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14 Lessons We Can All Learn From “The Wolf of Wall Street”

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wolf of wallstreet movie jordan belfort

Both the book and the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” contain many crazy, entertaining, and decadent stories. But beneath all the debauchery there are a number of key lessons for you to learn from the success of Jordan Belfort and Stratton Oakmont.

Read on for some great insight into this motivated business man that will show you how Jordan Belfort was able to build a super pumped organization before it all came tumbling down.

 

 

 

 

 

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Wolf of Wallstreet

 

 

1. Execute on Ideas

Stratton Oakmont’s initial success was based on two premises:

• That Belfort had come up with a way of teaching young, uneducated people how to sound like professional stock brokers over the phone.

• That rich people love to gamble – especially when the gamble seems like a legitimate business opportunity.
While there had been other people on Wall Street who’d had the same idea, Jordan Belfort was the first person to execute on this idea.

 

2. Simplify

The reason Belfort was able to transform young, uneducated people into charismatic stock brokers was because he was able to impart his knowledge by giving simple instructions in a way that even the most stupid employees could easily understand.

“And as word of this little secret began to spread throughout Long Island—that there was this wild office, in Lake Success, where all you had to do was show up, follow orders, swear your undying loyalty to the owner, and he would make you rich—young kids started showing up at the boardroom unannounced.” – Jordan Belfort

 

3. Put Together a Loyal Team

Guys like Kenny Greene and Danny Porush weren’t the smartest guys around. But, they were long-term friends who were fiercely loyal to Jordan Belfort.

What does this mean?

That it might be a good idea to work with old friends who knew, and liked you, before you got rich and successful. By doing this you will reduce the risk of:

• Becoming betrayed or backstabbed by two-faced people.

• Making stupid decisions because you’re surrounded by yes-men who don’t give you accurate feedback.

 

4. Diversify Competence

Why were Jordan Belfort and Danny Porush a good team?

Because they were very different:

• Belfort had sleeping problems. Porush could fall asleep everywhere – even during bumpy plane rides.

• Belfort was a highly strategic leader who specialized in delegation. Porush was a good enforcer –brutal enough to eat a gold fish to put employees in their place.

• Belfort was analytical and had a long-term orientation. Porush was emotional and short-sighted.

They were both good at different things – but together they were a great combination.

 

 

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wolf of wallstreet jordan belfort

 

5. Dress for Success

From day one, employees were instilled with the mantra that they had to act as if – starting by dressing well and looking the part. The purpose of this was to improve their self-esteem and charisma.

Jordan Belfort even hired a guy to create tailor-made suits for the up-and-coming employees of Stratton Oakmont.

 

6. Gather Intelligence on Rivals and Enemies

Belfort gathered intelligence by:

• Bugging the SEC people who were investigating Stratton Oakmont.

• Befriending FBI agent Jim Barsini and getting information about the ongoing investigation on Stratton Oakmont.

 

7. Guard Your Secrets

Jordan Belfort carefully guarded his secrets by:

• Drafting legal documents to create plausible deniability for shady deals.

• Having the office of Stratton Oakmont and the houses of the top employees swept for bugs regularly.

• Never speaking over the phone about past business deals.

• Using pay phones and other covert forms of communication to ensure that no one listened in on what was being said.

Note: While your business probably differs from Belfort’s by being legal, it’s still a good idea to gather intelligence. For example, you might meet an employee of a rival firm for drinks to learn about the internal gossip going on over there.

 

8. Study History and Learn From Past Mistakes

Said by Belfort to a Swiss “master forger” while discussing banking laws:

“I’m a student of history, Roland, and I’m a firm believer that he who doesn’t study the mistakes of the past is doomed to repeat them”. – Jordan Belfort

You should follow Belfort’s example by:

• Studying past events in your profession to see what it was that made other people succeed or fail.

• Studying the great men who came before you.

