I was out on a walk in the desert arroyo when I found myself throwing stones at a target 60 yards away. No matter how hard I tried, or how many times I switched my stance, I couldn’t get the (goddamn!!!) stones to hit. But then I looked at the target again, and I asked myself, “Are you really looking at the target?” And I realized that I had been taking my eyes off the target for a fraction of a second as I was releasing the stone. Barely even noticeable.
So I tried the target again with three smooth stones. And I committed my mind and my eyes to the target from address to release. I was that target. And when I slung the first stone, I felt the target the whole arc of my swing. And unlike the 30 stones prior, this one rattled into the drainage ditch halfway up the dried up creek bed. And the next one hit as well. And the next. And it was all because I focused my whole being on that target from start to finish.
What a difference a little focus can make.
Now I’m reflecting on my life and my journey. And I’m realizing that every single failure was a result of broken focus. I took my eye off the target, even if only for a day or a week, and that was enough to derail me from the results I wanted. I wasn’t fully in charge of my mind.
And now I’m reflecting on my success as a writer and a coach. I’m realizing just how focused I am. I wake up and visualize my success, and pray for the resources I need to hit my target. Then I work towards my goals. And then I meditate on my career in the middle of the day, visualizing some more. Then I work some more. Then before bed I reflect on what I did to reach my goals, and what I could have done better. I am 100% focused. All day. And when I throw myself into a day, just like the rocks this morning, I’m hurling all of that effort precisely at my target, because that’s where my eyes are. That’s where I am. I am nowhere else.
So where are you? Are you 100% focused on your target, or are you not? What’s distracting you?
Figure that out. Then throw all of yourself into what you really want to do. Don’t even blink.
“I want your ugly, I want your disease.”
You’d smack someone if they said that to you. But when Lady Gaga sings it, we might hum along, or even cheer. And after we unload our ugliness, and after it diseases our relationships…do we really have to wonder why we’re miserable?
You become what you listen to.
Is that idea so radical? If you’re the average of your 5 closest friends, is it insane to think that you might be a product of your top-five tunes, too? Would you even want to look at the list?
You should probably look at that list. Because you can’t fix a problem that you aren’t aware of. At least, that was my case.
My current top five are either solo piano or harp compositions from the romantic period. I’m surrounded by heavenly harmonies most of the day, which inspires my best work. But if we skipped back five years, the list would be littered with broken hearts, bad romance, and mental junk.
You wouldn’t believe the difference five years (and five songs) has made.
I used to spend my days sniffing for new girlfriends, and my nights snoozing on mom’s couch. I had the talents and brains to do what I wanted. But I was too busy acting out my favorite songs to do anything useful.
Input equals output, right? Like good food makes you healthy, and inspiring friends lift you up, good music will positively shape your mind. I figured that out after I lived the inverse. Being depressed and completely dependent at age 24, I couldn’t keep shrugging my shoulders when it came to my non-existent success. There had to be a concrete culprit.
I found it in the airwaves.
The epiphany struck me as I cruised along the highway, listening to my old favorites, like No Doubt. The song was “Bathwater”. Catchy as hell. And the brass section, juxtaposed to Gwyn Stefani’s sultry voice…simply eargasmic. But when I focused on the lyrics, I was suddenly repulsed.
“But I still love to wash in your old bathwater, love to think that you couldn’t love another, I can’t help it…you’re my kind of man.”
Ol’ Gwynnie elaborates on how insecure she is, how powerless she is, and how she can’t help but to feed her insecurity through more of the same relationship. I couldn’t stand another second of it, so I deleted it. And I deleted the next song. And the next. And I enjoyed the Beethoven. And I deleted the next.
I spent the next two weeks on a musical rampage, analyzing every song I had. And if a song narrated helplessness, heartbrokenness, not-enoughness, or any other –ness that didn’t align with the life I wanted, I axed it. Pretty soon I was left with a sparse list of folk songs from the Fleet foxes and the odd classical tune.
I pared a list of 5,000 songs down to no more than 300. And that was the beginning of my new life.
Didn’t matter how good a song sounded or how long I’d loved it. If it influenced my subconscious negatively, I wouldn’t abide it. That didn’t leave me with many contemporary options. So I downloaded album after album of classical compositions, from Beethoven to Bach, to Ravel, and Liszt, and Wagner, and Chopin. Considering that classical music boosts your IQ, test scores, and creativity, I replaced the junk that made me average with brain food.
