11 Unlikely Life Lessons From The Super Successful
1. Be a social ninja.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone, gotten a great impression, then, upon walking away, realized you hardly learned anything about them? ‘Tis is the telltale sign of a social ninja. The social ninja will ask all about you, show interest in your passions, and, just like that, you’ll like them. It’s as easy as that for these connection-making warriors.
2. Make sacrifices.
Steve Jobs sold his sweet Volkswagen minibus to help pay for Apple’s start-up costs, and his co-founder, Steve Wozniak, sold his massive, old-school Hewlett-Packard calculator. Even Donald Trump (who I’m not sure we should necessarily be taking advice from) mortgaged nearly all of his properties to fund his real estate empire even when, in 1990, he was about one billion dollars (!) in debt. Steve One, Steve Two, and The Donald all had a vision, and they were willing to make sacrifices to achieve it. Take a tip from these, um, great men.
3. Be a storyteller.
People like to be inspired, and just like a company needs a branding message, so do you. It strikes me as a bit “corporate” and like something out of Infinite Jest to think too much about your personal brand, but potential employers want to hire someone who can spin a stirring life anecdote. So figure out the best way to package a priceless commodity: You.
4. Surround yourself with people you want to be like.
The founder of Dropbox, Jim Rohn, said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Hold agency over the people you choose to befriend because if you happen to fall into hanging out with unambitious, dull, uninteresting people without much thought, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say you’ll soon acquire their lackluster attitude.
5. Wake up ridiculously early.
Apple CEO Tim Cook gets up at 4:30 a.m., Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is at the office by 6 a.m., even Ben Franklin was up at 5 a.m. famously waking up and asking himself each morning, “What good shall I do this day?” So rise and shine. Thinking gets done in the morning, doing gets done in the afternoon, and relaxing, reading, socializing, and all that gets done in the evening.
Studies show that only 2% of the population can truly multitask — as in do at least two things at once without greatly sacrificing focus and brainpower. Translation: you probably can’t multitask. Don’t even try. I imagine if you are one of the 140 million people in the entire world — God knows I’m not one of them – who can multitask, then you probably already know that about yourself anyway. So, if in doubt, attack each problem separately. Less gets done when you spread yourself too thin.
7. Against all odds, being ridiculously generous with your time might be the key to success.
Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, spends more time with students outside of the classroom than any other professor, so it would be fair to think his work and home life suffers due to the time constraints. Yet selflessness pays off: somehow, Professor Grant is both the youngest-tenured and highest-rated professor at Penn. Sure, you have your fair share of selfish success stories too, but it’s never wise to think that just because someone might not seem like they can help you, doesn’t mean that they’re not worth your time. If you’re Professor Grant, your time is rewarded because your ratings skyrocket and a promotion comes quickly; if you’re managing, say, a tech company, then a budding employee who you spend a lot of time with would have incentive to come to you first if they ever thought up a great, lucrative idea. That’s to say, giving can be rewarding. Yet, even if tangible rewards like a promotion or business idea never come, building up a little something called “moral intelligence” is a necessary part of success. So do yourself a favor and do others a favor.
8. Attack life like chess.
Magnus Carlsen, the top-ranked chess player in the world, has been known to calculate about twenty moves ahead. Every move you make — the schooling you undergo, the jobs and internships you accept, the people you befriend — has a ripple effect. Figure out where you’re trying to go and find a direct route. Sometimes, it only takes Magnus three moves for a checkmate — don’t be so shortsighted where you find yourself only three moves in with nowhere to go.
9. Ditch the safety net.
Having a back-up plan might help you sleep easier, but nothing will make you work harder than the absence of a Plan B. If you know what you want — even if you’re only now getting an inkling of who you want to be — go for it with your entirety. Nothing motivates quite like a long fall with no safety net in sight. Scary? Yeah. Huge payoff if it works out? Absolutely.
10. Keep even the smallest promises.
In the end, all you have is your reputation. Keeping your word and demonstrating that you’re someone others can trust is how you’ll want to be remembered at the end of the day.
11. Be humble.
Dale Carnegie famously authored How to Win Friends and Influence People (pretty much the bible of likability), and one trait comes up again and again: humility. Carnegie, writing about Charles Schwab, attributed “almost all of his success” to being charming and down-to-earth. No one wants to lend a favor to someone who thinks they’re too good for the rest of the world. Everyone wants to help out the nice guy.
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