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The 7 Keys To Incredible Life Success

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The 7 Keys To Incredible Life Success

There was a time in my life, the majority of my youth, when I was a slacker whose primary skill was to find new ways to avoid anything worthwhile. I vividly remember one semester in school that summed up those years: I took only 9 credit hours and played Halo 3 for the whole semester. Literally, I did little else besides play that game. It was just a terrible waste to devote that much time to a video game. I justified it because I was “making progress” by being in college.

I’ve changed so much since then, and my internal change has created a very different set of results in business and in my personal life.

I’m relatively young at 29 years old and I’ve written two books, one of which has become an international bestseller. My book, Mini Habits, has been the #1 selling self help book in the United States and South Korea, and it’s being translated into a dozen languages.

This bit of success means so much to me because of where I came from. And if the guy who lived to play Halo 3 for several months straight can actually contribute something useful to the world, I believe everyone can improve!

These 7 things are the specific changes I made that created more success in my life:

 

1. Don’t ask what you feel like doing, plan to do things and do them

We naturally like to do what we are motivated to do, but when our motivation is lacking, it requires willpower to overcome that and do it anyway.

Everyone loves and prefers motivation. If you could have an unlimited amount of one or the other, motivation would be the choice. Wanting to scrub the toilet? Wanting to organize your tax papers? Wanting to go to the gym? Wanting to do grueling research for a project? Fantastic! …but it’s not going to happen every time or even very often. You can never count on feeling like doing challenging things. I’ve seen that successful people are those who do their work even on “down” days.

The way in which you “self-talk” reveals deep-seated beliefs. Do you find yourself thinking of what to do based on what you feel like doing? If you come into some free time, do you “float” into what’s most appealing? If so, you’re relying on motivation. If, however, you think about what tasks you plan to do without much thought given to how “ready” you feel to do them, you’re relying on willpower.

Motivation is a fantastic thing, but you shouldn’t require it of yourself to do things that matter. Do things that matter for their own sake!

The best part about relying on willpower is that it’s like a muscle. Psychologist Roy Baumeister has observed this in multiple studies. Use your willpower more, and it will get stronger. With practice, you’ll develop humanity’s most important skill: being able to do what you really want to do.

 

The rock quotes
 

2. Trust in proven processes; ignore circumstances and results

What has happened (results) and where you are now (circumstances) are irrelevant. What you do next matters. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of submitting to your environment and letting it push you around, or the self-fulfilling trap of assuming that the past will repeat itself. Thankfully, it’s also somewhat easy to not do this and follow proven processes instead.

My best personal example of this was when I started doing one push-up a day (my first mini habit). Circumstantially, I was out of shape, lazy, and felt defeated. I had poor results from prior efforts to change. I was stuck in every way. But the process of doing one push-up a day was powerful beyond its appearance—it changed my brain as it became habitual. It pulled me out of my lazy funk and gave me a foundation for exercising that enabled me to go to the gym consistently. Today, two years later, I exercise almost every day.

This is the power of process: I’m still getting results more than two years after those one push-up days! Processes, when repeated to become habitual, can last you a lifetime. So trust in the good ones like mini habits! Don’t listen to thoughts like “one minute of piano practice every day won’t accomplish much,” because it WILL.

 

3. Take smart risks with low downside and high upside

When you’re young, take risks. When you’re old, still take risks. We’re on this planet for a very limited time, and not taking risks means you’re living a boring life if nothing else. Not all risks are equal, however, so it’s important to distinguish between playing roulette and investing in a winner.

It’s simple: choose risks with high upside and low downside. This is also the basis for smart stock investments. If you choose a strong company with a stock that appears undervalued, its apparent upside seems greater than its apparent downside because the market has already undervalued it. It’s like a compressed spring: it could be pushed down further, but it’s more likely to go higher.

Here are examples of high upside and low downside risks:

  • Ask for something: Will you go to dinner with me? Will you publish my book? May I have a free foot massage? Hearing “no” is nothing to fear, and hearing yes will have you and your just-massaged feet smiling. Yes, feet can smile, but only after being massaged.
  • Bootstrap a business: We have the internet! Starting a business no longer requires massive amounts of starting capital. You can “bootstrap” your business, which means you find inexpensive ways to accomplish your business goals. Marketing is a key example; it’s “free” for me to write this post… other than the blood I sweat in the writing process. I spent less than $1,500 to create my first book, which has earned me well over 100 times that amount (one wouldn’t expect this kind of return, but this is the high upside potential I’m talking about). If you don’t want to quit your job to risk entrepreneurship, why not bootstrap a business on the side and see what happens? Wouldn’t that be exciting? If it fails, you still have a job! The “I quit my job, started a business, and it took off” story is romanticized. For most people with families to feed, that’s an example of unacceptable risk.
  • Talk to people: Much of life involves networking with others for personal and business relationships. We may avoid speaking to others if we think they won’t like us. But hey, some people might not like you if you keep to yourself. I remember in high school I was told a particular person whom I had never spoken to thought I was “stuck up,” but I was just shy. You’ll be surprised at the friends and business connections you can make by just being a bit more outgoing.
  • Create things: I’m a writer, so I love to create books and blog posts. It only costs my time, so the downside (if the world hates it) is minimal. Actually, the downside is zero, because I enjoy writing and it’s beneficial for me to practice it. The upside has changed my life! For you, maybe it’s attempting to create furniture, music, or new clothing styles. When you create something, you only pay with your time and the cost of materials for a potentially high reward; one of the best parts of creating something is the feeling of accomplishment, a reward you’ll get every time!
  • Try something new: I get it. You already know watching Seinfeld reruns and eating ice cream is fun. But what if you explored the maze that is Venice? What if you ate crocodile meat? What if you spent a whole day complimenting people? What if you tried pilates or archery or a combination of the two? We all have dormant passions that are waiting for us to find them!

“Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.” – George S. Patton

4. Be consistent, and good things will happen

I used to aim for the most impressive goals, and I was below average. Everything changed when I started my unimpressive mini habits of doing one push-up a day, writing 50 words per day, and reading two pages per day. Practicing these small behaviors allowed me to be remarkably consistent. No single day was mind-blowing, but every day was a success that built upon the last.

Anyone and everyone can write 50 words a day, which is about a paragraph. If you do that for 2 years, you’d have a short book of 36,500 words! And that’s only if you never decide to do more than that. This goes along with showing up on the “down” days. Successful people always show up, even if they know they’re not at their best.

 

5. Know when to bunt and when to swing for the home run

Learn to bunt before you try to hit home runs. In other words, mastering the basics first can fuel grander efforts later.

I started a blog and practiced writing over 200 articles before I wrote a book to sell. Now that I have more followers and improved writing skills, I’m better equipped to swing for home runs, which in this case means investing more money (taking more risk) and making products. Don’t be afraid to bunt while you’re learning and then when you’ve honed your craft, swing for the fences!

 

6. Accept that your success isn’t 100% up to you

I love people, but I have been as much as a lone wolf as you can be when it comes to my career. That is to say, I’m terrible at networking! I’ve been fortunate enough that some people have networked with me, and have greatly helped me. And without people to read my blog posts and books, I would have nothing. It’s humbling.

This goes for every person alive. What if nobody cared to watch Michael Jordan play basketball? What would happen to Chipotle if people didn’t need to eat anymore? I’d probably still eat there, but that’s beside the point. Success is impossible without the assistance or interest of other people.

I find this perspective is helpful in two ways. First, it points to the importance of seeking help when you need it (useful for business and personal life). Second, it keeps you grounded in good times and bad times. Back when I was an unemployed college graduate and nobody would hire me, I realized that it wasn’t completely my fault that nobody would give me a chance, which helped me feel like less of a failure in what was a difficult time. Now that times are better, I understand that I had help getting here and will need more if I am to continue to ascend.

So whether you’re at the bottom, the middle, or the top of the mountain, knowing that you need others to reach or stay at the top can help you in all phases of your journey.

 

7. Build up your self-efficacy

As one of the most underrated self-improvement concepts, developing a healthy sense of self-efficacy can change your life. If you don’t already know, self-efficacy is your belief in your ability to influence outcomes. It’s a combination of self-confidence and trusting in the process: it means you believe in yourself and that your efforts will be the difference between winning or losing.

Self-efficacy can be explained in a mindset:

  • Low self-efficacy -“Going to go to the gym today won’t make much of a difference.”
  • High self-efficacy – “If I consistently go to the gym, I will improve my health and physique!”

