Success is frustrating. The advice you get from people trying to help you is often conflicting and seemingly impossible.
Your own pathway is confusing. At times it’s hard to make sense of the feedback you’re getting from your actions.
Failure one day can often look like success the next. What used to work doesn’t work anymore — and the changes you’ll need to make to fully appreciate that are often the most frustrating part of your journey to success.
This raw, human element to navigating the twisting pathway of success is often the part that undoes you. It’s often the obstacle you can’t get around.
That’s because what’s missing from your struggle — and the entire conversation about success — is simplicity. You need less to do. Less to manage, monitor, and obsess about. Inside the giant cornucopia of rules that make up success, you need a few, simple ride-or-die beliefs that you can hold on to. Philosophies and rules and edicts that guide your daily existence.
Over time, those will change as your goals change and as your skills and your expectations change. It’s not for me to tell you what your rules for you should be.
I’ve focused on many different ones for the years. Tried some. Abandoned many. I’ve also read the rules that other successful people put in place for themselves, sometimes even speaking and interviewing them. Digging deep into what works. Building relationships with those I share the most in common.
Despite how you word them, here are the three simple rules that successful people live by.
1. Be Honest
This is a hard one. A really hard one at times. You will feel the impact intensely before, during, and after your exercise this behavior.
Most often when you hear someone talking about “being honest” the discussion involves the word “liar”, but honesty is a lot more complex than that.
It’s about candor and kindness and believing that you can help others level up when you encourage them with your clear, illuminating insight.
Before that happens with others, you have to experience the discomfort that creates by practicing honesty with yourself.
It’s impossible to practice radical candor with others when you haven’t first done the same for yourself.
- What was the last time you took a few minutes to examine your motives and intentions?
- When was the last time you had an honest conversation about your results, your effort, and your attitude?
It’s easy to look around and blame all of your problems on other people and their bad behavior. To blame bad luck. To pretend like none of the reasons why you are where you are right now have nothing to do with you.
But that’s not being honest. Not in the least bit.
Nothing in life is an accident. Your results, your predicament, your income, your obstacles — they are all there for one reason or another.
Be honest with you. It’s an emotional investment you won’t ever regret
As for being honest with others — you already know that it’s the right thing to do. But somehow — and when it matters most — you don’t do it. You hold back. You equivocate. Pause. And obfuscate.
You aren’t honest. And it’s not because you’re a stone-cold, manipulator. Or a con man. Or a liar.
It’s most likely because being honest is hard work. It’s a huge emotional investment.
By being honest with others you have to care about them. A lot.
It’s easy to tell others what you know they want to hear. It doesn’t hurt their feelings and you don’t have to invest in a tough conversation where you tell them that they can achieve more if they’re willing to put in the time and effort to improve.
Which is why being honest is such an important rule.
The fact that it’s hard to do already puts you in an elite category of performers. To do it consistently will make you a superstar.
By the way, being honest with others isn’t a license to be a jerk. Kindness always trumps candor. In fact, candor is kindness. You don’t have to be loud or obnoxious, or the least bit insulting, to give feedback that is honest and hopeful.
The reason you’re doing this in the first place is to help them. So, help them.
To get started you might need to premise your insight with a quick question or two: “Would you like my feedback?” or “Can I be honest with you?”
Once you have permission, you now have a duty to be honest. And remember, you want that same candor from others — especially when you are desperate to level up. Extend the same honesty to others.
2. Ask Questions
You see the world through your own perspective — which is great until you expect that others share that same outlook. Which they likely won’t.
You see what you see based on years of your own life experience and struggle. And that’s different for all of us.
The only way to get the perspective of others is to ask them for it. Asking questions. Probing. Digging into the reason behind the explanation.
Asking questions will help you increase the growth of your business. It’s a skill that will help you build better relationships and avoid unnecessary conflict — and solve just about any other sticky situation where other people are involved.
The simplest question is “why”. It’s somewhat crude and often misunderstood to be offensive if delivered with the wrong tone, but it is at the core of all questions.
Why does it matter? Why are you doing that? Why do you think what you think?
But beyond “why”, there are many other important questions that will get you the answers you need.
Questions to help you level up in business and in your relationships — but also to help you dig a bit deeper into your own psyche. To hope you get clear on the baggage in your mind that can often be debilitating.
Here are a few of those questions you’ll want to practice asking yourself:
- Would I be embarrassed if other people were to know that I was making this decision?
- What advice would I give someone else if they were in my position?
