How To Be Successful At Anything

You know that one friend that seems to be good at everything they do? The one you’re just happy to be friends with, but secretly jealous of. How would you like to be that “one friend”? I’m betting you would.

By observing my successful friends and identifying specific traits that lead to success, I’ve been able to synthesize it down to a very simple and formulaic process.

“Know yourself, know your worth”

Step 1: Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses

What are you bad at, good at, and incredible at? This simple question will completely separate you from the majority of your network. For one, it makes you unique. But, more importantly, it makes you precise. Your friends are really good at what they do, because they don’t do what they’re not good at.

Check this out:

I’m good at bullshitting. Writing. Debating. Researching.

I’m bad at staying focused. Exercising. Juggling responsibilities.

I’m incredible at communicating. Networking. Simplifying.

This very generic template lays the critical foundation for “easy” success.

Step 2: Innovate, Mitigate, Accentuate

To innovate is to restore, renew, or improve. This is exactly what you have to do with your list of things you’re good at. A simple fact in life is that someone is always better at something than you; that is no excuse to stop improving. The second you stop getting better at something is the second you start getting worse.

Innovate

Writing, debating, researching.

So how do you innovate on bullshit, writing, debating, and researching? You know the phrase “you can’t bullshit a bullshitter”? You need to do exactly that as often as possible. One of my best friends uses the phrase with me constantly, so my #1 goal is to trip him up with off the cuff rebuttals to disarm and secure victory in our many debates. Luckily for me, that involves a lot of writing, a lot of debating, and quite a bit more researching than you’d think. In order to be misleading (how I interpret bs), you definitely have to know your stuff. So he and I will often argue for arguments sake, justifying stances neither of us agree with, just to clarify and improve upon our own ideas.

How is bullshit even a skill? At my current position, I became familiar with the challenger pitch and one of my favorite components is rational drowning. In rational drowning, you supply so much information in support of your own argument, that it short circuits the thought process of your subject. I like to take that a step further and layout all of the arguments that might be used against me, as though in support, and suddenly switch to refute each point. This approach is interesting, because oftentimes people set themselves in opposition of what you’re saying, simply because that is their mindset going into a conversation. By robbing them of their arguments, they are forced to adopt ones in support of the opposing stance, and when you switch gears to support their poorly formed points, they feel bolstered and agree with what might have been a dissenting opinion had you approached otherwise.

Confused? Good. Because that was all bullshit. Point is, get better at what you consider yourself to be good at.

Mitigate

Staying focused, juggling responsibilities, exercising.

To mitigate bad behavior, you have to consciously address it. You naturally want to improve upon things you’re good at, but you’ll shy away from things that you don’t feel a proclivity toward. Here is one small example of how I address that.

On the dock of your iPhone, what apps do you have? For a lot of people, it’s simply the defaults. Some switch these out for other apps of the same functionality. Mine are Slack, Trello, Duolingo, and Impulse.

It’s hard for me to stay focused, so I keep Slack right in my face. When I unlock my phone, it’s the first thing I notice. I’ve buried my messages and email apps with no rhyme or reason, because I want them to be annoying to locate. I’m pretty bad at juggling responsibilities, so I keep Trello front and center, as well. Taking a few minutes to organize tasks and give each a deadline, makes it a lot easier to compensate for this shortcoming. And exercise isn’t just going for a run or lifting weights. By putting Duolingo on the throne, it’s become a lot easier to form my Spanish practice habit. Impulse is a personal project that it’s easy to forget about when overwhelmed with work and social activities, so I make sure I can’t escape it. When I open the app, I cringe at something I feel is missing and, being impulsive, I’ll often start working on that feature right away.

Addressing your shortcomings is equally important to improving your skills, so don’t slack off here.

Accentuate

Communicating, networking, simplifying.

Accentuating seems like the easiest part of this, but it’s really one of the hardest. Most people fall into two camps: braggarts or painfully humble. While there are some that find it very easy to talk about their accomplishments, they can be overwhelming. Conversely, the humble often go unnoticed; their work just seems to magically get done with no need for acknowledgement.

Part of succeeding is social proof, or being publicly acknowledged for your accomplishments. Many of us know famous tech founders by name, but there are some companies we instantly recognize without associating an individual with them. It’s the same thing with your skills. I’m not saying you have to be written about in Business Insider or have a verified badge on your Twitter profile, but if your friends think of you and can’t articulate why you’re unique, it’s probably because you can’t either. These are things you are incredible at, so why are you struggling to be recognized for them?

The easiest way to highlight your skills is to use them to help others. Friends always come to me for help writing important emails or papers, figuring out how to meet someone, or generally uncomplicating life issues. The more you are able to help people, the quicker that skill will come to mind. If you’re a great developer, but you’re in some lowly position, maybe start offering to help friends with projects. Great at working out? Go find a friend that’s struggling and offer to train with them. This is a very simple concept that can skyrocket your chances of success in your personal endeavors.

Step 3: Publicly Define Success

We all have friends who post before and after pictures nearly every week, showing their workout progress. It might seem annoying, at first, but these people have publicly defined success and are demonstrating their ability to achieve.

If you see a friend that used to be heavier suddenly thinner, you don’t associate this with success. This is someone you haven’t seen maybe a few years. You just figure things change. Their metabolism picked up or they started going to some spin class. No big.

But if that friend tells you that they have a goal and you see them achieve it, they’re set the boundaries for success. You’re not indifferent, now; you’re proud.

It’s really hard to appreciate the hard work that someone else puts in, if you never know they’re trying. Maybe your friend lands a great job. He got lucky or that’s just the natural progression for his career path, you might think. You’d be abso-fucking-lutely wrong. Your friend worked his ass off and a hollow “That’s good to hear.” might make them feel as though they hadn’t done anything important. Now put yourself in that friend’s shoes. You’d hate to feel as though your accomplishment was just pre-ordained.

But you won’t. Because all you have to do is show that you want it before you get it. Then your friends will express a little more enthusiasm for you. This step probably seems the silliest, but success is inherently the result of achieving a goal. Doing things that are indicative of success won’t amount to much if they weren’t intentional and desired outcomes. And making it public not only gets you acknowledged, it helps to hold you accountable.

Being Successful

My framework, you may have noticed, is a bit biased to my personality. A need for acknowledgment, emphasis on networking, and an opportunity to communicate value. But that’s the beauty of it. The second you start, it molds itself to your personal criteria for success.

If you have used some form of this framework, or know of someone who seems to follow it, I’d love to hear how it has worked out. Don’t forget to hit the 💚 below and thanks for reading!