Nobody sets out in their life to fail, get hurt by others or get ill, go bankrupt, take on massive debt, take punches from the world until they die.
But when these things inevitably happen - sometimes in a row - it can completely take the wind out of your sails. We have the choice to see the tests as something necessary to improve our lives or otherwise as needless misery.
Most of us grow up setting long-term goals and hearing that quite anything is possible. Then, we encounter more and more resistance as we age - from competition at an ever higher level - and from "circumstances."
At every level, starting with your college, you are striving for the top 10% (or better). For grad school, then top jobs, it's always the top 10% of that old 10%. That's how survival of the fittest works, we're told. Except that fitness is but one small factor in the battle to swim through the darkness to the mythical and distant island of "success." Intelligence and pure hard work are critical, but over-rated. So is luck. That's why A students end up working for C students often.
Grit is the key ingredient for those that "make" it to the top of any field. Work long enough on any problem and you'll make some headway, often quite a lot. Even if not the smartest, wisest or the fastest worker, you'll outlast, outwork and ultimately outperform the smarter, wiser, faster folks.
A Russian saying puts it best. "The slower you go, the farther you'll get."
Those with true grit have generally overcome some combination of big childhood traumas, failures in their business and in family and personal setbacks. Yet they have persevered because they felt that life was worth continuing, that all the challenges were there for some big purpose well beyond themselves.
In my own life, I grew up in a single-parent home, then emigrated here from Soviet Russia, put myself through college and then law school, managed to survive New York despite Recession, unemployment, massive debt and setbacks in my business and a lot of mini-traumas on the way. Yet, here I am, much stronger than before, more focused, healthier and wiser than before - and more accomplished. What's worked for me? An over-riding sense that difficulties come and go, always for good, for growth. A discipline to get through certain problems to the end and also knowing when just to let go. A wealth of patience and a boundless curiosity. Knowing my place and mission in this world and always seeking to improve and change for better - for my own sake and my family's.
These are the detailed strategies I've used to weather through great challenges and come out ahead:
Step n°1 |
Get a grip on life. Stop just surviving and learn to thrive.
First, break the vicious cycle that keeps you miserable and frustrated, poor and running in place. If I can do it, you most certainly can, as well.
Step n°2 |
Value your time above everything else and others will learn to value your time above all.
It's your most precious resource and is always diminishing.
Until I learned to value my time above all, friends, family and everyone I met could easily manipulate me (on purpose or not, doesn't matter) into spending my precious time on useless conversations, behaviors, habits, etc. In the end, learn to recognize patterns in your own behavior and the behavior of others to avoid wasting time on conversations that bring no useful, constructive effect to your life or the life of the other person/people.
Once I set limits and acknowledged the obvious bad habits in myself and others to engage in useless conversations - where I wasn't improving someone else's life or my own or was otherwise learning and taking something useful away from the experience, suddenly, I saw my time in a completely different light. Others started valuing my time much more and productivity went up a great deal.
Step n°3 |
Create good habits and get rid of bad ones. Keep a consistent (and consistently healthy) daily regimen.
This is a really basic, but under-appreciated point, especially for young Invincibles. A solid and consistent daily regimen will keep you in one piece through the lowest of the lows and the highest of the highs.
Here are 12 easy life-changing habits you can start today. Sleep 7-8 hours a night, EVERY NIGHT (and here are 9 ways to improve the quality of your sleep). Wake up early to take advantage of the most productive (morning) time. Get up and stretch from your chair every hour. Pack a healthy lunch and healthy snacks (almonds and other nuts, PopChips, fruits, etc.); eat out sparingly. Take good care of your digestion, because if you don't, you'll be miserable too often to function well and die too soon from chronic disease. Walk around quickly as often as you can to get exercise. If you hate the gym like me, do push-ups every morning. Take the stairs, not the elevator, as much as you can. Take good care of your hygiene (don't be lazy at night), especially your teeth and skin.
