[Since many have suggested it is one of my better articles, I’ve republished this around the New Year for the last 8 years. It’s the closest thing I have to a tradition. If the Today Show can put on 800 segments about losing weight at the start of the year, I might as well cover everything else. So, with many people looking to have their best year ever, here’s one attempt at constructing a plan of attack.
The ideas have been in desperate need of updating for a few years. Fortunately, I found a little time to bring them up to date]
Start at the Beginning
After the first week and a half, the resolutions start to fade as we address this called “life.” Consider this a kick in the behind to double your resolve.
I’m very biased here, but my more recent blog Be Better Now focuses more on success and self-improvement. It covers important topic from How to Make and Keep Your New Year’s Resolution to this Quick Guide to Success.
If you only read and followed through on those two general articles, I can almost guarantee you’d have the best year of your life (short of an unrelated tragedy).
However, let’s continue on:
Preparation and Planning
- Make a List of Short, Medium, and Long Term Goals – Each night before I go to sleep, I try to write down 3-5 things that I want to accomplish the next day. I make sure that at least a couple are things that I can complete that day and purge from my to-do list. I also make sure to add a couple of small parts of medium or long-term projects.
Here’s an example: Imagine that you want to write an eBook. The first day you create a rough outline of the book – just the chapters. The next day you might want to pick 3 or 4 things in a few chapters to cover in each chapter. Repeat this for 3 or 4 days and you’ll have a great plan for a whole 9-12 chapter book in a week (or less). Then you simply need to spend a day expanding each chapter. In about 20 days you’ll have completed the first draft. Use the next 10 days (or more) to review, revise, and edit.
- Catalog Your Progress – I started this blog to keep me accountable. I can’t go out and buy a Ferrari on credit. If I did, I’d have to write about it here. I have a strong streak of not buying a Ferrari on credit. See? Simple, right?
This is important enough that I created a whole article focusing on it. Unfortunately, the article is a little out of date. Still the ideas are sound. Use the link above for a half dozen easy ways to save thousands.
Learn These Skills
- Sales / Marketing – Even if you don’t think you have a product to sell, you do… yourself. I’ve learned that sales and marketing are not easy skills to learn. You can’t shout “look at me!” or people will think you are obnoxious. You have to find people who might be genuinely interested in what you have to offer. I always find it best to be open and honest with what I have to sell. If the product is of value, you price it accordingly, and have the right buyer, it should sell itself. I’ve found that if you have to “sell” too hard, it’s probably going to be a sale you regret making.
- Public Speaking – I am most shy person on Earth. Talking to someone one-on-one often ties my stomach in knots. I’ve almost completely given up using the phone. Imagine how I feel about public speaking right now. There’s at least a 90% chance I’d faint.
However, public speaking was a required class in high school. I started off horrible, but by the end, I had earned an A. The head cheerleader said that I was funny… which is the kind of thing that sticks with you 25 years later (Thanks Amy!) I have to remember that public speaking really is a skill where practice means everything. An organization such as Toastmasters, seems to be the best way to get that practice. Unfortunately, Toastmasters usually takes a back seat to the pile of other things that I’m currently focusing on.
- Writing – Even if you are crafting a short e-mail, try to use proper grammar. You’d be surprised how many e-mails I receive where people make 6 mistakes in 6 sentences. Poor writing skills on the first impression impacts my view of the person’s intelligence and/or professionalism. Perhaps it shouldn’t be that way, but it is. A person who can write great commands my respect and my trust.
I realize that my articles have more than their fair share of writing mistakes. This article probably has 3-5 in it. I feel that it is a balance. I’d rather spend my time writing another article than proofreading the previous one for a couple of typos.
- Networking – Get out there and meet new people in your areas of interest. When you know a lot of people, opportunities multiply.
[Editor’s Note, I’m going to date myself on this, but I wrote this about Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income who wasn’t widely known in January of 2009 when I wrote this article:
“To go back to the eBook example above, I met one person who has had some success with an eBook. He’s in the process of getting it translated into an audio book now. He could definitely be a great resource for me to learn from. He’s newer to blogging and doesn’t have the number of readers that I have. I can probably give him a few tips and help him out. Now if I knew 100 people like this guy, I’d have a solution to almost every question I’d ever have at my fingertips.”
- Read More and Faster – I have always been a very slow reader. I simply don’t scan text very well. Perhaps I’m afraid I’ll miss a critical word or something silly like that. This is one area that I’m going to work on in the new year. Much of my time is spent reading, you’d think I’d at least be good at it.
