I’m in Houston, Texas preparing to go on stage in front of 500 people to deliver a keynote speech about The Pursuit of Excellence. Today is also my birthday. Birthdays seem to be a good day to reflect and think. Since I launched my podcast almost eight years ago, I’ve kept a digital diary of things I’ve learned from interviewing more than 500 of the world’s most productive achievers. I’ve published a lot of those learnings in my first two books. And as I keep going, I learn more and add to my list.
Here are 19 additions… If you find any of them useful, share with your friends and send me an email.
1. WHO FIRST– Your life will be measurably better or worse based on WHO you’re with. Life can be a series of transactions or you can build relationships. Transactions can give you short-term success, but great relationships make for a great life.
2. Have a bias for action – “We are who we are in practice, not in theory” (David Epstein). The world is full of talkers. Be a doer.
3. Wake up early – It’s hard. Some days it sucks and you don’t feel like it. Do it anyway. The people who put a dent in the world usually choose to do hard things.
4. Push your edges – Excellence happens as you expand your current zone of comfort and competency. Take the improv class, do the triathlon, and push beyond your current capabilities. That’s where you grow.
5. Interested > Interesting – Ask more questions than you answer. The opposite of judgment is curiosity. Lead with curiosity.
6. Leaders can’t be energy neutral – You’re either adding energy to the room or taking it. Be additive. Lift a room with your attitude, optimism, and presence.
7. Move your body – You get one body. If it fails you, nothing else matters. Do whatever you can to take care of it. Push yourself physically. (Also: Never sit down in the weight room in between sets. You can sit when you go home.)
8. Read books – For $20, you can peer inside the heart and soul of someone who dedicated their life to a topic. It’s the greatest bargain in history. I’ve yet to meet an excellent leader who doesn’t read a lot.
9. Lead with trust – You don’t have to earn it. You have it. I’ve found giving trust before it’s earned attracts the type of people I want to be with.
10. Never waste an opportunity to be generous – Praise others, write thank you notes, and speak kindly behind someone’s back. Tell their loved ones how awesome they are. Be a good gift giver. You’ll grow to love the feeling of giving more than receiving.
11. Be grateful – Leave people, places, and things better than you found them. (The Girl Scout Rule)
12. Be the hero, not the victim – Take ownership of your success or failure. Don’t blame others. Nobody wants to hang out with excuse-makers or complainers. In a world of lifters and leaners, be a lifter.
13. Be a self-regulatory learner – Reflect. Pause to think. The Wright Brothers would walk out on the sand dunes and watch birds. They mimicked their wings with their arms and thought deeply about how to keep their flying machine afloat.
14. Value excellence – Set high standards for yourself… And work to consistently exceed them. Try to surround yourself with others who do the same.
15. Choose extra work – The minimum requirements are table stakes. Choose to do more. I’ve rarely met someone who leaves a dent in the world that doesn’t choose extra work. Extra work = passion (Brook Cupps)
16. Be easy to work with – Be responsive. Be proactive. Be kind. Think of what’s needed before it’s asked. Do it. Be the type of person that others want to work with. Make it easy on them.
17. Be willing to suck at something (initially) – Having a beginner’s mindset and not being embarrassed is a superpower. If you’re afraid to look dumb, then you won’t stretch your zone of comfort & competency. Those who stretch will grow and win.
18. Write – Get the thoughts out of your mind onto the page. Writing helps you understand yourself and the world better. To get better at this, you need to do it a lot. Get the reps. Make it part of your daily routine. Writing clarifies thinking.
19. Create ‘Magical Moments.’ (Ken Blanchard) – Turn your time, treasures, and talents into exciting experiences for you and your loved ones. Those will create ‘memory dividends’ (Bill Perkins) that you will have forever…