I’m not usually into listicles. If done in the wrong way, you end up with a generic list of a few points which not only doesn’t provide any value to the reader, but even pushes them away. However – I have a number of lists that I always keep updated, and one of them is a list of top lessons that I feel have been instrumental in my life. These are lessons that come not from reading around, but straight from personal experience. I thought I’d share the current state of the list, together with some elaboration on the background for each point. Leave a comment – tell me if you do or don’t agree, or if you have any important lessons you want to share with the rest of us.
1. My mother used to say – “Every problem has at least three solutions. Keep looking until you find all of them.” That was her usual way of setting the bar an order of magnitude harder than normal people (see my post on the APM principle) and it taught me the fact that any problem was surmountable, that I should always keep looking for new options, and I should always set expectations way higher than is reasonable.
2. You should spend at least as long studying the concept of learning itself, as you do on any topic that you actually learn. I read some great books like The Art of Learning, and applied all of the principles when I went back to Cambridge. It showed me that you can genuinely learn anything, and quickly, as long as you are willing to have the dedication and apply yourself to the process in the right way. I’ve since seen others around me pick up that vibe, and learn some amazing skills in ridiculously short timeframes.
3. “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want” – Zig Ziglar. You can always trust an American motivational speaker to come up with something cheesy, but I have to say this is the one main principle I live my life by. The UK is a comfortable country to live in – most of us have the luxury of spare time outside of necessary work. If we spend that time helping people get what they want, it will always come back to us. I find it very difficult to connect with people who don’t share this attitude.
4. The people around you determine who you are. My life has had a lot of ups and downs.. In 30 years I’ve lived through enough for a lifetime. As I look back now, the fluctuations can so clearly be attributed to the people I was surrounding myself by. So choose role models, and see what they do. Then do the same. Go to those places, take up those activities, meet those kinds of people, and only ever surround yourself by people who you want to be like. Create your own environment and ecosystem – don’t just fall into whatever is there.
5. Never eat alone. That was my last blog post, so I won’t rehash the point in detail. In order to create that perfect ecosystem, you have to meet the right people. The day is for working, so the only time to do this is during meal times. Get into a routine of eating with 2 or 3 new people a day and watch your social circle flourish.
6. Jeff Bezos left a huge paycheck to start Amazon. His boss said – “that’s a great idea, but it’s for people who don’t already get paid a million a year”. And Bezos thought, how would I prefer to feel – that I’ve got a million a year but never tried this great venture, or that I’ve lost a million a year and failed having tried to build something amazing. Life is short, regrets are painful. Don’t get comfortable. Nike it out. Just do it.
7. Analyse what went well, not just what went wrong. It’s too easy to focus on problems, and sit there working out how they happened. This is useful, but only to a certain extent. It is even more valuable to stop and consider everything that has gone right – what factors led to that success and how to replicate them and make that success even greater. Set up a system to do this, a journal, and remember to focus on the wins.
8. “Think in the morning, act in the noon, read in the evening, and sleep at night.” William Blake. Smart guy. It’s 6am as I write this and – and this is me thinking. I love writing my blog, because it gives me an opportunity to truly think about a specific aspect of my life for a couple of hours. This time it’s about 10 aspects of my life – even better. And I always write in the mornings. The rest of the quote makes sense, too. You need to sleep at night to be able to think clearly in the mornings. You don’t miss out on anything by not staying up till midnight watching TV or sitting in a bar. There’s always another evening.
9. Create pull, don’t just keep pushing. Ever since I truly understood the meaning of this, life became easier. Consider a hypothetical decent successful person trying to pick up a girl. He walks up to her and is lucky to even be given some attention. He spends an hour trying to sell himself until she believes that he is a worthwhile partner, and then months wooing her. Then consider Ryan Gosling. Walks in. Done. Push vs. pull. The same applies in everything – in sales, in business and in life. Instead of trying to persuade people and change people’s minds, create pull. Create the look, create the attitude, create the reputation, create the history, create the experience. As people find out more about you, about your achievements, about your business, about how much you’ve helped people, you will find yourself in an environment where people, success, and whatever else you want, come straight to you.
10. Find what drives you, and then make that happen. Stop and think – is this really what I want to be doing. Am I doing this because it’s convenient, or because it is where my path has taken me? If I imagine a perfect world, is this what I would be doing? And if it isn’t, map out a way of getting there, and start taking steps right now. A couple of years ago I remember thinking that something was clearly wrong. I worked out a plan. It involved a lot of steps, big changes, huge discipline, and the support of everyone around me. Now I’m there. On a regular basis, I get this uncontrollable feeling go through me. It can only be described in one way – “this is what I was born to do.” It scares me that I could have gone through my whole life without experiencing it.