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7 Power Habits of Great Leaders and Business Icons

7 Power Habits of Great Leaders and Business Icons

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Aristotle

Our never-ending quest towards self-improvement is a long journey of small steps. Small habits we repeat day after day, week after week, year after year. Small habits that have turned us into who we are today can also determine who we will become in the future. Below are 7 Power Habits of some of the greatest human beings to ever live.

Power Habit 1: Monitor Your Beliefs 

Who did it? Mahatma Gandhi

Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi was the ideological and spiritual leader of the Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. Gandhi practiced Satyagraha, which can be described as resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience—a philosophy that is based on the abandoning of all forms of violence. Gandhi’s leadership helped India to gain its independence in 1947. He always believed in opposing tyranny with non-violence, and lead the Indian independence movement through his words and actions which were dictated by his beliefs.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”


Why you should do it!

Your beliefs will create your very own destiny. Every word, every action, every habit, and each one of your values has its roots in what you think and how you think. What do you believe in? What do you believe about yourself and your future? It is easy to forget about these simple questions in our everyday lives. It is very easy to be very inconsistent in what you think on an ordinary day compared to how you view your future self and your goals in life. Try to honestly reflect on how your daily actions are influenced by your beliefs and if your daily actions are aligned with your goals in life.

Power Habit 2: Sit and Think

Who does it? Warren Buffet

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Being emotionally steamed up is rarely a good premise for making sound decisions.

“What’s needed is a sound intellectual framework for making decisions and the ability to keep emotions from corroding that framework.”

So how does one of the greatest investors ever go about not letting emotions affect his ability to make wise and powerful moves?

“I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.”

Why you should do it!

Facing a tough decision can be overwhelming, even when your name is Warren Buffet. The pressure felt in these situations can quickly turn into fear, while the ability to focus on facts fades. Even the smartest executives make poor decisions and a lot of the time the inability to blend out emotions is to blame. At the end of the day, CEOs are human beings too. Whether you sit and think as Buffet does or do something else, it is important to establish a strict decision-making routine. It’s a set of rules that allows you to get rid of emotional attachments. Even when “Coke or Pepsi” is going to be your only decision for today, just sitting and thinking can be a nice alternative as opposed to constantly seeking attractions online or wasting your time in other ways. Now sit and think about that!

Power Habit 3: Establish a Daily Routine

Who did it? Sir Winston Churchill

Sir Winston Churchill is widely regarded as one of the greatest political leaders of the 20th century. He led the United Kingdom as their prime minister through the terrible times of the Second World War. Born into an aristocratic family and spending his early years of adulthood in the military, Churchill was accustomed to discipline. According to artofmanliness.com, he kept a strict daily schedule even after leaving the military at age 26.

“He was totally organized, almost like a clock. His routine was absolutely dictatorial. He set himself a ruthless timetable every day and would get very agitated, even cross, if it was broken.”

He got up at 8 am every morning and started his day with a hot bath,  speech practice, or singing. Sir Churchill spent the following hours in bed reading the newspaper, chewing on a cigar, and sipping scotch and soda. The rest of his day was organized by the clock as well, answering mails, working on speeches, enjoying lunch in good company. After a period of walking and reflecting, the statesman proceeded with an afternoon nap. The evening hours were spent playing cards with his family, taking another bath, and having dinner. Churchill’s second work shift of the day started at 11 pm and usually ended at 2 am, sometimes running as late as 4 am before he would call it a day.

Why you should do it!

Outside of the common grind of the 9-to-5, only a select few of us have managed to establish a successful daily routine. Those who do are usually the ones we consider the leading elite of our society. Self-organizing morning and evening routines will leave you more productive. You will simply get more stuff done in your life and be more successful in return. Just pick a handful of Power Habits, and start integrating them into your daily schedules.

Power Habit 4: Don’t Wait for Inspiration

Who did it? Pablo Picasso

Even if you don’t fancy art, you most likely have heard of Pablo Picasso or have seen some of his paintings. The Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer and poet is considered to be one of the most influential and greatest artists of the 20th century. Despite having such a creative mind, Picasso didn’t spend his time waiting for inspiration to hit him magically out of the blue. Rather, he started working, waiting to find inspiration in the process.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.”

