Success in life doesn’t just “happen”.
You make choices and you perform certain actions, which in turn, give you various outcomes based on those choices and actions.
You choose to eat healthier. You choose to go to the gym. You choose to stay faithful to your partner. You choose happiness. You choose success – and YOU choose failure.
It’s all YOU baby.
I don’t really believe in destiny, or in any sort of secret force that makes some people successful if they “discover it within them”.
That sort of stuff may sell books and fill auditoriums for seminars, but life is all about action and choice.
Action and choice are two critical components in your “secret” success formula.
YOU are responsible for your success and YOU are responsible for your failures. You choose where you want to go in life, and YOU choose what you want to get out of life.
Allow me to make a simple math analogy to put things into perspective: You need to become the constant – and factors like circumstances, genetics, social conditioning, and influencers should be the variables. When you become the constant in the equation you don’t let the external environment affect you, you’re happy regardless. Haters don’t bother you; you’re going to keep doing your thing regardless. Setbacks and heartbreaks don’t break you; you simply overcome and find a way to make shit happen.
You refuse to use words like “It’s too hard” or “I’m not smart enough” or “I can’t” or “If only” because you’re focused on figuring it out…focused on solving problems…focused on things that matter…focused on winning…and focused on kicking ass.
Here are seven habits that will help get you on the right track (this is my version of Dr Stephen R. Covey’s original 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). Bind them to your mind, let them soak into your soul, but always remember – this post is only designed to give you a small boost to your motivation and drive. It’s not a permanent solution. You need to continue reaching for motivation and absorbing positivity daily in order to become a highly effective asskicker permanently.
1. Overcome Adversity
One of the basic characteristics of a winner is that they never quit. They have a never say die attitude. They are harder to kill.
On the opposite end of the winner’s spectrum are losers. These are the people you usually hear whining and complaining about how life isn’t fair or how ‘person X did them wrong’ or how if they ‘coulda shoulda woulda’ done _________(fill in the blank), they would be rich, famous, successful, and happy. If you don’t believe me, or if you don’t know any of these people personally, just open a Twitter or Facebook account and read away. Yawn.
I recently read an article in Fast Company about “Overnight Success”. It talked about how nearly every success story is filled with countless setbacks, crushing defeats, and near-death experiences. It also touched upon the fact that attractive excuses always seem to be waiting for you when things get tough…just hoping you’ll take the easy way out…but that the most successful people forge ahead through the adversity while the “unsuccessful” people give up too early.
Here are a few historical examples of how battling through adversity can pay off in BIG WAYS:
1. WD-40: The world famous WD-40 lubricant was named WD-40 ONLY because the first 39 experiments failed. WD-40 literally stands for “Water Displacement–40th Attempt.” These days, there are well over 2,000 different ways to use WD-40.
2. Angry Birds: The game we all know and love, wasn’t an overnight hit. Software developer Rovio didn’t finally get it right until their 52nd attempt, which took nearly eight years. They almost went bankrupt in the process.
3. Soichiro Honda: This auto tycoon was rejected by Toyota after interviewing for an engineering job – and he started making scooters at home after being encouraged by friends to stick with it. The rest is history.
4. Harland David Sanders: Yes we all know Colonel Sanders from KFC as a restaurant legend. However, his super secret and now internationally famous chicken recipe was rejected 1,009 times before it was finally accepted and put into restaurants.
5. Orville and Wilbur Wright: The Wright brothers battled family illness, depression, haters, and had a ton of failed prototypes before they finally created a plane that can fly. Now we have planes flying at Mach 20 speed, firing missiles, and dropping bombs.
6. Steven Spielberg: Movie guru Spielberg was rejected from the USC School of Theater Film and Television three times. He was finally accepted at a smaller school…but then dropped out, and well, you know the rest.
7. Stan Smith: One of my mentors back in the day, Stan was turned down when he applied to be a ball boy at a Davis Cup event because the organizers felt he was too uncoordinated, clumsy, and slow. He “clumsily” went on to win Wimbledon, The U. S. Open and eight Davis Cup titles.