Learn how to relieve your stress in safe and reliable ways. Have close friends and family around. Minimize (ideally, eliminate) the time you spend with people that add negativity (jealousy, envy, wasting of time, perpetuation of bad habits) and stress to your life. Exercise regularly. Eat well, consistently. Sleep well. Have a glass of red wine once in a while. Reinforce good habits with others who have them.
Learn to control your impulses. Outrun, outwalk, outcrawl, make a detour around temptation. Acknowledge your limitations and outsmart yourself. Simply stay out of the context where you can't control your impulses. Simply keep away from unhealthy food, activities, relationships, spending, people, language, influences, etc. Be smart and cautious enough to nip trouble in the bud.
Learn to say no to people. This is by far one of the most important skills and habits of all. Practice makes perfect.
Step n°4 |
Take good care of your mind.
Find a highly recommended therapist with a sliding scale to help you dig through and unpack and throw away all the awful baggage from childhood that's holding you back from seeing yourself in a healthy way and moving forward with life and succeeding. Drop the stigma. Create good habits around positive thinking, stress relief (see above).
Make no mistake - your mental health (or lack thereof) will make you or break you.
Step n°5 |
Eliminate negativity from your life as much as you can, day in and day out.
Be relentlessly positive, even while remaining a realist pragmatist. This means removing people that put you down or shower you with jealousy, envy and unproductive and unhealthy ways to spend time. Minimize listening to depressing music and watching depressing movies. Manipulate your mood for the better with music that lifts you up and keeps you moving forward.
Value your time above all (see #2).
Step n°6 |
Develop a Negotiation Mindset in all your dealings with people.
Practice negotiating for cheaper coffee or fruits at the farmer's market, where you have nothing to lose. Research, understand and internalize your true value to employers, business partners, landlords and all others you deal with. Be confident about your capabilities and set your limits when you go in to negotiate. Come in with concrete and measurable facts about what you've done, on what budget and time frame, how much money and time you've saved the team and company. Practice with a coach or a no-holds-barred friend beforehand.
Before I ever negotiated for anything, I was hampered by all sorts of insecurities and hidden scripts in my head that were passed down from parents, siblings, friends and cultural vectors. When I met my wife, who grew up in Morocco and negotiates for a living, the paradigm was turned upside down. In Morocco, NOT to negotiate is insulting and looked down upon. Locals always know the true price and the "acceptable" margin.
EVERYTHING is negotiable.
I slowly untangled my own hangups about negotiation, learned to understand my own true value to an employer or business partner or vendor in each case and started practicing with negotiation in a Moroccan bazaar, where there was absolutely nothing to lose.
With time, I successfully negotiated a full-time offer with benefits after being offered a contract. At that job, I ended up negotiating a 23% discount ($45K off) on financial management software - far better than expected for a company of our size. I then negotiated a cap of 1% on rent over 5 years (saving the company $17K). At another job, I negotiated $10K and better benefits/perks higher before starting. Since then, I've negotiated big discounts (20% or more) on everything from moving company expenses to rent, consulting rates, car rental fees, credit card fees, hotel chain points, coffee and all sorts of other large and smaller purchases.
After a while, developing a negotiation mindset has not only saved (and made) me tens of thousands of dollars, but also given me confidence and competence that are priceless. It's a snowball effect that consistently opens up big savings, perks, freebies, extra points and other "hidden" benefits.
The rule with negotiation is simple: If you don't ask, the answer is always no!
Step n°7 |
Connect to something higher than yourself through meditation and finding your roots (culture, religion, nationality)
Put yourself in a context where you feel connected to where you came from and who you are, so you will have the bedrock for growth in your personal life.
My own experience with becoming an observant Jew has been a very long and winding road full of potholes and false turns. I've also learned to balance the various parts of my identity in my own way - Russian-American, Kentucky boy, New Yorker, writer, lawyer, financier, entrepreneur, etc. Every person's path is quite unique and frankly, it should be. Cookie-cutter transformations are often false and rarely last.
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by Yuri Kruman CEO@MasterTheTalk.com |Startup Instructor |Forbes Contributor |Helping You Plan & Switch Careers + Find Your Dream JobFollow