It can be tempting to look at highly successful people and imagine that they've been presented with opportunities others haven't. Typically, though, individuals who do the most with their lives create their own luck. Regardless of the situation you're born into, or the doors which others open, it takes discipline and intention to truly achieve great things. Here's are the daily habits more than two dozen founders and executives practice to get ahead in the world.
1. Prioritize education over entertainment.
"Knowledge will always be power. Every successful business person will acknowledge that, to a certain extent, you have to sacrifice certain things to obtain others. It's important to cut out the things are aren't serving your dream. Replace binge watching television with binge reading bio/autobiographies of the people who inspire you. Replace a trip to the bar with a night of staying in to research conferences in your industry or send emails or letters to people who practice your craft. Learn from the people who came before you and spend your free time doing things that are aligned with furthering your life plan."
--Amanda Hudson, who leads Dallien Realty's top-producing agent team, The Hudson Team, which specializes in providing advisory services to New York City landlords and developers, and domestic and international buyers, renters, sellers and investors, closing over 100 transactions annually
2. Read, synthesize and share.
"My habit is simple, but has proven powerful in my career. I read. I take notes on what I read. I synthesize and share with my teammates and our community of users when relevant. Through this habit, I am not only constantly learning myself, but also helping to cultivate a culture of continual of learning at work."
--Emily Foote, VP of customer success at Instructure, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology company that has connected millions of instructors and learners at more than 4,000 educational institutions and corporations globally
3. Start every morning with gratitude.
"Before my day kicks into high gear, I find a quiet moment to focus on gratitude. I take ten deep breaths, and with each breath I think about one thing I'm grateful for in that very moment. I've found that by starting my day this way, I open myself to recognizing all the opportunities the day brings. My personal motto has always been, 'Do what I can with what I've been given... today.' Being grateful for what I have has helped me capitalize on the opportunities that are right in front of me, rather than losing sight of them by focusing on what I lack. Sometimes creating opportunities is as simple as being open to seeing them in your day-to-day."
--Judith Nowlin, chief growth officer of Babyscripts, Boulder Valley Forty Under 40 award winner, and cofounder and former CEO of iBirth, which was recently acquired by Babyscripts, a virtual care platform for obstetrics that provides pregnancy care to over 120,000 new mothers across the U.S.
4. Visualize and set clear intentions for the day.
"I start my day with a workout, followed by meditation where I visualize my short, medium and long-term goals. I set clear intentions of what I want to achieve each day. This helps me to avoid veering too far away from my priorities when inevitable distractions come up. It also helps me feel accomplished at the end of each day."
--Rob Webber, founder and CEO of MoneySavingPro.com, a price comparison site that helps consumers save money on their cell phone, TV and internet bills and founder of Broadband-Expert.co.uk and BroadbandExpert.com, which both generated millions of dollars in revenue before being acquired in 2013 and 2015 respectively
5. Place value on your time and think about work virtually.
"Be relentless with your schedule. There are only so many hours in a day, so think about which meetings and calls are absolutely necessary for you to participate in and which you can skip, so you can focus on other things. Constantly playing catch up is exhausting. Your schedule should enable productivity, not hinder it. Staying disciplined with your time also makes unexpected issues or last-minute fires less stressful because you'll be able to pivot more easily and take care of them. Also, don't become preoccupied with how much time you spend in the office, on a plane or visiting clients. Instead, think about how you can be the most productive where you are or where you plan to be. By embracing the virtual mindset and by investing in technology that makes it easy for you and your team to work together in non-traditional ways, you'll find yourself less stressed with your schedule and view each day as another day at the office, no matter where you are located."
--Ed O'Brien, CEO of eMoney Advisor, a wealth management platform that provides financial planning software to advisors, firms and enterprises, employing over 600 people and serving more than 50,000 financial advisors
6. Eat breakfast.
"My morning ritual involves thinking about new ideas or the day ahead in a hot shower, an involved espresso coffee making ritual for me and my wife and always eating breakfast, always. I grew up on a ranch in outback Australia and missing breakfast could never happen (even at 4 a.m.) or you would fall off your horse later on. Breakfast sets you up for doing your best work and dealing with stress. Our ranch never had enough water for morning shower so now I find them a luxury and meditative. The ritual of making an espresso marks the point when the day really starts for me. Together, these morning rituals have become a staple for helping me get centered and ready for what lies ahead for the day."
