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Who Pushes You?


in Productivity, Stories, Travel

When I was 12, I decided that I wanted to make video games. So I asked my parents to let me go to the Xtreme Game Programming eXpo (XGDX).

Normal kids ask for an Xbox. I asked to hang out with 40 year old nerds talking about bump-mapping and neural networks.

Back then, my idol was Andre LaMothe—author of Tricks of the Windows Game Programming Gurus. I followed him like some of my infamous Hack the System readers — I stalked the heck out of him. He posted on his web forum that he was hosting a Game Programming Conference, the XGDX, and immediately I asked my parents to get me a ticket for Christmas.

So I went. And I learned that he was going to be the editor for a new book series on game programming. So I got up the nerve to approach him. And the next day, on his forum, I told him that my goal was to write a book on video game programming that year. And he started…laughing.

“There’s no way I’ll ever let anyone under 25 ever write a book for me.”

And then he proceeded to list every reason why I wouldn’t be able to write a book.

I was too young. I was too inexperienced. A publisher would never take me seriously. And on, and on.

Of course this was all before I became the strapping, confident man that you know and love today:

Enjoy this unnecessary body shot of me and my handlebar mustache
Enjoy this unnecessary body shot of me and my handlebar mustache.

I’m not going to lie, at first, his “rejection” really hurt.

But it turned out to be a good thing because his rejection pushed me.

I went home and started working on the manuscript furiously. I wrote 80 pages in 4 days. Seriously. 80 pages about variables, loops, functions, arrays — and I was only 12 years old. And I submitted it a couple days later to his superiors.

And I got a publishing deal for my new book, Game Programming for Teens.

Game Programming for Teens Game Programming for Teens

A year later, my book had become a textbook in schools. Soon after, I was teaching a monthly segment on TechTV with Leo Laporte. See my first television segment below.

It was a great feeling — and it all happened because someone had unknowingly pushed me to work harder and dig deeper. It was a much needed push.

What pushed me? Someone who told me I couldn’t succeed.

Andre was someone I respected, but he told me I was destined to be a failure — so I had to prove him wrong.


Years later, I again got a push I needed from someone unexpectedly.

Adult life is stressful and it’s really easy to settle when things get too hard, wouldn’t you agree?

It’s so much easier to do something we know we’re good at so that we can fool ourselves into thinking we’re happier, more amazing, more successful that we are.

That’s why we need people around us that don’t take our shit. For me, that person was Anna Leevia.

I met Anna when I was running one of my greatest hacks of all time — becoming a “famous” DJ in Berlin in 90 days.

I was feeling as confident as any fake celeb could possibly feel and getting paid thousands of dollars to throw great parties.

Anna was never impressed.

Anna is a legitimately successful DJ herself. She’s also ridiculously attractive. But she was never satisfied with hearing my stories of the past. She wanted more from me. Of course, this pushed me.

She wouldn’t let me settle for comfortable.

I remember telling Anna “Hey — how about we relax and watch some TV?” “Ok,” she’d say. “We can watch some TV—but first, we have to make a mix and upload it to your SoundCloud.

“I just want to go chill in the park, join me?” “Sure Maneesh! After we record and upload a video to YouTube, ok?”

Every time I thought I had her figured out, a new challenge. She busted my balls and I liked it, because there was nobody else like that in my life.

Oh — and Anna was nice enough to join me on the Unplanned Private Plane Trip I’m taking right now. Here she and I are, talking about our little jaunt from Charleston to Miami today:

As we get older, it’s so hard to find people who really want to push us. The key is to understand: Who motivates you? 

I’ve noticed this often in romantic relationships. There are two types of romantic partners — those who make you comfortable, and those who help you grow. It’s very easy to get comfy, watch a movie, and relax. But what if your partner pushed you? What if your partner helped you become better than you normally are?

I’m wondering: Would you rather have someone that pushes you, or someone that supports you unconditionally? Even if that means letting you get comfortable?

Let me know in the comments.


Sukhneet Singh March 21, 2014 at 2:43 pm

I’d much rather have someone push me.

It’s why I read your blog.


Piyush January 8, 2014 at 12:34 am

why not just marry a rich partner


Mish January 5, 2014 at 9:40 am

Mini-ponder: With the first type of “push” – being told you can’t do it – I wonder if it makes any difference who that statement comes from. In your case, it was from a stranger who knew very little about you. If that statement came from a close friend, family member or partner, do you think it would have given you even more of a push to prove them wrong, or would it make you doubt yourself and give up?