 

 

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jordan belfort business

 

9. Establish a Concrete Reputation

There was never any doubt to the employees, nor the public, that anyone could make a ton of money by working for Stratton Oakmont. To confirm this, the only thing you had to do was take a look at the young, racially diverse, sometimes acne-ridden, well-dressed young men that spread havoc on Long-Island.

“The very idea of Stratton is that it doesn’t matter what family you were born into, or what schools you went to, or whether or not you were voted most likely to succeed in your high-school yearbook. The idea of Stratton is that when you come here and step into the boardroom for the first time, you start your life anew. The very moment you walk through the door and pledge your loyalty to the firm, you become part of the family, and you become a Strattonite.” – Jordan Belfort

 

10. Create a Set of Core Values that is Easy to Grasp

The core value of Stratton Oakmont was to seize the day. What this really meant to the employees was to:

• Make as much money as possible.

• Compete with colleges who could spend more money and live a crazier and more luxurious lifestyle.

–And what are some common core values of contemporary companies?

• Sustainability.

• Environmental friendliness.

• Integrity.

Which core values do you think are easier to communicate to the employees and make them live by?

 

11. Lead by Example and Set the Standard

No one over at Stratton Oakmont spent more money on buying luxury items, drugs, prostitutes, or partying than Jordan Belfort. He represented the epitome of the lifestyle that the employees sought to achieve.

“It’s important to keep these guys chasing the dream. And it’s even more important to keep them broke.” I gestured over to the plate glass. “Look at them; as much money as they make, every last one of them is broke! They spend every dime they have, trying to keep up with my lifestyle. But they can’t, because they don’t make enough”. – Jordan Belfort

 

12. Create Expectations

At Stratton Oakmont employees were expected to work their asses off and make a lot of money. Anything else was frowned upon.

“A rookie stockbroker was expected to make $250,000 his first year. Anything less and he was suspect. By year two you were making $500,000 or you were considered weak and worthless. And by year three you’d better be making a million or more or you were a complete f#%$ing laughingstock.” – Jordan Belfort

 

13. Provide Incentives for Hard Work

Not only were the employees of Stratton Oakmont paid far above the going rate for stock brokers – but a select few of the hardest working employees were also eligible to branch out on their own and start brokerage firms under Belfort’s guidance.

“It was what every Strattonite dreamed of and something I touched upon in all my meetings—that if you continued to work hard and stay loyal, one day I’d tap you on the shoulder and set you up in business. And then you would get truly rich.” – Jordan Belfort

 

14. Keep People Dependent on You

To ensure that employees were not only motivated to work, but literally had to stay at the firm and continue making lots money, Belfort encouraged employees to live beyond their means.

“I want you to deal with all your problems by becoming rich! I want you to attack your problems head-on! I want you to go out and start spending money right now. I want you to leverage yourself. I want you to back yourself into a corner. Give yourself no choice but to succeed. Let the consequences of failure become so dire and so unthinkable that you’ll have no choice but to do whatever it takes to succeed.” – Jordan Belfort

Jordan Belfort Picture Quote

 

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Question:

Are there more lessons to be learned from the Wolf of Wall Street? If you have any of your own, please leave them in the comments section below.

Ludvig Sunström runs Start Gaining Momentum where he writes about practical self-development and gives no-nonsense tips for becoming more efficient and stepping up in life. He is also the author of Breaking out of Homeostasis , a book about claiming more control over your life by overcoming the brain's innate mechanism for staying the same. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter and Google+.

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75 Comments

75 Comments

  1. Afiq azizi

    Dec 5, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    Sell this pen!

  2. Tim Denning

    Jun 8, 2016 at 12:14 am

    Such a good article! The Wolf Of Wall Street is one of my favorite movies of all time.

  3. Julian

    Nov 20, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    What’s up everybody? I like it that everyone here is sharing all kinds
    of knowledge. It’s nice to read these articles. I do a quick visit to this website every day.

  4. jerome

    Aug 17, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    I think you miss the point of the movie. The reality is that in his most desperate moment Jordan was able to see an opportunity where none existed and built an empire based on him. It shows that one is able to do anything if you have a plan and you execute on it

  5. David

    Jun 13, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    What I learned..? To “wh**k off twice a day ! At least !”

