Last Updated on October 25, 2018

15 Ways Successful People Think That Make Them Extraordinary

15 Ways Successful People Think That Make Them Extraordinary

Sometimes, the only thing that makes a particular situation a good one, or a bad one, is simply how you choose to react to it. A career setback can be seen as something devastating, or a a chance for change and growth. Ultimately, the choice is yours. It’s all about having the right mindset.

This list will give you fifteen examples of the mindsets of 15 hugely successful or influential individuals.

1. Focus on what matters

Mark Zuckerberg has lived his life for the fulfilment of one single ambition: To make the world more connected. In Harvard, he founded Facebook, and once he realized he needed to focus entirely on the site, he left university.

To many, leaving such a prestigious university would be unthinkable. But the success of Facebook was what mattered to him.

By focusing entirely on this, and cutting away things which distracted, he has been able to achieve his life’s ambition.

2. No endless to-do-lists

It can be useful to organize your day according to a to-do list. After all, keeping track of your plans ensures they won’t be forgotten.

However, it is important to realize that there are surprises every day. If you plan every moment of your day according to a list, you won’t be able to adapt to surprises. The most successful people are those who are adaptable.

Take, the legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan as an example. If you listen from a song from each one of his albums in sequence, you can hear him adapting to the changing styles and interests of his listeners. Because of this, he has been able to remain relevant for over 50 years.

3. Bounce off ideas with other people

In 1999, when Stephen King was in hospital recovering from an injury, he began to reflect on his career, how he wrote, and the nature of creativity. He turned these thoughts into the book On Writing. There is a passage in it which I often think about. He says:

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open..”

What this means is, once you have an idea for something and found an effective way to express it, you should be open to the thoughts of others.

It is easy to become precious and protective of your work and ideas. But other people may be able to see things you can’t.


So while focusing on your plans and ideas can important, you need to be open and receptive to the ideas of others.

4. Use the 80/20 rule

The 80/20 rule, otherwise known as the Pareto Principle came to be when Vilfredo Pareto, a hugely influential Italian economist noticed that 80% of the wealth of Italy belonged to only 20% of the population.

Over time, a similar distribution between wealth was noticed in other countries too. This suggested that this wealth distribution was a naturally occurring economic rule.

Eventually, this observation spread to business and management, where it still applied. So from it, we should understand that 80% of an outcome stems from only 20% of efforts towards it..

We’ve discussed the Pareto Principle before with this Interview with Tim Ferriss of The 4-Hour Workweek – Part 1

5. Learn to quiet the mind

In 1997, Steve Jobs was at a major developers conference. After he gave a brief talk, he decided to take some questions from the audience. One question inspired him to give some very wise advise on how to focus, he said:

“Focusing is about saying no”

It’s easy for your mind to fill with thoughts and ideas. Many of them, unfortunately are not very helpful. It’s impossible to pay attention to these thoughts, and if you ever tried to.

So, simply learn to say no to them. By doing this, you will remain focused.

6. Be grateful

Oprah Winfrey’s life is a story of true personal growth. She grew up in a small farm in Mississippi and a poor inner city Milwaukee Ghetto. Despite this difficult upbringing, she has become one of the most influential women on the planet.

I believe this stems from her eternal optimism and positivity. But how does someone get such optimism when faced with the hardship she has?


From an early age, she made herself “practice being grateful”.[1] For ten years, she kept a journal where she kept a list of things she was grateful for. She credits this sense of gratitude for her success.

With such an attitude, she was able to limit the damage of negative influences, and strengthen the impact of positive ones.

7. Not afraid to be unconventional

Bill Gates has always been a person of exceptional intelligence. Even in Harvard, a university which is regularly placed in the top five best universities in the world, Bill Gates became known as someone particularly gifted. Yet he didn’t follow the path expected of him. In fact, when he left Harvard to start Microsoft, someone who knew him at the time remarked “Such a brilliant kid. What a waste.” [2]

The conventional route for someone like him would have been to stay in university, become a professor, and make a career in academia and science. The idea of going away to start a computer company was almost unknown.

But by going down an unconventional pathway, Gates was able to change the world.

8. Follow through

By the time Harper Lee died, she had only published one novel. That novel was To Kill A Mockingbird, it was a success on release and to this day remains influential and beloved.

To write it, Lee took one year off from work with the single goal of writing a novel. With only one year, she had no time to make mistakes, no time to second guess herself. She simply had an idea for a novel, and ensured it got written. It would have been a significant gamble to take a large amount of time from work. Yet her desire to see the novel through was so strong that she took the risk even if it would harm her career.

It’s a risk many probably wouldn’t take. But by following through with her idea, she was able to produce a piece of work that has inspired millions.

9. Collaborate with others

Miles Davis’s album Kind of Blue is considered by many to be the greatest Jazz recording of all time. The music is simple, yet complex and endlessly intricate. Though it was recorded over 60 years ago, it feels fresh and timeless.

