Success: A Lean and Hungry Look

Cassius a lean and hungry look shakespeare
Cassius a lean and hungry look shakespeare

Do you have the lean and hungry look for your life and business? Comfortable people do not have the lean and hungry look. There needs to be a fire within.

Here is a quote from Julius Caesar, written by Shakespeare. In this play, Cassius is a Roman senator involved in the plot to assassinate Julius Caesar. Brutus says to Antony:


“Let me have men about me that are fat, Sleek headed men and such as sleep a-night. Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look.”

A “lean and hungry look” means you are hungry, ambitious and focused.

Only a lean and hungry looking person has the audacity to kill an Emperor. “A fat, sleek headed man” who sleeps well at night does not.

This applies to business and any venture. If you are too comfortable, there is no fire in your belly to want to succeed. The same principle applies to any venture. And certainly to a complementary therapy business.

This is one of the advantages to being in a situation that you find intolerable. It makes you hungry.

Hate your job

For example, if you are stuck in a job you hate. It sucks the life out of you. You feel miserable or bored. Misery and boredom are just different ends of the same spectrum of dissatisfaction.

If you have no spark inside you left, you will just accept an unsatisfactory situation. Perhaps sedate yourself with sugary snacks, empty TV, shopping, or affairs. Just like the lyrics from the Blur song ‘Stereotypes’:

Wife swapping is your future, you know that it would suit you.

Yes, they’re Stereotypes.

There must be more to life.

But if you have a fire within – the lean and hungry look, then you will be doing things to move out of that job. You will be working on building skills on the side. Or have started a side business. Or simply spending a lot of time thinking of ways to get out. Or applying for other jobs.

Broke and on welfare

If you are broke and can’t see how to ever have a better life with money. Perhaps on welfare. If you have no fire within, then even that is comfort.

You will settle for minimum wage jobs. Your highlight of the day getting worked up about what you co-worker or manager said or did. Caring excessively about the job itself.

But if you have a fire – the lean and hungry look, you will do the minimum requirements for your work. But stay detached from it and your co-workers. And in your free time or even whilst working, you will be thinking of ways out of it. The same applies if you are on welfare. Just take advantage of the safety net and plot your way out.

No drastic steps

Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I advise against acts like quitting jobs you hate or taking on debt, or large gambles or sacrifices to set up a business that may take years before it makes a profit. There are bills to pay and obligations and such acts can lead to difficulties and hardships.

What I do recommend is transitioning from one way of life and work to another. This is doable and can be done in a gradual and sensible way. For example, if you want to switch jobs, keep the job and work on your business on the side. Don’t invest large sums of money into something, if it’s going to wreck you financially for years to come. But do allocate some funds towards it and budget for it.

I know firsthand how rough a ride it can be when you take extreme acts and would advise against it. But I do believe we can make a new path for ourselves. Once we set the direction and take steps towards it, we set off a chain reaction that will lead us into that new world along with meeting some of the interesting characters in life that occupy that path and that make it all worthwhile spiritually and mentally.

J.K. Rowling had the lean and hungry look

There is no better example than J.K, Rowling. A single mother, on welfare who penned Harry Potter in her spare time. Whatever her situation, she had that inner fire.

To send that manuscript to publisher after publisher and getting rejection after another. And living alone, raising a child with government assistance. But she didn’t let that define her life. She defined her own life. She knew what she wanted.

She must have had a lean and hungry look.

The universe will eventually relinquish an answer to determination and persistence. She was rewarded in the most unimaginable way possible.

A lot of people can get books published. But to have a book that explodes in popularity followed up by hit movies and accompanying merchandise is something different.

It shows that miracles can, and do, happen.

On a side note, years ago I saw her close up one time in a London hotel. I wouldn’t have recognised her except I was whispered to by someone who she was.

Despite being a billionaire, I was curious to see a compassionate look in her face. And apparently, she actually fell out of the billionaire’s rich list because she donated so much money to charity.

Personally, I thought Harry Potter would have been better if she had put some zombies in it.

Insidious comfort

But perhaps more harder are those situations when life is comfortable. Everything is paid for. You need not worry about your bills being paid. Your house is paid. You have a pension or well supported by a partner or family. You can enjoy any food, clothes, holidays. You are one of the richest 10% of people on this planet.

In this situation, comfort is insidious. At worst, it means falling into a pattern of dinner parties, holidays, shopping, and complaining about the service as though you have been greatly wronged against personally. Oh yes, and wife swapping.

