1. It’s never as good as you think it will be.
“One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has studied the relationship between money and happiness for more than two decades.
He adds, “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”
Actually, savoring the anticipation or idea of a desired outcome is generally more satisfying than the outcome itself. Once we get what we want—whether that’s wealth, health or excellent relationships—we adapt and the excitement fades. Often the experiences we’re seeking end up being underwhelming and even disappointing.
I love watching this phenomenon with our foster kids. They feel as if they need a certain toy or the universe will explode. Their whole world revolves around getting this one thing. Yet once we buy the toy for them, it’s not long before the joy fades and they want something else.
Until you appreciate what you currently have, more won’t make your life better.
Related: 4 Things Successful People Don’t Do
2. It’s never as bad as you think it will be.
Just as we deceive ourselves into believing something will make us happier than it will, we also deceive ourselves into believing something will be harder than it will.
The longer you procrastinate or avoid doing something, the more painful (in your head) it becomes.
But once you take action, the discomfort is far less severe than you imagined. Humans adapt to the most extremely difficult things.
I recently sat on a plane with a lady who has 17 kids. Yes, you read that correctly. After having eight of her own, her and her husband felt inspired to foster four siblings whom they later adopted. A few years later, they took on another five foster siblings whom they also adopted.
Of course, the initial shock impacted her entire family. But they’re handling it. And believe it or not, you could handle it too, if you had to.
The problem with dread and fear is that it holds people back from taking on big challenges. What you will find—no matter how big or small the challenge—is that you will adapt to it.
When you consciously adapt to enormous stress, you evolve.
3. There is no way to happiness.
“There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way.” —Thich Nhat Hanh
Most people believe they must:
- First have something (e.g., money, time or love)
- Before they can do what they want to do (e.g., travel the world, write a book, start a business or have a romantic relationship)
- Which will ultimately allow them to be something (e.g., happy, peaceful, content, motivated or in love).
- Paradoxically, this have-do-be paradigm must actually be reversed to experience happiness, success or anything else you desire.
- First you be whatever it is you want to be (e.g., happy, compassionate, peaceful, wise or loving)
- Then you start doing things from this space of being.
- Almost immediately, what you are doing will bring about the things you want to have.
We attract into our lives what we are. This concept is confirmed by loads of psychological research. In his popular TED talk, Harvard psychologist and SUCCESS Happiness Guy Shawn Achor explains that most have happiness backwards. They believe they must first achieve or acquire something to be happy, when science shows that happiness facilities success.
For example, Scott Adams, the creator of the famous comic series “Dilbert,” attributes his success to the use of positive affirmations. Fifteen times each day, he wrote this sentence on a piece of paper: “I, Scott Adams, will become a syndicated cartoonist.”
The process of writing this 15 times a day buried the positive idea deep into his subconscious—putting Adams’ conscious mind on a treasure hunt for what he sought. The more he wrote, the more he could see opportunities that were previously invisible to him. And shortly thereafter, he was a highly famous syndicated cartoonist. It couldn’t not happen.
I personally apply a similar principle but write my goal in the present tense. For example, rather than saying, “I will become a syndicated cartoonist,” I write, “I am a syndicated cartoonist.” Writing it in the present tense highlights the fact that you are being who you want to be, which will then inform what you do and ultimately who you become.
4. You already have enough.
In an interview at the annual Genius Network event in 2013, Tim Ferriss was asked, “With all of your various roles, do you ever get stressed out? Do you ever feel like you’ve taken on too much?”
Ferriss responded, “Of course I get stressed out. If anyone says they don’t get stressed out, they’re lying. But one thing that mitigates that is taking time each morning to declare and focus on the fact that I have enough. I have enough. I don’t need to worry about responding to every email each day. If they get mad, that’s their problem.”
He was later asked during the same interview, “After having read The 4-Hour Workweek, I got the impression that Tim Ferriss doesn’t care about money. You talked about how you travel the world without spending any money. Talk about the balance and ability to let go of caring about making money.”
Ferriss responded, “It’s totally OK to have lots of nice things. If it is addiction to wealth, like in Fight Club, ‘The things you own end up owning you,’ and it becomes a surrogate for things like long-term health and happiness—connection—then it becomes a disease state. But if you can have nice things, and not fear having them taken away, then it’s a good thing. Because money is a really valuable tool.”
