1. Only compare yourself to the best
The best was not born the best. They were once a person just like you – a hopeful yet scared underdog who persisted at something until they mastered it. Measuring ourselves up against these people is both unfair to ourselves and somewhat insulting to those who are ahead of us. They put blood, sweat and tears into getting where they are now. The view is nicer from where they’re standing because they worked like hell to get there. And at one point, they were standing exactly where you stand now, measuring themselves against the people ahead of them – they just didn’t let the discrepancy stop them.
2. Beat yourself up about what you’re doing wrong
As the old idiom goes, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” And this is something all successful people know – Any big win is going to come with a certain amount of collateral damage. You simply have to shake it off, clean the mess up and get the hell on with things. Getting stuck on our mistakes gets us nowhere. But humbly admitting to them and moving on takes us far on the path to success.
3. Shield yourself from criticism
Praise feels nice. Unconstructive criticism feels horrible. And the stuff that pushes us to grow usually comes sandwiched somewhere in the middle. Tempting as it is to shut ourselves off from criticism altogether, that would also mean shutting ourselves off from the opportunity to connect, grow and evolve with our work. We have to learn to practice humility if we want to achieve success – which means separating ourselves from both extremes of criticism and deciphering exactly which advice is worth taking. This in itself is a skill.
4. Wait until you’re inspired to act
I am a firm believer that 99% of human potential is wasted on a lack of motivation. We look at others acting passionately and figure “If I also felt that fervor, I would work that vehemently.” We don’t stop to consider that passion and progression is a muscle – one that must be exercised and flexed. Athletes do not only train on the days when they feel strong. They work through the weak days so that they have less of them. Similarly, we cannot only act on the days when we feel inspired. The best way to foster creativity is to practice it often.
5. Focus on the outcome, not the process
Results are the by-product of a job well done. The more we obsess over how much money we’re going to make in a certain position or how much success we’re going to achieve in a certain role, the more anxious we make ourselves. The more anxious we are, the less heart we put into our work. The less heart we put into our work, the less positive results we produce. If we genuinely love and try at what we’re doing every day, we’re going to do it well. If we’re only working for the weekend, the promotion or the paycheck, it’s going to start showing through in our work. We have to find a way to love the process, or the results will never follow.
6. Try to do it all alone
The notion that independence is synonymous with aloneness is one that our society cannot seem to let go of. And it is an entirely contrived theory. None of the best things in life have been achieved in a vacuum. We are all fallible people. To achieve true success we have to acknowledge our own limitations. Where do we need help? Where can we grow from the help of others? The best leaders in this world understand that they are not capable all on their own. We all need one another. And trying to deny that is a sure path to going nowhere fast.
7. Take advice from people whose values are different from your own
One of the hardest things to realize – about our friends and loved ones especially – is that everyone gives advice based on what they would like to see happen if they were in your situation. While it’s nice to reach out, we must learn to be critical about whom we take advice from. It is far too easy to find ourselves heading down someone else’s path based on advice they gave us at a time when we were too lost to find our own way. It’s an innocent way to end up headed somewhere we do not want to go.
8. Accept your limitations as inevitabilities
Regardless of what your goal is, there will always be a very good reason not to go for it. In fact, there will probably be ten good reasons. The part that’s up to you is whether or not you accept the limitations you’re presented with. Successful people are masters of finding a work around. Unsuccessful people are masters of clinging their excuses and accepting their failures as inevitabilities.
9. Wait to be rewarded for hard work
The unfortunate truth of the work world is that most people are going to take as much as they can get from you, while giving you as little as they can get away with in return. The only way to put an end to this vicious cycle is to determine your own self-worth and enforce it relentlessly. If you aren’t being paid enough for the work you’re doing, it’s up to you to ask for that raise. If you think the next promotion should go to you, you’re going to have to apply for it. Success doesn’t just fall in your lap after you do things the right way for a long enough period of time – it is something you have to proactively chase. The people ahead of you aren’t necessarily smarter, talented or more hard working than you – they may just be that much ballsier.
10. Play it safe
True success is rare. Which means that to achieve it, you’re going to have to do something rare yourself. Nobody gets to the top by doing what everyone else is doing – if that were the case we would not even have a concept of excellence. The people who get to the top push boundaries. They take risks. They fail often enough to understand that failure is not fatal and perhaps that is why they succeed. They understand that going somewhere they’ve never been requires trying things they’ve never tried. And the possibility of success outweighs the potential of failure for them, every time.
11. Wait for the right time
The Universe is not waiting around to offer us success at a time when we are strong, capable and ready to take on a challenge. More often than not, opportunity presents itself when we are wholly unprepared. And we just have to go with it anyway. Successful people know that a great deal of learning happens on the fly. If we expect to be prepared for everything we do, we’ll never do anything at all. So much of learning happens right in the thick of things – which means that just about any time is a good time to start.
12. Expect it to happen all at once
Too many of us envision the space between “Unsuccessful” and “Successful” as a colossal gap that must be leapt over. In reality, the space between these two is a series of tiny steps. If you expect to wake up one morning and be living the life of your dreams you will only grow frustrated quickly. The life of your dreams happens slowly, in a series of miniscule progressions over time. If you are closer to your goals now than you were six months ago, one year ago or even five years ago, that in itself is a form of success. And the more often you stop to realize that, the closer you already are to already living the life of your dreams.