At best, it results in coasting in your endeavours. never really pushing yourself as much as you need to, because you don’t really need to worry about failure or success.

But you know you are in insidious comfort because you feel flat and bored in your spare time.

This is because humans are not meant to live comfortable lives of leisure. Unless you have become a buddhist and have eradicated all desires, humans are prompted to explore their lives to their full potential. Call it the desire for success, but if humans have too much comfort, they are at risk of lethargy.

Lethargy is lethal. And if at any time you feel it, remind yourself of that quote… No, not the Cassius quote. The Blur one:

Wife swapping is your future, you know that it would suit you. 

Expressing the inner talent and potential

Having the lean and hungry look comes from something else. It comes from a desire to fulfill your potential. It comes from ambition. To provide a greater service to people. To make your life more purposeful. To end your days saying, I wanted to do more. I gave it a go. Whether you fail or not doesn’t matter. Just as long as you had a go.

A friend gave me this quote:


My only advice to guarantee prosperity and contentment is to go where the risk lies. Unless you are extremely uncomfortable, nothing will change.”

Middle class comfort

For acupuncture, it is predominantly a middle class profession in the West. The majority of practitioners are coming from middle class families and the majority of patients are coming from middle class backgrounds.

All with disposable incomes and an interest in their health that goes beyond simply swallowing doctors pills and allowing themselves to be poked, prodded and cut open without question.

This is nothing unusual. Most doctors tend to be from comfortable middle class backgrounds, as they are the only families that can afford and are ambitious enough to send their kids through medical school.

This may be for the best. Poorer people tend can sometimes be hustlers or too money orientated. You want your teachers, lawyers, doctors, scientists to be motivated by the desire to provide service, not to pay the bills. Otherwise you get the situation in some countries where police and government officials expect small bribes all the time. Which is an inefficient way to run a society.

Service as motivation

The desire to provide service and to help people is a strong motivation for many acupuncturists and therapists. Also too, is the motivation of wanting to excel in a chosen field. Or the desire to create something that reaches out to many people – like an organisation or movement. All of these reasons are great motivations for action. This is where the lean and hungry look can stem from

Peer un-support

Yet, despite noble intentions, it is amazing that some people will still look down on your path. Especially if you come from a middle class background.

For example, doing something ‘alternative’ like acupuncture requires a strong level of determination. This is because the expectations on you can sometimes be quite strong.

You may have to justify your position and choice of profession to people around you, such as your peers who may have gone the more traditional route.

Or your parents who would rather you had got a more ‘normal’ job.  “Why didn’t you become a nurse/doctor/chemist/lawyer/company worker instead?”

Even perhaps your partner who sees it as a glorified and expensive ‘hobby’.

Who remembers a banker?

An interesting example is the French painter Paul Cezanne. Cezanne was a key figure from the Impressionist period.

Paul was the son of a succesful banker. His father wanted him to follow a similar path. But Cezanne had the artists-bug. He persuaded his father to let him drop out of law school and went to study art in Paris. But it did not work out for him. He became depressed 5 months into his studies in Paris, frustrated that his skill was not as good as his peers. He gave up and resolved himself to work in his father bank – the safe and steady life.

But he could not resist the calling. A year later, he left again to Paris and was determined to study art. And he succeeded, creating his own unique style. His emphasis being on personal expression. I believe he was the motivation for one of Emile Zola’s stories.

Cezanne had the lean and hungry look. He was prepared to chase his passion for becoming an artist even though technically others were more skilled than him. Even though he was set to follow the comfortable and prestigious job of a banker. Or even a lawyer.

However, he didn’t want this. So he pushed himself and went against his family.

As a result, he became one of the most famous artists of the Impressionist era. Today his paintings sit in gallerys around the world.

If he did not have the lean and hungry look to fulfil his life potential would we know of him? Probably not. I’m sure he would have had a stable and fairly comfortable life as a banker, but he would have had an inner angst that he was not following his passion.

The artist’s life is not necessarily easy. And in fact can be torturous. But it is a path with heart.

Lean and hungry look and perseverance

You need the lean and hungry look to persevere through all those criticisms and lack of support. You have to go it alone. When only you believe in yourself.

The trade off is worth it. Those occasions, when a person comes to you with a problem that can’t be fixed with western medicine. You treat and fix their problem, They are happy. This is a very satisfying feeling and makes it all worth it.

Keep improving

The lean and hungry look will push a person to keep improving. To expand into new areas.

I considered this a lot recently. If not for being lean and hungry look, I would not be half as motivated as I am to do a lot of things for my business.

