5 Methods of Learning That Set Successful People Apart

5 Methods of Learning That Set Successful People Apart

5 Methods of Learning That Set Successful People Apart

Want to work smarter? Incorporate these five rules into your daily habits.

How do you define success?

We all measure prosperity in different ways. But it doesn’t really matter what your personal goals are. The key to getting better at anything is summed up in one word:


That’s why the most successful people, regardless of what they’re trying to accomplish, strive to incorporate five simple rules into their daily habits.

If you want to be a successful learner, make sure to:

1. Read. A lot.

When you first discovered the joy of reading, a world of knowledge was made available. But are you still making the most of those skills?

Scientific research indicates that the benefits of reading go far beyond learning particular facts or insights. Accumulated over time, the consequences of good reading habits multiply exponentially, increasing your range of cognitive abilities.

In other words, reading doesn’t just make you smarter–it increases the ceiling of how smart you can become.

2. Practice.

No one becomes skilled at anything without practice. And of course, every failure hurts.

But although it’s natural to feel bad after making a major mistake, successful people learn to control what happens next.

They know mistakes are a part of life, so they don’t wallow in self-pity. The key to gaining benefit from failure is to pick yourself up, analyze what went wrong, and take measures to prevent repeating those mistakes, as much as possible.

It’s a continuous process, but one that makes you better.

3. Learn from others’ experience.

It’s been said that experience is the best teacher. Most interpret that statement to mean learning from their own successes and failures.

But why not focus on learning from others?

Our current experience is limited by our lifetime. By studying those who have already reached the goals they’re striving for, successful people increase their “experience”–and the benefits that come along with it.

4. Ask for advice.

A mentor can be a great source of experience, but you shouldn’t limit yourself to this type of relationship. We are surrounded by those with strengths that are different from our own. One of the keys to success is knowing when to ask for help.

If you’re afraid that asking for help will make you appear incompetent, don’t be: Research shows that those who seek advice are usually perceived as smarter than those who don’t.

5. Keep a student’s mindset.

My colleague Mandy Antoniacci perfectly described the danger of considering oneself an “expert” in a recent column:

For me, referring to yourself as an “expert” in any field assumes the position that you have reached your fullest potential. It implies you have attained a thrilling pinnacle in your career and that your thirst for knowledge in a particular subject has been quenched.

In contrast, I love Antoniacci’s recommendation to exchange the term “expert” with “student.” If we continue to consider ourselves as students–those who are always questioning, searching, exploring, and observing–we’ll continue to grow.

And that’s what sets truly successful people apart:

They never stop learning.

5 Methods of Learning That Set Successful People Apart


7 Ways Successful People Have Better Mindsets

7 Ways Successful People Have Better Mindsets 1

7 Ways Successful People Have Better Mindsets

A successful person is not someone in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of smart attitudes.

It’s interesting to wonder why some people are more successful than others, especially if you yourself are aiming high.

What do people like Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates have that feeds their ongoing excellence and propels them to the highest levels of success?

The answers are complex, of course. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be learned.Each of these successful people shares certain smart mindsets–mindsets that any one of us can emulate, that will do us good no matter what level of success we aspire to.

Here are seven of the top examples:

1. Successful people don’t take failure too seriously.

They see failure as the opportunity to begin again, but this time more intelligently. They know it’s not a defining event, and they don’t treat it as a problem unless it begins to become a habit. They win as if they are used to it, and they lose as if they’re enjoying the challenge.

2. Successful people accept who they are and what they are about.

If you keep putting yourself down, there is no way for you to move forward. Successful people know the smartest mindset you can have is self-acceptance–refusing to be in an adversarial relationship with yourself.

3. Successful people set goals and work to achieve them.

Having a dream is great, but having a dream and goals is smart, because goals are how dreams become achievable. The most successful people are constantly setting and working toward goals to make a positive difference. Goals turn the invisible visible; they let you structure your thinking to always be looking for something you can do to bring you closer to what you want to achieve. Goals lead you to ask every day, “What am I doing that will move me toward where I want to be and what I want to achieve.?” Successful people not only set goals, they set them high. And they don’t stop until they reach them.

4. Successful people don’t leave things to chance.

Instead of passively hoping for the best, they take control to make things happen. You always have a choice: You can control your mind or you can let it control you. Refusing to leave things to chance shows inner strength, decisiveness, and a strong will. Incredible things happen when you decide to take control of what you can control and let go of the rest.

5. Successful people don’t let themselves get sidetracked by problems.

If your mindset is negative, problems will grow in strength and constantly pull you down, sending you on detours of thought into some bad neighborhoods. On the other hand, with a positive mindset you will think of problems as a reason to be creative and come up with innovative solutions. The biggest problem is thinking of problems as problems. Successful people know that when you focus on problems you have more problems, but when you focus on possibilities you have more opportunities.

