12 Things I Stole From People More Successful Than Me
Throughout my entire life, I’ve been fortunate enough to have read 100’s of books written by people who are a lot more successful than I am.
People like Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, billionaire investor Charlie Munger, Founding Father Ben Franklin, NBA legend Kobe Bryant, modern-day Stoic Ryan Holiday, and many more.
This has exposed me to thousands of new insights and practical ideas for living a better life. And let me tell you something…
I’ve happily stolen and applied every single piece of advice these people have kindly given away in their books.
Whether it’s building better habits, elevating my level of happiness, or earning more money, these ideas have greatly benefited my own life.
So to make these ideas easier for you to benefit from, here are 12 of the best and most unconventional ideas I’ve shamelessly stolen from people who are a lot more successful than I am.
I hope you enjoy it!
1) Pare Down The Number of Decisions You Make Every Day
Every single day, you make thousands of decisions: Should I hit the snooze button or not? What time should I leave for work? Should I exercise today? And if so, what time? The list goes on and on. Some of these decisions are important, but most are trivial.
Unfortunately, researchers have found that, as humans, our capacity to consistently make well thought out decisions is finite.
What this means is that when you use your brainpower earlier in the day deciding what to eat for breakfast, for example, you’ll consequently have less of it later in the day when you have to decide if you should have that piece of cake or not. As a result, you’ll most likely give in and decide to eat the cake. This is what’s known as decision fatigue, which is the psychological condition where making a decision in the present will reduce your decision making ability in the future.
John Tierney, coauthor of the New York Times bestselling book “Willpower,” says,
“Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy.”
Simply put, every decision you make uses up your mental energy. So in order to save your mental power for the important decisions of the day, you have to learn to reduce the number of decisions you make on a daily basis either by automating them or delegating them.
By doing this, you’ll find yourself becoming significantly less stressed, more productive, and overall happier.
2) Tear Up Your To-Do List
Here’s an important piece of advice: Success is never achieved by the person who does the most things every day. Instead, success is always achieved by the person who does what is most important every day.
This is why to-do lists can oftentimes do more harm than good. Why? Because a to-do list is essentially everything you think you need to do, not everything you ought to do.
It may feel good to check off a lot of small, unimportant tasks from your to-do list, but a to-do list tends to just obscure what’s really important.
So what do you need instead of a to-do list? You need a success list.
In the book “The One Thing,” Gary Keller, founder of the largest real estate company in the world, says,
“To-do lists tend to be long; success lists are short. One pulls you in all directions; the other aims you in a specific direction. One is a disorganized directory and the other is an organized directive. If a list isn’t built around success, then that’s not where it takes you. If your to-do lists contain everything, then it’s probably taking you everywhere but where you really want to go.”
Not everything matters equally. Having clean windows may seem important for you to do, but it doesn’t help you achieve success. They only distract you from success.
So the next time you create a to-do list, don’t make your to-do list in random order. Instead, take a few extra minutes to list everything on your to-do list in order of priority and then focus on only doing the 3 most important things on your list.
3) Turn “Have-To” Into “Get-To”
At one point in my life, I constantly struggled to build new habits. But here’s a simple idea that helped me overcome this: Don’t view your habits as challenges. Instead, view them as opportunities.
In the book “Atomic Habits,” habit building expert James Clear says,
“We often talk about everything we have to do in a given day. You have to wake up early for work. You have to make another sales call for your business. You have to cook dinner for your family. Now, imagine changing just one word: You don’t “have” to. You “get” to. You “get” to wake up early for work. You “get” to make another sales call for your business. You “get” to cook dinner for your family.”
This may just seem like semantics, but it’s actually a crucial component for building new habits and improving your life. By simply changing one word in your life, from “have-to” into “get-to,” you start to see building habits like going for a run and reading every day as a privilege rather than as a burden.
- Don’t tell yourself “I have to go running today.” Instead, tell yourself, “I get to build endurance and get fast today.”
- Don’t tell yourself, “I have to read today. Instead, tell yourself, “I get to learn from the most intelligent and successful individuals who ever lived today.”
- Don’t tell yourself, “I have to write today. Instead, tell yourself, “I get to impact thousands of people for the better through my thoughts today.”
Learn to reframe your habits to highlight their benefits rather than their drawbacks. Doing this is a fast and easy way to reprogram your mind and to make intimidating and burdensome habits seem more attractive.
4) Use People’s Favorite Sound
Do you wish you were more likeable? I mean, who doesn’t? Even people who say they don’t care about being liked by other people still care about being liked.
And they should… You know why? Because being liked by others is extremely important when it comes to both your career success and personal relationships.
Luckily, there’s a simple technique you can use that can have a huge positive impact on how others perceive you. In the classic book “How To Win Friends and Influence People,” Dale Carnegie interviews the late American politician Jim Farley on his secret to being a more likeable and persuasive person.
