It’s September. School just started again, yet I won’t be going back this fall (gasp!!!). Instead, I’m taking a year off from school in order to take control of my own education, and will be documenting all of my experiences on a new blog I just launched called The Gap Year Experiment.
With no curriculum to follow, and a world full of opportunities now available at my fingertips, I had to decide what things were most important to learn. What are the skills, experiences, and habits I could create during my “gap year experiment” that would help me get the most out of the next 365 days of my life?
To answer that, I asked some of my mentors, friends, and role models to give me their 1-3 sentence responses to the following question:
Knowing what you do now, if you could have taught yourself and/or done one thing at
18 years old to create a better foundation for your future success, what would it have been and why? The responses have been incredible! Business celebrities like Tony Hsieh, the Founder of UGG Australia, and the Founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, as well as a variety of professional athletes, New York Times bestselling authors, professors, entrepreneurs, and creative types, all chimed in with words of wisdom, and their collective insights will become my curriculum over the course of this next year as I take on various experiments designed to instill in me these same lessons I’ve been advised to learn.
These lessons, as I quickly came to realize, were too valuable for me to keep to myself, so without further adieu, here is what I learned.
SUCCESS IN BUSINESS
1) “When I was 18, I was full of dreams, energy and excitement. I couldn’t wait to graduate and start making money. I saw an Opportunity to go into business with my brothers and I seized it! I Worked hard and Never gave up. Years later, I started reading and filling my mind with ideas and Inspiration. It changed my life and my career took off! If you are just starting out don’t wait. Time is your most precious resource. Invest it. Use it well. Start now!” – Peter van Stralen, CEO of Sunshine Brands
2) “Be unapologetically true yourself, both in business and in life, and broadcast who you are to the world. The right people will eventually find you.” – Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos
3) If I had been focused on my future, I may never have had this one. If I had been focused on foundations, I may never have built one. If I had been focused on success, I may never have achieved it. You have to do what you love because you love it and not for any other reason. And so I have nothing to teach my eighteen-year old self because it’s my eighteen-year-old self that my present-day self should be learning from.” – Neil Strauss, NYT Bestselling Author
4) “By eighteen, I had worked four summers on the construction crew of my dad’s company, held after school jobs in gas stations. I also cleaned a bakery, and after leaving high school worked on a road-building crew to make the streets for a new subdivision in my home town. Without a doubt it was the diversity of the people that I met during this time that expanded my view towards becoming an entrepreneur, versus following the typical University-to-life career path of my friends. I narrowly avoided joining a bank in a coastal town so I could surf every day, when the local grocery store owner took me aside and said, ‘You have so much you can do with your life, so get out and explore.’
So, looking back I would not wish to have changed anything. Traveling was the most critical step in me seeing opportunity, especially the fact that nobody in America owned sheepskin boots, while the product was everywhere in Australia, which ultimately led to UGGs.” – Brian Smith, Founder of UGG Australia, Author and Speaker
5) “To create a better foundation for success, I would have welcomed the advice of working with a mentor sooner. I was quite independent early in my career (few female mentors were available), thinking that dependence on others and asking questions were a sign of weakness, as was failure. Instead over time, I learned that I didn’t have to go it alone. The goal of a mentor is to shorten our learning curve. Failure wasn’t an option early on; now it is the only option. Fail Faster, Succeed
Sooner, is part of my philosophy. The power of relationships, particularly of a mentor and a mastermind, means that I can ask for the help and expertise of others to move forward more quickly.” – Dr. Cheryl Lentz, The Academic Entrepreneur
6) “The best foundation is built on someone else’s mistakes. Find a mentor about 10- 15 years older and grab onto their wisdom. Competition is too stiff to allow for many mistakes of your own!” – Bud Moeller, Former Partner at Accenture and Professional Race Car Driver
