The 3 Shortcuts to Wisdom

books-768426_960_720Recently I answered a question on Quora on the topic of shortcuts to wisdom. I’ve expanded my ideas and want to share them with my readers here at Improve My Life This Year.

Year by year, I’m sure you notice that you become wiser. What if we could accelerate that process? What if we could become wiser, faster? We can. Let’s see how. Let’s see the 3 shortcuts to wisdom.

Shortcut #1 to Wisdom – Mistakes

You learn most when you are in-over-your-head, taking on challenges you never faced before. And in that kind of environment, you will screw up a lot and make many mistakes. The pain and frustration of those setbacks will spark awareness and new understanding. And you’ll be on the fast-track to wisdom. That is of course if you engage in self-reflection at each moment and use your mistakes as learning opportunities.

Shortcut #2 to Wisdom – Mentors

The cool thing about mentors is, they have already screwed up a lot. So, of course, you can spend a lot of time making your own mistakes, but another great way to become wise is to learn from the mistakes and experiences of others. On the plus side, learning through mentors saves you a lot of struggle and pain. On the down side, that lack of direct experience makes it harder for you to truly understand as well as you can from your own mistakes.

Shortcut #3 to Wisdom – Reading

The final shortcut is reading. Think of this, if you read a book by Elon Musk, you are almost having a conversation with him. If you read my post, you are, for a brief moment, peering into my little bit of wisdom. Reading is not so dissimilar to finding a mentor. The conversation is just one-way from them to you, but you are not limited by time and space. You can select from millions of potential mentors from the past and present with a quick trip to the library. Or better yet, you can get a Kindle and read on-the-go, throughout the day. Wherever and however you prefer, just find  a way to read.

Good luck, and may you find wisdom on your life journey!

Jamie

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Eat That Frog!

51eRBJgA9hL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_This week’s theme is all about accomplishing great things. And one of the best books I’ve read on the topics of overcoming procrastination and increasing productivity is Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time

Below is the introduction of the book which provides a nice outline of its contents and overall philosophy.

The introduction comes via the book’s Amazon page.

Introduction: Eat That Frog

This is a wonderful time to be alive. There have never been more possibilities and opportunities for you to achieve more of your goals than exist today. As perhaps never before in human history, you are actually drowning in options. In fact, there are so many good things that you can do that your ability to decide among them may be the critical determinant of what you accomplish in life.

If you are like most people today, you are overwhelmed with too much to do and too little time. As you struggle to get caught up, new tasks and responsibilities just keep rolling in, like the waves of the ocean. Because of this, you will never be able to do everything you have to do. You will never be caught up. You will always be behind in some of your tasks and responsibilities, and probably in many of them.

The Need to Be Selective

For this reason, and perhaps more than ever before, your ability to select your most important task at each moment, and then to get started on that task and to get it done both quickly and well, will probably have more of an impact on your success than any other quality or skill you can develop.

An average person who develops the habit of setting clear priorities and getting important tasks completed quickly will run circles around a genius who talks a lot and makes wonderful plans but who gets very little done.

The Truth about Frogs

Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.

Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it. It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment.

The first rule of frog eating is this:
If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.

This is another way of saying that if you have two important tasks before you, start with the biggest, hardest, and most important task first. Discipline yourself to begin immediately and then to persist until the task is complete before you go on to something else.

Think of this as a test. Treat it like a personal challenge. Resist the temptation to start with the easier task. Continually remind yourself that one of the most important decisions you make each day is what you will do immediately and what you will do later, if you do it at all.

The second rule of frog eating is this:
If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long.

The key to reaching high levels of performance and productivity is to develop the lifelong habit of tackling your major task first thing each morning. You must develop the routine of “eating your frog” before you do anything else and without taking too much time to think about it.

Take Action Immediately

In study after study of men and women who get paid more and promoted faster, the quality of “action orientation” stands out as the most observable and consistent behavior they demonstrate in everything they do. Successful, effective people are those who launch directly into their major tasks and then discipline themselves to work steadily and single-mindedly until those tasks are complete.

In our world, and especially in our business world, you are paid and promoted for getting specific, measurable results. You are paid for making a valuable contribution and especially for making the most important contribution that is expected of you.

“Failure to execute” is one of the biggest problems in organizations today. Many people confuse activity with accomplishment. They talk continually, hold endless meetings, and make wonderful plans, but in the final analysis, no one does the job and gets the results required.

