This curated column is authored by leadership & startup consultant Benjamin P. Hardy
First, personal evolution is a choice.
It’s not genetic.
It’s an overall approach to life.
It’s a mindful understanding of how the internal and external influence and shape each other.
Second, don’t mix up causes with effects.
Most people believe, for example, that confidence is a cause of success. A comprehensive meta-analytic review paints the opposite picture, showing that confidence is a byproduct of positive choices.
Here’s what you’ll find in studying most psychological subjects: mountains of conflicting data on both sides.
Psychology is complicated.
So, you’re left with a choice.
You choose the data that either enables you, or the data that justifies mediocrity.
What I’ve found as a PhD student in organizational and motivation psychology is that most people, even psychologists, prefer the data that justifies mediocrity.
We selectively attend to what we believe is true. As the notorious Dan Sullivan has said, “Our eyes only see and our ears only hear what our brain is looking for.”
At the deeper subconscious levels, we see only what our assumptions and beliefs allow us to see.
Our behaviors match our personal standards and expectations.
We get in life what we believe we deserve. As Dr. David Hawkins explains in his book, Letting Go:
“The unconscious will allow us to have only what we believe we deserve. The more we hang on to our negativity and small self-image that results, the less we think we deserve…
If we have a small view of ourselves, then what we deserve is poverty. And our unconscious will see to it that we have that actuality…
Here, again, you’re left with a choice.
You can focus on the mounds of data that suggest the subconscious mind cannot be changed. If such was the case, then some people are born with the golden ticket while others are not.
Or, you can choose to focus on the mounds of data which suggest the subconscious is highly fluid and flexible.
When determining which data to examine, though, it’s important to look at the source of that information. To quote Darren Hardy, “Never ask advice of someone with whom you wouldn’t want to trade places.”
Ask any highly successful person or high performer and what will they tell you?
“I was just born this way…”
You will not hear that.
You WILL hear that response, though, from armchair philosophers and ivory tower researchers.
But you won’t hear that from the people actually performing at the highest level.
Rather than an obsession on a “fixed” and immutable nature, you will hear a story of nurture, practice, and transformation.
You’ll hear about ups and downs.
You’ll hear about inflection points.
You’ll hear about faith.
You’ll hear about risks.
You’ll hear about making hard choices.
You’ll hear about consistency.
You’ll hear about giving up lots of other things to become excellent.
Here’s what’s cool, though.
More and more research is confirming what the highest performers in the world already know.
- Your belief in either being “fixed” or fluid determines your ability to learn and grow.
- The expectations of those around you shape your performance and perceived identity.
- The genes in your body are either activated or deactivated based on environmental signals and behavioral patterns.
- Your brain is highly “plastic” and malleable.
If you want to radically advance in your life, you can.
You can even make quantum leaps or radical jumps in your personal and professional evolution.
Growth need not be linear. In fact, the universe doesn’t work in a linear way. We’ve just been brainwashed and trained to think linearly because of the public education system.
Consider these words from Napoleon Hill:
“When riches begin to come they come so quickly, in such great abundance, that one wonders where they have been hiding during all those lean years.”
There are clear inflection points in the growth patterns of people who excel at the highest levels.
It’s never linear.
It’s not 1, 2, 3, 4, 5….
It’s not that you go from first grade to second and on to third.
When you get really good at learning, you become adaptive. You become flexible in new and difficult environments. This requires mindfulness of context, a clear purpose for where you’re going (at least to a certain point), and the confidence to successfully navigate your new environment.
Once you’ve developed these skills, you can jump into radically new environments. You can surround yourself with totally new people, and connect dots and relationships quickly and deeply.
You can learn and do things you’ve never done before, and gain high level performance quickly.
As Jim Rohn has said: “Don’t join an easy crowd; you won’t grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform are high.”
With that backdrop, here’s a quick overview of the fundamental principles and strategies for never plateauing, and continually making 10X leaps of growth:
Know You Can Change
“Set the kind of goals that will make something of you to achieve them.” — Jim Rohn
Knowing you can change and evolve is essential to growing.
However, having a “growth” mindset is an effect, not necessarily a cause. Like confidence, it is the byproduct of positive experiences and performance. Once developed, the growth mindset will propel and accelerate your forward progress.
