Most people live a “reported on life”. Life happens to them. They hope luck will “find” them. They stumble every day towards their default future.
But there are some people who don’t let their experiences control them. They defy their circumstances and define their future. They initiate their luck and they live a “created life”.
A created life isn’t easy. But it is simple.
I’m fortunate to spend my life coaching extraordinary people who’ve done – and are doing – incredible things. And here’s the secret…
They put their pants on one leg at a time. Just like the rest of us. They have dreams, doubts and fears – secret desires and hidden insecurities. Just like the rest of us. They struggle through challenging experiences. Just like the rest of us.
How you feel vs how they look
I’ve coached ultra successful people with dyslexia, cancer, ADD, cystic fibrosis. I’ve coached clients who’ve made millions, yet never graduated high school. I’ve coached high achievers who were abused as children. I’ve coached top performers who grew up in poverty. I’ve coached extraordinary people, including single mothers caring for sick children, parents who have tragically lost their children and military veterans who have watched their friends die on the battlefield. And it’s heartbreaking that I’ve coached people who were making a massive impact on the world, yet were cut down in their prime by illness or accident.
At the very same time, I’ve coached high achievers who had huge success from a really young age and top performers who grew up in privilege – including adult children of billionaires. I’ve coached ultra successful people with Mensa level IQs, PhDs from ivy-league universities and multi-million dollar net worths. I’ve coached former Navy Seals, Olympic athletes, CEOs and VPs of billion dollar companies and people so famous you’d know them instantly.
And what’s interesting – and what most people would never know – is that sometimes those people you might be envious of have been the very same people facing the hardships I described above.
The problem is that we tend to compare how we feel on the inside, with how others look on the outside. In the age of social media, we’re surrounded by people sharing their highlight reels, while we’re experiencing the screw-ups that will end on the cutting room floor.
Do you feel lucky?
When you accomplish something incredible, people don’t usually know much about you, other than your success. They call you “lucky”.
I’m about to give you a plan to become luckier – whatever your circumstances. Do these things and people will look at you and call you lucky.
Start at the top of the list and work your way down it, as you become more successful. Some of the steps later in the list are deliberately the opposite of earlier steps. If life ever gets challenging, go back to the top and start working your way down again.
The patient execution of what everyone knows they should be doing is actually your secret competitive advantage…
- Take care of your body. Do one thing that makes you sweat or gets you outside, every day.
- Take care of your mind. Resist the urge to read what everyone else is reading. Limit your time on the news and on social media. Each month, read one book that has stood the test of time and was written 50 or more years ago.
- Take care of your relationships. Tell someone how you appreciate or love them, every day. [Tip: no one forgets a hand written thank you note. Ever.]
- Work hard. Or have fun. Really successful people work really hard. Period. But when you’re not working, switch off completely. It’s called “re-creation” for a reason.
- Keep your commitments – or clean up. Be early and do what you say you’ll do – and people will trust you. If you can’t keep a commitment, don’t say “Sorry.” Acknowledge you didn’t keep your commitment and recommit.
- Learn to receive a compliment. Say thank you and mean it. [Tip: keep an email folder for every acknowledgement you receive. Read them when you’re feeling down.]
- Do unorthodox and adventurous things. Especially at the start of your career. I promise you they’ll make sense later. Sometimes, a long time later.
- Early in your career, say yes to almost every opportunity. Trust your intuition. Try new things. Even if they scare you a little. Actually, especially if they scare you a little.
- Early in your career, relentlessly seek out fascinating people to work for. Inspiring bosses and mentors trump high salaries. The money is tempting and it’s also a trap, especially early on in your career.
- 100% of the time is easier than 99% of the time. Know your values and act accordingly. It’s easy to convince yourself that you’ll do it just once – but every time you break your personal values in even the tiniest way, the impact of those decisions can build over time to turn you into the kind of person you never wanted to be.
- Confidence is a result, not a requirement. You don’t need it before taking action.
- Do things that develop your courage. Decide what you’re willing to struggle for. And do little things on a regular basis that require courage.
- Do things that develop your inner peace. Taking five deep breaths, eating super slowly, having a hot bath or a walk in the park work just as well as meditation.
- Serve someone – or create something – every day. Then rest.
- Serve people so powerfully they never forget you for the rest of their life. If this was the only thing on this list that you did, you’d have an extraordinary life.
- Do what you’d do if you had no fear. Fear is often a mask for desire. So, ask the “dumb” and “obvious” questions everyone else is afraid to ask. Admit your weaknesses. Put at risk your current success, in order to get to your next level of success. Create a “What Scares Me list”.
- Reflect. Every day, reflect on one thing you’re proud of, one thing you could have improved and one thing you’re grateful for.
- Measure or track what’s important to you. Business metrics and personal metrics, such as your happiness, your inner peace and the time you spend with loved ones. [Pearson’s Law: What’s measured improves. What’s measured and reported improves exponentially.]
- Do a Weekly Review. Answer these questions as if you were writing a report to your Board of Directors: What went well, last week? What didn’t? What do you want to do next week? What scares you? What looks impossible? What is on your list, but shouldn’t be? [Do the same every quarter.]
- Be a giver. Not a taker, or a matcher. But create strong boundaries so you don’t give at the cost of your health.
