I am often heard saying, “Never ask a successful person how to achieve success.” In my experience, they often reply with an extreme fitting one of two molds. The first, I call the “no choice but up.” In this extreme, they were homeless and utterly destitute, but through hard work and perseverance they made it. The other extreme I call “the miracle.” In this explanation, they were working waiting on their big break. They got lucky or blessed, and it has been working ever since. The message in both extremes is “Work hard, and it will work out.”
Of course you knew you would have to work. But, working hard is not nearly a important as being consistent. Being lucky is not as important as working smart. Getting your name out there, getting your foot in the door, and speaking life into the universe are not as instructive as some seem to think they are as success advice.
I offer three habits that are more instructive. You can begin consistent implementation of these today. One, accept yourself. Two, respect your ideas. Three, give the majority of your time to people and activities that feed you.
I have said it before. You are who you are. You are not bad or good. It is your goals that are noble or selfish. Your choices are sustainable or unsustainable. So, the question becomes, “How do I make noble goals?” The answer is found in what you want. Accepting yourself is accepting that your desires are valid. You must explore them honestly is you are to ever succeed.
Review your desire. If it makes you happy, if it doesn’t hurt anyone, and if it maintains community versus isolation long term it is noble. Accept your desire as a habit of accepting yourself.
Respect Your Ideas
The greatest failure of the genius, the superhero, and the otherwise exceptional is to desire normalcy above impact. In my practice and my teaching I have encountered a number of truly exceptional thinkers who have been convinced that they have learning deficits, disorders, and attitude problems. Often, they are conflicted focused on what is “bad” or socially acceptable. Their superpower has not been nurtured. In fact, they see their power as a problem that needs to be fixed.
Once you have accepted yourself, it is time to respect your ideas. Especially respect your feelings and intuitions. They are never “bad” even when they question the status quo or when they challenge others.
Measure your ideas by their merit. If you can articulate the ideas well enough to model them for others to see, if you can identify a reliable mechanism, and if you can identify a context for observation the idea deserves a hearing. Note it in your journal. Develop it systematically. The world may not get it right away. The more transformative the idea, the more likely it is that others will not readily receive it.
Give Time Sustainably
Give majority of time to those who feed you with support, with challenge promoting thought, with spiritual nourishment that leaves you energized. Be intentional and schedule tasks that you love and want to give time to. Limit your time both mentally and physically with people and tasks that drain your energy and leave you tired. No matter who it is, respect your time and health enough to manage the positive energy balance around you.
I know many who make excuses for family members, especially parents and sometimes siblings. These relatives can be hard to limit because you feel an obligation to suffer with them. Yet, you MUST respect your time above any obligation. If any person or situation is a constant drain on your energy, it must be limited for your health. Continuous withdrawals from your psychic stores without deposits will leave you bankrupt. Refuse the guilt based in obligation. Communicate sustainable boundaries that ensure that you are sufficiently energized to support even some draining relationships.
Smarter not harder begins with the three habits described here. You are your greatest tool for world change. Your uniqueness is your greatest strength. Your time is your most valuable resource. Accept them, respect them, sustain them and live without regrets. And that’s the problem with asking a successful person about how to succeed. Success is not a destination to be recounted through a road map. Success is a lifestyle of habits forging YOUR path, embellishing your impact on the world.
[ Michael A. Wright, PhD, LAPSW is a leadership coach and organization consultant based in Nashville, Tennessee. With over 16 years of experience guiding individuals to their goals, Michael has the techniques and patience to help you succeed. Follow @MAWMedia on Twitter or connect for a consultation at MAWMedia.com ]