But don’t wait until you have a “growth” mindset to start moving forward. Actually, it is by moving forward that your beliefs about yourself will change.
Make a positive and goal-directed choice and you’ll increase in your confidence.
By moving forward, even a few steps, you’ll begin to develop hope and positive expectancy for your future.
You do this enough, you’ll come to believe you can change.
You make this your lifestyle, you’ll expect radical change in yourself, often. You’ll stop putting caps on what you can do.
Thus, you need to begin pursuing stuff you really want. You need to set goals that will require you become someone incredible to achieve them.
Then, start taking steps in that direction. Those behaviors will reshape your identity.
Train Your Brain To Learn Effectively And Efficiently
You need to learn HOW to learn.
The most successful people out there are also the best learners.
They learn with a purpose.
They take time every single day for learning.
They develop habits, rituals, and routines to increase and accelerate their learning.
They immediately apply what they learn, even when it’s uncomfortable.
They teach what they learn to others.
They begin thinking in terms of frame-works, and how the new things they learn fit within the whole. They’re even open to re-conceiving the whole if new information warrants it.
The better you get at “connectivity,” or connecting stuff together, the faster you’ll learn. It’s the connections between things that really matter.
You have to alter and reshape your brain. There’s no way around it. You need a new brain. And luckily, as the science is continually showing, your brain can change.
So change it.
Turn it into a learning machine.
Feed it the best information.
Shock it with intense and expansive experiences.
Be an active, not a passive, learner.
Don’t be lazy.
Define Your Goals
You don’t have to have it all figured out.
But you need to want something if you’re going to proactively get it. Otherwise, you’re living reactively.
You’re a creator.
That’s why you’re here.
To learn how to create.
To watch as you and your environment become one. And thus, to end the conflict between the inner and outer.
So you must define what you want. Decide the type of person you want to become. Decide the type of brain you’ll have. Decide the type of life you’ll have. Decide the type of world you’ll create.
Then, once defined, let it go.
Don’t over-attach yourself to it, or you’ll be inorganic. You’ll force things, rather than operating from power.
Once consciously created, you can expect your goals to occur.
Remind Yourself Of Those Goals, Daily
“Private victories precede public victories.” — Stephen Covey
In order to reshape your subconscious expectations, you’ll need a daily habit of rewriting those subconscious expectations.
Your brain and subconscious are most flexible first thing in the morning. You’ve just slept and recovered. You’re primed.
But also, how you start something really matters. Days are expensive. If you start a day-off poorly, that performance will shape your confidence. Again, confidence is an effect, not a cause. It boosts momentum. But positive choices must be the driver.
So, in order to have confidence throughout your day, you need to start well. It’s very, very difficult to reverse negative momentum. As you’ve probably experienced: when you start a day poorly, it’s really hard to turn around.
So start excellent. Put yourself into a peak state. Mentally create your dreams and goals. Every single day.
Then, perform your highest priority behaviors BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE.
Well-known author, Jeff Benedict, interviewed many CEO’s and other successful people. He found some very important themes.
Highly successful people give themselves 3–5 hours of uninterrupted work, first thing in the morning.
No meetings until after noon.
No email or distractions.
Just you, putting first things first.
Begin by reminding yourself of where you’re going. Expect that your goals will happen because:
- your subconscious expects it
- your behavior matches it, and
- because your environment facilitates it
Remove All Distraction And Low-Level Energy From Your Environment
“If we do not create and control our environment, our environment creates and controls us.” — Marshall Goldsmith
You and your environment are two parts of the same whole.
To change one is to change the other.
You can’t expect rapid growth if you’re continually surrounded by low-level energy.
Your biology and psychology are shaped by your external conditions.
If you change your surroundings, your biology will change. This is the new science of epigenetics. As biologist Bruce Lipton has said:
“The environment determined the fate of the cells, not the genetic pattern. So if cells are in a healthy environment, they are healthy. If they’re in an unhealthy environment, they get sick.”
Study The Craft Of The Top Performers In Your Field
Competition is a brilliant thing.
At it’s core, competition is nothing more than collaboration.
Most people have been trained to be consumers, not creators.
So, rather than examining information in an active way, most people consume information in a passive way.
Rather than examining “how” something was made, most people just indulge themselves.
They aren’t students of life.
Ryan Holiday explains that every creator eventually has an experience where the magic disappears.
