45 Lessons on Life and Success
This is my 50th article as part of the newsletter. Thanks to everyone who has subscribed and taken the time to read the articles. Here are my thoughts on how to become more successful and enjoy life. There are 45 keys I have identified and we all do well in some areas and we can improve in other areas. This comprehensive list can increase our awareness and help us on our journey towards greater personal success. First off before we start I wanted to say that no one else can define what success means to us. This is just my list on what can help us on our success journey. If we are moving towards something that we want and we are making progress then that is where you can find your version of success. We have all known people who have had so much public success but they never felt successful. So it is something which each individual has to define for themselves. Here are the 45 keys I have identified that can help us on our journey.
You are unique — Even identical twins do not have the same characteristics. Be comfortable with who you are. As it is often said be comfortable in your skin. Celebrate who you are and appreciate your uniqueness. There is no need to compare with anyone else as your life has a unique purpose which only you can fulfill. Really appreciate everything about you. As Kevin Kelly said "Don’t be the best. Be the only."
Celebrate your life till now — You have already accomplished a lot. Sometimes we think we haven’t done much. However when you look at your life you understand that there have been a lot of things you have done that you can be proud of. There is a famous saying of George Bernard Shaw who was asked at the end of life what he would do if he could live his life again. He said “I wish I could have been the man I never was.” I don’t think we really have to subscribe to that theory as we can be happy right now where we are with what we have while we strive for more. I have written all the things I am thankful for thus far in my journey and also noted down all the good things in my life.
Write down all your victories right from your childhood — You will be surprised by how many victories you had. Don’t let any small victory go away without noting it down. I like to keep adding to it. For example if I did an early morning workout I write down that victory. When I feel down I look back at the list and understand that it has been good. Winners always recall their successful past and don’t dwell on things that have gone wrong. If Roger Federer is always thinking about his losses there is no way he can win his next tournament. I have a log of every victory in my life noted down and its easy to look back and appreciate how far we have come. This way the comparison with others gets reduced and we feel totally comfortable in our skin.
Be a generalist – If you truly want to be a successful person who thrives in the 21st century you need to be a generalist. You can have a team of specialists but the leader needs to be a generalist. The book Range by David Epstein will get you thinking about your career in a unique way for sure. The book starts with the examples of Roger Federer and Tiger Woods. It is interesting that when he was a kid Roger Federer wanted to meet Boris Becker and reach 6 grand slams. However, Tiger Woods wanted to be the best of all time. The key learning here is that thriving in the 21st century workforce requires us to be a generalist than just specialists. You may not be the best at something but if you have multiple things you are good at you will win bigger. It has a lot of examples across the spectrum.
Your environment matters — The environment we setup for ourselves is the key to our long term health. Yes listening to the news and being well-informed is important. However we should also ensure the environment we setup fosters creativity and also ensures our mental health is taken care. A positive mindset is not something that just happens by accident. So setup an environment where you are surrounded by beauty, tranquility, flowers and excellent inspiring material. The food we consume has a bearing on how we show up in this world.
Forget time management, instead manage yourself — Set priorities, work on the most important task first and say no to a lot of things. There are so many time management books coming out every year but the main crux of it is to focus on the vital few vs the trivial many. Write down everything on your mind, classify them into the important and then either do it, defer it or delegate it. Finally eliminate all other tasks which have no value. Most of the things I have learned are from people who are already managing their time well. The other way to manage your time is to limit the amount of notifications you get from your apps. Delete some of your apps to get a sense of control over your time. Remember your life is valuable so it makes sense to spend it on something that matters to you. If you write down everything on your mind then it frees up your will-power to focus on more important things.
Define your personal mission statement — This is a great way to give meaning to your life. Every organization has a mission statement which provides direction. The same can be applied to our personal lives. Define what you want your life to stand for and then imagine yourself living that life. Take action to move towards your ultimate vision. I came with my mission statement in 2010 and I defined it as "My mission is to maximise my potential and help others maximise theirs." It is a simple one and it has enabled me to read across the board on leadership, management, success, productivity, happiness, personal development and life. It has also enabled me to share what I have learned through my blog.
