Advertising
Advertising

7 Habits of Top Performers and World-Class Learners

7 Habits of Top Performers and World-Class Learners

What is it that makes icons like Michael Jordan or Tony Robbins stand out from the world?

What is the difference between world-class performers and average people? It’s their habits.

Each top performer in their industry has lofty goals they want to achieve, but they focus on the process on how to get there.

From their productive morning habits of training each morning, their evening habits of picking up a valuable book to gain a competitive edge, it’s the little habits that have accumulated to make these individuals who they are.

“How you do anything is how you do everything.” -Derek Sivers

Here are 7 habits that top performers and world-class learners have to achieve more success and effectiveness.

1. Set Specific Goals

Have you ever had your eyes set on buying a specific car, let’s say a Red Volkswagen, and for the next week that’s all you saw being driven on the streets? Or maybe you recently decided to learn a new language (Spanish), and you could immediately recognize it the moment you heard it on the radio, movies, or on the streets?

It’s the same thing with goals.

Advertising

As Tony Robbins often states, “clarity is power.” If we know exactly where we’re going and what the outcome will be, our brains will figure out how to get there. And the more specific we can get, the higher chance you’ll have in getting what you want.

For example, an example of an unspecific goal would be: I want to learn a new language.

A specific goal would be: I want to learn how to speak Spanish, and hold up a 30-minute conversation with a native speaker in 90 days.

See the difference? The specific goal pinpoints exactly what you want, how you’ll measure success, and the timeline you’ll have to reach it.

2. Plan of action

A goal means nothing if we don’t have a plan of action to get there. It’s like having a final destination of where we want to go on the map, but not knowing where we are on the map nor how to navigate to our destination.

The good news is, we can start to build an action plan around the specific goal we have set.

If your goal is to have a 30-minute conversation with a native speaker in 90 days, then you first need to assess where you are.

In this example, let’s say you have zero knowledge. Your goal could be to memorize 30 of the most common words a day, and by 90 days you’ll have memorized 2,700 words, which will allow you to understand 60% of the spoken language.

Advertising

3. Schedule it

Time is the most valuable commodity we take for granted, yet we all have time constraints.

Not enough time to go to the gym. Not enough time to learn a language. The list goes on…

“What Doesn’t Get Scheduled, Doesn’t Get Done.”

Top performers can always get more done than the average person, because they have everything scheduled in their calendars.

Despite running a multi-billion dollar empire, Warren Buffett still manages to schedule time to read over 500+ pages everyday. This is anonymously the habits of successful people and top performers across all industries.

“I just sit in my office and read all day.” — Warren Buffett

Take this time to schedule your action task somewhere in your calendar. The more frequent you can schedule it, the better.
If you want to memorize 30 words a day, then you can schedule at time from 7pm-7:30pm after work each day to get it done.

Scheduling opens up time slots we never knew we had, and it allows us to get more done than we think we can.

Advertising

4. Have a coach

According to Coaches.com, coaches:

  • Create a safe environment in which you see yourself more clearly;
  • Identify gaps between where you are now and where you need or want to be
  • Ask for more intentional thought, action and behavior changes than you thought you could accomplish
  • Guide the building of the structure, accountability, and support necessary to ensure sustained commitment

This applies to every industry out there from: sports, dating, business, language learning, etc.

World-class learners not only have one coach, but they often have several. Top performers understand that even the little things can accumulate, and they’re looking for the slightest bit of advantage they can find. By bringing the best qualified experts and coaches to help them improve their jump shot for basketball, their marketing for business, or their accents for language learning, they can reach goals in life faster.

5. Embrace failure

Anyone who is playing at the top of their level had to crawl and sweat to get to where they are.

It’s often our failures that make up who we are, and it’s our failures teaching us the best lessons in life.

Lessons lead to not only faster progress, but a spark of innovation. Silicon Valley is an example.

Having built a culture that celebrates failure and even encourages it, budding entrepreneurs are not afraid to dream big and go all in on their projects, which is what made Silicon Valley one of the most innovative cities in the world.

What is something you’ve failed at recently that you should embrace?

Advertising

6. Know how to listen

When Michelle Obama is having a conversation with someone, it’s said that she’s talking only 20% of the time, while listening 80% of the time.

You would imagine that the First Lady of the United States would want to have more to say than that, but listening 80% of the time is how she has gotten to where she is.

Successful people know that there’s a lesson to be learned with every interaction and conversation. They’re sponges for new knowledge that they can apply in their lives, and understand that they’re not learning a thing while they’re speaking.

Focus on speaking 20% of the time, and you’ll be surprised by not only the knowledge you learn from the other person, but the connection they’ll feel with you after the conversation.

7. Know your best learning style

In Peter Drucker’s book Managing One Self, he states that the most important skill you can learn is self-awareness.

This means:

  • Understanding how you best learn: audio, visual, and kinesthetic
  • How you best work: alone, with others, as a subordinate, or as part of a team.
  • Your best learning environment: at home, classroom, lecture halls, small groups.

Being self-aware with your strengths and weaknesses can not only save you years of wasting time, but it can allow you to focus on improving your strengths even further to achieve your end goal.

More by this author

8 Life-Changing Skills You Can Learn in Less Than 6 Months 10 Websites To Learn Something New In 30 Minutes A Day 17 Free Websites That Will Improve the Quality of Your Life Today You Don’t Need Extremely High IQ to Be Successful, You Need Self-Control 5 Essential Activities That Will Make Your Brain Healthier

Trending in Leadership

1 10 Leadership Goals That Strong Leaders Set for Themselves 2 50 Inspiring Leadership Quotes from the Greatest Leaders of All Time 3 6 People Management Tactics to Lead a Diverse Team to Success 4 22 Team Building Activity for Work That Are Fun and Encourage Creativity 5 How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

Advertising

But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

Advertising

The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

Advertising

I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

Advertising

More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

Read Next