In the time it took to change my top five songs—about a year, based off of iTunes “most played”—I had rewritten my life script. The lovelorn loser who lived with mama morphed into a career-driven writer and independent man. That’s me.
I get paid to do what I love because I believed I could—because I radically altered my influences, musical and otherwise. More importantly, I’m contributing to the community in my hometown of Albuquerque. It took a couple years to complete the transition. But I changed my course the day I said no to No Doubt, and every other day I consciously selected good music, movies, books and friends.
It was a drastic decision, letting go of all the junk. And it wasn’t without sacrifice. But choosing the right music opened my window to success.
Now I have a question for you:
If your success depended on letting go of some of your favorite music, would you? I challenge you to examine your music library with a success filter. If a song doesn’t describe the life you want to live, if speaks of the wrong kind of relationships, and the wrong kind of life, let it go. You’ll be glad you did.
Do you have any good contemporary music suggestions? Comment below.
Originally posted on Entrepreneur.com
Success of any kind takes time, consistent effort, failure and resilience. Take the late Louis L’Amour, for example. He’s regarded as America’s greatest storyteller, with over 60 published novels — most of them bestsellers.
In his autobiography, Education of a Wandering Man, L’Amour shares his failures like a badge of honor. It was a big badge, too. A picture of his submissions log reveals countless rejections. Had L’Amour identified with his failures, he would’ve quit long before greatness. Instead, he viewed failure as a step to success. And he kept stepping.
“I knew there was going to be failure, I just didn’t know how much,” L’Amour said.
If you’ve dealt with some colossal failures in your business, you’re on the right path. Keep going. But if you want to convert those failures to success, you need more resilience.
How I grew resilience
For my first 24 years, I had about as much resilience as a kale chip. I refused to try anything I wasn’t automatically good at, and I rarely, if ever, put myself on the line. I was so brittle that if I failed, that meant I was a failure. Because of my fear of failure, I was completely dependent on my parents, which only fed the fear.
But in my mid-twenties, I realized that I could only be happy if I provided for myself. So I confronted my demons. I saw just how brittle I had become, and I planned to become more resilient.
In studying experts like Brené Brown and Josh Waitzkin, I learned that resilience comes through celebrating effort, not results. That concept conflicted with my perfectionist attitude. I wasn’t used to coaching myself, and the idea of positive thinking seemed laughable, considering my lack of success.
But what choice did I have? I couldn’t surf couches forever. So I began my own three-step resilience routine.
1. Affirmations and encouragement
Each morning I looked at myself in the mirror and said out loud all the good things I saw or wanted to be. (I know, this conjures up images of Chris Farley’s motivational speaker character from SNL. But funny as it may be, it worked for me.)
I listed all the things I knew I’d accomplish. I congratulated myself on the effort I gave the day before, regardless of the outcome. And I gave myself permission to fail.
2. I started a daily planner
I wrote down all the goals I wanted to achieve in a week and gave myself daily directives to reach them. When I checked off an accomplishment, no matter how small, I would flood myself with encouragement for the effort, for the consistency and for the persistence I showed.
Instead of depending on results for motivation, I relied on my own encouragement and the checklist of accomplishments that told me I was succeeding. I chose to depend on the things I could control.
3. I adopted a nightly journal
I used a journal to reflect on and dissect my daily effort. I praised the energy that I put into succeeding, noting the important thoughts and actions that pulled me through. I reflected on how my attitude affected my efforts and what I could do to change my attitude.
I also wrote about where I didn’t give my best effort. But instead of focusing on the negative, I appreciated myself just the same, told myself how much better I would do the next day and made specific plans to do so. Every directive I came up with through journaling was fed back into my daily planner so that I could improve the next day.
Resilience gave me independence
My resilience routine obliterated the brittle mindset that had held me back. I took a leaf from L’Amour and started my own rejection list. Each “thanks, but you suck” letter I received meant that I was one step closer to results. So, like L’Amour, I kept stepping. (Unlike L’Amour, I am still waiting on my 60th bestseller.)
Related: 5 Daily Habits to Optimize Your 2017
The more I praised my effort, the more courage I had to step into the arena and face failure. And I failed with style. I got rejection after rejection from all the big websites, including this one. Query letters to new clients went unanswered or rejected. There were even people who got offended at my attempts to succeed. But, unlike my brittle former self, I kept going. I celebrated the failure. Every time I chose to applaud my effort rather than dwell on mistakes, I became more resilient.
Within one year of adopting a resilience practice, I went from a couch-surfing boy adrift to an independent man, a writer — published on the world’s best sites — and a contributor to my local business community.