    Just kidding. What I learned is to drive people emotionally.

  6. Sean J Kennedy

    Apr 14, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    With joy in our hearts we are perfect…anything else is a ruse at best and tyranny at worst.

  7. Emily Filloramo

    Mar 24, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Rob and Tony,

    I have a blog post that is almost ready to send to Joel on

    “10 Reasons Why You Are Not Happier Despite Your Successes”.

    There are points in this post that few people have ever talked about. You might be enlightened.

  8. Tony Wood

    Mar 24, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Rob – Do you really believe that life is all about how much you make, with no regard to the damage or financial loss you cause to others along the way?
    Well, if that’s your philosophy then you go for it.
    But make sure you’re prepared to pay top dollar for the team of lawyers you’ll need to pay to feed off you.
    You ask how much I make – well, I’ve run an accounting practice for the last 25 years, recently sold it to a long-term employee who paid me less than I could have got on the open market, and I’m now retired very comfortably, secure in the knowledge that none of my clients, many of whom I’ve had for most of that 27 years, will ever sue me, as I’ve always dealt with them honestly, ethically and professionally.
    Just part of my get rich slow scheme.

  9. Rob

    Mar 18, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Brilliant, fast money and even faster women what more can you ask for. Let me ask you how much do you make?

  10. Tony Wood

    Mar 16, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Success – Cash, houses, cars, boats
    Bullshit.
    Success is the progressive realisation af a set of worthwhile goals which are meaningful to the individual.
    Almost all of these 14 pointers are manipulative, superficial or just bad.
    “Gather information on your enemies” – if you act ethically you don’t get enemies.
    Finally, why would I take advice from a convicted fraudster who’s a drug addict with two failed marriages, and goodness only knows the damage he’s caused his children.

    • John

      Apr 5, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      He is richer and smarter than you…

    • a_bateman

      Feb 8, 2015 at 4:00 pm

      I once heard, don’t remember where from, that if you don’t have enemies you aren’t making enough waves.

  11. J Harris

    Mar 11, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    It’s easy to be ‘financially successful’ when you lie to people to get what you want.

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Success Advice

Why You Should Prefer Emails to Phone Calls if You Want to Be More Productive

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“Email” and “productivity” rarely go together in a sentence. Emails have been declared as one of our largest time wasters. A McKinsey report stated that people spend around 2.6 hours each day responding to emails. That’s 13 hours a week, 52 hours a month and over 60 days a year! Imagine what you could’ve achieved in 60 days!

Emails also negatively affect our cognitive resources. When we think of responding to them while doing other important tasks, it takes up to 23 minutes and 15 seconds after being disrupted to return to full attention to a current task. Imagine how much our cognition and productivity gets fractured when we get distracted over and over again.

Constant emailing also drains us mentally. And at the end of a day, we realize that we’ve achieved nothing worth mentioning. With a phone call, you can sort issues and solve problems quickly, right? In theory, you’re right. But we live in a practical world where many variables come into play.

Below are three variables that make phone calls adversely affect our productivity, and why emails are a better alternative:

1. Wasting Time

Most “five-minute conversations” can quickly turn into 35-minute calls because people ramble about irrelevant aspects. This derailment, several times a day, severely limits the limited time and energy you have for important tasks.

Emails, on the other hand, force writers to streamline their thoughts and stick to the point. Emails can save you plenty of time and energy because you avoid lengthy phone calls. The constant strife to keep your own emails short and crisp also makes you a clearer thinker, which rewards you in other aspects of your life.

“It’s better to waste money, than it is to waste time. You can always get more money.” – Hal Sparks

2. Inaccurate Responses

An unexpected phone call can catch me caught off guard on a topic. I might respond emotionally or give an answer that doesn’t do justice to what I want to share. In a world dominated by panic buttons and fire-fighting, these don’t just stress me out but the caller as well.

