We’re almost one month into 2017 - have you taken the time to reflect on how you can make sure that 2017 becomes your best year ever? If not, here are a few tips on how to do so, taking in lessons from some of the world’s highest achievers...
1. Nothing will change, until you change. Lasting, positive changes in your business, finances and relationships won’t take place until you change. What are the beliefs, habits, and set of ideas that are holding you back? Take a good assessment of where you are today, where you want to be this year, and ask yourself: what are the changes I need to make in myself today so that I can get there?
2. Give up the things you want - for the sake of the things you want even more. My grandmother was born in the poverty-stricken countryside of Brazil, so was her mother and her grandmother. She didn’t want her four daughters to grow up to become housekeepers in the countryside. One day she packed her belongings and moved, without connections or money, to the city. She was quick to find a job sewing clothes. She struggled for a long time, lived in the ghetto, but today her daughters are accomplished professionals. I wouldn’t be writing this column today if my grandmother hadn’t decided to give up something she wanted for something she wanted even more.
3. Raise your standards. If your education standards are sufficiently high, you won’t let yourself not study for an exam. If your honesty standards are sufficiently high, you won’t let yourself cheat. Your standards dictate what you do. What time do you wake up everyday? How committed are you to be a better you? How are you treating those around you? How are you treating yourself? Are those standards high enough, and in compatibility with, the vision you have for yourself?
4. Understand that everything was once nothing but an idea. This thought came to me sometime last year as I visited the Google Campus in Mountain View, California. If you went back to 1995, there would be no building, no search engine, and no brand. They were once nothing but an idea. The same is true for the computer you use, the pen you hold, and the book you read. They were once little embryos that were nurtured just enough to become something that, today, benefits the world.
5. See yourself already there. You need to align your goals with a visual representation of what those outcomes look like. Do you want a prosperous business? Then everyday, imagine yourself in your new office, see yourself dressed up, conducting business, touching the walls, seeing the people who are gladly working for you to make your vision come true. Next, think retroactively about the links that go from that vision back to where you are. Then take immediate action on those links. In the words of the Nobel prize winning duo Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky:
"We often decide that an outcome is extremely unlikely or impossible, because we are unable to imagine any chain of events that could cause it to occur. The defect, often, is in our imagination." Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky
6. Make sure you stick to your North Star. Back in the day, explorers depended on the North star in order to find their way around the vast oceans. No matter where they were, they could always look up and know their location and subsequent direction. No matter where you may find yourself, no matter the size of the waves, no matter how dark and cold the ocean has become, trust that by following your North Star - that thing you know you were put on Earth to do - you will not be lead astray.
7. Embrace your purpose. Make the decision to step into your purpose, unabashedly and unapologetically. I have known ever since I was a teenager that I wanted to be in academia. The words of Nietzsche, Leibniz, and Joseph Conrad were always home to me. It took me years rediscover my purpose and to fully step into it. Once I did, it was as if I had been born again.
8. Know that you get what you tolerate. The quality of your friendships is a reflection of things you tolerate for yourself. I do not tolerate any negativity in my life. I made the decision long ago to not have anyone around me who isn’t positive, upbeat, and forward-looking. My quality of life has increased dramatically. You only live one life. Make sure you spend it with people who care about you and who inspire you towards better things.
"I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned Coke bottles for the 5-cent deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple." Steve Jobs
9. In the face of overwhelming choice, keep moving in the right direction. Choices are tempting. You saved enough money and quit your job to start your company. You look around and see your friends and relatives hinting at you to come back to "safety." What do you do? Keep your head down, work, and ignore all else. Keep moving in the right direction.
10. Remember to only run your own race. The Evil of Comparison is real. It makes you unmotivated and unable to think clearly. Don’t look to the sides. Stop comparing yourself to others. What’s worse, stop comparing your beginnings to someone’s middle. The circumstances and conditions are different. Worry about your own race.
11. Be like Michael Phelps: intensity of purpose. Here is what the greatest Olympian of all time said about hard work during last year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit in Boston:
"People were taking breaks during and after the Olympics. I was working all the time. Six months later, I broke the world record... Sometimes my goggles broke in practice, that's how intensely I pushed myself. So when my goggles fell off in the water at the Olympics, my mind went back to those moments, and I was ready... It's what you do in the dark that brings you to light. It's the stuff behind closed doors, the blood, sweat and tears." Michael Phelps
12. All great things take time. You probably won’t accomplish many of the things you started this year and that’s OK. You started the engines and the car is now in movement. It will eventually get to its destination. My grandmother didn’t wake up at the end of her first year in the city with grown daughters, with jobs and families. It took time. She was willing to fight for it. She was willing to wait.
13. The Grand Hotel Called World. You live in the Grand Hotel Called World. You are born into this Hotel and, if you are lucky, you spend 75 years in it. Then you check out and leave. I understand and agree that it is not your fault that you may have been born in the lower-level rooms, without as nice amenities. But you can do something to change that. You have the power to change rooms. Make sure you use your time in the Hotel wisely, so that when the day comes for you to check out, you can look back and say that you are doing so without regrets.