What Does It Mean to Be Successful at Life?

If you wondering how to be successful at life, which is the foundation for Legendary Fatherhood, this is the post for you. Being successful at life is based on taking nothing for granted. Every day that you are able to wake up healthy, be ready to give every ounce of drive to be successful at your career, your health and most importantly, your role as father.

First, let’s be clear, you don’t have to be successful at life to be a great father. However, the information below will help you to be better at anything you strive towards. The five best practices have helped me be better in all areas of my life. In addition to my life, I find that these are great tools to teach your kids, so they grow up strong, confident and empowered for success.

The most important step for success is the ability to give maximum effort to any project. Just take Claudia Mueller and Carol Dweck’s findings in a 1998 paper titled Praise for Intelligence can Undermine Children’s Motivation and Performance. What this study found is that praising kids for hard work, rather than intelligence, gave the former a heads up over the latter. When kids from both groups were presented with challenges, the children praised for their hard work were significantly better at overcoming those challenges than the ones praised for their smarts. Being able to put your head down and keep moving is one of the most important characteristics for someone to be successful.

While effort may be critical to being successful at life, it is not the only characteristic for success. Failure is crucial to success as well. Some may feel that failure is the antithesis of success, but that is not correct. You cannot have a truly successful life unless you have learned to fail and learned from failing. The simple act of getting knocked down, learning from your mistake and getting back up to try again makes or breaks successful people.

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”

-Colin Powell

The only way to learn from failure is to realize why you failed. Often, it is easier to find scapegoats on which to blame our failure. That is not a successful road to travel. Failure must be internalized. We cannot blame others for our failure or we will not understand how to prevent the same failure in the future. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t look for reasons to blame others.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where others will exploit your failures. Even worse, we live in a world where others will seek to prevent you from being your best self. Whether it is ridiculing your diet, your parenting decisions or your work ethic, sticking to your own plans is how to be successful at life. Avoiding the status quo will allow you to rise above it. The definition of a successful life is to rise out of the average and into the extraordinary. Don’t let those who settle for average bring you down to their level.

“Carpe diem. Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

-Dead Poets Society

Finally, being successful at life means having a plan, writing down goals and measuring your success. If you want to have a great relationship with your son or daughter, how do you do that? What are the things you need to do to maintain that relationship and how do you know when it is going well or poorly? Relationships are work. In fact, my job is mostly about maintaining relationships and influencing others to work with me to solve problems. It is grueling mentally which can wear me out physically. The same holds true for our relationships with our family, friends and others. They take work, but they are worth the effort.

1. Set Goals, Make a Plan & Follow It

Like many others, I learned about the power of setting goals in business. Coming from a sales & marketing background, goal-setting is a way of life. More importantly, goal setting should be a part of our family life and fitness as well. Do you have a goal for how much time you spend with your family? What about a goal for your cholesterol, weight or body-fat percentage? The more we make specific, measurable, attainable and time-bound goals, the better chance we have at achieving those goals and making our lives more successful.

“All successful people have a goal. No one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do.”

– Norman Vincent Peale

How to Set Goals

Suppose my goal is to lose weight. Sounds great, right? Wrong! That is not a good goal because it isn’t specific, it isn’t very measurable and there isn’t a time frame. Instead, the goal should look something like this: I want to lose 10 pounds in 8 weeks. See the difference? Each goal should have the following attributes:

Be Specific – Every goal needs to start out by have a very specific statement. Getting fit, having a better relationship with your family or making more money aren’t specific goals. They are good places to start. If the goal is the make more money, ask your self how you are going to do that. If you sell widgets, then the goal might be to sell more widgets. If you get paid a salary, perhaps it would be to commit to talking to you boss about a raise or coming up with a plan to get promoted. Therefore, it is good to start your goals with a vague idea of what you want to accomplish and use that to narrow your goal down to something more specific.

Make it Measurable – The idea of making it measurable is similar to making your goal specific, but adds in the layer of having a test to know whether you accomplished your goal or not. Measurements typically consist of a unit-of-measurement or can be true or false. For example, if my goal is to lose 10 pounds, then pounds are my unit of measurement and all I need is a scale to determine if I hit my goal. However, if my goal is to get a promotion, then it is either true that I received a promotion, or false that I did not receive a promotion. Making a goal measurable means making it clear whether we accomplished our goal or not.

Make it Attainable – Not making a goal attainable is the easiest factor which is often overlooked. Furthermore, it may be one of the most important factors of all; because, if a goal isn’t attainable, then it is very difficult to make a plan to attain that goal. Often, unattainable goals will get dropped quickly and you will be back to having no plan at all. In sales, we often try to set small increments in goals every month which turn into larger growth and production over time. If you sell 100 widgets a month and commit to selling 5 more widgets every month, by the end of the year, you will have increased your widget sales (and hopefully your bonus) by 60%! That is the power of making goals attainable.

Goals Need to be Time Bound – Another quick way to forget about your goals is to not give them a time limit. If you are committed to losing 15 pounds, but don’t care when you lose it, then there is no reason to get motivated to do the work necessary to lose the weight. Giving your goals a time limit creates urgency and help get your goals accomplished. Without a time limit, most will procrastinate until they give up on their goals completely.

