1. Eat a live frog.
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning,” author Mark Twain is quoted as saying. “And nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Now, before you start hunting for Kermit, please note that Twain’s quote should not be taken literally. Instead, Twain is advocating tackling the hardest or most unnerving task on your to-do list, first. Not only will it create a sense of achievement that you can carry with you throughout the day, but also: it will be done. Such are the Things successful people do every day.
2. Accept failure as a lesson.
“There is no such thing as failure,” Oprah Winfrey said in her commencement speech at Harvard University in 2013. “Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.” If might not always be easy to heed Winfrey’s wise words, but the truth is you will fail at something, at some point. If you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off and learn a lesson from that failure, you will be better poised to be successful the next time around.
3. Wear a uniform.
Steve Jobs. Mark Zuckerberg. Barack Obama. What do these three have in common? Besides being successful, they wear a “uniform” each day. For Mark Zuckerberg, that “uniform” is a basic tee and hoodie. For Steve Jobs, it was a black turtleneck. As for why, it gives them one less thing to think about. Perhaps Zuckerberg put it best when he said: “I feel like I’m not doing my job if I’m spending any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life.”
In What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, author Laura Vanderkam spotlights three men who make it a point to exercise first thing in the morning, every day: Rev. Al Sharpton, James Citrin, and Steve Reinemund. These three are not alone. While waking early to get in a workout isn’t necessarily a must-do, exercise should be. After all, not only is exercise guaranteed to improve your physical health, but physical activity can also have an immediate and positive impact on your mental health and your productivity, which are musts for fledgling entrepreneurs.
5. Aim for work/life balance.
“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in,” writes Arianna Huffington in Thrive, her book on favoring life in the work/life balance. Many up-and-coming entrepreneurs don’t believe they can afford to take time away from work, but Huffington advocates that you can’t afford not to. The key is to be more productive with the time you do spend at work so that you free up time for the “life” side of things.
6. Consult with a mentor.
According to Richard Branson, “every entrepreneur needs a good mentor.” Whether it is a trusted friend, a family member, a fellow entrepreneur, or an idol you seek out for advice, it is important to have someone you can turn to in good, bad and difficult times. A mentor can help you see things from a different perspective; advise you when the going gets tough; help you brainstorm ideas, and offer counsel and encouragement when you are having a rough day.
7. Set boundaries.
Steve Jobs once stated: “Focusing isn’t about saying yes; focusing is about saying no.” That’s why truly successful people create boundaries and stick to them. Of course, that doesn’t mean saying no to everything that comes across your desk or arrives in your inbox, but you should be able to say no if you feel you can’t afford the time, money or risk. And if it’s too hard, remember this: saying no now doesn’t mean saying no forever.
8. Take risks.
“As you start your journey, the first thing you should do is throw away that store-bought map and begin to draw your own.” Dell Computers CEO Michael Dell spoke these words in his address to the University of Texas graduating class in 2003. Many agree that a true entrepreneur has to be willing to take risks, and take risks often, to succeed. So what are you waiting for? Harness your instincts and see how far drawing your own map can take you.
9. Make time for email.
We have all had moments where we have struggled to keep our inbox under control. Perhaps that is because many of us consider checking and responding to emails a tedious chore. Tim Cook, on the other hand, understands it is an important part of the communication aspect of his job, so he makes time to respond to emails at the same time every day: 4.30am, when he first wakes. While you don’t have to follow suit, there is a benefit to responding to emails at this time: you’re unlikely to receive an influx of replies, which means you’ll have a few hours ahead of you with a clear inbox.
“To be successful, you have to be able to relate to people,” George Ross is quoted as saying. “They have to be satisfied with your personality to be able to do business with you and to build a relationship with mutual trust.” Thus, networking. Every day, successful people make phone calls and attend events with one purpose in mind: networking. Sure, it’s not easy, and it takes practice to do it right, but it’s one part of being an entrepreneur that you can’t avoid.
11. Have passion.
In Issue 21 of Foundr, health.com.au founder Andy Sheats discusses the importance of being passionate about what you do. Sheats says if you ask yourself why you are running the business, you must able to answer that it is because it’s something you love, or there’s something in it you love. Of course, you’re not going to love your business every minute of every day. But overall, you have to be able to look at your business and know that there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing.
12. Make plans.
Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Smart guy. While there are certainly successful people who have lived life flying by the seat of their pants, but for the most part plans – short-term and long-term plans – are necessary. Many entrepreneurs begin each day with a list of goals for the day. (And many recommend creating this list the night before.) Without those goals in mind, how will you know where to start?
13. Ask a question.
When Matt Mayberry wakes each day he asks himself one important question: “How can I grow today?” Of course, this tactic can be tailored to suit your personal style, but the sentiment – how can you further your life and your work – should remain. When we forget to “check in” with ourselves, it’s easy to lose track of where we are headed and get caught up in the mundane daily tasks of running a business. Asking yourself the big questions helps to keep you accountable for how you spend your time and money, each and every day.
14. Listen to their instincts.
In Issue 24 of Foundr, life coach and entrepreneurial whiz Marie Forleo discussed the importance of listening to your instincts and making the decision that feels right to you. “If it doesn’t feel right for you, for whatever reason, you’ve got to listen to that,” says Forleo. “The people that I see that are so successful, that’s what they’re able to do. They’re able to listen to their own instincts outside of the noise, and they’re able to go in a different direction and not self-doubt when they do.”
