don’t let your past be forgotten. Always measure backward.

Make a bullet point list of all your specific GAINS over the past 3 years.

You should always be outgrowing your former self.

Pull your journal back out and start listing the GAINS you’ve made over the previous 90 days.

Keeping a journal or annual review process is powerful because it allows you to tap back into the context of your former self, and see the massive GAINS.

Take time regularly to measure your GAINS for different time frames. Always measure backward.

CHAPTER 5 MEASURE 3 WINS DAILY: Maximize the Highest-Leverage Hour of Your Day

The last hour of your day can be a GAIN hour — one that positively transforms how you sleep as well as your entire next day. What you do during the hour before your bedtime — the “sweet spot” — is critically important.

Staring at your phone right before bed is one of the worst things you can do.

Your day can be designed proactively, rather than designed reactively, where you’re bounced around by distractions.

In the hour before bed, Josh Waitzkin gives himself time to think about the most important question he’s trying to answer or problem he’s trying to solve. He then sleeps on it, and the next morning, “pre-input,” he meditates and journals about the same question or problem he was thinking about the night before.

As Thomas Edison said, “Never go to bed without a request to your subconscious.”

I’m a huge believer in planning your day and thinking about what you’re trying to accomplish the night before. Then, in the morning, and before you start looking at your phone, give yourself space to meditate and journal about your goals and what you’re trying to accomplish.

“Never begin the day until it is finished on paper.”—Jim Rohn

Research shows that writing down three things you’re grateful for each day increases your happiness.

Writing three wins from the day not only boosts your gratitude but simultaneously boosts your confidence.

Rather than having 10 items on your to-do list, have no more than three.

End your day feeling awesome by writing down your three wins. Then write down the three most important wins you can get the next day.

Always measure backward. Measure three wins each day. Get yourself committed and excited for three wins tomorrow.

Measuring your progress is a powerful signal that you’re serious about what you’re doing.

Text your three wins today and three wins tomorrow to your success partner.

What you do during the 60 minutes before bed has an enormous impact on your sleep quality, as well as the direction and quality of your next day.

Unplug from your phone and put it on airplane mode at least 30–60 minutes before sleep.

Write in your journal three wins from that day.

Write down the three biggest wins you’ll get the next day.

Having a daily accountability partner combines tracking and reporting.

Report your three wins for today and your three wins for tomorrow.


Everything happens for you, not to you.

The GAIN, on the other hand, puts you in the driver’s seat of your own life. You decide what your experiences mean.

A fundamental aspect of flexibility is what psychologists call pathways thinking, and it’s the ability to find or create many workable paths to a given outcome.

“Successful people don’t control events; they control their response to events.”

By taking full ownership of your experiences and past, you can do whatever you want with them.

When you can take a negative experience and learn a lesson from it that you can apply positively to the future, you’re transforming the negative experience.

Being in the GAIN allows you to transform your experiences into GAINS, and give them the meanings you choose.

When you’re in the GAIN, you become better because of challenging experiences. You become antifragile.

Seeing every experience as a GAIN makes you antifragile. Turning every experience — even your hardest — into a GAIN makes you antifragile.

CONCLUSION Life, Liberty, and the Expansion of Happiness

There is a much better formula for happiness, confidence, and success: always measure backward. “Measuring backward” means you measure your progress based on where you were before.

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