There is always that one question that may either be very easy to answer or it will bother you- are you happy? Are you stimulated by life? Only you can truly know the answer to these questions, but if they are answers you don’t like, then you know it’s time for a change.
For a very long time, I was stagnant. While I believed in my potential, all I was capable of was talk and not action. Finally, at the age of 23 and living in Shanghai, I have reached a point where I am happy, motivated and more ambitious than ever. This is due to a few reasons. I am in a huge city where social serendipity is around every corner. As a social being, this element of fate and being able to meet new people everyday plays a huge role in my happiness. Another important factor has been working for a start-up company run by incredibly capable people who are really going for it. My bosses have really pushed me to pursue new ideas and to be curious. If not for their inspiration, my travel blog Dots on a Map would not exist.
If I have been able to push past my mental barriers and explore my long lost creativity, you can as well. The secret to living a life you love is discovering what gets you inspired and excited, then making a conscious effort to fill your life with these things.
Here are some big lessons I have learned in the last couple of months on achieving success and happiness:
Write down every single idea that pops in your head.
“Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable.”
-Francis Bacon Sr.
When you are going about your mundane daily activities, you are struck by ideas of different calibers. Most of us find ourselves stewing over these for a little while and then forgetting about them. Don’t let this happen! You may have stumbled across gold unknowingly. Many of my best articles and life-changing realizations have come to me on cab rides or right before bedtime. Take advantage of the notes function on your iPhone. You’ll be surprised at how you can put these ideas to use.
Taylor Swift records inspirations for music that come to her randomly on her iPhone so she won’t forget them. Before you knock me for using Taylor Swift as an example, remember this is a woman who earns over $50 million a year- she must be doing something right.
Surround yourself with people who challenge you.
“If you are the smartest person in the room you are in the wrong room.”
I stumbled across this quote a while ago and it has really stuck with me. The people you spend time with play a huge role in who you become. There is a reason why peer pressure exists, as well as the quote “when you sleep with dogs, you get fleas.” Just like you find yourself picking up the mannerisms of people you spend a lot of time with, your behavior will be influenced by the actions of those around you.
If your friends’ priorities consist of smoking weed and killing time together, these also become your priorities. If your friends are entrepreneurs, brainstorming creative ideas and risk-taking become your priorities. Figure out the type of person you want to be and surround yourself with people who have similar aspirations or have already achieved them. By hanging out with people who are “smarter” than you, you put yourself in a position that enables constant learning. Not only can you pick up tips and tricks to success, you will have more courage to go for your dreams.
Set goals for yourself.
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
-Henry David Thoreau
Goal setting is absolutely essential for achieving success. After all, how do you know what steps to take unless you know where you are going? Having clear goals will give a purpose to your efforts and help eliminate activities that are not moving you forward towards your goal. Don’t waste your time. Maximize your productivity by mapping out your destination.
I find it extremely useful to set both long-term and short-term goals. Before I started at my company, my bosses gave me an assignment to outline a ten year power plan. I was required to state my purpose in life, what strengths or advantages I already had, and what success looked like realistically to me. Although I initially found the assignment to be stupid (mainly because I didn’t want to put in the effort), it has helped me structure my life in a way that is proactive towards what I want to achieve. Find the ten year power plan by Carolyn Buck Luce here. I highly recommend anyone who doesn’t know what they want to do with their lives to take the time and fill this out.
Short-term goals can be weekly or monthly. Mine are to write at least three articles a week, to work out three times a week and to complete any big projects required at work. These are a great reminder, and you will derive satisfaction by being able to cross things off your checklist.
Be a go-getter.
People aren’t going to pay attention to someone who passively waits for an opportunity. However, they will be forced to notice someone who is forward and unafraid to ask for what they want. If you want to be published, write a compelling pitch. Want to be noticed by recruiters and HR? Follow up on those job-seeking emails and be persistent. If you are looking to network, you certainly won’t forge valuable new connections by standing in a corner and talking to your friends.
Always sell yourself in a compelling way to stand out from the crowd. People admire the audacious. As a small example, I recently put up my apartment for rent, and was approached by 30 eager people. The girl who eventually got my apartment was the one who called me directly and questioned me aggressively about my roommates. While I was annoyed, she ended up bothering me enough to get her way.
There is never a right time to do anything, so just start now.
“Stop talking, start doing.”
If you wait until you feel completely ready to start your endeavors, you are going to wait forever. What characterizes a right time anyway? It doesn’t exist.
No matter what, starting is always going to be clumsy. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, how much preparation you put in, or how much research you do. Execution is completely different from anything theoretical. You will end up straying from your plan and you can’t predict the complications you may run into until you begin. Hit the ground running now and stop wasting precious time.
If I waited until I was a great writer to launch my travel blog, it wouldn’t exist. Dive head first into the unknown, take risks and learn from your mistakes. Getting started will elate you and show you that you can do it. Plus you can always improve your skills as you go.
Live with a sense of urgency.
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
-Leonardo Da Vinci
We are all going to die. Quite soon actually. If you find yourself putting more things off than you are starting, you are wasting time. Every idea you have and all your dreams should come with a sense of imminence. If you sit and wait around forever you will never grow and achieve success the way you want to. In the blink of an eye, you’ll be old and wondering why you never went on that dream trip, why you didn’t take that risk, or work for that creative company rather than the corporation.
There is no secret to being successful and happy. Those we look up to and put on a pedestal have worked incredibly hard to get where they are. They had a vision, and they weren’t afraid to make mistakes and sacrifice the blood, sweat and tears. Nothing is achieved overnight. Understand that failure happens to everyone and you have to take the plunge first. Failure is at least a sign of activity. #stoptalkingstartdoing