What was his secret? Amazingly, Farley would go out of his way to remember the names of everyone he met. In fact, Farley could remember the first names of 50,000 people!
This is definitely impressive, but why is remembering and using people’s names important? There are two reasons: First, when you remember someone’s name, it makes that person feel respected and more important. However, when you don’t remember someone’s name, especially when they’ve told you their name multiple times, it can make that person feel slighted. Second, when you actively use someone’s name in conversation, it makes that person feel more engaged and interested. Unsurprisingly, Carnegie says, this is because “a person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
Remembering and using someone’s name is a very subtle, yet powerful way to win people over. So the next time you meet someone and you want to quickly win their favor be sure to remember their name and use it often in conversation.
5) Look At People’s Feet
When you’re having a conversation with someone, how do you know if the other person is engaged in the conversation, disinterested, or just uncomfortable to be there?
Typically, most people will look at the other person’s facial expression to try to get a sense of how that person feels.
Unfortunately, the problem with this strategy is that people are really good at changing their facial expressions in order to mask how they really feel.
Luckily, there’s a better strategy. According to the book “What Every Body Is Saying,” former FBI agent Joe Navarro recommends that in order to tell how someone feels, you should look down at their feet.
Navarro says that out of all our body parts, our feet are the most honest parts of our body.
For example, let’s say you’re talking to someone and their facial expression makes it seem like they’re engaged with you, but their feet are pointing away from you. Navarro says this is a bad sign. This can mean they’re ready to get out of the conversation immediately or that they don’t feel comfortable being there.
If, however, their feet are pointed towards you, then Navarro says that’s a good sign. This can mean that they feel comfortable talking with you or that they’re enjoying the conversation.
So the next time you’re standing and talking with someone, look at where their feet are pointing. You’ll discover some of the most revealing nonverbal information from that person just by looking at their feet.
6) Mise En Place
In the culinary arts, professional chefs have a term they use called “mise en place,” which is French for “put in place.”
Essentially, chefs don’t start cooking until everything is, literally, in its place: their instruments and spices are organized, everything is clean, their ingredients are pre-chopped, their ingredients are pre-measured, etc.
Mise en place helps chefs reduce the friction they experience in the kitchen. As a result, chefs are able to cook better meals with far less effort.
This is a simple concept that helps chefs cook better, but it also extends outside of the kitchen.
In the book “Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick,” professor and habit researcher Amy Wood recommends using mise en place to build better habits.
Like professional chefs, Wood recommends trying to reduce the friction needed to do your desired habit.
- If you want to eat better, then prepare healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals in advance.
- If you want to exercise in the morning, then lay out your workout clothes the night before.
- If you want to read more, then put a book on your bed.
If you can reduce the friction for the positive habits that you want to build, then it won’t be as hard for you to build life-changing habits into your life.
7) Don’t Be A Donkey
When Tim Ferriss asked Derek Sivers what advice he would give to his younger self for his book “Tools of Titans,” Sivers gave one of the best pieces of advice in this entire 700+ page book: “Don’t be a donkey.”
In this book, Sivers tells a short story about a donkey who is both equally hungry and thirsty. Fortunately for the donkey, there’s a stack of hay a few feet away from him on his left side and a pail of water a few feet away on his right side.
But here’s the thing: Because the hay and water are equally as far, the donkey can’t decide whether he should eat the hay first or drink the water first. Paralyzed by indecision, the donkey eventually falls over and dies from both hunger and thirst.
“A donkey can’t think of the future. If he did, he’d realize he could clearly go first to drink the water, then go eat the hay. So my advice to my 30-year-old self is, don’t be a donkey. You can do everything you want to do. You just need foresight and patience.”
Therefore, if you have 10 things you want to accomplish over the next 10 years, just know that you can definitely achieve those 10 things. But all you have to do is simply dedicate yourself to one thing for a year. And then dedicate yourself to the next thing for another year. And so on. However, if you try to do all 10 things at once, then you’re going to end up like a donkey and not achieve anything. Don’t be a donkey.
8) Stop Using The Number 7
Whenever you don’t know if you should say no to something, simply rate it on a scale from 1 to 10. However, there’s one condition: You can’t use the number 7.
This strategy comes from Tim Ferriss in his book “Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice From The Best In The World.”
Why does Tim Ferriss say you’re not allowed to use 7? Because 7 is too safe of a number. 7 doesn’t commit to anything.
If you rate something a 7, there’s a good chance you’ll feel obligated to say yes to it when you shouldn’t.
Whereas, if you rate something a 6 (terrible) or an 8 (exciting), it’s a lot easier to quickly decide whether or not you should even consider it.
The benefit of making decisions this way is that it forces you to make a decision.
This is a method you can use for anything, whether it’s deciding if you should buy a specific book, go to a conference, or have a coffee chat with someone.