Write It Down & Share It – Finally, goals need to be written down and should be shared with your spouse, your boss, your personal trainer or whoever. It is much easier to stick to a plan when it is written on paper. When you share those goals with your spouse or your boss, you take extra ownership of your goal. In a way, that goal becomes much more real and urgent because you don’t want to let that person down or have them view you in a negative light. This is a powerful step to accomplishing your goals.

How to Create a Plan

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Creating a plan to accomplish a goal can be challenging, because no two plans will look alike. There is a big difference in the way to plan on losing 15 pounds in 10 weeks versus increasing your sales by 60% over the next 12 months. However, there are similarities in every plan. Check out the information below to help you create a plan to achieve your goal.

Break Down Goal Into Tasks/Smaller Goals – You need to take certain steps to achieve your goal. Another way of saying this is that any goal is the sum of a set of smaller goals. This particular part of creating your plan is the hard part. It probably requires some research and either a proven method to reach your goal or a good hypothesis to follow.

For example, if my goal is to increase my widget production by 60% in the next 12 month, I know that I need to increase my sales by 5% every month consistently for the next 12 months. Well, that’s good to know – but selling 5% more widgets every month might not be as specific as you would think. How exactly do you sell a widget to begin with? Well, you need to get in front of a certain number of customers. In order to do that, you probably need to do a certain amount of prospecting. Let’s say that I know I speak to 40 people a month and, on average, 15 of them purchase from me. I am selling 100 widgets a month, so I average roughly six to seven widget sales per person that purchase. That means I really need to find one more person to buy an average amount of widgets from me and I will probably need to talk to three people in order to find one that buys. If it takes me an average of four phone calls to talk to one person, then I need to make an additional 12 phone calls per month. Easy, right?

Family Goals and Plans – Making goals for business, health and budgets can be relatively easy because it is mostly a math equation. What about goals and plans for family? First, let’s think of a goal and start with the idea of wanting a better relationship with my wife. How do we make it specific, measurable, attainable and time-bound? Let’s say this – my goal is to spend more quality time with my wife and less time arguing over the next three months. How do we create a plan for this?

First, what are we arguing about and how can you fix that? For my wife and I, our arguments or conflicts revolve around evening chores and our children. See, my wife stays at home with the children and takes care of the house while I am out of the house and at work all day. When I get home, all I want to do is relax at home while she would love to get away from waiting on the kids who constantly need her attention. We both feel that it is our time to relax, but we still have dinner to make and clean, baths to give and kids to put to bed. Then, on top of it all, we don’t have any time to just relax by ourselves – which is really important because my wife hardly gets any time with any other adults all day.

How can we plan to make this better? First, we need to agree on chores. She cooks and I clean. I take care of the baths and get the kids dressed. She puts the kids to bed. Finally, when the kids are in their beds, we put aside a minimum of 15 minutes for ourselves. No phones, no television, just the two of us talking and relaxing. While this plan isn’t as concrete as increasing sales, it is effective, and we can measure whether we feel better about our relationship and whether our arguments have decreased.

Schedule Time to Follow Your Plan – One thing we often overlook when chasing a new goal is scheduling the time to actually do it. Even if you have the time in your schedule to tackle your new goal and plan, it is often helpful to set aside a specific time just for your new tasks. Otherwise, you may find yourself trying to cram all of your plans into the final minutes of your day. Clearly, this does not seem to be an optimal way to complete your plans and achieve your goal.

Personally, I love Mark Twain’s quote, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” The meaning behind this quote is that we often save the hardest, most unappealing tasks for the end of our day. Throughout the day we dread the idea of the tasks and it can cause anxiety or make you give up on getting the task done altogether. If, instead, you do your most difficult or least appealing chore first thing in the morning, you can rest easy knowing it is out of your way. Therefore, when thinking about scheduling your day and accomplishing your tasks, think about whether you should get it done early so you can enjoy the rest of your day without anxiety.

Reward Yourself

“All work and no play makes jack a dull boy.”

I love the motto, “Work hard, play hard.” I even love it post-college when playing hard doesn’t have to be about drinking and partying (although, it still can!) The point, however, is that you can’t just work non-stop and expect to stay productive for long. Additionally, we need to celebrate our wins, or winning stops becoming special. Every time you reach a milestone, you deserve to reward yourself. In fact, you should plan out your rewards ahead of time and give yourself the extra drive to get to that reward. This small step can be a big help in overcoming your toughest challenges.

#2 – Embrace Failure

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There are tons of books written on embracing failure, and for good reason. However, instead of talking about the concept of failure, I want to provide the best example of what embracing failure looks like. Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, a billion-dollar women’s apparel, body-slimmer and hosiery business, is the best example of the power of embracing failure and how it helps you to succeed at life.

She spent her entire life failing at various endeavors including stand-up comedian, lawyer, being Goofy at Disney World and selling fax machines. She never gave up. Partly, because her dad had prepared her for failure. Sara tells the story that, “My dad used to ask my brother and me at the dinner table what we had failed at that week.” She goes on, “I can remember coming home from school and saying, ‘Dad, I tried out for this I was horrible!’ and he would high-five me and say, ‘Way to go!’ If I didn’t have something that I failed at, he actually would be disappointed.”