My resilience practice gave me an inner strength that helped me succeed not only as an entrepreneur, but as an athlete, friend, brother, uncle, role model and son too.
Are you where you want to be professionally? Are you able to take risks? If not, start your resilience routine today.
Come up with the affirmations that you need. Encourage yourself from dawn to dusk. Plan out your day, celebrating your efforts as you achieve. And reflect on your day each night with a journal, assessing what you did right and where you can do better.
Encourage yourself. Take risks. Accept failure. And embrace success.
Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, and the lifestyle doesn’t magically disappear to accommodate the holidays. You’ve got a business to run and a brand to expand.
But at the same time, you’re human. You need to spend quality time with friends and family, to let loose, to relax. That doesn’t mean you have to halt your hustle though. If you can balance a work day with play — like you should — you can balance a holiday with a little work that will keep your spark alive so that, by the end of the celebrations, you won’t have to kill yourself to regain momentum.
Here’s a winning strategy to keep your hustle alive over the holidays:
1. Set boundaries
A funny thing happens when you gather with the family. You have a tendency of blending in; of going with the flow. That’s sort of the point of holiday gatherings, but your business isn’t part of the family flow. So you’ve got to set boundaries.
Block off “you time” from 8:00 a.m to 10:00, or whichever morning hours you prefer. Use this time for your standard success routines, like exercise, journaling, meditation, etc. Just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean you have to break your standards. If you keep up with your standards, you’ll have more energy and cheer to share with family and friends.
After self care, use your last hour for creative pursuits. Work on your blog;-draft a pitch; brainstorm new markets, and new spins for your product and services: exercise your higher functions.
Most entrepreneurs have a little evil genius in them, so consider this your lab time. Politely ask your family not to intrude.
2. Assign yourself reading goals
Holidays recharge our spiritual and emotional batteries (…ideally). But if you get out of the habit of learning and applying, learning and applying, the holiday season can drain your entrepreneurial creatitivity. We don’t want that. So keep your idea factory humming with a challenging book — the kind you have to take notes on. I recommend “How to Pitch Anything,” by Oren Klaff. But any book by an expert in your field will do. Designate the hour before bed as reading time.
Also, block out 15 minutes or so for entrepreneurial articles. This boosts your creativity with fresh ideas, keeps you in touch with your motivation, and helps you stay goal oriented. As the holidays wind down you’ll have just as much focus as you did before the festivities.
3. Set up an elite coaching session
If you have the tendency to backslide during the holidays, give yourself an early Christmas gift. Hire a coach. Choose someone who has reached the next couple levels in your field and pay them to work with you on a reasonable plan; one that enables you to enjoy the time with family and friends while keeping your forward momentum.
If coaching isn’t in your budget, set realistic goals that you can achieve in your two hours of “me time” while with family. The main idea is to stay goal-oriented as you enjoy the season with loved ones. If your daily planner normally has 20 objectives, pare it down to 3-5 of your top priorities. Handle the little things you’ve put on the back burner.
About the author:
Dan Dowling is the founder of MillennialSuccess.io, where he shares action steps and inspiration for millennials and their employers. You can find more of his work on Fast Company, Entrepreneur.com, MindBodyGreen, and Fitbit.com.
Article originally appeared on entrepreneur.com
Do you know the difference between a billionaire and a burger flipper? It’s not as much as you think. And it’s the same difference between happy and miserable people:
Your success depends on how well you control your influences. But most people don’t think about their influences because they don’t know how easily influenced they are. Take this experiment, for instance.
The coordinators placed 2 types of people at a pedestrian crosswalk. One wore a business suit and the other had casual clothing. When the normal guy walked through a red light, no one jaywalked. But when the man in business attire walked on red, several people followed suit, unconsciously obeying his “authority”.
Our senses take in billions of pieces of information each day, and each bit influences your decisions. Input=output.That’s why you need to master the influences you can.
How I took control of my influences
If you haven’t thought much about your influences, it’s not too late. I didn’t think about them till I turned 23—until my life collapsed.
My third long-term relationship had just fallen apart and I was back at my mom’s place. Again. But this time I couldn’t go back sniffing around for another girlfriend; I was mentally and emotionally wrecked.
Why was I stuck on my mom’s couch, broke, and hating my life?
The questions were too big to ignore like I did before, and I knew another girlfriend wasn’t going to make it better. So, for the first time in my life, I considered my influences.
