The One Thing in Life You Can Control: Effort

I remember the time well. I was 27 years old.
I finally had my own apartment for the first time. I still hadn’t bought a new car yet, but I was jazzed that I had a 4 year old Mazda RX 7. 4 Years old was as good as new to me, and driving a gold RX 7 back in the day was fun as well.

I still bought my suits used, although by then I did have 1 new suit I had bought at Neiman Marcus because my girlfriend worked there and brought me to one of their year end employee discount deals.

My business, MicroSolutions was about 3 years old and I would make 60k dollars that year. HUGE money for me. Back then, getting paid your age was good, double your age was great. Around Christmas of that year, after many welcome hints from my then girlfriend, I decided to take every penny I had in my savings, $ 7,500 dollars and get engaged.

It was a beautiful ring that cost me exactly $ 7,500 dollars.

Long story short. I got engaged. She lost the ring a couple weeks after I gave it to her and before it was insured. We broke up. (the good news is that I was too young to get married and we are still good friends).

27 years old. Zero in the bank. Messed up in the head because of the breakup. The good news was that I had my business. The one thing that I could always focus on to the exclusion of everything else. A trait that would serve me well in business, but had more than a little bit to do with my breakup.

MicroSolutions was growing. But it could be doing better. The PC industry had gone through a major slump and pullback and the local area networking industry had yet to take off. If we were going to grow, it was going to take working hard and working smart.

It was right around then I heard something that I would hear a lot once I bought the Mavs.

In sports, the only thing a player or coach can truly control is effort. The same applies to business. The only thing any entrepreneur, salesperson or anyone in any position can control is their effort.

I had to kick myself in the ass and recommit to getting up early, staying up late and consuming everything I possibly could to get an edge. I had to commit to making the effort to be as productive as I possibly could. It meant making sure that every hour of the day that I could contact a customer was selling time and when customers were sleeping, I was doing things that prepared me to make more sales and to make my company better.

And finally, I had to make sure I wasn’t lying to myself about how hard I was working. It would have been easy to judge effort by how many hours a day passed by while I was at work. That’s the worst way to measure effort. Effort is measured by setting goals and getting results. What did i need to do to close this account. What did I need to do to win this segment of business. What did i need to do to understand this technology or that business better than anyone. What did I need to do to find an edge. Where does that edge come from and how was I going to get there.

The one thing in our business lives is effort. Either you make the commitment to get results or your don’t.

57 thoughts on “The One Thing in Life You Can Control: Effort

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  4. I was always told ‘ DONT confuse EFFORT with RESULTS ‘

    its all about results

    Comment by Erick -

  5. Another great post, Mark. Since I don’t have much time for following
    sports these days, your blogs on business and work are much more

    The only two things in life which won’t let you down are 1) your dog,
    and 2) your business. All else comes and goes.

    Comment by Guerrilla Billionaireâ„¢ -

  6. Pingback: The One Thing in Life You Can Control: Effort - Gold Speculator

  7. I hope that I am wrong, but I think that the trade that was made for Jason Kidd was a VERY bad move.The first offer was even worse, but thanks to D.George it did not go through. You think far too much of Jason Kidd. Granted, he is a good passer, but he is not a good person to score points. Devin Harris could score and also defend against quick point guards. He could also break down defences by going to the basket and he was very good at taking charges, which got the opponent into foul trouble, plus was points added for the Mavericks. He was improving whereas Kidd is declining. I think you will be sorry for the trade. Diop was a GOOD backup for Dampier. Hassel was a good defender. Why deplete your defence when it is already the weak link on the team ? The Mavericks would have been fine when they regained their health. You had injured, Harris, Stackhouse and D.George had just recently got well. They were #2 In the West before all the injuries. They just needed a little more time to get well. I hope I am wrong, but if the Maverick do better with Kidd, I will be suprised.
    Against the Hornets, Kidd had 8 points and 6 turnovers. How many points were made as a result of the 6 turnovers. Josh Howard had a turnover because he threw the ball to Kidd and Kidd was not looking.
    I think you were just looking at the 99 triple doubles that Kidd had and it caused you to use poor judgement.
    Now with the game that suits Kidd the best, You will have to have the players going to the basket to receive a pass for an easy basket. Now they mostly just stand and watch whoever has the ball to see if they can score or else pass the ball around to finally get a JUMP SHOT. That will have to change or else the passinf=g ability that Kidd has will be in vain.
    Well THANKS for reading this and if you care to, you can e-mail me at

