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Success recipes most people know, but too few follow

Success recipes most people know, but too few follow
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If you want to look back on a life that fills you with joy, conventional rules for success are not the place to start

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  1. Don’t chase money, power, or status.
    If they come to you, that’s fine. But most conventional ideas about success go wrong because they focus on outcomes instead of on the processes of living. Outcomes come around from time to time, but life itself—the process of living, acting, thinking, and being—happens all the time. No outcome is going to make a lousy, miserable process feel worthwhile.

    If you hate what you do, no amount of power or money will make up for that. If your life is constantly stressful, boring, unhappy, or frustrating, how can achieving some high status once in a while make up for all the miserable days and weeks you spent getting there? It’s tempting to feel that the end will more than make up for the means; that you’ll forget the misery in the blaze of achievement. And you will—for a few moments. Then you’ll be back on the treadmill, with only the distant hope of some fresh achievement or monetary gain to console you. That’s like being a laboratory rat conditioned to unnatural behavior by occasional pellets of food.

  2. Take whatever time you need to discover what matters to you most
    Success isn’t simply a matter of money, power, or prestige. You could gain all of those and still feel that you have fallen short of what you wanted; or you could gain none of them and be blissfully happy and fulfilled. What constitutes personal success is mostly in your mind. It has much less to do with finding the best career in other peoples’ eyes, creating a killer business, or holding down a fancy job with a big salary than with achieving what really matters to you. Many people find this out too late. They struggle for years to get where other people said they should go, only to find it does little or nothing for them. Sad;y, it’s often too late by then to do anything else.
  3. Don’t base your choices on others’ approval. We all want to please those we care about, so it’s natural to try to do what they approve. Natural, but rarely a good idea as the basis for life’s choices. I don’t say that you should deliberately ignore sound advice, or reject a career path simply because other people suggest it. But even the most loving parent or friend can’t always see what is going to make your heart sing. Listen to others. Value their input and their support. But go your own way. It’s better to be committed to doing what you truly love than accept something lesser for the sake of being approved by someone else.
  4. Stay authentic. That means always doing what truly matters to you and is part of who you are. The simplest definition of a hypocrite is someone who says one thing and does another: like a person who says that he or she wants to work at something that benefits society, then forgets that at the first sight of a fistful of dollar bills. Somewhere inside of you is a part that recalls what truly matters and will never quite let you forget it. Over the years, that inner voice is only going to get louder.
  5. Go for meaning over money every time. It’s perfectly possible to do something meaningless to you and earn a great deal of cash while doing so. Some people do, especially in parts of the media world. It just requires a stronger stomach and more cynicism that most people possess, plus a huge tolerance for boredom.

    Is it worth it? If money is truly all that matters to you—and you can make lots of it quickly and get out—it might be. Few areas of work will allow you to do that, aside from criminal ones. Meaningless days corrode most peoples’ minds and destroy their happiness. Doing something that means a great deal to you almost always makes you feel energized and alive. It’s your choice.

  6. Be endlessly greedy—for learning. You can never learn too much or overfill your mind with new ideas. Nothing is more useful in life than a well-developed, well-stocked mind, especially one that has been broadened and enlarged in the process. It’s hard to name a single famously successful person who was narrow-minded, bigoted, or stupid. The list of notable successes who are recognized for the power of their minds is long. And you don’t have to have had an expensive education to be able to develop a great mind. There have been plenty of near geniuses whose education was almost entirely self-produced.
  7. Make a friend of failure. You are certain to fail sometimes, and the higher your aspirations, the more frequent and significant that failure will be. People who don’t strive for anything glorious rarely fail; they take no risks and never aim beyond what is easily attainable. But if you treat failure as an enemy, it’s going to lead only to discouragement and even the abandoning of your hopes and dreams. Failure can be a friend, pointing out what isn’t right yet and showing you the way to do better. The more proficient you become at accepting the lessons of failure, the quicker you will succeed.
  8. Make sure that every time you make a mistake, it’s a new one. Making the same mistake several times shows that you haven’t learned what it can teach you. Making new mistakes proves that you’re trying something different. The best definition of a loser is someone who makes the same mistakes over and over again, never managing to learn anything in the process. Such a person is doomed.
  9. Choose to spend your time with the right people. I don’t mean that in the sense of the rich and the powerful, the movers and shakers of society. Whether they’re powerful or not, the best people to spend time with are those from whom you can learn most: the ones whose own lives have brought them joy and endless fulfillment. That means people who do what they love and love what they do. People who have become experts in life, thinking people, people with wide-open minds and wide-open hearts.

    Seek them out wherever you can. Listen to them. Never mind if they are no longer living. Read their books and emulate their largeness of spirit. Learn from them all, but don’t simply copy what they did in this world. What they did was right for them, but may not be right for you. What you need to use as models are their ways of thinking and responding to the challenges of the world; the process of their lives, not what it happened to contain.

  10. Drop whatever is inconsistent with these principles. That means all activities that don’t move you forward towards what you value most; things that get in the way of learning; pursuits that waste time and dull your senses; and people who hold you back. You may sometimes have to be ruthless. Each of us has only one life. If you waste it, you don’t get another chance. Besides, if you have chosen your dreams and aspirations wisely, what you must leave behind by dropping what’s inconsistent with those dreams will not be worth worrying about anyway. Those who make bad choices find, too late, that they have abandoned things and people that meant more to them than whatever they gained in exchange. If that happens, you have truly reached one of life’s lowest points.

Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life. Recent posts there on similar topics include How to work less and accomplish more and What are you busy doing?. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization

    , is now available at all good bookstores.
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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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