Here, 2014’s most influential leaders in personal development share their insights and strategies in their own words—all (save for a noted few) taken from new, exclusive interviews.
Four Tips to Finding Your Purpose
1. Get your breathing to go low and quiet. Nothing can be done well from a state of tension.
2. Look for tracks that lead to your purpose. When did you last feel deep joy, serenity and contentment in your body? That’s the track: joy in the body. How long ago was that? Then find another time and another one.
3. Where in your life have you scheduled things that bring you joy? What can you do in the near future? It can be doing those same activities again, or any one of those, or trying something completely new—but it has to give you that same sense of joy.
4. Trust that this is more important for your future than an extra couple of hours of work. Because if you follow joy, it will bring you to more joy.
How to Live Your Legacy
Write a personal mission statement that tells you what your purpose is and what values are going to guide your journey. It should be a personal, compelling vision so you know where you’re trying to head and what you want to leave. Something that’s helpful is writing your obituary; that process gives you a sense of what you want to be remembered for.
Look at your mission statement every morning to start your day and set your intention, and then at night, look at it again and ask, How did I do today? Were there some things I could’ve done better? Maybe you need to reach out to some people tomorrow to ask for feedback or give an apology. I believe what Socrates said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” You constantly need to be proactive about what you’re trying to accomplish.
Tapping Your Greatness
• Train your mind to serve you. How we live our lives is a result of the story we believe about ourselves. We have to consciously create and recreate our thinking with seminars, reading and the goals we set. It’s important that we develop an achievement-driven mindset.
• Work on communication. The skill set that gives you a passport to the world is your ability to communicate. A high school teacher said to me: “Develop your mind and your communication skills, because once you open your mouth, you tell the world who you are.”
• Create supportive, achievement-driven relationships with people you can learn from. If you’re the smartest one in your group, get a new group. Look at your relationships and evaluate, Is this an asset or a liability? Who should I count on or count out?
• Monday: Grant me the strength to focus this week, to be mindful and present, to serve with excellence, to be a force of love.
• Tuesday: Do not delay difficult decisions or avoid new habits necessary to advance your life. What must be done should be done with haste, for life is precious.
• Wednesday: When you are alive with joy, gratitude and genuine interest in others, you are your most beautiful. Remember that. Now go stun the world.
• Thursday: No blaming. What defines us is not our past but the vision, discipline, resilience and heart we bring to this very day.
• Friday: Today is the gateway to your weekend. Don’t be lazy or play at half-speed. Being excellent today allows freedom tomorrow.
• Focus on your successes, not your failures. I have people make a list of 100 successes in their lives, including getting their driver’s licenses, graduating high school, etc. Most people take for granted the things they’ve done.
• Keep a victory box. It’s a place where you put letters, awards and pictures that make you feel good. Go there when you’re feeling down.
• Try the mirror exercise. Before you go to bed, stand in front of the mirror and look yourself in the eye and say, I want to appreciate and acknowledge you for the following things: (examples: you passed up cake for dessert, you got to work on time, etc.).
• Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations. They could be things like, I choose to believe I am worthy and deserving of success. Or: I have everything I need to accomplish anything I want. Come up with 10 or 12, put them on your phone or index cards, and read them every day.
5 Keys to Living Well
If you want to live long, if you want to make a contribution to the world, if you want to be successful in your career, if you want to have happier relationships, if you want to have great intuition and imagination, here are the things you cannot miss out on:
1. Good sleep every day.
2. Meditation for at least 20 minutes every day, either sitting quietly watching your breath or meditating on the big questions in life.
3. Movement. The more you move, the healthier you will be, even if that movement is just walking.
4. Diet. Avoid any food that is manufactured/processed/has a label. I believe in organic food and the farm-to-table diet.
5. Healthy emotions. Start your day by saying, I want a loving, compassionate heart; a joyful, energetic body; a clear, reflective mind; and lightness of being. Let your day orchestrate itself around that commitment. Stay away from grievances, anger, fear, guilt—these deplete your energy.
Wisdom from Mistakes
Understanding mistakes: All people make mistakes. But fruitful people recognize their patterns, observe them and realize that one pattern can cause a ton of problems. Then they go through this doorway, and they never go back.