    Comment by G.W. Brantley -

  8. I know this is not what I\’m supposed to have focused on but, are you serious? She LOST THE RING?

    Comment by Milena -

  9. Congratulations on a great blog!

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    Comment by Santa Claus -

  10. Great post. I hope you do write a book (and write it yourself). Thanks for pointing us the way, by going back to fundamentals.

    Comment by Mikeh -

  11. Thanks for the inspiration advice. As an owner of a young business, I can certainly effort is a large part of being successful. Nothing will get done if I don\’t get it done myself.

    Comment by Jimmy Cheng -


    1. Must be Within Your Control
    2. Must be Attainable (Realistic)
    3. Must be Clearly Defined
    4. Must be in Writing

    Set a Stretch Goal and a Definite can take it to the bank goal.

    Comment by Mozart -

  13. Hey Mark,

    A friend of mine just sent this post to me. He thought it would cheer me up, because I\’m facing a similar predicament at the moment. I\’m 27, and I just got out of a 4 year long relationship. My head is pretty messed up from the breakup, and I\’ve got less than zero in the bank.

    It\’s hard to stay motivated as an entrepreneur, given the sacrifices that are often necessary. And it\’s equally difficult when others discourage you from pursuing your dreams… in the hopes that you\’ll opt for a career with better security. My parents still want me to become a doctor or lawyer or something. Haha. I can\’t say that I blame them. Its natural for most people to choose certainty over uncertainty.

    Unfortunately, I am not one of those people.

    I like to challenge conventions and I thrive in a state of flux… which depending on your perspective may or may not be synonymous with progress. Unfortunately, this may mean I am not suitable for relationships – although I\’d like to believe that the condition is temporary.

    There are obvious benefits to a relationship, some of which I miss terribly. Some more than others. But like you I still have my business. And now I have a lot more time to dedicate to it. So I\’ll keep chugging along. Making sure that the effort I put forth is spent towards improving efficiency and efficacy, and towards getting results. Hopefully, one day fulfill my dreams and make a positive impact on the world.

    Thanks for the inspiration post. You\’ve got a new fan.


    Comment by M. Pritchett -

  14. I coach little league and the comment on effort can not be more true. I preach to my player (8 and 9 year olds) the importance of having fun in what you are doing. As a player you can not control what the other team does…as a coach I can not control what the other coach does. At the end of the day, win or lose, the only things these kids have is knowing that they gave everything that had and that they had fun. Then we start all over again.

    Thanks for the reminder Mark.

    Comment by Jeff -

  15. Yesterday i sat in cabo san lucas and heard Jerry Nelson speak to a group of 80 young men about winners and losers. For all of you who dont know who jerry nelson is, he strarted ticketmaster along with about forty other succesful ventures over the past 50 years and now leads the ALA… In his talk he touched on the things we can control in life, while he did not mention effort, he did indeed mention ethics and attitude. Jerry spoke on the importance of ethics in business and your ability to control your attitude when conducting business. After the talk, I shared with him marks view on controling effort and the importance of it, and at the same time i felt obligated to share with blogmaverick Jerrys outlook on two other things we can control in life. So heres to Effort, Ethics, and Attitude…

    Comment by Barrett -

  16. No question Effort is important. But to this I would add Time Constraints and Deadlines, For example, I sold life insurance for Conneticut Mutual just after I graduated from college and was told that if you knock on ten doors a day and explained your product, you will make at least one sale. It worked until I got drafted because of VietNam.

