This list of “20 personal success principles” is originally from an e-mail I’d sent to my newsletter subscribers written more than two years ago.
Upon glancing over these recently, I was curious to see how my outlook had changed, or evolved, since I wrote these twenty guiding principles.
Lists of values, principles to live by, goals, affirmations, and expectations from life serve as important reminders to keep us on track. Lists are an important asset that have guided me in my own journey.
As a young, fresh tadpole of an entrepreneur several years ago I used to tape several papers to my wall in my room. I wrote down lists of all of my life goals, my daily routines, affirmations, and so forth.
I found it SO important to review these lists each day – and was so reluctant to give them up – that I actually brought these with me when I purchased my first one way ticket to Argentina. Before long, they were taped to the wall in my new apartment in Buenos Aires.
That was my first big step, alone, to a far corner of the world. And I brought several irrational fears with me. Reminding myself daily of who I was and what values I stood for was immensely reassuring.
So, here’s a list of 20 principles that I’ve come up with, along with some reflections on how I feel about them today. I’m confident that if you apply these same principles to your own life, you’ll attract a lot more of what you want… and avoid what you don’t.
1. I’m successful at something if I give it my best and learn something.
I still believe this to be true. In fact, I think this is the most important rule: call it a policy, an attitude, or a conviction. If you frame success this way, it makes it impossible to fail at anything. You are always successful at everything you try, and you have no reason not to make an attempt.
In 2016 I’ve had numerous setbacks, or made attempts at new things, which didn’t work out at all the way that I had planned. I fell short many times. But there was experience, knowledge, and greater confidence gained in every attempt which has pushed me further towards where I want to be.
Framing success by these two conditions – 1) I give it my best effort and 2) I learn something – is what constitutes the core of my entrepreneurial efforts.
2. Whenever I fail I learn valuable lessons that make me smarter and stronger.
I think it’s very important for each to us to recognize these experiences for what they are: a chance to learn. I also think that it’s important not to let experience make us jaded.
“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down
and got back up again.”
This is really a challenge as we get older and wiser: knowledge comes at a cost. Life keeps teaching us the same lessons until we learn them. Oftentimes we stumble and bruise ourselves just to pick ourselves up again, over and over again.
The most important thing, and perhaps most difficult, is to not let hardships harden us. Not to become bitter because we experienced disappointment or came up short.
My father, peace be upon his soul, was the most inspirational example of this I have ever known. When I was in university, he suffered from a dissected aorta, which has a high mortality rate. He survived, but at great cost to his health and livelihood.
He suffered tremendously during his final years, requiring all kinds of assistance. But his spirit was never broken. He found joy and peace in the presence of his loved ones, and up until the end he was loving, kind, and gracious. He was more concerned with others than he was for his own self. Leaving behind the ones he loved certainly hurt him more than the prospect of his own journey into life after death.
My beloved father experienced a number of hardships in his life, while simultaneously creating an enduring legacy, a level of success far beyond the average, and forming lasting lifelong friendships. No matter the hardship he encountered in life, he never let the experience define him.
Which leads to my next point…
3. I remove negativity from my life fast. Really fast.
This one is a lot harder than it seems. Of course we all want negativity out of our life. Of course we want to be happy and positive all the time. But I find all too often we encounter situations and people that don’t have a positive influence upon us.
For example if you’re single, you will meet many different types of people, many of whom you will not be compatible with. You may be interested in someone who isn’t interested in you, or vice versa. You might quickly become jaded by all of the game playing. You may become upset if someone doesn’t return your texts and wish to retaliate or give that person a piece of your mind.
The same goes if you feel a client undercuts you or gives you a tough break. This, like the dating example, has happened to me several times in 2016. But the key is to let that shit go.
Mark Twain put it best thusly: “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
There is also a verse from the Tao that ends with the words “no fight, no blame” that I think of often:
The highest good is like water. Water give life to the ten thousand things and does not strive. It flows in places men reject and so is like the Tao.
In dwelling, be close to the land. In meditation, go deep in the heart. In dealing with others, be gentle and kind. In speech, be true. In ruling, be just. In daily life, be competent. In action, be aware of the time and the season. No fight: No blame.
Tao Te Ching, Verse 8
The words “no fight, no blame” to me means taking the high road. If someone wrongs you, accept the wrong, find a way to let it go, and move on. Not always easy to do in practice, but incredibly important.
Which leads nicely into #4…
4. I alleviate stress by playing and having FUN!
Wow, this is true more than ever. No matter what mood I am in, I can put myself into a new mood through dancing. As Seneca says: “It is more fitting for a man to laugh at life than to lament over it.”
That said, sometimes I found myself in situations this year where stress and anxiety caused my body to feel inept and unable to move. When I had lost most of my savings trying to fund the magazine, and then lost my clients as well and my only source of income, was one of those times. In this type of situation it is very hard not to stress about the future or even think about dancing or playing.