6. Successful people are decisive.

The most successful people are deft decision makers. They don’t waffle or second-guess themselves. They take in the information they need, then clear out their mind and pick the best option based on what they know. If it turns out to be wrong, they learn from it. But they won’t be guilty of not deciding at all.

7. Successful people are continually learning.

If you want to go far, borrow the mindset known in Zen Buddhism as shoshin, or learner’s mind. That means you don’t pretend to know it all but are open to learning and growth and development, with a mind that’s fresh and enthusiastic and free of bias. Experience holds lessons for us all, but you have to remain teachable to take advantage of them.

If you’re serious about being successful, cultivate these smart mindsets and see where they take you.

7 Ways Successful People Have Better Mindsets

Want to Be Successful? Be the Best at What You Do

Want to Be Successful? Be the Best at What You Do

Want to Be Successful? Be the Best at What You Do

The problem I see with many if not most aspiring entrepreneurs is they’re forcing themselves into a career they’re not cut out for. Why do they do it? They’re lured by all the hype into doing what they think they’re supposed to do. So they follow the crowd and march blindly into the abyss, like good little digital drones.

That’s why so many of you feel lost and uninspired. That’s why so many of you are constantly searching for answers, hungry for guidance, and fishing around for books and blogs to help motivate you to get up off your butts and get going. Simply put, you’re in the wrong line of work.

Let me tell you a story that I think will help you find the right line of work.

When I discovered the existence of high-tech startups, I instantly knew that was the life for me. It was as if I’d been lost for eons and finally found my way out of a vast jungle and into the light. Suddenly, the path ahead was clear. I knew what I had to do. And I did it right. I went back to school and got an advanced degree in engineering.

Related: The Only Good Reason to Start a Business in 2016

Even then, it would be many years – more than a decade, actually – before I achieved any kind of success in a high-tech startup. And while I spent the next decade as a senior executive in a number of successful companies, big and small, my only stint as a startup CEO ended in bankruptcy when the dot-com bubble burst.

But here’s the thing. I have no regrets, and I’ll tell you why. I was true to myself. And while I had the opportunity to run several startups before and since, I never did. Why? None of those situations was right for me. And had I attempted them, I would have failed, and not in a good way.

Instead of pushing myself to do something I was never meant to do, I climbed the corporate ladder and rode the coattails of some brilliant founders and CEOs who were cut out for that sort of thing. Honestly, I don’t get all the hype about being a founder or a CEO. Turns out, vice president’s a pretty sweet gig, too. And the payoff was incredible.

I loved my work, did quite well for many years, and now I run a boutique management consulting firm and write. It’s been a great ride and a good life, but only because I stayed true to myself and didn’t follow what others said I should do. Instead, I did what was right for me. I got the right education, did the work, got tons of experience, built a rolodex of who’s who in the tech industry, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now let’s talk about you. I hear from people striving to become entrepreneurs every day. To be blunt, most of them haven’t a clue about what they’re doing. They’re going to waste years spinning their wheels and end up back where they started with nothing to show for it. All because they read some articles, blog posts, or books written by greedy opportunists, shysters, and content generators who also don’t have a clue.

Hard to believe, but that’s exactly what millions of people are doing. Right now. I’ve tried to help a handful over the years – the ones I thought actually had a chance – and you know what? Those who made it are those who had what it takes. Those who were cut out for it. Those who were passionate about their work. Those who were committed to achieving great things. The vast majority were not. And they all washed out.

Related: 10 Toxic Behaviors to Leave Behind in 2015

Most had an idea and thought that was more important than anything. Turns out that ideas are the least important thing. Everyone has ideas. Everyone. People who will never amount to anything have ideas. Every single one of them.

You want to know what the most important thing is? People who are cut out to be real entrepreneurs are doers. They don’t need to be motivated. They don’t need to be inspired. Once they find that one thing they love doing – that one thing they’re better at than anyone – they become unstoppable. They work like their hair is on fire. And they never stop working. Their work is their life.

And you know what? I had all those qualities. Still, I wasn’t cut out to run the show. There’s so much more to entrepreneurship than that. Don’t get me wrong. You can scrape by without those qualities. You can be a solopreneur with a bunch of gigs. You can maybe run a small business. But you’re not going to be the best at something like Gates, Jobs, or Zuckerberg.

Maybe it’s just me, but I always wanted to be the best at what I did. For me, that’s always been the litmus test. That, to me, is what matters most. And since I couldn’t be the best at being an entrepreneur, I chose not to do it. And wouldn’t you know it, that turned out to be the right path. That’s how I became successful.

If you think you can be the best at something, that’s what you should do. That’s what will make you successful. Once you find it, God speed.