Why you should do it!

At times, inspiring thoughts and impulses come out of the blue.  However, simply waiting for them and relying on inspiration to magically come to you won’t always work. You will spend most of your time waiting for inspiration and not working at all. Follow Picasso’s advice instead and simply start. Even if you don’t get past staring at a blank page for a while, eventually inspiration and creativity will catch up with you, and you will get into a high-quality flow of productivity.

Power Habit 5: Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

Who does it? Michael Jordan

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Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time. Period. He may even be the greatest athlete of all time. However, MJ is no stranger to failure. Early on in his career, he was even cut from his high school varsity team. But Jordan turned his frustration into motivation, making failure the reason for his later success:

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” For Jordan, failure is not the end of the road, the most important thing is to be not afraid of trying. “I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

Why you should do it!

Most people despise the word failure. Why? Everyone wants to be like Mike, so why not learn from his outlook on failure as well? Failing is not the end of the world. If you have high goals, do whatever it takes to get there. Your determination to succeed in life should push you past your fear of failure. Setbacks don’t mean that you have failed, they are just another lesson that you have learned along the way to the top. A lesson that will help you to adjust your future behavior, and keep you from making the same mistake twice. A real failure is when you lose sight of your dreams and decide not to even try.

Power Habit 6: Forgive

Who did it? Nelson Mandela

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

Spending nearly three decades in prison, Mandela would have had more than enough reason to be bitter and hateful. Instead, Madiba, as he was called by his people, became a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Leading his country through their struggle against apartheid and all forms of racism, Mandela is the icon and hero of the African liberation movement. After his long years in prison, he became South Africa’s first democratically elected president.

Why you should do it!

Forgiveness is the act of compassionately releasing the urge to punch someone right in the face. This might not be the textbook definition of forgiveness but we can all agree that forgiving is tough. It is incredibly hard and takes a tremendous amount of discipline. Here is one reason why you should do it nonetheless: at the end of the day, forgiveness is not something we only do for others, we should also do it for ourselves. We should do it to try and get out of our own jail cell of bitterness and hatred and leave the pain behind. Forgiveness is an attribute of a strong character.

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Power Habit 7: Simplify

Who did it? Bruce Lee

Born in the United States and raised in Hong Kong, Bruce Lee is perhaps the most popular martial artist in history. Lee has always been more than just an awesome fighter and actor. His philosophical approach to life has turned him into a source of inspiration for many. Bruce Lee was a known minimalist, keeping his focus on the most important tasks in life.

“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”

Why you should do it!

If you are looking to improve your life, it is very tempting to always add more. More exercises to your routine, more habits to your daily schedule, more superfoods to eat to optimize your diet.  You may discover that you don’t really have the necessary time and energy to actually do more.

Adding more and more to our lives can be enticing, but it can also be very overwhelming and lead to more stress. Sizing down on thoughts, activities, and clutter can be very liberating. It frees up time and energy to focus on the tasks that are actually most important to you. Overthinking things will also keep you from reaching your goals in the most efficient manner.

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”

Featured photo credit: Being Mehul via 3.bp.blogspot.com

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Chris Luke

Entrepreneur / Writer

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Last Updated on April 22, 2021

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

Motivation Is Not the Answer

How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

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Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

1. Define What a Win Looks Like

In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

4 Steps to Define a Win
  • Know the outcome you desire.
  • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
  • Write the outcome down.
  • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

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Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

2. Evaluate Your Activity

Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

  • Do now
  • Plan to do it later
  • Delegate to someone else
  • Delete it

Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

  • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
  • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
  • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
  • Does this activity have to be done at all?

Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

3. Prioritize Your Calendar

If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

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It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

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Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

    But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

    “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

    Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

    Use these questions to reflect on your day:

    • What went well?
    • What didn’t go well?
    • What can I change?
    • What do I need to start doing?
    • What do I need to stop doing?

    The Bottom Line

    Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

    Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

    “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

    Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

    That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

    More on Creating Healthy Routines

    Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

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