The only thing that works for me in those situations is just to unplug from everything. Get away from your cares for a while. It is well known that men “withdraw to our caves” when faced with problems that we can’t find solutions to. It is perfectly okay to “check out” for a while when we need to – but setting a deadline for ourselves so that we get back into the game is very, very important.
Your life is going to be long. There are many opportunities just around the corner to play, have fun, and be happy.
5. I am drawn to happy, high achieving people.
This is perhaps one of the biggest factors in overall success in our lives. If you would create opportunities, you need to surround yourself with others who are also working to create opportunities. Time and again, with every successful person I speak to, this seems to be the thing that causes people to move forward in their lives.
Dan Norris, for instance, said on the podcast that “all businesses grow from conversations” and I would add to that: “…with high achieving people.” Meryl Johnston, and many other successful location independent entrepreneurs, draw many of their clients from high-level mastermind groups, such as the Dynamite Circle and James Schramko’s Superfast Business community.
This is not simply law of attraction or drawing off others energy or any such voodoo; it’s an actual pragmatic way to get ahead.
6. I take focused action on my goals EVERY day.
Joining a monthly mastermind really helps. Getting an accountability partner really helps, too. Once per week you and a friend write out a list of your goals and the action items that you will take during the week towards them. Simply by performing this exercise, it helps link your goals to your actions and keeps you accountable so you don’t forget them.
When the week is over, you touch base with your accountability buddy and report on what you accomplished and what you didn’t do.
I think it’s also helpful to perform your own review every Friday and see how things in general are going personally and professionally, and reviewing what systems / routines can be built or improved upon. I love to dedicate Fridays (and the weekends) to learning something new that will help take me to a higher level as I pursue my goals.
7. I don’t mind making mistakes.
Better to try and fail then to do nothing. I can live with trying and falling short, but I can’t live with myself if I simply do nothing. That said, it’s best to take calculated risks by educating ourselves first and reverse engineering from a desired result.
8. I acknowledge and accept consequences in advance and then move forward without fear.
Executing this principle means walking a fine balance. I know that I must feel fear and uncertainty to an extent in order to know that I’m pursuing something worthy of my time. But I’ve also found it very helpful to look at situations from multiple angles and use these to make more informed decisions.
Many times it’s just a tiny nugget of information – or a subtle change in approach, or attitude – that can make the difference between succeeding and failing.
9. I encourage other people and congratulate them on their successes, rather than envy it.
It’s funny how people whom I once considered competitors are now good friends and some of my biggest supporters. Envying other people’s success is a symptom of scarcity. Practicing abundance means congratulating others who experience success and using their example as inspiration to step up our own efforts and play the game of life at a higher level.
10. I don’t read the news or watch it either.
Wow, this one has been tough, given what a year 2016 was! There is so much bait out there to lead us down the unproductive cesspool known as “news.”
Really glad that I’ve stuck to this one, the best that I can. The mainstream media is full of falsehood and negativity. I focus on doing what I’m doing, and exercise my ability within the realm that is within my power to control.
11. I don’t spend more than five minutes a day browsing social media. Social media is a place where negative ideas and envy thrive. I compete with no one else but myself.
Still holds true. My Facebook feed had become so inundated with political posts this year and it was becoming such a distraction that I had to begin systematically unfollowing anyone who posted anything about politics. A bit extreme, but it worked.
One of the very first and most valuable lessons I acquired from international travel was to stop concerning myself with events hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Henry David Thoreau said that “a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone,” and it’s absolutely true.
I’ve been outside of the US for more than five years now. Excepting the odd change in currency exchange rates, whomever sits in the White House makes little to no difference in my life at all. Yes, the world will change. But I’m resilient and responsible enough to control my own fate in whatever world I find myself in.
On a side note, unfollowing negative folks and those engaging endlessly in the archetypal “sky is falling” political dramas has cleaned up my newsfeed. I love seeing updates and stories that inspire me from people I admire; it motivates me in turn.
12. I am always open to changing my mind.
An open mind discovers new perspectives. Open minds create opportunities for growth and expansion. A closed mind creates nothing. And whenever I held fast to an opinion, I’ve been proven wrong more times than I can count.
It’s important for us to develop the ability to view situations from opposing viewpoints, and empathize with other people from a different perspective.
13. I am willing to test things – especially my assumptions – until I see empirical data.
My assumptions are almost always wrong. Every opinion I’ve ever held has also been proven wrong. Every time I’ve doubted opportunity and chose not to pursue it, someone else came along, did it, and succeeded. Good on them.
That’s why I always believe in testing things quickly, to see if initial traction comes. If I test something and it works, it will continue to work. Keep doing it. Stand on the shoulders of previous successes.
Success breeds more success, and creating systems creates salvation.
14. I don’t expect things to always go my way.
It was after my biggest failures that I made the made the most growth in my business and personal life.
