You’re Killing Your Own Success: This is How to Stop
You want to know why you aren’t successful? Because you aren’t doing what you need to get done to be successful.
Actually, it’s stronger than that. YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL.
You might think you do, but your actions probably speak different. While you dream of your desire to reach your goals, your behavior is basically telling the world “Hold me back. Keep me exactly where I am, and don’t let me do anything that makes my life better.”
That’s right – you might be a beard wearing, freedom loving, gun carrying tough guy, but in reality, you’re a wuss.
But If you’re pissed off at me right now, realize one thing: I’m telling you this because you’re my brother and I want you to be successful.
So I want you to stop bending over and allowing the world to inject it’s agenda into your life, and I want you to start building your own plan for success.
I also want you to understand that I used to let the world rape me too, and so I’m gonna let you know how I fought back and took control of my own agenda.
Two Real Scenarios from My Life
The alarm on my phone goes off with a loud shrill, startling me awake. I jump out of bed to turn it off before my girlfriend wakes up.
As I turn it off, I realize that there’s three texts and five email alerts. Feeling a pit in my stomach, I look at each one immediately, sending out quick replies to satisfy each person’s concern.
I stumble out of my bedroom and over to my laptop to check Facebook and Instagram, and then run to the kitchen to quickly prepare my coffee to avoid a caffeine headache.
When I can find time, I quickly head to the shower to clean myself off and get dressed, then I’m right back on the laptop trying to work.
For the next eight hours, I’m stuck in a desperate dance. Texts and emails come in every five to ten minutes from clients, and it’s noon before I remember that I was supposed to write a plan for a new client today.
I begin to furiously work on the plan, and then I remember that I haven’t eaten all day long. I quickly guzzle down a protein shake, and notice a message from my accountant.
He needs me to explain several expenses I made on my account. After detailing the charges, a text from my girlfriend comes in: she needs me to run to the store to pick up wine for tonight’s dinner with the neighbors.
Fuck, I forgot about that. I text her back, and then I work furiously to get the plans done before I remember that I had three phone calls planned for the time we were scheduled for dinner.
My heart beats furiously and my temper grows short with a feeling that I cannot possibly control my schedule, my life, or my business.
I forget to get the wine, and I have to run out after my girlfriend comes home and yells at me.
During dinner, I’m distant and I don’t talk much because of everything weighing down on me in my mind.
After we leave the neighbors’ house, I run back to my office to try to send out more emails, and I realize that there’s four other things I should’ve done today that I didn’t
My girlfriend comes to the door, tells me that if I’m going to be working all night, she’s just going to bed. We make a few angry exchanges until I give up, close my laptop, and head to bed for a restless sleep.
Tossing and turning, I can’t sleep because my brain won’t turn off, and I realize that something has to change if I’m ever going to be able to take charge of my life.
I contemplate just giving up and getting a job at the local corporate gym as a trainer before I eventually dose off for a couple of hours.
Damn, I got anxiety just from writing that. But here’s a different scenario:
I wake up to the gentle sound of my Sleep Cycle alarm, which is designed to wake me up gently over a period of ten minutes.
As I open my eyes I remember my gratitude practice, and I thank God (I believe in God, if you don’t, you can thank whatever power you believe in) for everything I have. Then I walk over to the bathroom and begin to recite my affirmations to myself as I brush my teeth:
Affirmation 1: I will use my story and my experiences to help as many veterans as possible.
Affirmation 2: I will choose to be strong in everything I do, and I will use my negative feelings as a source of strength rather than an excuse to be weak.
Affirmation 3: I will control my own actions and activities, and I will not allow them to be controlled by other people or my environment.
And then I continue until all of my affirmations are done. My phones are on airplane mode so no one can communicate with me.
I grab a book, recently it’s been Seneca’s “On the Shortness of Life” and I read for ten to fifteen minutes while the water for my coffee boils to begin fostering my thoughts for how I can help those who follow Warrior Soul today.
I prepare my coffee, and then head to my office. At this point, it’s 0430 and its at least five hours before any appointments, phone calls or administrative work I need to do.
Darkness surrounds me as I turn on my computer, and I begin to put my thoughts out on the screen for today’s blog. At around 0700, I go out to my patio for a quick kettle bell workout, and at 0730 I begin preparing breakfast.