• Moglie, the skater-punk turned national guardsmen, was content with his shitty apartment life as long as he had booze and a new chick every week.
• Devon, my best friend since 16, knocked up a drug-addict and worked a job he hated to pay child support for the little girl he never saw. He was also an alcoholic.
• Jared, former pro athlete, had all the money and none of the happiness. He had a new girlfriend every week even though he was married. And beer was his water.
One honest look at my friends made it pathetically clear how toxic they were. But friends weren’t my only influences.
I was a junkie. I spent hours listening to music every day, but what was I actually listening to? I’d never thought about it before…I just listened to what made me feel good.
Then I started breaking down the lyrics.
But I still love to wash in your old bath water,
love to think that you couldn’t love another,
I can’t help it—you’re my kind of man.
That’s one of Gwyn Stephanie’s gems from her band No Doubt.
90% of my songs talked about bad romance, or being broke, or longing for the one that got away. Suddenly my relationship history and lack of success weren’t surprising. Input=output.
Same went for movies and TV. All the things I loved were subconsciously priming me for failure. So I went on an information detox.
If it wasn’t positive, if it didn’t help me grow, I was no longer interested in it. People too. Didn’t matter how long I knew them: if they weren’t striving for success in all areas of life, I could no longer accept their company. It wasn’t anything personal, though. I just had a life to live.
And it was tough. Letting go of all the people and things that had given me comfort over the years…it was like losing an identity. But, that was the whole point. I had identified as a loser for my whole life and it was time for me to move on. Shifting my influences helped me get in gear.
I cleaned up my music library, opting for classical music and instrumentals over achy-braky lyrics. I redefined “friend” as someone who helped me grow. Then I let go of all my acquaintances who couldn’t fill my needs as a friend. I also cut off my exposure to negative news and instead focused on making my own news.
After I cut out all the crap, I finally had the time for positive influences. So I read inspiring books, listened to uplifting podcasts, and inhaled useful articles on personal development and entrepreneurship. I made sure that every bit of information I took in was adding to my culture of success.
That’s when I took charge of my life. And within one year of my influence overhaul, my life was unrecognizable. I went from a broken-hearted pup to a professional. I traded out depression for inspiration. And I swapped my failure identity for success.
But even though I’m fortunate, luck had nothing to do with it. I set my intentions, controlled my influences, and I committed to habits that would make me successful. It wasn’t easy, but anyone with free will (read: everyone) can do it.
Take thirty minutes to reflect on your top 5 positive and negative influences. How do these people or things shape your life? Who are they, what are they, and how do they affect you? What will you accept, and what will you reject?
Find the answers to those questions and you’ll find your success.
I love not doing what I want. … Allow me to explain:
Sometimes I want to check Facebook even when I just left the site three seconds ago. If I exercise my executive function and say no, I feel powerful. Almost like I’m making a good decision.
But it’s not like I’m making a good decision…I am. Because there are only so many minutes in a day. And if I want to live an extraordinary life, I have to fill most of my minutes with extraordinary things. Facebook…twitter…instagrizzle…those are all conspicuously absent from my extraordinary list.
Every time I get the urge to break my focus and check email, I check myself. Then I ask if it’s really necessary. 99% of the time, it’s really not. Then I feel a surge of maturity flowing through my frontal lobe and I channel it into the million and one tiny things I have to do to live the life I want and to be the man I want to be.
Since I give myself a list of goals to attack every morning, I’m never short of these things. If I can’t find something better to do than FaceBeak (do you like the Facebook twitter portmanteau?) then I have a serious personal problem.
But the pleasure of not doing what I want isn’t limited to twitter visits that never were…
There are times I want to call my friends and family crazy names. They frustrate me. But just as that “ass-goblin” is about to slide off my tongue, I catch myself. And I think,
These people have been here for me in my lowest moments. They’re the reason for 99% of the joy in my life, and I’m going to flip out on them?
Then I think of all my fuckups, and I bite my tongue. Instead of burning a bridge, I renew my appreciation for them while reminding myself that I’m the very last person to cast the first stone. Oh, and I feel super, super mature—almost like I’m growing up. Except I am growing up.
Are you beginning to see the benefits? They don’t stop there though…
I need exercise to feel somewhat sane. But sometimes I don’t wanna. More than that, I want to intertwine my strands of DNA with the fibers of my couch. (Wait..that could get weird with all the dog hair…)
I’ll indulge the thought of hiring a trained silverback to make all of my movements for me. Then I get off my Lebanese butt and do what makes me happy—even if it’s not exactly what I want to do. And as I’m grunting, and crunching, and panting, and sweating, I feel pride. Wait, that could just be my burning thighs. No, it’s definitely pride. And when I look in the mirror at the body I work hard for, I thank myself for not doing what I want.