High self-efficacy means you trust yourself. You trust what you’re doing will matter. Without it, life is hopeless. With it, you can do amazing things. The old me playing Halo? He didn’t really think his behavior mattered. He just existed and tried to enjoy it. The new me has learned that my decisions, especially the small ones, create vastly different results.

If you’ve been a serial goal quitter, you will struggle to have self-efficacy. Every time you fail to reach a goal, your self-efficacy naturally drops. Why? A failed goal pursuit is a piece of evidence that you do not influence outcomes in your life. You tried to do something and not much happened. It’s hard to argue with that when it happens repeatedly. Successfully completing a goal shows that you do influence outcomes.

What is the best way to build self-efficacy, then? Rather than setting goals that you might not reach, try setting goals that you can absolutely crush. Repeat this often! It’s smarter to attempt two push-ups 50 times than to attempt 100 push-ups one time because it’s a high chance at 50 wins versus a much lower chance at one win. At first, your self-efficacy might be like this: “I can meet this requirement every day with just a bit of effort.” Later, it will grow into something more significant: “I actually feel a bit stronger from doing these push-ups every day. This is working!” And from that point, it can snowball further into even better things.

“If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” – Mahatma Gandhi

This doesn’t mean to dream small. I aim to redefine entertainment, but I employ these small steps as my productivity weapon of choice.

These 7 factors have been the difference between “Halo 3 Stephen” and “Bestselling Author Stephen.” I hope you found something useful in this to apply to your life and I wish you great success in your pursuits.

Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below! What is the one thing that is stopping you from being successful?

Check out my book "Mini Habits" to discover the life-changing strategy of taking small, daily actions. Mini Habits has sold 80,000+ copies worldwide. I'm Stephen Guise, the founder of Deep Existence, a blog about focusing, habits, and the power of small steps. Join Deep Existence to gain access to more than 50 exclusive articles, download 40 "focus wallpapers," and read my stress management book for free!

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27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Ryan Jones

    Jun 16, 2016 at 11:19 pm

    Thanks for the tips. Been in the internet marketing business for a while myself and there is definitely a learning curve for new marketers online. Will have to share these tips with my readers too.

  2. Ahmed Ali

    May 29, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    Thank you Stephen! This article is exactly what I need to hear at this chapter of my life.

  3. Sachin

    Dec 27, 2015 at 6:09 am

    Very well said. I will apply this in my life too. 🙂

  4. Jay Sifford

    Dec 26, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    This is a great read. Thanks so much. I realized that I’m already doing these things and, believe me, my life is great… not perfect, but great. I enjoyed the reinforcement. While reading this, I thought back to conversations between my brother and my mother. She told me that he would ask “Where did Jay come from? He’s not like us.” I took that as a compliment.
    After several “false starts” in careers, by doing the things you’ve outlined here, I’m successful and happy with my landscape design profession. I’ve also been writing for several years now. I always wanted to, but just didn’t know how to start. I wouldn’t trade those painful “false starts” for anything, because, even though they appeared to be dead ends, they provided lessons and building blocks for me that I use today.
    I could go on, but won’t. Again, thank you.

  5. aspecialist

    Nov 8, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    This is really interesting to read. Hitting goals and achieving success depend on our course of actions and thinking. You will not know what you can achieve unless you give a shot and really work for it. There are lot of meaningful things that we can do and goals that we can achieve, and we were given the power to choose our path .

  6. Samantha Driscoll

    Sep 12, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    I found your article really interesting, from the perspective I am embarking on a new journey setting up my own business which has been a learning curve. Thank you

  7. Deepanshu

    Sep 10, 2015 at 11:26 am

    One of the best post I have ever read. I have read huge no of self help post. But this one is my favorite post.
    Thanks

  8. Stephen Guise

    Sep 9, 2015 at 12:44 am

    You’re welcome! Thanks for reading!

  9. Matt

    Sep 9, 2015 at 12:11 am

    The description for #6 actually contradicts the headline. You are in fact responsible for your success or failure by making the effort to network. So while the people you network with will help you get to where you want to go, YOU are still responsible for going out and meeting those people.

    • Stephen Guise

      Sep 9, 2015 at 11:25 am

      There is no contradiction.

      Understanding that your success isn’t 100% in your hands gives you a superior perspective: it makes you more resilient and more willing to network or ask for help. If you believed success was 100% up to you, you’d be far more likely to get discouraged (such as when your best effort fails) and less likely to ask for help when you need it most.

  10. Linda Salloum

    Sep 8, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    Hi stephen ,
    Thank you for a great article . I really do hear you and like yourself I was that young person who was lazy and shy and every day make plans to do something productive but never got round to it. I will try your mini habits because I am desperate to change my life before its too late. Lilly

    • Stephen Guise

      Sep 9, 2015 at 12:29 am

      Mini habits turned my life around. Most of the 7 keys I listed are in line with the mini habit strategy. My big turnaround started with one push-up per day! Good luck, Lilly!

  11. Lonell M. Holliday

    Sep 8, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    Great article! Steve.. Very great artical.
    I had to read it twice and take down notes. 50 Words a day! self-efficacy. Man I got it..

    • Stephen Guise

      Sep 9, 2015 at 12:30 am

      Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. Give it a try!

  12. Ernie A

    Sep 8, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    Beautiful! You have an awesome story man and these are great pearls of wisdom. I’m in the process of writing my first book and your advice has been key in making progress.

    • Stephen Guise

      Sep 9, 2015 at 12:31 am

      I appreciate that, Ernie! I’ve written two books, and I wrote them both by aiming for 50 words a day. It’s more powerful than it seems. 🙂

  13. A

    Sep 8, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    This is a very interesting article.

    At the moment I am trying to establish a business which I know there is a lot of potential and have put some good hours into it. Had some knock backs but not gave up on it

    However I also have something else that I would like to do. That are not related .

    If my business does kick on then I can in some capacity do what I really desire in some aspect. If it doesn’t then I have to walk away from one.

    • Stephen Guise

      Sep 9, 2015 at 12:34 am

      Best of luck with your business. If this one doesn’t work out, you can always try again. I had a failed business before I started writing books.

  14. Roxanne

    Sep 8, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    Wow Stephen, I’m so grateful I read your article. I am the queen of the non “Follow Through”. I fail repeatedly to finish anything I start. Or I have great plans in my mind but never start them. after reading and rereading your article, it makes complete sense to me, my behavior that is.. I also love words, I love to write, I have started the same idea for a book several times, I get 2 pages written and I’m so critical of my writing that I quit..writing is only one example of many things I have quit, a lot do to being so critical about myself and the feeling that “it should have been better”, so if I can’t get it perfect what’s the point of continuing,this kind of self defeat talk going on in my head… but you have really opened up my mind to my real issue’s of what I call the “Failure of Follow Through. ” Thanks so much for getting it and putting yourself out there to help others….I’m going to read your book Mini- Habits asap…. thanks

    • Stephen Guise

      Sep 9, 2015 at 12:37 am

      Roxanne, you might actually benefit more from my second book! It’s called, “How to Be an Imperfectionist” and it directly addresses the issue you’re describing. The solutions I suggest in the book are in Mini Habit form. If you’re interested to read both books, it works best to read Mini Habits first.

      Mini Habits works as a general solution for perfectionism, and How to Be an Imperfectionist has direct solutions for the different aspects of it, such as unrealistic expectations, need for approval, concern over mistakes, and so on.

  15. Psimatupang

    Sep 8, 2015 at 9:41 am

    Wow.. This is so wonderful. Thank you.

    Well, what stopping me from success (reaching my dreams) is something that happening inside me. I am a student, when others talk about something i have no idea what or something i haven’t learnt it kinda makes me feel small..

    • Stephen Guise

      Sep 9, 2015 at 12:41 am

      There’s nothing wrong with ignorance. We’re all ignorant of certain things. I used to be afraid to ask questions because it would expose my ignorance, but I realized the more I asked questions when I didn’t know things, the less ignorant I’d be. The slight potential embarrassment is definitely worth bearing, and people are usually happy to teach you what they know.

  16. Steve Jordan

    Sep 8, 2015 at 4:20 am

    Excellent article, thank you.

  17. Ankur Agarwal

    Sep 8, 2015 at 4:03 am

    Hi Stephen, its a good article and its nice to read your thoughts.
    Just to share, I have been going through the low self efficacy phase. I tried few things but didn’t work out.
    so going by your words, I will start on doing mini habits of writing 50 words a day because I also like to write.
    Will surely share my thoughts with you.