Define your values — It could be discipline, integrity, honesty, simplicity and beauty. You can satisfy your mission statement only if you have strong values that can help you on this journey. Take some alone time to define values for your life. Again we cannot always live to our highest ideals but striving to live by our highest self is the only sure way to be happy.
Set your 1 year, 3 year and 5 year goals — Goals give direction to your life. For your life to be completely in balance you need to have goals for your personal life, family life, financial life, career life and contribution life. You can add more categories but these will give a good head start. Again while your goals may be set we still need to be flexible when things go awry.
Stay abreast of trends — The information available today is mind boggling. We have access to information that past masters would have died for and most of it is free. Identify experts in your field, connect with them, read their blogs, read their books, listen to their podcasts, document what you learn and share what you have learned. This will keep you in charge of your learning and it also eliminates boredom from our lives.
Start writing in a journal — Having a journal is a life enhancing activity. This is not new since Benjamin Franklin used this process extremely well. All you need is to record your observations on the day or week. Over a period of time it will be great to look back on how your days have gone. You can also record important events in your life. I am on my 27th Journal over the last 10 years.
Develop grit which is the key quality of success — Grit is the ability to stay committed to your long term goals. You need to have true drive to remain gritty and achieve all your goals. In the book Grit Angela Duckworth says you need to have interest in whatever you do, you need to have the capacity to practice, you need to have purpose and finally have hope that you will ultimately prevail. The only way to have grit is if you know exactly what you want. So we really do need to set goals in all areas of our lives to have the grit muscles working for us.
Study successful people and emulate their actions — If you study success the chances of you succeeding are considerably higher. Read the books on success and understand what makes successful people tick. Emulate the character traits of your heroes. Of course finally it is what we do with what we know that is the key to our success.
Study failures and avoid them — We also have access to so many failures and since most of whatever we are trying has already been done before we can take a leaf out of failures and avoid them. You can also study from your own failures and ensure you learn from it.
Stay super fit by exercising and eating well — This is simple but not easy to do. It doesn’t matter how fit you are now because you have to do it on a consistent basis. You can never stop exercising therefore it has to be a lifestyle change. Exercising first thing in the morning is great because it jump starts your metabolism and more importantly you will get it over with. Of course find a time that works for you. Of course if you have a specific health condition this would not be applicable for you. Finding an exercise regimen that works for our individual situation is the key.
Do get adequate sleep — It is mandatory for peak performance. Burning the midnight oil is absolutely needed to succeed but it should be the exception rather than the rule. Most athletes sleep more than normal and they understand that peak performance comes from a relaxed mind and body.
Define what success means to you — This is one of the most important suggestions. We look at some celebrities and think why can’t we achieve that much but finally you are unique and your success need not involve fame. If you really think about it there are only few people who achieve true fame so if that's a success criterion for us we may not be happy most of the time. If you define what success is to you it will eventually lead to a happy fulfilled life. This is truly the winners edge and by defining what success really means to you there is a greater chance you will be happy.
Forget what others think about you — Think about what you feel about yourself. Most of the time people are not thinking about you because there is too much happening in their lives. Always focus on your goals. Forget what others think of you because mostly they are not. We have all had situations in the past which we would like to correct but thinking about the future is the key to win big in life.
Say no to anything not aligned to your values — Learning to say no is vital to not feeling overwhelmed. To be honest if you are working hard on 5 days it is difficult to keep your weekends also totally blocked. Having some space to think is needed to achieve all you want and also have peace of mind. You cannot stretch yourself in all directions that’s why defining what is important to you is the key.
Public acclaim is always the result of dedicated practice in one area for a long period of time — Private victories lead to public victories. Tony Robbins says "People get praised in public for what they practice years in private." We don’t see all the sweat that champions like Federer put before their victories. If they always want public acclaim it would be impossible to put in their best at practice sessions. The point is you are not going to be cheered for exercising or working daily. That is why self-appreciation is needed to ensure you stay motivated for the long haul.
