Sometime in 2011, I went with my girlfriend to the cinema to see the movie “Limitless”. While it’s based on completely wrong premise – one that people only use 20% of their brains – it was fun to watch. The protagonist, aspiring writer named Eddie, uses specially engineered pills that unlock his brain full capacity, pushing him into series of struggles, only to emerge hugely successful in the end. If you haven’t seen it – I highly recommend it, especially as this article includes a series of spoilers.

As the film ended, I heard a lot of people commenting along the lines of “God, if only I could get these pills, I could do everything!” Now, I know our species evolved for efficiency, but that was a bit surprising. The whole movie was loaded with scenes that could cater for tons of inspiration. Instead, it seemed like all the audience got from it was “if only”. Much to my dismay, my partner was also excited by the idea of this special pill – which explains why the relationship didn’t last long. What could you get from the movie, instead of delusions for someone to make your life better with a pill? Let’s see.

Immediately after Eddie takes the first one and starts to see the world clearly (and following helping his landlord’s wife with her thesis – and having some physical activity), he returns to his place. The way everything looks is what you’d expect from apartment owned by an alcoholic writer. Dirt, chaos, and a lot of weird gluey stuff would make a great depiction. Instead of following reflex idea (“Torch it!”), Eddie does his job on making the place look clean and organized before getting to writing.

Inspiration number one: get your place in order! Mess and chaos tax our willpower, as our brains – without us recognizing it – constantly scans the environment. The more cluttered it is, the harder job it does, burning down its fuel (glucose) reserves for nothing. And the less there is of it, the less willpower we have and the more likely we are to follow some instant gratification urge – and these are hardly ever good for us.

As Eddie gets his hands on a large supply of pills, he experiences “an unprecedented surge of motivation”. We can see him working out, getting well-fitting clothes, learning new skills – from languages, to finances, to playing piano. He also finishes his book in four days. Spectacular results, especially given it only took him a month. Whole audience was in awe at this point – “wow, imagine what I could do with that pill!” Yeah, right.

Inspiration number two: realize that there’s nothing special this pill did. It was Eddie who worked out, got his looks in order, learned new skills, and wrote a book. Everybody can do these things! Sure, they will take more time – but with consistency and resilience, you can achieve a lot more than you believe. That’s amazing how we overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can achieve in couple of months or a year. I know that myself. Once you know where you’re heading, set your goals and routines around it and PUT THE EFFORT IN. That’s that easy.

In one of final scenes, Eddie is confronted by one of his antagonists, who wants to take advantage of him by cutting his supply of pills. This plot fails completely. Eddie explains how his brain and body adapted, allowing him to retain his abilities while being off the drug. He doesn’t need the pill anymore, as his abilities are now natural.

Inspiration number three: if you work consistently, the effort will pay off. You will level up. Things that used to be hard will become easy. There was a time when writing and talking in English was problematic for me. There was a time when I needed over 40 minutes to run 5 kilometers. There was a time when speaking in front of people caused me to get stressed enough to make me stammer. Neither of these are valid anymore – because I put in the effort, consistently. My problems and issues are on entirely different level at this moment.

Still looking for your magic pill? How about three? Here they go:

  1. Get organized.
  2. Know what you want.
  3. Put in the sweat equity.

That’s it, it’s that simple. Though simple rarely ever equals easy.

Unless you really know what you’re after.

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