I’ve become very interested in the patterns and habits of some of the most successful and insightful people on this planet.
When Googling “what do the most successful people have in common” the first three results shown are from Fortune, Time Magazine and Forbes. The patterns and behaviours they mention are, for example, “they know when to stay and when to leave”, “they create instead of just consume” and “they know that they make their own luck”.
While that’s great and probably true, it doesn’t really help me. It makes it look like successful people are just born that way and that if you’re not, well…too bad! Actually, it’s the opposite. In addition, in the mentioned articles, their definitions of success have a strong link with business ability and making a fortune, while in my opinion success is wider than this. For example, when asked to think about someone successful, you can definitely think of multi-billionaires like Richard Branson or Warren Buffet, and you’d be right, but you can also think of people like Nelson Mandela or the Dalaï Lama and you are as just as right.
When talking about success, I consider successful people to be those who had a vision of what their impact on the world should be and made their vision come true. I guess I could write an entire blog post about what success means!
Anyway, this is why I really like Tim Ferriss’ recent work, both in his podcasts and his latest books (Tools of Titans and Tribe of Mentors), as he interviews people who have found success in very different areas of expertise. His work is amazing, but in my opinion it lacks a synthesis to sum up what habits or tips are found amongst most of the people he interviews.
That is the work I’m trying to do here: synthetize these patterns of success and give you the tools to implement them. This is obviously subjective and I’m happy for anyone to challenge what I say in this article.
To make it easier, I classify these patterns into three categories: harmony, clarity and action.
What I mean by harmony is accepting yourself, other people and the world as they are. You may want to change them, but first you have to accept them and then look at what you can actually tackle. We will see this in the Action section.
Pattern #1 — Meditation and mindfulness
Of more than 300 super-successful people interviewed in Tim Ferriss’ podcast, (the #1 business podcast), 80% practice daily meditation or mindfulness. While the technique can vary, this is the first obvious pattern we can notice. I condensed the most insightful interviews from his podcast here (running time: 38 minutes).
Pattern #2 — Help people around you
Most of the top achievers in the world understand that helping those around you is not a zero-sum game and that when you help people around you, you create an environment where they give back. To feel more connected to the people around you, a practice like loving kindness mediation, as taught by former Google employee Chade-Meng Tan, is very effective.
Pattern #3 — Focus on what matters and avoid distractions
Successful people recommend that you don’t try to optimise everything, only the things that matter. For example, accumulating miles through your credit card can save you some money, but is it worth the amount of time and attention you dedicate to it? You should also notice when you are doing something very unproductive, like bouncing from one YouTube video to another or spending too much time on social media, as these divert you from the goals you choose for yourself. Recently, two early Facebook employees, Chamath Palihapitiya and Sean Parker, have publicly expressed regrets, saying they created something addictive that does not improve people and society.
When you find this harmony, you can more easily understand who you are and the direction you want to take.
Pattern #4 — Keep learning and read books
You would be amazed at how much time successful people spend listening to podcasts, watching documentaries or, especially, reading books. Today, you can access the teachings of the most insightful people that live or have lived on the planet and it would be crazy not to dedicate a decent amount of time to hear what they have to say. Most top CEOs read an average of 4–5 books a month, so you can’t use the “I don’t have time” excuse.
Pattern #5 — Be curious and diversify
Many successful people have a variety of different interests and are very curious. People like Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci clearly explained that their genius came from the combination of arts and science. When looking at someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who became the most renowned body-builder, then a famous actor and then the Governor of California, it becomes clear that his mental strength was the foundation for his success and the domains in which he became successful were only a consequence of this — he could have been successful in many different areas.
Pattern #6 — Step back
While working hard increases your chance of being successful, you can easily fall in the trap of becoming a workaholic. It is more important to work smart. Stepping back will let you analyse whether you actually spend time on what matters, and is very important in this regard. Meditation can definitely help you to do this.
Pattern #7 — Drive the bus!
You don’t want to drift through life like a jellyfish in the ocean. Successful people are completely in control of the projects they choose, and in control of how they use their time. Many people say they “don’t have time” to do something, but successful people simply prioritise what they do with their time, which helps them to avoid feeling overwhelmed. There is a great book called The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks that I recommend for learning this skill.
You might be in harmony with yourself and your environment and be clear about what you want, but sometimes it can still be hard to take action.
Pattern #8 — Trust yourself. Follow your instincts and be resilient.
When you achieve greater harmony and clarity, you should then use your clarity to take action. You should go beyond your rational mind and trust what you know is right, trust that little voice inside of you. And if what you do is polarising, it is actually a good sign, as exposed by Reid Hoffman in his 10 Commandments of Start-up Success.
Pattern #9 — Learn to say no
You need to implement the benefits of having greater clarity. Focus is very important and you need to own your time and projects. So, when you understand that something is not worth pursuing, you have to learn to say no, whether you say no to a request, a job or a relationship. Tim Ferriss wrote a nice article about it, including great thoughts from Derek Sivers.
Pattern #10 — Understand your groundless fears and overcome them
Sometimes you want to do something but find yourself making excuses to not do it. It can be a good idea when you have this feeling to put the pros and the cons on paper and analyse what you should do. Seneca wrote an incredibly interesting letter 2,000 years ago stating how irrational most of our fears are. Jamie Foxx teaches us a lot about the benefits of stand-up comedy to understand that fear is often not justified. Tim Ferriss’ interview of Jamie Foxx was selected for iTunes’ #1 podcast episode. I shortened it from 2.5 hours to 32 minutes and you can listen to it here.
Pattern #11: Start the day with a conquering mindset
Successful people have different habits. Some successful writers are more productive at night, for example. However, the most common pattern is people who wake up early and have morning routines. The reason behind this to get excited with the day and start with a feeling of achievement. Even someone like Leonardo Da Vinci, at a time when there were not a lot of gyms, exercised in the morning.
I have identified some of the patterns of success and a few tools you can use. Most successful people have experimented and found out what works for them, and you should adapt your daily patterns for yourself rather than just following other people’s routines blindly. The best way to know what works for you is to start experimenting with best practices and adjust them as you go.
All these patterns and tools can sound a bit overwhelming, which is why I created the Unlockd Challenge. The idea is a very simple and accessible two-week challenge, so anyone can learn to understand the patterns of success better and start experimenting with what works best for them.
Thanks for reading this far and don’t hesitate to get in touch!