Self-discipline is the key quality to win in life and work — Jim Rohn said “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” You need discipline in all areas of your life to win big. You can achieve big if you have a burning desire which is married with discipline. Some of the ways to be disciplined are waking up early if possible, exercising, practicing good habits and keep it going. The ability to do something when you don't feel like doing it is exactly what discipline is. As Napoleon Hill said "Self-discipline is the master key to riches."
Develop your self-esteem as it determines how high you rise in life — Self-esteem is the sign of a healthy personality. You need to really appreciate yourself to feel great. I know there has been some movement away from self-esteem but unless you feel great about yourself it is difficult to bring your best every day. You can enhance your self-esteem by developing a high appreciation for life, maintaining a gratitude log, understanding your strengths, setting long term goals for your life, never comparing yourself with others and getting to know yourself.
High self-respect ensures you can bounce back from temporary setbacks -Winners truly respect themselves for who they are and they don’t compromise their inner attitude to any outside interference. A healthy self-respect creates an aura of invincibility and puts you firmly in control of your life. Only when you value yourself will others value you. When we value ourselves we feel a lot better about life and anything that life throws at us. Self-Respect can be developed only by internalizing all the other qualities mentioned here as it is a result not a cause. A healthy dose of self-respect can bring our best selves to every encounter in our lives. Nelson Mandela is a great example of this. He was in prison for 27 years but despite all the hardships he never lost his self-respect. He came out stronger and was able to forgive everyone who had hurt him as well. This is a remarkable example of a man with great self-respect.
Love life — There is only one chance we get to make the most out of life. As we get older the more we realize that the journey of life is not going to last forever and it is totally up to us how we want to live to achieve what we desire. I like this line “You can live life any way you want but you can live it only once.” When we think about that we understand that we really need to love life and make the most of what we have. We have the opportunity to make an impact. When we love life we automatically make the most of our time.
Make time to spend time with those you love — Among all the reflections from old people the one common theme is I wish I had spent more time with people who matter to me. We don’t need to reach our end to discover that it is only through high quality bonding relationships we discover true joy in life.
No one erected a statue to a critic — Anything you do out of the ordinary will be met with critics. Critics can rob you the momentary peace you deserve but would that stop you from getting the happiness and sense of accomplishment you deserve by going after the things you truly want to make your life a master piece. Welcome constructive criticism and ignore the rest.
Get into the habit of doing the things that other people say cannot be done - If someone says you cannot do something thank them because that should fuel you to go further and do that thing. Of course you should only do it if you want to. You have to really do what you want even if others don’t think you can win. One example is Fred Smith who was running out of money for FedEx and then went to Vegas to gamble his way to get more money for his enterprise. This is indeed a daring example of someone who refused to give up.
Have a financial plan for your life - Money is very important and I have heard people say money isn’t everything. Of course it isn’t but that shouldn’t stop us from making a plan that works for us. We have positive examples like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates who have made a lot of money but are contributing back to the world making it a better place. Money is totally important and as long as we make good money through serving other people there is no need to worry about making money.
Develop your own happiness project as only you know what makes you happy -My happiness project consists of the following seven elements. It is accepting yourself just the way you are, defining your purpose, prioritizing personal activities like reading, setting my goals, engaging in enhancing relationships, creating a positive environment and staying grateful always. Decide what activities make you happy and schedule those activities into your calendar.
Forget the past - We have to learn to live in the present moment as that is the only moment we have. If you look to the past for mistakes then it is surely not worth it. As they say if you want to take the island you need to burn the boats. You have to completely let go of the past to move forward in a positive direction. Looking to the past success is also a good use of time. You can always decide from this moment forward to live in a totally different way if you want to. I think Kevin Hart said "The only reason to look into the past is to see how far you have come." You can learn from the past but don't lean on it.
Look to the future with hope - The best way to predict the future is to create it. Of course we cannot predict the future but we can make some long term plans which can excite us in the present. If you have a great vision for your life you will feel happier and more energetic. Paint a wonderful future by pushing broad brush strokes against each area of your life and the different roles you play.
