Some of the things successful people do are easy to guess at—they’re often more educated, more productive, and less likely to have vices that slow them down. But there are other habits that successful people cultivate that seem, well—more than a little strange on the surface. Each one of these habits, however, helps successful people get ahead just a little more in the world, and it adds up over time.
Take a few minutes and unlearn some bad habits you didn’t even know you had. As a matter of fact, some of them might have seemed like good habits when you adopted them! Did you know that being rejected can be a good thing? Or that being lazy could jumpstart your career? It’s true! You just need to look at these ideas from a different perspective—a successful one.
Don’t hold yourself back. Read on and learn about the seven bizarre habits that could change your life.
They Prefer To Work Less
Not fewer hours per day, mind you. What this means is that as soon as a successful person accomplishes something, they look for a way to accomplish it with less work. Why? Because that frees up time and energy for other projects. Sometimes, wanting to find an easier or seemingly lazier way to accomplish something is really just efficiency—at least so long as they are getting the same, high quality results.
And even when they don’t have another project to immediately devote themselves to, they still look for a way to skate through what they’re doing without losing quality. You’ve at least worked with someone like that—the waitress who somehow figured out to keep her customers happy and get an extra fifteen minute break every hour. She’s probably managing her own restaurant now, even if her former managers were irritated she had so much down time.
Cutting costs, cutting time, reducing effort—each of these things has enormous value because money, time, and energy are finite resources. It’s not lazy to want to find the most effortless way to do things; it’s just good sense. At best, it will give you time to move on to perfecting the next project. At worst, it’ll simply give you some time to rest and recharge—which is valuable in and of itself. Time to think up new ideas is worth a lot more than time spent tediously making your way through a spreadsheet, when you could have half the work done with an automated script.
Working smarter and not harder isn’t a new concept, but all too often we don’t recognize it when we see it, or we shy away from doing it ourselves, because we’re concerned about being branded as lazy.
Back To The Future Planning
Successful people don’t plan what happens tomorrow after they see how things go today. Oh, sure, they’re flexible and they’ll adjust—but their long term plans start with the end goal. They envision themselves being successful at their endeavor, and then they work backwards to determine what steps they need to take to make that vision a reality.
If you think about it, you’ll see that many incredible goals have been accomplished in exactly this manner. The Wright Brothers didn’t start with a wagon, and simply wonder what the next step would be. They knew they wanted to fly. So, they started with that goal in mind, with a completed machine finished—as they learned more about how to make that machine work, they adjusted their planning. By the time they got to the “beginning,” they’d succeeded!
Less incredible goals have also been accomplished this way. If you’ve been around long enough that you ever used a map or an atlas to get somewhere, you’ve done this. You don’t say, “I want to go to San Francisco, it’s west of here, so I’ll just set out that way.” No: You see which highways connect with San Fran, and which highways connect with those, and which highways connect those middle roads to your own path.
Now, when you don’t have a particular goal in mind, it’s fine to feel your way forward, at least until that goal takes on a more definite shape in your mind.
This is one of the most shocking and counter-intuitive habits that many successful people have. It undoubtedly sounds bizarre to most of us less-successful types. So, what’s the deal?
Here it is: If you’re not reaching, grasping, and trying to achieve something until you literally fail, you aren’t trying your best. It’s not really that strange of a concept. Have you ever heard the term “You’ll never know unless you ask!” Well, that’s what’s going on here. You’ll never know unless you ask, and unless you keep asking until you are turned down flat, you’ll never know how much or how far you could have gotten.
Consider asking for a salary you expect to hear “No” to the next time you are offered a job. You might get shot down, but the return offer will probably still be better than the number you would have given. There’s no reason at all, actually, not to shoot high—except that most of us feel anxiety over being rejected.
Wildly successful people don’t. If they don’t get what they want from one source, they move on to another. If they can’t get that thing from any source, they move on to trying to get something else. But they don’t move on, if what they’re after is desirable, until they have to. They don’t avoid asking for that promotion because “I probably haven’t been working here long enough,” or “The boss really likes Rob better, he’s going to get it.” Those things may in fact be true, but until you’ve been told no, you don’t know if you’re letting a chance at moving up slip through your fingers.
They Don’t Just Court Rejection, They Dish It Out
This is another one that seems counterintuitive. We’ve learned throughout our years in grade school, college, and in entry level jobs that we should be saying “Yes!” with enthusiasm to nearly any request that comes our way. That’s how you stand out, they say. That’s how you get noticed.