I love not doing what I want because it allows me to do what I need. And those are the things that made me a success when everybody had written me off. Today I make a living through my passion. And it’s what I need.
If you did less of what you wanted and more of what you needed, where could you be in a year?
“Damn,” I thought, after another humiliating tournament loss. “You’re better than 90% of the players here, yet you’re finishing on the bottom rung every time. What’s going on?”
I’ve played competitive beach volleyball for 5 years, and have consistently placed in the top 3 of each tournament. I’ve advanced every year—I jump higher, pass better, spike harder. But no matter my improvements, I couldn’t seem to master the King of the Beach tournament style (KOB), where players rotate partners after each game. I rarely placed better than 16th out of a pool of 20, yet I could spring higher, block better, and out-hit most of the competition.
After consoling myself with “I’m better than them,” so many times, I realized I wasn’t better. There was some skill missing that I didn’t have or wasn’t using. And at my last tournament—where I placed first in my division—I discovered the missing ingredient:
In regular doubles, players practice with each other dozens of times before partnering up. You have to establish chemistry. But there’s no such luxury in KOB—you either make on-the-spot corrections and motivate your partner, or you flunk out of the pool. Like I did for my first 5 tournaments.
My reaction to unskilled partners was, “What’s wrong with him? Why is he sucking?” But in last week’s tournament, I took a different perspective: “I know he can do better. How can I bring out his highest level?”
I adopted a leadership perspective. And I won.
Here are the top 3 leadership lessons I learned from my first successful KOB tournament:
1-False positivity is worse than a negative
I routinely placed in the bottom twenty at my KOB tournaments because of false positivity. My partner would shank a pass and I’d just beam, tell him he’d do better next time, and clap him on the back. But better never came.
I focused so much on staying positive that I forgot about my own game. Then I’d shank passes and miss easy kills. I’d cuss under my breath and slink from the court after another loss. But boy did I have a big smile!
Then I learned that good leaders need to be pro-negative.
If you recognize a habit that’s killing your team’s performance, not even Tom Cruise’s smile can bring your production back on line—the problem needs to be addressed and remedied.
In my first place KOB finish this weekend, I learned how to make a criticism sandwich, as Tim Ferriss calls it. When my partners weren’t passing correctly, I’d follow this process:
A-I thanked them sincerely and praised their efforts. “That last dig was ridiculous—such a good dig. I love playing with you.”
B-Then I’d call out the problem and provide the solution: “But we’re bleeding points right now, and it’s because of our passing. So get your platform out early and pass it low like you know how. Get it right to my hands.”
C-Then I’d finish with another positive in the form of a compliment: “You’re playing lights out, so let’s have fun and put the next one straight down. You’ve got this.”
With that simple sandwich recipe, I improved the most out of every player in the tournament, finishing number 1 in my pool. All I had to do was ditch my anti negative attitude and address the problems with good humor.
2-Leaders consistently practice what they preach
Though good leaders do more than set examples, leadership is impossible without practicing what you preach.
I flopped in my KOB tournaments because I wasn’t congruent. I dropped to my partner’s level of play. If he didn’t want to pass, I’d condescend my level of play.
I didn’t feel confident enough to address the problem. So I just slid to the backseat and watched another loss unfold. I didn’t practice leading from the front.
But when I grew the confidence to critique my partners, I knew I had to execute at my highest level or I’d look like a fraud. I made sure to set 2 feet off the night and 16 feet high before I demanded a better set. I squared up my platform and showed the kind of pass I needed before I asked for it. And, when the score card came in, I ended up on top.
It’s amazing what people will do for you when you show them how to do it.
3-Say thank you more often
Most of us bash ourselves when we fail, and we forget to applaud ourselves when we get it right. But we all need positive reinforcement for a job well done if we expect continued results. Good leaders remind us of that need by constantly encouraging good behavior.
In my successful KOB, I said thank you after each play, and I didn’t care if it sounded repetitive, because my thanks came from the heart. “What a beautiful pass. Just where I needed it. Keep it up.” Or, “That was 3 spikes in a row! You’re doing awesome man, thanks.”
My gratitude boosted the confidence of my partners so that they performed at their peak. And when the score for the final round was tallied, I won each game by an average of 10 points or more. I figured out that a little thank you goes a long ways.
