If you have the time, listen to this right now:
If you don’t have the time, stop lying. You have the time. This 31 minute audio speech might very well change your life. At least listen to it in the background.
The most powerful section occurs in the first three minutes. Earl says the following:
The Definition of Success
When we say about 5% achieve success, we have to define success. Here is the best definition I’ve ever been able to find:
“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”
If someone is working toward a predetermined goal and knows where they are going, that person is a success.
If they are not doing that, they are a failure.
“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”
Without knowing what success is—that is, what your own definition—-there is no way to progressively realize it
Today is my 26th birthday. One year ago, I intended to publish an article “25 things I learned by my 25th birthday.” But I never got around to it. Today, as I ride a train in China, doing a factory tour that I never thought I would, I’m happy to publish the following.
26 Things I’ve Learned in 26 Years on Earth
1. The appropriate way to find your passion is to focus on developing your craft. You choose the craft first, and passion comes from it —- not the other way around.
This was one of my major revelations for Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You] — There is no variable more correlative with passionate workers than “time at the same job.” I highly recommend this book — it helped me escape my quarter life crisis.
2. Your habits are far more important than willpower.
Willpower is an exhaustible resource. If you try not to eat any cookies at a party, you will find it much more difficult to will yourself to go to the gym.
Unless you have an automatic habit of going to the gym.
Think about brushing your teeth. It’s so automatic, that you never even think of missing it. Build habits, and you’ll never need willpower again.
3. You are the average of the 5 people closest to you.
It’s been said over and over and over — if you are associating with people who are closer to who you want to be, you will accelerate your growth. If you hang out with people who bring you down, you will fail.
If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Click to tweet
4. Connecting with others (networking) is as important, if not more, than the work you are doing.
There is no currency more valuable than connections. I know that if I ever lost all of my money and needed a job, I would be able to make a few phone calls and have a paid gig within 24 hours.
That all came from connecting.
Growing a blog, growing a business, improving yourself — it accelerates the speed of your growth. So learn how to grow your network.
5. Find a boss, an employee, a cofounder, or a working buddy–whatever it takes, find someone to hold you accountable.
I spent years trying to run my blog/business alone. Without someone there, motivating me, my blog wavered, flatlined, and almost died.
Then I started searching for mentors, coworking buddies, and accountability partners. When I began working with Tim Ferriss, I found the power of having a job with a boss that I respected. Since then, I refuse to work in a lonely environment — it is a recipe for disaster.
6. You need a mentor. And that’s a byproduct of connecting.
Find the people who help you grow. Find the people who’ve done what you’ve done — people who you want to become. They are the ones who will push you forward.
7. The school you go to–and in particular, the degree you get–is far less important than you think.
No one cares about your GPA. No one. The degree you get is nothing compared to the people you meet, the value you provide, and the skills you learn on the job.
8. To achieve any goal, the first step is to make it SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-sensitive).
When I launched Get it Done in 30, I began making phone calls to all of my clients. I was surprised at some of the goals that people chose: “Get in shape.” “Eat better.” “Be a better employee.”
“But,” I’d ask, “how can you measure that? How will you know if you’ve succeeded or not?”
Choosing clear, specific, measurable goals is the first step in achieving anything. It needs to be written down. Otherwise, you’re firing blanks — there is no way to achieve an unachievable goal.
9. To achieve any goal, the second step is to make it easy, automatic, and habitual.
The first few weeks in achieving a new goal requires willpower. It’s hard to do something new.
But when it becomes automatic, it becomes a habit. And then it becomes difficult to stop.
Bringing back the habit of brushing your teeth — have you ever missed brushing? It almost feels gross, right? You feel uncomfortable with the taste/feeling in your mouth.
That’s because the habit is automatic. If you go to the gym enough times in the row, you’ll feel the same uncomfortable feeling if you miss an appointment. So, make your goal automatic, and watch success flourish.
10. To achieve any goal, the third step is to add stakes.
How often do you arrive super late to work? Or, how often do you simply not turn in a college essay?
Not too often, right? Because you get in trouble if you don’t do it.
But what happens if you don’t go to the gym two days in a row? Nothing. No one cares. No one punishes you. So you don’t go.
