The Surprisingly Simple Secret of My Success

I want to share a secret with you – a secret that has contributed consistently to my success, both personally and professionally. One behavior has accelerated my growth more than any other.

Yes, I have worked my tail off, but that’s not the key.

Yes, I give to charity, but while I strongly recommend it, that’s not what we’re talking about here.

My key to success is this: I surround myself with people who know more than I know, and I do what they do. I cannot attribute my present successes to innate intelligence, street smarts or unusual business acumen (or, for that matter, rugged good looks). I don’t need to. If I don’t know the answer to a situation in my life, I can look to the examples of others – either people I have personally met or the stories of other through books and blogs I have read.

The basis of many of the obstacles in my life is my mindset. Like Henry Ford said, “If you believe you can, or you believe you can’t – either way, you are right.” For many years, I struggled with failure because I believed I was a failure, I thought like a failure, and I accepted the excuses of a failure. I believed that I would always have low-level, low-paying jobs. I didn’t believe that I was the kind of person who built wealth, bought and sold homes, and operated businesses.

What Changed?

How did I change that mindset (or more accurately, what process am I currently in to change that mindset)?

I started listening to different people.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t achieved all of these things yet, but I am finally on the right path to do them all because I accepted a new mindset.

I’ve heard it said that you are the sum of the five people closest to you. Who is around you, speaking into your life: positive, forward-looking people, or negative, complaining people? Results or excuses? Excitement and success or entitlement and fear? I attended seminars with positive people who had the results I wanted in my life. I listened and took notes. I read the books they read. I wasn’t trying to earn their acceptance, I was following their example. I had to get away from failure-excuse mentality. I had to forgive and let go of the past. I had to acknowledge my own mistakes and change them. And in doing so, I saw the world from a place of opportunity instead of defeat.

Whether you can sit down with a successful person and ask them questions over coffee, or you can only read their book, you need to get around successful people and let their mindset get into you.

Books and Blogs That Changed My Outlook

I’d like to share with you some of the books that changed my outlook. There are some classics here – monuments that time cannot diminish. Some of these authors are controversial; some of these books will surprise you. You may turn up your nose at some of these titles, but each of them changed my thinking in a substantial way. That’s not to say that I agree with everything in each book, but I took away a nugget that impacted me and allowed me to move forward.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki  —  This was the first book that showed me the difference between a wealth-building asset and a liability, and how I could be an investor. Big change for a debt-ridden hourly employee.

“>The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley  —  An in-depth study of how wealthy people relate to money, as opposed to how we are led to believe they do by the media. I had a millionaire boss that managed his life and finances the way this book describes, and it was a huge example to me.

“>Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie  —  Some people are motivated only by money, but the opposite is also true – many people want to do something with their business that makes a lasting difference in the world. This book lays out a detailed template for building a business with a values-based vision that people can get behind.

“>The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss  —  This book has as many detractors as disciples, but there are some powerful nuggets in here. Get a vision for making something of your life beyond the work-entertainment-sleep wheel.

Early To Rise (website) —  Led by multi-millionaire coach Craig Ballantyne, their daily e-mails and free e-books are packed with tips for building a successful life, managing your time and stress, and running a business.

First Steps to Wealth by Dani Johnson  —  Learn how Dani went from homeless, debt-strapped cocktail waitress to millionaire in two years, how she wasted it all, and nearly killed herself getting it all back. Discover how she broke the cycle and made her money work for her. Now, twenty years later, she owns several multi-million dollar companies and teaches thousands of people every year how to build successful businesses from the ground up. Of special interest for small business are her First Steps to Success workshops and CD series “Unlimited Success.” My personal development was accelerated more by attending her workshops than any other item on this list.

“>Bringing Out the Best In People by Alan Loy McGinnis  —  What separates real professionals from everyone else? People skills. This book is required reading if you lead a group of people or deal with difficult clients.

“>How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie  —  People snicker at the title, but I read this book or listen to the audiobook yearly. I make my kids read it. It’s a safe assumption that every other author on this list read it. You will be surprised at how different all of your relationships seem after applying any of the techniques. And the charming 1930s-era vocabulary has a friendly, conversational tone that makes it feel like a fireside chat with a beloved grandfather.

“>Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill  —  Another monumental book from the era of Roosevelt, Ford and Carnegie, this book changed my relationship to entrepreneurship. Hill found out what 40 millionaires did to become wealthy, and turned it into a book. I discovered that if I could look outside my normal box and identify the needs around me, I could build a profitable business by helping others. At the time, that was mind-blowing.

“>Seven Habits of Highly-Effective People by Stephen Covey  —  Covey’s books are required in some universities, and for good reason. Have you really never read this? It’s time. With a 30,000-foot perspective on life, you can make different choices and build a life you can enjoy. His book, “First Things First,” is also a great read.

“>The E-Myth by Michael Gerber  —  Many of the things that frustrate you in your small business are addressed here. Maybe you’re trying to do too much. Freelancers shouldn’t be allowed to work until they’ve read this.

“>The Go-Giver by Bob Burg  —  Told in the form of a series of conversations between a young salesman and a wealthy retiree, this book highlights a key principle to success: if you will help others get where they want to go, you will get where you want to go.

“>Getting Things Done by David Allen  —  Systems and processes have never been my strength, and my desk often reflects it. If you’re like me, you probably won’t be able to apply every principle this book teaches, but it you learn even one of them, you will be far ahead of where you are now.

“>Margin by Richard Swenson  —  Too often, we live our lives in the red line area like a car stuck in high gear – stressed out, over-committed, and under-rested. Over time, we are bound to burn out. If you feel the burnout coming, this book will help you make adjustments. If you’re already crashed, this book will help you recover.

“>Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath  —  Millions of people hate their jobs because they are operating in their weaknesses. Why? Because they don’t even know what their true strengths are, let alone how to leverage them. Not like the typical 4-part personality test, this book focuses on skills and activities that come naturally to you, so you can make better-informed career choices. Rath’s other strengths-focused books will change the way you look at yourself and your work.

Key Takeaway

These aren’t necessarily trendy, hip books. I left off powerful books by Kenneth Blanchard and John Maxwell and countless others. There are plenty of other great books and blogs that have impacted millions of people. These are titles that have impacted me most deeply and I think will benefit you. The key here is not to check off a goal of reading them all, but to let yourself be taught by wise people. Listen to TED talks. Subscribe to podcasts. Apprentice yourself to skilled people who have achieved what you want to achieve. Then, do what they do. Join the conversation: what are your favorite books that I missed here?

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