How to be successful

Mattan Griffel
Apr 2, 2013 · 2 min read

Here are a few thoughts on things to do to be successful, because people are doing it wrong:

1) Decide what your idea of success is. You could be rich or powerful, or you could change the world. Do you want to be running your own Fortune 500 company, or do you want to open up your own fashion boutique in the East Village? Try to paint as clear of a picture as possible. Just having an idea of what you want does not mean it will happen, but you certainly will never get anywhere if you don’t have an idea of where you’re trying to go.

2) Always make moves in that general direction. It’s hard to know what exact steps you need to take to achieve the life you want, but with every major decision you make, consider whether it is moving you towards your goal or away from it. Classes on public speaking are always a good idea. Consulting is almost always a bad idea, because you only get paid for the hours you put into it, and you’re not any better off once it’s over.

3) Play. Spend some time doing things that genuinely interest you, so long as they’re not in direct conflict with your vision of success. Of all the time I’ve spent on things over the last few years, the ones that paid off the most were the three hours I took one Saturday to record a series of videos on teaching yourself Ruby on Rails.

4) Cut down on consumption. I’m referring mostly to media, but this also applies to alcohol and other non-productive time sucks. The reason most people never end up making any moves is that they get preoccupied with the same things with which most other people are preoccupied: news, politics, sports, fashion, etc. There’s too much stuff out there and not enough time in the day to consume all of it. Try to spend most of your time producing rather than consuming.

5) Stop judging. Not only will your judgments be ineffectual, but you also don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Most people are not qualified to say that someone else’s idea sucks or that they’re doing it wrong. Judging is also a huge time suck and takes away energy you could be applying to your own idea or helping out others. Be supportive. You’ll make more friends that way.

    Mattan Griffel

    Written by

    Award-Winning Faculty at Columbia Business School. I write about startups, technology, and philosophy.

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