And you’ll have to forgive me for this first one:
1. Saying no
The reason you’ll have to forgive me is because this isn’t necessarily a way to spend time, but a way to SAVE time.
Over two years ago I wrote a post which was, to me, a life changing point in my career. I waxed poetic about saying no — a manifesto of sorts, it took off, and earned me time in front of audiences I’d never seen before.
I am still terrible at saying no.
Why? Because void of other meaningful activity, I cling to any work as validation for my existence. (This is a fancy way of saying “When I’m bored, I do dumb stuff.”)
Saying no is increasingly more difficult in the United States, I think. If we aren’t running from task to task, the world says we are lazy.
Read that last sentence again. Now question it.
“If we aren’t running from task to task, the world says we are lazy.”
Who really says that? Who assumes we are lazy if we aren’t working? Has anyone ever told you that? Did Nancy from accounting see you at the bar one evening, then pull you to the side and mutter, “Look, guy, people might get the wrong idea here. Why aren’t you working? It’s only 10 P.M.”
No, instead, we assume we should be busy at all times for two reasons:
If you’re reading this, you likely have a boss who represents you to a big company which determines a large portion of your income. Absent this income, your children do not eat and your bills do not get paid. Probably also your partner will leave you and call you worthless and then you will have to live in a cardboard box.
So yes, you are going to pile on meaningless work to appear busy.
b) Lack of real vision
Many times, when I fall into projects I regret, it is because I was unclear about what result I really wanted. The feeling I wanted was the feeling of busy, the feeling of productive, the feeling of hustle. I didn’t care about the results. Or more accurately, I didn’t look to see what results my work would actually bring.
In most cases, it was less money, fewer opportunities, and a bitter taste in my mouth.
On the flip side, when I have had the bandwidth to say YES to a good thing, it has been life changing.
Just for today, have the courage to say no.
2. Meeting life-changing people
Confession — I almost named this bullet point “Networking.”
Shortly after, I realized most of us are unhappy standing in circles with fake smiles plastered on our faces, clutching a handful of business cards and trying to remember if the guy you met earlier is named “Greg” or “Craig.”
Especially if you are an introvert like me, networking meetings are probably the closest imitation of hell you will ever experience.
You need people, but it only takes ONE relationship to change your life.
What does this mean? It means you don’t have to do the business equivalent of speed dating in order to find new people. The internet has eliminated geography. Instead, each one of us has access to interest-based friendships as opposed location-based friendships. This is likely why your Facebook annoys you while Twitter and Instagram bring you life. Zuckerberg’s brainchild was birthed to help you keep up with the people you know. Networks after that were born to connect people, regardless of previous affiliation.
Just for today, reach out to a potential friend.
3. Becoming elite at what you do
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the number.
This number — $522,406 — is the dollar amount Amazon is estimating James Patterson’s new book will make this month.
How does that happen? How can someone make half a million dollars on a book in 29 days?
The author is elite.
Comment all you like on Patterson’s seemingly impossible book release rate. Snark all you like about the ghost writers listed in small font on each title who are likely doing the brunt of the work. Complain about the unfairness of the publishing industry to devote so many resources to this man.
No matter how you look at it, Patterson is elite. He was elite when he graduated summa cum laude from Vanderbilt. He was elite when he helped write the line “I don’t want to grow up. I’m a Toys R Us kid” during his stint at an advertising agency. He became an elite fiction author. Now after 50+ years of work, his status is elite. A lot of benefits accompany elite status. How many other authors do you know who appear on the same cover as a former president?
There is something to be said for mastery. As a matter of fact, there is no replacement for mastery. It didn’t really take Patterson 29 days to make half a million. It took him 71 years.
Now, for some good news: There are far few people working at an elite level than you think.
Why? Because being elite requires consistent involvement and attention. It demands all of you every day. It is exhausting This is why many CEOs work for 4 years, hop out of a company with their golden parachute, and then disappear to the golf course for the rest of their lives.
Most of us believe becoming elite requires a special connection. We think we need to have wealth or fame or a famous sidekick.
In reality, elite performance only takes one characteristic:
Obsession — a nasty, dark word. Obsession will cause you to keep going when others quit. It will spur you to experiment when others play it safe.
Taken too far, it destroys.
Taken in the right measure, it will show you a world you think is impossible.
Just for today, be obsessed.
Much love as always ❤️
— Todd B
If I am elite in any area it is because of my ideas, both the quality and the quantity.
I finally got my idea-generating process down in an ebook: The Ultimate Guide to Infinite Ideas, which I’m giving away for the price of an email address.
This article first appeared on Medium.