Do you know it is wrong to consider it a Miles Davis album? Although he led the project and his name is credited for it, the album would have been not nearly as influential if Davis didn’t trust the skill, knowledge and experience of the other great musicians in it. Miles Davis wouldn’t be the icon he is today if he only worked alone.

Like with any great musical icon, the ideas behind the pieces are meaningless if other musicians don’t contribute. For some ideas and projects to work, the input of others is vital.

10. Know you can do it

Picture this, you’re running for the president of the United States. Your opponents at the moment, is a war hero who has been a respected politician for decades and the wife of a former president, herself a political icon.


You’re Barack Obama, at the moment you’ve had no real impact on national politics aside from a few years in the US Senate. Nobody really expects you to win. What do you do?

What Obama did was remain focused. He didn’t listen to the many thousands who said he probably couldn’t or shouldn’t. Instead, he kept working, sticking to his political campaign and he won. Four years later, he won again.

What we can learn is that if you truly believe in yourself and your cause, you can’t be stopped.

11. Develop your thoughts

The famous poet TS Eliot worked on his most famous work The Waste Land  for well over a year. What makes this poet interesting is that we know a great deal of the poem’s drafting history. The earlier drafts were far longer than the finished piece, some of the poem’s most famous lines were removed. The style of some sections was different.

Comparing the different drafts, it is possible to see his idea truly takes shape.

    It can be easy to think that once you have first finished a piece, the process is over. However if you continue to expand and develop your ideas, you might come up with something truly special.

    When The Waste Land was released, it has a huge impact and is now regarded as one of the greatest poems of the 20th century.

    12. Be different

    Alan Turing was without a doubt one of the most brilliant scientists of the 20th century, perhaps of all time.

    Though he died in the 1950s, many of his ideas and texts continue to influence us. He was a pioneer of computing and artificial intelligence (he invented The Turing Test). During the Second World War, he was instrumental in cracking the supposedly unbreakable Nazi enigma code which almost certainly changed the course of the war. His ideas were utterly revolutionary at the time.

    Were he to take the safe route, the expected route, the world we live in today would be a very different place indeed.

    13. Stand for what you believe in no matter what

    Nelson Mandela was probably one of the most inspiring leaders of the 20th century. Yet for most of his adult life he was a wanted criminal. He, and many like him, stood against the racist apartheid system in South Africa. For this, he was considered a terrorist and was sent to prison for twenty five years.


    While in prison, he became an icon. Upon release, apartheid ended. Mandela became the president of South Africa and led it into an era of peace.

    You can truly learn the character of Nelson Mandela from a speech he gave just before going to prison when he spoke of his dream of a South Africa at peace:

    “It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

    The world is a far better place because Nelson Mandela believed from the very beginning that what he was doing was right.

    14. Go all in

    It is probable you have come across the website Humans of New York. In 2010, Brandon Stanton moved to the city with the idea of starting a photo blog. Before this, he had worked as a bond trader in Chicago but soon quit and wanted to follow his passion of photography instead.

    In New York, he took photos of people who he came across and started uploading them to a blog, working minimum wage jobs to pay the rent. The popularity of Humans of New York took off. Now several books of photos from the site has been published, he’s continued his work all over the world, interviewed world leaders and major celebrities and his success continues to grow.

    None of this would have happened if he decided to stay in Chicago as a bond tradesman and didn’t fully invest in his passion.

    15. Learn from failures

    The idea of the Disney company going bankrupt is almost unthinkable now. However, Walt Disney’s first studio Laugh-O-Grams, went bankrupt in 1923. It was forced to close, many of his animators and designers left to find work elsewhere.

    For many people, the story would end here, few would dust themselves off as Disney did and started another studio. Walt Disney kept to his idea, and started again in Los Angeles. A few years later, he founded Disney Brothers Studio with his brother. This became the Walt Disney Company.

    What we can learn from this, is to see each failure, each rejection as merely another obstacle to overcome on the pathway to success.

    Final thoughts

    One thing that connects all the people above is that they didn’t do the normal or expected thing.

    But if you think about it, this makes sense. The norm, is the regular, the conventional standard.

    To truly stand out, to truly become a success, you need to do things differently.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via


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    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on February 19, 2019

    How to Break Bad Habits: I Broke 3 Bad Habits in Less Than 2 Months

    How to Break Bad Habits: I Broke 3 Bad Habits in Less Than 2 Months

    The cycle of bad habits is what keeps us living small and stops us from reaching our true potential. Breaking a bad habit isn’t as hard as it seems; despite being a CEO of a company and raising two children, I still managed to break 3 bad habits I had within 2 months. Yes, that’s quitting one habit in less than 21 days.

    I took steps to eliminate them one at a time. Habits such as drinking Coke every day, slouching when sitting and not having a consistent exercise routine.

    So how did I break these habits? I used the Control Alternate Delete Method (Ctrl Alt Del).

    What is this method and why is it so effective? Read on to find out how to break bad habits with this unique method.

    How to break bad habits with the Control Alternate Delete Method

      We all notice on some level what our bad habits are. A lot of the time we choose to ignore the negative ways these impact us.