Every brilliant creation or innovation was done according to a process by a person.
You can learn that process.
You can become that person.
There is no magic.
And then, you can begin competing with the best in the world. Because you take the best products/ideas they give you, and you proactively respond to them.
You then create something better and expect others to proactively respond to what you’ve created or innovated.
It’s not about maintaining power or prominence. It’s about growth and evolution.
Invest Heavily In Your Personal Development
Becoming a super-learner starts with developing yourself.
This means continually developing your mindset.
Continually taking in the best information from the best books and resources.
Although you prioritize learning through doing, you also prioritize gaining wisdom, knowledge, and strategies from books. You learn through your own experience AND the experience of others.
Your heavy investment in your own personal development is what sets you apart.
Most people are working on their jobs. You’re working on yourself, so you can do different and better work.
Don’t just read books.
Go to conferences.
Pay for travel and other transformational learning experiences.
Books and information aren’t enough. And books and information are certainly not the only form of “personal development.”
The more money you invest in yourself, the more committed you’ll be to your dreams.
The more money you invest in yourself, the more subconsciously you’ll believe you deserve.
The more you deserve, the more you’ll desire to help others. It’s not about you. You’ve crossed your point of no return. You already know your future is being PULLED forward in a brilliant way.
Your goal now is to develop the skills and abilities to help as many people as possible.
Once you have sufficient hope, you then have the ability to help others in an inspired way.
Be A Giver, Don’t Fear Others “Stealing” Your Best Stuff
“Taking makes me feel like I’m dying. Giving makes me feel like I’m living.” — Morrie Schwartz
In the brilliant book, Tuesdays With Morrie, Mitch Albom details his experience meeting with his old professor, Morrie Schwartz, just before Morrie’s dealth.
That book has sold over 14 million copies.
The core lesson from that book is: When you’re giving, you’re living. When you’re taking, you’re dying.
When you have an abundance mentality, you operate FROM gratitude and giving.
You give, give, give. Because you LIVE when you GIVE. That’s what it means to be human.
And naturally, you receive a lot. And when you receive, you are extremely grateful and appreciative.
Recently, I was at the Genius Network Annual Event. At that event, Joe Polish asked Tony Robbins and Dean Graziosi to share some of their greatest insights into starting and scaling a business.
Both Tony and Dean talked about how, at the beginning of their careers, lots and lots of people would copy/steal their work.
Of course, this continues to happen now.
But they are less concerned about it.
However, back in their beginning stages, they’d see people who would literally, word-for-word steal their presentations, ideas, etc., and it would really bug them. They’d invest a lot of energy into trying to stop con-artists and thieves from stealing their work.
Admittedly, I’ve been heavily bugged when certain individuals steal some of my favorite ideas. And I’m not talking about “Steal(ing) Like An Artist.” I’m talking about straight thief-ery. Like totally plagiarism.
What Dean said, though, was very important.
Eventually, he got to the point where he stopped caring.
He’d tell his team, when they saw someone literally stealing his presentations and material:
“Guys, don’t worry about it. He won’t be around in 4–6 months.”
And that was usually the case.
People who aren’t creators, but instead are thieves and imitators don’t have the WHY to make it through the storms.
They aren’t coming from the same place.
Because these people are driven by WHAT SUCCEEDED, rather than a deep WHY, they will eventually shift their focus onto something else.
Put simply, it’s not helpful to worry about all this stuff. Especially in the internet age where stealing is becoming a cultural norm. Instead, just give give give.
Give the best stuff you can.
Never stop creating.
Never stop giving.
And don’t worry about what you can’t control. Yes, people will steal your stuff. Yes, people won’t like you.
Keep giving to the people who you are trying to serve.
But Give Effectively
In his book, Give and Take, Adam Grant details decades of research on giving and taking.
He found that people who constantly give can become exhausted and burned out.
HOW you give matters, not just the fact that you’re giving.
If you “sprinkle” giving throughout your week, such as doing 10 minutes of service here and 10 minutes of service there, you’ll likely burn out.
This type of service also doesn’t have a big impact, both for you or those who receive your help.
Often, those who give in this way do it out of fear. Or, they give impulsively.
Whatever reason for their giving, it’s not done intentionally, and it can actually lead to their downfall.