7) “Though it can be tough, force yourself to be in situations where you feel like the dumbest person in the room. Constantly surround yourself with people smarter than you, but don’t allow it to intimidate you; instead, use it as an opportunity to learn.” – Nick Arnett, Summit Community Development Manager for the Thiel Foundation
8) “If I could have done one thing at 18 to better my foundation for success, I would have become an apprentice. I would have spent a lot of time reflecting on areas that fired me up, and then I would have found those who were absolutely CRUSHING it in these fields. I would rank them sequentially, and then reach out to them individually describing in detail how I could ADD VALUE to their lives in exchange for learning from them. Would I get a lot of no’s? YES. Would I keep persevering until I found a mentor? YES. What you put out in the universe becomes a magnet…and this magnet would result in a powerful mentor to guide me through my late teens, early 20’s.” – John Lee Dumas, Founder of EntrepreneurOnFire
ON BUILDING SKILLS
9) I would have taught myself more programming languages. At 18, I had dabbled in computer science a little bit and could build a blog, but that was about it. If I could go back and teach myself anything, it’d be more programming languages. There’s something incredibly powerful about being able to sit down at a computer and prototype an idea in a weekend without having to call upon your “techie” friends to help you.” – Stacey Ferreira, CEO of AdMoar, Co-Founder of 2 Billion Under 20
10) “If I could have taught myself one thing, it would have been how to get over my early fear of cold calling and cold approaching individuals I don’t know. So many of The Muse’s biggest successes are due to cold outreach, and I wish I’d forced myself to get comfortable with this a lot sooner!” – Kathryn Minshew, CEO of The Muse
11) “I would have started writing sooner than I did. Oh, sure, I wrote the occasional article. Today I write weekly, if not even more often. I focus on customer service and experience, and as a result have written hundreds of articles, with minimal repetition. My ideas are generated from the books I read (about one every two weeks) and the dozens of articles I read, or at least look at, weekly. This keeps my mind sharp, at the top of my game, and on the cutting edge of new information, and the amount of writing I do now positions me as an expert and thought leader in my area of expertise.” – Shep Hyken, customer service expert and NYT bestselling business author
12) “When I was 18 I wish I would have known and understood the power of email marketing. Yeah, that sounds drab and boring, but the email algorithm doesn’t change. If people opt-in to your email list, they want your content and they’ll get it in their (sacred) inboxes. Social media is great, but when you have zero control over when things change on those platforms, being able to reach followers and Likes can become impossible.” – Jason Surfrapp, Author of Creativity for Sale, Founder of IWearYourShirt.com
13) “Genius Networking and Marketing. Those are the two capabilities that create a foundation of future success better than anything I’ve learned about. Marketing is the way to positively impact millions (even billions) of people, and Genius Networking is the way to get in front of those people.” – Joe Polish, Founder of the Genius Network
14) “I would have studied how to be better at sales because it is one of the most important skills for business and life. I would have also written down short term and long term goals for myself both personal and professional so that I could have had better direction and focus.” – Nick Friedman, President and Co-Founder of College Hunks Hauling Junk
15) “It comes down to the work. If you want to do something and someone is outworking you…if you fail, then it is pretty much your fault…If you’re working harder than everyone else, than your chances of succeeding are so high!” – Com Mirza, Entrepreneur, Venture Capitalist, and Author
16) “The difference between successful people and everyone else is what they do daily. Developing productive habits and working them every day, over time will always lead to success. At 18, I would have asked myself, ‘What are 3 things you can do daily that will bring you closer to your goals?'” – Kyle Fogg, Professional Basketball Player and Former Guard for the University of Arizona
17) “Well, I am not 18 yet, so I don’t know. So I will go back to 14 year old Jacob. I would tell 14 year old Jacob not to focus on achieving a grade in a class but rather to focus on understanding the concepts behind the grade. It is not the end result, but the process that matters.” – Jacob Barnett, World’s Youngest Astrophysicist