      For me, I was sitting most of the day in front of my computer at work in a slouching position. I drank Coke every single day in an attempt to stay awake. I put off any kind of exercise regime because I felt that it was better to just relax and have fun after a whole day of work. As a result, I was leading a really unhealthy lifestyle suffering from weight gain and back pain.


      I needed to make a change.

      I started to read books about building habits such as The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, The One Thing by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan, and The Now Habit by Neil Fiore. After reading all these books, I’ve come up with my own method to quit bad habits — The Ctrl Alt Del Method.

      I started by focusing on just one bad habit, the first one being the sheer amount of Coke I was consuming each day.

      Every day I applied the Ctrl Alt Del Method and after two weeks, not only did I stop drinking Coke every day (I only drank one can in 2 weeks), but I started the better habit of drinking 8 glasses of water every day instead.

      After eliminating one bad habit, I moved on to the other two with this same method and a month later I was:

      • Hitting the gym twice a week.
      • Improving my sitting posture, not only at the office but also at home and everywhere else, improving my back pain.
      • Gaining core muscle which improved my back pain as well.
      • Losing fat around my waist which went from 36″ (considered obese level) to 32″ (normal level).

      If I can improve my life using this method, then so can you. Using this structure to eliminate your bad habits will increase your success and replace your bad habits with more positive ones.

      Control: Master your desire

        Identify your triggers

        Bad habits such as drinking alcohol, smoking and snacking too much trigger the release of dopamine, a feel-good chemical in the brain.[1] Although you might not like the end result, they give you a positive outcome in the moment. This is pure psychology.


        It’s important to identify what is triggering you to continually act out your bad habit. This isn’t always an easy step because our habits have been built up over a long period of time.

        If you need help in identifying your triggers, here’s a list of common bad habits and their triggers: 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away


        To help you work out your triggers, do a bit of self-reflection. Ask yourself questions such as:

        • What comfort are you getting from this habit?
        • Why do you need comfort?

        For example, I chose to drink coke because it tasted good and it made me feel good when I was stressed. I slouched only when I sat for too long working on my desk and started to feel tired. I skipped exercises because every day after work I felt I already did enough works and didn’t want to work out.

        If you choose to eat fast food every night, you’re probably telling yourself you’re too busy to cook. But ask yourself why? What are your priorities?

        Maybe you have a lack of self-worth that means you don’t have the self-love to want to look after your health. Perhaps it’s a sign you’re not making enough time for important routines like shopping and creating a healthy meal yourself. Maybe you’ve always had a belief that you’re a bad cook.

        Write a diary

        Write down your thoughts and feelings around this bad habit. Writing things down forces the brain to think harder.[2] This helps you to find the source to your stress or limiting negative beliefs.


        Alternate: Find a replacement

          Find a positive alternative habit

          Once you think you’ve discovered your trigger, try to find a similar but healthy option. This is where I replaced Coke with lemon water; slouching with simply taking a walk and stretching my back every hour; and chilling at home after work with workout exercises that I actually found fun.

          You could decide to walk to the office instead of driving or getting off the bus earlier to walk. You could switch to a healthier breakfast cereal instead of grabbing a sugary snack when you head out of the door.

          By doing this, you aren’t getting rid of the act altogether like you would if you completely gave something up with nothing to fill that void. This helps your brain accept the improved habit more.

          Create a defence plan

          Everyone has moments of weakness and that want to revert back to the bad habit will rear its ugly head. This is where a plan can help counteract these moments.

          Think of things you can do when the temptations come. For example, if you want to check your phone less, ask your friend or partner to keep it for you or switch it off and read a book. If you’re a starter for an exercise routine, like me, get someone to do it with you to keep you accountable.

          Decide on something you will do once you feel triggered to go back to your old habit. Repeating these positive alternative habits consistently will help wire your brain to see them as your normal new habit over time.

          Delete: Remove temptations

            Remove stuff that reminds you of the bad habit

            Getting rid of anything that reminds you of your bad habit is essential. For example, I got rid of coke in my office and at home and replaced my usual office chair with an exercise ball. It makes it much easier to stop slipping back in a weak moment.


            Avoid all kinds of temptations

            In the same vein, avoid places or people that you know will tempt you back into that bad habit. Don’t go to the supermarket on an empty stomach to avoid the temptation to buy trashy snacks, don’t drive past that fast food joint but find an alternative route instead, say no more often to the friend you know will get you drunk again this weekend.

            It’s all about not putting yourself in the situation where you’re in danger of relapsing.


            The Control Alternate Delete Method uses the right steps you need to overcome your need to indulge in your bad habits. Working with your core psychology, emotions and feelings behind your actions is what makes this method effective and easy to apply to all bad habits you have.

            Bad habits are easy to form and making changes can seem difficult but remember that it’s all about consistency and repetition.

            Start using the Control Alternate Delete Method today and you can stop a bad habit permanently.

            What bad habit do you want to put a stop to once and for all? You must set aside time and pick one bad habit to focus on. Start using the steps to increase and maintain more positivity in your life moving forward.

            More Resources About Changing Habits

            Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via


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