Your success comes down to just one thing. It’s actually the one thing we all have in common
Look, if you’re looking for some breakthrough “secret” or some revolutionary “formula” to success. Let’s cut the crap. There isn’t one. Here’s the thing, it’s NOT a secret so let’s stop pretending it is. You’re not going to figure it out regardless of the thousands of self-improvement books you read or inspirational documentaries you watch. The thing is, your success really truly hinges on one thing. It’s the one thing we all have in common no matter where we’re from: time. We all move in one direction and at an equal pace. Oprah, Bill Gates, Serena Williams, Steven Spielberg all live at the same rate as you or me.
I’m not naive; sheer luck, like where and to whom you’re born, can be a major leg-up. But history is decorated with tales of the privileged that waste their own opportunity and of the low-born who take their bootstraps to conquer and take names. And besides, is someone born wealthy that coasts through life, complacent to privileged mediocrity a success? No, success is measured by achieving goals and making the most of what opportunities you’ve got.
That’s how someone who had worse than nothing like Oprah or someone like Bill Gates, who had the extraordinary fortune of having access to a university computer as a kid, both created empires. What’s the common thread? Both achieved success because of how they used their time.The Oldest Trick in the Book
How do you use your time wisely? It’s simple, build routine. Underwhelming, yes, but successful people have been doing it all through human history. It’s not the fancy “principles” or “rules” or “laws” of whatever online listicle or best seller you might have been looking for. Real answers are often the most simple and obvious.
A routine helps you grab control and stayed honed in amid a world of distractions. You establish a line of defense against short-sighted impulses. You stay fresh with an eye on more important, long-term priorities in life all while getting s**t done. Controlled, productive spurts and balanced lifestyle can become second-nature. It takes different forms but a visible example is Steve Jobs’s famous jeans and black turtleneck. Routine allows successful people to control their time and energy.Make Your Goal a Habit
The building blocks of routine are positive habits. When you intentionally create habits that are meant to help you do more, it can be a powerful tool. Habits let your mind run autopilot for stressful activity so you can flex your creativity. You can push yourself to do better and deal with the irregular chaos of the rest of the day. The way your brain switches to autopilot mode for certain actions is called chunking. Your brain switches to “energy-saving” mode. It’s your body’s way of conserving mental power for more irregular tasks that need focus. This is how you do more, more efficiently. Think of daily routines you have already. Backing out of the driveway, brushing your teeth…nothing to it, right?
It may seem counterintuitive, but adding this sort of rigidity and mindlessness to life allows you to be more creative. Through routine, you can carve out protected space to learn and experiment consistently. Think of all the brain power you can allocate to more important tasks. What if you could give yourself the mental space to create? What if you could train yourself to pull away the self-doubt and let the flow take over?
Routine has had a powerful role in my own life. A year I get off track of my routine, I’m working out less, getting less sleep, my output gets sluggish. As a leader of a team, being constantly chased by tasks makes me less communicative, less reliable. In years with a solid routine, business is booming, creativity flows almost effortlessly from my team. The grind becomes fun; I tackle challenges with poise and composure.Scaling the Plateau
The thing about creating positive habits is that it is NOT EASY. Think of all the unfulfilled New Year’s resolutions. If making positive habits were easy, who wouldn’t be successful. It’s a steep cliff to surmount. Award winning director and screenwriter Woody Allen said “showing up is 80 percent of success.” As problematic as the guy is, he deserves credit for being prolific. Like he says, getting over the reluctance to do something at all is what separates the mediocre from the achievers.
So how do you do it? You need cues and a strategy. Routine becomes clockwork when you have something to trigger your habits. Use alarms or visual cues and make a promise to yourself to commit. Change your commute route to pass by your gym or set an alarm every morning to write.
Set realistic, incremental checkpoints. Start small and give yourself no excuses. Then, work your way up. Too many people overwhelm themselves too early. They become vulnerable to burnout or chaos throws them off. Build your routine piece by piece. Each habit is tough to ingrain, but once you get over the cliff, you hit a point where it’s smooth, rolling plains for miles.