8. Michael Jordan: Yep, the greatest basketball player of all time (and perhaps even the greatest athlete of all time) was actually cut from his high school basketball team.
Regardless of what you do, you’ll make mistakes, face rejection, and have to endure some failures along the way. Don’t run from mistakes, embrace them. Don’t be afraid of rejection, embrace it. Don’t fear failure, learn from it. Mistakes can be the portals to discovery. Rejection can be your motivation to try again harder and better next time. Failure is never the end of the road.
2. Put In Work
Nothing worth getting in life is ever easy, you’ve got to earn it – and usually you’ll have to earn it the hard way. You’ve got to pay the price. You’ve got to put in work.
Winning is all about sacrifice. You suffer now in order to reap the rewards later. You play hard, but practice harder. One of the great examples of this is the famous Michael Jordan quote “I’m not out there sweating for three hours every day just to find out what it feels like to sweat.”
3. Believe when no one else does
The late Vince Lombardi said it best “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately so is losing.”
There is a lot of hype and bs out there about winning, from the countless books and articles, to the seminars from ‘gurus’. They all make it sound so easy. But let’s face it, winning is hard. There are a ton more ‘losers’ out there than there are ‘winners’. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
Winning usually starts with belief…and although books, articles, and seminars are good starting points, they usually aren’t enough to get you over the hump. You’ve got to believe. And you can’t just believe a little bit…the belief has to be deep. And it can’t only deep…it has to be strong. Then it has to be consistent.
Think of a winning attitude like you would showering. You’ve got to do it every day or your results are going to stink.
You can’t just read a book once and hope for a miracle. You can’t just read a few articles online and forget everything you read. You can’t just go to a seminar and hope that you stay fired up. You’ve got to buy into it. You’ve go to live it, breathe it, and feel it. Bottom line, you’ve got to want it deeply and truly believe in it.
Let’s face it, positive thinking on its own is not going to directly put money in your bank account. But indirectly it can. You see, every goal all starts out as an idea, and for that idea to grow you must water it every day with belief.
Every goal starts with a dream, a vision, and a first step. It starts with a vivid imagination of the scenario you wish to happen in reality – this is where you envision in your mind what is not physically possible to be seen with your own eyes. For anyone who has experienced this first hand, you’ll know that it feels so real you can practically taste it.
Once you’ve sincerely bought into your dream, next you’ve got to make the commitment to yourself that you are going to continue to believe in your vision for what you want in life regardless of what your “haters” say or what the non-believers say.
Don’t let the critics and naysayers discourage you. Don’t empower them by being mentally unfaithful to your own dream. Visualize your goal, then put it down on paper, then believe in your dream so much that every day and every step you make is a step towards that goal.
4. Shift paradigms to reach the next level
A Paradigm shift (the original context), as described by Thomas Kuhn in his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), is a fundamental change in the basic assumptions, approach, or paradigms, within the ruling theory of science. It’s basically the theoretical explanation or model of the way things are.
Today, the term “paradigm shift” has adopted a new meaning as it has found uses in other contexts. I’ve come to believe it to be a radical change in personal beliefs, thought patterns, perception, reality, views, and/or theory, which, in turn, results in a corresponding change in behavior.
For example, if your paradigm is formed based on input from friends and family, you will probably only see yourself the way they see you. This can often be the opposite of the truth. It may be their truth, or their paradigm of you. Sometimes it takes a radical shift in paradigm, a radical change in belief or theory, or a sudden change in perception to get you on the right path toward success.
For example, if you are constantly told throughout your life that ‘your grandmother failed algebra, your mother failed algebra, and you too will probably also fail algebra’…you may walk into algebra class believing failing algebra is your destiny. However, if you are told the exact opposite throughout your childhood…your paradigm, or your perception of your algebra skills may be much different.
Kuhn used the duck/rabbit illusion to illustrate differences in perception:
My college coach used to often tell our team after losses, “You can’t see yourself, you can only feel yourself. You may feel like a loser right now but all of you guys in this locker room look like winners to me. Change your paradigm.”