Well, successful people say yes too, but they say no more. They recognize that not every “opportunity” is really an opportunity for them. Sometimes, it’s just a way for the requester to get ahead. They don’t count on always saying yes, on being servile, as being the way they’ll get noticed. Instead, they look to be noticed for the high quality of their work. And how do they deliver that high quality? By conserving their energy through efficiency and saying no to worthless tasks.
Now, that doesn’t mean you necessarily should be saying “No!” when your boss asks you to pick up coffee. When it’s a request that doesn’t tax you at all, and could offer even a sliver of benefit, go for it. The key here is to weigh the resources (of yours) that fulfilling that request would use up, against the potential (realistic) benefit you’ll see from carrying it out.
Another facet of this is the fact that successful folks say no when it’s a request that won’t show off how well they can perform. If you’ve never baked so much as a cupcake, don’t agree to make 500 cookies for the company holiday shindig. Not only will you have a thankless task which likely won’t reflect at all on your job, you’ll be remembered in a poor light if you deliver awful cookies. So, say yes when there’s a benefit to you and when you know you can outshine the competition. Say no, otherwise.
They Put It On Loop
When they’ve used a strategy with great success, what do you think successful people do? They do it again. And again. And again—at least, until they find a better way, or a better project, or until it stops working (which sometimes happens).
If you’ve found a winning formula, there’s no reason not to use it until you’ve either extracted all of the value you can from it or an even better formula comes along. This is one that many people get wrong. It’s one thing to experiment with improvements in a controlled fashion—which successful people do plenty of. It’s something entirely different to abandon you last strategy for a new one just because it’s novel. Successful people treat winning strategies with great care. They don’t change too much too fast, and they certainly don’t think other strategies are better just because they’re newer.
The saying “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” comes from this philosophy. There are sometimes obvious improvements you can make to a strategy, and there are sometimes less obvious small variables you can experiment with changing. But don’t switch horses in the middle of the race, and especially not if yours is already winning.
You’ll also find that your winning strategies may perform better and better as time goes on, not just because you’ve found ways to make them more efficient, but because you’re actually getting better at carrying them out yourself. Practice makes perfect!
They Don’t Always Look Like Wildly Successful People
Successful people don’t generally wear their success on their sleeve unless it benefits them to do so at that moment. Basically, they’ve got great poker faces. If you’re playing cards with your buddies, and one is going on and on about how great his cards are, what’s your first thought? That they’re great? Doubtful. Instead, you’d think it was a pretty transparent way to encourage the rest of the table to fold—because he’s got nothing.
This is especially true when feeling out a new situation. When you don’t know what cards everyone else is holding, the best possible thing you can do is fly under the radar. If you come into a meeting acting like you’ve got all of the answers and everyone had better shut up and listen, you’ll probably find that the people you’re meeting with aren’t all that thrilled to see you. Come in, introduce yourself, get a feel for who has what leverage and who in the group can make things happen. Being a blowhard rarely gets you anywhere, especially once you start moving up the corporate ladder. It becomes more and more obvious when people are simply grandstanding.
That doesn’t mean you should be falsely modest. It does mean that you should check yourself if you’re blowing your own horn too much when it won’t help you at all. Notice a trend here? Successful people measure benefits and risks all the time. When it is beneficial to look and sound the part of a successful know it all, go for it. You’ll probably find, however, that while confidence has its place, there are very few times that arrogance benefits anyone.
Quitters Win Quite A Lot, Actually.
Quitters never win, right? Well, kind of. They can’t win at whatever they quit at, sure. But that frees them up to win at something else. Strategic quitting is actually an excellent way to improve your success rates. Successful people don’t abandon strategies that work, and they also don’t try to bail water out of a sinking boat. They don’t go down with the ship, and if they see that things are heading in that direction, they’ll strike out for shore.
There’s always another way to accomplish what you’re trying to do. If the way you’re attempting to succeed is clearly not working, don’t consider abandoning that goal or method to be a bad thing. There are goals and strategies that will work for you, and it’s silly to waste time, energy, money, or any other resource on those that don’t.
The hardest time to quit, of course, is when your colleagues or buddies are downright committed to an idea that you can see is full of holes. These are sometimes the most important times to quit, because when you stay out of personal obligation, you end up pouring even more resources into the project than you normally would have.