Without stakes, it can be impossibly difficult to motivate yourself. Once I started implementing the Bet Switch Mechanism, I suddenly found myself losing weight, writing more, and doing the things I’ve always wanted to do.
11. When something works, keep doing it.
This is something I’ve failed at — even when something I’m doing works, some new tactic catches my eye and I move on.
For example, guest posting was a phenomenal list-building strategy for me. Yet, I gave up and started trying new tactics after a while. Why? I have no idea.
When something works, keep at it. Test out new theories, sure — but don’t give up on what’s working.
12. The best way to be interesting is to be interested, but that’s not enough.
Everyone’s favorite topic is themselves. When I’m meeting new people, I spend a long time trying to get to know them — their motivations, their hopes and dreams, their goals and companies. I always ask about where they are from, about their family, about their work, etc.
They will be much more likely to listen to you if you listen to them. But that’s not enough. You also need to do cool things. You need to have a story, and something that makes them respect you. And then you will be able to command the room.
13. Building a platform, and a following–not a product–will set you up for life.
A product is a one time item. People might pay for an ebook once — but then your customer is gone.
But the most successful companies build platforms, subscription models, and businesses that allow other people to operate upon them. You’ll see more about my upcoming platform, disguised as a product, in the next couple weeks. Prepare to be shocked.
14. The 4-Hour Workweek is less scary than it sounds. And not nearly as rewarding as you think it will be.
The number one statement I hear when I mention that I lived with Tim Ferriss is this: “That guy totally doesn’t work four hours a week.”
No shit. What do you expect: that Tim spends 4 hours/week working, and 165 hours/week staring at a wall? Of course not.
But he has the option to. Believe me — if Tim worked 0 hours / week, he’d still make 100x / year than what you or I make. But the kind of person who has the drive to build a recurring revenue business isn’t the kind of guy who will stop doing anything after he achieves it.
It’s a lot easier to build a 4-hour workweek business when you stop thinking of it as a 4-hour workweek business — and instead think of it as building an amazing product/service that will benefit a large number of people.
15. Traveling is far easier and far cheaper than you think.
It’s cheaper than living in NYC. It’s cheaper than Boston. Hell, it’s probably cheaper than living with your parents.
I spent $1000 / mo in Buenos Aires. I spent $400 / mo in India, $600/mo in Thailand, $1400/mo in Berlin. I spent 2x that in NYC.
Flying there is cheap/free with miles. So what are you waiting for?
16. Luck will get you 15 minutes of fame, but hustle will make it last.
I got lucky with my Craigslist slapper post, sure. But that fame lasted just a few days/weeks. But through hustle, I’ve managed to use that story to speak at international conferences and now raise $50,000 from an incubator to build a device that I honestly think will change the world. And you can find out more about that at Pavlok.io
17. You don’t have to live life the way people expect you to. And rules are made by people — it’s not unbreakable like physics.
When I landed in Buenos Aires the first time, I was surprised that no one followed lanes — until I asked the taxi driver what the Argentinian word for lane was. His answer? “We don’t have one.” (This was mentioned in a recent BBC article that discussed my business)
18. It takes years to build it, but just one minute to ruin it: reputation.
I won’t get into the specifics of this, but it’s true. In just a single moment, you can drop dozens of rungs backwards — often irreparably. My brother often talks about invisible interviews, which I find fascinating. You’ll never know about the conversations that others have about you, so make sure that those conversations make others intrigued by you — not repulsed.
19. Intense labor and focus will make you more successful than you ever thought possible.
When things become habitual, when tasks become clear and goals specifically defined — you will start to do more than you ever thought. And when you start to construct systems that allow your work to do it self (i.e. a team that builds without you being involved), you’ll start to become something you only dreamed of.
20. Not everyone has the same personality. Figure out what you are best at doing, and create a way to do that.
Just a few weeks ago, I was working on some investment paperwork for a potential investor. 750 words. $100,000. “No problem,” I thought. “I have a 6 hour train ride ahead of me—I’ll just do it then.”
Six hours later, I hadn’t even opened Word.
I decided I wouldn’t sleep until it was done. At 8am, I’d only written 136 words.
But that’s ridiculous. I couldn’t use my college excuses — it wasn’t a paper for a class I cared nothing about. It was $100,000! For my company!