  18. Nikolai Westall

    Sep 8, 2015 at 3:47 am

    Thank you! Awesome stuff 🙂

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Success Advice

Why Smart People Think Beyond Reason to Make Powerful Decisions

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decision making
Image Credit: Unsplash

How long has it been since you’ve had a tough decision to make at work? I bet it happens regularly, if it is not on a daily basis. Sure, making decisions can be exhilarating, but it can also be draining. Sometimes dreadful.

Your pulse accelerates, you start to sweat, your mind jumps from one point to the next, hoping to settle on something. You really want to make the right decision for you, for your team, for your organization. But often times, it can be a tough call. You wish you had the perfect step-by-step recipe to get to the right decision.

Well, in fact, decision-making is quite a complex process for everyone. So much that it is a very popular topic in management research.

For decades, academics have observed and interviewed successful senior leaders to understand and model the thought process that take them to the right decision. These studies resulted in the inescapable rational process. Which we are all very aware of.But what if there was a better way to make decisions that doesn’t just rely on rational thinking?

The problem with rational thinking

rational thinking

We are trained from an early age to develop our rational abilities. We are taught to systematically gather the relevant data, to analyze it, to design options and evaluate them, until we make the final decision. It is as a slow process requiring conscious and sustained effort. Our rational thinking make progress step by step and draws a logical conclusion. And that’s great. Indispensable.

I couldn’t agree more. I hold a Bachelor of Mathematics, and a scientific Master’s degree in Management. My natural preference is rational thinking. However, I must admit that rational thinking can be wrong. Or jammed, unable to decide.

I mean, do you always have enough time to gather data, analyze, evaluate options and decide? Do you always have all the data that is necessary? Does it sometimes happen, on the contrary, that you have so much data that it is overwhelming and you can no longer distinguish the forest from the trees? What if there was another way?

Rational thinking is not your only option

rational thinking

Senior leaders realize, and researchers have found out, that all decisions are not, or are not only, based on rational thinking. Decision-making also leverages … intuitive thinking. Smart leaders consider their intuitions — in addition to their rational analysis — when making decisions.

And the truth is, leaders consider their intuitions — in addition to their rational analysis — when making decisions:

“90% of the 60 leaders who participated in a study reported using their intuition in combination with rational data analysis. They found that their decisions were accelerated, and were better.” (Burke, Miller, 1999)

“Managers at the top of every [of the 2000] organizations surveyed scored higher than middle or lower-level managers on their ability to use their intuition to guide their key decisions.” (Agor, 1986)

This is a well-kept secret, isn’t it? I bet you rarely hear someone at work trying to convince you that this decision is better because his instinct says so. We would rather emphasize the extensive research and analysis we have done to give credibility to our decision.

However, it doesn’t mean that intuition is not instrumental to the process. So, let me explain what intuition is, exactly.

How intuition helps you reach the right decisions

intuition

Neuroscience understands that the human brain thinks in two different ways. There’s the rational process, as described above, and the intuitive process. The latter is not esoteric, magical, nor is it about a premonition.

Intuitions are the conclusions that spontaneously raise to your consciousness, without you being aware of the intermediate stages — although it is often possible to justify your intuition after the fact.

Imagine meeting someone for the first time. Within a blink of the eye, you have an opinion of the person. That’s an intuition. And, contrarily to reason, intuition is incredibly fast. Intuitions are conveyed to your consciousness by your emotions. The first thing that comes to mind is the feelings you have for this person. You like or dislike, you trust or you don’t.

Rather than dissecting information, the intuitive process of the brain makes connections almost instantaneously based on your experiences. By analogy and association, it synthesizes and jumps to conclusions. Beneath the surface, when you meet this person for the first time, your brain finds similarities with people you’ve known in the past, and concludes.

Intuition is thus essentially based on the knowledge accumulated through your experiences, all too often forgotten, and on the models of the world that you have created for yourself, of which you are often not aware of. You may or may not realize that this person in front of you reminds you of the type of people you don’t trust, as an example.

In fact, because it is spontaneous and effortless, intuition is the way of thinking that drives the majority of the decisions you make in a day. If the stakes are not high, intuition will prevail, it is so much easier and efficient. Whether you are conscious of it or not. Whether you like it or not.

Here are a few examples:

  • You slow down your car in traffic, because you instinctively understand that the car on the other lane is trying to cut you off.
  • You pick clothes in your closet that feel comfortable if you don’t have an official meeting today. You don’t need to rationally think over your choice.
  • You accept an invitation without hesitation because it feels exciting and you have time. No need for some complex thinking here either.

Does that mean you should always listen to your intuition?

listen to your intuition

Now, is this to say that your intuition is always right? Sorry, it is not the case. The quality of your intuitions depends on the quality of the knowledge you hold, and thus of your learning.

In fact, as you are getting experienced in your job, as you face numerous situations and overcome challenges, you develop mental models on the appropriate ways to react. That’s called expert intuition. It explains why senior people can make decision swiftly, without hesitation, and without a long rational process.

Your expertise may not only be related to your job. You can also be an expert in human relations, for example. If you have always been fascinated by people, and an avid observer of good and not-so-good interactions, you may intuitively know how to react with difficult people or situations.

However, a word of caution. Intuition can also tap into your biases and your fears. In those occasions, intuition could be wrong, and it is really difficult to tell when this happens. Intuitions, at the end of the day, are no more no less than assumptions. That’s why engaging both rational thinking and intuitive thinking is so important.

How smart people use intuition to make the best decisions

using your intuition

Let’s say you are in a restaurant. You read the menu, and choose one food rather than another according to how you feel about it. It is then your intuitive process that intervenes, without real awareness of what leads you to that choice.

That being said, if you are following a particular diet, you may rule out your initial choice. You can be the impartial observer of your feelings. You can decide to slow down for a second and have your rational thinking intervene to choose more proper food for you. You have a veto power over your intuitions.

The same holds true for decisions made in a professional context, even for the most rational of us. You have intuitions, and you have rational thoughts.

Let me ask you a question: When you have a decision to make, how would you describe your typical thought process?

  1. You spontaneously have a feeling of what the right decision is, and then you engage your rational thinking to confirm whether or not your intuition is right. That is called strategic intuition.
  2. You first collect data, you analyze it, you evaluate your options, you make a rational decision and then you stop for a moment to perceive how you feel about the decision. That’s called conclusive intuition.

Strategic intuition and conclusive intuition are both efficient. But it speaks to your natural preference, and to the level of experience you hold. The more experience, the more mental models you developed over time, and the easiest it is for your brain to make connections and associations, and thus generate intuitions.

In both instances, integrating intuition and reason increases dramatically the potential for you to make the right decision.

Intuition is really an assumption your brain makes based on your experience. Relying solely on your intuition could be risky, unless you don’t have the time to analyze the situation rationally — for example, in the middle of a heated discussion, or a particularly stressful situation.

Depending solely on your reason is also suboptimal. Your brain has the capacity to detect information beneath the surface which could have a crucial impact on your decision. Ignoring it could lead you to the wrong conclusion.

The more you navigate between the two processes, the more knowledge you tap into, the better the decisions, and the more you can adapt to circumstances. You can decide how much you rely on one or the other — or both. It is a matter of choice, and practice.

Make the best use of your brain’s powers to make smart decisions

brain power

Imagine that going forward, you listen to the little voice inside of you, in addition to proceeding systematically, rationally.

Imagine that going forward, you navigate between your reason and your intuition. You dig deeper into your feelings, the voice of your intuition, and challenge your reason. Similarly, you observe impartially feelings that arise, take a step back, and apply your veto if you know better.

Navigating between your reason and your intuition, you tap into the knowledge you are aware of at a conscious level, and also into the wisdom you hold beneath the surface. Chances are that you will make better informed decisions, even if time is short, data is insufficient, or contradictory.

As a senior leader once told me:This will make the difference between a potential of success, and an assured failure.