If you appreciate what you already have, than more will be a good thing in your life. If you feel the need to have more to compensate for something missing in your life, you’ll always be left wanting—no matter how much you acquire or achieve.
5. You have every advantage to succeed.
It’s easy to talk about how hard our lives are. It’s easy to talk about how unfair life is—that we got the short end of the stick. Does this kind of talking really help anyone?
When we judge our situation as worse than someone else’s, we are ignorantly and incorrectly saying, “You’ve got it easy. You’re not like me. Success should come easy to you because you haven’t had to deal with what I’ve gone through.” This paradigm has formally become known as the victim mentality, and it generally leads to feelings of entitlement.
The world owes you nothing. Life isn’t meant to be fair. But the world has also given you everything you need. The truth is, you have every advantage in the world to succeed. And by believing this in your bones, you’ll feel an enormous weight of responsibility to yourself and the world.
You’ve been put in the perfect position to succeed. Everything in the universe has brought you to this point so you can now shine and change the world. Your natural state is to thrive. All you have to do is show up.
6. Every aspect of your life affects every aspect of your life.
Human beings are holistic: When you change a part of any system, you simultaneously change the whole. You can’t change a part without fundamentally changing everything.
Every pebble of thought—no matter how inconsequential—creates endless ripples of consequence. This idea, coined the butterfly effect by Edward Lorenz came from the metaphorical example of a hurricane being influenced by minor signals—such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly—several weeks earlier. Little things become big things.
When one area of your life is out of alignment, every area of your life suffers. You can’t compartmentalize a working system. Although it’s easy to push certain areas, such as your health and relationships, to the side, you unwittingly infect your whole life. Eventually and always, the essentials you procrastinate on or avoid will catch up, to your detriment.
Conversely, when you improve one area of your life, all other areas are positively influenced. As James Allen wrote in As a Man Thinketh, “When a man makes his thoughts pure, he no longer desires impure food.” We are holistic systems.
Humanity as a whole is the same way. Everything you do effects the whole world, for better or worse.
So I invite you to ask yourself,
“Am I part of the cure? Or am I part of the disease?” —Coldplay
7. Competition is the enemy.
“All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition.” —Peter Thiel
Competition is extremely costly to maximum product reach and wealth creation. It becomes a battle of who can slightly outdo the other for cheaper and cheaper. It’s a race to the bottom for all parties involved.
Instead of trying to compete with other people or businesses, it’s better to do something completely novel or focus on a tightly defined niche. Once you’ve established yourself as an authority over something, you can set your own terms rather than reactively responding to the competition. Monopolize the space in which you create value.
Competing with others leads people to spend every day of their lives pursuing goals that aren’t really their own, but what society has deemed important. You could spend your whole life trying to keep up but will probably have a shallow life. Or you can define success for yourself based on your own values and detach yourself from the noise.
8. You can’t have it all.
Every decision has opportunity cost. When you choose one thing, you simultaneously don’t choose several others. When someone says you can have it all, they’re lying. They are almost certainly not practicing what they preach and are trying to sell you on something.
The truth is you don’t want it all. And even if you did, reality simply doesn’t work that way. For example, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I want my family to be the center of my life. Spending time with my wife and three foster kids is my top priority. As a result, I can’t spend 12 or 15 hours a day working like some people. And that’s OK. I’ve made my choice.
And that’s the point. We all need to choose what matters most to us and own that. If we attempt to be everything, we’ll end up being nothing. Internal conflict is hell.
Although the traditional view of creativity is that it is unstructured and doesn’t follow rules, creativity usually occurs by thinking inside the proverbial box, not outside of it. People flex their creative muscles when they constrain their options rather than broaden them. Hence, the more clearly defined and constraining your life’s objectives, the better, because it allows you to sever everything outside those objectives.
9. Never forget where you came from.
It’s easy when you achieve any level of success to believe you are solely responsible for that success. It’s easy to forget where you came from.
It’s easy to forget all the sacrifices other people have made to get you where you are. It’s easy to see yourself as superior to other people. Burn all of your bridges and you’ll have no human connection left. In that internal cave of isolation, you’ll lose your mind and identity, becoming a person you never intended to be.