Don’t be scared to have an opinion. Stop playing it safe. Make a decision.
9) Be A Whiner
Mark Cuban is a huge whiner. But that’s exactly why he’s so successful.
When Mark Cuban was in high school, for example, he whined about not being able to take business classes. So he decided to take classes at the University of Pittsburgh instead.
When Mark Cuban was hanging out with his friend, they both whined they couldn’t listen to any hometown sports in Dallas. So they decided to start AudioNet.
When Mark Cuban was sitting in attendance at a Mavericks basketball game, he whined that there wasn’t enough energy or entertainment. Cuban thought he could do a better job. So he decided to buy the Mavericks.
In his book “How To Win At The Sport of Business,” Mark Cuban says,
“I’m sure there have been many other things I have whined about in the past, and many more that I will whine about in the future. What I don’t understand is why so many people think whining has a negative connotation. I don’t. Whining is the first step toward change. It’s the moment when you realize something is very wrong and that you have to take the initiative to do something about it… People who don’t whine are punching bags. They just go about their days, their jobs, their lives, knowing there is nothing they can do to change a darn thing, so why say a word? They see no reason to whine because they know they are incapable of effecting change. Call me a whiner any day.”
10) Take Sabbaticals From Your Work
If you ever feel like you’re experiencing creative roadblocks in your work or that you’re feeling burnt out, it’s probably time to take a sabbatical.
What’s a sabbatical? Sabbaticals are mini-vacations from your work, which are meant to act as a detox from your daily routine so that you can recharge and get back to work better than before.
In the book “Show Your Work,” best selling author and creative Austin Kleon says,
“The designer Stefan Sagmeister swears by the power of the sabbatical — every seven years, he shuts down his studio and takes a year off [to rejuvenate and refresh his creative outlook.] His thinking is that we dedicate the first 25 years or so of our lives to learning, the next 40 to work, and the last 15 to retirement, so why not take 5 years off retirement and use them to break up the work years? He says the sabbatical has turned out to be invaluable to his work: “Everything that we designed in the seven years following the first sabbatical had it’s roots in thinking done during that sabbatical.”
Stefan Sagmeister is only one among thousands of successful entrepreneurs, creatives and VCs who rely on sabbaticals to feel refreshed.
Taking a sabbatical, whether it’s for a week, a day, or even just a few hours, is a great way to cultivate new ideas, to experience fewer creative blocks, and to avoid burnout in your work.
11) Never Ask For Someone’s ‘Opinion’
If you ever want to ask someone for input about an idea you have, then never ask for their “opinion.” Instead, always ask for their “advice.”
The differential phrasing might seem minor, but in the book “Pre-Suasion” psychology and marketing professor Robert Cialdini says that asking for ‘advice’ can have a significant positive impact in getting other people to provide you feedback as well as getting other people to want to work with you.
Why? Because when you ask someone for their ‘advice,’ this puts the other person in a togetherness state of mind, which helps increase the other person’s desire to support whatever you’re asking them for advice on.
Asking for their opinion, on the other hand, puts the other person in an introspection state of mind, which makes them focus more on themself and not on you.
So whenever you’re seeking input from your customers, peers, or even your boss, it’s worth asking them for their “advice.”
“The novelist Saul Bellow once observed, “When we ask for advice, we are usually looking for an accomplice.” I’d only add on the basis of scientific evidence that, if we get that advice, we usually get that accomplice.” — Robert Cialdini
12 Practice What’s It’s Like To Be Poor
For many of us, we constantly worry about not having enough money. We fear what life will look like if we can’t afford the things we think we want and are forced to live on just the bare necessities.
But oftentimes this fear paralyzes us and keeps us from being as happy and successful as we could be.
But instead of constantly worrying about what might go wrong if you were to get fired from your job or your business was to fail, why not rehearse what each potential fear-inducing moment would be like before it ever happens?
This is a psychological technique known as “fear rehearsing,” which is where you regularly microdose yourself with the worst case scenario as a way to desensitize yourself to your fears.
In the book “Letters From A Stoic,” the great Stoic philosopher Seneca says,
“Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: Is this the condition that I so feared?”
For 3 to 4 days, wear the same outfit every day. Eat a lot of instant oatmeal, ramen and/or rice and beans. Drink only water, cheap instant coffee or tea. Reduce the amount you spend on groceries and personal care in half. Forego any form of entertainment or leisure that costs money. Walk or take public transit everywhere. Turn off your TV. Take cold showers. Sleep in a sleeping bag. Only read books from your local library.
That’s it. That’s as hard as it gets. By doing this, you’ll realize just how independent your well being is from money. And once you understand this, it becomes easier to take “risks” and to push through your fears because you know that even if you were to experience a huge financial setback, you would still be completely okay.
People will think you’re resilient but actually you’ve just practiced the hard times as preparation.
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