So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed). -Dr. Seuss, “Oh the Places You’ll Go”
We all want to succeed at what we do, whether in school, at work, or in our relationships. But sometimes, we get so caught up in wanting to succeed or fearing we won’t do so that reaching the moment of achievement seems impossible. Are successful people just luckier? Did they get a head start in life? Maybe, but more likely they simply step carefully, as Dr. Seuss advises, and learn from the lessons life offers. Here are 10 life lessons successful people always keep in mind.
1. Slow and steady wins the race
According to author Travis Bradberry, we can easily think we’re winning at life when we’re busy, but busy doesn’t necessarily mean productive. In fact, the more balls we try to juggle, the more we wind up dropping. Remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? The hare assumed, incorrectly, that the key to getting ahead was to be quick like a bunny, but the tortoise—and the hare’s own cockiness—caught up with him in the end, and he lost. Slow down, take your time, and remember that a job worth doing is done well, not quickly.
2. Conquer your fears
FDR probably said it best: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” All too often, the fear of failure rather than any lack of ability keeps us from succeeding. We worry about what others will think of us or how they’ll judge us if we don’t get a promotion or go to graduate school. Remember when you were learning to ride a bike? No matter how many times you fell and scraped your knees, you got back on. This rule applies to almost everything we do.
3. Learn from your mistakes
Let’s extend the bike-riding metaphor a bit here; not only did you get back on your bike because you conquered your fear, but also because you had to figure out what you did wrong in order to correct it. Maybe you turned too quickly or tilted too far to the right when trying to balance. Without the persistence of trial and error, you’d never have gotten it right.
Mistakes aren’t failures. They’re opportunities to learn. When you make a mistake, pause, reflect on what you did, and try things differently each time until you finally succeed.
4. Always exude confidence
You’ve probably heard it said that it’s better to strike the wrong note confidently than to strike the right one without confidence. I learned this from the twelve years I spent studying music. As a pianist, my greatest fear was striking that jarring note that would ruin the entire piece and send my audience fleeing the recital hall wishing for Beethoven’s deafness. As a result, when I practiced in front of my teacher, my family, or my friends, I’d always press more softly on the keys when I got to the point in the piece I felt least confident about, and this always made it sound worse—like I was playing dead air, which I basically was. I had to remind myself (or be reminded by others, more often) that playing well didn’t mean playing perfectly. If I played with feeling and with confidence, no one would notice one out-of-place sharp amidst the flats. When you make even your mistakes confidently, you show others that you don’t measure your entire self-worth by one single mistake.
5. Learn from others
Some of the most successful people get to the top not by climbing over others, but by cooperating with them. Part of cooperation involves listening to and learning from others; this includes admitting when you’re wrong or when you don’t know the answer to a question.
Formal authority doesn’t magically grant you superior mental acuity.
While I’m flattered when my students assume I know everything about the subject I teach because I’m standing at the front of the room, occasionally I won’t know the answer to a question. When this happens, I usually promise to find the answer before next class, and when I do, the result is mutually beneficial. I’ve learned something while teaching my students, and they respect me more for acknowledging that we never truly finish our education; there’s always something more to learn.
6. Surround yourself with positive people
According to Travis Bradberry, “anyone who makes you feel worthless, anxious, or uninspired is wasting your time and, quite possibly, making you more like them.” Surround yourself with people who energize you, who make you smile, and who support you in all of your endeavors. We feed off of the emotions of others, so if you want to absorb positive energy, spend your time in an environment that exudes it.
7. Stop comparing yourself to others
Each of us has a unique set of talents and abilities. Some of us are writers, some are teachers, some can fix cars, and others can take a computer apart and reassemble it in ten minutes. If you find yourself saying things like “She’s married; he got a promotion; they have four kids and a summer home in the south of Italy,” stop and realize that these are the benchmarks of their success, not yours. Focus on the things you have and what you can do, and then cultivate your own talents.
8. Be a trail-blazer
In his oft-quoted poem The Road not Taken, Robert Frost writes, “Two roads diverged in a wood and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Succeeding in life often means blazing a trail for others, boldly going where no man has gone before, as the mission of the Starship Enterprise reminds us. It can be scary to be the first to try something; think of how Neil Armstrong must have felt when he first stepped onto the surface of the moon. But without that one small step, we’d never have made the leaps and bounds we have made in space exploration.
9. Take time for yourself
Since successful people know that being busy doesn’t always equal productivity, they recognize the importance of taking time to recharge their batteries. When you overwork yourself, you perform poorly because your mind is less sharp, so you’re more likely to make mistakes and wind up taking twice as long to complete whatever task you need to accomplish.
10. Do what you love
There’s nothing more fulfilling than taking pride in a job well-done, especially when it’s a job you love. While money is a basic necessity without which we can’t pay bills and sustain ourselves, money, as the Beatles remind us, can’t buy love or happiness. In order to truly succeed in life, you need passion: passion in your work, passion in your relationships, passion in your hobbies. You won’t ever become the next Julia Child if you hate cooking because you won’t put your whole heart into it, so find something you love to do, and do it!
How do you succeed in life? Have any other tips? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Featured photo credit: High Five via pixabay.com