Humility, gratitude and recognition of your blessings keeps your success in proper perspective. You couldn’t do what you have done without the help of countless other people. You are extremely lucky to be able to contribute in the way you have.
10. If you need permission to do something, you probably shouldn’t do it.
My father-in-law is a highly successful real estate investor. Throughout his career, he’s had hundreds of people ask him if they should “go into real estate.” He tells every one of them the same thing: that they shouldn’t do it. In fact, he actually tries talking most of them out of it. And in most cases, he succeeds. Why would he do that?
“Those who are going to succeed will do so regardless of what I say,” my father-in-law told me. I know so many people who chase something that worked for other people. They never truly decide what they want to do and end up jumping from one thing to the next, trying to strike quick gold. And repetitively, they stop digging just a few feet from the gold after resigning the spot as barren.
No one will ever give you permission to live your dreams. As Ryan Holiday wrote in The Obstacle Is the Way, “Stop looking for angels, and start looking for angles.” Rather than hoping for something external to change your circumstances, mentally reframe yourself and your circumstances.
“When you change the way you see things, the things you see change.” —Wayne Dyer
You are enough. You can do whatever you decide to do. Make the decision and forget what everyone else says or thinks about it.
11. You earn as much money as you want to.
Most people “say” they want to be successful. But if they really wanted to, they’d be successful. I used to tell people, “I wish I played the piano.” Then someone said, “No you don’t. If you did, you’d make the time to practice.” I’ve since stopped saying that, because he was right.
Life is a matter of priority and decision. And when it comes to money—in a free market economy—you can make as much money as you choose. The question is how much money do you really want to make?
Instead of vegging on social media day after day, year after year, you could spend an hour or two each day building something of value—like yourself.
In the book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill invites readers to write down the amount of money they want to make and put a timeline on it. This single act will challenge you to think and act in new ways to create the future of your wanting.
For example, despite growing up so poor that for a time his family lived in their Volkswagen van on a relative’s lawn, Jim Carrey believed in his future. Every night in the late 1980s, Carrey would drive atop a large hill that looked down over Los Angeles and visualize directors valuing his work. At the time, he was a broke and struggling young comic.
One night in 1990 while looking down on Los Angeles and dreaming of his future, Carrey wrote himself a check for $10 million and put in the notation line, “for acting services rendered.” He dated the check for Thanksgiving 1995 and stuck it in his wallet. He gave himself five years. And just before Thanksgiving of 1995, he got paid $10 million for Dumb and Dumber.
12. Your vision of who you want to be is your greatest asset.
“Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.” —Oprah Winfrey
No matter where you are right now, you can have any future you want. But one thing is for certain: What you plant you must harvest. So please plant with intention. Mental creation always precedes physical creation. The blueprint you design in your head becomes the life you build.
Don’t let society tell you how your house should look. You are an artist and a creator. Your life can be exactly how you want it, whether or not it’s considered a “mansion” by others. Home is where your heart is.
13. Who you are determines what you can have.
There’s a parable of a wealthy parent who hesitated giving their unwise child an inheritance, knowing it would undoubtedly be squandered. The parent said to the child:
“All that I have I desire to give you—not only my wealth, but also my position and standing among men. That which I have I can easily give you, but that which I am you must obtain for yourself. You will qualify for your inheritance by learning what I have learned and by living as I have lived. I will give you the laws and principles by which I have acquired my wisdom and stature. Follow my example, mastering as I have mastered, and you will become as I am, and all that I have will be yours.”
Going through the motions is not enough. There isn’t a checklist of things you must do to be successful. You have to fundamentally change who you are to live at a higher level. You must go from doing to being—so that what you do is a reflection of who you are, and who you’re becoming. Once you’ve experienced this change, success will be natural.
“After you become a millionaire, you can give all of your money away because what’s important is not the million dollars; what’s important is the person you have become in the process of becoming a millionaire.” —Jim Rohn
14. Earning money is moral.
“For better or worse, humans are holistic. Even the human body does best when its spiritual and physical sides are synchronized… People’s bodies perform best when their brains are on board with the program… Helping your mind to believe what you do is good, noble, and worthwhile in itself helps to fuel your energies and propel your efforts.” —Rabbi Daniel Lapin
I know so many people who genuinely believe making money is immoral, and that people with money are evil. They believe those who seek profits force those weaker than them to buy their products. Money is not evil but neutral. It is a symbol of perceived value.