Her ability to face the fear of failure and keep moving forward helped her to build her company. She had the idea of creating a slimming undergarment that no one would know you are wearing, when she cut the feet off a pair of pantyhose. It took her multiple rejections from a male-dominated textile manufacturing industry before anyone gave her idea a chance. If she had not learned to fail and keep pushing, there is a good chance she never would have successfully started the multi-billion dollar company Spanx is today. If you are wondering how to be more successful at life and fatherhood, it is important to conquer your fear of failing.

“I think it’s fair to say that I have failed more than most people, And I’m super proud of that. Part of the rules of this game is, the person who fails the most wins.”

-Seth Godin

#3 – Take Responsibility

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When we are late for work or an event, it is easy to blame the traffic but how often do we look in the mirror and take responsibility for not leaving sooner to beat the traffic? When we fail to execute a task, do we blame ourselves or the rest of the team? When our kids don’t behave or our relationships take a turn for the worse, how often do we look internally?

It is easy to blame others, because no one wants to put the stress of ownership on themselves. When Jocko Willink, a Navy Seal, found himself in a blue-on-blue (also known as friendly fire) situation in Ramadi, Iraq, it was his job to get to the bottom of why it happened and who was to blame. As he documented the entire incident, he realized that as the leader in charge, it was ultimately his responsibility. That is what successful leaders do – they take responsibility for their teams, their lives and their health. If you want to be successful at life and fatherhood, you need to start taking responsibility for the things in your control.

In his book, Extreme Ownership, Jocko discusses numerous situations where he had to demonstrate leadership as a Commander of Seal Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser. The main points of his book are that leaders need to believe in the tasks they are undertaking, and leave their egos at the door. What results is a top-down culture of leadership and responsibility from your team and/or family. Being able to take a failure on the chin, get up, accept ownership and move forward to fix it is the sure sign of living a successful life.

#4 – Learn to Deal with Toxic People

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Misery loves company. I believe this is more true than we think. It is somehow ingrained in our genetic code to root for the underdog and against the favorite. We love to see giants fall.

I can’t tell you why people act this way, but I can tell you that it is toxic for people trying to make positive changes to their life. For example, I like to use the Keto Diet throughout the year to help me stay lean and healthy. For whatever reason, this gives some people in my family issues and they harass me to eat bread or drink a beer. Why would anyone care what I am eating? Or, are they just upset at their own lack of willpower to better their own lives? This is what I call a toxic person.

Psychology Today defines the 8 Things the Most Toxic People in Your Life Have in Common:

  • Toxic people are manipulative.
  • They are judgmental.
  • They take no responsibility for their own feelings.
  • They don’t apologize.
  • They are inconsistent.
  • They make you prove yourself to them.
  • They make you defend yourself.
  • They are not caring, supportive or interested in what’s important to you.

Living a successful life is the opposite of being a toxic person; and, while it may be easy to identify toxic people it isn’t always easy to deal with them.

Once you identify a toxic person in your life, the first thing you should do is decide how to react to that person. Like a bully, the quickest way to let toxicity get to you, is to react emotionally to the person. To handle this, practice makes perfect. Develop a way to respond to a person when they say something manipulative or judgmental. For example, if a family member or co-worker has a nasty remark, respond by saying, “Why would you say something do hurtful?”

Of course, another tactic for dealing with toxic people is deciding why you maintain a relationship with them at all. Oftentimes, when it comes to family or co-workers, it can be stressful to consider removing someone from your life. However, the pros often outweigh the cons. We can often be the victims of the sunk cost fallacy. This fallacy can make us loss-averse due to emotional investments we make to a relationship. However, this may be the most important option in dealing with a toxic person.

#5 – Successful People Put in More Effort

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For many managers I encounter, it is easier for them to give orders than to lead by example. The most successful people in life, the real leaders, put in more effort than everyone around them. They lead by example. Instead of asking, “what can you do for me?” they are asking, “What can I do for you?” Helping others to succeed is what sets them apart.

While it may be easy to visualize what effort looks like in the workplace, what does it look like in a family setting? Effort doesn’t always have to be able hard work. It has to do with making the right decisions. Effort is about sacrificing yourself for the greater good. At home, that may be turning off the television and helping your child with their homework or making sure to show up for your kid’s game regardless of your meeting schedule.

Why is it that athletes make some of the greatest entrepreneurs and sports are such great analogies for life? Oftentimes, the emphasis is on the effort to get up every day and achieve your goals. Star athletes are rarely, if ever, born naturally. The best natural athletes are often upstaged by the less naturally talented, but harder working teammate. In the game of life, effort is often the difference between the winners and the losers.

What Tips Do You Believe Are Important for Success?

The top 5 tips listed above are not the only driver’s of how to be successful at life and fatherhood. What tips do you believe we missed? How do you define success for your life as a leader and a father? Please comment below and let us know. Don’t miss another post – subscribe to our newsletter!