Bryan January 3, 2014 at 3:34 am

You don’t need a romantic partner or friend to push as much as Anna (although that’s nice). Anyone can turn a friend into an accountability buddy if you take some initiative, provided both you and your friend are orientated toward growth at least a little.

In some situations, you don’t need a coach and you just need someone to make sure you did your work. Even your Mom can check that for you each day. This is one reason why I like living with a romantic partner–she gives me a Korean test every single night and there are consequences for not doing it.

You can use friends to have weekly, bi-weekly, or even daily calls where you check to see if each of you have done your work (and you can add stakes with monetary punishments and rewards).

For me, 2013 is the year I learned that I let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I know I can study Korean better on my own than in a class. I know I can earn more from entrepreneurial ventures than employment. I know I can do a bunch of things like this but I *don’t* do them, because things like language classes, personal training, and working for an employer harness a structure that makes you work instead of quit.

Thanks for the post Maneesh, it made me think about how to properly set up some structure around my New Years Resolutions to make sure I don’t quit.


Jessica Bird January 2, 2014 at 11:32 pm

I’m an old friend of Anna and she’s always been a go-getter. It could be at school, it could be in our social environment.. and then It was when she decided she wanted to become a DJ and travel the world. She will go for what she wants no matter what and she will get it! I’m proud of her!
So I’m not impressed she pushed you and I’m glad she made a difference in your life.
But just tell her to stop postponing her trip back home coz there are loads of people here dying to see her lol
Oh and nice post btw!


Sandeep December 31, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Awesome post. I would rather have someone to push me than support me unconditionally, for two reasons.

1. If a person pushed me really hard for a goal I can’t help but feel I want to earn their approval, praise, and respect.

2. Also I know by going hard for a goal the person pushing me and myself can form a solid team where we can build trust and friendship through a difficult experience together.

I wonder how long you are going to stick with that handlebar mustache haha.


Sheyi | December 31, 2013 at 5:36 am

So I was thinking, what happened afterwards when you and Anna got to the destination? #NoNeedToAnswerHere Lol

I’m always motivated by posts like this. Anyone can say any shit, I’m less concerned. I’m motivated when I see or read a story where someone is killing it with their idea…

I love to read that the snapchat guy rejected to be a billionaire almost overnight because (think seed investors) he wants to control the company.

I like it when the twitter guys took in $1bn. I love it when Maneesh ‘chops’ money online etc

I like you man (no gay intended).



Maneesh Sethi December 31, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Anna and I are just friends. But to be fair, she rejected me quite nicely :p


ryan December 30, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Maneesh—I use the wahl razor.


Maneesh Sethi December 30, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Me too — why did you mention it?


Nathan December 30, 2013 at 1:11 pm

I grew up in a really nice middle class cocoon and was told that I’d “be great,” and I think it stunted my growth. I am at my best when I feel insulted, challenged or embarrassed. Honestly. Once, when I was struggling an old boss told me to accept living in a poor neighborhood and that my four-year-old would adapt. I then proceeded to write a book, started a copywriting business, booked national contracts and got a home in my dream neighborhood. Oh, and I quit my job in grand style the weekend before I moved into my house. I wish I could find my old boss sometimes. I need insults and doubters in my life to keep me sharp.


Patrick December 30, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Great post but I tend to agree with David more. There is no doubt the power of such kinds of push, like Jeff mentioned;

1- Someone challenging you by saying you can’t
2- And someone telling you let’s do something together.

For someone with a lesser will power, the first one can as damaging as it can be a motivating force.

For me, I do welcome being pushed to achieve and go higher but I don’t rely so much on them. I find the much needed push that I want deep down inside myself. It doesn’t matter what people say to my aspirations and desires, I ask myself how badly do I want it? Am I ready to make the necessary sacrifice needed to make it? So answering these questions deep inside me gives me that needed push more than what people actually say to me.


David December 30, 2013 at 11:46 am

Hi Maneesh,

This reminds me of that day when, after our 4 Hour Workweek Success Stories interview we sat together on that bridge close to the apartment you lived in, drinking a beer.

It became clear to me then that in order to reach your goals, at least in some cases, you apply what you described above and what back then you called “fake it til you make it” :). Back then I said that in this case you are what Germans call a “Hochstapler”, someone who at least fakes it. But that’s probably not the case because a Hochstapler usually doesn’t make it, while this seems clearly not to be the case with you, meaning: you also make it. I believe it’s ok to fake it at times in order to make it, as long as no rights of fellow human beings get damaged in the process. But that’s leading away a little from the subject of this article :)

While it’s surely good if this kind of negative feedback like the above mentioned rejection spurs one on to greater heights, it’s only the second or third best option in comparison to being self-motivated, IMO. Because the needed external impulse might not come, or might come way too late. Intrinsic motivation therefore is my ideal case scenario. Unfortunately many, way too many people take criticism or rejection as something that turns them off, instead of using it as a propeller once it has been thrown at you (like your above example with the book. Great job, man!)