Identifying mistakes: Be open to the fact that you don’t know everything about yourself. Successful people find feedback systems that keep them in touch with the reality of who they are, what their real performance is and where they need to change.
Changing mistakes: People have to realize it’s improbable that they’ll change and never go back. They’ve got to build new patterns through structure. Structure means time: When am I going to do it? It means space: Where am I going to do it? It means external boundaries: Who am I going to do it with?
SUCCESS: In I Can See Clearly Now, you wrote: “Even the events that could be considered terrible misfortunes contained lessons, blessings and fuel for my soul’s growth.” How can people find those lessons?
Dyer: When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. There are three routes to enlightenment:
• Enlightenment through suffering. Things come along in life, and you ask, Why is this happening? My life is ruined. Time goes by, and you realize that was a great gift. For example, the alcoholic who got arrested for driving under the influence: that was the one thing that made him get sober.
• Being aware of the present moment. When something like this is happening, your inner dialogue goes, What’s the lesson here? Instead of being so attached to it, you become the observer.
• Get out in front of it. Before the negativity and the pain show up, trust your intuition to prevent a crisis. For example, in an argument, play it out in advance: Instead of saying something that will create animosity, say something kind.
Hacking Your Workday
1. I use Evernote to store anything I won’t be able to find later: email threads, photos of business cards, clips of online articles. It keeps me as paperless as possible.
2. With Boomerang, an email tool, you can set reminders in case a person doesn’t reply or open your message. That way you don’t have to remember to follow up.
3. The Email Game is a very effective way to get through email faster. It takes you through your inbox and gives you points based on how quickly you respond. It saves 50 percent of my time.
4. RescueTime allows you to block Internet or Facebook access for a certain amount of time. You’re using a system to overpower a lack of self-control.
5. Another one I use every day is Jumpcut, which is free and allows you to enlarge the size of your clipboard to 30 or 40 items. It’s a total game changer.
Be the Linchpin
How does a person become indispensable—the linchpin in his organization?
• Tell the truth to yourself about what you’re afraid of, about the opportunities you are choosing not to take, about the things you are choosing not to see. Until we tell ourselves the truth, we’re not capable of telling others the truth.
• The person who knows how to see—who can see the blank slate, who can see the opportunity, who can see what is new and what is false—is always going to have a significant advantage.
• Be brave enough to turn to someone and say, “Here, I made this. What do you think?” And if they don’t like it, that’s OK. We have to be able to open ourselves to the world and say, “This is my work. This is my opinion. This is something I care about.” Without hiding. Only then can we connect in the world.
Pushing Past Fear
Most people fail because they become paralyzed by their fear. You have to choose: “Am I going to face my fears and go see what my life can really be?” or “Am I going to succumb to my fears and do exactly what I’ve always done?” When you go with the latter, you’ve set yourself up for failure yet again because you didn’t even attempt to win. How many times do we allow ourselves to avoid getting things done in our lives simply because we fear what we think the outcome is going to be?
I have taught myself to go try something if there is even a remote possibility of something great happening for my life and my career. You have to learn to convince yourself that the possibility is greater than the inevitability of doing nothing.”
(Excerpted from Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success)
A Letter to My 22-Year-Old Self
For far too long, too many of us—including you and me—have been operating under the collective delusion that burning out is the necessary price for accomplishment and success. Recent scientific findings make it clear that this couldn’t be less true. Not only is there no tradeoff between living a well-rounded life and high performance, performance is actually improved when our lives include time for renewal, wisdom, wonder and giving.
I wish I had known this when I was your age. I’m convinced I would have achieved all I have achieved with less stress, worry and anxiety. In college, just before I embarked on a career as a writer, I wish I had known that there would be no tradeoff between living a well-rounded life and my ability to do good work. So I’m writing to tell you, “Arianna, your performance will actually improve if you can commit to not only working hard but also unplugging, recharging and renewing yourself.”
Cultivating Your Instincts
SUCCESS: How do you define instincts?
Jakes: It’s that ingrained wonder we have. Those activities in which we find fulfillment. It’s being true to your core, what moves you.
SUCCESS: Why is it important to listen to your instincts?
Jakes: We’re influenced by so much information, which gives us a view of the world around us, but it doesn’t give us any indication of the world within us. If you’re going to be successful, you can only inventory from your own warehouse. When you’re aware of your instincts, you’re able to see—out of all the possible things you could do, be or say—which is most harmonious to your core.