My girlfriend wakes up, we have breakfast together, and she heads off to work. I head back to my office, work on the Warrior Soul web site for a bit, then I turn on my phone and make my scheduled phone calls at 1000.
Texts and emails begin rolling in, but I turn the sound off on my phone and place it in the kitchen. For the next two hours, I will finish my blog, schedule my social media posts, create a video for the Warrior Soul YouTube channel, work on a new shirt design, and take time to live chat with customers who come into the online store.
At noon, I do another workout – 100 burpees followed by a 1.5 mile jog. I come back, shower, and then I eat lunch.
Then I turn on my phone. I record messages and schedule times to respond to them in my calendar. Then I go over my emails for the day, respond to immediate concerns, and forward others to my evernote to read later in the evening.
Then it’s back to Warrior Soul. I schedule some more posts to social media, do some research for a blog I want to write next week, and analyze my web site for functionality.
As five o’clock rolls around, I take my dog for a long walk, making any remaining phone calls I have to make during the walk, and I enjoy the last few minutes of winter daylight in southern California.
I go back to my office and begin scheduling my next day until my girlfriend comes home, then we head to the gym, eat dinner, and watch an hour of television before heading to bed.
Controlling Yourself Versus Giving Permission to the World to Control You
Now I know that you might not work for yourself, and that my life may look very different from yours, but I’m not writing this because I expect you to be able imitate every aspect of my schedule.
I’m writing this so you can understand the differences between these two scenarios.
In scenario one, I am being torn apart. Actually, I’m not being torn apart, I’m literally giving permission to the world to tear me apart. Every one of my actions is reactive, and I’m allowing every little message from my phone, every email, and every person I come in contact with to dictate what I’m doing and what I’m working on. Working this way, my business will never move forward. It only stay exactly where it is, or it will get worse because I’m allowing myself to forget important things that could affect my revenue.
In scenario two, I’m in complete control. My activities are controlled by my own vision for what I need to get done that day. Rather than just putting out fires and preventing destruction, I’m building my business, creating new content and products, and making my business better.
Understanding the Biggest Drains on Our Time
The truth is that you’re probably spending most of your day doing things that are not helping you, or that are hurting you by taking you away from things that you could be doing to move yourself forward. This is true whether you’re a business owner, a white collar executive, a blue collar worker, a student, or even active military. Here’s a list of things that are probably draining you of your time, will, and happiness with your work.
Texts and emails – There is absolutely no reason for you to respond to every text or email immediately, unless there is an emergency or a crisis. Keep your phone off or out of reach with the sound off. Check it once every 90 minutes at the most. This will ensure that any crises get responded to in due time – but remember to clearly define what a crisis is. If you could respond to it in a couple of hours with the same consequences as if you responded right now, it’s not a crisis. Save your crisis responses for actual emergencies.
Phone Calls – as with texts and emails, there is no reason why you should be answering every single call that comes in. Create a voice mail that clearly states that you will get back to the person who called you within the next 24 hours. Schedule a time to check your messages and to make call backs and stick to those times. Prioritize those calls that need to be handled most urgently, and if responding to those calls takes too much time, schedule the remainder for the next day.
Social Media – Right, you’re probably saying to yourself, this guy posts like 30 times a day. You’re exactly right, but remember something – as Guy Kawasaki says, “I am a producer of social media, not a consumer of social media.” I honestly spend maybe 20 minutes a day looking over other profiles because any more than that would be a drain on my time. I post to social media to advance Warrior Soul, spread good ideas to other veterans, and to communicate with my customers. Limit your social media consumption to less than a half hour a day. If you need to keep up with posts from the profiles you follow, then you can do it during that time and not miss a beat.
Reading the News – We’re all concerned about ISIS, global terrorism, and the next presidential election, but guess what, whether you watch the news or not, those things are still going to be there tomorrow and you’re probably still going to have the same opinions about them regardless of what you hear. Watching the news is just an excuse to get more pissed off about the things you’re pissed off about and to reaffirm the things you believed to be true all along. It also is a way of lying to yourself because, in your mind, you think that keeping up with the news makes you productive. It doesn’t. Whatever happens outside of your circle of influence will not make you money, advance your career, advance your life, or make you a truly happier person. Keep your news scans to under twenty minutes a day, max. That is enough to be an informed citizen, a responsible voter, and to have an educated conversation about politics. If there’s a global crisis or a national tragedy, you’ll learn about it soon enough. For now, focus on you and what you can do to make your world better.