After my first KOB win, I wondered why I never led before. It was pretty easy, really. All I had to do was confront issues head on, play as hard as I wanted my partners to, and thank them consistently for doing good work. I guess it just took a little courage to step up and be more than I had been.
You’re halfway through appetizers at your favorite restaurant when something catches your eye. It’s a baby, no more than three, and he’s navigating an iPad with more proficiency than most adults–and totally ignoring his family. You have to laugh. And though you’re impressed, there’s something not quite right about it…it makes you feel sad.
The sadness comes from your projection of the iBaby’s future.
He’ll spend 90% of his waking hours reacting to social media notifications, emails, and text alerts. His wife won’t know what a romantic dinner is. Colleagues will feel privileged for 5 seconds of uninterrupted eye contact. And the saddest part? His kids will be even worse.
But the iBaby’s story isn’t so different from the millennial generation. Where do we turn to when we’re stressed? When we’re bored? When we’re anxious? When we’re uncertain? Most of us instinctively reach for our pockets and fiddle with a smartphone—almost like Gollum with his “precious”. We don’t really have moments to reflect because we’re constantly responding to some external prompt.
Though the Internet has given us incredible jobs and learning opportunities, most of us suffer more than we benefit. But it’s not the technology itself—it’s our refusal to reflect.
Without reflection, you have no direction
When all our attention is directed outward (TV, phone, computer, etc.), we never know what’s going on inside. And that inner knowledge is the key to finding what makes you happy, what makes you depressed, what makes you excited, and what makes you fulfilled. Reflection gives you the power to control your life.
But without it, you have no direction. You can be the best at your job, make all the money in the world, have the nicest things, and you still won’t feel successful. Or, you could become so distracted that you forget to get off your parent’s couch.
That was my story.
Before 24, I was a slave to technology. My first morning movement wasn’t a stretch—it was an iPhone reach. Instead of reflecting on my dreams or the day before, I reacted to the little red flags on Facebook. Then I escaped in the latest news. The end of the world was always just around the corner.
My days were wasted on things that made me feel important…but I never actually did anything important. 6 years into adulthood, I was no closer to a purpose or career than my 6-year-old self.
Then I realized I’d live with my mom forever if I didn’t change. That thought didn’t bother me when I was younger because the future was always farther off. But now I was almost a quarter century old; my friends had houses and families; my little brother was already the manager of a government agency. The future was now, and I needed to prepare.
How I got into reflection.
Reflection was the thing I always avoided. It was scary because I didn’t know myself, and I was terrified of what I might find. I responded to the fear by diving into porn, social media, videogames, news, girlfriends—anything that could distract me from me.
But the distractions hadn’t gotten me anywhere. I was smart enough to know I couldn’t keep doing the same things and expect different results, so I tried reflection.
After enough research I decided that journaling would be my main tool. If I could describe all of my day in detail, then I could see what was and wasn’t working over time—thoughts, habits, routines, etc. By narrating my life, I knew I could change the narrative.
I spent 15-30 minutes reflecting on my day every night before bed. I wrote down my thoughts from morning to night. I looked into how those thoughts shaped my actions, and how my actions affected my feelings, and how my feelings determined my day.
Far from the nightmare I had expected, journaling was calming. It put me at ease and made me feel peaceful, empowered, confident.
Journaling was my first success ritual.
Thirty days straight gave me insight into my biggest problems. When I realized that my lack of success was simply a bad habit, and not a character trait, my confidence skyrocketed. After three months, I found my first bit of professional success: I got my first full-time writing gig.
Journaling didn’t magically help me land good jobs. But through reflection, I discovered all the thoughts and habits that held me back. One session of reflection didn’t accomplish much. But after just 90 days in a row, the results were astonishing.
I finally had a career. I finally had work I could be proud of. I finally had my own life.
Reflection put a microscope to the little details that were dragging me down. But it also helped me zoom out to see the bigger pieces of success.
I realized that my best friend of 10 years was poison. Despite how much I enjoyed his company, Chad hadn’t helped me become a better person. And it was always the same story with him: same dead-end job, same drinks and cigarettes, same relationship problems.
After half a year of journaling, I knew I had to cut Chad off. My time in reflection helped me figure out that he wasn’t helping me grow. The decision wasn’t easy. But it was the best choice I’ve ever made.
Then the impossible happened.
After I let go of the dozens of bad habits, and the couple of people that held me back, I started getting freelance clients for a buck a word. I got published on huge websites like MindBodyGreen and Entrepreneur Magazine. I moved out on my own and experienced the struggle of manhood for the first time.