15. Stick to a routine.
One thing you’ll notice about many of the successful people mentioned in this article is that they are extremely strict, although perhaps none more so than author John Grisham. When Grisham has a publishing deadline to meet, he adheres to a strict schedule. “Once there’s a deadline for a book I start each morning at seven; same desk, same cup of coffee, same everything,” says Grisham. “I work for four hours. It’s quiet, private; there are no phones, faxes, Internet.”
“You must focus on the most important, mission-critical tasks each day and night, and then share, delegate, delay or skip the rest,” Jessica Jackley is quoted as saying. While many successful people have trouble delegating, it is one of the most important things you can do in order to be as productive as possible. The key is to build a team of people that have skills where you lack; that way, delegating a task to them is just making the best decision possible for your business.
17. Eat often and eat well.
When you are burning the candle at both ends, it is easy to opt for an energy drink that will give you an instant boost without taking time out of your day. But truly successful people know that to be productive, they need to fuel their body the right way. Taking the time to learn which foods are best for energy might seem like an unimportant task, but it can have a massive impact on your long-term health, and good health is key to driving a business forward.
18. Focus on one task at a time.
It used to be that multi-tasking was a talent to be proud of, with many people believing that the more you could get done in one time period, the better off you were. However, recent research has found that multi-tasking can kill your performance. In the best-selling book The 4-Hour Workweek, author Timothy Ferriss staunchly advises against multi-tasking, saying: “Being overwhelmed is often as unproductive as doing nothing, and is far more unpleasant. Being selective—doing less—is the path of the productive. Focus on the important few and ignore the rest.”
19. Fuel the mind.
While it is easy to focus on work (and nothing but work) when you are first starting a business, it is important to make time for your hobbies. Successful people know that not only does your mind need a break at times, but also that finding inspiration in your other passions can motivate you to work better. Consider this: Vogue editor Anna Wintour plays tennis every day; Warren Buffett tinkers with his ukulele; and Richard Branson likes to kite surf (on Necker Island, no doubt).
20. Wake early, stay late.
The list of successful entrepreneurs who wake early is many. Names that come to mind include Bill Gates, Jack Dorsey, Tim Cook and Richard Branson. So what is it about rising early that makes a difference? Richard Branson wrote about it on his Virgin blog: “I have learned that if I rise early I can achieve so much more in a day, and therefore in life.” Of course, everyone is different; rumor has it that Mark Zuckerberg is a night owl. The key is to figure out the time of day that makes you most productive and form a routine around that time.
21. Give back.
In Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, author Adam Grant discusses the value of giving back. In the book, Grant discusses how every workplace has its share of givers and takers. Grant outlines how givers – who are characterized as people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return – can achieve extraordinary success simply by being themselves. It’s an interesting theory, to be sure, and it’s backed up with Grant’s own research and a ton of case studies.
22. Make “it” happen.
Mashable founder Pete Cashmore started Mashable from his bedroom when he was still a teenager. Now, he’s the high-flying founder of one of the largest online media companies in the world. The key to Cashmore’s success lies in his persistency. When he first started Mashable, he worked insane hours and barely slept. He even adjusted his hours to be in sync with Silicon Valley, even though he was based in Scotland. The hard work paid off, clearly.
23. Forego perfection.
Scott Belsky, co-founder of Behance, is quoted as saying: “It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” We can all come up with an idea and dream about what might happen if we put the idea into action. But successful people don’t tend to ponder over their ideas; they launch them. Further, they don’t wait for all the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place or for funding to arrive. They forego perfection and learn (and tweak) as they go.
24. Learn from others.
Donald Trump has taken his various businesses all the way to the brink and back, so he knows a thing or two. His advice? “Watch, listen and learn. You can’t know it all yourself. Anyone who thinks they do is destined for mediocrity,” says Trump. Indeed, no matter how successful a person is, there is no such thing as enough when it comes to learning, especially when the world is moving at such a rapid pace. If Trump doesn’t convince you, take your notes from Mahatma Gandhi, who reportedly said: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
Meditation has many an advocate in the “successful” pool, from Russell Simmons to Oprah Winfrey. In fact, Winfrey reportedly brought in Transcendental Meditation teachers to give lessons to her employees at Harpo Productions, Inc., such was the power of meditation for her. Further, Winfrey is reported to sit in stillness for 20 minutes twice a day, and is quoted as saying: “Only from that space can you create your best work and your best life.”
26. Brain dump.
There are tons of successful businesspeople and entrepreneurs who swear by the time management methods in Getting Things Done by David Allen, but the number one method that comes up is the brain dump. It works like this: You take a blank piece of paper, and you write down every task on your mind, big or small, until you have completely emptied your mind. The purpose, of course, being to free your mind of the clutter and giving yourself enough space to sort out your ideas and prioritize them into actionable goals.
27. Put in 100%.
If there is one thing that is certain, it’s this: successful people do not give any less than 100%, each and every day. On this topic, Google co-founder Larry Page says: “Always deliver more than expected.” Given that Google is widely considered to be the best search engine in the world, it’s safe to say Page practices what he preaches. While it is important to get your work out there, it’s equally important to release work you are proud of and that you honestly consider your best work.
28. Think positively.
“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will,” motivational speaker Zig Ziglar is quoted as saying. You don’t need to carry a copy of The Secret with you to know that having a positive outlook on life will reward you in the long run. Science says so. Studies have found positive thoughts provide you with an enhanced ability to build skills and develop resources for future use. If that’s not reason enough, what is?