Watching TV – Vikings, Game of Thrones, Walking Dead. I watch them all, but I watch them on my terms at scheduled times after I’ve recorded them unless I’ve scheduled time to watch them when they’re broadcasted. I do not stop everything I’m doing and put my life on hold to see Ragnar go on raids or Rick cut through zombies like they’re goo. Television can be an enjoyable activity and I like watching the tube to unwind each night, but always remember that it does nothing else for you. If you have better things you can be doing, do them.
Understand What You Should Be Doing Instead
Now that you have some understanding of what’s draining you, let’s talk about what you should be doing instead. These are a bit more amorphous because I do not know you or your specific situation, but these points will give you a decent idea of what you should be doing to advance your life.
Working – You’ve got to be willing to put in real work. That means not reacting to situations and putting out fires, but asking yourself a simple question at the beginning of each day: what is one thing can I do today that will have the single biggest impact on my (career, business, personal advancement). Once you answer that question, focus on that one thing for the majority of your day. It could be a project at work or an assignment from school. For you active duty guys it could be getting that MCI or PME done or getting a workout done so you can do well on your PFT. If you’re a business owner, it could be creating customer surveys, refining your website, or creating a marketing campaign. Whatever it is, focus on that, and schedule everything else for a later time.
Learning – You need to read. Reading is a form of simulation. When you read a book about business, like say The Everything Store, which is a biography about Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, you learn about everything he did to make himself a success and you learn about every mistake he made along the way. General Mattis is a voracious leader and prior to the invasion of Iraq he read about every military campaign into that territory going back to ancient times. He did this to learn about the mistakes and successes of previous campaigns to ensure his success and to protect the lives of his Marines. Let’s get this straight, every new territory you enter, every project you start, and every job you take is a new campaign. Learning through experience is great, and you will do that, but learning only through experience means that you will make more mistakes. Reading and educating yourself about potential pitfalls will help you avoid unnecessary mistakes that you could have avoided had you only educated yourself prior to starting the campaign.
Taking Time for Yourself – Life is not just about working. You need to be able to take time to pursue the things you truly enjoy. This could be a pickup basketball game, or a softball league. It could also just be a daily walk or a workout. Take the time to schedule these things into your weekly routine because they are important for your happiness and mental health.
Fitness – Your two greatest assets in this life are your mind and your body. Regardless of how much money you have, if either of these things go, you won’t be able to do much. So take the time to be healthy. Schedule a daily workout, and focus on eating properly. Don’t cut your time on this short, or jeopardize your quality of life because you failed to do this.
Plan Your Day for Success
Here are some simple planning techniques that I’ve used to set my day up for success.
Wake up Early – I wake up everyday at 0330. This goes back to my days as a team leader in the Marine Corps. I used to have the fire watch wake me up an hour before all of my Marines so I could take care of my stuff and supervise them once they were up. It’s no different now. I wake up three to four hours before my girlfriend so I can get my stuff done in time to have breakfast with her and kiss her as she heads out the door. It also allows me to begin my work hours before anyone that may be trying to get in touch with me will even be awake.
Do the Hard Thing First – Get your biggest or hardest project of the day done first. You have to do this because your brain energy is finite. It runs out. Focus on getting your one thing that will ensure your success for the day done first, and then worry about everything else.
Plan your day the day before – don’t plan things in the heat of the moment. That will cause you to react and not respond to your challenges strategically. Take ten to fifteen minutes before you go to bed and create a general outline for what you want the next day to look like. Prioritize your important tasks, make time for your workouts, your meals, and your less important tasks, and this will give you a strategy for getting everything done that you need to.
Reward yourself at the end of the day – Human beings run toward pleasure and run away from pain. But we will also run through pain to get to pleasure. Schedule time at the end of your day to do something you enjoy. Mine is watching an hour of TV while snuggling with my girlfriend. This will give you something to look forward to after a long day’s work.
If you feel like you have no time, it’s easy to blame everyone else. The hard thing is to look at yourself in the mirror and to make the changes necessary to the way that you manage your life to ensure your own success. True success is about taking control of your activities and your agenda rather than giving the world permission to control it for you.