--Ian O'Rourke, founder and CEO of Adthena, a search intelligence solution which uses machine learning and serves hundreds of the world's largest advertisers
7. Study and share tips on personal growth.
"I have made a practice of working on 'Friday Forward' each morning. Friday Forward is an email I send that reaches 40,000 people every Friday morning with a leadership theme, quote and related insights around personal growth. The habit of working on some part of the e-mail each day (drafting, editing, picking image, final review) has become a keystone habit for me, which has improved all my other habits. My goal in sending these emails is to help people as they build their own capacity to lead and set goals. By sharing what I'm inspired by or struggling with, I'm clarifying my own thoughts while helping people to learn and do things better, leading to greater personal happiness. I find this incredibly rewarding and it has led to some incredible feedback and opportunities for myself and my business."
--Robert Glazer, founder and managing director of global performance marketing agency Acceleration Partners which has received several company culture awards, including Inc. Best Workplaces 2017
"I go for at least a 20-minute run every morning to prepare for the day ahead. If I'm traveling, it's a great way to shake off the jetlag. If I'm at our office in London, a loop of Regent's Park is a great way to start the day. I find that a short run leaves me feeling more focused and energized. I'm able to think more clearly, prioritize tasks and most importantly, be a better leader for our company."
--James Brown, CEO for Smart Communications, an independent company focused on enterprise customer conversations which serves more than 350 global brands
9. Listen to a podcast.
"When I wake up in the morning, I like to start the day off on a positive note. I spend so much of the day working and the only time I really have to focus on myself is in the morning when I'm driving to work or going for a run. And the key to starting off on that positive note, is by filling my drive and or run with my favorite podcasts. I listen to a lot of different kinds of podcasts from mysteries such as Serial to NPR podcasts, such as Up First. This morning ritual is simple, yet by cultivating this habit, I find that I start my days off on the right foot, with a clear mind."
--Amitabh Bose (Ambo), chief practice officer of CPG, retail and hospitality at Fractal Analytics which serves Fortune 500 companies including Visa, P&G and Unilever
10. Get to-dos out of your head by recording them.
"I'm a big believer in the 'Getting Things Done' system by David Allen. This is a great way to keep my head clear of the stress of what I've missed. It also gives me an opportunity to be productive in those little gap times in my daily schedule--the downtime between meetings or other daily commitments, where I have a list of tasks that can get completed. This then frees up my day to focus on the larger projects I have."
--Daniel Chait, CEO of Greenhouse Software, a talent acquisition suite which serves more than 2,600 companies including Warby Parker, Airbnb and Cisco Meraki
11. Be polite.
"Manners make a difference. I have spent my career traveling the globe doing business in countries all over the world. And one thing is universal: no one likes a jerk. Go out of your way to be polite, courteous and gracious to people. This does not mean you can't stand your ground or set high standards for what you expect from people. It simply means that even when doing that you can be polite. It's not just something your mom reminded you of as a child. It can actually help you make more money."
--Jeff Hood, cofounder of BlockSquared.com, a BlockChain industry expert who has spoken globally to more than 40,000 people on the benefits of Blockchain and cryptocurrency
12. Focus on one task at a time.
"It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that multitasking makes you more efficient or proves to the world how much you can handle. It doesn't. Research shows that multitasking entails a switching cost between projects that offsets any gains you might think you're making in productivity. Instead, know what the top three to five things you need to get done today are and focus intently on knocking each one off, one at a time. Don't get distracted. Don't let your mind wander. Don't let someone else's priority become yours if you can avoid it. When you're done with one task, take a quick break and then move on to the next."
--Jeff Somers, president of Insureon, an online small business insurance provider that has been named a Crain's Chicago Business Fast 50 and Inc. 5000 award winner; and previously chief product officer at Ticketmaster, and holder of leadership positions at Amazon, Microsoft, eBay and Zillow
13. Learn something and teach something.
"I strongly believe in this philosophy and it extends across my personal and professional life. If we are willing to learn, we never stop growing. If we are willing to teach, others around us will become better."
--Kurt Heikkinen, president and CEO of Montage, a recruiting technology provider that helps 100 of the Fortune 500, among other organizations, integrate high-tech solutions to recruit and hire top candidates
14. Share more than you think you need to.
"Make it so your team knows everything and use collaboration tools to facilitate that. Have conversations in front of everyone. When everyone can hear what's going on, even if it's tangential to their role, people develop context. Share what's going on at more senior levels to your team. Do this because people understand why decisions are being made the way they are. It makes staff meetings shorter because everyone has a handle on what the rest of the team is doing."