    Second, I taught in Tokyo for many years and published books while there. The time constraint I put on myself was 30 minutes from my train station to a major transfer station. In that thirty minutes I concentrated on writing one chapter of a textbook on my Tandy laptop computer.(This was in the days when a computer only held 6 A4 size pages of memory) I published three books in three months.

    Lastly, when I negotiated royalty contracts, I always emphasized to the publishers that I could always be counted on to make the deadlines they set. Editors I had worked with in the past knew this, so I had a competitive advantage over other writers . Time Constraints and Deadlines enhance Effort.

    Comment by George Pifer -

  17. She \’lost\’ the ring eh?

    Comment by Duff -

  18. I read your blog all of the time, but this one (and todays) really inspired me. I know we have a winning company here (biotech – i know…not your thing…its cool!) and there are days when it gets tough…today was one of those days…but your litte blog made me feel better…thanks mark.

    Comment by Kevin Richardson -

  19. Is effort always measured by results?

    Comment by zach -

  20. This sounds to me more like Mark Cuban\’s recipe on how to make lemonade if life gives you lemons. Good.

    Comment by Maychics Worlds Top Sexiest Women Networking Site At -

  21. the question is — once you get there can you slow down and go back and appreciate all the things you missed out on in your personal life? And do people forgive you for having worked so hard or do your friends start to view you differently even though you have never really changed? My theory is if the other guy works 35 hours a week then you must work 60 hours a week because after a while it is all about brute force and how much you can lift and how much pain you can endure. On the other end once you crest that first hurdle — how did things change?

    Comment by Michael -

  22. One of your better posts.

    Comment by Anil -

  23. This is my first working day for 2008, and thanks for sharing the story that inspires me a lot! Still a uphill way ahead me and I will make much more effort to reach the top this year.

    Comment by Echo -

  24. I really like what you write here!
    Very interesting.

    Fells like you tell what happened to you yesterday. When I see you on TV, frankly, I would say something in mid thirties. yeah, was surprised about the truth 😉 thats a compliment, i guess.

    Hope you got some more to tell.

    Comment by Aris -

  25. Great posts. Effort is what life is all about!

    Comment by Ames Tiedeman -

  26. Also, a $60,000 salary circa 1986 was an INCREDIBLE salary! It\’s amazing you were pulling in that with \”only\” 3 years of effort.

    In addition to that,you mostly lived with friends and you drove an old car. It seems like you should have been banking even more cash than you did (though $7.5K is nothing to sneeze at).

    Anyway, more stories please!

    Comment by DML -

  27. As you said, FOCUSED effort is key. Just being at the office is not enough (though it\’s important). Getting things done and taking concrete steps is key.

    Comment by DML -

  28. The starting point of all achievement is desire

    When your desires are strong enough, you will appear to possess superhuman powers to achieve

    Napoleon Hill quotes

    Success comes to those who really want it. Reading your last post, also, watching Michael Jordan\’s Chicago Bulls, and 2007 New England Patriots taught me that talent alone is overrated. The people who are usually the hungriest simply achieve more and outperform everyone else. Those who will not settle for losing or winning championships.

    Comment by Darryl -

  29. You make a good point. One can work 18 hours and not make much effort. Or, one can put in a lot of effort and get much more done in a shorter time span.

    It\’s not the amount of time spent, but how the time is used.

    One of my vows in building my own business this year is to work smarter — not longer!

    Figure out what needs to be done, the most productive way to do it, and then do it.

    No excuses.

    Best wishes for 2008!

    Comment by Devon Ellington -

  30. thanks Mark – I am in dire need of motivation after setbacks that have put me in a difficult situation – I need to focus more than ever and work harder. Im staying positive and ready to put in the EFFORT.

