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What it takes

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In any hero's journey, the hero—be it you, me, Luke Skywalker, Moana, Dorothy, or Rocky—first receives a call. A call to be someone better or do something bigger. Although the journey will surely include more challenges along the way, the most difficult obstacle any hero or heroine will face is making the decision to answer the call. 

Deciding that you have what it takes. 

Because after that, nothing remains the same. You leave the world you have grown accustomed to and enter a new reality. One in which you have eliminated distractions.

But you can only embark on your hero's journey one you have stopped welcoming the bright shiny objects into your life. The things that distract you from doing work that matters.

Priorities: the hardest decision is the first one. Choosing the useful things over the things that demand more attention than necessary. 

 

Is it worth it?

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The answer is yes, if you want it to be. Or rather, if you let it. 

But, then again, that would depend on the destination. And, in that regard, sometimes it's not so much about the destination as it is the journey. The effort itself can be the reward, not just worth the reward. 

Some simple career advice

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Find what wakes you up in the morning—your passion. 

Brainstorm ideas around that passion.

Give it a try. Who knows where it will take you. But, chances are, it's further than you would be if you didn't follow this simple yet effective career advice. That's why it's called 'simple' career advice and not 'easy' career advice. 

Because simple is not easy. 

The journey

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If you are to enjoy the journey, you'll first need to understand what that means.

Then, realize what it looks like. 

There will be stress, you'll get tired, you'll feel like giving up. 

If it weren't so, it wouldn't be worth it. 

How work works

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And by ‘work’ I mean both where you work and the work you do. 

Here's how it works:

You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want
— Zig Ziglar

Here's what it means: 

The next time you're on a call or talking to someone in person, listen to them, but take it one step further and focus on their needs rather than your own. 

Here's what it looks like:

For the larger part of your professional career, your job is to make the life of your boss easier. 'Boss' is a broad term and everyone (even entrepreneurs) has a boss. Sometimes your boss is your manager, sometimes it's your customers, sometimes it's your co-workers. The point is, everyone serves someone. If you can make whom you serve successful, you will become successful. Like it or not, that’s how work works and that's how work gets noticed. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to be a brown-noser (okay, maybe a little bit), it means that in order to achieve whatever level of greatness you want to achieve, you're going to have to help others attain the level of success they're aiming for.

Make others more successful and you will be successful. 

Some words that get a bad rap

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The English language has a lot of them:

  • Curiosity
  • Yes
  • Relax (chill)
  • Obsessive

Yes, let’s talk about ‘obsessive.’

If someone calls you obsessed, you might be tempted to take it as an insult. But, chances are, you’re probably doing something right. You’re, most likely, doing a lot right.

In the words of a certain sports journalist (and a number of other people): “obsessive is the difference between great and legendary.

Most people who call themselves “professional” do the bare minimum. But the reality is, if you’re doing the bare minimum, you’re still performing like an amateur.

Not everyone can become legendary. There are only a select few who have done it in their respective industries. But, if you’re interested, it takes a level of commitment others aren’t willing to strive for. It takes being obsessive.

The 10X Rule: Grant Cardone

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While reading The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone, I found myself raising an eyebrow out of skepticism about 10% of the time. However, I also realized that much of this book had me nodding my head the other 90%. 

As you can imagine, the book is all about taking massive action in order to achieve massive success. It's that same message over and over again. Granted, there is much criticism with this book. It does, at times, seem like Mr. Cardone's answer to everything in life is to just take more action. But there are still some valuable takeaway's that can help anyone change their mindset about how they look at reaching their goals. And, in the end, that's what this kind of book is about. It's less about concrete lessons and more about just trying to change how you look at things. Grant takes things to the extreme. It's difficult to believe him, at times, but you can't help but feel motivated to do more and work harder. Which, I think, was his ultimate goal in writing this. 

Here are a few of my takeaways:

1) Take massive action. In other words, look for ways you can create and make rather than wasting your time trying to find ways to save. Expand your efforts, don't contract. Contracting is a losers' mentality. Here's the thing, you're probably not doing enough. Your goals are too small, commitments too weak, and amount of action too little. The world has taught you to be conservative. That setting 'realistic goals' is the way to go. But setting these kinds of goals is a form of retreating. What might seem like an obstacle, is actually the way. Eat your fears. Set massive goals. Overcommit, even. When something seems undoable, start taking action right away before you can start overthinking things. Take massive action quickly and it will seem like you are fearless. 