References:

This article is based on the research I performed for my Master’s thesis (2017). The full bibliography includes over 100 articles and books, of which:

BURKE, Lisa A., MILLER, Monica K., Taking the mystery out of intuitive decision-making Academy of Management Executive, Vol. 13, №4, p. 91–98, New York, Academy of Management, 1999

AGOR, Weston H., The Logic of Intuition: How Top Executives Make Important Decisions, Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 14, №3, p. 5–18, Amsterdam, Elsevier, 1986

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Success Advice

5 B.S. Facts About High Performers Everyone Thinks Is True

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high performers
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High performers are often seen in the world as people who set their mind on something and make it happen regardless of what it takes to get it accomplished. Much of the time that may be true. However, the way high performers are seen in the world is often in direct conflict with the way they behave when people aren’t watching. Even though they are seen as amazing experts and masters to others, they often see themselves as in need of improvement and can feel dissatisfied with the results they have achieved.

Despite how they appear, they are not much different than you or me with one exception. High performers are totally committed to what it is that they are doing. They function within the uncertainty of daily life just as you do but they conquer their limitations differently. Whether the odds are stacked with them or against them, a high performer will be totally committed to reaching their goals.

You may even be a high performer yourself and don’t realize it because some of your habits would not be considered high level ones. It is common for individuals to compare their accomplishments to others based on what we observe as their results.

“Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.” – Nelson Mandela

In fact, you may have lowered your personal bar of excellence because you thought you didn’t measure up to those that always seem to land at the top no matter what. I think you’d be surprised to learn that many very successful high performers don’t function the way you think they do.

Here are 5 B.S. facts about high performers that everyone thinks is true:

B.S. Fact #1 – Perfection is the way they play their game

You would think that in order to appear perfect you would probably need to do everything perfectly. It’s so not true! High performers actually pursue excellence as a goal and not perfection. It allows them to get more done with a higher level of consistency and sets them up for success rather than failure.

B.S. Fact #2 – Organization is their secret weapon

Just take a look at the desk of a genius. You probably wouldn’t be able to see the surface beneath the stacks of books, papers and whatever else may be on top of it. High performers typically have a formula as to where they put things and why. To the observer, it’s usually just a big mess with no identifiable system. However, I assure you, a high performer will still know where everything is regardless of the chaos that surrounds their personal space and schedule.

B.S. Fact #3 – They’ve all walked Ivy League hallways

Though it is true that many well educated people reach great success, statistically, some of the most influential success stories are about people who lacked resources and education. High performers will always seek out whatever or whoever is available so that they can learn what they need to and create their vision despite whatever odds happen to be stacked against them.

B.S. Fact #4 – They don’t have squirrel brain

Focus. It seems like this would be the number one rule to follow on the road to results.  However, there are many high performers who get distracted by people and ideas that totally derail them from what they were doing. Often times, it is not their focus but their agenda that keeps them on track. They know what they need to do even if it doesn’t always get accomplished in the way they thought they would get it done. However, it always gets done.

“High achievers spot rich opportunities swiftly, make big decisions quickly and move into action immediately. Follow these principles and you can make your dreams come true.” – Robert H. Schuller

B.S. Fact #5 – They see themselves as the king of the jungle

Confidence seems to pour out of those who always seem to succeed. When, in reality, so many high performers struggle with it. Questioning whether or not they’re doing the right things or whether what they’re doing is good enough can be a constant personal dialogue. Fear of being negatively judged is the biggest reason why most people don’t take chances or take action on their big dreams but high performers move forward anyway. Their insecurity doesn’t stop them from what they want.

So, why should it matter to you what is fact or fiction about high performers? The answer; because you will compare yourself to others at times and it would be a tragedy if you stopped yourself from achieving big goals due to a belief that you’re not as good as someone else.

High performers achieve results. They know what they want, they plan it and they achieve it. Just because you have a few habits that won’t get applauded if people actually knew about them doesn’t mean that you can’t be one of the experts or podium finishers too.

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Success Advice

Do You Want to Become a Leader? Read This First

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How do you become an adult in a society that doesn’t ask for sacrifice? How do you become a man in a world that doesn’t require courage? The test of leadership isn’t done on the couch, discussing things with internet trolls and commentators. Leadership, like philosophy, is action-based and can’t be separated from that into a purely theoretical field.

To become a leader, it isn’t enough to read about it, you need to live through it. That leads us to the first point.

1. Experience trumps theory

Theory and practice are the same in theory, but they are not the same in practice. For you to become a leader, you need to put yourself in situations which demand leadership. If you are at home trying really hard to think about situations where leadership is required and can’t find a place where that can happen, you are not thinking about the problems in your life and community.

Leadership is about going through uncertainty while showing people a better way. So any area of life where there is uncertainty is an area where there is a possibility for leadership to emerge.

You don’t have to lead a company of 10,000 employees to experience leadership, you can do it in a local community of 5 people or as I did in a leadership organization with 200 people. But leadership doesn’t start with leading other people, it starts with leading yourself.

“Leadership is practice not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.” – Harold S. Geneen

2. To lead others, you must learn to lead yourself

Telling other people what they need to do is “easy.” Showing the way yourself is a hundred times harder. Because what you do speaks so loud that people can’t hear what you’re saying. In other words, leadership is about having personal integrity and practicing what you preach. You would never follow the advice of a fat personal trainer, a broke accountant, or a real estate agent who doesn’t even own a dog house.

You either lead by example or you don’t lead at all. But the thing is that this is easier said than done. I remember when we had a crisis in our team back in 2013. Every single person from the team quit, leaving the president and me alone to fight the battle. My integrity of not quitting didn’t let me walk away and we kept pushing together.

That’s what leadership is about – you need to walk the talk. Because to lead yourself and to lead others, you need to make decisions which follow up your integrity. That leads us to the third point.

3. Leadership is about making the right, painful decisions

If you choose easy decisions, your life will be hard. If you choose hard decisions, your life will be easy. And there are numerous decisions which leaders did in the past which have been hard at the moment. But when you’re a leader, you don’t make decisions on a scale of easy-hard, you make them on a scale of right-wrong.

Firing the VP of sales is always hard. But doing it because he violated the principles of the company makes it right. It’s a trade-off 90% of people are not willing to make and I see it day in, day out. As soon as a decision becomes hard, people start doubting their values, morals, and integrity. They let the fear of uncertainty cloud their judgments and they make an easy call.

They let the VP stay because it’s the easy thing to do and with that, they seal their fate. Leadership is painful and it always was. I remember when I had to let 20 people go or fire two of my VPs. Was it hard? Of course it was. But it was the right thing to do. This doesn’t make the decision any easier, but it makes it bearable.

You know where you need to lead people and even though there is massive uncertainty, you need to be certain that you will figure out any problem that comes in front of you. Which brings us to the last point.

“Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.” – Brian Tracy

4. You need to have unyielding faith that you will prevail in the end

You don’t need to know every step of the way, but you need to know how you will react to problems. You need to be sure, absolutely, that you will deal, manage, and handle every single problem that comes your way and that your team and people who you lead are unstoppable on their way to achieving the vision.

This is unquestionable. You have no idea what will attack you, but you are certain that you will handle it. This is how you lead people through everything in life. This is how Shackleton led his expedition for 2 years on the Antarctic and how every single one of his people survived the hardships that attacked them.

Because people turn to the leader in face of trouble and that’s when you show your true face. Do you show your weak side, flounder, and run? Or do you stand strong like a supporting rock on which people can lean on?

When you deal with fire, you will learn how to defeat it without having your people get burned. You will sacrifice yourself and gain scars which don’t serve as a sign of victimhood but as a proof of courage. Are you gonna be courageous or are you gonna run away? There is only one way to find out.

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Success Advice

This Is Why Most People Give Up On Their Dreams — I Plead With You Not To Become One Of Them.

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We all have a dream even if we haven’t realized it yet. It could be something as simple as raising a family, or it might be more extreme like winning an Olympic gold medal.

No matter the dream, most people give up on their dream.

I’m pleading with you not to be one of those people. You can achieve your dream when you understand why people give up in the first place.

Here’s why most people give up on their dreams:


They failed once before.

Many people try something once and when they fail, they give up. That’s because nobody tells you that achieving your dream doesn’t happen the first time around.

You have to try and try again until you reach your goal.
The problem is it’s easy to try once, fail, and then say “I already tried and I didn’t win.”

We give in so easily because the upside is a life of excuses.

We give in because we can live through the heroes of our favorite Netflix show.

We give in because in some ways there is a reward. Giving up gives you permission to sit on the couch, eat junk food, be angry at the world on social media and sleep in your nice warm bed

The problem is that this life sucks. You’ll get tired of it. One day you’ll want to chase your dream again, but you might be old, frail and full of regrets.