I would certainly not be writing this content now on this website. Doing it as a hobby is not enough motivation to get myself to sit down every day and create something, anything.

Then to do rounds of editing and publish it without worrying how it makes me look.

Nor would I have learnt how to create this website by myself. Nor to create ebooks to advertise on this site. Even make a qigong video. Or an accompanying YouTube channel. Comfort is a poor motivation. I was hungry when I did this.

I considered this recently, because I am looking at ways to move my business forward. It struck me that there is only so much that one person can do by himself. But imagine a team of people, all hungry and working for a common goal. So much can be achieved.

Like assassinate Caesar.

Or make a million dollars.

I wondered – who are the lean and hungry people around me? Over the years I have met a few. And all of them have left a great impression on me. The lean and hungry are not necessarily successful by what society deems ‘successful’. But they are passionate.

Put up, then die

People can settle in dissatisfaction. They don’t like it, but are not dissatisfied enough that they will act on it.

My wife used to complain constantly about her corporate job. All her co-workers used to complain constantly about their corporate jobs. But they didn’t think of getting out. Quite the opposite. They just threw themselves more into it. And released their dissatisfaction by complaining to their partners, friends and each other. I suspect there is a certain pleasure in complaining about dissatisfaction.

Of course you have to pay the bills.

But there’s a point when it is no longer worth it. At my wife’s last place of work (a large corporate bank), a fair few of her co-workers had been sick with various types of cancer.

True, that rates of cancer are increasing in this day and age. But you had to question if there was a link between working in a stressful environment, where people were overworked, underpaid, treated unfairly and generally spent a lot of time complaining about each other – and the large incidences of cancer among her co-workers?

If you learn about complementary or alternative healthcare, you will take the mind-body  connection seriously. Even Western medicine is starting to acknowledge the link between stress and the immune system.

If you find yourself complaining, consider it a call to arms. Listening to someone complain is like a slow death. Doing so yourself, is like slapping your own face repeatedly.

It is only when the level of discomfort becomes too great that they will act. But you can’t underestimate just how much a human is capable of putting up with. It depends on your threshold for discomfort, your feeling of self-worth. But also on how you want to live your life.

ying yang genki health book japanese 9

There is another factor that drives a person to do something new, different, or scary. That factor is discomfort.

The comfort in discomfort

Anthony Robbins says in one of his books – it is only when the pain of a situation outweighs the pleasure you gain from it, is when you will make a habit change.

If you have a reasonable level of comfort, you won’t be motivated to make big actions even if you are unhappy with the situation.

If you have discomfort, and that discomfort passes beyond a certain threshold, then you will get the motivation to act. In this way, discomfort can be beneficial. It is your life’s way of saying that something is not right for you. And to consider if there is a better way.

Rate your situation

Steve Pavlina says to rate all the different parts of your life from 0 to 10. For example health, work, relationships. If you had to give it a score what would you say?

If an area sucks badly, you will rate it in the 2s or 3s. But if you have a comfortable level you will likely rate it a score in the 7s or 8s.

However, Steve then says, if you have anything that is not a 9 or a 10, you must rate it as a zero. A big flat zero.

Thats right, if something is not rated a 9 or 10, then you should re-rate it as a 0.

He says that most people settle for a 7 or 8 in their life and think they cannot have a 9 or 10. But by doing so, you guarantee you cannot every have a 9 or 10. You learn to settle with less.

In fact, this becomes your programming. Even if an opportunity for a 9 or 10 comes screaming in your face, you may still refuse it believing that you don’t deserve it or it’s not possible.

So rank those 7 and 8’s as a flat 0 and then start exploring what you want in your life in order to get that 9 or 10. You have to really stop and think for that one area of your life – what would you require to rank it as a 9 or 10?

What do you want?

It is always worth asking this question, periodically throughout your life. It may seem difficult to believe you can have what you want, due to money, family, commitments and obligations.

However, what I have found is that when I map out a course for my life, if I consider what I want, my goals, and then write them down, I am surprised to find some of them coming true. Even the unlikely ones.

I have been doing this for years regarding my business, work, number of clients I want to see, even things like writing my books or making my website. And curiously, whenever I look back at these lists, it surprises me how many of them have come true. 

Write your goals out

I would recommend that you too make goal lists. On a piece of paper, write down your business goals, your life, goals, your money goals,  even your relationship goals, whether that includes wife swapping or not.

Then put that paper away and periodically look at it. Never throw it away. In a few years, look at it and assess how many goals came true? How many goals are you on the path to achieving? How many were goals that you changed your mind about, or felt you did not really want? And then make a new goal sheet.