2) Being obsessed is good. Look up the definition of 'obsessed.' Children are obsessed. It's what helps them learn at a rapid rate. It's what keeps them curious. Quit thinking in terms of either/or and start thinking in terms of all and everything. Successful people think in terms of “all,” whereas unsuccessful people tend to place limits on themselves. They may believe that “If I am rich, I can't be happy” or “If I thrive in my career, then I won't have time to be a good father, husband, or spiritual individual.” In fact, it's interesting to notice that the people who put limits on what is available to them are also most inclined to talk about “balance.” However, this is a flawed manner of thinking that neither time management nor balance will resolve. Most people only work enough so that it feels like work, whereas successful people work at a pace that gets such satisfying results that work is a reward. Truly successful people don't even call it work; for them, it's a passion. Why? Because they do enough to win! An easy way to achieve balance is to simply work harder while you are at the office. This won't just leave you with more time; it will allow you to experience the rewards of your job and make it feel less like work and more like success. Try to take this approach: Be grateful to go to work, and see how much you can get done in the time you have. Make it a race, a challenge—make it fun.

Here's to saying yes

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Saying 'yes' gets a bad rap. It's the popular thing for entrepreneurs to counsel people to learn to say 'no.' But the thing is, saying 'yes' leads to way more opportunities than saying 'no' ever will. 

Saying 'no' doesn't get you out of your comfort zone, saying 'yes' will. 

Saying 'no' is valuable when it comes to personal principles and specific commitments, but for everything else, saying 'yes' will only open doors and push you to exceed your own limitations. 

If you have a lot on your plate, that's a good problem to have. So say 'yes' to your clients, your boss, your spouse, your kids, your friends. Say 'yes' to things that will push you in the direction you want to go. 

'No' is a powerful word. Save it for those rare occasions when you need to stand by your values. But saying 'no' should never be your default answer. Try saying 'yes' to everything. See where it elevates you. 

 

 

Feeling unprepared

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It's easy to spot the tourists in New York City, just notice the people constantly looking around, either in awe or pure confusion. They also usually have maps and are trying their best to navigate where they are going. 

You can study a map, read articles, talk to the 'locals,' watch videos, etc. but to a certain extent, when you are visiting a new place you will still feel (at times) a little lost and unprepared. Something always comes up that causes a moment of panic. 

This happens when we are trying something new or doing something for the first time. We will always feel unprepared. 

We've been trained to not be okay with this. We, unfortunately, compare this feeling of unpreparedness to how we felt when we took a quiz in school and forgot everything we had previously memorized. 

This feeling of being unprepared is not a happy feeling. So we might be tempted to take certain measures to ensure we limit the number of times we feel unprepared. But therein lies the paradox. The things we feel most unprepared for are the very things we should embrace and pursue. For they are things that bring the most satisfaction. They will be the sources of our growth and development. 

Another thing about the 'feeling' of being unprepared. There comes a point when this feeling is a choice. You may still be leaping into the unknown, but you've seen it play out enough times that you have an idea of how it possibly ends. I'm convinced that this ability to remain confident in ambiguity is one of the most important skills someone can develop—especially when it comes to navigating one's career and, of course, life. 

If it is to be,

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it's up to me. (By 'me' I mean 'you,' not me).

This is the kind of attitude it takes to be successful. 

You need to believe that, no matter the problem, you can figure it out. Even if you don't know how to do something, be confident that you possess the ability to figure it out. There will always be reasons to come up with excuses, but those who persist and take extreme ownership of the situation always come out on top. 

It's okay to be unfamiliar with something, as long as you remain determined with a promise that you will either learn it, solve it, discover its cause, or find someone who can. 

If it is to be, it's up to me. When something looks like a problem, approach it like an opportunity. Think of it as a challenge. Something to conquer. Then, no longer is it a 'grind' or a drag' but something that stretches you, inspires you, something that can (and should) excite you. 

Success is overcoming a challenge.

If it is to be, it's up to me. 

Staying relevant

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The idea of staying relevant isn't a matter of always conforming to how new systems change. It doesn't require you to be an early adopter of new trends and technologies, either. It simply means being closely connected to what is being done or considered. Simple, not easy. 

The master writer will pick up techniques from the classic greats, but combine her passions in order to write something original. The brilliant chef will prepare a traditional meal with a modern twist. The gifted chess player studies past champions to prepare her mind for what might come next. What I'm saying here is you must know what the general shape of the box looks like in order to think outside it. Or, put another way, you need to know the rules before you can break them. 

That is what it means to stay relevant. Honor the past. Stand on the shoulders of giants to get you where you need to go, then add your special flair to the mix. What is your 'one thing?' Whatever it is, you can always make it better by studying the greats before you. But you make it yours by trying things they would have never imagined. 

