Every success is based on action, but every action starts with a thought. That’s why every worthwhile accomplishment starts with a change in perspective, or a new connection, or a renewed sense of purpose and motivation.
And sometimes success starts with remembering what is important to you—and what you need to do, every day, to stay on the path to reaching your individual dreams.
That’s why smart people say these things every day, if only to themselves.
1. “No One Else Is Willing to Do That, So That’s What I Will Do”
Often the easiest way to be different is to do the things other people are unwilling to do.
So pick one thing other people won’t do. It can be simple. It can be small. Doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, do it. You’ll instantly be a little different from the rest of the pack.
Then keep going. Every day think of one thing to do that no one else is willing to do.
After a week you’ll be uncommon. After a month you’ll be special. After a year you’ll be incredible, and you definitely won’t be like anyone else. (And, in the process, you will develop remarkable mental toughness.)
2. “I Will Answer the Question That Wasn’t Asked”
Sometimes people are hesitant. Sometimes they’re insecure. Sometimes they’re shy. Whatever the reason, sometimes people will ask a different question than the one they really want you to answer.
One employee might ask whether you think he should take a few college courses. What he really wants to know is whether you see him as able to grow in your organization; he hopes you’ll say you do and he hopes you’ll share the reasons why.
Your spouse might ask if you thought the person at the party was flirting with him or her. What he really wants to know is if you still think he is flirt-worthy and attractive; he hopes you’ll say you do, and will love when you share the reasons why.
Behind many questions is an unasked question.
Pay attention so you can answer that question too, because that is the answer the other person doesn’t just want but needs.
3. “Hey, That Wasn’t So Bad After All”
The most paralyzing fear is fear of the unknown. (At least it is for me.)
Yet nothing ever turns out to be as hard or as scary as we think. Plus, it’s incredibly exciting to overcome a fear. You get that “I can’t believe I just did that!” rush, a thrill you may not have experienced for a long time.
Every day do something a little scary, whether physically or emotionally. (If you need a quick boost of confidence to get you going, here are some really simple tricks to use.)
Then, trust that you will figure out how to overcome any problems that arise.
Because you will.
4. “I Can’t Do Everything Today, But I Will Take One Small Step”
You have plans. You have goals. You have ideas.
Who cares? You have nothing until you actually do something.
Every day we let hesitation and uncertainty stop us from acting on our ideas. Pick one plan, one goal, or one idea. And get started. Just take one small step.
The first step is by far the hardest. Every successive step will be a lot easier.
5. “I Should Just Be Quiet”
I used to talk a lot. I thought I was insightful and clever and witty, and, well, a real hoot.
Occasionally, very occasionally, I might even have been one of those things.
Most of the time I was not.
Truly confident people don’t feel the need to talk. While I hate when it happens, I still sometimes realize I’m not talking because the other person is interested in what I have to say, but because I’m interested in what I have to say. (Ick.)
Never speak just to please yourself. When you do, you please no one. (And, unlike these folks, you won’t be particularly likable.)
6. “I Won’t Care What Other People May Think”
Most of the time, we should worry about what other people think—but not if it stands in the way of living the lives we really want to live.
If you really want to start a business—which you can do in just a few hours, mind you—but you’re worried that people might say you’re crazy, do it anyway. Pick one thing you haven’t tried because you’re concerned about what other people think or say, and just go do it.
It’s your life. Live it your way.
7. “I’ll Show You”
I’m ashamed to admit it, but one of the best ways to motivate me is to insult me—or for me to manufacture a way to feel insulted, regardless of whether I’m actually justified in feeling that way or not.
“Justified” is not the point. Fueling my motivation to do whatever it takes to prove that person wrong, and, more important, to achieve what I want to achieve, is all that matters.
Call it artificial competition or manufactured anger; call it childish and immature; call it creating perceived insults—whatever you call it, it works for me. (Hey, it was good enough for Michael Jordan.)
And it can work for you.
8. “It’s Not Perfect, and I’m Fine With That”
Yes, you get only one chance to make a first impression. Yes, perfection is the only acceptable outcome.
Unfortunately, no product or service is ever perfect, and no project or initiative is perfectly planned. Work hard, do great work, and let it go. Your customers and colleagues will tell you what needs to be improved, and that means you’ll get to make improvements that actually matter to people.
You can’t accomplish anything until you let go. Do your best, let go, and then trust that you’ll work hard to overcome any shortcomings.
9. “I Should Have Done Better”
We’ve all screwed up. We all have things we could have done better. Words. Actions. Omissions. Failing to step up, step in, or be supportive.
Successful people don’t expect to be perfect, but they do think they can always be better.
So think back on your day. Think about what went well. Then think about what didn’t go as well as it could have and take ownership. Take responsibility.
And promise yourself that tomorrow you will do a lot better.
10. “I Will Recognize a Person Who Doesn’t Get Enough Recognition”
Some jobs require more effort than skill. Delivering packages, bagging groceries, checking out customers—the tasks themselves are relatively easy. The difference is in the effort.
So do more than say a reflexive “thanks” to someone who does a thankless job. Smile. Make eye contact. Exchange a kind word.
All around you are people who work hard with little or no recognition. Vow to be the person who recognizes at least one of them every day.
Not only will you give respect, you’ll earn the best kind of respect—the respect that comes from making a difference, however fleeting, in another person’s life.
11. “If Nothing Else, I Can Always Do More”
Like Jimmy Spithill, skipper of America’s Cup-winning Team Oracle USA, says, “Rarely have I seen a situation where doing less than the other guy is a good strategy.”
You may not be as experienced, as well-funded, as well connected, or as talented, but you can always outthink, outhustle, and outwork everyone else. (Or, as I like to say, the extra mile is a vast, unpopulated waste land.)
Even when everything else seems stacked against you, effort and persistence can still be your competitive advantages—and they may be the only advantages you truly need.
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