- Help Someone with Something Everyday – This may sound like some kind of “Pay It Forward” hype. In some ways it is. I estimate that I’ve given guidance to around 50 or 100 bloggers who are just getting going that were looking for advice. Some of them became successful bloggers and some stopped blogging. The successful ones have returned the favor 100 times over or more. They link to my articles, they comment on my site, and fill me in with opportunities that I would have otherwise missed. This isn’t limited to blogging. If you mentor someone, you’ll be seen as a natural leader. I’ve always seen a strong correlation between leadership and success.
- Make Mistakes – When I just got out of college, I took a job with a top ten Internet company. It was a very high profile job as I managed the search engine myself. It was about 20% of this 2 billion dollar company’s traffic… and some of their most valuable real estate (look what Google did with search). The thought that I’d make a mistake scared me to death. I spent each day walking on eggshells until the day that I made a mistake. It was a terrible mistake that crashed the whole database. A strange thing happened. No one got upset with me, and we were able to recover pretty quickly. From that experience, I learned to always have a back-up plan. This allowed me to take some risks, experiment more, and eventually produce ideas that made the company tens of millions of dollars. Perhaps as importantly, I learned to tolerate other people’s mistakes.
- Surround Yourself with Like-Minded Individuals – There are studies that show an individual’s income will be somewhere around the average of your closest five friends. That formula works for me and my closest friends – or it did until I decided to build my career from websites. There are also studies that show your weight will reflect those who you hang around with. It makes sense if you think about it. If your circle of friends likes to bounce business ideas off each other while playing a game of pickup basketball, you’ll probably put yourself closer to the path of prosperity than if you tell fart jokes while eating Bon-Bons.
- Exercise – Whenever I work out, I am all pumped up with endorphins for hours. It feels like nothing can stop me – as if I could tackle a bear. Instead of tackling a bear, I focus that energy on my list of goals and churn through it like never before.
- Start a Website or Blog – It’s easy to talk the talk, but what matters is if you can walk the walk. A website or blog not only makes you accountable for the goals that you set, but can also help you network and gather useful information. For more inspiration read how personal finance blogging helped me.
Be More Productive
- Don’t Get Wrapped Up in Television – I love television. However, I try to watch shows that you don’t have to follow too closely. This way I can work while it’s on. You won’t see me watching a lot of Law and Order because it requires too much of my focus. However, having the Red Sox on the background doesn’t distract me from accomplishing what I’m trying to.
- Commute with Books on Tape (or Podcasts) – Most of the people I know have a 30-60 minute commute to work each day. You can listen to some morning talk show or a shock-jock DJ or you can learn some of the skills that I mention above. I’m not saying that you should throw away all entertainment, but if you are looking to increase your productivity, utilizing this downtime is a great start.
- Declutter and Organize Your Home and Work Area – I used to waste a lot of time looking for stuff. The problem? I had stuff everywhere. I couldn’t find the stuff that I needed from the old stuff that was piled around it. It’s amazed me the number of things that I had around the home that I didn’t use. Finally I simply said “Stuff It!” and got rid of most of the stuff that I didn’t use and put other special stuff in a closet that I’ll probably ignore for another years. Just like in What About Bob, “baby steps…” I tell myself.
Think Your Way To Success
- Think Positively – I’m not going to get Stuart Smalley, Motivational Speaker on you, but making the conscious decision to focus on being financially successful is extremely helpful. Bringing finances to front of my mind, instead of the back has made a huge difference in my finances.
- Don’t Hate Money – Lose the thinking that money is the root of all evil. Start thinking about it as a key to freedom to do whatever interests you. Think of it as a way to help friends, family, and charities important to you. Think about how you could use money to make the world a better place.
- Appreciate What You Have – Schedule a day to just appreciate yourself. Appreciate the things that you do have. The fact that you are reading this likely means that you are much better off than others in the world.
- Be In A Good Mood – One of my favorite lines from Say Anything is when Lloyd Dobler (played by John Cusack) says to his sister, “Why can’t you be in a good mood? How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood and be in a good mood once in a while?”
The Most Important Key to Success…
- Do What You Love – You aren’t going to be successful at something you spend all day dreading. When I was excited about software engineering, I was good – perhaps even above average ;-). When I got stuck on a project that didn’t interest me, I was honestly a poor software engineer.
However, be careful about blinding heeding the “follow your passion” advice. You must also recognize supply and demand and work within those constraints. There’s a large supply of people who want to become professional baseball or basketball players, and the demand is for only a few hundred. This means you have to be so much better than everyone else. There are few people looking to be morticians because it creeps a lot of people out, but there is a big demand, leading to a high-paying lucrative career.
Mark Cuban has a great article on a related to this: Don’t Follow Your Passion, Follow Your Effort.