I’m pleading with you not to choose this option.


They got told no.

You don’t need permission — remember that. You are going to get told no hundreds of times in your life. With every dream you have, there’s going to be some fat, lazy slob that’s going to be standing in your way.”

Push through these people — flubber and all. Don’t let someone else’s laziness or issues with your dream stop you.

Ignore the no and get right back to it. Ask them again. Ask someone else.

Ideally, don’t ask them at all. I never asked to be a blogger I just did it. Certain publications turned me down and I kept writing.

Not everyone understands your gifts or potential and that’s fine. The main point here is that you understand.

I’m pleading with you to not give up because of a no. Make the no your motivation instead.


They don’t see failure for what it is.

Failure is nothing more than the inevitable education that any person who achieves their dream goes through.

Failure is so important that I personally like to pay money for it. I wish there was a shop or course I could do that would guarantee me failure instead of success. I want you to want the failure because that’s where all the answers are.

Once you know what doesn’t work, you’ll have a path forward. Change the word failure into education.

I’m pleading with you to fall in love with failure and not to give up on your dream.


Boredom strikes like thunder.

Everyone gets bored. I watched a documentary where Usain Bolt was training for the Olympics and even he admitted that he got bored after he won a few gold medals.

Boredom is normal, but it’s why a lot of people give up on their dreams.

It’s in the moments of boredom that you give your mind a chance to rest. Doing nothing and being lazy for a few hours can often bring a spark of creativity. No one is motivated 100% of the time — not even me.

It’s up to you to add some variety into your day, so you don’t get stuck in boredom forever.

Boredom can also be a good sign as well. It can be a sign that you need to change your approach or do things in a new way.

I’m pleading with you not to be afraid of boredom. Use boredom to your advantage.


They stop believing in themselves.

Your dreams are not easy (obviously). The rejection, failure and setbacks you’ll achieve can bring you down. What messes people’s dreams up is they stop believing in themselves.

Everything starts to fall over when you don’t believe in yourselfYou have to believe you can do it before anyone else will buy into that idea. The challenge is that you’re going to need help to achieve your dreams. You can’t do it alone.

You’ll never get that help unless you can get people to believe what you believe.

I’m pleading with you to believe in yourself no matter what. You have this dream for a reason and you can do it.


They are stuck on one strategy.

Many people live their entire life based on one strategy or one arbitrage. They refuse to change and so eventually the environment around them changes which affects their ability to reach their dream.

If you’re set in your ways and won’t change your approach, you’ll probably fail. We all imagine how our dream should look yet sometimes the reality is different.

You have to be open to change. In my experience, my original dream looked much different and I’m glad it’s changed. Changes to your dream are for the better.

I’m pleading with you to be open-minded.


They are surrounded by an army of morons.

If everyone around you is telling you you’re an idiot and they don’t respect your dream for what it is, this will have a negative impact on you whether you like it or not.

Run away from the dream killers who are making up for their own broken dreams and surround yourself with people who support you

The best people are the ones that support you but don’t always agree with you. Even better are the ones that support you and challenge your thinking. 
I’m pleading with you to reassess the people around you.


They want security.

No dream comes with an insurance policy or a set path. People are afraid to take risks and want reassurances when they pursue their dream.

There are none. Dreams are made off the back of taking calculated and clever risks most of the time. If you want someone to guarantee your dream, then it ain’t going to happen.

It’s the unpredictability that makes dreams addictive, delicious and worth the effort. Not knowing is what our mind craves — we just don’t know it. If we knew how our dream turned out, we wouldn’t be as excited.

I’m pleading with you to take a risk or two.


They refuse to be disciplined.

Nothing worth achieving can be done without discipline. There’s work involved and that has to be scheduled and executed upon.

I’ve written every single week since 2014. That takes bloody discipline.

My discipline reflects my results in the blogging world. The same applies to your own dream.

Block out chunks of your calendar and get to work. If you’re not doing at least one small thing towards your dream every day, then you’re heading in the wrong direction.

I’m pleading you to put in regular work towards your dream.


The greener grass syndrome.

Another reason we give up is not because we’re lazy necessarily but because we failed and there is a better option. That’s what our mind tells us.

I didn’t fail; I just found something better,” you say to yourself.

Well, that’s the sad truth.

“Changing your idea of success consistently is not the answer. At some point, you need to decide to chase one dream and quit the ADHD dream chasing the average person chases. You’re better than that”

Worrying about what everybody else is doing and then chasing their dreams is ridiculous.

I’m pleading with you not to fall for this lie. The grass is not greener it just requires more work than you anticipated.


Final thought.

Please, please, please don’t give up on your dream. You’re closer than you think. You just need to stand back and think about a few of the points I’ve mentioned.

Broken dreams have birthed so many broken people.

It doesn’t have to be that way. See your dream for what it is: Something special that you can achieve if you put your mind to it, focus and be excited by the possibilities.

Don’t give up on your dream.

<<<>>>

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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4 Ways to Give Your Self-Efficacy a Serious Boost

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Boosting your self-efficacy is a simple, yet powerful way to improve the levels of success and happiness you experience in your life. Each of us have goals in our lives, but if we don’t believe in our ability to achieve them, then how are we ever going to be successful? (more…)

I am Dan Storey from UK .I have worked in and around the world of Motivational seminars for many years, starting as a volunteer and affiliate before heading up one of the UK’s biggest personal development seminar companies. I have been training NLP to business and sales people for over 10 years and the author of next level persuasion. I am currently Working towards MSC in Behavioural Psychology and constantly trying to figure out why we do what we do.

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27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Ryan Jones

    Jun 16, 2016 at 11:19 pm

    Thanks for the tips. Been in the internet marketing business for a while myself and there is definitely a learning curve for new marketers online. Will have to share these tips with my readers too.

  2. Ahmed Ali

    May 29, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    Thank you Stephen! This article is exactly what I need to hear at this chapter of my life.

  3. Sachin

    Dec 27, 2015 at 6:09 am

    Very well said. I will apply this in my life too. 🙂

  4. Jay Sifford

    Dec 26, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    This is a great read. Thanks so much. I realized that I’m already doing these things and, believe me, my life is great… not perfect, but great. I enjoyed the reinforcement. While reading this, I thought back to conversations between my brother and my mother. She told me that he would ask “Where did Jay come from? He’s not like us.” I took that as a compliment.
    After several “false starts” in careers, by doing the things you’ve outlined here, I’m successful and happy with my landscape design profession. I’ve also been writing for several years now. I always wanted to, but just didn’t know how to start. I wouldn’t trade those painful “false starts” for anything, because, even though they appeared to be dead ends, they provided lessons and building blocks for me that I use today.
    I could go on, but won’t. Again, thank you.

  5. aspecialist

    Nov 8, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    This is really interesting to read. Hitting goals and achieving success depend on our course of actions and thinking. You will not know what you can achieve unless you give a shot and really work for it. There are lot of meaningful things that we can do and goals that we can achieve, and we were given the power to choose our path .

  6. Samantha Driscoll

    Sep 12, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    I found your article really interesting, from the perspective I am embarking on a new journey setting up my own business which has been a learning curve. Thank you

  7. Deepanshu

    Sep 10, 2015 at 11:26 am

    One of the best post I have ever read. I have read huge no of self help post. But this one is my favorite post.
    Thanks

  8. Stephen Guise

    Sep 9, 2015 at 12:44 am

    You’re welcome! Thanks for reading!

  9. Matt

    Sep 9, 2015 at 12:11 am

    The description for #6 actually contradicts the headline. You are in fact responsible for your success or failure by making the effort to network. So while the people you network with will help you get to where you want to go, YOU are still responsible for going out and meeting those people.

    • Stephen Guise

      Sep 9, 2015 at 11:25 am

      There is no contradiction.

      Understanding that your success isn’t 100% in your hands gives you a superior perspective: it makes you more resilient and more willing to network or ask for help. If you believed success was 100% up to you, you’d be far more likely to get discouraged (such as when your best effort fails) and less likely to ask for help when you need it most.

  10. Linda Salloum

    Sep 8, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    Hi stephen ,
    Thank you for a great article . I really do hear you and like yourself I was that young person who was lazy and shy and every day make plans to do something productive but never got round to it. I will try your mini habits because I am desperate to change my life before its too late. Lilly

    • Stephen Guise

      Sep 9, 2015 at 12:29 am

      Mini habits turned my life around. Most of the 7 keys I listed are in line with the mini habit strategy. My big turnaround started with one push-up per day! Good luck, Lilly!