Emails give me flexibility to prepare a coherent response and share it when I’m satisfied. If I feel a surge of emotion, I can sleep over the thought and share a better (more rational) response the next day. Many page-long email responses to emails that upset me have turned into a simple “thank you for your email” the next day.

3. Constant Back-and-Forth

Phone calls often are ineffective to solve business problems. Accounting for multiple people, their views, their timelines… One phone call can quickly turn into three.

Emails are quicker and more effective than even conference calls. They let you communicate with multiple people at the same time. You can share information, assign tasks and give status updates while being as specific as possible.

You must be wondering, “What about back-and-forth emails then? Why do we waste precious time on them?” Yes, email has earned a bad rap. But it’s not because of the medium; it’s because we handle it ineffectively.

A Better Approach to Emailing

For most people, constantly refreshing the inbox is part of the daily to-do list. It keeps them busy and gives them a kick of dopamine – the feel-good chemical.

Ironically, this quest to remain busy makes people compromise on taking action that can move them forward. Using emails prudently, rewards you with plenty of energy and mind space to focus on tasks that truly matter.

Here are three steps that benefited me without succumbing to the side effects of email:

1. Checking Them Less

I check emails just 3 times a day – at 9:30 AM, 12:00 PM, and 4:30 PM. If you don’t have the luxury to do the same, you can start by checking your emails for ten minutes at the end of each hour. Most senders expect a response in a little over an hour. So they won’t mind a slightly delayed response. This gives you 45 undisturbed minutes each hour to work on your core tasks.

2. Responding Quickly

People delay responding to emails at least 37% of the time, which turns finding emails and responding to them into additional tasks that cost time and lead to attention residue. Most emails take under two minutes to respond. When you can respond to an email, do so instead of putting it off. This won’t just put your mind at peace, it’ll also reduce the number of “did-you-see-this” follow-up emails in your inbox.

“I do love email. Wherever possible I try to communicate asynchronously. I’m really good at email.” – Elon Musk

3. The If-Then Technique

The If-Then technique helps you address multiple scenarios at once. For instance, an email that says, “Can we meet at 3:00 PM?” becomes, “Can we meet at 3:00 PM? If not, please advise three other times that work for you.”

This technique is also effective when you want to suggest ideas or provide instructions on alternative steps. For example, “Here’s Plan A. If it doesn’t work, connect with [name] and ask for [specific information]. If you don’t get what you need, inform me.”

I’ll admit. This sounds like more work in the current moment, but it drastically cuts down the number of trail mails, confused correspondences, and fire-fighting instances that occur due to miscommunication.

The If-Then formula is the single most effective technique I’ve learned from The 4-Hour Workweek. All of this doesn’t mean that you abandon phone calls, In fact, it’s better to use the phone for sensitive topics or if an email conversation gets dragged. But remain mindful to not let phone calls waste your time.

If you want to pursue a meaningful life, place a premium on your time. Do things that create time for you to pursue meaningful actions and avoid doing what pulls you away from them. In the knowledge economy, this is the key to success.

Do you prefer email or talking on the phone? Share your thoughts below!

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Success Advice

4 Questions You Need to Answer Before You Reach the Level of Success You So Desperately Crave

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It’s normal that every person in the world wants to reach success and happiness. Yet, everyone defines both of these things differently. For some, success is making a whole bunch of money while for others this can be to become a good parent. Happiness is defined differently as well. Some people need to own a jet, boat and 3 cars to be truly happy, while others are happy just to be able to wake up in the morning.

It doesn’t matter how you define success and happiness, the truth is, you want to achieve them both. But, to be able to reach success and happiness, you need to answer 4 questions for yourself.

Here are the 4 questions you need to answer before you can achieve success and happiness:

1. Where Are You?

No, not geographically. It doesn’t matter where you live. What matters is where are you in life. Where are you in your way to success and happiness. Let’s say you are lost in the woods. You know exactly where you want to go, but you don’t know where you are. Even a map doesn’t help you with that.

The same is true in life. You may have a goal, but until you truly define where you are in the moment, you can’t move toward this goal. So, step 1 on your way to success and happiness is to define where you are right now.

“Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better.” – Jim Rohn

2. Where Do You Want to Go?

When you define where you are in life, then you can think of where you want to be.

There’s this saying:  When you don´t know your final destination, you´ll end up somewhere you didn’t want to be. Until you don’t know clearly where you want to be in life and who you want to become, your life doesn’t have a true purpose.

Without purpose, there´s no motivation. Without motivation, there´s no energy. And without energy, you´re not living, you´re just existing. I am sure you know someone who looks like a walking corpse everytime you see them. Do you think this person lives a successful and happy life? Most likely not.

So, step 2 on your way to success and happiness is to clearly define your goal. What do you want to accomplish and who do you want to become?

3. Why Do You Want It?

Okay, you know the basics. You know where you are and where you want to be. But, as Rocky Balboa said, “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.” And as you already know, life usually doesn’t go according to your plan. There will be hard times and to overcome those and not give up, you need to know WHY you do what you do.

You need to know WHY you want to accomplish your goals. When you answer this for yourself, you don’t struggle so much to motivate yourself. You will be motivated every minute of every day.

So, as a step 3, sit down and think of WHY you want to accomplish your goals. What’s the big purpose?

“We can change our lives. We can do, have, and be exactly what we wish.” – Tony Robbins

4. How Are You Going to Get There?

And finally, how are you going to get there? What’s your plan? You may know where you are, where you want to be and why you want to do it, but until you truly understand how you are going to get there, there won’t be much success and happiness in your life.

For example, you want to become a bodybuilder. You want to do it because you want to have big muscles and you want to look fit. But, you have no idea how to work out, how to build muscle and how to lose fat. Do you think, you´re going to be happy? No. As Tony Robbins says, “true happiness comes from progress.”

To make progress, you need to have a specific plan; how to get from point A (where you are) to point B (where you want to be). So, as a step 4, sit down and make a specific plan for how you’re going to get what you want in life.

In order to reach success and happiness, there are 4 questions you need to answer for yourself. Without answering them, you´re not going to  get ahead in life, you´re just bouncing around. Success and happiness never come from just bouncing around in life.

Good news is, that these questions are really simple. It won’t take much time to answer them. Just be aware of where you are and where you want to be. Don´t forget to understand why you are pursuing your dream and finally, how are you going to get what you want.

Answer these 4 simple questions today and you won’t struggle with finding success and happiness in life anymore.

Which one of the above 4 questions resonated most with you and why? Share your thoughts and ideas below!

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Success Advice

The Empathetic Heart: How The CHO of VaynerMedia Is Changing The Way We Work

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Claude Silver CHO of Vaynermedia
Image Credit: VaynerMedia

A month after I had joined LinkedIn back in July of 2018, I sent Claude Silver a connection request and began following her content. One day she made a post saying “Ask and you shall receive, what can I do to help you today?”. I commented on that post asking for a 5 minute interview and to my surprise she agreed by asking me to send her a message (I was given a full hour). This was the first example of pure kindness I witnessed from Claude.

The first message you see on Claude’s website is: People need people. People need people that listen and then do something. That message spoke to me on an emotional level, and I believe it will speak to you too. I wanted to know how she created such an amazing culture, what being a “culture carrier” meant, and how the employees at VaynerMedia have been changed by her work there.

A culture carrier in Claude’s own words is “someone who is aligned with our values, I can’t teach someone to be kind they have to already be kind. The process of developing a culture carrier takes about 6 months. It’s about bringing people together and having strong core values of kindness and empathy.”

Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder of VaynerMedia, is often referred to as a combination of hustle and heart. With the hiring of Claude and the work she has accomplished within the company, it speaks to the level of empathy that can be felt throughout the entire operation.

Although business can be a challenging, tough, and often cut-throat terrain, by putting employees first and providing honest feedback the company has grown to include offices in New York, Chattanooga, Los Angeles and London, and continues to dominate the market.

