Today we conclude the post: 10 Things the Most Successful People Do Everyday.

6) Clear The Path

Ryan Holiday, bestselling author of The Daily Stoic, draws a lesson from ancient history that is still very effective today. For thousands of years, the concept of “apprenticeship” was the cornerstone of becoming one of the greats. But these days we tend to just think about what is and is not in our job description. “These are my duties. I do these things. That’s it.” How people pleased their bosses back then, learned the ropes and got ahead wasn’t by checking boxes. They “cleared the path” for their superiors. They anticipated problems, did stuff they weren’t required to do, and proactively made things easier for those more experienced than them.

This doesn’t just “fulfill the dictates of your job description,” it builds trust, loyalty and turns a boss into a mentor. In Tools of Titans, Ryan says this:

It’s worth taking a look at the supposed indignities of “serving” someone else. Because in reality, not only is the apprentice model responsible for some of the greatest art in the history of the world — everyone from Michelangelo to Leonardo da Vinci to Benjamin Franklin has been forced to navigate such a system — but if you’re going to be the big deal you think you are going to be, isn’t this a rather trivial, temporary imposition? It’s not about kissing ass. It’s not about making someone “look” good. It’s about providing the support so that others can “be” good. Clear the path for the people above you and you will eventually create a path for yourself.

Does this work today? Yup. Tim spoke to billionaire Chris Sacca. When Sacca was starting out at Google he invited himself to high-level meetings and volunteered to take notes for the senior executives. Here’s Tim:

Clear the path for the person that you work for and go above and beyond the call of duty to take on additional responsibilities, even if you’re not compensated for them… This is exactly what Chris Sacca did when he worked at Google. He would sit in on meetings he wasn’t invited to and got to know the entire business and all of the higher-ups by doing this. But he was adding value. He was taking notes in this case.

Helping people isn’t always that hard. Now dealing with people, that can be a real challenge at times. What’s the right perspective to take so it doesn’t make you want to pull your hair out?

7) They’re Not Evil. They’re Exhausted.

Alain De Botton is the highly respected author of How Proust Can Change Your Life. He’s well-known for having a profound but accessible insight into human affairs that changes the way people think. De Botton says we’re far too inclined to assume people are being difficult because they’re mean. No, they’re usually tired or anxious or frustrated themselves. Tim summarizes:

Usually they don’t have a personal vendetta or agenda against your better interests. It can be really, really simple. They didn’t sleep, or a water main burst in their house the day before. They got in an argument with their husband or wife. Don’t attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence, busyness, hunger, or something else. Don’t retreat into a story that you’re telling yourself; actually observe what is happening in front of you.

Sometimes we’re better off if we see people just as big kids who cry when they are hungry or tired. As De Botton explains in Tools of Titans:

When we’re handling babies and the baby is kicking and crying, we almost never once say, “That baby’s out to get me” or “She’s got evil intentions.”

So people can be children. But it’s important to understand how those people affect you. And that’s why we need to talk about chimpanzees…

8) Remember The 5 Chimps Theory

Naval Ravikant is the CEO and co-founder of AngelList. He’s been an early investor in a number of startups you just might have heard of — like Twitter and Uber.

But he’s not just another Silicon Valley tycoon heavy on the smarts — this guy is wise. He knows that we’re not as independent as we might like to think. Those around us influence us, whether we realize it or not. And if you’re not taking action based on that truth, you’ll never be as successful or as happy as you’d like. Naval explains in Tools of Titans:

There’s a theory that I call ‘the five chimps theory.’ In zoology, you can predict the mood and behavior patterns of any chimp by which five chimps they hang out with the most. Choose your five chimps carefully.

Others in the book echoed similar sentiments. Tim sums it up:

The belief, if I were to generalize it, is that you are emotionally, physically, financially, or otherwise the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Look at the people around you. Are they who you want to be? Because that’s probably what you’ll become. And by the same token, if you have kids or employees, think about the influence you’re having on them. Not your words, but your actions. As mega-bestselling author Paulo Coelho says:

The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.

Okay, we’ve talked about a lot of tricks and tips. But what about deep stuff like values and morals? Would you hate me if I said that there is a time — however brief — to completely set them aside?

9) Know When To Use Your Moral Compass

Stephen J. Dubner is co-author of the bestseller Freakonomics. Dubner says there’s a time to ignore your moral compass.