--Adam Hatch, CMO of FPX, a company that simplifies the buying and selling experience for B2B companies, working with customers including Honeywell, Bell Helicopter, Daimler, Airbus and Fujitsu with 98 percent customer retention each year
15. Read something non-business-related every day.
"I think storytelling is key to leadership, and broadening your exposure to stories outside your realm of expertise is a great way to keep ideas fresh."
--Harry Chemko, cofounder and CEO of Elastic Path, a provider of API-first commerce software that helps brands in industries such as telecoms, publishing, software, travel and consumer retail deploy sites in 170 countries and generate billions in global revenue
16. Be present, be personal and be thankful.
"Do everything you can to make connections with the people around you: with your family, customers and co-workers alike. With my family, I make an effort be present by turning off my phone when I'm at home to better connect with my son. I also try to meet with my customers in-person as often as I can to learn more about their ideas, challenges and passions. Meeting with customers face-to-face gives me a real feel for who they are and lets me understand how to better help them. When it comes to my own team, I take time to recognize their work and let them know they are valued. Being present, personal and thankful is crucial to leading a successful home and work life."
--Dave Feinleib, founder and CEO of Content Analytics, which works with global brands like Starbucks, Walmart and Mattel, seeing 700 percent growth in annual recurring revenue over the last ten quarters; and author of "Bricks to Clicks: Why Some Brands Will Thrive in E-Commerce and Others Won't"
17. Work first, then play.
"I actually like to jump right into my day, check and respond to email, sort through news alerts and confirm my schedule for the day, even before a shower or coffee. Fifteen minutes of productive time right at the outset helps me shape what I have to do to stay ahead of all the inevitable firefighting that fills the rest of the day. It also allows me to relax on the commute into the office. At that point, I've already addressed the burning issues so I can check out, read a book, listen to a podcast--anything that isn't work related for 35 minutes so that I can hit the office mentally ready-to-roll."
--Scott Webb, president of Avionos, which designs and implements digital commerce and marketing solutions for clients like Kellogg's, Sysco, and Ulta Beauty and was ranked on Crain's 2018 Best Places to Work
18. Embrace the experience of being a team player.
"There's something really special about being part of a team, and I firmly believe that working with multiple minds to develop new ideas is better than working alone... As a team player, you get to see the unique qualities that everyone else contributes to the team, and continually learn and grow from them. That being said, I make it a point to emphasize that a successful team is all about the willingness and capacity to learn rather than specific skills. With this ever-evolving environment, it's important to have every mind set on a 'learning to learn' approach, and being able to learn quickly and well. I work with these constant learners at every point in my day so that I'm enriched by diverse perspectives and able to constantly grow, and help others do the same."
--Martin Migoya, cofounder and CEO of Globant, a digitally-native, publicly-traded technology services company with 7,200 users across 12 countries
19. Be curious.
"Always be observant of your surroundings and ask why. Why is that line moving so slow? Why are the people in line happy or frustrated? Why not ask a simple question to the person at the end of the line and again when you are next in line? It's through curiosity that allows for opportunities to exist. Our school system is designed to educate kids to a degree to which they stop asking questions. Maybe this is why the greatest entrepreneurs of our times are dropouts."
--John Yang, CEO of Treez, an enterprise cannabis retail management software system, transacting almost a billion dollars annually while providing retailers with compliant, data-driven software solutions
20. Be grateful and optimistic.
"I make it a daily habit to remember that 'my glass is half full,' and that even when I am facing adversity, there is something good that can come of it. I immigrated to Silicon Valley from Argentina because I wanted to help entrepreneurs grow their business by entering the venture capital industry. Early on, I was told that because I was Latino that I wouldn't do well in venture. During that time, I had to decide how I would deal with the uphill battle. Rather than feeling rejected, I invested time in networking and had the opportunity to meet a broad range of very smart and interesting people, which led to my role in venture capital at Emergence. I now have a career that I love and work with entrepreneurs that I consider to be among my closest friends. I'd like to think that my willingness to see the glass half full helped me get here."
--Santi Subotovsky, general partner at Emergence Capital, a venture capital firm focused on early-stage enterprise companies with six IPOs or exits greater than $500 million since its founding in 2003
21. Ruthlessly prioritize three things every day.
"As I've grown in my career, I've found the thing that elevates exceptional leaders above the rest is the ability to ruthlessly, viciously prioritize your work. It's hard to move the needle on more than three things a day, especially when each of us juggles dozens of things every day. That's why it's so important to have a top three list. Every morning when I wake up, I physically write down the three things that I absolutely have to get done that day, no matter what else pops up. Then I put that list somewhere I can't miss it. Instead of getting lost in the deluge of email or Slack messages, I know exactly what I need to do to make the biggest impact possible."