So in a last dash of exasperation, I recorded a 3-minute video talking into the camera, saying what I wanted to get done, and sent the video to my intern, Johnny.
45 minutes later, Johnny returned the plan to me, finished.
It was at that moment that I realized: some people are designed to fill out spreadsheets — and others are designed to know which spreadsheets need to be filled out.
Ironically, as a blogger, I suddenly discovered that I strongly dislike writing. Uh-oh.
But I don’t mind coming up with ideas. And I love saying them out loud. So, now I record my ideas into camera — and I’ve assembled a team of copywriters that help me convert my ideas into blog posts. The result is a fantastic backlog of blog posts for the launch of my new company, which I’ll be announcing very soon. Get ready.
21. The most important habits you build are a. exercise (eating right) b. making a list of MITs (Most Important Tasks) and c. flossing.
Exercise and eating right sucks. Until you make it a habit. Once it’s automatic, you can’t help but get in shape. One of my simplest secrets is a pull-up bar in my bedroom — every time I go to the bathroom I end up doing a few pull-ups, and I naturally get in better shape.
Your list of MITs is everything you need to do for that day. Make it before you go to sleep, wake up, execute, and that’s it.
22. Travel, while amazing, will make it hard to build a business.
On my newsletter (but not blog), I wrote about my June 2013 breakdown in a Regus office in Cologne, Germany — crying in front of businessmen and office aides made me realize that it was time to quit traveling and return home.
Travel made me who I am. It helped me break out of my shell, become the person that I wanted to be, meet the people I wanted to meet — but it held me back from achieving my goal of building something bigger than myself. Travel serves as a distraction that helped me procrastinate on building what I want to build.
I moved back to the USA, rented a room, bought a bed, and started working in an office. In three months, I’ve grown from a single business to a team of eleven. If only I had learned this earlier…
23. You are going to regret that which you don’t do more than which you do–and people respect others who do crazy shit more. So man up and do it.
Cliche’s are cliche’s for a reason. Will you regret doing that crazy thing in ten, twenty, fifty years? Or will you regret not doing it? I asked that question to myself when I left Stanford to move to Buenos Aires — and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Ask yourself the same question before any major decision.
24. Everyone has a religion. Make sure you pick the right God.
This comes from a graduation speech given by David Foster Wallace. In it, he says:
This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.
Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship–be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles–is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.
What do you worship? What principles, or god, or ethics do you hide behind? Because if you choose the wrong thing, you’re bound for failure.
This is a work in progress for everyone though, so just make sure to keep it in the back of your mind.
25. How do you break into a social group of people who doesn’t know you? The secret is almost always the “Drew Barrymore Never Been Kissed” Technique.
I’ve only seen Never Been Kissed once, but I talk about it on almost a daily basis. Why?
Cause I’m a weirdo.
But also, because I remember one specific scene that left an impression on me. In the movie, Drew Barrymore has to go back to high school, where she was a originally a nerdy, friendless teenager. When she returns, nothing changes — no one lets her sit at their lunch table.
Her brother has to go back to high school as well, and Drew says to him, “There is no chance — these kids are animals! You’ll never break into their social scene!”
Drew’s brother remarks offhandedly, “There’s a secret to breaking into any social group, Drew. ‘It only takes one.’ Make one friend, and he’ll introduce you to all of his other friends, and then you’re in.”
This holds amazingly true in the real world. When I needed to meet the fitness gurus in the online world for a product I’m launching in January, I found just one connected friend: Dick Talens of Fitocracy. Within days, I had intros to three of the members of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s personal fitness board, I was on a plane to meet inventors of fitness sensor technology, and I was getting interviews with people i’d always wanted to meet.
Cultivate your super connectors. They are your life line.
26. Someday, you have to make the decision
It’s easy to procrastinate and say ‘someday.’ It’s easy to keep living the life that was given to you. It’s easy to stay reactionary.
It’s hard to decide for yourself. It’s hard to make that cold call. It’s hard to ask her out. It’s hard to decide.
But at the end of the day, a reactionary life is a normal life. One thing is consistent in every remarkable person: they decide to do something remarkable. Don’t let the world choose who you become.
Buy the ticket. Make the decision. Take the ride.