Related: The 10 Worst Entrepreneurs of 2015

Want to Be Successful? Be the Best at What You Do

Success is not a matter of luck—it’s an algorithm


Success is not a matter of luck—it’s an algorithm

How does someone like Jack Dorsey go from a 14-year-old computer science nerd to serial entrepreneur, the co-founder and CEO of Twitter and Square? How does 3M consistently innovate, developing simple but iconic products like post-it notes? It’s not a matter of luck. It’s an algorithm.


I was 21 when I first moved to the U.S. from Europe. I spoke only broken English, and had no idea what I wanted to do or even where I would live. My coping strategy was to focus on fitting in to this new culture. I observed how people shook hands, how they dressed, how they made small talk. And I took notes. Literal notes. What started as a social survival mechanism had turned into a real interest: I was researching communications, psychology and strategic planning. I was looking for a pattern.


You might call what I found an “algorithm”, a formula that people use to achieve sustainable success. This algorithm can be replicated. It can be personalized. I call it ENGAGE — one, because that’s how the acronym worked out, but also because the point of this “secret formula” is engaging your potential, your purpose, and the people around you. It’s about spending more time on the things that really matter to you so that you get what you want out of both your personal and professional life.

So what exactly is ENGAGE?

ENGAGE is a six-step process for discovering what drives you and using it to succeed in your career. Many people’s careers stall because they see strategic, high-level thinking, like knowing what their purpose is or what values drive them, as a “soft skill.” They don’t prioritize it. But that kind of thinking is exactly what enables entrepreneurs to launch successful startups, executives to get promoted and politicians to be elected. You can progress in your career without following this model, sure. But you’ll eventually plateau.


If you want to be not just good, but the best, ENGAGE is for you.

E: Explore your meaning


Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right. — Henry Ford

A few years ago, Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer and a team of researchers put subjects in two flight simulators, one realistic, one broken. Participants in the first group were told to imagine themselves as pilots, and they were even given army fatigues to help them play the part. In the process, each group received an eye exam disguised as part of the simulation.

Langer’s team found that subjects who “flew” in the realistic simulator showed a marked improvement in their vision. Langer concluded that pretending to be someone with good vision, like a pilot, had made their vision palpably better. This study, and others conducted by Langer, suggests that the power of our minds is, well, actually mind-bending. What if we choose to think of ourselves as creative? As confident?

In my case, I decided to think of myself as someone who “decides with absolute certainty.” So, I wrote that phrase on a sticky note and keep copies on my desk at work and my fridge at home. Seeing that credo every day has enabled me to unconsciously make faster decisions.

Think about what matters to you. What gives meaning to your life? We occasionally lose sight of our values — the things that define and drive us — and with them, our confidence in the future. If you aren’t aligned with your values, it’s easy to let limiting beliefs control you: I’m not smart enough, I don’t have the resources, I’m not in a creative environment. But the reality is you are the X factor in this formula. If you change your mindset, you change yourself.

What’s the first step explore your meaning? Identify your top three core values, then define steps you can do each week to embody that value. You value creativity? Set 15 minutes aside to doodle. You love adventure? Visit one new place every week.

N: Narrow your goals


Life is short, fragile and does not wait for anyone. There will NEVER be a perfect time to pursue your goals. — Unknown

If changing your mindset can have seemingly magical effects, so can setting goals. In 1961, when John F. Kennedy announced that the U.S. would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, many people thought it was impossible. But without Kennedy’s ambitious goal, it’s hard to know if Neil Armstrong would have set foot on the moon’s surface eight years later.

Growing up in Europe, I always imagined myself living and working in New York City, so much so that when I was 18, I went to IKEA and bought a giant black and white photo of the Manhattan skyline and hung it above my bed. That was my way of creating a visual goal that I could engage with every night before going to sleep.

Multiple studies show that setting goals is itself a mini-algorithm for success. In 2010, researchers from McGill University investigated whether a written goal-setting program could have positive effects for struggling students. After a four-month period in which the students set specific goals and defined detailed strategies for achieving those goals, the ones who successfully completed the program showed a 30 percent increase, on average, in academic performance compared to the control group.

So now that you know what you value, it’s time to set goals. Set clear targets. Say them out loud. Write them down. Are your goals SMART — simple, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound?

What’s the first step to narrow your goals? Even more important than identifying your smart goals and writing them down is knowing the things that you will NOT do. Learn to say no. One key to achieving your goals is being selective with your time so that the bulk of your energy goes to what counts.

G: Generate a plan


A goal without a plan is just a wish. — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Standing between you and achieving your goals is usually just one person — a boss, an HR manager, a professor, or maybe an investor. Usually that person is in your network. What you need is a plan for engaging with that person in a way that will benefit you. But how do you do that?

It’s simple.

