- Michael Thompson
What sets them apart are the simple acts we don’t see
When I was growing up, my dad told me that the fastest way to get what you want is to get to know the people who already have it.
But I didn’t really understand his advice until my wife and I moved to rural Spain to start a family. Cut off geographically from the centers of my industry, I had to create my own online networks from scratch. Since I couldn’t go into the city every day to make connections in the coaching and writing worlds, I decided to take just one hour a week to reach out online to people whose work I enjoyed. Quickly, that decision began paying dividends, as I started to build a network of people I admired — a network that today includes top businesspeople, renowned coaches, and prolific creators.
The fastest way to get what you want is to get to know the people who already have it.
It took me 15 years to follow my dad’s advice, but I’m glad I finally did. In learning how successful people navigate their own lives, I’ve managed to better steer my own. The most powerful discovery I’ve made is that successful people don’t have any hidden superpowers. They aren’t doing anything dramatically different from you or me. They’ve simply made the decision to do these six things consistently.
They proactively share everything they have
I run an online group with a handful of the people I’ve met through my weekly outreach. From the beginning, one thing that’s stood out to me is their generosity. All of them make it a point to share their time and resources, and they also don’t hesitate to give their best ideas away for free.
That’s not to say that they’re selfless to their own detriment. I think often of something my mentor, leadership speaker Conor Neill, once said: “The fastest way to see your ideas become a reality is by giving them to someone else.” And the more you offer to the world, I’ve learned, the more opportunities you will have in the future. The phrase “When you give, you get” is cliché for a reason: It’s grounded in truth.
They write things down
The phrase I hear most often when dealing with highflyers is: “Give me a second — I’m taking notes.” They understand that achieving their goals is all about analyzing what’s happening around them, recognizing patterns, and recalling what they’ve learned. Writing down their thoughts and ideas on a daily basis expedites this process. Moving slowly now — taking the time to think, and process — is the key to moving fast later.
They see failure as part of the process
Good salesmen don’t focus on how many deals they’re closing. They focus on the number of people they’re contacting each day. Success comes from giving yourself opportunities to try. Writer and entrepreneur Seth Godin goes as far as to say, “If I fail more than you do, I win.”
Every successful person I’ve met embraces this mindset. They don’t see their actions as failures — instead, they know messing up is a necessary step on the path to one day getting things right. Mistakes are simply an opportunity to reevaluate and do things better the next time.
They seek out negative feedback
The easiest way to stomach negative feedback is to ask for it. It’s hard to get angry with someone whose advice you request to hear. Successful people understand this. They don’t hesitate to ask others for their opinion. They genuinely want to know what they may have missed and where they can do better.
But they don’t just ask anyone. They understand that wasting a person’s time jeopardizes trust. Instead, they take the time to identify the right people who can give them the feedback they truly need to hear.
“I do not learn anything when I am speaking. I learn a lot when I am listening.”
They don’t hesitate to say no
Recently, my friend Rafael Sarandeses, a racecar driver turned serial entrepreneur, told me something that’s stuck with me: “Everyone says time is our most valuable asset. But it’s not. Our presence is.”
In thinking about his words, I’ve come to realize that the most successful people aren’t necessarily any smarter, faster, or stronger than everyone else. They just choose to spend more time living in the present moment. They aren’t afraid to say no to opportunities that will distract them from their goals. I used to think this was rude, but I now believe Warren Buffett got it right when he said: “Integrity is saying no to most things.”
They listen more than they speak
Jim Quigley, the former CEO of Deloitte, put it best: “I do not learn anything when I am speaking. I learn a lot when I am listening.” Both relationships and breakthroughs are built by understanding people’s needs. The fastest way to impede progress in both of these areas is by prioritizing your one mouth over your two ears.
Together, these six things have formed my most important, and biggest realization: Successful people don’t try and reinvent the wheel. They simply do the right things on a daily basis. Anyone can share. Anyone can ask for feedback. Anyone can lift up the people around them.
But to move from good to great, you can’t just do these things when you feel like it. You have to do them when you don’t. The key is consistency. There is no hack.