After I lost several clients in a short time (and 90% of my income) for my productized service, I gave myself 1-2 weeks to cry and be depressed, and freely express my feelings and frustration.
Then I gave myself a deadline to get back on track and pick myself up again. Next, I took a look back at these events in an objective manner, writing out the reasons why I failed.
In hindsight, I was able to come up with seven reasons:
1) I overreached. I went traveling for a month even though I fell short of my initial sales goal.
2) I didn’t learn enough about each client’s business.
3) I didn’t follow a proper structure for closing consultations.
4) I didn’t become indispensable to my client’s business (ie I was expendable)
5) My lead-generation process was not thought-through or good enough.
6) I didn’t properly use positive anchoring in communications (ie positive e-mail subject lines, uplifting greetings, etc)
7) Not “touching” clients consistently with communication.
Following this process and looking at the feedback I could gather from failure helped me to make DRAMATIC improvements that made my business operations run much, much better. I also found all kinds of new ways to provide more value to my clientele and truly become the indispensable lynchpin vital to their business.
Now, business is on the upswing again and what I had learned from dramatic failure has made it much more secure and profitable.
15. I appreciate everything.
…And everyone! This is HUGE. Just telling people upfront that we are grateful for them and the role they play in our lives can create a huge difference. Appreciation and gratitude freely given creates more things to be appreciative and grateful for. It’s a self-fulfilling process.
16. I take time to be thankful, and regularly write down the things and people I’m thankful for.
The most important time to be thankful and write down the things that you are grateful for is during our darkest moments. This exercise interrupts “negative patterns” of thought that manifest in our lives and prevents us from falling further. When something goes wrong, we tend to focus too much on that and focus far too little on the good things that we take for granted.
Writing in a gratitude journal is a powerful exercise that allows us to break free from negative feedback loops.
17. I amuse myself and have fun whenever possible. I care more about enjoying the experience then the result.
This is so important! Dr Seuss once said that “adults are just obsolete children” and it’s absolutely true. A couple of things become conspicuously absent during our transition from childhood to adulthood: play and time spent with friends.
The easiest way I’ve found to entertain myself is through dancing. I just published my first street dance video in Kuala Lumpur on YouTube.
I dance because it’s fun. It makes me feel amazing. I get a boost of energy after dancing for ten minutes. No matter what’s going on in my life, I can put my headphones in, start dancing, and connect to the endless and eternal joy of being alive.
Try it yourself, and let me know how it feels.
18. I don’t care if I get rejected… I’ve learnt not to take it personally, and I congratulate myself on making the attempt.
Rejection is never easy, and no matter how accustomed to it you become, it doesn’t get any easier. But rejection is something I face every single day. I know that if I don’t face the possibility of rejection, then I also won’t open myself to the chance of getting what I want. It’s only by forcing myself to “ask,” even if rejection is likely, that causes my life to move forward.
Constant rejection is the price to be paid for constant growth and reaching new levels in life. If you want massive success the simple fact is that you need to expose yourself to the potential for massive rejection.
19. EVERY SECOND COUNTS. I don’t like to waste time going through motions. Results are everything.
To the best of my ability, I try to maintain two states: one where I’m fully engaged, giving 150% to what I’m doing today, and one where I’m completely at rest. I feel as though too many people fall somewhere in between, only giving a half-hearted effort at a task. As a result, they get no results.
Many people show up in the gym and absentmindedly give 30% to their workout, never really realizing their fitness goals. They coast, and go through the motions. This is a metaphor for the same lackadaisical attitude many people apply to their work and personal lives.
It’s our habits that create our destiny. When we spend each day merely going through the motions, we fall into mediocrity.
20. I have compelling reasons why I do things, and use unconventional means to reach my goals.
Everything begins with your “WHY.” If your actions are not backed by compelling reasons for them, then you’ll lack the motivation to make progress and persist when things get difficult. Your desire needs to be strong enough, and as Napoleon Hill says in “Think and Grow Rich,” you should “intensify your desire over time.”
That’s exactly the opposite of what most people do: they lose interest over time. Sometimes success comes down to simply being the last one standing, staying in the game when others around you quit. That’s the reason why I’ve maintained the podcast for nearly three years, despite a lackluster launch and not knowing what I was doing in the beginning. Since I didn’t have any expectations, I was never disappointed with the results.
And while most other podcasters I know have given up and found traditional employment, my podcast is still going strong and enlisting great new guests all the time.
No matter what goals I have, I fully know and appreciate how important it is to “intensify my desire over time.” If my WHY falters and fades, then all is lost.
There you have it!
While these aren’t all the principles that I live by… and while I’ve added a new set of values recently based on where I am now, there’s enough here to apply yourself and start to see a difference.
For more like this, check back in often and see what we’re up to here on the blog and podcast. I try my best to find others who live their life according to principles like these. Also, consider joining our group on Facebook, introduce yourself, and I will get in touch.
Hope you’re having a great week. I appreciate you!