I got an email asking me to give my one key to my personal success. I answered the email because I ALWAYS answer emails (what’s the point of the internet if I can’t communicate with people) but I immediately had two reservations.
The first one is that I don’t consider myself at the destination of success yet. I am moving strongly in the right direction but I don’t think my life is a greater success than anyone else that decides to go after what they want.
My second reservation was that it’s impossible to list just one! My answer is part of a collection of many so the end result will look closer to what I imagine such a list would look like. This inspired me to write my own list. These are the things that have attributed to the progress in my life. These are my personal keys to success.
- Never neglect your appearance. While you can’t control height or facial symmetry, you can control your body weight and the type of clothes you wear. This will give you more opportunities in life in every possible way. You’ll be more likely to get hired or get a date, you’ll have more energy and greater confidence, and people will trust you faster. There is no disadvantage to taking advantage of the Halo Effect.
Training in a physical discipline keeps your body optimal.
- Get used to suffering. There is no way around pain, discomfort and suffering. To have a happy life sometimes you’re going to have to do things that make you unhappy. People forget this and try to reduce their suffering by doing as little as possible. The irony is that by trying to avoid suffering, you end up suffering more.
College is a great example of this idea. You get 4 years to study something and all majors cost roughly the same. If you study communications so you can have a fun time and avoid hard work and late nights, you’ll suffer more because you’ll have far fewer earning opportunities.
You’ve chosen the pain of poverty over the pain of work. If you decide you want to sleep in instead of hit the gym, you choose the pain of poor health over pain being a little tired. You’re going to experience pain no matter what. Make sure it’s in the pursuit of something great instead of avoidance of something necessary.
- Delayed gratification will get you everything you want. Delayed gratification is closely related to the ability to endure suffering. Most people fail because they simply can’t imagine something called “the future” showing up. Instead, they do whatever feels good (or makes sense) for the immediate moment.
By delaying gratification, you force yourself to look into the future and plan for things that could go wrong. This is how a person has success: they plan for what can go wrong, execute, and remain in a position to improve rather than recover. If you constantly give into what you want at the moment, you will never be able to look more than one move ahead in your life.
- Pick the right relationship for you. When you are in the pursuit of a serious goal, realize that every other part of your life has to become as efficient as possible. This means selecting the right relationship for you. I have a wonderful relationship because while I’m good at it, I simply do not enjoy playing the field.
Some people can deal with the time and emotional investment of dating lots of people. Some people hate everyone and want to be left alone. In the end, find the relationship that is right for you so that you don’t worry about dealing with your emotional and physical needs.
5. Get a mentor. There are some people who legitimately believe that can be successful with no help by blazing their own trail. This is flawed because it ignores mortality. Human beings have a very small amount of usable time on this planet. You’re going to die—probably sooner than you think and most likely when you least expect it.
You need to people to show you the fastest way to get things done so you don’t spend your whole life reinventing the wheel to get to a “new’ place only to find there’s nothing there. Failures are necessary except when they aren’t; most of the unnecessary failures come from not relying on what was discovered before you.
- Develop tough skin. You aren’t unsuccessful because you are doing something wrong. That is obvious. What perhaps is not obvious is that you can correct your deficiencies. You are not fixed the way you were born. To correct the flaws in your abilities and personality, you need to be able to listen to people that give you criticism without becoming reactive.
The best way to develop this ability is to ask someone to tell you all the things wrong with you. It doesn’t need to be a friend. It doesn’t have to be someone you like or trust. All that matters is that they are willing to tell you all the shit wrong with you. It doesn’t even matter if it’s objectively right or wrong.
What DOES matter is how you are able to take it. The only response is silence and then to think on it to find out where in your life you’ve displayed such behavior. Only once you’ve learned to take criticism without being reactive can you learn from it. To ultimate goal is self-awareness of behavior or tendencies that run counter to your success.
- Develop a skill. It doesn’t matter what the skill is as long as it meets the following criteria: people must be willing to pay money for it because it solves a problem or fills a need. For example, you can learn sales, writing, auto repair, bike repair, painting, plumbing, programming, etc.
Learning how to perfect your jump shot, get your chess rating up or play piano definitely are skills, but unless you’re at a world class level then you probably aren’t going to make money. Making money is the important part because the right skills give you the ability to work anywhere and barter. This removes a significant amount of stress from your life and allows you to do a lot of other things necessary for success.
- Become single minded. A large hurdle for me to overcome in my 20’s was multitasking. I’d always have three of four projects in the works, thinking that working on many things at once was better than working only on one. However, multitasking is the most comfortable lie we tell ourselves. You can only work on one thing at a time. Each time you switch tasks you lose time and momentum in the act of switching. You interrupt the state of flow you were in the process of achieving.
Therefore, the little bit of work you manage to get done is of low quantity AND quality. If you must do multiple projects, you must chunk them in 1-2 hour blocks of time and remove access to all distractions. Your cellphone, internet and changing music are the three big ones you have to deal with. There’s no point in managing them—just get rid of them during the time you work on a project.
- Love yourself. You have to seriously love who you are because you are going spend a lot of time alone. This is another thing that held me back until a series of events forced me to learn to be alone.
I coped at first by drinking nearly a box of Franzia a day, but eventually I learned the error of my ways. I am an extrovert so I naturally want to be around people and socialize. Unfortunately, extroversion runs counter to getting things. People are the most important thing and being around them is good, but every moment spent socializing is a moment lost building value.
Become comfortable building a life that doesn’t always need people. This is why so much of the self-improvement community is big into weight lifting and writing. You don’t need other people to do those things. It’s why there’s such an emphasis on the quality of the people you spend time around versus the quantity.
Your time with people becomes scarce but more valuable so you have to increase the value of the people you spend time around. Don’t worry if you don’t love yourself much right now; with each tiny accomplishment this love grows until it overwhelms. The final step assists greatly with this.
- Gratitude. Gratitude is important because it’s a sustainable mindset. Revenge, anger and fear are powerful but they consume the host as well. Wanting more for your life is all well and necessary, but you must not hate what you are now.
No matter how deplorable or lazy parts of your personality are, there are other parts that are enjoyable and will contribute to your greatness—if you learn to harness and develop them. This means developing a love for your life and yourself. It means being grateful.
I used to harbor a lot of anger about the opportunities I missed growing up because I was poor. I spent a lot of time angry at my mom in my late teens/early twenties, but this did nothing for me. It didn’t make me better or her better. It didn’t undo the past. It also made me forget the good things that she instilled in me and that I learned from my environment. Things that I use every day to make my life better.
Buried within the terribleness you’ve experienced is a lesson. If you can extract it, then your bad fortune becomes a great advantage. Learn to be grateful for everything that’s happened to you, everything around you, and everything that you are—eventually you will be anything you want to because you’ll love every part of the journey to get there.
The rest is up to you.