Universal Traits Of Successful Humans (2/3)
S.M.S. Top Tips Volume III: Begin with the End in Mind
Hello there my friends, welcome to another Sunday! We are one step closer to closing this crazy year out. Life isn’t getting any easier & writing is helping me build strength. How are you doing? I hope you are finding a deeper level of insight about yourself.
Welcome to Part 2 of the three-part series: Universal Traits of Successful Humans. If you haven’t read Part 1, check it out here. Have you found any of my previous posts to be useful? If so, it would mean so much if you gave this newsletter a share, dropped me a line in the comments or gave it a like. Let’s do this 👊
Preamble: I am defining a “Successful Person” as someone who lives a fulfilled life. One who accomplishes honest work, exhibits antifragility in the face of life’s inevitable suffering and is able to bring people together with their words & actions. I do not define success solely based on the accumulation of wealth or an elevated social status, although that certainly could be a byproduct of a life well lived. I also refer to “The Path” at times during the essay. This just refers to the journey all of us embark on in the pursuit of truth, growth and self-mastery. Those not on The Path are stagnant or going the opposite direction - the Road to Hell 🔥.
Trait 2: Successful People Know What They Want
Do you know what you want? In life, in your job, in your relationships? Do you set goals and achieve them? Science knows you probably don’t. 9/10 people will set a New Year’s goal and fail to achieve it.Do you have a personal mission statement or Life Strategy? Don’t worry, I didn’t until last week.
Exceptional people have a great depth of understanding of themselves. Their journey through self-discovery has led to robust self-awareness. Each of these being necessary precursors to achieving self-mastery. They know what they want & how to get it. They are the exception, not the rule. And let’s be clear - I am not talking about money, celebrity or power. I am speaking about life design. These individuals design their lives and achieve across a broad array of pursuits. This achievement could be starting a newsletter, a family, designing a lifestyle change, learning a new hobby, etc.
Discovery → Awareness → Mastery
Self-awareness allows an individual to explore their wants, needs and desires. They understand how this will shape their present behavior. The successful individual institutes the concept of life design. The systems and behaviors they set in motion are for a specific outcome… and they usually get it. You rarely hear, “I got lucky, I guess” from the mouth of an exceptional person. And if they cite luck as the reason, then let Seneca remind us:
“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”
Begin With The End In Mind
One of the most impactful books I ever read was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. This book was foundational when I began my career out of school. I was the annoying 22-year old telling my 40-something boss how enlightened I was after reading it. First published in 1989, this book is as useful and impactful as when it first came out. Please, grab a copy. I don’t shill too hard in this newsletter, but I will for the 7 Habits.
Habit # 2 in Covey’s masterpiece is: begin with the end in mind. Also known as: know what you want and how you are going to get it. The superior performer knows the outcome they desire.
Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. She didn’t do this on a whim or with half hearted intention. She didn't want to 'raise awareness' to the issue of institutionalized racism. Rosa Parks wanted to end racial segregation. Those are two very different things.
Michael Jordan didn't stroll out on the court looking to have fun playing the game of basketball. He never looked at the season and wanted a 'good' result. Michael Jordan sought absolute victory every time he stepped on the court to lead his team to a championship.
Henry Ford wasn’t engineering toys for fun. He sought to democratize a technology and revolutionize autonomous travel for millions around the world.
None of these 3 would say their life’s work was an accident. Nor would they say they didn’t have a clear goal in mind. They see the outcome.
From Covey’s website:
“Begin With the End in Mind is based on imagination—the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes. It is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There is a mental (first) creation, and a physical (second) creation. The physical creation follows the mental, just as a building follows a blueprint.”