Develop the Habits of Success

Your success in life and work will be determined by the kinds of habits that you develop over time. The habit of setting priorities, overcoming procrastination, and getting on with your most important task is a mental and physical skill. As such, this habit is learnable through practice and repetition, over and over again, until it locks into your subconscious mind and becomes a permanent part of your behavior. Once it becomes a habit, it becomes both automatic and easy to do.

This habit of starting and completing important tasks has an immediate and continuous payoff. You are designed mentally and emotionally in such a way that task completion gives you a positive feeling. It makes you happy. It makes you feel like a winner.

Whenever you complete a task of any size or importance, you feel a surge of energy, enthusiasm, and self-esteem. The more important the completed task, the happier, more confident, and more powerful you feel about yourself and your world.

The completion of an important task triggers the release of endorphins in your brain. These endorphins give you a natural “high.” The endorphin rush that follows successful completion of any task makes you feel more positive, personable, creative, and confident.

Develop a Positive Addiction

Here is one of the most important of the so-called secrets of success. You can actually develop a “positive addiction” to endorphins and to the feeling of enhanced clarity, confidence, and competence that they trigger. When you develop this addiction, you will, at an unconscious level, begin to organize your life in such a way that you are continually starting and completing ever more important tasks and projects. You will actually become addicted, in a very positive sense, to success and contribution.

One of the keys to your living a wonderful life, having a successful career, and feeling terrific about yourself is to develop the habit of starting and finishing important jobs. When you do, this behavior will take on a power of its own and you’ll find it easier to complete important tasks than not to complete them.

No Shortcuts

You remember the story of the man who stops a musician on a street in New York and asks how he can get to Carnegie Hall. The musician replies, “Practice, man, practice.”

Practice is the key to mastering any skill. Fortunately, your mind is like a muscle. It grows stronger and more capable with use. With practice, you can learn any behavior or develop any habit that you consider either desirable or necessary.

The Three Ds of New Habit Formation

You need three key qualities to develop the habits of focus and concentration, which are all learnable. They are decision, discipline, and determination.

First, make a decision to develop the habit of task completion. Second, discipline yourself to practice the principles you are about to learn over and over until they become automatic. And third, back everything you do with determination until the habit is locked in and becomes a permanent part of your personality.

Visualize Yourself as You Want to Be

There is a special way that you can accelerate your progress toward becoming the highly productive, effective, efficient person that you want to be. It consists of your thinking continually about the rewards and benefits of being an action-oriented, fast-moving, and focused person. See yourself as the kind of person who gets important jobs done quickly and well on a consistent basis.

Your mental picture of yourself has a powerful effect on your behavior. Visualize yourself as the person you intend to be in the future. Your self-image, the way you see yourself on the inside, largely determines your performance on the outside. All improvements in your outer life begin with improvements on the inside, in your mental pictures.

You have a virtually unlimited ability to learn and develop new skills, habits, and abilities. When you train yourself, through repetition and practice, to overcome procrastination and get your most important tasks completed quickly, you will move yourself onto the fast track in your life and career and step on the accelerator.

Eat That Frog!

Incredible advice and a fantastic book for people that want to get serious about improving their career or academic life.

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Get it on Kindle and make this week the start of a new, more productive you!

Motivation for Monday

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The only thing standing between where you are now and where you want to be is the work that it will take to bridge the gap.

Get busy this week.

For some self-improvement ideas to inspire you, check out our self-improvement curriculum, our suggested book reading list, our Facebook page, and our Twitter page.

– Jamie

Stop Outsourcing Confidence

chess-1464959_960_720One simple hack to improve your life is this: stop outsourcing your confidence. What do I mean?

Usually, our confidence comes from outcomes. Get a good test score – you’ll think you are a good student. Girl says yes when you ask her out on date – you’ll think you are a cool guy. Land a promotion, win a match of arm-wrestling, finally make that perfect omelette – and for a moment, you feel you are the greatest.

The problem is, outcome-based confidence is fleeting. You don’t get an “A” on every assignment. You go through fights and breakups in relationships, you’ll screw up at work some days and you’ll sometimes lose at things you wanted to win so much.

What happens then?

If you are outsourcing your confidence, those moments will crush you. They’ll lower your sense of self-worth. And if you hit a rough patch with a sting of bad results, you’ll suddenly find yourself facing a crisis of self-confidence.

What’s the alternative?

Internal-based confidence. How does it work? You take back control of your confidence by placing it processes rather than results.

The beauty of this system is that you have full control over it. Instead of looking at the grade on the test which can be influenced by things outside of your control, focus on your study process. Did you study enough? Did you use good study methods? Did you pay attention in class? If you followed a great process, then have confidence that you are a good student and that in spite of this one bad result, you will be achieving success in the long run.