    Comment by brad -

  31. somehow i know the effort im putting in to try and get your and steve watkins attention for 20 min will pay off for all of us!!!
    happy new year from wade county

    Comment by zwe -

  32. Excellent post!!!

    Comment by Dayna -

  33. I have read this blog faithfully for about 2 years and never posted a comment. I place your opinion on the same level as some pretty incredible people.

    I agree with this post except for the fact that you didn\’t mention attitude. You can always control your attitude and they are not one in the same.

    A person that controls effort only may make progress but also may end up stabbing themselves in the neck.

    Someone that controls their own effort and their own attitude will be successful at being happy. Never Content, but happy.

    Any thoughts Mark?


    Comment by Cody Heitschmidt -

  34. thanks for the inspiration! happy and a healthy new year….

    Comment by etavitom -

  35. I\’m one of those people who is aware that I put 100% effort into everything I do, yet at the end of the day, I still stress about what I missed or what else I could have done or even what I could have done differently … it takes me about 60 to 90-minutes to get to sleep because of it.

    Comment by Tanya Ryno -

  36. DAmn.. that was one expensive suit!!


    Comment by Amy Krut -

  37. What an inspirational post, Mark. I loved your comments on effort, and kidding ourselves about how hard we are working. A great attitude to have going into \’08. Thank you. Now……$7500 for an engagement ring???? And she lost it??? You\’re still friends??? What the hey???

    Comment by CHansen -

  38. You know, there\’s quite a bit someone can learn from reading this. For the longest time \”Effort\” for me just meant commitment and time invested in something. I thought that expending this \”Effort\” would leave completely satsified and zealously content pursuing any avenue I wished to be successful in. The harsh reality is that commitment sometimes doesn\’t mean a whole lot without results. I learned this both as a student and a technical lead in the IT industry. Having clear vision, a good game plan, solid execution, and a die-hard attitude is essential for sustained success these days. People who think like this don\’t let the mundane cloud their judgement and they don\’t let the intricate complexities of life hamper their determination. Awesome post Mark.

    Comment by Sam Singh -

  39. Hey Mark. REALLY good stuff, as you can see from the outpouring of gratitude on behalf of your your readers.

    I thank you as well for compiling all of that practical wisdom & inspiration in one very easy-to-access post. Will not belabor the point any further, but will simply say your advice came at just the right time.

    Now on a related note…

    You should seriously think about writing an autobiography.

    You could seriously/simply title it \”CUBAN\” (big bold letters, of course) and both admiring fans curious readers would scramble to get their hands on it. Just look at how your personality drove this seasson of DWTS…

    (Guarantee it would outsell \”TRUMP,\” too!)

    Not only would it be a sure-fire NY Times bestseller, you could clearly HELP & INSPIRE a ton of new (perhaps non-digital)people.

    Your story is much bigger than one of wealth accumulation, and I believe people would love to know more.

    Something to think about anyway. Am sure you\’ve got plenty more cool/funny/inspirational stories & experiences you could recount for a couple chapters or so…

    And hey, if you need a ghostwriter/editor or just someone to bounce new ideas off of, let me know. 😉


    Comment by Dixon -

  40. Hey Mark ;>

    Ran into a Friend of Yours!!! As I was walking away, turned and asked him how Crazy you are? \”Hey chuckled,Smiled and said not So Crazy!!! He Just Works his Ass Off\” Great Motivation!!!!

    Keep Smiling ;>


    P.S. Keep Working your Ass Off I am enjoying your Efforts!!!!

    Comment by Whitteey -

  41. Mark I certainly think you are generally right about effort and business, but I\’m becoming convinced that in the pure online space there is an enormous amount of luck and serendipity in the \”success equation\”, and often effort is a distant third to those. Sure it is probably a necessary condition for success and in the past I think it was probably sufficient, but so much online success now hinges almost solely on Google search traffic. Companies that get a lot of free traffic have a *huge* advantage over those that pay for traffic, often at negative ROIs.
    Hey – are you going to CES? Will you be on Donny Deutsch \’s show there?