SUCCESS: How can we tap into our instincts?
Jakes: You need to set aside time for reflection, from which you can evaluate, out of all the busyness that has cluttered your life, what the most fulfilling activities are in your life. What makes your adrenaline race? What do you really care about that you would do for free?
Gain The Financial Edge
Intelligence is being on the edge of the coin and seeing both sides, and you can decide which is best for you. My insights from the edge include:
The rich don’t work for money. The reason most people are in trouble is they are working for money. The government is printing trillions. What the rich work for are assets. If you work for assets, you’re never taxed. If you work for money, you’re taxed.
Never try to get out of debt. Debt makes me rich because financial education teaches me to use debt to acquire assets, and the average person uses debt to buy liabilities: a house and a car. A house is not an asset.
Have true advisers. The biggest mistake people make is they take financial advice from salespeople: real estate brokers, stockbrokers and financial planners. Those are the people who work for money. I listen to accountants, attorneys, bankers. Be careful who you take your financial advice from.
There’s no question that everything I am today is because I decided to grow every day of my life. We cannot go any further than our growth. In the 1970s, my friend Curt Kampmeier asked me what my personal growth plan was. I had none. He said to me, “Growth is not an automatic process.” That was life-changing. He set me on a course of intentional living.
I came to the conclusion that four things would make a person successful: relationships, attitude, the ability to train and equip people, and the ability to lead. I decided to grow in these areas. I also realized I needed to grow my strengths: connecting and communicating with people.
I had these essentials that I would grow in, and then I purposely began to interview people who had these strengths. I began to read books about these subjects and to focus on things that would bring a high return in my personal growth. I do that every day.
When I meet people, I ask questions to help me learn: Are there people you know whom I should know? What book have you read that I should read? Where have you been that I ought to go myself?
Anyone who wants to continue learning daily must be intentional. They have to set aside time. They have to prioritize.
SUCCESS: Your credo is “People first, then money, then things.” Can you elaborate on that?
Orman: You’ve got to take care of who you are first. Money comes from your efforts to go out and work, save, invest—all of that. So money really starts with you, and without you, there is no money, and without money, there are no things. You’ve got to take care of you, and the way you take care of yourself is by having money. And when you then have enough money, you can buy the things you want.
SUCCESS: How can people put this credo into practice in their everyday lives?
Orman: Live below your means, not within your needs. Before you buy anything or spend money on anything, ask yourself whether this is a want or a need. And you need to get as much pleasure out of saving as you do from spending.
Qualities of a Winner
• It’s easy to get squeezed into what others want you to do. You have to search your own heart, be willing to say no and be willing to disappoint some people—because you’re not going to please yourself if you’re not true to yourself.
• When you go out expecting to get breaks, expecting people to like you, expecting to be at the right place at the right time, that’s going to open up the door for good things to come into your life. I don’t think you’ll reach your highest potential if you have limited expectations.
• You should be learning something every day. Every person and situation in your life are there to teach you something. Stay open for change. If you’re still at the same place you were five years ago, you’re falling behind.
Fighting Workplace Stress
• Mind your cravings: When you’re stressed and want something salty, put grapefruit juice in a glass of water. That kills salty cravings. If it’s sweet you crave, eat dark chocolate, which will boost your serotonin and calm you.
• Put a cork in it: We store tension in our masseter muscle, the jaw muscle, so take a cork and hold it vertically between your teeth. That relaxes the TMJ, that tensing joint in your jaw. Keep one at your desk.
• Give yourself breathing room: If you’re not five minutes early, you’re late. If you’re early, you have time to slow down, breathe and mentally prepare.
• Make a connection: When you team up with a colleague, it gives you a boost of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone. So go to lunch, share stories, take a coffee break. A moment of connection will reduce stress in both of you.
Behavior and Finance
I’m positive that personal finance is 80 percent behavior and only 20 percent head knowledge. Our concentration on behavior—realizing that most people have a good idea of what to do with money but not how to do it—has led us to a different view of personal finance.
Most financial people show you the numbers, thinking that you just don’t get the math. I am sure that the problem with my money is the guy in the mirror. If he will behave, he can make the money thing work.