According to the research detailed in Grant’s book, the most effective strategy for giving is by “chunking.” You set aside a few hours on a given day to truly help.
In this way, you are going deeper in your giving. It’s not getting in the way of your own priorities. You’re also showing self-respect, which garners respect from others.
Yet, you’re still giving. You’re helping very much, and making time to do it. You’re just not running faster than you have strength. You’re doing things in wisdom and order.
Also, you’re not giving for the sake of giving. You’re giving to make an impact.
Give in the ways that you actually can give.
If you have expertise, do what you can to help in that way.
Make a huge impact in your giving.
People will seriously appreciate you.
And you’ll make huge progress in your relationships AND in your contribution AND in your skill development.
You’ll also maintain your sanity.
Be A Brilliant Receiver, Take Full Advantage Of Your Situation, And Graciously Give Credit Where It’s Due
When you invest in yourself, your skills, and your relationships, you’ll find yourself in some brilliant situations.
People will help you a lot.
And you’ll need their help to succeed at the level you intend to.
Take full advantage of the help awarded to you.
Embrace all the help you can get in moving toward you goals.
The best thing you can do is be an incredible learner. When you have mentors, for example, they get a lot of joy when the people they teach actually UTILIZE and APPRECIATE what they teach.
When you’re getting help, apply and utilize everything you’re getting. Become the perfect case study.
Then, give all the credit back to those who helped you.
Don’t take any of the credit to yourself.
You’ll end up getting tons of credit anyways, because you’ll start getting insane results in your work.
But give all the credit where it’s due.
This will keep your relationships in harmony.
It will keep you humble.
It will keep you learning and growing.
When You Start To Succeed (and you will), Double Down On Your Fundamentals
If you consistently apply the principles listed above, you WILL become successful very quickly.
You’ll find yourself in new and difficult situations. You’ll quickly adapt to those situations.
You’ll begin doing work that matters and has a big impact.
You’ll develop abundant mentorships where people invest a TON in you, because you’ve invested a ton in yourself and into them.
It’s at this point that most people plateau.
Sustaining success, and going beyond success is nearly impossible for most people. Hence Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism,questions, “Why don’t successful people and organizations automatically become very successful?”
One reason, obviously, is ego. As Abraham Lincoln has said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
Becoming “successful” has lots of benefits.
It’s also VERY distracting.
You can quickly find yourself managing relationship and high-level projects, and never actually DOING THE WORK that got you there.
You lose your sense of urgency and purpose.
Maybe, just maybe, you begin to “believe your own press.” One thing any good mentor will tell you never to do.
Don’t believe the headlines.
Always be a student.
Always be an underdog.
Never stop learning.
Always take on bigger goals that require you to become someone more to achieve.
Especially when you become successful, the noise to signal ratio will go way way out of whack.
Lots of people will be seeking your attention and help.
It’s in those moments that you’ll have to be very honest with yourself.
Why are you really doing this, again?
There was a reason beyond just being successful.
And you can get back to that purpose very quickly.
You just stick to your fundamentals.
You really do become an essentialist, where you say NO to most things.
You remain VERY selective about the projects you take on and the people you collaborate with.
You don’t get caught up in the desires for fame and other distractions.
You keep first things first.
You keep your family first.
You keep your core values first.
You keep your core practices for getting clarity — such as morning routine, journal writing, learning, and fitness — first.
As you keep these things first, you’ll have clarity where most people plateau and lose theirs’.
You’ll be able to take your progress and compound it. You’ll take what you’ve learned about HOW TO LEARN, and apply it to bigger and bigger endeavors.
And unlike most people, you’ll remain grounded.
You’ll remain on a foundation.
You won’t lose your mind.
You won’t be derailed by success.
You won’t plateau and become satisfied with the results of your past.
You’ll keep pushing your own boundaries and keep evolving.
Give Yourself Plenty Of Time Alone — Time To Reflect, Meditation, Create Vision
Consequently, you’ll need plenty of time to yourself.
All along the way.
To connect with your why.
To retrain your subconscious.
To develop your skills.
To continue learning.
To continue creating vision.
To continue getting clarity, and regulating your emotions.
To keep yourself healthy, since you are your #1 asset.
Ready to Upgrade?
I’ve created a cheat sheet for putting yourself into a peak state, immediately. If you follow this daily, you’ll be able to proactively create the life you want.