Theory holds that all behavior is based upon understanding. Change that understanding and the behavior will change. Change your behavior and your outcomes will change. As I stated earlier in this post: “you make choices and you perform certain actions, which in turn, give you various outcomes based on those choices and actions”.
To quote the great Albert Einstein, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”
5. Have balance
In today’s fast paced, hyper-competitive lifestyle there is continual pressure to do more, to achieve more, and to work harder. Sometimes it even seems as if you aren’t busting your ass to the point of exhaustion that you just “aren’t working hard enough” or that “you’re a slacker”.
On a personal note, I often struggle closing my computer and unplugging from work. At least three or four nights per week I find myself up at 2 or 3am writing articles, doing research, or “working hard”. In fact, it’s 2:14am on the dot as I type this right now! So this is me coming clean and admitting that I am working on improving this habit just as much as the next person.
With that being said, I do think that restraint, moderation, and fullness of life are far more important than money and status. I’m not saying that money and status aren’t important, because they are.
However, there is a cost associated with money and status – and that cost is usually extra work. Extra work usually means extra stress and less time doing things you enjoy (I know this to be true personally). So I truly believe that finding balance between money, work, and time is where true happiness lies.
When you focus all of your energy on one aspect of your life, you can’t pay enough attention to other important areas of your life and you can find yourself out of balance. An out of balance life is not sustainable for long periods of time and your family, friends, effectiveness, and health can suffer as a result.
It is very important to be motivated and driven to success, but when you take it too far it only leads to increased stress, failed relationships, and bad health. On another personal note, I had to see the doctor last year for what he said was ‘stress induced chest pain’. Following his advice, I eliminated all of those ‘stressors’ and haven’t had any issues since.
Every day is a new opportunity to work on unplugging and taking time to appreciate life and find balance. This will allow you to recharge yourself and rest up for the next conquest. As mentioned earlier in this article, it’s your choice to make.
6. Invest in self
This is my version of Steven Covey’s ‘sharpen the saw’ theory, which basically means you preserve, enhance, and improve yourself because you are your own greatest asset.
Dr Covey explains that there are four areas of life that you must invest in to create growth and positive change. These are: Physical, Social/Emotional, Mental, and Spiritual.
Invest in your physical self: eat healthy, train consistently, and be sure to get enough sleep.
Invest in relationships: be sure to make time for friends, family, and have fun doing it.
Invest in your mind: take a night class, learn a new skill, read a book, teach someone what you have learned, etc.
Invest in your spiritual self: meditate, travel, go to your place of worship on more days than just holidays or days before the world is supposed to end.
As you continue to invest in yourself you’ll feel much more mentally refreshed and able to take on more of life’s challenges. This concept ties in well with habit #5 and will help you grow and create positive change in your life.
One of my favorite animals is the Japanese koi fish, or nishikigoi (also known as carp), not only because they look cool but because they’re little badasses.
The Japanese associate the fish with perseverance in adversity, strength, determination, courage, strength of purpose, and the ability to reach seemingly impossible goals.
According to Japanese legend, the koi bravely swims upstream and fights the falls – and if it is successful in its quest to climb the falls and reach the Dragon Gate on the Yellow River, it will be transformed into a dragon.
The legend holds that the koi bravely fights the falls, and if it happens to get caught by fishermen, it lies on the butchers cutting board without flinching, similar to the legendary samurai warriors when they would face death by beheading. Based on this legend, the koi fish is now a symbol of strength, courage, and aspiration.
The legend of the koi is pretty awesome, but I think that the hidden message is even more powerful. The koi always sets lofty goals – it’s small, yet it swims upstream to achieve its goal regardless of how difficult or seemingly impossible that goal may be. Popular opinion does not matter to the koi. Paralysis of analysis is not happening. The koi is the perfect example of shifting paradigms and constantly evolving, improving, and reaching the next level.
Always work on evolving and continuously improving, reinventing, and remaking yourself. Be like the koi – swim upstream, over a falls, against all odds, and become a ‘dragon’. Then why not one up yourself and turn into a fire breathing dragon? Never stop improving. Evolve. Win. Kick Ass.
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