How to be successful

Let’s be honest, success is hard. Not complicated, just hard. Today, I want to rewire how you think about success and break down the barriers for good.

Ramit Sethi · May 29th, 2015


Let’s be honest, success is hard. Not complicated, just hard.

It’s hard because we’re wired to look for quick fixes, easy outs and ways to keep from failing.

And it’s not our fault. Our brain wants to use the path of least resistance. If we really want to be successful, we have to go against our nature and challenge the two most common barriers that knock us off course:

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  1. Chasing “magic bullets”
  2. Fearing failure

Today, I want to rewire how you think about success and help you break down these barriers once and for all.

Bonus: I asked 15 of the world’s top experts to share some of the most successful tests they’ve run. Download my free 15 Little Life Hacks guide and start taking action today.

Success Barrier #1: Chasing “Magic Bullets”

A magic bullet is the ONE THING you think you NEED to become successful. Marketers know how powerful magic bullets can be. Hence the millions of websites shouting taglines like, “THE ONE SUPERFOOD YOU MUST EAT!!!”

Here’s a classic example from the fitness world:

You know Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson?

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson... warming upBTW, this is just The Rock warming up.

Some guys claim they’d “kill to have his arms” or “do anything” to be as strong as him.

Those same guys ask “How can I get huge like you? Tell me your secrets, PLEASE!”

The truth is, he doesn’t keep secrets. In fact, he’s released his full diet and exercise regimen online and in interviews many times.

When people find out what he eats and the type of exercises he does, their reaction is shock and anger.

Immediately, they attack him.

  • “You eat 6,000 calories a day and 10 pounds of food!?!”
  • “That’s ridiculous to work out 4 hours a day!”
  • “Who has time to eat and workout like that!?”

The answer to all of the above: You’d do that too if you really wanted to be that big.

Honestly, what did they think he was going to say? “Well, it really comes down to my Acme brand gloves.

He’s that big because his diet and workouts are INSANE. That’s what it takes to be the best at what you do.

We think there must be some secret he’s not telling us because most of us are looking for that magic bullet. A quick fix to make us successful.

Whether you’re trying to start a business, find a great job or improve your fitness… MAGIC BULLETS DON’T EXIST.

Rather than feed you lies about how you can do JUST THIS ONE THING to be successful, I’d prefer to tell you the truth about how hard success is — then show you the exact roadmaps to get there (more on that soon).

Success Barrier #2: Fearing failure

Fear of failure is a very real thing. And it holds us back from being successful in a lot of ways.

For example:

  • We don’t apply for that job because we’re sure there’s “no way” we can get it.
  • We don’t talk to that girl (or guy) because she’s “out of our league.”
  • We don’t take that course that could potentially change our lives because “what if it doesn’t work for me?”

My good friend, James Altucher, the author of the popular book Choose Yourself and a successful entrepreneur who has failed MANY times, sat down to talk about this with me.

Pay close attention to what James says at 0:40 (He mentions that even the most successful people have fear…but unlike most people, they choose to use fear in a way that helps them get ahead):

The truth is that we have to fail to succeed. So anytime we face failure, we should reframe as a source of feedback and a way to succeed next time we try. Not a reason to give something up.

So once we get past these barriers to success, how do we get there? How do we actually become successful?


The Roadmap for Success

Here is my roadmap for success — 3 strategies you can use to get the most out of your life.

These aren’t shortcuts. Hard work is still required. But they will compound your rewards.

Success Strategy #1: Find a mentor — how one email can get you life-changing advice

Life is full of tough choices:

  • Should you choose the well-paying job with the Fortune 100 company…or work for that start-up that might not be around in 18 months?
  • Should you go back to school for an MBA or study online?
  • Should you move to a bigger city or stay where you are where you have some contacts and friends already?

The right path for you isn’t always clear.

The good news is there are people who’ve already walked down all of the paths and they can tell you what to expect. This is why you need to find a mentor. One call or email from them can save you YEARS of struggle and frustration of dealing with a bad decision.