So, what spurs me on? For the stuff that’s really, really important to me it’s definitely the intrinsic motivation (aka burning desire). This works especially well when it’s something that I controll mostly myself and don’t depend on waiting for others. What I am having difficulties with is when it’s something that concerns not only me but someone else too, let’s say a friend, or one’s spouse. If the two sides aren’t pulling at the same end of the rope, then there’s trouble on the horizon. Although a kind of ‘competition’, there’s not much of that sort competition’here that could spur one on to achieve a goal.



jeff December 30, 2013 at 9:31 am

You mentioned 2 types of pushing.
1.Someone challenging you by saying you can’t.
2.And someone telling you let’s do something togther.
Both work well and second one is easier to get but finding a business partner.

That’s where I am at now… Looking for a business partner to help me work on any type of online business.


Austin December 30, 2013 at 2:15 pm

What type of online business are you trying to break into Jeff?


Nick December 30, 2013 at 9:10 am

I think it can both ways. I am naturally inclined to push myself way too hard and burn myself out. My girlfriend is the one that tells me to take it down a notch every now and then and that reminds me that work is nothing without enjoyment. I really appreciate that.
On the other hand I also have friends who push me not to settle and to actually go all out instead of being ok with second place. I think it’s important to have a balance of both in your life.


Helpful December 30, 2013 at 9:05 am

The link to your book (both text and image) is broken. It’s an Amazon 404.


Maneesh Sethi December 30, 2013 at 9:07 am

Thanks! Fixed.


omar December 30, 2013 at 8:55 am

I love this. How you continued over the editor and especially Anna’s advice of accomplishing something before relaxing.

My only feedback to others would be to make sure you don’t get stuck continually trying to validate yourself to others. At some point you gotta do it for you, but having accountability like Anna can’t hurt :)


Kurt December 30, 2013 at 7:47 am

These are not two mutually exclusive things. In this question, someone consistently pushing you (i.e. conditionally loving you) vs someone unconditionally loving you (i.e. not ever pushing you at anything). I don’t think it is healthy or realistic to have one vs the other. But with a sliding scale in between, I personally would want more push. If they are mutually exclusive, I would want unconditional support, and I would find my ‘push’ or motivation externally.


Sarah December 30, 2013 at 7:22 am

Question for the guys who want to be pushed: how can your female partner push you while still making you feel admired and not in competition with her?


omar December 30, 2013 at 9:09 am

I don’t think women know how much power they can have over a guy literally.

With grace, a women can get a guy to do anything.

The most important thing with a guy is not to be combative and forceful because his natural mechanism is to fight back.

So how do you do it, with finesse. Talk about something he did in the past that resembles what you want him to do and tell him how much you admired him and still admire when he did/does xyx. He’s going to think in his head “wow I gotta do more of that”

Also telling a guy you get turned on when you see him do xyx (the thing you want him to do) will make him motivated.

The key is to be graceful, simple snd sweet and make him feel like he owns it.

Don’t make comparisons that hurt his ego or make him feel less of a man than the other guy.

Guys like to “feel” like they’re in control even when they know deep inside they’re listening to you.


James December 30, 2013 at 6:39 am

I’d rather have someone that pushes me. But – that takes them giving me unconditional support. I see what Anna did for you as unconditional support- she refused to see you as anything other than what’s possible.

As a teacher, I become the person that pushes – and pupils respond differently.


Dusty December 30, 2013 at 6:22 am

Push me. Any day of the week.
I know a tonne of people who support me unconditionally. People act like it’s rare, but it’s not — they’re super encouraging and… they’re always encouraging. That’s the problem. If I’m working, they encourage me to keep working. If I’m not, they encourage me to rest. They encourage me to stop if I feel bad. They encourage me to quit if I feel like quitting.
And it’s great to have unconditional support, but it paradoxically leaves me feeling unsupported. Because there’s nobody supporting my dream when I feel unmotivated, and it’s so much harder to get going on your own.
True, there ARE times when I really need to stop, when I really need a rest, but for all the other times when it’s just me feeling crappy or I feel lazy, encouragement in the form of a kick up the ass is invaluable. So long as whoever delivers the ass kicking knows when to back off when I really need them to, it’s great motivation.


thomas December 30, 2013 at 6:18 am

Thanks, bro, I’m feeling your message, there is a lot of japanese I want to prove wrong here, arigato!


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