Managing expectations

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Summers are for barbecuing. Tonight was the perfect kind of night for some roof-top grilling. We brought the vegetables, and our friends provided the tilapia and drinks. 

There were two flavor options for drinks: lemon and cranberry. Without really looking, I cracked open the lemon expecting a sweet, tangy rush of lemon goodness, only to experience the dull, diluted, flavorless wannabe lemonade—lemon-flavored sparkling water! 

It's not that I never had sparkling water before, it's that I was expecting something else than what was delivered. 

And that's the thing about expectations, isn't it? Expectations are usually graded on the curve. You expect water, I give you lemon seltzer, your expectations change, they reset. You eat ramen your whole life, then I introduce you to real ramen, your standard for what good ramen tastes like changes. You then move to Japan—what once blew you away becomes the new standard. 

Low expectations are no good. They make it seem like something is happening when, in reality, nothing has changed. Expectations that are too high also present a challenge. You will always be expected to exceed them. Nothing, therefore, will ever be good enough. You may never be content with anything.

Here's the best way I know how to properly manage expectations: first, understand what expectations are. They need to be internally driven. They need to come from you. It's better to go into something with no expectations than someone else's. Second, good expectations are well-thought-out. They align with our hopes and our dreams. They aren't merely wishes conjured up on the whimsical thought. They represent who we are, where we intend to go, and who we anticipate becoming (given we follow the principles we establish for ourselves). Third, having great expectations is the last thing that is stopping you from turning pro. I can almost promise you that your expectations are too low, not the other way around. Great expectations allow you to explore what you never thought was possible, discover something inside yourself that has been hiding for far too long, and become the person your best-self would expect you to become. 

But those great expectations don't just come. You'll need some help. Help from people who not only understand the purpose of properly managing your expectations but also realize the importance and the value of setting your own expectations. These rare mentors won't set your expectations but will ask the right questions, lead by example, and know how to inspire you so that the expectations you set are truly great. And if you feel like those people who are closest to you now aren't meeting your expectations, maybe it's time you surround yourself with other people who care enough to help you dig deeper. Because there is nothing more valuable than having someone in your life who shares your vision, who helps you open your eyes to the possible, who expects a lot from you because they believe in you. 

Letting yourself off the hook

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You are doing yourself a disservice when you say you need more time to prepare. 

You don't need any more ideas, you just need to execute one. 

Stop being jealous of others' 'talents' when they are actually skills. 

Make the call, do the thing you've been talking about, learn the skills. It's more possible and achievable than you think, and it certainly doesn't require MORE experience and MORE time. After all “experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.” — Steven Wright. 

For the moment you might feel better, now that you've let yourself off the hook, but you're also slowly making yourself more and more miserable. 

It? Or the idea of it? 

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Do you love that person? Or are you in love with the idea of marriage?

Do you really want that career? Or are you in love with the idea having that career? 

Do you love it there? Or are you in love with the idea of being there? 

It's okay for the answer to be "both." But just make sure it's not exclusively the latter. 

We make things way more glamorous than they really are. Over the past few years, I have wondered what it would be like to be a travel blogger. Imagine, traveling the world, writing about my experiences, seeing breathtaking sights, meeting unforgettable people, what a life! But then I think about how much time I would have to spend in airports and train stations and miss out on building real relationships.

Here's the thing, every job is hard. Sales is hard. Construction is hard. Writing is hard. Design is hard. Working at Starbucks is hard. Working at Apple is hard. The key is to find something that works for you. And it's okay if it takes some time because it's worth the investment. 

Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed.

The fact is most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. …

Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.

The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride

This is one of my all-time favorite quotes. It's the perfect mix of "real talk" and "optimism." We all have to get used to a certain level of discomfort—no matter what we do, where we live, or how we choose to spend our time. So we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. And at some point we need to realize that everything we've been looking for might be right in front of us. 

Playing the victim

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Bad things happen to victims, and they happen to them quite frequently—just ask one. 

Good things happen to people who take responsibility, who take ownership.

Maybe it was just bad luck, misfortune, an accident. Maybe the universe hates you and you are destined for mediocrity. 

Or, maybe it was your fault? Maybe you had something to do with that bad thing that happened? 

Each moment presents us with a choice:
1) Will you act? 
2) Or will you be acted upon? 

Taking control of your life begins with taking more responsibility. It's the idea that "nothing happens to you; it happens because of you." Is your job happening to you? Or are you doing things to the job? In other words: are you a cog in a well-oiled machine? Or are you creating something that generates forward motion? 

How you think about yourself and the things happening around you is the crucial first step. For "as a man thinketh, so shall he become." But the language you use also influences your actions more than you think. How did your day go? Was change happening to you and you got frustrated because you couldn't keep up? Or were you out there creating change? 

