Not happy with your professional or personal life? If that’s the case, the problem isn’t your upbringing, or a lack of opportunities, or bad luck, or the result of other people holding you back.
The problem is you.
If our lives suck, we’re letting it happen. Maybe the problem lies in what we believe – and in what we do.
1. We mistake political gain for achievement.
Infighting, positioning, trying to look better by making other people look worse… playing politics can help get you ahead.
But if you win by politics you ultimately lose since political success is usually based on the impulses, whims, and caprices of other people – often other people you don’t even like. That means today’s success can be tomorrow’s failure – and that success or failure is largely outside your control.
Real achievements are based on merit. Real achievements can’t be given or taken away by anyone.
Real success is truly satisfying.
2. We’re afraid of sniping or sarcasm.
Try something different. Try something other people won’t try. Almost immediately people will talk about you – and not in a good way.
The only way to keep people from being snide, disparaging, or judgmental is to say and do what everyone else does. Then, of course, you live their life and not yours. And you won’t be happy.
See people talking about you as a sign you’re on the right track – your track. Your track is the happy track.
3. We don’t try to be last.
Everyone likes to be first. But often it’s better to be last: The last to give up, the last to leave, the last to keep trying, the last to hold on to principles and values.
The world is full of people who quit. The world is full of people who pivot (even though pivot is sometimes just a fancy word for “give up.”)
There will always be people who are smarter, more talented, better connected, and better funded. But they don’t always win. Be the last to give up on yourself; then, even if you don’t succeed, you still win.
4. We equate acquisition with satisfaction.
Psychologists call it “hedonistic adaptation,” a phenomenon in which people quickly turn the buzz from a new purchase into their emotional norm.
That “Aaah…” feeling you get when you look at your new house? It quickly goes away. The same is true for our new car, new furniture, and new clothes. Soon they’re not special; they’re what we have. They become “normal.” In order to recapture the “Aaah…” feeling we have to buy something else. The cycle is addictive.
And so we’re never satisfied. We can’t be. That’s not how we’re made.
That’s why real and lasting satisfaction comes from doing, not having. Want to feel good about yourself? One way is to actively help someone. Knowing you’ve made a difference in another person’s life is an “Aaah…” that lasts forever.
Knowing you’ve made a difference also creates an addictive cycle… but this time in a really good way.
5. We’re waiting for that big idea.
Stop trying. You won’t hit the big idea lottery. And even if you did come up with the ever-elusive big idea, could you pull off the implementation? Do you have the skills, experience, and funding?
Maybe you do. Maybe you don’t.
Either way, here’s something you definitely have: Tons of small ideas.
You don’t need to look for a big idea if you act on your little ideas. Happiness is a process, and processes are based on actions.
Try your small ideas – as many as you possibly can.
6. We don’t ship.
We’re naturally afraid to be “done” because then our idea, our product, or our service has to sink or swim. And we’re desperately afraid it will sink.
Maybe it will – but if you don’t put it out there it can also never swim. No product can be successful until it’s shipped. No application can be successful until it’s released. No service can be successful until it’s out in the field.
When in doubt, ship it out. Then make whatever you produce next a little better. And ship that. And keep going.
You can’t feel proud until you ship. So as Seth Godin would say, ship – a lot.
7. We see our resume or CV as an end result.
Many people collect jobs and experiences in pursuit of crafting a “winning” resume.
That’s backwards. Your resume is a report card. It’s a by-product of what you’ve accomplished, learned, and experienced.
Don’t base your life on trying to fill in the blanks on some “ideal” CV. Base your life on accomplishing your goals and dreams. Figure out what you need to do to get to where you want to be, and do those things.
Then let your resume reflect that journey.
8. We wait.
For the right time. The right people. The right market. The right something. And life passes you by.
The only right is right now. Go.
9. We don’t collect people.
Walk around your house. Or look around your office. Look at your stuff.
Now have your extended family over for dinner. Or get together with friends. Look at your people.
Which is more fulfilling – your stuff or your people? Thought so.
You can love your stuff… but your stuff can’t love you back.
10. We don’t realize we’re already happy.
Close your eyes.
Imagine I have the power to take everything you hold dear away from you: Family, job or business, home… everything. And I do. All of it, everything, is gone.
Would you beg and plead and offer me anything to get that life back? Would getting that life back mean everything to you? Would you realize that what you had is so much more important than what you didn’t have?
Would you realize that what I just took away was pretty freaking awesome? Of course you would.
Now open your eyes. Literally… and figuratively.
11. We don’t call our parents.
Your parents give you love and support in spite of all your faults and failures. You don’t even have to work for it.
Who can’t use a little more love and support?