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OWNER'S MANUAL

11 Ways You Allow Your Life to Suck
 

Is your personal or professional life unsatisfying? Here's how you--more than anything else--might be holding yourself back.

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Not happy with your life, either personally or professionally? If that's the case the culprit isn't your upbringing, a lack of opportunities, bad luck, or other people holding you back.

The culprit is you.

If your life sucks, the problem lies in what you believe--and in what you do.

1. You mistake political gain for achievement.

Infighting, positioning, trying to look better by making other people look worse... playing politics can help get you ahead.

But if you win by politics you ultimately lose, since political success is based on the impulses, whims, and caprices of other people--other people you don't even like. That means today's success can be tomorrow's failure, and success or failure is largely outside your control.

Real achievements are based on merit. They can't be taken away--by anyone.

Real success is truly satisfying.

2. You're afraid of sniping or sarcasm.

Try something different. Try something others won't try. Almost immediately, people will talk about you--and not in a kind way.

The only way to keep people from being snide, disparaging, or judgmental is to say and do what everyone else does.

Then, of course, you live their lives and not yours. And you won't be happy.

See people talking about you as a sign you're on the right track--your track.

Your track is the happy track. Not theirs.

3. You don't try to be last.

Everyone likes to be first.

But often it's better to be last: The last to give up, the last to leave, the last to keep trying, the last to hold on to principles and values.

The world is full of people who quit. The world is full of people who pivot--even though pivot is sometimes just a fancy word for "give up."

There will always be people who are smarter, more talented, better connected, and better funded. But they don't always win.

Be the last to give up on yourself; then, even if you don't succeed, you still win.

4. You equate acquisition with satisfaction.

Psychologists call it "hedonistic adaptation," a phenomenon in which people quickly push the buzz from a new purchase towards their emotional norm.

That "Aaah..." feeling you get when you look at your new house? It quickly goes away. The same is true for your new car, new furniture, and new clothes. So in order to recapture the "Aaah..." feeling, you have to buy something else. The cycle is addictive. And so you're never satisfied. You can't be. That's not how we're made.

Real, lasting satisfaction comes from doing, not from having. Want to feel good about yourself?

Help someone.

Knowing you've made a difference in another person's life is an "Aaah..." that lasts forever.

It's also a cycle that's addictive--but this time, in a good way.

5. You're looking for a big idea.

Stop trying. You won't hit the big idea lottery.

And even if you did come up with the ever-elusive big idea, could you pull off the implementation? Do you have the skills, experience, and funding?

Me either.

But here's what you do have: Tons of small ideas. You don't need to look for a big idea if you act on your little ideas.

Happiness is a process, and processes are based on action.

6. You don't ship.

We're naturally afraid to be "done" because then our idea, our product, or our service has to sink or swim. And we're desperately afraid it will sink.

Maybe it will--but if you don't put it out there it can also never swim. No product can be successful until it's shipped. No application can be successful until it's released. No service can be successful until it's in the field.

When in doubt, ship it out. Then make whatever you produce next a little better. And ship that. And keep going.

You can't feel proud until you ship. So ship--a lot.

7. You see your resume or CV as an end result.

Many people collect jobs and experiences in pursuit of crafting a "winning" resume.

That's backwards. Your resume is like a report card. It's just a by-product of what you've accomplished, learned, and experienced.

Don't base your life on trying to fill in the blanks on some "ideal" CV. Base your life on accomplishing your goals and dreams. Figure out what you need to do to get to where you want to be, and do those things.

Then let your resume reflect that journey.

8. You wait.

For the right time. The right people. The right market. The right something.

And life passes you by.

The only right is right now. Go.

9. You don't collect people.

Walk around your house. Or look around your office. Look at your stuff.

Now have your extended family over for dinner. Or get together with friends. Look at your people.

Which is more fulfilling?

Thought so. You can love your stuff but your stuff can't love you back.

10. You think you aren't happy.

Close your eyes.

Imagine I have the power to take everything you hold dear away from you: Family, job or business, home... everything.

And I exercise that power. All of it, everything, is gone.

Would you beg and plead and offer me anything to get that life back? Would getting that life back mean everything to you? Would you realize that what you had is so much more important than what you didn't have?

Would you realize that what I just took away was pretty freaking awesome?

Of course you would.

Now open your eyes. Literally... and figuratively.

11. You don't call your parents.

Your parents give you love and support  in spite of all your faults and failures. You don't even have to work for it.

Who can't use a little more of that?

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Jul 16, 2012

JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.
@jeff_haden




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