Note: Upon her indictment on federal money laundering charges and her arrest February 8, 2022, Inc. dismissed Heather Morgan as a contributing columnist. As is our practice, we do not unpublish editorial content, and rather have added this note for full transparency.
I've been obsessed with crossing-off my bucket list since I was a teenager.
While many people save accomplishing their bucket-list for retirement or a midlife crisis, I have always believed that life was too short to wait to live how you want to.
Between witnessing people close to me die early and dealing with my own health issues since childhood, I was forced to think about mortality at a young age. But instead of feeling hopeless and depressed, I chose to let death and illness serve as a positive reminder for how I wanted to live my life.
Because of this, I managed to live in six different countries before age 24 without my dad being a diplomat or wealthy international businessman. I built a profitable, bootstrapped million dollar business by myself, with zero connections or trust fund. I became a trusted industry expert on half a dozen different topics. And most importantly, I crossed hundreds of things off my bucket list before I turned 30.
Whether you don't live until 40 or you get to make it to 106, there's never enough time in life.
Please use these seven tips to help you accomplish all your dreams in 2020 and beyond, and to live the best and happiest life possible. These are my secrets to success and the greatest joys of my life:
1. Do your own startup (at least try freelancing!)
No matter what any company says, you'll never learn more than trying to do something on your own. Just two years of doing my own startup taught me more than all of college and graduate school. Yes, entrepreneurship is stressful, overwhelming, and more work than being an employee, but you will learn a ton, even if you fail.
You don't have to quit your job to give working for yourself a try, though. I actually started doing freelance copywriting and marketing way before I did my own startup. Not only did this help me decide entrepreneurship was indeed the right path for me, I was able to build up a roster of clients and some extra savings before leaving my job.
And I've never looked back since.
2. Take care of your health!
I cannot stress this enough. One of my biggest mistakes was neglecting my health in my twenties. I sacrificed being healthy so I could grow my company faster, and I later paid greatly with chronic pain and eventually burning out. Now I make my health a top priority, which means taking regular breaks to stretch; making time to go exercise and go to the gym; and cooking for myself so I can eat healthily. Do what's right for you and your body, but if you don't make your health a top priority you will regret it later. Besides, you can't be truly effective if you neglect your body (and mental health!).
3. Realize your passion
It's way too easy to spend your life working and chasing money without realizing what you're truly passionate about. When I had burnout I was terrified because I suddenly had so much free time, but no hobbies. I didn't know how to have fun without working or getting intoxicated, and that was partly why I burned out so hard. During this time I forced myself to try new activities and do some soul searching, which is how I discovered my love for rap, my alter ego--Razzlekhan, and my forgotten (and some hidden) artistic talents.
Don't wait until you have burnout or someone is dying to think about what you really give a damn about.
4. Learn how to shamelessly be your most authentic self
I'm done pretending to be someone I'm not. It's just so exhausting, and life is too short. With all the convenience and pressures of modern technology, I think it's more important than ever to take the time to reflect and get to know your real self. It's so easy to get sucked into social media and start feeling inadequate and that you need to change yourself to seem cool or get likes and followers.
The reason I'm so passionate about my rap persona, Razzlekhan, is that her core message is: "Be your real self, no matter what." While that is my personal life motto and ongoing goal, I feel like people need to be reminded that now more than ever.
5. Build a personal brand in your industry
Want real job security? Start building your personal brand.
Whether you decide to do your own thing or work for a company (or something in the middle), building your brand will give you countless opportunities and make you in-demand in your space.
When I started SalesFolk, I had very little professional experience in sales or marketing. I worked in a business development role for a scrappy startup where I helped with marketing, but this was my first job in tech or business. I dove first into startups, abandoning a career as an international economist, leaving that behind as I departed Egypt.
And yet I built a strong personal brand and a brand for my company in less than two years. How did I do that so fast? I relentlessly created actionable and engaging content, offering a solution with a fresh approach.
Even now, as I build a software company in a completely new industry and grow up my art/rap persona as "Razzlekhan," I am using those same proven marketing tactics, which can be used for any brand.
6. Build your network: both offline and online
There are many ways to grow your network, but my favorite is still "cold email" (or any other type of cold outreach--it could be on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc). I like this because it's targeted and scalable. But you have to make the effort to genuinely develop those connections so that they're more than just a number on your social media account.
Because I'm actually very introverted, I try to do one-on-ones with the people I want to get to know better and the relationships I want to maintain. I set calendar reminders to do this on a regular basis. Sometimes I also throw private parties, since it's easier to see everyone at once, and connecting my network with each other adds a lot of value to everyone.
No matter what your networking strategy is: don't forget to add value to build deep long-term bonds.
7. Learn a second language
There are so many potential neurological benefits from learning a new language: improving your memory, increasing your attention span, preventing dementia, and plenty of other things that will make your brain stronger and just generally better.
By the time I turned 23, I had learned Japanese, Korean, Turkish, Arabic, and Cantonese (with varying levels of proficiency). Each language gave me access to new international markets, opening up countless business opportunities, and enriching my life with cultural insights and lifelong friends I would have never met otherwise.
Recently I decided to learn Russian. It's definitely more challenging to learn a new language now than when I was a teenager or in my early-twenties. However, in the short time I've been studying, I have noticed my brain is getting sharper and faster.
It's never too late to learn, especially with all the language learning apps out there. (Many people love Duolingo, but I'm a big fan of Memrise. The streaks are addictive!)
What are your best tips and hacks for improving your quality of life or business? I'd love to hear them. Please share with me in the comments for a future article.