If I’m selling a pair of shoes for $20 and someone decides to buy them, they perceive the shoes to be worth more than the $20, or they wouldn’t buy them. I’m not forcing them to buy my shoes. It’s their choice. Thus, value exchange is win-win and based purely on perception. Value is subjective. If you offered that same person $20 for the shoes they just bought, they probably wouldn’t sell them. They see them as worth more than $20. But what if you offered $30? They still might not sell them.
There is no correct price for goods and services. The correct price is the perceived worth from the customer. If the price is too high, the customer won’t exchange their money for it.
We are extremely lucky to live in a society with a system of money. It allows us to borrow, lend and leverage. Our ability to scale our work would be enormously limited in a bartering and trading system.
Earning money is a completely moral pursuit when it is done with honesty and integrity. In fact, if you don’t feel moral about the work you’re doing, you should probably change your job.
When you believe in the value you provide so much that you are doing people a disservice by not offering them your services, you’re on track to creating colossal value. Our work should be a reflection of us. It’s always their choice whether they perceive the value in what we’re offering.
15. Almost everything in life is a distraction.
“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” —Greg McKeown
Almost everything is a distraction from what really matters. You really can’t put a price tag on certain things. They are beyond a particular value to you. You’d give up everything, even your life, for those things.
Your relationships and personal values don’t have a price tag. And you should never exchange something priceless for a price.
Keeping things in proper perspective allows you to remove everything nonessential from your life. It allows you to live simply and laser-focused, and to avoid dead end roads leading nowhere.
Related: How to Train Your Brain to Focus
16. Focus is today’s IQ.
We live in the most distracted era of human history. The internet is a double-edged sword. Like money, the internet is neutral, and it can be used for good or bad.
Sadly, most of us are simply not responsible enough for the internet. We waste hours every day staring idly at a screen. Our attention spans have shrunk to almost nothing. Our willpower has atrophied. We’ve developed some bad habits that often require extreme interventions to reverse.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence suggesting the internet is turning us into scattered and superficial thinkers. One of the biggest challenges to constant distraction is that it leads to shallow rather than deep thinking, and shallow thinking leads to shallow living. The Roman philosopher Seneca might have put it best 2,000 years ago: “To be everywhere is to be nowhere.”
In his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport differentiates deep work from shallow work. Deep work is using your skills to create something of value. It takes thought, energy, time and concentration. Shallow work is all the little administrative and logistical stuff: email, meetings, calls, expense reports, etc. Most people aren’t moving toward their goals because they prioritize shallow work.
“The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.” —Cal Newport
17. If your goals are logical, don’t expect luck (or the like).
“You need to aim beyond what you are capable of. You need to develop a complete disregard for where your abilities end. If you think you’re unable to work for the best company in its sphere, make that your aim. If you think you’re unable to be on the cover of TIME magazine, make it your business to be there. Make your vision of where you want to be a reality. Nothing is impossible.” —Paul Arden
Most people’s goals are completely logical. They don’t require much imagination. They certainly don’t require faith, luck, magic or miracles.
Personally, I believe it’s sad how skeptical and secular many people are becoming. I find great pleasure in having faith in the spiritual. It provides context for life and meaning for personal growth. Having faith allows me to pursue that which others would call absurd.
18. Don’t seek praise. Seek criticism.
As a culture, we’ve become so fragile that we must combine honest feedback with 20 compliments. And when we get feedback, we do our best to disprove it. Psychologists call this confirmation bias: the tendency to search for, interpret, favor and recall information that confirms our own beliefs, while giving excessively less consideration to alternative possibilities.
It’s easy to get praise when you ask family and friends who will tell you exactly what you want to hear. Instead of seeking praise, your work will improve if you seek criticism.
You will know your work has merit when someone cares enough to give unsolicited critique. If something is noteworthy, there will be haters. As Robin Sharma, author of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, has said, “Haters confirm greatness.” When you really start showing up, the haters will be intimidated by you. Rather than being a reflection of what they could do, you become a reflection of what they are not doing.
