We love reading success stories. People like Steve Jobs and Michael Jordan inspire us to shoot for the stars. We may even insert ourselves into their story and ask ‘what if I could do that?’ But when the last chapter is read, we’re often left with a warm fuzzy feeling, but no actionable steps to take towards our own success.
There’s a disconnect because we can’t necessarily replicate Jobs’ environment or skill sets. But, if we know the practical life lessons that successful people live by, we can test these out. We can take what works and build our own blueprint for success and happiness.
In Tim Ferris’ new book Tools of Titans, he skillfully deconstructs world-class performers to extract the tactics, tools, and routines we can use.
Here are my five favorite life lessons from the book that are deceivingly simple, but powerfully effective:
1. Go First
Gabrielle Reece is a world-renowned athlete, model, New York Times bestselling author, and fitness leader. She has a practice that is simple but powerful. She always goes first. If she’s at the supermarket checkout, she’s the first to say hello. When she comes across someone and makes eye contact, she smiles first.
This practice teaches us to take initiative and connect with people. We don’t need to wait for a cue from others before we act. Put yourself out there. Start conversations with strangers. Take a genuine interest in other people’s lives. You never know where the next conversation will lead you.
2. The Obstacle Is the Way
Ryan Holiday is a writer and media strategist. The Obstacle is the Way is the title of his third book. It’s also a powerful life lesson that we should repeat when facing challenges. The idea is that every obstacle presents an opportunity to get better, stronger, and tougher. It reminds us that we should be seeking out the things that scare and challenge us. This is the space in which growth occurs.
Think about your biggest achievements in life. Whether it was starting a business, completing a university degree, or running a marathon. You probably had your fair share of stress and obstacles to overcome. But you came out the other side a better person. Build a habit of getting outside of your comfort zone regularly. Realise that you’ll face tough situations, but they are the experiences that pave the way to success.
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
– Marcus Aurelius
3. Show Up Consistently
Christopher Sommer is the former US national team gymnastics coach. He talks about making a single important decision to stay on course when working towards a goal.
We often overlook the simple things that create success, like deciding to show up consistently. When we start out building a business or learning a skill, it’s easy to get deterred in the initial stages. But if we focus on a single important decision—showing up consistently—the goal doesn’t seem so big.
So, when you start working toward a goal, don’t worry about performance. Initially, you have a single focus: show up and do the work every time.
“The secret is to show up, do the work, and go home. A blue collar work ethic married to indomitable will. It is literally that simple. Nothing interferes. Nothing can sway you from your purpose. Once the decision is made, simply refuse to budge. Refuse to compromise.” – Christopher Sommer
4. Don’t Follow the Herd
Robert Rodriguez is a writer, producer, director, and composer. He talks about the importance of going against the grain. If everybody’s going left, you go right. Don’t follow the herd. You’re bound to stumble and fall, but you’ll find new ideas and success when you blaze your own trail. There’s also less competition when you don’t pursue the crowded channels.
Rethink the ‘safe routes’ that the herd follow. Do you really want to work a 9-5 corporate job for the rest of your life? Or are you willing to follow your passion and build your own business? Are you going to eat fast food regularly and end up as a statistic? Or will you go the other way and look after your body?
“The man who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The man who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.” – Alan Ashley-Pitt
5. The Secrets of Life Are Hidden Behind the Word Cliché
Shay Carl went from manual labourer to having a YouTube channel with around 2.3 billion views. He explains how the secrets of life are hidden behind the clichés we often overlook.
Shay lost over 100 lb and cites the example of ‘eat more vegetables’. Something he’d been told millions of times but ignored. We hear things all the time like ‘actions speak louder than words’, ‘exercise regularly’, ‘get more sleep’, ‘be consistent’, and so on. These clichés hold powerful truths, but we don’t always put them into practice. At the end of the day, it’s the simple things in life that work.
Shay’s advice is to perk up and pay attention anytime you hear something that you think is a cliché. Go a step further and take one cliché and test it out for two weeks to see if your life improves.
So, there are the five powerful life lessons you can start using right away. Don’t let this be another post you read in passing. Make a choice to test one of these out for a few weeks. Decision creates action. Action creates results.