Below we’ll see 3 different ways the CHO of VaynerMedia is changing the way people work:

1. By being unafraid to share her own story

Claude has been an influential part of breaking the stigma surrounding vulnerability in the business arena. Not only does she openly share her own story, but she sits down with employees to better understand their vulnerabilities and how to use characteristics that previously would have been considered weaknesses as strengths.

When asked what her biggest adventure to date was she replied “Having Shalom (her daughter). I have had an amazing life, I moved, worked hard, landed an amazing job and fell in love but it didn’t come without its challenges.”

Claude is openly gay and is living proof your sexual orientation doesn’t matter. Nothing matters but your character, your track record, and if you leave people a little better off than before you met them. From Claude, business leaders, employees and entrepreneurs can learn to be more open both on social media and in person, allowing them to build more meaningful relationships and connect on a deeper level. A deeper connection can mean more leverage but it also means a more lasting impact on the world.

“Everyone has something they can share. I’m not famous. I don’t have anything that would be newsworthy, but I have stories.” – Tafta Johnson Watson

2. Committing to a strong value system

VaynerMedia has some serious values for such a large company and those values are expected to be upheld by every employee and visitor. Values like kindness, empathy, honesty, hustle and the art of not complaining.

With Claude holding the title of Chief Heart Officer, she is the guiding light for others. When recruiting, she says she “takes the time to evaluate an individual’s talents but most importantly their own heart”.  

Gary Vaynerchuk is quoted as saying:”To me, there’s no debate that kindness is a strength. And it breaks my heart to know that so many people believe it’s a weakness. So many people are afraid that other people will take advantage of their kindness or make them feel “used.” But the truth is, those who take advantage of your kindness are weak on the inside. Feel bad for them, don’t let them make you feel bad about yourself“.

Both Claude and Gary teach aspiring entrepreneurs that it is okay to live with an open heart and that having the strength to commit to and live with a strong value system, will be a powerful tool during the hustle journey. It also allows you to go to bed at night actually liking the person that you are, nothing will kill a business faster than going to bed at night and hating yourself.

3. Listening with action

As mentioned above Claude’s slogan is: People need people. People need people that listen and then do something.  As a woman who wears many hats, she is also an Outward Bound Instructor, taking individuals on amazing adventures in the outdoors.

Taking action on any given day can mean a number of different things but it speaks to her own character and driving force that she is able to not only guide people through the world of office politics but also through the serene and sometimes challenging wilderness.

Claude cultivates an environment of trust by first offering individuals her own trust. It is a huge and vulnerable action that leads to a relationship of love – heart – and productivity. Listening as an action is something that has the power to change an entire organization from an unproductive, toxic environment to one that promotes creativity, passion, inclusion and positivity.

“Relationships are leverage. If you give value to someone else first, you have leverage.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

To get the truest sense of how Claude was changing the way people work, I asked her co-workers to tell me what working alongside Claude has done for them. Here is one of the answers I received:

“During my time working alongside Claude, I’ve really come to appreciate her example of being a good listener. As a society, we tend to praise the power of speaking. But Claude demonstrates on a daily basis that the most important thing everybody wants is to be heard.” – Steve Babcock, Chief Creative Officer VaynerMedia.

I tried looking for images of Claude on her website and I think it speaks to how focused she is on holding space for others, because I couldn’t find a single full sized image of her to use. I googled. Writing this piece has opened me up to evaluate my own values and the way I connect with people in my daily life.

From this article, it is my own hope that entrepreneurs come to the understanding that although tenacity and true grit are really important, the whole of what Claude represents is something to strive towards. The “soft” skills you develop are humongous strengths and to truly impact an entire organization.

What’s the last random act of kindness you did for someone? Share with us below!

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Success Advice

The 7 Secrets of High Achievers Revealed

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We all have goals in life, but very few of us ever learn to consciously set, work on and see our goals through. In our naturalness bias, we marvel at those who have set and reached their goals thinking they have some esoteric abilities that we don’t. We overlook that the final product is the result of a series of mistake-ridden, unrecorded pains. What if we could learn from the process, the habits and rituals of the high achievers? (more…)

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