19. The world gives to the givers and takes from the takers.
People who have a scarcity perspective believe that helping other people hurts you because you no longer have the advantage. This perspective sees the world as a giant pie. Every piece of the pie you have is pie I don’t have. So in order for you to win, I must lose.
But people with an abundance perspective believe there is not only one pie, but an infinite number of pies. If you want more, you make more. Thus, helping others actually helps you because it makes the system as a whole better. It also builds relationships, trust and confidence.
I have a friend, Nate, who is doing some innovative stuff at the real estate investing company he works for. He’s using strategies that no one else is using. And he’s killing it. He told me he considered keeping his strategies a secret. Because if other people knew about them, they’d use them and that’d mean less leads for him.
But then he did the opposite. He told everyone in his company about what he was doing. He has even been giving tons of his leads away. This has never been seen before in his company. Nate knows that once this strategy no longer works, he can come up with another one. That’s what leadership and innovation is all about. And people have come to trust him. Actually, they’ve come to rely on him for developing the best strategies.
Nate makes pies, for himself and several other people. And yes, he is also the top-selling and highest-earning in his company. It’s because he gives the most and doesn’t hoard his ideas, resources or information.
20. Create something you wish already existed.
Many entrepreneurs design products to “scratch their own itch.” Actually, that’s how loads of problems are solved. You experience a difficulty and create a solution.
Musicians and artists approach their work the same way. They create music they’d want to listen to, draw paintings they’d want to see and write books they wish were written. That’s how I personally approach my work; I write articles I myself would want to read.
Your work should first and foremost resonate with yourself. If you don’t enjoy the product of your work, how can you expect other people to?
21. Don’t look for the next opportunity.
The perfect client, perfect opportunity and perfect circumstances will almost never happen. Instead of wishing things were different, why not cultivate what’s right in front of you?
Rather than waiting for the next opportunity, the one in your hands is the opportunity. Said another way, the grass is greener where you water it.
I see so many people leave marriages because they believe better relationships are “out there.” In most cases, these people start new relationships and end them the same way the previous relationship ended. The problem isn’t your circumstances. The problem is you. You don’t find your soulmate, you create your soulmate through hard work.
“Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom.” —Jim Rohn
22. Don’t wait to start.
If you don’t purposefully carve time out every day to progress and improve, without question, your time will get lost in the vacuum of our increasingly crowded lives. Before you know it, you’ll be old and withered wondering where all that time went.
Related: Don’t Wait Until Tomorrow
I waited a few years too long to actively start writing. I was waiting for the right moment when I’d have enough time, money and whatever else I thought I needed. I was waiting until I was somehow qualified or had permission to do what I wanted to do.
But you are never prequalified. There is no degree for “live your dreams.” You qualify yourself by showing up and working. You get permission by deciding.
Life is short. Don’t wait for tomorrow for something you could do today. Your future self will either thank you or shamefully defend you.
“You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.” —Harold Hill
23. Don’t publish too early.
At age 22, Tony Hsieh (now CEO of Zappos.com), graduated from Harvard University. When Tony was 23 years old, six months after starting LinkExchange, he was offered $1 million for the company. This was amazing to Hsieh because less than a year before, he was stoked to get a job at Oracle making $40,000 per year.
After much thought and discussion with his partner, he rejected the offer believing he could continue to build LinkExchange into something bigger. His true love is in building and creating. A true professional gets paid but doesn’t work for money. A true pro works for love.
Five months later, Hsieh was offered $20 million dollars from Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo!. This blew Tony away. His first thought was, I’m glad I didn’t sell five months ago! However, he held his cool and asked for a few days to consider the proposal. He would make this decision on his terms.
He thought about all the things he would do if he had all that money, knowing he would never have to work another day in his life. After reflecting, he could only devise a small list of things he wanted:
- A condo
- A TV and built-in home theater
- The ability to go on weekend vacations whenever he wanted
- A new computer
- To start another company because he loves the idea of building and growing something
That was it.
His passion and motivation wasn’t in having stuff. He concluded that he could already afford a TV, a new computer, and could already go on weekend mini-vacations whenever he wanted. He was only 23 years old, so he determined a condo could wait. Why would he sell LinkExchange just to build and grow another company?