I am comforted by the explanation above. I love to dream. I enjoy visualizing an end-state to a current project. When I close my eyes at night, I try to visualize what I want. It’s not easy. Sometimes the self-doubt creeps in. My heart rate goes up. And before I know it, it’s a full on ‘I Hate Myself’ session. It can shatter a significant amount of optimism for the future. Self-doubt is a mind virus with a potency that could destroy even the most capable among us. I remind myself that my self-doubt is a natural byproduct of having lofty ambition. As I wrote about in my piece on Self-Mastery, finding the middle path should always the goal. The two extremes we have are:
Debilitating self-doubt leading to stagnation & non-action
Blinding self-confidence leading to overzealousness & mistakes
What's the middle path? Strong imagination balanced with healthy pragmatism. The exceptional individual stays in the middle path and does not waiver. They know themselves and they know what they are moving towards.
Uncovering What You Want
Step 1 is understanding who you are. I will link again to the first article in this series. It is impossible to know what you want without first stepping onto The Path of self-discovery. If you don’t know who you are, then you don’t know what you want, so you cannot take meaningful action. It’s a very sorry state of affairs. Unfortunately, it’s a position many people find themselves in. It’s what’s called an Existential Vacuum or a Crisis of Meaning. It has run through the West like a plague. I write about it here.
So, now that we know we are all on The Path of self-discovery, we can seek self-awareness. One of the very best exercises is to create a personal mission statement, or what I like to call a Life Strategy. Mission statements sound too corporate to me. Why is this important? You cannot set meaningful goals & objectives without a strategy. Strategy is very misunderstood. Strategies are not goals. Think of Strategy as the map of your life’s territory. Your goals are the points you will plot out on the map. You cannot go from point A to point B without the map. This is flying blind. A Life Strategy will help you distill down your most important values and behaviors. These will inform all your actions to achieve your goals.
Here’s a peak at mine:
I am a fierce individualist and hardworking digital nomad. I am on a lifelong quest of self-discovery. I embrace heterodox thinking, reject dogma and value personal autonomy over collective utopia. I am a citizen of the world. I have respect for national sovereignty, culture and the ideals of patriotism. My guiding values are individualism, humility and achievement. My heart is with family and community. My spiritual faith is in the belief of a Universal Entity. My personal religion is unbound by the shackles of institution, tradition or ideology.
This is part 1 of 3 to a broader Life Strategy document that I created for myself. It’s not ‘complete’ and, in theory, it never will be. So, it’s a snapshot of broader picture. Yet, I am confident that it provides me a level of understanding of myself & what I want. My goals are personal, so I will not be sharing them. But you can find out what a few might be from the broader life strategy/themes I included. Self-reliance, personal autonomy, financial freedom through leveraging technology… the list goes on.
Your Life Strategy should be a living document that is reflective of who you are, what you want and where you will go. Hit me up if you want to work on one together.
We’ve covered Discovery in part 1 & have now finished our discussion on Awareness. To recap:
The successful individual know themselves.
The successful individual is able to define what they want.
Discovery → Awareness → Mastery
We’ve all seen that person who embarks on something that is completely out of step with who they are. Sometimes you’re witnessing greatness and they are pursuing their true calling. Other times, this is because they are at complete odds with themselves. They are uncertain with who they are and unable to define what they want. So, they make career and life decisions out of step with their purpose.
I have chosen jobs or pursued outcomes that were out of alignment with my true purpose. Why? Because I was out of touch with myself. I drank, smoked and pursued meaningless relationships. I spent years not understanding who I was. I spent years not making any meaningful attempts to discover myself. More about this in a later article 🙃.
Every day is a new opportunity for self-discovery. Looking inward will sharpen our focus on what we want. Let Epictetus bring us home:
“We have no power over external things, and the good that ought to be the object of our earnest pursuit, is to be found only within ourselves.”
Stay tuned for next week’s issue & the conclusion to this series.
Be well, my friend.
Great article, Tobias! I will have to think on my Life Strategy. I’ve always been a fan of goal setting and vision boards. I like this concept, though it does seem much more involved and a little daunting to be honest. I’ll have to start putting some thought into it.... 🤔