No matter what happens, you always have a choice. Success is not just a series of events that "happen to happen." Success is a state of mind.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.
— Aristotle

Assume control over everything that happens to you. Good things will happen. You will start to notice these good things and, as you continue to practice extreme ownership, will see a compounding return of excellence. Maybe it's time you begin taking more responsibility.

Work like an editor

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Here’s what I mean: there are thousands of things you could be doing, but there are only a select few things that can be deemed "important." 

The job of an editor is to hack away at the non-essential in order to bring out only the best. Successful editors have a knack for sorting through countless possibilities and proposals and selecting the one thing (or few things) that will make the most sense and have the greatest impact on what they are doing. 

Work like an editor. That is to say, do things that will make life as effortless and simple as possible for those you serve (i.e. work for). An editor of a book might do things (add structure, subtract frivolous details) to make the message more clear. An editor of a sales organization might limit the number of messaging tools to drive focus. An editor of an email campaign might simplify the use of graphics to ensure it’s addressing the correct audience. As an editor of your life, you might reconsider if that object really is bringing you joy or if that pursuit really is worth your time and energy.

Condense, correct, and clarify—wise words to live by. It’s not just about activity, it’s also about meaning. It’s waiting, observing, enabling, empowering—then stepping in only when necessary. 

Essentialism: Greg McKeown

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This book was written at the perfect time. It was published in 2014, right when minimalism started to make a name for itself. Essentialism (as described by Greg Mckeown) is minimalism revisited. It's the "relentless pursuit of less but better."

It's easy to say "do what you enjoy" and "be present," but essentialism has a way of helping you decide what your priorities really are then creating a plan to not deviate from them. Much like minimalism, it's about investing a little up front (time, energy, money, effort) in order to set yourself up for success later. Then keeping the good and eliminating the bad.

There are a few reasons why I particularly enjoyed this read:

1) Dealing with technology. This is a sensitive subject for me. I love minimalism and I believe that technology plays an integral role in simplifying my life. However, for nearly 10 years technology has promised to make our lives easier and we are still waiting for that promise to be fulfilled. Ebooks now cost the same amount as regular books. At any given time, most office workers (especially those in software) have at least 5-10 different messaging applications open on their monitors. We haven't found spare time, we have only discovered more effective ways to waste time. And the list goes on. The lesson is this: technology will continue to advance, but what about us? What about our will-power? What about our ability to prioritize? Because if you don't prioritize your life, someone else will. And that's when we become slaves to technology. 

2) Dealing with decision fatigue. One of the reasons we aren't where we want to be is because by the time 10:00 am rolls around we have already made so many "urgent decisions" that we fall victim to doing what everybody else decides for us. From what you eat to what you wear to what you read, eliminate the non-essential and make sure you love and are truly passionate about "all that remains."

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

There's no such thing as "being too busy." It's a myth. When people say they are too busy, they merely haven't learned how to say no to the things that don't matter and yes to the things that do. It's a skill. Something you can learn. And certainly something you can learn from a diligent study of Essentialism. 

A different strategy

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Not better. Not worse. Just different.

Each strategy leads us down a path. A path that directs us to make other choices along the way. What we invest in. What sacrifices we make. Who we choose to follow. 

Here's the thing, when devising and implementing a strategy, you need to go in with the assumption that you might be wrong, that it might not work. That's how the greats before you and I all learned how to do things and build things others couldn't possibly imagine. Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, John Steinbeck, J.K. Rowling, Gandhi, Nikola Tesla, Marcus Aurelius, Abraham Lincoln, all built a strategy with the assumption that things might not work out. They accounted for worse-case-scenarios, wherein they could recalculate, recalibrate and rework the strategy into a stronger one. 

At some point or another, you're going to meet people that don't like what you're laying down. That's okay. It's not for them. And, as soon as you learn how to confidently state "it's not for you," you gain incredible power, not only over your strategy and work but also your life.  

Tired of average

At what point are we going to stop making compromises and grow tired of being average? 

Maybe we like average?

We say we want to eat healthy, but look around, do we really? 

We say we want to raise our performance level, but what have we sacrificed recently? 

If you are, indeed, tired of average, why not work at a place where everyone is smarter than you? Why not apply to the school that you know you would be challenged at? Why not have a conversation with a person you have nothing in common with? Why not take on a project that is way out of your comfort zone? Why not...you get the point. 

It seems that there is really only one question left to ask, are you REALLY tired of being average?

It's a rhetorical question, but your answer will manifest itself through action (or the lack of it).