This isn’t Machiavellian or evil. It’s all about judging before we’ve done any listening. Values and morals are the things we rarely change, and that’s good. But if you always lead with them and don’t hear the other side out, guess what? You can’t change your mind. In fact, you can’t even properly hear what they’re saying. They’re already “evil” and you didn’t even hear them out.

Blaming, pointing fingers and demonizing at the beginning of a conversation or negotiation never helped anyone achieve anything. People so often reply to you with, “You’re right. I am evil. You’ve convinced me.” No. No, they don’t.

So listen before you judge if you want to achieve anything and especially if you want allies. Here’s Tim:

When you want to collaborate and problem-solve, especially when people are polarized on an issue, if you come into it leading with your moral position, it is a huge obstacle to progress. When you’re in the idea generation phases, not the idea vetting stage, you should temporarily put away your moral compass. Don’t enter the conversation pointing the finger at “guilty” parties and blaming, when you need to be looking for solutions that may involve the help of those parties.

So what if you do all this stuff and you become a success? We’ve all heard stories of people who burn out or are otherwise still unhappy after big achievements. So what’s it take to be a happy successful person?

10) Get A “Jar Of Awesome”

Research shows that savouring the good times is an incredibly powerful happiness-boosting technique. Studies show that celebrating those hard-earned achievements is critical to future smiling.

Tim has a personal story about this insight — one that resonated strongly with many of the super-achievers he interviewed.

A while back, a woman Tim was dating noticed something about him. He was really good at achieving things but really bad about appreciating them. Once he had finished slaying one dragon he was already eyeing his next fire-breathing target before taking any time to really enjoy his accomplishment.

And so when things didn’t go his way, he’d sometimes feel despondent (despite the enormous pile of dragon bones around him.) So she made him a “Jar of Awesome.” Here’s Tim:

It’s a large mason jar with “The Jar of Awesome” written on the side in glittery letters. I was instructed to every day write on a piece of paper something good that happened, to fold it up and then put it in the Jar of Awesome. Then when I am feeling down, unsuccessful, anxious, whatever it might be, to dip into the Jar of Awesome and to reflect on all of these good things that happened so that I’m not wearing Gloomy-Gus-lenses, which I am prone to. As silly as it sounds and how nauseous my 20-year-old self would be to hear me talking about something called “The Jar of Awesome,” it became a fantastic tool for raising my happiness set-point maybe 10-20%. It’s something that a lot of my fans have started doing with their families. They’ve started having their kids do it.

Mason jars and glitter are the key to happiness. Tim sums it up:

If you can’t enjoy what you have, then you’ll never be made happy by anything you get.

Alright, we’ve learned a lot. Let’s round it all up and find out the most surprising thing Tim learned from his 200+ interviews…

Sum Up

Here’s some of what Tim learned from talking to a bunch of the most successful people:

  • Have a mindful morning ritual: Don’t start the day reacting. Get focused.
  • Turn weaknesses into strengths: Channel your inner Rudolph.
  • Don’t ignore the clichés: Many are spoken so often because they work.
  • Be able to think, to endure and to wait: Far more valuable skills than being good with Microsoft Excel.
  • Have an “overnight task”: Sleep on it. Your muse works while you rest.
  • Clear the path: Do more than you’re required to do and you’ll get to do what you want.
  • They’re not evil. They’re exhausted: We can all be big kids. They don’t hate you. They need a nap.
  • Remember the 5 chimps theory: You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Choose wisely.
  • Know when to use your moral compass: If you start out judging, you won’t be listening.
  • Get a “Jar of Awesome”: Don’t just achieve. Appreciate.

What was the most surprising thing Tim learned from the “titans” that mere mortals like you and I need to know?

That they’re mere mortals too. Here’s Tim:

The most surprising thing was realizing that every one of these titans that we see on the magazine covers, and that we think of as doing things that are unattainable by mere mortals, all of these people have many flaws, as we all do. To hear these people talking about their dark periods, their moments of complete self-doubt or when everyone they approached told them they were going to fail or had no talent… They’ve suffered tremendous setbacks, but they’ve figured out how to be themselves and to form habits around one or two core strengths. Strengths which often in many, many cases they resisted for a decade or more. A strength that they thought was a weirdness they had to keep hidden.

You too can be titanic. (Not the Titanic. I don’t recommend you go head-butt an iceberg and drown.)

Stop denying your inner weirdness. Cultivate it. Accept that you’re not perfect. Neither are the people on the magazine covers. You don’t need to be superhuman to be super-successful. Now go work hard…

And get a glittery mason jar so you enjoy what you achieve.


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