- Be you. Don’t try to fit in. [Tip: assume you already belong…]
- Dream really big but take really tiny steps. Counterintuitively, the later helps the former. Impossible things are just a bunch of possible things put together in a different order than usual.
- Experiment. Constantly. Make many small, purposeful bets, fueled by your passion. Calculate your affordable loss, not Return on Investment – and, if you can afford the loss, do it. Only double down when a small bet begins to pay off.
- Create cash projects as well as sexy projects. The former pay the bills. The later changes the world.
- Use money as feedback for your actions, not your emotions. Pay yourself first. Automate your savings. If you’re an entrepreneur, use money as one of the signs of your impact in the world. If you’re not making much, ask how you could double your impact.
- When you’re stressed, ask yourself, “Do I really need to solve this problem right now?” [Tip: the answer is almost always no.]
- Take 60 seconds to breathe deeply, before you take action. [Tip: if it feels urgent and you don’t have 60 seconds, the answer is almost always you do!]
- Stop comparing how you feel on the inside with how everyone else looks on the outside. Happy, successful people have unhappy, unsuccessful moments. Sometimes just as often as you.
- Tell good stories but listen more than you talk. Be interested, not interesting.
- Hell Yes. Or Hell No. There’s no such thing as Hell Maybe. This makes decisions simple, not easy.
- Polarize people. You want people to love you or to ignore you. Nothing in between. Stop trying to be “liked”. Turn yourself into a Hell Yes or a Hell No for others.
- Build a personal board of truth tellers. Seek out people who tell you the hard truths you really need to hear. This becomes more important the more successful you become.
- Seek opportunities. Keep your eyes open for the connections, ideas and people that others miss.
- If you’re a parent, create regular overnight date nights. It will seem impossible to do this. Do it anyway. You’ll thank me one day. So will your partner. (And your kids!)
- Walk your talk, don’t talk your walk. Your children are watching you more closely than they are listening to you. So are your clients, your team, your community and your partner.
- Be genuinely happy for other people’s success. Make this your practice. Jealousy and insecurity are fueled by fear. Desire and love are a much healthier fuel.
- This, or something better. When I was fired from a job in 2005, I was devastated. Everyone tried to make me feel better by telling me to just get back at what I’d always done. Apart from my friend Dave, who said, “You lucky bastard!” Those words changed my life because I headed off in a completely new direction. Assume that the best is on its way, especially when life looks dark.
- When challenging things happen – and they will – ask yourself, “What’s the opportunity here?” Don’t dwell on it. Prepare for dangers and threats but assume that things will work out for the best. Write down your insights, to prevent a challenge from happening again.
- Stack your skills. Build skills in parallel to your expertise, like speaking, writing, persuasion, drawing, coding, coaching or a strong work ethic. It’s your combination of skills that become your unique differentiator. As Hugh MacLeod says, “Don’t be the best in the world at what you do; be the only one in the world who does what you do.”
- If you really want to be successful, watch what everyone else is doing and do the opposite. Sometimes, it’s helpful to do the opposite of what you would usually do, too.
- Go weird not wide. Your ‘weird’ dreams, desires, hobbies and habits are deeply interesting to your people. Stop hiding them. Work more and more in your Zone of Genius every day. In a world where everyone wants to go wide, go deep.
- Make your clients Superheroes. Find out your clients’ secret dreams and desires and discover their kryptonite – the hidden dangers they face. Then help them. And when they succeed, tell the world about them. [Tip: Seek out clients who inspire you, not clients you can inspire.]
- “I believe in you.” These are the most powerful words anyone can ever hear. Find people who say them to you – and mean it. Find people you can say them to – and mean it.
- Find a mission so big that nothing will stop you. But if that mission can be accomplished alone, you’re not dreaming big enough. [Tip: only ever hire people better than you.]
- Meet fun and interesting people. Spend more and more time with more and more fascinating people. [Tip: find ways to support fascinating people and introduce fascinating people to one another – for nothing in return.]
- Space is where miracles occur. What got you to the level of success you’re at today was saying yes to almost every opportunity. What will get you to your next level of success is saying no to almost every opportunity. [Tip: regularly add items to your ‘Avoid At All Costs list’. – and mean it.]
- You will overestimate what you can accomplish in a year and underestimate what you can accomplish in 10 years. Forget New Year’s Resolutions and create a 25 year mission instead.
- Don’t work so hard. The ROI of an extra hour at work can be massive. The ROI of an extra hour with your loved ones is harder to measure but trust me, it’s priceless.
- Have the courage to express your feelings. Don’t suppress your feelings to make others feel comfortable. When you speak honestly it raises your relationships to a new and healthier level – or it releases unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
- When you’re the most interesting person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Seek out people and communities that scare you. Find your way in. Show up as if you belong.
Do these things and it will appear to others that opportunities seek you out. When they call you “lucky” – just smile on the inside.
Inspired by Brene Brown, Clayton Christensen, Elizabeth Gilbert, Adam Grant, Steve Hardison, Frans Johansson, Austin Kleon, Hugh Macleod, Cal Newport, Naval Ravikant, Derek Sivers, Dan Sullivan and Bronnie Ware – and all the mistakes I’ve made along the way.
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