What habits, tactics and routines do the most successful people use to achieve their earth-shaking accomplishments? One guy wanted to know. So he talked to over 200 world-class achievers to learn from them.

Tim Ferriss is the bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek. His new book is Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers.

So where to start? How about the activity that almost all of these A-players do first thing every single day?

1) Have A Mindful Morning Ritual

You wake up most mornings and the world is already screaming at you. Emails are coming in asking for everything under the sun, the kids are yelling, and there’s stuff you didn’t get done yesterday that’s still plaguing your mind. And you’re still in your jammies.

So you start the day reacting. You’re not following a plan and getting your goals accomplished, you’re desperately responding to all the things the world is throwing at you. But that’s not how you get Big Things accomplished in life.

The vast majority of the people Tim talked to have a morning ritual that involved some type of mindfulness. Getting your head straight and your priorities in line so you could face the day doing what matters to you. Here’s Tim:

More than 80% of the 200-plus people interviewed have some type of mindfulness practice, typically done in the morning, that helps prepare you to be more self-aware of your thoughts and less emotionally reactive during the day.

Don’t worry; it doesn’t have to be hard to add to your schedule. In fact, at first it definitely should not be. Here’s Tim:

The key is to make it as simple and easy as possible for your first five sessions. This is a critical, critical point, because you need it as an integrated piece of your routine before you get too ambitious. That could mean just one mindful breath in the morning.

That’s not too difficult. But you might have a bigger problem. You might feel like you don’t have it in you to be a huge success. Maybe you have flaws. Weaknesses. Stuff that holds you back that you’ve tried to overcome and couldn’t. Guess what?

The second most common thing Tim heard addressed exactly that…

2) Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths

Nearly everyone Tim spoke to mentioned how they had taken something that was a weakness and — rather than trying to fix it — they leveraged it into a superpower that pushed them forward. Here’s Tim:

“Turning weaknesses into competitive advantages” came up repeatedly. “How might I frame my weakness as a strength?” or, “If my weakness had to be a strength, how could I make it a strength?” Many people in the book have used this exact phrasing.

What many of them realized was that their flaws were not scientifically and objectively “bad.” They were qualities that went against the grain or were merely unpopular.

Sound like a vague, inspirational platitude? It’s not. Dan Carlin has one of the most popular and respected podcasts out there: Hardcore History. (I’m a huge fan, myself.) But when Dan started out in radio everyone said his manner of speaking was terrible.

Dan didn’t fix it. In fact, he deliberately called attention to it and made it his signature style. Here’s Tim:

Early on in his radio career he was criticized and coached to fix his verbal style, which tended to peak on meter. He would talk very, very loudly and then talk very, very quietly. It drove people at the radio station nuts, but he turned it into a feature instead of a bug. He had the person introducing him say, “Here comes Dan Carlin, folks. You know, he yells and then he whispers. Here he is.” It became his signature style.

Dan didn’t become one of the best in his field by doing what everyone else did. As he told Tim:

Copyright your faults.

So you’re meditating in the morning and taking a Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer approach to your “flaws.” But some people might say that “mindfulness” and “turning weaknesses into strengths” are both clichés. And you know what? They’re right. But that’s not a problem…

3) Don’t Ignore The Clichés

Shay Carl co-founded Maker Studios which sold to Disney for nearly a billion dollars.

When he wanted to lose weight and get in shape, he didn’t focus on the latest diet book, or look for cutting-edge secrets. He realized all he needed to do was stop ignoring the clichés and actually listen to them.

“Eat less and exercise more” is about as trite as they come. It also works. Here’s Tim:

The answers are sometimes hidden right in front of us. We’ve all heard about “crying over spilt milk”, or “eat less, exercise more”, but we never really take a moment to ponder why they became clichés in the first place. Whenever you hear a cliché, actually pay attention. Don’t just let it go in one ear and out the other because it’s been repeated so often. Many of us fail to achieve our goals not because we lack the capacity, but because we over-complicate.

So an oldie can be a goodie, always look on the bright side, and all’s well that ends well. But sayings are one thing and skills are another. What fundamental abilities do we need to develop that will promote success in any arena?

4) Be Able To Think, To Endure, And To Wait

A lot of people ask super-successful folks what their favorite books are. But Tim asked them which books they give as gifts the most often. This got him less idiosyncratic, taste-based answers and more muscular recommendations.

A few books were mentioned over and over like Sapiens, Poor Charlie’s Almanack, Man’s Search for Meaning, and Influence.

But one of the frequently gifted books stood out because it contained lessons that we all need to learn. That book was Siddhartha.

The key lessons from Siddhartha are that to accomplish anything, we need to be skilled at thinking, at enduring, and being patient. Here’s Tim:

Siddhartha talks about the benefits of being able to think, being able to fast, and being able to wait. If you were to boil down the skill sets and unique strengths of the people I interviewed, they can almost all be put into one of those three categories. Thinking is being able to critically problem-solve and ask better questions than most people, and therefore get less obvious answers. Then you have “to fast” and that is developing a comfort with discomfort, which is something you can condition yourself to withstand in greater and greater intensities and quantities. Then “to wait” is selective patience. The reason I say selective is that it’s possible to marry an impatience for high standards and results on one hand, with an understanding that winning macro-level long games is going to take time.

Thinking, enduring and waiting are critical. They’re also hard. What’s a tip that’s easy? Really easy. In fact, as easy as sleeping…

5) Have An “Overnight Task”

Reid Hoffman is the billionaire founder of LinkedIn and one of the co-founders of PayPal. When he has a tough problem to crack he doesn’t think straining your brain is the only way to go.

He writes the problem down before he goes to bed, lets his subconscious take a stab at it and writes about it some more the next morning. Often, this simple process helps him get the answer he needs. Here’s Tim:

He’ll pose a question, or a project, or situation in journal form before going to bed, and then allow his subconscious to digest and ruminate on that, and journal first thing in the morning to try to elucidate some type of non-obvious solution.

Sound too easy? I thought the same thing. But another of the “titans” — Josh Waitzkin (the chess prodigy that the film Searching for Bobby Fischer is about) said the same thing. He writes his problem down after dinner and reviews it the next morning.

Oh, and another successful guy was a big believer in this, too. His name was Thomas Edison. He once said: “Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.”

So far everything we’ve talked about is very you-you-you focused. And a lot of the people giving advice are self-employed. What tips do they have when you’ve got a boss who has an awful big say in your success?

How do you please El Jefe, become an expert in your field and gain the help of powerful mentors — all at the same time?

 

Watch out for the next 5 things successful people do in our next Monday Motivation post. In the meantime, be a doer and work on the 5 above.

Have a super-successful week ahead!

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