When I was about 19 years old, I was cast in a musical with one of the most impressive women I’d ever met. Not only was she the lead in this musical but her day job was as a neuro psychologist, working with people who had experienced physical brain trauma. She also taught step classes several times per week as a fitness instructor because she liked it.
I’d watched her arrive on time for rehearsals, walking calmly across the car park. She never rushed, she didn’t come crashing into the change room like a wounded albatross, screeching about busy her day was like everyone else did. She’d make a cup of tea and calmly start warming up her voice for rehearsal.
At the time I was studying to be a teacher. I was in the middle of an 8 week full time practice stint of teaching, working every evening at a theatre bar, every weekend at a newsagency and in between I was rehearsing for this show. I’ve never been a huge complainer, but I was exhausted and I looked it. Sometimes I’d arrive half an hour early for rehearsal and I’d curly up on a couch to have a quick snooze, feeling like a giant failure that I couldn’t manage all the things I was doing.
I can remember asking this extraordinary woman how she did all the things she did without collapsing in a heap on the floor.
She told me that she liked doing all those things, so it wasn’t a chore. She also prioritised her health over everything else. Socialising and parties were fun for her but she’d stay for a glass or two of wine and then get home in time for plenty of sleep. In between matinees when everyone else walked to the local takeaway for burgers and fries, she’d eat a healthy meal she packed from home. Instead of guzzling down energy drinks, she stuck to water and tea. She said she also re-arranged her thinking whenever she felt overwhelmed. She’d say ‘I want to be here.’ The calmness in her busy life inspired me and it’s something I recall often in stressful times.
She was an excellent role model for a young woman to be around. I met her when I was at a very formative stage of my life and still trying to figure out the person I was. It was her who really pointed out that life isn’t about finding out who are, it’s about creating who you are.
Since meeting this woman over 15 years ago, I’ve collected an unofficial squad of people I’ve met over the years who inspired me in different ways. I worked with a woman years ago who did LARP-ing (Live Action Role Play) but it was medieval themed so everything that happened at these events had to be authentic. This meant she would spend her breaks from her teacher assistant job hand sewing costumes for these events. It would take her 9 months to make a skirt but she never complained, because she chose it and she wanted to do it. She’d sit there in meetings, methodically embroidering the bodice of her dress for months on end. If she made a mistake, she calmly unpicked it and started again.
Success looks different in different people but the journey is often quite similar. I’m fascinated by successful people and I love watching the way they operate and how they get things done. There does seem to be an underlying sense of calm and commitment in most of the successful people I meet and it’s something I like to channel whenever I feel flustered or out of control.
Here are a few things I’ve noticed successful people won’t waste their time on.
1. Waiting for the perfect moment to action a thing
‘I’ll start that healthy eating plan in two months time when things slow down a bit.’
‘I’ll launch my blog when I really have the time to focus on it.’
‘I’ll ask for that promotion when the boss is in a really good mood.’
Successful people know there’s never a perfect time to do anything, so it might as well be now. Just do it. Whatever it is, just do it. If you’ve already decided you’re going to do it, now is the perfect time to get started.
2. Being ‘busy’
Busy is crap. Busy is taking 30 minutes to reply to an email you could have replied to in under a minute. Busy is re-arranging a filing cabinet system because you’re too overwhelmed to work on more important stuff.
Productivity is chipping away at important tasks, calmly and with purpose. For example if you’ve set yourself a goal of writing 1000 words on your book every day, productivity is sitting down and focussing on getting on those 1000 words written. Busy is checking Facebook ten times, reading three ‘research’ articles, texting a friend to complain about how you have to write your 1000 words and then making yourself some toast. Focus on actioning the task, not thinking about actioning the task.
3. Setting unrealistic goals
Successful people almost always complete their to-do lists in a day because they make them do-able. When you start the day, choose three things to do. Let’s use the weekend as an example. The top list is a typical weekend to do list but there’s no way anyone can get all that stuff done, particularly if they want to have some recreational time. The second list is much more achievable. Everything on that list can be completed in an hour or two, with plenty of time to do the things you want to do,
Unachievable To Do List
- Clean bathroom
- Clean kitchen
- Change sheets on beds
- Clean windows
- Mow lawn
- Clean gutters
- Fix kid’s bikes
Achievable To Do List
- Clean bathroom
- Clean kitchen
- Change sheets on beds
Always make your your to do list super lean, otherwise you’ll ever complete it.
4. Living in the past
Of all the successful people I know, hardly any of them are nostalgic. Nostalgia isn’t necessarily a bad thing but if you change jobs and realise you liked your old job better, there’s nothing to be gained from ruminating on that. You either have to accept the new job and make it awesome, or leave and do something else. Pining for the past is not helpful. Get happy in your now or get to work changing your now.
5. Dwelling on problems
Successful people get shit done. They’re the ones in the meetings who always say ‘Right! Let’s do it!’ when a reasonable solution is presented. I once worked with a man who invented a rule that no one was allowed to use the back door of the office. He couldn’t explain why, he just decided no one should use it. He spent most of his day trying to catch people using it when he told them not to. It was bizarre. It was an auto locking door, so it wasn’t a security issue. He didn’t sit near the door so it wasn’t a noise or foot traffic issue. The person who sat right next to the door didn’t give a shit and refused to dob people into him. All of this stuff I’m describing? Yeah, successful people don’t do that.
6. Negative people
Successful people won’t join in on that kind of thing. They simply don’t have the time. They manoeuvre their way out of gossipy conversations as quickly as possible and steer their conversations towards more positive and productive topics.
7. Waiting for everything to be perfect
Succesful people write the resume and email it. They rehearse a song and they damn well go and audition for that musical. They write a book, self publish it and just see what happens. Successful people know that done is better than perfect. Successful people aren’t necessarily more talented, they just do more stuff.
Successful people don’t hold grudges. They won’t ignore someone at an event because they got the job they wanted. They won’t add up a tally of all the times someone ignored them in the hallway. They recognise that everyone is human, we all have bad days and everyone gets to start the day with a clean slate.
Successful people tell it like it is. They won’t go out of their way to start an argument but if you ask for their honest opinion, they’ll give it. They also won’t allow an injustice to happen in front of them. They stand up for what they believe in and then they move on quickly.
Have you witnessed admiral behaviour in a successful person? What was it?