  11. Lonell M. Holliday

    Sep 8, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    Great article! Steve.. Very great artical.
    I had to read it twice and take down notes. 50 Words a day! self-efficacy. Man I got it..

    • Stephen Guise

      Sep 9, 2015 at 12:30 am

      Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. Give it a try!

  12. Ernie A

    Sep 8, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    Beautiful! You have an awesome story man and these are great pearls of wisdom. I’m in the process of writing my first book and your advice has been key in making progress.

    • Stephen Guise

      Sep 9, 2015 at 12:31 am

      I appreciate that, Ernie! I’ve written two books, and I wrote them both by aiming for 50 words a day. It’s more powerful than it seems. 🙂

  13. A

    Sep 8, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    This is a very interesting article.

    At the moment I am trying to establish a business which I know there is a lot of potential and have put some good hours into it. Had some knock backs but not gave up on it

    However I also have something else that I would like to do. That are not related .

    If my business does kick on then I can in some capacity do what I really desire in some aspect. If it doesn’t then I have to walk away from one.

    • Stephen Guise

      Sep 9, 2015 at 12:34 am

      Best of luck with your business. If this one doesn’t work out, you can always try again. I had a failed business before I started writing books.

  14. Roxanne

    Sep 8, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    Wow Stephen, I’m so grateful I read your article. I am the queen of the non “Follow Through”. I fail repeatedly to finish anything I start. Or I have great plans in my mind but never start them. after reading and rereading your article, it makes complete sense to me, my behavior that is.. I also love words, I love to write, I have started the same idea for a book several times, I get 2 pages written and I’m so critical of my writing that I quit..writing is only one example of many things I have quit, a lot do to being so critical about myself and the feeling that “it should have been better”, so if I can’t get it perfect what’s the point of continuing,this kind of self defeat talk going on in my head… but you have really opened up my mind to my real issue’s of what I call the “Failure of Follow Through. ” Thanks so much for getting it and putting yourself out there to help others….I’m going to read your book Mini- Habits asap…. thanks

    • Stephen Guise

      Sep 9, 2015 at 12:37 am

      Roxanne, you might actually benefit more from my second book! It’s called, “How to Be an Imperfectionist” and it directly addresses the issue you’re describing. The solutions I suggest in the book are in Mini Habit form. If you’re interested to read both books, it works best to read Mini Habits first.

      Mini Habits works as a general solution for perfectionism, and How to Be an Imperfectionist has direct solutions for the different aspects of it, such as unrealistic expectations, need for approval, concern over mistakes, and so on.

  15. Psimatupang

    Sep 8, 2015 at 9:41 am

    Wow.. This is so wonderful. Thank you.

    Well, what stopping me from success (reaching my dreams) is something that happening inside me. I am a student, when others talk about something i have no idea what or something i haven’t learnt it kinda makes me feel small..

    • Stephen Guise

      Sep 9, 2015 at 12:41 am

      There’s nothing wrong with ignorance. We’re all ignorant of certain things. I used to be afraid to ask questions because it would expose my ignorance, but I realized the more I asked questions when I didn’t know things, the less ignorant I’d be. The slight potential embarrassment is definitely worth bearing, and people are usually happy to teach you what they know.

  16. Steve Jordan

    Sep 8, 2015 at 4:20 am

    Excellent article, thank you.

  17. Ankur Agarwal

    Sep 8, 2015 at 4:03 am

    Hi Stephen, its a good article and its nice to read your thoughts.
    Just to share, I have been going through the low self efficacy phase. I tried few things but didn’t work out.
    so going by your words, I will start on doing mini habits of writing 50 words a day because I also like to write.
    Will surely share my thoughts with you.

  18. Nikolai Westall

    Sep 8, 2015 at 3:47 am

    Thank you! Awesome stuff 🙂

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Success Advice

Why Smart People Think Beyond Reason to Make Powerful Decisions

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How long has it been since you’ve had a tough decision to make at work? I bet it happens regularly, if it is not on a daily basis. Sure, making decisions can be exhilarating, but it can also be draining. Sometimes dreadful.

Your pulse accelerates, you start to sweat, your mind jumps from one point to the next, hoping to settle on something. You really want to make the right decision for you, for your team, for your organization. But often times, it can be a tough call. You wish you had the perfect step-by-step recipe to get to the right decision.

Well, in fact, decision-making is quite a complex process for everyone. So much that it is a very popular topic in management research.

For decades, academics have observed and interviewed successful senior leaders to understand and model the thought process that take them to the right decision. These studies resulted in the inescapable rational process. Which we are all very aware of.But what if there was a better way to make decisions that doesn’t just rely on rational thinking?

The problem with rational thinking

rational thinking

We are trained from an early age to develop our rational abilities. We are taught to systematically gather the relevant data, to analyze it, to design options and evaluate them, until we make the final decision. It is as a slow process requiring conscious and sustained effort. Our rational thinking make progress step by step and draws a logical conclusion. And that’s great. Indispensable.

I couldn’t agree more. I hold a Bachelor of Mathematics, and a scientific Master’s degree in Management. My natural preference is rational thinking. However, I must admit that rational thinking can be wrong. Or jammed, unable to decide.

I mean, do you always have enough time to gather data, analyze, evaluate options and decide? Do you always have all the data that is necessary? Does it sometimes happen, on the contrary, that you have so much data that it is overwhelming and you can no longer distinguish the forest from the trees? What if there was another way?

Rational thinking is not your only option

rational thinking

Senior leaders realize, and researchers have found out, that all decisions are not, or are not only, based on rational thinking. Decision-making also leverages … intuitive thinking. Smart leaders consider their intuitions — in addition to their rational analysis — when making decisions.

And the truth is, leaders consider their intuitions — in addition to their rational analysis — when making decisions:

“90% of the 60 leaders who participated in a study reported using their intuition in combination with rational data analysis. They found that their decisions were accelerated, and were better.” (Burke, Miller, 1999)

“Managers at the top of every [of the 2000] organizations surveyed scored higher than middle or lower-level managers on their ability to use their intuition to guide their key decisions.” (Agor, 1986)

This is a well-kept secret, isn’t it? I bet you rarely hear someone at work trying to convince you that this decision is better because his instinct says so. We would rather emphasize the extensive research and analysis we have done to give credibility to our decision.

However, it doesn’t mean that intuition is not instrumental to the process. So, let me explain what intuition is, exactly.

How intuition helps you reach the right decisions

intuition

Neuroscience understands that the human brain thinks in two different ways. There’s the rational process, as described above, and the intuitive process. The latter is not esoteric, magical, nor is it about a premonition.

Intuitions are the conclusions that spontaneously raise to your consciousness, without you being aware of the intermediate stages — although it is often possible to justify your intuition after the fact.

Imagine meeting someone for the first time. Within a blink of the eye, you have an opinion of the person. That’s an intuition. And, contrarily to reason, intuition is incredibly fast. Intuitions are conveyed to your consciousness by your emotions. The first thing that comes to mind is the feelings you have for this person. You like or dislike, you trust or you don’t.

Rather than dissecting information, the intuitive process of the brain makes connections almost instantaneously based on your experiences. By analogy and association, it synthesizes and jumps to conclusions. Beneath the surface, when you meet this person for the first time, your brain finds similarities with people you’ve known in the past, and concludes.

Intuition is thus essentially based on the knowledge accumulated through your experiences, all too often forgotten, and on the models of the world that you have created for yourself, of which you are often not aware of. You may or may not realize that this person in front of you reminds you of the type of people you don’t trust, as an example.

In fact, because it is spontaneous and effortless, intuition is the way of thinking that drives the majority of the decisions you make in a day. If the stakes are not high, intuition will prevail, it is so much easier and efficient. Whether you are conscious of it or not. Whether you like it or not.

Here are a few examples:

  • You slow down your car in traffic, because you instinctively understand that the car on the other lane is trying to cut you off.
  • You pick clothes in your closet that feel comfortable if you don’t have an official meeting today. You don’t need to rationally think over your choice.
  • You accept an invitation without hesitation because it feels exciting and you have time. No need for some complex thinking here either.

Does that mean you should always listen to your intuition?

listen to your intuition

Now, is this to say that your intuition is always right? Sorry, it is not the case. The quality of your intuitions depends on the quality of the knowledge you hold, and thus of your learning.