The math of wealth building is not rocket science. It is simple, but you have to do it! The principles I teach are common sense, which isn’t so common anymore. They are the principles that helped my wife, Sharon, and me survive going broke and helped us prosper later.
Nowadays I look into the eyes of a gazillion people who have followed these principles and experienced, as we did, excitement, hope and gratitude. I am so thankful that I have not only given them a proven plan for their money but have inspired them to change their family’s future.
Raising the Bar
Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards. When people ask me what really changed my life 30 years ago, I tell them that absolutely the most important thing was changing what I demanded of myself. I wrote down all the things I would no longer accept in my life, all the things I would no longer tolerate, and all the things that I aspired to becoming.
Think of the far-reaching consequences set in motion by men and women who raised their standards and acted in accordance with them, deciding they would tolerate no less. History chronicles inspiring examples of people such as Leonardo da Vinci, Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Albert Einstein, Cesar Chavez, Soichiro Honda and many others who took the magnificently powerful step of raising their standards. The same power that was available to them is available to you, if you have the courage to claim it. Changing an organization, a company, a country—or a world—begins with the simple step of changing yourself.
(Excerpted from Re-Awaken the Giant Within)
Put Adversity in Perspective
I bet if we all threw our problems in a huge pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about. That’s why I always give people the benefit of the doubt; it’s one of my rules to live by. There may be a reason why someone is having a bad day; there’s often something we can’t see: She’s not necessarily a bad person, just someone facing a bad situation.
We all have doubts and fears. The thing about fear is that it only needs the tiniest space, the size of an eye of a needle, to get through and wreak havoc. Maddening, but true. So when I was struggling and in doubt, I would simply take the next small step. I would stop and think: “No, life is not tied with a beautiful bow all the time, but it’s still a gift. I’m going to tear away the wrapping like a little kid at Christmas.”
(Excerpted from Everybody’s Got Something, about Roberts’ struggle with a rare blood disorder)
Recognize Your Power
Women face huge institutional barriers. But we also face barriers that exist within ourselves, sometimes as the result of our socialization. For most of my professional life, no one ever talked to me about the ways I held myself back. I’m trying to add to that side of the debate. There’s a great quote from Alice Walker: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” I am not blaming women; I’m helping them see the power they’ve got and encouraging them to use it.
(Excerpted from Harvard Business Review April 2013)
1. Leave everything you touch better than you found it. Leadership’s about innovation, optimization and iteration. Disrupt or be disrupted. Shatter the status quo. Relentlessly improve the projects you work on today.
2. Be scared daily. If you’re not scared, you’re not doing much. And the thing you’re most resisting contains your greatest growth. Feeling frightened is the price brave people pay to do world-class work.
3. Grow more leaders. The best way to build your company fast is to build your people fast. Anyone on a team can show leadership by inspiring others, developing them and growing more leaders around them.
4. Release distraction. An addiction to distraction is the death of creative production. Victims crave interruption and love fake work versus real work. To show leadership is vastly different. It’s about simplicity versus complexity. And becoming a monster of execution.
Every day, I handwrite my 10 most important goals. When you compose yours, write them in present tense as though you’ve already achieved them and attach a date. For example, “I earn [this amount] per annum by Dec. 31, 2015.”
The simpler the statement, the faster your subconscious can go to work on it. The rule is a child should be able to understand your goal and tell it to another 6-year-old child, and that child should be able to tell it to another 6-year-old child. Only write in the positive. Don’t say, “I will quit smoking.” Say, “I am a nonsmoker.” Your subconscious mind cannot conceptualize a negative.
Every time you write your goals, you program them deeper into your subconscious, and you activate the Law of Attraction. You start to attract people of a certain status into your life. You start to see possibilities you haven’t seen before. You start to hear ideas you wouldn’t have noticed before. It’s the most amazing thing.
It doesn’t matter how far you might rise. At some point, you are bound to stumble. If you’re constantly pushing yourself higher and higher, the law of averages predicts that you will at some point fall. And when you do, I want you to remember this: There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction. Now, when you’re down there in the hole, it looks like failure. When that moment comes, it’s OK to feel bad for a little while. Give yourself time to mourn what you think you may have lost. But then, here’s the key: Learn from every mistake, because every experience, particularly your mistakes, are there to teach you and force you into being more who you are.
(Excerpted from her 2013 Harvard University commencement speech)