A counterintuitive fact is that mentors don’t always have to be people you meet face-to-face. You can get access to successful mentors from the books or blogs you read.

With a $10 book (or free from the library) and 2 hours of your time, you can learn from a lifetime of someone’s work and expertise. I’ll take that ROI any day.

To take this idea to the next level, you can actually follow up with the authors you read.

It’s as simple as sending a quick note to thank them for writing the book and telling them specifically how you’ve found success through their advice.

They love this! (Trust me, any time someone emails me about my book, I’m thrilled!)

And it separates you from 99% of people who either 1) don’t read or 2) do read but never take action on the material they come across.

(BONUS: Click here for the exact word-for-word scripts to meet with someone you admire.)

NOTE: Before doing this, you should have crystal clear expectations for what a mentor will provide for you. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t focus on getting paid. You want to optimize for learning, and make sure that the mentor knows this. If they offer to pay you for work, that’s fine, but certainly don’t ask for this up front.
  • NEVER ask a mentor a question Google can easily answer for you. Do your homework before you ask busy people for answers. If Google could provide the answer in 20 seconds, don’t waste your mentor’s time. You want them to help you solve complex and really meaningful problems in your life instead.
  • Put in the work up front. I always say that if you put in 10x the work that leads to 1000x the results. So don’t slack or half-ass your way through assignments or projects. Focus on becoming world class and absorbing all the knowledge you can from them.
  • If you feel like you’re not getting valuable experience, don’t feel like you have to keep the relationship going. Don’t just disappear and not return their calls and emails. But certainly don’t waste either of your valuable time. Communicate your feelings and move on.

Success Strategy #2: Be unique — don’t play the same game as everyone else

As an undergrad at Stanford, I watched people apply to jobs the normal way and get rejected for job after job.

Then I realized if you learn to play a completely different game than everyone else, you don’t have to worry about beating your competition…because you don’t have any!

This is how I got a job offer from Google. I asked myself “What does everyone else do to get hired and how can I set myself apart?”

Answer: most people send in their resume and wait for a call back.

To separate myself from the group, every week I sent an analysis to the guy who had the job I wanted.

He eventually noticed me and realized my burning desire to work there. When a position opened up, I was naturally the first person he thought of.

I successfully scored an interview by playing a completely different game. I never sent in a resume and sat around waiting for a phone call, but I did get the job.

I broke all the rules, and, sometimes, that’s exactly what it takes to succeed.

Ask yourself:

  • “When everyone else zigs, how can I zag?”
  • “What can I do that would make me a clear, standout winner?”
  • “Who is good at this that shouldn’t be and how can I learn from their techniques?”

Often these questions show you how to develop a better strategy than everyone else — so instead of hoping things work out you can actually get ahead. Try using these questions to be different and have a better strategy the next time you try something new.

Success Strategy #3: Take action — Set a goal, test solutions and get feedback

Lastly, once you have an idea of what you want to do in life — whether it’s finding a Dream Job or starting a business of your own — take action toward your goal and pay attention to the feedback you receive at every step. It’s really that simple.

I try to look at things as if I’m a scientist, conducting an experiment. I did x. Was it successful? Did I get the result I wanted? Why or why not?

Then, I make corrections for next time, and move on.

This may sound like I’m skimming over what we need to do here.

But the reality is it’s much better to take action and learn from our mistakes than to sit on our hands and dream of all that could be.

Success really isn’t about being catapulted into the stratosphere overnight. It’s about taking consistent action, testing different options, and seeing the results.

In fact, you can start implementing some life-changing tests in your life today…

Here’s how: I asked 15 of the world’s top experts — people like Neil Patel, Noah Kagan, BJ Fogg and Josh Kaufman — to share some of the best tests they’ve run.

These are the exact tests that’ve helped them become wildly successful.

And I put them together in this free guide for you.

15 Little Life Hacks That Can Change Your Life

15 Little Life Hacks to Make You More Successful

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