    Comment by Joe Duck -

  42. Mark,

    Great thoughts as always.

    I certainly need to be better about production versus time on the job.

    Thanks for your motivation!!

    Comment by Glen Wilson -

  43. Mark,

    Awesome! Great post! So what is your thougts on management of research into effort enablers in a team environment? How to initiate and auto instill cause, goals, and effort in a team environment? As always, thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    Comment by Mitchell -

  44. Effort is measured by setting goals and getting results. This says it all. Thanks for reminding me. I also found that we can get caught up in setting goals and not getting results because the to do list keeps getting longer and more intimidating. My secret has always been to start knocking of these goals as quickly as possible. That I feel is the measure of effort as you so clearly state.

    Thanks for the post

    Comment by Small Business Marketing -

  45. Excellent post! Productivity is effort based, but effort is also based on productivity.

    Comment by Nick -

  46. Sure, effort is important and it may be the one thing that you can control. This is a good post as well, I comment you for it…

    but… keep in mind that one also has to have the strategic focus and planning to put effort into the right thing. A hard core coder should put his effort into coding and not into sales and vice versa… everyone has to recognize what they\’re good at, what they enjoy, and then put their effort into that…

    Matt (Mad) Chider

    Comment by Matt (Mad) Chider -

  47. I like these articles. I like your comment ab setting goals instead of looking at how many hours you spent working. People can \”work hard\” without accomplishing anything. It\’s more important to be efficient in the time you spend working than to throw a lot of hours at a problem.

    Comment by Jay -

  48. Great post Mark. I like the flavor of your recent posts. Keep them coming, please.

    Comment by Bob Wegener -

  49. I like your posts that deal with motivation, effort, goal setting, things that we often overlook as entreprenuers.

    Keep them coming!

    Comment by Jay -

  50. Here is another quote that comes to mind from Mark\’s experience:

    \”Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.\”

    – John Wooden

    I would say that Mark has lived his entire life this way. Peace and Happy New Year, Holmes!

    Thanks for these blogs! You rock!

    Comment by Scott -

  51. Thanks for the Kick in the Ass. Sometime we need to be reminded to quit watching the clock and get out there and make things happen.

    Comment by John from Birmingham -

  52. I appreciate theadvice. I\’m new at trying to start my own business abd your advice on effort is priceless.

    Comment by whozhe -

  53. \”Effort is measured by setting goals and getting results.\” – Mark Cuban.

    Wow. No goals, no effort. Goal setting is probably the most important key to success. But setting them is step one. Then having them sit on your white-board staring back at you does nothing! Thanks for the reminder that asking yourself tough questions is the key to getting results. Questions… questions… how, who, why, will, what?

    how can I improve my website? how can I drive more visitors? how can I reach more readers? how can I provide NBA information that is free, unique, succinct, and more transparent than Hollinger\’s data? How can I enable NBA fans to look beyond the standings at ?

    thanks for the post. my questions keep coming…

    Comment by greg -

  54. \”And finally, I had to make sure I wasn\’t lying to myself about how hard I was working.\” Loved this statement – I\’m guessing many of us fall into this subtle trap. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    Comment by Vince -

  55. I think the point about judging yourself by how many hours you work versus judging yourself about setting goals and getting results is great. I struggle with this all the time. I will sit in front of my computer for 12 hours and work but at the end of the day was I really that efficient? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Mastering this will be the key for myself and anyone else to get to the next level of business.

    Comment by Joe M. -

  56. Willie Nelson said it best, \”You can\’t make a record if you ain\’t got nothin\’ to say and you can\’t play music if you don\’t know nothin\’ to play.\” It\’s all about effort.

    Comment by The WordSlinger -

  57. This is a great reminder for those of us on diets – we can only succeed with our weight loss goals in 2008 if we make that commitment to get the results we want. Your post has helped inspire me, thank you.

    Comment by john - from fat to fit -

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