Success, however you choose to define it, is often a matter of subtraction, not addition.
As Oprah Winfrey says (in a quote also attributed to David Russell), “One of the hardest things in life to learn is which bridges to cross and which bridges to burn.”
Which bridges should you burn? What should you stop doing?
As many of these things as possible:
There are no shortcuts. There are no hacks. There are no magic bullets.
Real success–in whatever you choose to pursue–is always achieved through hard work and persistence.
It’s easier to assume that other people succeed because they have things–talent, connections, money, etc.–that you don’t.
But the real difference is that they are willing to do things you won’t do.
Saying yes to too many opportunities, too many projects, and too many people is a recipe for failure. As entrepreneur Derek Sivers likes to say, “No more ‘yes.’ It’s either Hell yeah! or no.”
Even saying “no” can be a problem, because “no” often turns into “yes.” Maybe a friend pleads. Or a vendor begs. Or a customer argues and cajoles and chips away at your resolve until “no” becomes “maybe” and “maybe” becomes “yes,” and you wind up agreeing to something you wish you hadn’t.
Or–and this is even more likely–maybe you chip away at your own resolve until you wind up doing something you didn’t want to do because you couldn’t say no to yourself.
An absence of negatives never equals a superlative. When you’re deciding how to use your time and resources, always look for excellent, not acceptable.
Never settle for “good enough.”
Research on achievement and success by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck shows that people tend to embrace one of two mindsets regarding talent:
Successful people embrace a growth mindset. They work to get better, smarter, more skilled, more experienced…they never stop trying to become who they wish to be.
And neither should you.
Someone makes a mistake. Doesn’t meet your expectations. Doesn’t deliver on time.
But you are also to blame. Maybe you didn’t provide enough training. Maybe you didn’t build in enough of a buffer. Maybe you asked for too much, too soon.
When you fail, always decide it was your fault. Not only is that a smart way to think, but it’s also almost always true as well. While occasionally something completely outside your control will cause you to fail, most of the time it really is you.
And that’s OK. Every successful person has failed numerous times. Most have failed a lot more often than you have; that’s one reason why they’re so successful today.
Always blame yourself. Not in a masochistic way, but to ensure that next time you will do whatever it takes to make sure things turn out better.
Never think it’s someone else’s fault–because when you do, you guarantee it always will be.
Actually, you do: You have the same amount of time as everyone else.
The key is to decide how you will fill your time.
Never think about how time controls you. Instead, think of how you can best control your time.
When you do, you’ll quickly realize you have a lot more time than you think.
Ever hear someone say, “If I knew I would get a raise, then I would be willing to work a lot harder”? Or, “If I knew my startup would succeed, then I would definitely be willing to put in more hours”? Or, “If I knew there would be a bigger payoff, then I would be willing to sacrifice more”?
Successful people earn promotions and higher pay by first working harder; they earn their success. Successful businesses earn higher revenue by delivering greater value first; they earn their success.
Successful people, in all areas of life, earn bigger “payoffs” by working incredibly hard long before any potential return is in sight–they earn their success through effort and sacrifice.
Most people expect to know they will get more before they will ever consider doing more.
Think of compensation not as the driver or requirement for exceptional effort…but as the reward you will someday earn.
You may be boss. You may be a titan of industry. You may be responsible for hundreds of people and millions of dollars.
Even so, the only thing you really control is you. If you find yourself trying hard to control other people, you’ve decided that you, your goals, your dreams, or even just your opinions are more important than theirs.
Plus, control is short term at best, because it often requires force, or fear, or authority, or some form of pressure…none of which allow you to be as successful as you could be.
Instead of trying to control people, surround yourself with people who want to go where you want to go.
Then you won’t have to “lead.” You’ll go together.
Which will make all of you more successful.
We’re all afraid: of what might or might not happen, of what we can’t change, or what we won’t be able to do, or how other people might perceive us.
So it’s easier to hesitate, to wait for the right moment, to decide you need to think a little longer or do some more research or explore a few more alternatives.
Meanwhile days, weeks, months, and even years pass you by.
And so do your dreams.
Don’t let your fears hold you back. Whatever you’ve been planning, whatever you’ve imagined, whatever you’ve dreamed of, get started on it today. If you want to start a business, take the first step. If you want to change careers, take the first step. If you want to expand or enter a new market or offer new products or services, take the first step.
Put your fears aside and get started. Do something. Do anything.
Otherwise, today is gone. Once tomorrow comes, today is lost forever.
Today is the most precious asset you own–and is the one thing you should truly fear wasting.
Originally published on Inc.
Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.