3 lessons I learned to become a high-achiever
Ever since I was six years old, every other year I would fly from Amsterdam to Los Angeles to visit my family for Christmas or I would spend the summer there. This was always the highlight of the year for me. There was Disneyland. McDonalds. Big cars. Toys R Us. Oh and the Power Rangers on TV.
Ever since then I've always dreamed about living in America. By "dreaming" I literally do mean that. I was obsessed. I had to live there - at all costs. No matter the obstacles, my future was in America. I kept telling myself "I want to live in America" every single day. It got to the point where my friends and parents were mocking me about it.
Every decision I had to make would be centered around this: would this help me get to America?
I switched schools because of this. Instead of going to the Gymnasium (typical higher-level high school in the Netherlands) I picked a smaller school that was among the first to introduce a bilingual education track in the country. Classes would be taught in both Dutch and English which would improve my chances of admission to schools in the US.
To make a long story short, I had to take tons of tests, my parents worked extra hours to be able to pay for school and I literally had to reinvent myself to "Thanh 2.0" to make this dream a reality.
As I'm writing this, from sunny southern California, the dream came true. I'm really fortunate to be here but it wasn't easy.
A lot of sacrifices had to be made but I was willing to pay the price for it. Looking back, there are 3 important lessons here that I want to share:
1. You have to be obsessed to succeed.
2. Are you willing to pay the price?
3. Anything that's holding you back should be identified and eliminated ASAP.
Let me elaborate on each point.
First, when you're obsessed with something, your chances of succeeding greatly improve. I was obsessed about living in America. As I said earlier, every decision I had to make would have to affect in one way or another that obsession in the right direction.
Otherwise, it would be a waste of time. Of course not every decision I made was the right one, but I made the right ones often enough to make dream come true.
I want you to do the same thing.
What are you obsessed about? What do you want to be obsessed about?
Not the "I kind of want it" thing, but the "I REALLY WANT THIS AND I'LL DO ANYTHING FOR IT" type of thing.
This can be for selfish reasons or not. That doesn't matter - as long as you have an obsession. That's the most important thing. For me, it was living in America. For my parents, it was to give me a better life.
For you it could be to provide your family a better future. Or to grow your business. Or to live in a place you've always desired to retire.
Just have an obsession. This is a recurring theme I see over and over again among successful people. Over the years I've read a lot of biographies and this pattern of obsession would come up all the time.
Steve Jobs was obsessed with design. Warren Buffett is obsessed with business. Beyonce is obsessed with performance.
Right now, I'm obsessed with making Asian Efficiency the best productivity training company in the world. Together with my team, we're out to make the world a more productive place, one person at a time. This became our mission. Our obsession. The fact that you're reading this makes me really grateful and we truly want to help you succeed. And we'll doing anything we can to make this a reality.
When you're obsessed, you naturally put in the time to what you want to achieve. Procrastination is not even a word you understand, aside from the fact that you'll procrastinate on the things that don't bring you closer to your desired outcome.
You also don't get easily distracted. When you have your eyes on the prize - everything else that fights for your attention won't even reach your consciousness. That sports game? Not even on your mind. That tv show? You can watch it later. That email? Unless it's life-or-death, it can wait. Helping this person succeed and become more productive? I got your back.
So let me ask you again: what are you obsessed about? Or what do you want to become obsessed about?
2. Are you willing to pay the price?
This was really a hard lesson to learn but if you really want to make your dreams come true, you have make sacrifices. And if you really are obsessed, those sacrifices are easy to make.
They might not be fun. They most likely will tear you apart inside, but it's worth it because of your obsession.
If you have read some books on "success", you might have heard of this cliché before. I always thought it was until I had a conversation about with a close friend of mine. He kept harping about this and when I looked back at my own life, I started to realize I did the same thing.
There were plenty of times I could have played with my friends after school. I decided to cycle to the bookstore in downtown and read books in there that I couldn't afford. There were times were I skipped days at school to close a deal (I ran a web development company when I was 16). My parents worked extra jobs to make sure I could live a better life than they could ever have.
You usually have to give something up in order to get what you want. Are you willing to do that? This can be in various ways. Maybe it's paying for education or training. Maybe it's nights watching television. Maybe it's a relationship. Maybe it's weekends.
Just realize that to make your obsession a reality, you have to let go of something and be okay with that. It'll be worth it.
3. Anything that's holding you back should be identified and eliminated ASAP
When you are on your path, there will always be things vying for your time, attention and resources that might derail you of where you want to go. Especially in today's fast-pace and interconnected world.
I can't even go to the grocery store without being bombarded with all these things wanting to grab my attention and throw me off my path. You have billboards. Radio. Advertisements. Facebook messages. Crazy ex-girlfriends. Text messages. People interrupting you. And the list goes on.
That's just getting groceries. Imagine what a typical workday includes like email, phone calls, unexpected emergencies, instant messages and such.
Now I literally turn my phone off whenever I get groceries. This is how I can mentally recharge and make sure I get all the things I need. Those 25 minutes that I'm unavailable doesn't mean the end the world (I found out).
While technology is great and very beneficial, one of the downsides is that it magnifies the bad stuff too. And these things are usually holding us back from what we need to do.
I jokingly call them the 4 kryptonites of productivity. They are:
* distractions and interruptions
* lack of focus
One of these 4 (usually 2 or 3 of them) are holding us back from achieving our potential. What I've learned is that when you eliminate them as much as possible, life becomes much easier. There's less stress. Less anxiety. Less worrying. More doing. More fun. And more time with the people around you that you care about.
The tricky thing is that one of these kryptonites can show up in different ways that you might not immediately recognize, but are holding you back.
In a world of infinite choices, we often get paralyzed on what we should do next. Making a decision becomes much harder when you have tons of options available. That's also when we start to put things off. We do things last minute as we try to figure out what to do. We never finish projects because there's another option that looks like "the right way to go".
What is this?
This little kryptonite comes in many forms and you have to be aware of this. You usually won't even identify it as "procrastination" because you're usually consciously aware when you're procrastinating or not. But the reality is, you are procrastinating even when you don't think you are.
And that's just scary. That's why when you're able to identify all these little things and eliminate them, trust me, your life will go 180 degrees in the positive direction.
The challenge is that we simply aren't hardwired to live in today's world. Our brains haven't evolved yet to handle this. For example, it is extremely difficult to focus when you have infinite options. In the back of your head you might be doubting yourself and feel scatter-brained. "Did I pick the right option? Am I working on the right thing? How do I know that I shouldn't be doing X instead?"
Not to mention when you have these interruptions and distractions around you, it's just very difficult to focus on one thing at a time. When you add the daily emails you get and have to deal with, it's no wonder that we're running out of time and that we can't focus.
When you can identify all the 4 kryptonites in your life and eliminate them, you can get Superman type of productivity in your life. That's what I essentially figured out and it forms the foundation of the Productivity Blueprint (all the stuff we figured out is in there).
We are all here to do great work - if we are given the time, opportunity and resources to do so. So start eliminating the 4 kryptonites in your life as much as possible, and you'll start to see that you can finally do all the things you've always wanted to do.