A year after Tony rejected the $20-million dollar offer, LinkExchange exploded. There were more than 100 employees. Business was booming. But Hsieh no longer enjoyed being there. The culture and politics had subtly changed in the process of rapid growth. LinkExchange was no longer Hsieh and a group of close friends building something they loved. They had hired a bunch of people in a hurry who didn’t have the same vision and motivations they had. Many of the new employees didn’t care about LinkeExchange, or about building something they loved. They just wanted to get rich quick—purely self-interested.
So he decided to sell the company on his terms. Microsoft purchased Linkexchange in 1998 for $265 million dollars when Hsieh was 25 years old.
A similar concept emerged in a conversation I recently had with Jeff Goins, best-selling author of The Art of Work. I asked his advice about publishing a book I want to write and he said, “Wait. Don’t jump the gun on this. I made that mistake myself. If you wait a year or two, you’ll get a 10 times bigger advance, which will change the trajectory of your whole career.”
Here’s how it works. With 20,000 email subscribers, a writer can get around a $20- to- $40,000 book advance. But with 100- to- 200,000 email subscribers, a writer can get around a $150- to- $500,000 book advance. Wait a year or two and change the trajectory of your career (and life).
This isn’t about procrastination. It’s about strategy. Timing—even a few seconds—could change your whole life.
24. If you can’t solve a problem, it’s because you’re playing by the rules.
“There is nothing that is a more certain sign of insanity than to do the same thing over and over and expect the results to be different.” —Albert Einstein
Convention is where we are. Breaking convention is how we’ll evolve, which requires a gargantuan quantity of failure.
If you don’t have the grit to fail 10,000 times, you’ll never invent your light bulb. As Seth Godin says, “If I fail more than you do, I win.”
Failure is something to be prized and praised. Failure is feedback. Failure is moving forward. It’s a conscious and exerted effort toward something you’ve never done before. It’s incredible.
“The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything.” —Paul Arden
25. How you set up the game is more important than the game itself.
“People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.” —Thomas Merton
Too many people are playing the wrong game—a losing game from the onset—and it hurts like hell. It’s how you ruin your life without even knowing it.
More important than playing “the game” is how the game is set up. How you set up the game determines how you play. And it’s better to win first, then play.
Start from the end and work backward. Rather than thinking about what’s plausible, expected or makes sense, start with what you want. Or as Stephen Covey wrote in 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, “Begin with the end clearly in mind.” Once that’s nailed down, then dictate the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly behaviors that will facilitate that.
Jim Carrey wrote himself a $10 million check. Then he set out to earn it. He won the game first, then played. So can you.
26. Leverage your position.
No matter how small your wins are along the way, leverage your position.
- You have a high school diploma? Leverage your position.
- You know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy? Leverage your position.
- You get an article featured on some unknown blog? Leverage your position.
- You have $100? Leverage your position.
Sadly, most people can’t stop looking at the other side of the fence. They fail to realize the brilliant possibilities currently available to them. This is bad stewardship.
- There are people you already know who have information you need.
- There are people you already know who have capital you can use.
- There are people you already know who can connect you with people you should know.
Instead of wanting more, how about you utilize what you already have? Until you do, more won’t help you. Actually, it will only continue hurting you until you learn to earn something for yourself. It’s easy to want other people to do it for you. But real success comes when you take ownership of your life. No one else cares more about your success than you do.
Your current position is ripe with abundant opportunity. Leverage it. Once you gain another inch of position, leverage it for all it’s worth. Don’t wish for more. Wish you were better. And soon enough, you’ll find yourself in incredible positions and collaborating with your heroes.
- Success is based on choice.
- Success is based on having and maintaining a motivation worth fighting for.
- Success is based on believing what others might call a fantasy.
- Success is based on leveraging your position and maintaining the momentum of every step you take.
27. Your work should be a performance.
The cool part about poetry is that to most poets, how their poems are performed is just as important—if not more important—than what is actually said.
In a similar way, when you go to an event or to hear a speech, you’re usually going to see the speaker, not hear what they have to say. You already know what they have to say.
No matter what type of work you are in, it will be better received if you see it as an art form. You are performing for an audience. They want you just as much as they want your work—often more.
28. You get to decide how it works.
Ryan Holiday, author of The Obstacle is the Way, explains what he calls “the moment,” which every skilled creative has experienced. The moment is when your eyes are opened to the mechanics and behind-the-scenes of your craft.