18) “There is a difference between wanting something and it being non-negotiable. When shit hits the fan, you’ll find excuses for the former, but the latter will get done. Choose your non-negotiable consciously, for they will be rooted in pleasure and pain avoidance if you don’t.” – Connor Grooms, Founder of One Month Master
19) “I always had a thirst for knowledge. If I knew at age 18 what I know now, I would have listened more carefully.” – Ron Klein, Inventor of the Magnetic Strip Credit Card Validity Checking System
20) “I would have taken the time to learn how to listen earlier. Learning about non-
violent communication and how to take feedback has been integral to both my personal happiness and professional success.” – Dale J. Stephens, Founder of UnCollege
21) A commitment to lifelong physical health. It’s something that everybody talks about all the time (not just pro athletes), but so few of us give consistent effort to maintaining it. I remember the moment it hit home for me was when I came across a quote from the Dalai Lama on humanity: he said that what puzzled him most about mankind is that ‘we sacrifice so much of our health in the pursuit of money, only to later spend so much of our money to try and recuperate our health.’ So true.” – Collete Davis, Professional Race Car Driver and Co-Founder of TechDrive
22) “When I was 18, I was a pretty angry kid. If I knew about meditation back then as I do now, I would have been able to train the mind to stay in the present moment and not let the outside environment cause me any difficulty. Meditation has taught me how to bring an intense level of concentration, focus, and passion to my work, while at the same time being able appreciate all the beauty in the world.” – Jeffrey Zlotnik, Founder of The Meditation Initiative
23) “I wish I’d focused more on creating habits and processes that made *the moment* better, rather than working for future outcomes. There were so many times when I punished my body — all-nighters, drugs, sitting and staring at screens all day — in the name of “tomorrow.” If I’d pulled my head up and actually worked in the moment, I would have preserved my body and sanity (and still achieved all those goals). I also would have been more bold. No apologies, no holding back.” – Charlie Hoehn, Keynote Speaker, Author of Play It Away, and Marketing Expert
24) “I wish I would have focused more on developing self-awareness in all areas of my life ranging from the activities that excited me to what worked and what didn’t. One of the things I realized over the years, is that the first step to improvement is awareness, which requires listening! Only then can we find a better path.” – Scott Britton, Founder of Life-Long Learner and The Competitive Edge Podcast
25) “I really believe that knowing one’s self can help you with everything in life, from how to achieve your own personal goals to working and communicating with others. I’ve found that understanding my Enneagram Type and also my Personal Insight Inventory from InColor Insight has helped me develop a foundation for improving my relationships and achieving my goals.” – Hiten Shah, Co-Founder of KISSMetrics
26) “What I would tell my younger self is that everything always works out. No matter what decision you make, everything always works out. No matter what direction you take, everything always works out. You may not know it at the time, but each and every time you look back, you will know in your heart that it’s true.” – Kym McNicholas, Emmy Award-Winning TV Personality and Executive Director, Extreme Tech Challenge
27) “I would have taken a one-year deferral on going to Columbia University, and asked my uncles whether I could go live with them and work in one of their new companies in New York or California. I had extended family doing really interesting things in venture capital and artificial intelligence, but I just never thought about capitalizing on those family connections and learning what I could about business and real life. If I’d have done that, I could have entered college with more maturity, ambition, and perspective.” – Dr. Geoffrey Miller, Associate Professor at The University of New Mexico
28) “I would have taken statistics in college, had more sex, and married rich. (In that order.)” – Nancy Lublin, CEO of DoSomething.org
29) “I would tell myself to embrace learning as the gateway to your possibilities. Mindfully pursue all forms of learning – both formal and informal – as a life-long journey and document your insights along the way. Take time to reflect on your life’s vision and purpose and pivot and reinvent yourself as needed to realize your aspirations.” – Sophie Vlessing, Senior VP of Strategy and Innovation at Kaplan
