The Shockingly Obvious Success Directive That Nobody Talks About

As much as I like a feel-good success story, I’m in it for the actions steps that are proven to change lives. Daily directives are what helped me win my independence. They’re also how I forged a full-time writing career.

You hear thousands of them throughout life: get good grades: go to college: limit your email: do what you love. But the most powerful one is also the simplest.

Do your best

I started writing three years ago. I grew my career by planning out my days, by committing to success routines, and by writing every day. But after year one I still lived with my parents. I didn’t understand where I was going wrong.

Then one night I randomly asked myself in the mirror, “Did you do your best today?” I didn’t. In fact, I knew exactly where I let myself down. But instead of sulking about, I just promised myself to do my best the next day.


The next evening I made another appointment with the man in the mirror and asked the same question. “Did you do your best?” This time I answered yes. And it forever changed my life.

The question made success simple for me. I needed to do my best to succeed, like everyone. And if I wasn’t performing, there really wasn’t a reason for it other than my lack of focus. So I began writing that one directive into my daily planner: Do your best. I put a fat square around it. I’d visualize checking it off that night. I’d remind myself about it 20 times a day. And I did my best.

Why wouldn’t I? As long as I had the question on my mind, I could count on myself to make the right decisions.

A month went by and I’d gotten a contract worth ten-fold more than my last gig. I asked myself the same question every night—“Did I do my best?” I answered affirmatively half of the time. The other half I’d figure where I came up short, and how I could make my weaknesses a strength the next day.

Three months go by: I’m published on I’m batting 90% on my nightly question—did I do my best? Because I’m focusing with such intensity, I’m finding ways around all the obstacles that had kept me from results. When I need more money, I don’t just sit around and wait; I pitch my ass off and earn a new client, or 5.

I realized that part of my best effort was to never become complacent as a writer. So I scheduled 1-2 hours daily for studying my craft. I’m also figured out that doing my best required a ton of energy and focus—which I didn’t have unless I took good care of myself. So I got serious about fitness goals, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, taking enough breaks, drinking enough water, and penciling enough fun into my week.

Doing my best has become my mantra and lifestyle. And the more I focus on it, the better I get.

A year has passed since my life-changing directive. Now doing my best isn’t even a question (though I still ask, just to be safe). Sometimes I wake up feeling like roadkill, but I figure out a way to change my energy and do the things I must. When you’re doing your best, there isn’t any other way.

In the span of two years I’ve gone from nickels per word to dollars per word. I’ve moved out of my parents’ and accepted the challenges of being an independent man. I’m accomplishing greater things every single week. And I’m able to do it all because I’m doing my best–and I know it.

Here are 5 steps to make sure you’re doing your best:

1-Plan it out

If you don’t already plan out your day, begin now. Start with “Do your best”—make that objective #1. Focus on what your best effort involves, then write those goals down.

2-Encourage yourself

You won’t get anywhere without support, so be your biggest support. Refuse negative self-talk (like “I can’t do it, it’s too hard, I’m not good enough) and demand constant encouragement. You won’t succeed at everything you try; you’ll get knocked down. So you get in the habit of picking yourself up all of the time if you hope to reach your goals.

3-Surround yourself with go-getters

Just as we shape our environments, we are shaped by our friends. People are the greatest influencers of your environment. So—if you want to do your best—pick the right people.

As Jim Rohn says, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” Make sure those people push themselves to do their best.

4-Dissect your day

From start to finish, your day is a continual performance. Dissect it. See exactly what you did, how it either detracted from or improved your life. Examine the thoughts that lead to your actions, and the factors that shaped your effort.

“That which can be measured can be changed.” Peter Drucker

The more you know about the inner workings of your life, the more power you have to change. So reflect on your day with a journal for 10-20 minutes each night. Then use the information you’ve gathered to plan your best effort tomorrow.

5-Go to bed knowing you’ve done your best

This is the one focus that changed it all for me. When you know you’ve done your best, there’s no better feeling. You can sleep easy; you can relax. You feel confident in succeeding, because success is only a set number of best efforts away.

When you haven’t done your best and you know it, it doesn’t feel too good. But you can use that feeling to motivate your best efforts the next day—“I will not settle for less than I’m capable of. I will not feel like this again.” The next morning you’ll wake up with unmatched intensity to perform at your highest level. You will do your best.

Commit to these steps for a month. If you follow them daily, you’ll find how much easier it is to commit to everything you set your mind to. If you need more, download our free ebook– 9 Ways to Change Your Life In 90 Days.

Written by Daniel Dowling
I went from being a highschool and college dropout to writing for the world's best publications in two short years. I owe ALL my success to habits like mindfulness and journaling. - So I built Millennial Success to share those incredible habits with you!