Until you have this moment, it all seems like magic to you. You have no idea how people create what they create. After you have this moment, you realize that everything is done by a person intentionally creating a particular experience.
I was recently watching The Lord of the Rings and it dawned on me that those movies would be completely different if they weren’t directed by Peter Jackson. Completely different!
Every shot, every set, the lighting, the costumes, how the characters and landscapes look, and how the whole film feels and is portrayed. It all would have looked and felt completely different based on the experience a different director was trying to create.
Hence, there is no right or wrong way. It’s about doing things your way. Until you experience this moment, you’ll continue attempting the correct or best way to do things. You’ll continue copying other people’s work.
But if you persist, you’ll become disillusioned to those who were once your idols. They are people just like you and me. They’ve just made a decision to create in their own way.
The idea of imitation will become abhorrent, freeing you to create as you see fit. You’ll emerge with your own voice and original work. You’ll be less troubled about how your work is received and more focused on creating something you believe in.
29. Five minutes is a lot of time.
When you have five minutes of downtime, how do you spend it? Most people use it as an excuse to rest or be lazy.
Being lazy for five five-minute breaks each day, we waste 25 minutes daily. That’s 9,125 minutes per year. My guess is we’re wasting far more time than that.
I was once told by my ninth grade English teacher that if I read every time I had a break—even if the break was just for a minute or two—that I’d get a lot more reading done than expected. She was right. Every time I finished my work early or had a spare moment, I’d pick up a book and read.
How we spend our periodic five-minute breaks is a determining factor to what we achieve in our lives. Every little bit adds up.
Why do we justify wasting so much time?
30. $1 is a lot of money.
I was recently in Walmart with my mother-in-law buying a few groceries. While we were in the checkout line, I pointed an item out to her I thought was interesting (I honestly can’t remember what it is anymore).
What stuck out to me is that she said, “$1. That’s a lot of money!” This surprised me because my in-laws are not short of money. Actually, this happened while we were on a family trip (30-plus people) at Disney World—the whole thing being paid for by them.
Understanding the value of $1 is the same as coming to appreciate the value of time. To thoughtlessly spend $1 might not seem like a big deal, but it actually is. That frivolous spending compounded over a long enough time could be millions.
And the truth is, most millionaires are self-made, 80 percent being first-generation rich and 75 percent being self-employed. Not getting paid hourly challenges you to take more responsibility for every minute and every dollar. Consequently, a great majority of millionaires are extremely frugal—or at least highly mindful—with their money.
31. Retirement should never be the goal.
“To retire is to die.” —Pablo Casals
The most powerful way to punch someone in the face is to aim a foot behind their face. That way, you have full momentum and power when you make contact. If you aim only for the face itself, by the time you reach it, you’ll have already begun slowing down. Your punch will not be as powerful as you intended it to be. Retirement is the same way.
Most people planning for retirement begin slowing down in their 40s and 50s. The sad part is, as momentum-based beings, when you begin to slow down, you start a hard-to-reverse decaying process.
Research has found that retirement often:
- Increases the difficulty of mobility and daily activities
- Increases the likelihood of becoming ill
- And decreases mental health
But retirement is a 20th-century phenomenon. And actually, the foundations undergirding this outdated notion make little sense in modern and future society.
For instance, due to advances in health care, 65 is not considered old age anymore. When the Social Security system was designed, the planners chose age 65 because the average lifespan was 63 at the time. The system was designed only for those who were really in need, not to create a culture of people being supported by others’ labor.
Furthermore, the perception that people over 65 can’t provide meaningful work no longer makes sense either. Retirement became a thing when most work was manual labor, but today’s work is more knowledge-based. And if there’s anything lacking in today’s society, it’s wisdom, which people in their later years have spent a lifetime refining.
Retirement should never be the goal. We are fully capable to work—in some capacity—until our final breath.
My 92-year-old grandfather, Rex, was a fighter pilot in World War II. In the past five years, he’s written three books. He goes to bed every night at 8 p.m. and wakes up every morning at 4:30 a.m. He spends the first 2.5 hours of his day watching inspirational and instructional content on television. He then eats breakfast at 7 a.m. and spends his day reading, writing, connecting and serving people, and even doing physical labor around his son’s (my dad’s) house. He even walks around his neighborhood proselyting his faith and asking random strangers how he can help them.