With all my new experience, I was able to create even more value for my audience. Reflection started a positive feedback loop that continues to take me higher and higher.
I’m not immune to distraction. But whenever I have a bad day, I can always pinpoint the extra time spent on Facebook, or the mindless email checks that kept me from doing the important things. Nightly journaling is a safety net that prevents my mistakes from becoming habits.
I just wish I had started reflecting 10 years earlier.
How you can use reflection to take charge of your life
No matter where you are today, no matter what you’ve done, you can take charge of your life with reflection.
First, eliminate distractions. Cut out Facebook, email, toxic people, bad relationships, puttering around, negative thinking, texting, and surfing the Internet—anything that keeps you from knowing you better.
Then start a nighty habit of reflection. I recommend journaling because it helps you to stay on task, whereas with meditation, you can kind of float off into the abyss. Not knocking meditation, but I’d save that until after a few months of journaling.
Write about your entire day, no matter how boring or uninspiring it may be. You have to start somewhere. Journaling is less about what you write down and more about what you learn.
Once you see the toxic thoughts and habits on the page, you’ll be able to change them. Then you can cut out even more distractions and low-value habits, and replace them with even more things that make you happy and rich.
Continue the practice every night; do it for a month. Then, when you’ve reached your next level of success, you’ll commit to journaling every night for the rest of your life. At least, that’s how it happened with me.
Reflection was the key that got me off my parent’s couch and into the career I love. It will work for you.
What’s your picture of success? I’m not talking about your parents’ idea, or society’s vision for the perfect citizen (shudder). I’m talking about your dream—that insane goal that nobody would believe until you actually did it.
Think about it.
That dream is only a set number of best efforts from being real. And just like Rome was built brick by brick, your good life is a day-by-day project. What’s keeping you from putting up your best brick today?
For most people, the answer is simple: they just don’t know what to do. That was my case.
My decade of drifting
From 15 to 25 I was clueless about the habits I needed to get off my mom’s couch and do something with my life. But, rather than search for the answers, I opted for the easy path. I settled for video games and cigarettes and dead-end relationships and drugs—anything that could distract me from living to my potential.
But when I took my 25th spin around the sun, things changed. My hair started falling out. I was mauled by depression and anxiety. My organs went on strike. It was as if my body and mind teamed together, bought an acme megaphone, and screamed:
“Do better, or you’ll pay!”
I couldn’t experience the pain I was going through any more. And I couldn’t keep doing business as usual…I was falling apart. I even thought about suicide.
But desperation forced me into some good habits.
I started reading the self-help books I had written off for losers. Through Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, Brendon Burchard and a dozen others, I discovered the secrets to giving my best effort. I studied success every day, and applied what I read to my own life.
It didn’t matter that I still lived with Mom. Brick by brick, day by day, I transformed my life.
I took one habit from Zig, another from Tony, and bits and pieces from successful entrepreneurs around the world. I made a pastiche of daily directives that I could succeed with: like cutting out distractions (social media, email, news), practicing affirmations, journaling; things like that.
With the right habits, my success was inevitable.
I snagged my first writing job within a month. Six months passed and I was full time, saving up to make the final launch from my parents. A year flies by and I’m still airborne, writing for the best companies in the world.
And now? I make more money in an hour than I used to in 2 weeks of waiting tables. I have free time to pursue the things I love and spend time with the people I adore. I don’t have to worry about paying rent anymore, so I get to focus all my energy on improving. I’m getting richer, happier, and more successful every single day.
The best part? I get to share my success with you. That’s why I started MillennialSuccess. I couldn’t be greedy with the value I had when I could help millions of people unleash their potential.
What’s keeping you from your best effort?
Now, back to my first question: what’s keeping you from your best effort today? If it has been a lack of know-how, that excuse ends now.
I’m going to teach you how to take control of your life in 12 short pages—a thirty-minute read. Subscribe to MillennialSuccess.io and receive our exclusive e-book ‘9 Directives to Change Your Life in 90 Days’.
I’ve condensed the most useful directives from the world’s leading success experts into one powerful little book.
If you read it today, and if you apply the directives to your own life today, you will be successful today. Not a week from now. Not a month from now, or even a year. To-day. And when you turn these directives into daily habits…you can’t even imagine how good your life will be, or quickly it will come.