30) “Base your life on integrity, character and accountability. Your destiny is what YOU make it. Live each day with courage. Take pride in your work. Always finish what you start. Do what has to be done. Be tough when you have to, but be fair. When you make a promise, keep it. Remember that some things aren’t for sale. Learn from your mistakes. When you’re wrong, admit it and move on.” – Frank Shankwitz, Founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and RippleEffect.org
31) “The teaching most beautifully taught to me by my friend and mentor Annie Lalla-Pagan is that falling in love and doing whatever it takes to stay there is the surest path to self actualization/enlightenment. If I were to teach my 18 yr old self anything, it would be specifically to take the path of gratitude and intimacy.” – Anthony David Adams, Co-Founder of PRMatch.com
32) “Much of my success has been the result of surrounding myself with good people-many of whom I met simply by asking if they’d get a cup of coffee with me. I wish I’d started asking at 18 rather than 22!” – Megan Gebhart, Author of 52 Cups of Coffee
33) “As Charlie ‘Tremendous’ Jones has shared…’We are the same today as we will be in five years except for the people we meet and the books we read.’ Surround yourself with winners and you’ll become one too. Place positive and encouraging information in our minds and again, we absorb that wisdom.” – Greg S. Reid, NYT Bestselling Author and World-Renowned Speaker
34) “At 55 years of age, having spent most of my working life in the spotlight, whether in front of a camera, on film sets, or on stage, most people find it hard to believe that I was once very shy. It was hard for me to connect with others and it didn’t really seem to matter at the time. After I started working as a entrepreneur in my late 30’s, I realized just how important the creation of relationships (whether with family, friends or in a working environment) would be. I would let me 18 year old self know just how important healthy, close-knit, and sharing relationships are for your mental and emotional well-being.” – Clarissa Burt, Clarissa Burt International
35) “If I could have taught myself one thing at eighteen years old to create a better foundation for my future success, it would have been to put myself out there and make as many connections to people as possible. The more connections and good impressions made, the more job offers and opportunities you receive. I would have also taught myself not to just make these connections, but to attempt to sustain them as well.” – Mariah Spears, Top 20 Finalist on So You Think You Can Dance Season 10
36) “Personally, I would have loved to learn the art of psychic income (when you do things for other people as a gift with no thought of return) and relationship-building before 18 so I could leverage relationships with mentors who would have changed my life earlier. I would have loved to have read Napoleon Hill’s Think & Grow Rich and all of Earl Nightingale’s trainings as well.” – Patrick Carney, The Artiste
38) “When it comes to relationship-building…1) Love yourself. 2) Forgive yourself (and others). 3) Focus on what you want out of your partner, not what you don’t want, and frame it as though you have it NOW. Everything is energy, and you get what you focus on. 4) If you have a relationship that ends or one that you were hopeful about that ended up not lasting, don’t let your disappointment get the best of you. 5) Learn about trust, commitment, and surrender. 6) Give all you have. 7) Receive all that is given. 8) Have lots of great sex! If you don’t yet know how, figure it out!!!” – Ben Rode, Co-Founder of Explosive Sexual Healing
39) “Early in adult life, many of us expect to find “the one” life partner that will instinctively address our desires and comfort our sorrows..Such soul mates are like unicorns, almost real, difficult to encounter, impossible to capture. Sometimes brief moments in a loving relationship can be most impactful among our lifetime of experiences. The quality of a relationship can’t be measured by how long it lasts; relationship quality is measured by loving intensity in melding of souls, if even for a touch, glance, or a moment. That moment can impact our whole lifetime. After 17, I learned a truth: love, life, and relationships are moments.” – Reese Jones, Venture Strategist, Associate Founder at Singularity University
40) “When I was 18, I was a poor kid from Pittsburgh heading to Yale, not feeling I fit in even before I arrived. I was ashamed of my background and felt others wouldn’t accept me for who I was. I would have coached me in the following ways: 1) Take a couple people into your confidence who you feel you can trust and share deeply with and let them ‘have your back.’ 2) Put a relationship action plan together and don’t forget your peers…spend more time earning the respect and building the long term relationships with the exceptional people who will grow up with you to change the world. 3) Learn how to love. You spent your young life looking for sex and trophies who you thought helped you feel good about yourself. Make intimacy a priority and if that means preserving yourself, your time, and your sexuality for those you love and waiting till you figure that out, that’s OK. 4) Spend more time getting to know your dad and being open with him. You are not going to have him much longer.” – Keith Ferrazzi, NYT Bestselling Author of Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back?, and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight
41) “My only regrets in life, both professionally and personally, is when I was not loyal or truthful to the people who helped me along the way. If I had done what was taught to me as a child throughout my life, things would have gone much easier.” – Bill Allen, Author of My Rad Career and Hollywood Actor
42) “All things considered, I couldn’t ask for a better experience in my 36 years. But we are living in a globalized era, despite the fact that many people never see beyond their corner of the world. At 18 again, I would travel and immerse myself in as many cultures as possible so that I could understand people and economies more fully later in life” – Ted Alling, Partner at Lamp Post Group
43) “I would have asked my 18-year-old self about lessons to teach my 13-year-old self, and then followed them. One would have been that it’s more important to be respected than liked. Another would be to do fewer magic tricks, because some people think magicians are creepy.” – Adam M. Grant, Ph.D. Wharton Professor and author of Give and Take
44) “When I was 18, I was busy learning a variety of skills, some of which ended up being helpful while others ended up being useless. This is fairly normal, I think. But in addition to learning skills, I also felt pretty unconfident and insecure about a lot of things. So if I could have go back and teach myself something, I don’t think it would be a specific skill; it would be more of a pep talk. I’d say, ‘Hey, 18-year-old self, keep working on stuff. Someday you’ll make something that matters to people. It’s okay if you get frustrated, but don’t hate yourself and don’t be unkind to others just because you don’t always see the path that lies ahead.’ Oh, I might also bring myself back a fake ID from the future. It would have made a few other things easier.” – Chris Guillebeau, NYT Bestselling Author and Founder of The Art of Non-Conformity
45) “I would have told myself to embrace fear. Fear isn’t always a sign of danger; sometimes it’s an internal reminder that you’re lacking a skill or knowledge that you need. The most powerful, inspirational people learn to use it as fuel rather than letting it restrain them or cause them to want to limit the success of others. I’m inspired by people who seize the alarm that fear provides and refuse to let it stop them from growing, learning, and standing for the things in which they believe.” – Seth Rogin, Chief Revenue Officer of Mashable
46) “Having made a wealth of mistakes in my life, it is interesting that you ask about what I would tell myself at 18 because what I did at 18 was the smartest thing I ever did and would unequivocally recommend it to any 18-year old. I spent two years living in Argentina as a volunteer for my church. While not everyone feels a connection to a faith, I would encourage everyone to spend a year or two at that age volunteering for a cause you believe in. Nothing will build a stronger foundation for your future than the growth you’ll make devoting yourself to serving others.” – Devin Thorpe, Champion of Social Good
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I feel so fortunate to have shared these amazing individuals’ words of advice with you, and, as previously mentioned, this collective modern-day “foundation for success” will become my curriculum as I embark on The Gap Year Experiment. Head on over to the newly launched site to receive more words of advice and follow the ultimate learning journey I am undergoing in order to help you take control of your own education.
Thank you, and cheers to your success!
(BONUS POINTS: “Comment” below with your favorite lessons from above, and share your thoughts after hearing what Tony Hsieh, the Founder of UGGs, pro athletes, and others have to say about establishing a foundation for future success!)
Why You Should Prefer Emails to Phone Calls if You Want to Be More Productive
“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!
4 Questions You Need to Answer Before You Reach the Level of Success You So Desperately Crave
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!
The Empathetic Heart: How The CHO of VaynerMedia Is Changing The Way We Work
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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