I have no intention of stopping or slowing down. Contrary to popular belief, humans are like wine and get better with age.
32. Yesterday is more important than today.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” —Chinese Proverb
Our present circumstances are a reflection of our past decisions. Although we have enormous power to change the trajectory of our lives here and now, we are where we are because of our past. And although it’s popular to say the past doesn’t matter, that simply is not true.
Today is tomorrow’s yesterday. What we do today will either enhance or diminish our future-present moments. But most people put things off until tomorrow. We thoughtlessly go into debt, forego exercise and education, and justify negative relationships. But at some point, it all catches up. Like an airplane off course, the longer we wait to correct, the longer and harder it is to get back on course.
Time is absolutely marvelous. We get to anticipate the experiences we want to have, which is often more enjoyable than the experiences themselves. We get to have the experiences we long for. And then we get to remember and carry those experiences with us forever. The past, present and future are uniquely important and enjoyable.
33. You’re not “way behind.”
In sports and all other forms of competition, people perform best when the game is close, which is why big magic happens at the end of games, like on-sides kicks retrieved followed by 30-second touchdown drives. But when the contest is decidedly in one opponent’s favor, neither side acts with the same effort.
When you’re winning big, it’s easy to get lax and overconfident. When you’re losing big, it’s easy to give up.
Sadly, you probably perceive those at the top of your field “in a different league” altogether. But when you do this, you perform with less intensity than you would if you perceived the “game” to be closer.
When you elevate your thinking—and see yourself on the same level as those at the top—you quickly become disillusioned by the fallibility of those you once perceived as immortal. They are just people. Most important, you will begin playing with an urgency that often surpasses even them.
The game is close. The game is close.
34. The music you listen to determines your success in life.
“Without music, life would be a mistake” —Friedrich Nietzsche
One study found that the type of music you listen to affects how you perceive neutral faces. If you listen to sad music, you’re more likely to interpret people being sad. By listening to positive music, you’re more likely to see happy faces, which will influence how you interact with people.
Another found that listening to moderate noise level makes our mental processing slightly more difficult, which leads us to utilize more creative methods of problem-solving. When that music is ambient, we can delve deeper into the wellsprings of neural creativity.
Other research found that your music preference reflects your personality type. For example, they found that classical music fans tend to have high self-esteem, are creative, introverted and at ease; and that chart pop fans tend to have high self-esteem, are hardworking, outgoing and gentle, but are not creative and not at ease.
Science highlights the fact that in some cases, silence is not golden. For instance, listening to classical music enhanced the visual attention of stroke patients, while listening to nothing at all worsened attention. Other research found that cyclists who listened to music required seven percent less oxygen than those listening to nothing. Indeed, music can literally change our entire energy, emotion and motivation in an instant. It’s a powerful and beautiful tool.
You can also use music as a trigger for optimal performance. For example, Michael Phelps had a routine he performed religiously before each swimming event involving music. He’s not alone. Many athletes use music before events to trigger relaxation from the pressure or to psych themselves up.
When asked by TIME about his use of music prior to races, Phelps said it kept him focused and helped him “tune everything out, and take one step at a time.” When asked about the kind of music he listens to, he answered, “I listen to hip-hop and rap.”
Interestingly, research has found that high-tempo music such as hip-hop can create strong arousal and performance readiness. Other evidence finds the intensity of the emotional response can linger long after the music has stopped. Although Phelps is in the water swimming, he’s still hyped from his hip-hop.
Lastly, research has found that the type of music we listen to impacts our level of spirituality. This last point is particularly important to me. Spirituality heavily influences everything I do, from how I interact with my family, to what and how I write, to how I develop and pursue my goals.
In her book, On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind, psychologist Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis explains why listening to music on repeat improves focus. When you’re listening to a song on repeat, you tend to dissolve into the song, which blocks out mind wandering.
This post originally appeared on Medium.com and is used with permission from Benjamin P. Hardy. Benjamin and his wife, Lauren, are the foster parents of three incredible kids. He was the No. 1 writer on Medium.com in 2016. You can learn more at BenjaminHardy.com.