Through my e-book, you’ll learn how to apply your best effort to your dream life. You’ll discover how to be disciplined enough to stick with even your loftiest goals. And I guarantee—you’ll be who and where you want to be in one year.
But there’s one small catch.
Part of the unwritten conditions for your subscription is to pay it forward. When you’ve passed a certain level of happiness and wealth, you gotta share what works.
So download your free e-book today. Become the person you always knew you could be. Commit to the directives for 90 days, then get back to us at millennialsuccess.io and share your testimonial.
Your success is our purpose. Cheers!
“Look at that douche,” I thought. “What a phony smile… Why do people want him? How has he accomplished anything? It’s ME they need. I’M the one who should be successful, not him. What a joke.”
This was my inner dialogue when I heard about other people’s success. I seethed with jealousy and couldn’t stand to hear about people doing better than me.
But all the hating got me nowhere. So I thought about who I was really mad at. It wasn’t the successful people…
When I got more serious about succeeding, I realized I had to accept myself where I was.
I practiced self-acceptance with a journal, through affirmations, and by encouraging myself—especially when I failed. Then something weird happened: I started feeling happy for other people’s success. Without a hint of irony, I congratulated people on their hard work, and I applauded their success with my best wishes. It felt good. I felt more successful doing it.
My writing career caught fire at the same time. I was published on sites that I’d only dreamt of, and whose authors I had cussed for doing things that the egotistical me still hadn’t.
Congratulating others started a positive feedback loop. The more I accepted myself, the more I celebrated other people’s success. And the more I celebrated their success, the more success I achieved.
Now that I look back, I could’ve hacked my growth curve by celebrating others’ success as a daily ritual. Here are seven reasons why you should start applauding successful entrepreneurs today:
1-It conditions you for your own success
Feeling good for someone else’s success helps you generate the same feelings you need for your own accomplishments. So put yourself in the other’s shoes. Revel in their accomplishments; think of all the hard work that went into it. Celebrate their success and know that soon you’ll experience the same thing for yourself. Apply the good feelings to your visions for a brighter future.
2-You’ll transcend yourself
Everyone knows that to actually succeed, you need to be part of something bigger. But most people are kept from that bigger something by wanting all the focus for themselves—it’s an ego issue.
Through celebrating others, you’ll practice the selflessness it takes to let go of your tiny shell and leap into the ocean of success that comes through serving others. Cheer your fellow entrepreneurs. Feel their success. Let go of your want for recognition and accept that you’ll get it when you help enough other people.
3-It generates abundance
When people think food is scarce, they don’t want to share. When people think success is scarce, they’ll sooner eat themselves up with envy than dish out some praise. But that issue of scarcity can be fixed in an instant.
Create your own abundance by praising your successful compadres. Be excited for their achievements. Even if it hurts, celebrate and appreciate the success of your peers. Then do it again. And again. Do it until you realize that there is and always has been enough success to go around.
Don’t worry if you’re not in the same room, or even the same network; just feel gratitude for their accomplishments. Be excited for them. Practice those feelings for other people enough and you’ll step into your vision of success without having realized it—as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
4-It kills the ego
Egotism is the root of all business failures. Some people blow their heads up so big that they experience a temporary bubble of success, but the bubble always pops. If you want the real deal, you need to destroy the ego. Kill it with kindness.
You can fast-track ego-annihilation by focusing on the good done by others. When you feel a twinge of neediness, or jealousy, or desolation, just zoom out of “poor-me mode” and force your focus onto something useful—like other people’s accomplishment. Feel good about and for them. Then transfer those feelings to your own visions of success, to the accomplishments you know you’ll reach.
5-You’ll extend your network
People like people who make them feel good; that’s how networks are grown. You can expand your own by spending time each day feeling good for other people and sharing your praise for their work. It’s as simple as this—
“Hey, I’m super excited for your success—it must feel great. Thanks for motivating me to strive for more, and to be bigger.” Follow their articles. Join the conversation, and add value whenever you can. This makes people feel good about your presence, which will lead to more connections, more invites, and more opportunities to do cool shit with the people who are making things happen.
6-It helps you accept yourself
I learned how to praise others by an intense self-acceptance practice. But it works both way—kind of like smiling can make you feel happy. If you make a ritual of praising others, it’s only a matter of time before you’re accepting and praising yourself, and doing it enough to take your success to the next level.
This list could go on and on, but is there a single reason to withhold your enthusiasm for other’s achievements? I haven’t found one, so I’ll conclude with this:
Make the celebration of other people’s achievements a daily ritual. Your success and happiness depend on it.