--Scott Holden, CMO of search and AI analytics company ThoughtSpot, which helps business users at hundreds of global enterprises answer millions of data questions
22. Pay attention to the comments.
"I make a habit of reading what people have to say about me, my company, and our projects, on places like Reddit and message boards. Some people treat it as irrelevant and a waste of time, but I actually firmly believe there is value in this. People will really speak their minds when they think you're not listening, and I think this is a very good way to get information about what people actually think. The way I see it is I can't lose--anything positive I can take as a compliment, anything negative and meaningless I can just ignore, and anything negative and meaningful is feedback that I get for free. So it's basically free market research with a side of entertainment. Totally worth spending a few minutes on every day."
--Shidan Gouran, president and CEO of Global Blockchain Technologies Corp., the second-most funded public blockchain technologies company in Canada; and founder of Home Jinni, a company that created a product called ConnecTV which became the design reference for all smart TVs today
23. Do all things through an analytical lens.
"As a customer success executive, it's important that I understand what my customers want and what they need in order to be successful when using my company's product. This requires a very analytical approach and deep knowledge of customer behaviors, employee insights, and internal resources. By going about my day in an analytical way, I'm able to identify potential risks before they arise, as well as potential opportunities, on a continual basis."
--Marina de le Torre, VP of customer success at FastSpring, a SaaS company that powers the digital economy for thousands of businesses around the world
24. Create check engine reports for your most essential metrics.
"Many companies live and die by the quarter, and some even by the month. However, if you're a growth centric company, you know you can't wait for the next reporting cycle in order to understand what's working or not. Create reports that show the month-to-date progress on your key metrics: revenue, customer satisfaction, website traffic, or even bug reports. Then either make a habit to check it daily, or create a workflow so it will send you an alert anytime that metric might be off track via email or Slack. The best leaders don't wait to know when there's a problem. They know as soon as it happens."
--Rebecca Corliss, VP of marketing at Owl Labs, which raised $7.3 million in venture funding from Playground Ventures and Matrix Partners, and is creator of the smart conferencing camera Meeting Owl
25. Set your intention.
"Intention is the most powerful force in the universe. We conceive our achievements before we take actions to make them happen. The first thing I see on my calendar every morning is a reminder that says 'Set your intention for the day.' This causes me to check myself and get my head on straight for the day. Mental and emotional distractions--personal issues, commuting hassles, business headaches--evaporate as I actively shift my consciousness to achievements I want to make happen. When I'm in the office I have posted in front of me nine specific things I intend to happen for [the company]. Over time, many of those intentions have been realized..."
--Peter Micciche, CEO of Certain, a provider of enterprise event automation software to the Fortune 1000, including Microsoft, Oracle, CA Technologies and Disney
26. Practice transparent, interpersonal communication with your team.
"A deal of corporate success is driven by a collaborative culture, both for startups and for large organizations--and it's important that these team-building values also extend outside people's day-to-day teams and divisions. Daily, transparent communication with your colleagues in the form of one-on-one interactions going beyond e-mails and other virtual messages proves to be successful when it comes to exceeding expectations in and out of the office. A strong rapport as a team is created with this habit, leading to success in client meetings, team excursions and overall customer experiences. I like to think of it in this way: better employee experiences equals better customer experiences which equals high-growth innovation and sales."
--Collin Holmes, founder and CEO of Chatmeter, a provider of local search marketing and reputation management, analyzing and improving over 1,500,000 storefronts for their reviews, rankings, and listings
27. Work hard to achieve goals.
"In most organizations, there are many moving parts that have to work together to achieve the intended business goals. In order to ensure you and your teams are providing the most value to the organization, it's important to assimilate ideas and connect the work performed within each team with the overall strategic objectives. I find that spending time with teams, asking questions, and listening for insights helps me push good ideas back up to the executive level. It also provides the developers and engineers with a line of sight to how their efforts contribute to the success of the organization. Each person should be able to connect the execution of their daily work with the overall strategy of the business. If team members are not able to accomplish their work in a simple and effective manner, then consider the obstacle and remove it. The more you can focus their time on achieving the most important goals, the faster and more effective your organization will become. By removing obstacles and making the right choices for the organization, your team can achieve great success."
--Jeff Gill, CIO at Neustar, Inc., a neutral provider of real-time information services, who leads teams in APAC, EMEA, USA, Central America and is trusted by some of the world's largest brands to make critical decisions roughly 20 billion times a day