The 10 most instrumental lessons in shaping my life and success

by Ivan Mazour

SuccessI’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.


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Liam Patterson September 21, 2013 - 1:40 pm

Great Article thanks for sharing. I would argue that point 9 “Create pull” isn’t a lesson but an outcome from creating a positive feedback loop by internalising the other actions/mind sets.

I am sure some people will read this post and say I am don’t have time each day to set aside hours learning, lunching and helping other people, let alone solving every problem three times and getting to bed early…

To combat this problem I would add we must master the art of effective delegation and be ruthless at delegating ANY tasks that occurs frequently. The is a myth that we are the only ones who can do a task, if this is the case its time to start hiring!

The second lesson I would add is spending more time planning and less doing. An Einstein quote that has had a profound impact on my life is:

“If I had 60 minutes to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I’d spend 55 minutes determining the right question to ask. Once I got the right question, I could easily answer it in 5 minutes.”

Ivan Mazour September 21, 2013 - 2:00 pm

Thanks for taking the time to leave such an insightful comment Liam! Love the Einstein quote.

You’re right, creating pull isn’t so much a lesson as an understanding of a potential outcome. It’s not entirely possible to just simply “create pull” – but by internalising the other mindsets, it’s an outcome that comes by itself.

You’ve made a very valid point about not having enough time. There is usually not enough time to keep incorporating new principles, and living by them day in day out. I try to keep a few at the forefront of my mind at any one time so that I can concentrate on embedding them into my daily subconscious routine. But without being able to delegate, we simply run out of time. My most upvoted answer on Quora is about the most unfair advantage a person can get – and in my opinion that’s not needing a lot of sleep. Delegation achieves the same – it leverages your output beyond your own capabilities. I have a blog post that I’ve been thinking about for a while and will write soon about being a highly leveraged individual – and you are definitely one of the brightest examples of that!

Richard Young September 23, 2013 - 8:40 am

Great article for a Monday morning. A little pep talk.

I still re-read a list I got of a friend back in 1994 related to mining.

I also asked Doug Scott his pick of this list of rules:

He picked out (above the obvious ones):


Ivan Mazour September 23, 2013 - 8:55 am

Thanks Richard – really interesting lists. I like the categorisation of the second one – makes it easy to focus in on the aspect that’s particularly relevant at the time. Usually the longer lists are hard to properly assimilate, but this one is great.

Manu Matute September 25, 2013 - 3:22 pm

Great post Ivan! I read your blog regularly and I have to say that you are becoming part of my own #4 as per your post: role model.

Keep writing!

Big hug,


Ivan Mazour September 25, 2013 - 3:42 pm

Thanks for reading Manu. Great to hear from you! Did you see that Seedhack is happening again? I think it’s time for the winning team to make a comeback 🙂

Manu Matute September 25, 2013 - 6:29 pm

Oh, I’ve just seen it! Might give it a good think…. would we awesome to win again ha ha. I live in Sheffield now! 🙂

Unsuitable Guy December 6, 2013 - 12:12 pm

Hi Ivan,

I just stumbled across your blog. Great ”listicle”, as a young disillusioned graduate who has been battling the scarce London job market for the past year, I can hardly call myself an entrepreneur. But I’ve resolved to focus on some of your points listed above, mostly step 10 ”find what drives you”, I’ve resolved to focus on that for now.

Many thanks,


Ivan Mazour December 6, 2013 - 12:16 pm

Thanks for reading U.G. and I hope that some of it’s been helpful. Point 10 is definitely a vital one. 16 hours a day, every day, is a lot easier if you’re loving every minute of it. It takes time, but we all find our passion in the end!

Rosalia July 15, 2015 - 2:37 am

No.4 sounds like a great point but does it indirectly mean that you have a hidden agenda to be like who ‘they’ are ? In other words, what I believe everybody has their own good points and what not – not just ‘those people’ whom I think are exceptionally gifted in a particular talent that I happen to admire.

What if you cannot find those people literally ? What if you are a trailblazer in your real world and inspire other people to do the same ? What I really think is it’s better to be ‘yourself’ (and equipped with a good set of principles), rather than to consciously remind yourself to be surround with ‘role models’.

Ivan Mazour July 15, 2015 - 5:55 am

There is no doubt that everyone has their good points. I guess some people have very specific good points that you admire, and feel like you want to learn from, and it’s a case of making sure that these are the people that you choose to spend time with. It’s not necessarily a particular talent either – it could be absolutely anything. And indeed, they are not exactly easy to find. It doesn’t contradict your very much correct approach to just be yourself and have a good set of principles, but if you are going to surround yourself with people, which we pretty much have to as we life our lives, then I guess I’m suggesting that there should be a conscious thought process about determining who to surround yourself by.

Rosalia July 15, 2015 - 7:44 am

I do get your point of view and understand how intelligent and humble people would love to learn new things from similarly intelligent and humble people, vice versa. Birds of a feather do flock together.

Maybe it’s because where I live is thoroughly different from your world (UK is vastly different from any place in South East Asia), or maybe I haven’t tried hard enough to find me some great ‘role models’ here. But I just figure that in a place like this, it’d hard for me to just pick and choose who to talk to or befriend with.

Nevertheless, I find your blog / thoughts quite fascinating. Thanks very much for sharing ! Cheers

Ivan Mazour July 15, 2015 - 9:31 am

Thanks for reading and for your kind words Rosalia!

Rosalia July 20, 2015 - 6:43 am

It’s quite strange but I have been thinking about No.4 (and No.9) these past few days. A lot. I want to find solution(s) to it because I truly / absolutely / 100% want to meet those same-minded and outrageously talented / brilliant people whom I can learn from. Location isn’t really much of an excuse, is it ? But the real questions remain: how do I create this opportunity ? How can I create a ‘pull’ so that I can attract them like a magnet where I am ‘nobody’ ?

I’d have to say that I finally manage to find one solution to it and interestingly enough, it somehow can be served as a business model. I’ll continue brainstorming by and with myself until I can find at least two other ways.

Keep blogging, Ivan and thanks for making me ‘think’ 🙂

vaishali December 12, 2015 - 9:25 am

This is your third article I am reading in a row. Amazing.. All your points are valid.. About point (7).. I would slightly like to differ. Anaylse what went well. you are right. But the most important part is to accept that there is a problem.. many a times we fail to accept that we have a problem indeed.
And push and pull analogy also is really good.. only till you get there.. I mean till the time you create that aura. till you become this successful person. you have to keep pushing. sometimes I feel you should have the knack of selling your talent.. to whomsoever.. maybe your employer.. else it goes unrecognized .

Your mother was a great inspiration for you. gain I found the “Never eat alone” thought very touching .Be Able and be humble .Always help the needy.. that shows your good upbringing. What a wonderful thought it is. Like Winston Churchill had said “You get a living by what you earn but you make a life by what you give.”

Ivan Mazour December 12, 2015 - 9:45 am

You’re right – we all push all the time, as the pull doesn’t materialise from nowhere. Even when you have it, you still need to keep pushing. But there are different ways to push, and I’ve learned that doing it in the wrong way doesn’t help, it just hinders. If someone is genuinely not interested, you will never force them to be interested by pushing – you can only work out what they’re actually interested in, and adapt. By turning your focus to understanding others, and having a fully malleable approach to life, it is possible to both achieve more and feel happier doing it. Thanks for reading!


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