You see, processes are always under your control. You can’t control whether you win the game, but you can control whether you practiced, worked out in the gym, ate well, prioritized rest, etc.

You may succeed today; you may not. Don’t place your self-worth in hands of today’s results.

You will succeed in the long-run if you build and follow good processes in your life. Check out our self-improvement curriculum for some great processes to start building today.

Jamie

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You, CEO – Monitoring

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Welcome to our first post in our new series You, CEO. Be sure to check out the introduction here if you haven’t already.

Monitoring

Companies generally don’t make decisions based on emotions, feelings, guesses, or blind chance. But if you are honest, those factors often play a role in the decisions you make in your own life.

If we want to copy the success of top CEOs, let’s start by learning to copy their decision-making strategies. One of the best decision-making tools is data analysis. It’s a huge and growing industry that is changing the business world. It can have an equally powerful impact on our lives as well.

However, before we can analyze data, we need to have data. That’s today’s topic – getting the right data.

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You Get What You Measure

You get what you measure. This is one of the immutable laws of business, and it can be applied to your personal life as well. Whatever you choose to measure, you will begin to focus on it and improve it. Likewise, what you decline to measure generally gets overlooked and rarely sees improvement.

So step 1 is simply to choose what areas of your life you want to improve. Step 2 then is to choose a specific way to measure progress in that area. For example, if I want to save money, I should start tracking how much money I have saved at the end of each week. If I want to get stronger, I should start tracking how many pushups I do each day. If I want to become more intelligent, I could start tracking how many self-improvement books I read each month.

Now step 2 can be easily messed up, so be careful. Remember we said, you get what you measure. If for example you only track how many pushups you do, you may wind up focusing on pushups to the exclusion of other exercises. Then you aren’t really getting stronger overall; you are just getting better at a specific exercise. So choose carefully and choose multiple measurements to get better overall progress.

I use an Excel spreadsheet to measure my progress across several categories. You can do it digitally like me or write it out by hand as well. Choose the method most comfortable to you and stick to it. It may feel hard to at first, but I promise you can develop the habit within a month if you tough out the first few weeks.

Then, just as a CEO has piles of data to look at when making decisions, you too will have the data you need to stay motivated, track progress, and make well-informed decisions about your life. We’ll build on this idea in our next post in the series CEO, You. See you soon.

Jamie

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P.S. If you want to do even more to improve your life today, sign up for the free version of Grammarly. Grammarly is a real-time grammar editor that will keep your writing error-free, warn you about plagiarism, and help you improve your writing. After all, as the CEO of your life, you can’t be a sloppy communicator. Try Grammarly today and start writing like a pro!

We were just featured on Inc.com

Improve My Life This Year is one day shy of its 3-month birthday. And thanks to wonderfully supportive readers like you, we’ve gained a lot of traction already. In fact, today we were featured on Inc.com

Check it out – 3 Unusual Secrets of the Most Confident People

Thank you for your ongoing support and motivation my friends!

Jamie

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You, CEO – Introduction

black-and-white-1282290_960_720Hi readers!

Welcome to an incredibly important new series here at Improve My Life This Year. For the next week, we will cover 7 ways to overhaul your life by thinking like a CEO.

I graduated with an MBA in 2009, and the things I learned in those classes have had many amazing spillover benefits into the rest of my life.

When you think about it, you are not so different than a company. You have income. You have expenses. You have limited time. You have competitors. Goals. People who expect things from you.

The thing is, a company has a CEO who helps manage the whole company and keep it on track. Who do you have? You have you, of course! Whether you realize it or not, you are the CEO of your own life. How has your performance been so far?

If you are serious about improving your life this year, consider taking your role as CEO more seriously.

For the next week, I’ll be your management consultant and I’ll give you simple, practical advice to help you reboot your company (you!) and set it on a path of long-term success.

Along the way, you’ll learn how fundamental business concepts that major companies follow every day such as Pareto’s Law, ROI, Monitoring, A/B Testing, Data Mining, Benchmarking, and Branding can be applied to your life for fantastic results. Are you ready?

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Welcome to You, CEO.

Our first meeting is tomorrow. See you soon!

Jamie

Stay connected! Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter! 🙂

P.S. If you want to get started on some homework before the first lesson begins, sign up for the free version of Grammarly. Grammarly is a real-time grammar editor that will keep your writing error-free, warn you about plagiarism, and help you improve your writing. After all, a CEO can’t be a sloppy communicator. Try Grammarly today and I’ll see you in the boardroom tomorrow!