In fact, as you are getting experienced in your job, as you face numerous situations and overcome challenges, you develop mental models on the appropriate ways to react. That’s called expert intuition. It explains why senior people can make decision swiftly, without hesitation, and without a long rational process.

Your expertise may not only be related to your job. You can also be an expert in human relations, for example. If you have always been fascinated by people, and an avid observer of good and not-so-good interactions, you may intuitively know how to react with difficult people or situations.

However, a word of caution. Intuition can also tap into your biases and your fears. In those occasions, intuition could be wrong, and it is really difficult to tell when this happens. Intuitions, at the end of the day, are no more no less than assumptions. That’s why engaging both rational thinking and intuitive thinking is so important.

How smart people use intuition to make the best decisions

using your intuition

Let’s say you are in a restaurant. You read the menu, and choose one food rather than another according to how you feel about it. It is then your intuitive process that intervenes, without real awareness of what leads you to that choice.

That being said, if you are following a particular diet, you may rule out your initial choice. You can be the impartial observer of your feelings. You can decide to slow down for a second and have your rational thinking intervene to choose more proper food for you. You have a veto power over your intuitions.

The same holds true for decisions made in a professional context, even for the most rational of us. You have intuitions, and you have rational thoughts.

Let me ask you a question: When you have a decision to make, how would you describe your typical thought process?

  1. You spontaneously have a feeling of what the right decision is, and then you engage your rational thinking to confirm whether or not your intuition is right. That is called strategic intuition.
  2. You first collect data, you analyze it, you evaluate your options, you make a rational decision and then you stop for a moment to perceive how you feel about the decision. That’s called conclusive intuition.

Strategic intuition and conclusive intuition are both efficient. But it speaks to your natural preference, and to the level of experience you hold. The more experience, the more mental models you developed over time, and the easiest it is for your brain to make connections and associations, and thus generate intuitions.

In both instances, integrating intuition and reason increases dramatically the potential for you to make the right decision.

Intuition is really an assumption your brain makes based on your experience. Relying solely on your intuition could be risky, unless you don’t have the time to analyze the situation rationally — for example, in the middle of a heated discussion, or a particularly stressful situation.

Depending solely on your reason is also suboptimal. Your brain has the capacity to detect information beneath the surface which could have a crucial impact on your decision. Ignoring it could lead you to the wrong conclusion.

The more you navigate between the two processes, the more knowledge you tap into, the better the decisions, and the more you can adapt to circumstances. You can decide how much you rely on one or the other — or both. It is a matter of choice, and practice.

Make the best use of your brain’s powers to make smart decisions

brain power

Imagine that going forward, you listen to the little voice inside of you, in addition to proceeding systematically, rationally.

Imagine that going forward, you navigate between your reason and your intuition. You dig deeper into your feelings, the voice of your intuition, and challenge your reason. Similarly, you observe impartially feelings that arise, take a step back, and apply your veto if you know better.

Navigating between your reason and your intuition, you tap into the knowledge you are aware of at a conscious level, and also into the wisdom you hold beneath the surface. Chances are that you will make better informed decisions, even if time is short, data is insufficient, or contradictory.

As a senior leader once told me:This will make the difference between a potential of success, and an assured failure.

References:

This article is based on the research I performed for my Master’s thesis (2017). The full bibliography includes over 100 articles and books, of which:

BURKE, Lisa A., MILLER, Monica K., Taking the mystery out of intuitive decision-making Academy of Management Executive, Vol. 13, №4, p. 91–98, New York, Academy of Management, 1999

AGOR, Weston H., The Logic of Intuition: How Top Executives Make Important Decisions, Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 14, №3, p. 5–18, Amsterdam, Elsevier, 1986

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Success Advice

5 B.S. Facts About High Performers Everyone Thinks Is True

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High performers are often seen in the world as people who set their mind on something and make it happen regardless of what it takes to get it accomplished. Much of the time that may be true. However, the way high performers are seen in the world is often in direct conflict with the way they behave when people aren’t watching. Even though they are seen as amazing experts and masters to others, they often see themselves as in need of improvement and can feel dissatisfied with the results they have achieved.

Despite how they appear, they are not much different than you or me with one exception. High performers are totally committed to what it is that they are doing. They function within the uncertainty of daily life just as you do but they conquer their limitations differently. Whether the odds are stacked with them or against them, a high performer will be totally committed to reaching their goals.

You may even be a high performer yourself and don’t realize it because some of your habits would not be considered high level ones. It is common for individuals to compare their accomplishments to others based on what we observe as their results.

“Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.” – Nelson Mandela

In fact, you may have lowered your personal bar of excellence because you thought you didn’t measure up to those that always seem to land at the top no matter what. I think you’d be surprised to learn that many very successful high performers don’t function the way you think they do.

Here are 5 B.S. facts about high performers that everyone thinks is true:

B.S. Fact #1 – Perfection is the way they play their game

You would think that in order to appear perfect you would probably need to do everything perfectly. It’s so not true! High performers actually pursue excellence as a goal and not perfection. It allows them to get more done with a higher level of consistency and sets them up for success rather than failure.

B.S. Fact #2 – Organization is their secret weapon

Just take a look at the desk of a genius. You probably wouldn’t be able to see the surface beneath the stacks of books, papers and whatever else may be on top of it. High performers typically have a formula as to where they put things and why. To the observer, it’s usually just a big mess with no identifiable system. However, I assure you, a high performer will still know where everything is regardless of the chaos that surrounds their personal space and schedule.

B.S. Fact #3 – They’ve all walked Ivy League hallways

Though it is true that many well educated people reach great success, statistically, some of the most influential success stories are about people who lacked resources and education. High performers will always seek out whatever or whoever is available so that they can learn what they need to and create their vision despite whatever odds happen to be stacked against them.

B.S. Fact #4 – They don’t have squirrel brain

Focus. It seems like this would be the number one rule to follow on the road to results.  However, there are many high performers who get distracted by people and ideas that totally derail them from what they were doing. Often times, it is not their focus but their agenda that keeps them on track. They know what they need to do even if it doesn’t always get accomplished in the way they thought they would get it done. However, it always gets done.

“High achievers spot rich opportunities swiftly, make big decisions quickly and move into action immediately. Follow these principles and you can make your dreams come true.” – Robert H. Schuller

B.S. Fact #5 – They see themselves as the king of the jungle

Confidence seems to pour out of those who always seem to succeed. When, in reality, so many high performers struggle with it. Questioning whether or not they’re doing the right things or whether what they’re doing is good enough can be a constant personal dialogue. Fear of being negatively judged is the biggest reason why most people don’t take chances or take action on their big dreams but high performers move forward anyway. Their insecurity doesn’t stop them from what they want.

So, why should it matter to you what is fact or fiction about high performers? The answer; because you will compare yourself to others at times and it would be a tragedy if you stopped yourself from achieving big goals due to a belief that you’re not as good as someone else.

High performers achieve results. They know what they want, they plan it and they achieve it. Just because you have a few habits that won’t get applauded if people actually knew about them doesn’t mean that you can’t be one of the experts or podium finishers too.

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Success Advice

Do You Want to Become a Leader? Read This First

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How do you become an adult in a society that doesn’t ask for sacrifice? How do you become a man in a world that doesn’t require courage? The test of leadership isn’t done on the couch, discussing things with internet trolls and commentators. Leadership, like philosophy, is action-based and can’t be separated from that into a purely theoretical field.

To become a leader, it isn’t enough to read about it, you need to live through it. That leads us to the first point.

1. Experience trumps theory

Theory and practice are the same in theory, but they are not the same in practice. For you to become a leader, you need to put yourself in situations which demand leadership. If you are at home trying really hard to think about situations where leadership is required and can’t find a place where that can happen, you are not thinking about the problems in your life and community.

Leadership is about going through uncertainty while showing people a better way. So any area of life where there is uncertainty is an area where there is a possibility for leadership to emerge.

You don’t have to lead a company of 10,000 employees to experience leadership, you can do it in a local community of 5 people or as I did in a leadership organization with 200 people. But leadership doesn’t start with leading other people, it starts with leading yourself.

“Leadership is practice not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.” – Harold S. Geneen

2. To lead others, you must learn to lead yourself

Telling other people what they need to do is “easy.” Showing the way yourself is a hundred times harder. Because what you do speaks so loud that people can’t hear what you’re saying. In other words, leadership is about having personal integrity and practicing what you preach. You would never follow the advice of a fat personal trainer, a broke accountant, or a real estate agent who doesn’t even own a dog house.