Parenting is an exciting adventure - You can try to be good role model for your kids. It is one of the most satisfying roles of our lives and of course we will face those moments where we lose it completely. This is part and parcel of life. I am yet to meet someone who is the perfect parent. All we can do is to show them possibilities and help them follow their dreams. We can tap into their talent and guide them in the right direction.
Love what you do - If we are going to work for 40 years then we need to find ways to love it. Otherwise it can be a painful existence. Find out what are all the wonderful benefits you have with your job. Write it down and look at it daily. This surely helps us stay grounded and we don’t need to complain about what we do for a living. As Scott Galloway says "Follow your talent and not your passion."
Practice creative abandonment- Peter Drucker said “If we were not in this business already would we still do what we are doing knowing what we now know?” This was the same process Jack Welch used to stay only in businesses where GE is either number 1 or number 2 in a specific market. You can use the same strategy for your personal life. In other words evaluate where you are in life and get out of anything that you feel is wrong for you now. I read about this in the Daily Drucker which is a collection of all his wonderful insights.
Praise in public and criticize only in private -This is must as a leader and manager. No one likes to be criticized in public so make sure you never put anyone down in front of others.
Always look for the good in others - This is a key to optimism. You need to become a good finder. Everyone has something good in them so identify that and focus on those attributes. Train your mind to appreciate everyone around you. One thing which Marshall Goldsmith mentioned stuck with me. He said "Everyone does something which is in their best interest to do so and not to specifically hurt us." All of us should remember this. Everyone generally is not targeting us so we are never the target. Once we understand that we can feel better about ourselves.
Forgive yourself and others — In order to get the most out of ourselves we need to truly forgive ourselves completely for anything silly we have done. We need to wipe the slate clean. We should do the same by forgiving others as well.
Emulate leaders who have inspired you — Read biographies of leaders like Gandhi, Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. You can find out what made them tick and see if you can adopt some of their attitudes.
Leadership is about dreaming big, inspiring others and leading by example — Leadership has been endlessly dissected but the truth is leadership is a skill just like any other skill. For me leadership is about three things. The key quality of a leader is their ability to dream big. They also have the ability to inspire others. Finally leaders have to set the example for everyone to follow.
Develop your methods for relaxation — It has been well established that when you are completely relaxed you produce your best work. Take some time to really disconnect. All creatives love solitude because that is when the best ideas are born. When your mind and body are totally relaxed you produce your best work. Take time to relax every day if possible even if it is only for 10 minutes. The method of relaxation is different for every person.
Align your best work to your prime time - Some of us are larks and some of us are owls. So depending on when you are at your best whether it is early morning or later in the day schedule your most important task of the day to that time of the day. This will ensure you produce your best work.
Move throughout the day - Most of us have work that requires sitting for long periods of time. So we have to make sure every 90 min we take a short break for 5 min. The best thing is to do some form of walking so that we move around rather than sitting all day.
Find and Amplify Intersections- This is from the latest primer on leadership CEO Excellence. The top leaders identify the areas where the market realities and business intersect. You can apply this to your personal life as well by identifying what you do well, what the market needs, what you are passionate about and what gives you an economic return. This is mentioned by Hubert Joly in the Heart of Business.
Co-elevation- Being a team player is what will get you far in your job in the 21st century. It is the key to your next level of success. This term is from the book, Leading without Authority, by Keith Ferrazzi, a world-renowned networking authority, and Noel Weyrich. Co-elevation refers to the guiding ethos of “going higher together.” So you can reach higher levels achieving more by involving everyone in the team towards a common vision.
Gratitude -This is the final piece on the puzzle of success. It is important to be grateful for what we have in the present moment to move forward. Once we are grateful with what we have we can then move to bigger things. It also promotes our peace of mind and we will come from a place of abundance. I am writing 43 things to be grateful for and as we near the number it gets tougher to add to the list.
There you have it the 45 keys to attain personal success. I believe all of us have some areas where we are doing great and few others we can improve. Most of these keys we already know but this just serves as a reminder on what is possible. Thanks for reading this post.
The views expressed here are my own and do not represent my organization.