1) Have smart friends
All of my friends are smarter than me. Even (especially) the ones who don’t have college degrees.
Being intelligent isn’t really about knowing everything. It’s about knowing one person who knows the most about SEO, one person who knows the most about building a house, one person who knows about taxes, and one person who knows the rules of international negotiation.
Follow Ladders on Flipboard!
2) Be Healthy
Yesterday I listened to a scary podcast about the state of American health.
(Every podcast about American health is scary)
While the health of a nation is complicated, health for you is not. Take a walk every hour. Eat whatever you want, so long as you are cooking it. Be in the physical presence of other people often. Make sure you are pooping once per day.
The positive impact you can make while you are sick in bed is exactly zero.
3) Know how to make a crap ton of money
This has absolutely nothing to do with your intellectual readiness and everything to do with your emotional readiness.
Dan Ariely (of this TED talk and this book), wanted to unpack extrinsic motivation. He and his team ran an experiment where they offered three groups of participants three different amounts of money to complete a series of random memory and concentration tasks.
The first group was offered a day’s salary for good performance. They did pretty well.
The second group was offered two week’s salary for good performance. They did fine as well.
The third group was offered a jaw-dropping five month’s salary for good performance. Time to shine, right?
This group performed dramatically worse. The extreme amounts of money triggered the fight-or-flight response in their bodies.
A large reason many people with a medium income do not rise above that level is because they lack the confidence to pursue OR receive big checks.
Do you want to know when the results in Ariely’s study flipped? When the people in the big bonus group perceived the task as easy. At that point, they confidently flew through the challenges and walked away with big money.
People who earn the most make hard work look and feel easy.
4) Be Naive
One of the great ironies of human nature is this:
We want to know every step of the process before we start. Yet, if we were truly aware of all it takes, there is probably no way we would ever move.
Initial ignorance protects you from becoming overwhelmed. Do what you can do today. Start now. Figure out the rest later.
5) Remember Flik
Flik is an ant from the movie A Bug’s Life.
While all the other ants were standing in line, doing what was expected of them, and enjoying their comfortable living, Flik knew there must be more.
One day, he understood he would never fully be ready. So he strapped on a backpack and dove headfirst into the unknown.
6) Invent projects for yourself
Eric Thomas (a fairly successful speaker) recently admitted that he completely botched his first voiceover job.
Although he knew he had a great voice, talking to a microphone in a studio was another monster entirely.
So what did he do?
He invented scripts and read them into his own microphone.
“Here’s what I learned. If I stay ready, I never have to get ready.”
— Eric Thomas
Did the coffee shop down the street commission you to rebrand them? No. Do it anyway.
Did HGTV call you to edit their new show about (get this) a spunky couple who is flipping houses? No. But one day they might.
Will anybody ever hold you to a standard worthy of the best work? Probably not. But that’s why you should.
7) Have a safety net
At least, financially.
It is a lot easier to take the risks necessary for success when you aren’t wondering how each decision will affect your ability to pay Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chase, Capital One and the IRS. (Trust me. This is not a hypothetical list.)
The freedom to act without fear is probably the best thing you can buy.
8) Don’t have a safety net
At least, not emotionally.
Let’s pretend you are working a traditional 9–5er right now. But you are ambitious. You have goals of your own. You have a side hustle. You won’t spend your whole life selling your soul.
The temptation, of course, is to take it easy during the key hours of the day in order to conserve your best thinking.
This is the exact wrong instinct.
Everything is momentum, a virtuous cycle. Do you think you will suddenly rise to excellence after a long day of half-heartedness?
No. Greatness at a 9–5 rolls into greatness from 5–9 which leads to a good night’s sleep and that gives us a better chance.
If anything is going to be attached to your name, please don’t do it halfway. You deserve better.
9) Know what action to take at any given time
The peak of discipline is the ability to work for only five minutes on a project which will take several months.
Know how to beat The Three I’s of Inaction:
When you know exactly what to do and can start doing it at the slightest break in the schedule, doors open.
10) Master trust building
Can I be honest with you? Continuous trust is one of the perks of working a traditional office job as opposed to clients.
With a traditional job, you are exposed to your “clients” every day. You can charm them. You can buy them coffee and breakfast and learn what they want. It is much easier to convince them you don’t have any evil plans (even if you do).
Freelancing, this process must take place in 1/10th of the time to meet deadlines most of the time. Fail to do so, and be micromanaged.
The faster you build trust, the faster you and your boss are happy.
(Unless you have a bad boss)
11) Know Cheat Codes
…the band, not a series of buttons. Although they earned their name for the ability to hack their way to the top of the charts.
After spending several years learning their craft and finding their voice, Cheat Codes got to tour with Demi Lovato (who had a name far more familiar to pop music fans).
When given the chance to collaborate, Cheat Codes did not try and book time with Demi six months down the road. They did not start researching male/female songs. They immediately sent over a song they had already written and said “Demi, this would be great for you.”
In other words…
12) Always have ideas in your back pocket
I once worked with an entrepreneur who sold his company for several billion. He used to tell me this:
“People talk about plan A and plan B. They never talk about plans C through Z. The way I look at things, there are at least 26 chances for success for every project”
One reason I will never forget this is because it was the first time I heard someone say “zed” instead of “zee,” which made my American heart giggle. The second reason is because I so often fail this advice, choosing instead to balk at any work which takes more than a couple of false starts.
It’s very short-sighted of me. Maybe one day, I will get better.
Speaking of ideas…
You may enjoy my free ebook — The Ultimate Guide to Infinite Ideas — which I am giving away for the price of an email address.
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