You either lead by example or you don’t lead at all. But the thing is that this is easier said than done. I remember when we had a crisis in our team back in 2013. Every single person from the team quit, leaving the president and me alone to fight the battle. My integrity of not quitting didn’t let me walk away and we kept pushing together.

That’s what leadership is about – you need to walk the talk. Because to lead yourself and to lead others, you need to make decisions which follow up your integrity. That leads us to the third point.

3. Leadership is about making the right, painful decisions

If you choose easy decisions, your life will be hard. If you choose hard decisions, your life will be easy. And there are numerous decisions which leaders did in the past which have been hard at the moment. But when you’re a leader, you don’t make decisions on a scale of easy-hard, you make them on a scale of right-wrong.

Firing the VP of sales is always hard. But doing it because he violated the principles of the company makes it right. It’s a trade-off 90% of people are not willing to make and I see it day in, day out. As soon as a decision becomes hard, people start doubting their values, morals, and integrity. They let the fear of uncertainty cloud their judgments and they make an easy call.

They let the VP stay because it’s the easy thing to do and with that, they seal their fate. Leadership is painful and it always was. I remember when I had to let 20 people go or fire two of my VPs. Was it hard? Of course it was. But it was the right thing to do. This doesn’t make the decision any easier, but it makes it bearable.

You know where you need to lead people and even though there is massive uncertainty, you need to be certain that you will figure out any problem that comes in front of you. Which brings us to the last point.

“Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.” – Brian Tracy

4. You need to have unyielding faith that you will prevail in the end

You don’t need to know every step of the way, but you need to know how you will react to problems. You need to be sure, absolutely, that you will deal, manage, and handle every single problem that comes your way and that your team and people who you lead are unstoppable on their way to achieving the vision.

This is unquestionable. You have no idea what will attack you, but you are certain that you will handle it. This is how you lead people through everything in life. This is how Shackleton led his expedition for 2 years on the Antarctic and how every single one of his people survived the hardships that attacked them.

Because people turn to the leader in face of trouble and that’s when you show your true face. Do you show your weak side, flounder, and run? Or do you stand strong like a supporting rock on which people can lean on?

When you deal with fire, you will learn how to defeat it without having your people get burned. You will sacrifice yourself and gain scars which don’t serve as a sign of victimhood but as a proof of courage. Are you gonna be courageous or are you gonna run away? There is only one way to find out.

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Success Advice

This Is Why Most People Give Up On Their Dreams — I Plead With You Not To Become One Of Them.

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We all have a dream even if we haven’t realized it yet. It could be something as simple as raising a family, or it might be more extreme like winning an Olympic gold medal.

No matter the dream, most people give up on their dream.

I’m pleading with you not to be one of those people. You can achieve your dream when you understand why people give up in the first place.

Here’s why most people give up on their dreams:


They failed once before.

Many people try something once and when they fail, they give up. That’s because nobody tells you that achieving your dream doesn’t happen the first time around.

You have to try and try again until you reach your goal.
The problem is it’s easy to try once, fail, and then say “I already tried and I didn’t win.”

We give in so easily because the upside is a life of excuses.

We give in because we can live through the heroes of our favorite Netflix show.

We give in because in some ways there is a reward. Giving up gives you permission to sit on the couch, eat junk food, be angry at the world on social media and sleep in your nice warm bed

The problem is that this life sucks. You’ll get tired of it. One day you’ll want to chase your dream again, but you might be old, frail and full of regrets.

I’m pleading with you not to choose this option.


They got told no.

You don’t need permission — remember that. You are going to get told no hundreds of times in your life. With every dream you have, there’s going to be some fat, lazy slob that’s going to be standing in your way.”

Push through these people — flubber and all. Don’t let someone else’s laziness or issues with your dream stop you.

Ignore the no and get right back to it. Ask them again. Ask someone else.

Ideally, don’t ask them at all. I never asked to be a blogger I just did it. Certain publications turned me down and I kept writing.

Not everyone understands your gifts or potential and that’s fine. The main point here is that you understand.

I’m pleading with you to not give up because of a no. Make the no your motivation instead.


They don’t see failure for what it is.

Failure is nothing more than the inevitable education that any person who achieves their dream goes through.

Failure is so important that I personally like to pay money for it. I wish there was a shop or course I could do that would guarantee me failure instead of success. I want you to want the failure because that’s where all the answers are.

Once you know what doesn’t work, you’ll have a path forward. Change the word failure into education.

I’m pleading with you to fall in love with failure and not to give up on your dream.


Boredom strikes like thunder.

Everyone gets bored. I watched a documentary where Usain Bolt was training for the Olympics and even he admitted that he got bored after he won a few gold medals.

Boredom is normal, but it’s why a lot of people give up on their dreams.

It’s in the moments of boredom that you give your mind a chance to rest. Doing nothing and being lazy for a few hours can often bring a spark of creativity. No one is motivated 100% of the time — not even me.

It’s up to you to add some variety into your day, so you don’t get stuck in boredom forever.

Boredom can also be a good sign as well. It can be a sign that you need to change your approach or do things in a new way.

I’m pleading with you not to be afraid of boredom. Use boredom to your advantage.


They stop believing in themselves.

Your dreams are not easy (obviously). The rejection, failure and setbacks you’ll achieve can bring you down. What messes people’s dreams up is they stop believing in themselves.

Everything starts to fall over when you don’t believe in yourselfYou have to believe you can do it before anyone else will buy into that idea. The challenge is that you’re going to need help to achieve your dreams. You can’t do it alone.

You’ll never get that help unless you can get people to believe what you believe.

I’m pleading with you to believe in yourself no matter what. You have this dream for a reason and you can do it.


They are stuck on one strategy.

Many people live their entire life based on one strategy or one arbitrage. They refuse to change and so eventually the environment around them changes which affects their ability to reach their dream.

If you’re set in your ways and won’t change your approach, you’ll probably fail. We all imagine how our dream should look yet sometimes the reality is different.

You have to be open to change. In my experience, my original dream looked much different and I’m glad it’s changed. Changes to your dream are for the better.

I’m pleading with you to be open-minded.


They are surrounded by an army of morons.

If everyone around you is telling you you’re an idiot and they don’t respect your dream for what it is, this will have a negative impact on you whether you like it or not.

Run away from the dream killers who are making up for their own broken dreams and surround yourself with people who support you

The best people are the ones that support you but don’t always agree with you. Even better are the ones that support you and challenge your thinking. 
I’m pleading with you to reassess the people around you.


They want security.

No dream comes with an insurance policy or a set path. People are afraid to take risks and want reassurances when they pursue their dream.

There are none. Dreams are made off the back of taking calculated and clever risks most of the time. If you want someone to guarantee your dream, then it ain’t going to happen.

It’s the unpredictability that makes dreams addictive, delicious and worth the effort. Not knowing is what our mind craves — we just don’t know it. If we knew how our dream turned out, we wouldn’t be as excited.

I’m pleading with you to take a risk or two.


They refuse to be disciplined.

Nothing worth achieving can be done without discipline. There’s work involved and that has to be scheduled and executed upon.

I’ve written every single week since 2014. That takes bloody discipline.

My discipline reflects my results in the blogging world. The same applies to your own dream.

Block out chunks of your calendar and get to work. If you’re not doing at least one small thing towards your dream every day, then you’re heading in the wrong direction.

I’m pleading you to put in regular work towards your dream.


The greener grass syndrome.

Another reason we give up is not because we’re lazy necessarily but because we failed and there is a better option. That’s what our mind tells us.

I didn’t fail; I just found something better,” you say to yourself.

Well, that’s the sad truth.

“Changing your idea of success consistently is not the answer. At some point, you need to decide to chase one dream and quit the ADHD dream chasing the average person chases. You’re better than that”

Worrying about what everybody else is doing and then chasing their dreams is ridiculous.

I’m pleading with you not to fall for this lie. The grass is not greener it just requires more work than you anticipated.


Final thought.

Please, please, please don’t give up on your dream. You’re closer than you think. You just need to stand back and think about a few of the points I’ve mentioned.

Broken dreams have birthed so many broken people.

It doesn’t have to be that way. See your dream for what it is: Something special that you can achieve if you put your mind to it, focus and be excited by the possibilities.

Don’t give up on your dream.

<<<>>>

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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