9 Simple Steps to Hard-Earned Success

If success was easy, would it be worth it?

If everyone could achieve at a high level, would high levels of achievement be special?

How do you measure success, anyway? In dollars? Unless you win the lottery, you are not going to get rich quick.

Will you consider yourself successful when you no longer have a “boss”? Anyone who has started a successful business can tell you that being their own boss is the hardest job there is.

Success takes a lot of action on your part. You’ve got a mountain to climb, and every step is going to be hard as hell. And you’re going to have to enjoy the climb or you’ll convince yourself that it isn’t worth the trouble before you get there.

Business strategist and author Dan Waldschmidt has a great article in Forbes called “19 Hard Things You Need To Do To Be Successful,” and here’s the money quote:

“You have to do the hard things. The things that no one else is doing. The things that scare you. The things that make you wonder how much longer you can hold on.”

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That got me thinking. All of these secrets come down to one commandment, don’t they? Here it is: Cultivate discipline.

Get over yourself. Break free of your limitations, whatever they might be. I used to work with someone who was afraid of the phone. She was a very friendly, outgoing person, but she hated to make and receive calls at work. What helped her overcome this fear? Having to call clients multiple times a day.

She got used to it, and she got over her irrational fear.

Don’t like waking up early? Set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier than you have to, even on your days off. This might sound like self-punishment to you, and in a sense it is. But you’re really only “punishing” the part of you that is holding you back. Before long you’ll be one of those people who swear by waking up early. It really is the most productive time of day.

Here’s a secret about the hard stuff: It’s easy to avoid. Just avoid the things you’re afraid of, right?

Follow the crowd and you won’t draw any heat.

But ordinary people become great when they accomplish what others didn’t even attempt. Somebody else may be smarter, richer or otherwise in a better position than you. But if you do the hard things that they don’t have the courage to try, you will be the one who succeeds.

I was going to call this blog “Simple Secrets to Hard-Earned Success,” but these aren’t really secrets at all. They are truths that are out there for everyone to see. The trouble is everyone forgets them. Losing sight of the truths you know is just as bad as not being informed about them. Give these strategies a try and see why it’s important to remember them.

1. Keep learning. Education never ends. Read as much as you possibly can. Don’t have time?

Tough. Make time. Try audiobooks. I use a podcast app (Podcast Addict) and a library download app (OverDrive) on my phone. Podcast Addict lets you increase playback speed without increasing the pitch. This lets me listen to audiobooks at nearly twice the speed, which sounds weird at first, but you get used to it pretty quickly. In fact, these days I can’t listen to anything at “normal” speed without thinking it drags on and on FOREVER.

2. Optimize your schedule. Where are you wasting your time? Identify the things you do just because you’ve always done them and decide if you could use that time a little more wisely. Set a time limit for each task and make sure it takes exactly as long as you decided to let it take.

Here’s an example:

Decide to spend no more than 10 minutes per day on Facebook and Twitter. At first you’ll be frustrated because you don’t feel like you’re giving yourself the time you “need” to see and respond to everything. But in just a few days you’ll find yourself skipping over the fluff, scanning for the truly important posts of friends, family and colleagues. Soon your social media priorities will be crystal-clear and you’ll be using your time wisely. And trust me, you probably won’t miss anything except a few photos of your high school buddy’s new kid.

3. Wake up early. I mentioned this already, but it bears repeating. Set a routine for every morning and every evening. Hit the ground running. This process begins the night before, with your morning tasks already planned out in list form.

4. Don’t multi-task. Multi-tasking is great if your tasks don’t require focus. But there’s a word for “tasks” that are more important than the main one—we call them “distractions.” Identify the things that need to be done well and make sure they’re getting your full attention.

5. Learn to move on. Learn to know when something is “good enough”. You can move on to your next task or you can let the current project suck you in and wear you down. I’m not saying “give up and move on.” I’m saying “know when 95% is good enough so you can go accomplish more things.”

6. Constantly revaluate your plan. Take constant inventory and edit your life’s blueprint (you do have one, right? RIGHT??) Create to-do lists and crush them. Remember that it isn’t failure to change your goals and recalibrate your target deadlines. There’s always new information coming in, and you have to update your action plan accordingly.

7. Listen. Be the best listener you know. There’s something to be learned from everyone.

8. Network. Try to meet people every day. Go to industry events and don’t always hang out with the same circle of friends. Remember: You build net worth by building a network.

9. Stay hungry. Never settle, even if things are good. They can be better, and you can make them better. In fact, you are the only one who can.

Successful people don’t rely on wishes and dreams. They depend on actionable plans built on goals and hard deadlines. I could go on and on (and I will in some upcoming blogs). But for now, remember to stay disciplined.

And don’t count on easy victories. You want to climb your mountain, but half the fun is overcoming all the smaller obstacles on the way.

Each step along the way will be hard-fought, but that will make standing on the top all the more rewarding.

POSTED: 05.02.2015

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