Want to learn about happiness and success strategies?
You've come to the right place. But first, well... read on.
One of the cool benefits of writing this column--nearly 500 entries and counting!--is the chance to learn from the best. I get to interview people, read and write. The takeaways are invaluable.
In fact--shameless plug--I've put together a free e-book on the subject: The Big Free Book of Success. As the title suggests, it's (a) free, and (b) all about finding success. You can download it here, and you probably should. We'll wait.
You might think that since I read and learn about this stuff all the time, that I put it into practice. And I would, except that I'm an actual human being. I screw up. I'm extremely grateful for the success that I've had in work and in life.* Yet, I fall short.
It's important to admit that. Yes, I spend a lot of time learning from some of the best in the business. Yes, there are a lot of things I know I should do. But, then I just don't get around to them. And I, like you, need to just give myself a break.
What kinds of "things I should do" am I talking about? Here are some examples.
1. Get up early and seize the day.
Great advice. Carpe diem and all that. Except that my wife and I have a baby daughter, so we're normally up before 6 a.m. anyway--and while I love that time with our little girl, it's never going to be "seize the day" time. It's more like, rub my eyes and read "Barnyard Dance" for the 257th time to make her smile. (Seriously, the cows are cute.)
2. Go to bed at a reasonable hour and get 7 to 8 hours sleep.
First, just to reiterate: baby daughter. And second--I write these columns late night, because this is America. If you weren't born into money and you want to get ahead, and you haven't founded a venture-backed, status quo-disrupting, game-changing startup with a sweet exit, yet--well, some of us need a second job.
3. Eat a healthy breakfast.
Sometimes, sure. But as part of a regular routine? I'd love to have a fluffy kale egg white omelet with a side of avocado toast each morning. But I'll settle for a cup or two of black coffee--and on especially good days, oatmeal. Because, #life.
4. Set aside time for leisure reading.
Reading for fun? That would be cool, but these days my "leisure reading" is probably going to be more about Facebook advertising strategies and digital marketing.
5. Apply the 80/20 rule.
Ah, the Pareto principle, bane of wannapreneurs everywhere. The problem here is that the 80/20 rule is stacked. Sure, I could focus my time on the 20 percent of my activities that produce the 80 percent of outcome--but only if I could identify those 20 percent of activities first. And since logically, 80 percent of the time I spend thinking about this produces only 20 percent results, it's not super-efficient. I get tired just thinking about it.
6. Remember people's names.
I wish I were better at this, but it's nothing new that I'm not. When I was in college, I was randomly assigned a roommate one semester after I came back from a study abroad program. I saw in him the cafeteria the following year and blanked--what was he called? The one upside I can say for this one is that if I do remember your name, you can truly take it as a compliment. It probably means I really, really, really like you.
7. Take time off.
It's almost 2:30 in the morning on a Thursday and I'm writing this before getting up in maybe five hours for work--let's just say I accept that I'm kind of a workaholic.
8. Be a mentor.
At this point I'm starting to feel a little bad about myself. Do I try to offer advice, and honor those who helped me to get where I am, and and try to pay it back? Yes and yes, but again there's the time factor. I hate to admit it but despite the best of intentions, this is one of the easiest categories to fall short in.
9. Embrace moderation.
This makes sense, but I've long since realized that "moderation is not my strong suit." If I get passionate about something, I can't help but focus on it and see it through. That sounds like a great answer to give in a job interview, but it's not always the most calming attribute to have or be around.
10. Daily exercise.
When we had a baby, I knew something had to give for a while, and for most of this year it's been physical exercise. It's too bad, but there are only so many hours. I take solace in the fact that I've done this before and recovered. When I graduated from law school for example, I took the bar exam, started a publishing company at the same time, and just didn't have time to hit the gym. I gained some weight, but three years later I was running marathons and boxing again.
11. Harden my heart.
They're not just the lyrics to a classic 1980s Quarterflash song--this is advice you hear from people saying you should try not to be sensitive. Don't worry about what others think of you, don't compare your success to theirs, don't listen to what they say.
I don't think many people really pull this off. I've embraced it: I'm a sensitive guy, and that has both positive and negative ramifications.
12. Maintain perpetual optimism.
The perpetual part of this is what gets me. Amy Cuddy preaches the value of being "annoyingly happy." Good for her, but encompassing a consistently positive outlook is kind of exhausting sometimes.