- Is this a legitimate step towards getting closer to where I want to be or am I chasing a shortcut?
- When I look back at this decision, how will I feel?
- What else haven’t I considered that might help me make a better decision?
- Am I making this decision based on fear?
- Can I deal with the consequences that will come from making this decision, this way?
Ask yourself the hard questions. Be clear about your intentions, even if it isn’t something you want to share with anyone else.
And then practice the art of asking questions.
Most conversations would be more productive if the first words said came in the form of a question.
Try it. You’ll find it uncomfortable at first. But like any important skill, if you deliberately stick with it, you will find yourself spending less time on hurt feelings and misunderstood intentions.
3. Do Things That Matter
It seems obvious that high performers do things that matter.
However, it’s not that simple. High performers don’t start doing things that matter actors after they are high performers, it’s what makes them high performers in the first place.
Doing what matters is the playbook. The road map.
The answer is actually quite simple. You only have so much time in a day.
You’re going to spend half the day working — or working to get to work. You’ll spend another 8 hours sleeping — or getting ready for or out of bed.
After you factor in eating, reading, working out, and personal entertainment, you probably only have a few hours (if any at all) that are all yours.
What you do with your time ultimately determines your destiny.
Doing things that matter is your shortcut to consistent and reliable progress.
The faster you focus on what matters, the more quickly you’ll move around obstacles and the less frustrated you’ll feel by failure.
But it’s not always easy to see what matters.
Priorities change. So does your environment. And the world around you is constantly changing. All of that comes straight at you — at a torrid pace that is confusing and overwhelming.
The only way out is to stop and live in quietness. Even if only temporarily.
That quietness is your compass, pointing you towards greatness. In the direction of what really matters.
But sometimes, even that doesn’t work. You can’t find quietness because of the chaos and noise inside your head.
And so you have to fall back on timeless activities that are proven to propel you towards progress, regardless of your goals or the obstacles in your way.
Here are a few of them:
- Make time to improve your “mind game”. — Everything you ever do — or don’t do — is a direct result of how you think — and what you allow yourself to keep thinking about. Be aware of which thoughts make you act which way. By the way, meditation is a great exercise to figure this all out. Try using Calm or Headspace or Omvana if you want to master this skill.
- Take time to get physical. — Instead of eliminating regular exercise from your schedule, protect the time you work up a sweat. Run. Punch. Kick. Cycle. Just move fast. You’ll find yourself thinking of ideas you wouldn’t have considered. You’ll return to your work focused. And — you’ll eliminate a bunch of the frustration and pettiness you would otherwise direct at those around you.
- Stop wasting time on regrets or worries. — It’s easy to spin out of control when you think about what you could have done or should have done. Replace those negative thoughts with specific thoughts for moving towards where you want to be. Again, this about you being aware of what you are thinking. When you recognize negative thoughts you pause and switch them to thoughts that help you get closer to where you want to be.
- Reduce the time you spend on entertainment. — It’s amazing how distracting a binge-watch session on Netflix can be. Instead of working toward success, your brain goes to mush when you call up the latest episode instead of working on the things that matter most. Sometimes, you need to take a break and reboot. But that shouldn’t be a “most of the time” thing.
- Get more sleep. — Most human beings need 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night to operate at optimum performance. Your brain reboots. Your immune system recharges. Your body gets a bit more resilient. The more sleep you can get, the more likely you are to stay strong and healthy — and clear-minded. When you do more, you need more sleep. Don’t overdo the sleeping part and don’t think you can cheat time by sleeping less. It’s guaranteed to backfire on you.
- Pay attention to the details. — Getting things done isn’t the same as getting things done well. Don’t just check things off your list. Make sure you’ve done the best that you can do. Take the time to reflect on what you can do better the next time. Dig deep into the success you want for yourself. Hone in on what other people who have achieved the success you want for yourself are doing. Always be learning and growing.
- Avoid everyone and anything who takes you off your game. — It doesn’t really matter why or when or who — negativity and fear and worry and confusion will crush your ability to get to where you want to be. So avoid it. Don’t try to contain it. Or tolerate it. Get as far away from it, as you can. It might not be forever, but for now, you need to anything that is negative completely behind you.
More importantly, this is a mindset. A deliberate way of spending your time.
Make no mistake, three simple rules won’t fix everything. They aren’t the perfect formula for every obstacle standing in your way.
But they do give you a foundation to stand on. A platform to launch from.
And when life is hard and your dreams are big, sometimes it’s important to know that you have a few simple rules guiding your pathway to success.