As Captain Picard would do in Star Trek: Set co-ordinates for your destination and then say ‘Engage’

Hunger is a gift

At times, I have struggled financially, especially in London which is an expensive city. I’ve had to struggle to make my own business work and pay my bills and living costs. Sometimes it does well. Sometimes it doesn’t and I have to do other work or find alternative solutions.

Learning leanness

As a result, I had to learn how to start-up my business on a budget. And then I wrote a book about it: ‘How to Set up a Complementary Therapy Business on a Budget‘. Read it if you want some simple advice on ways to build a business on a tight budget. People can subscribe to my mailing list and get this short book for free. And I get at least one new person subscribe every week, which shows me that there is a lot of interest in the field of  setting up a business in complementary therapies.


The path lesser travelled

Sometimes I wondered why it has to be so hard to follow this path. I know that a regular job would make my life smoother. But the steady job never seems to work out for me.

Something always seems to prove to me that actually it is quite unstable and even more unreliable.

And then I realised, this difficulty is a gift. It makes me hungry. It gave me the lean and hungry look. It made me versatile. I had to learn to be creative. I had to bring out my inner talents to deal with this situation.

And maybe this is a good thing. If I didn’t have to worry or struggle, I’d probably be eating free buffet in Las Vegas,  playing roulette and becoming “fat, sleek headed”. Which wouldn’t be all that bad.

Future goals

But because I have the lean and hungry look, I am sitting here writing. I use my free time thinking how to take my business further.

Being lean and hungry makes me think what I should do next year, and in five years time and to think about my goals all the time. I hope that I am still doing that if I reach 70. It comes from hunger, not comfort. It brings the lean and hungry look.

So if you feel that you are comfortable in your situation and not hungry enough. That is fine.  But if you have a bit of leanness, then it is worth exploring how to satisfy that hunger.

Small steps

If it’s a new business like a complementary therapy practice, then put an hour into it every day. Advertise. Make a website. Charge a nominal amount for treatment to friends if you have not started charging yet, like £5.

If you have something in you that you want to write – then do an hour a day. Or 30 minutes a day. My Genki book was written in this way over a long period of time.

If you want to teach, seek out opportunities to do so. Volunteer to teach something for free. Take steps. even small ones. Set goals and think about it all the time.

If you’re lacking experience in a therapy then find ways to gain it. Volunteer a few hours a week in a local hospice, hospital or charity.

Just like Cassius, as he spent his time plotting the disposal of Caesar, it gave him that lean and hungry look. Ambition, motivation and hunger will do that for you. Comfort may not.

I would also say to enjoy the process. Don’t sacrifice relationships or your family or be too tense in the process that it estranges people close to you.

Keyword lesson – “Lean and hungry look”

On a final note, if you think I have overused the expression – “lean and hungry look”, you are right. I used it as a keyword phrase. But I also think it is a great expression.

I have used it as a keyword so that in the future, if someone is studying Shakespeare and types in this quote, then my website may come up on page 1 of google. This will help my overall google rankings, although it probably won’t help that person study Shakespeare.

Or maybe it will. It will guarantee that they will remember that phrase – ‘the lean and hungry look’ and the power behind Cassius.

It wouldn’t be all bad if we could find our inner Cassius.

Learn from my lean and hungry looking callipygian butt

If you have a website, it would be useful to develop an understanding of keywords.

Though, this is a new website, I have found that some of my articles with keywords do get found by people from all over the world. Even my article on “How to Squat to get a Callipygian Butt‘. Guess what is the keyword there.

If you are interesting in learning how to using keywords for your own website to rank higher in Google, read my short kindle e-book: How to Write a Blog for a Complementary Therapy Business“. I have now made it that you can read the full book for free as a series of articles on my website here.

how to write a blog for a complementary therapy business

You don’t need to be a complementary therapist to benefit from the advice. The principles apply to all types of blogs and business websites.

To end…


Cowards die many times before their deaths.

The valiant never taste of death but once.

Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,

It seems to me most strange that men should fear,

Seeing that death, a necessary end,

Will come when it will come.

Julius Caesar, Act II, scene 2.

Julius Caesar’s wife warns him not to leave the house as there are bad omens for him today. He is at risk of death.

Caesar says that cowards fear death, and end up dying many times in their lifetime because of their fear. But the truly valiant (brave) will die only once when it happens.

Death will come when it will come. So in the meantime, do what you have to.

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Move Towards Freedom


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