According to Kellogg School of Management professor Lauren Rivera, managers tend to hire candidates they believe could become their friend. The hiring process is not only about finding the person with the skills for the job, but also about the person who fits in with company culture. In other words, people trust people they perceive as similar to themselves.

I started running in the first place because my boss competes in marathons. Not only do I get the benefits of exercising, but it also gives me a great discussion topic for when I step into his office. By having something in common, we have developed an even stronger working relationship.

Here’s the good news: if the person who can help make your goals reality is someone you already know — and it’s likely they are — then do your research. What traits, behaviors and interests do you share? What habits can you learn and adopt from them? Successful people know how to assimilate the environment they aspire to be in.

What’s the first step to generate a plan? Business executives spend 90 percent of their time in meetings and answering emails. Set aside time to center your efforts on the people who matter. Find the one person who can help you accomplish a goal and create a plan on how to reach out to them.

A: Anticipate roadblocks


Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth. — Mike Tyson

You’ve identified where you want to go and how to get there. You’re ready to start. But no matter how much you plan, you will inevitably run into roadblocks.

At the age of 20, Benjamin Franklin developed a personal plan aimed at achieving “moral perfection.” It included meditation, eating and drinking in moderation and even avoiding sex. In his autobiography, Franklin explains that such a roadmap eventually contributed to his success as a politician, diplomat and statesman. However, he also realized he needed a plan with enough flexibility to allow him to ably navigate any unexpected roadblocks.

These adversities can be people, circumstances, or our own limiting beliefs. They can also be the tasks you have to complete to achieve a goal. To learn how to anticipate and navigate these roadblocks, however, you need to tackle the most difficult person or task first.

Engaging a difficult task or other roadblock might not look like what you expect. For example, you might start by thinking positive. According to Mayo Clinic, positive thinking helps you cope with stressful situations, diminishing stress’s harmful returns on the body’s health. So when you’re up against a roadblock, the best thing you can do might just be a good stretch and some deep breathing.

I developed a simple mechanism to get back on track when I feel stressed. I drink two glasses of water and think about something pleasant. There are no “special ingredients” in the water, but by creating that routine, I’ve built neural pathways that associate hydration with the feeling of well-being.

How do you start anticipating roadblocks? Break down your goals into steps. Want a promotion? Then you need to 1) complete an important project and 2) bring in new clients. Go over what can go wrong in the process: missed deadlines, only finding one new client, etc. Now remember that even if that happens, it’s not the end of the world.

G: Gain persistence


If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done. — Thomas Jefferson

The first music album Virgin Records exported to the U.S. only found success because of one lucky break. Or at least it seemed that way. When an Atlantic Records executive started listening to the album, he happened to be in the room with William Friedkin, a film director looking for a new soundtrack for his latest project, The Exorcist. Luck? Yes, but Virgin’s founder Richard Branson had also spent dozens of hours convincing Atlantic that they should give the record a play. According to Branson, people who play it safe seldom get lucky. On the other hand, people who see themselves as lucky are also usually the ones who are prepared to take the greatest risks.

Chasing your dreams is hard work. So how do you avoid getting burned out? Psychologists who study cognitive flexibility argue that the answer has to do with being open to the unexpected — even if that’s just trying a new restaurant, meeting new people, or discovering a new hobby.

Whenever I feel like giving up I do something unexpected, such as talking to a stranger or even doing push-ups at my desk. The break momentarily takes my mind off what’s in front of me, but then gives me an extra boost to keep going.

In other words, look beyond your daily habits. Take risks, step outside the box, give yourself new inputs — otherwise, the outcome will be the same. As psychologist Ben Fletcher explains, “People’s lives can be absolutely transformed by being nudged along a slightly altered route.”

How do you gain persistence? When you feel like giving up, switch things up instead. Do something totally out of your wheelhouse — it doesn’t even have to align with your goal. Are you struggling to get recognized at work? Learn how to cook a new recipe, change the route you take on your commute, try a new sport, or simply spend your lunch break with someone you haven’t met before.

E: Elevate yourself


To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart. — Eleanor Roosevelt

Iconic psychologist Abraham Maslow found that two of the most fundamental needs we have as human beings are the need to belong, and the need to be appreciated. If you apply the ENGAGE algorithm, you will soon find yourself in a leadership position with the opportunity to meet these needs in other people.

This may seem daunting, but becoming a leader who inspires people does not require grand gestures. Rather, it means paying attention, saying thank you, and recognizing the work others have done. A thoughtful compliment can go a long way towards inspiring others.

It’s no accident that Bill Clinton frequently acknowledges his high school band director for not only helping him grow as a saxophone player, but as a leader. Or that Ronald Reagan chose to write his touching open letter to the American people in 1994 after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Or that President Obama, after reading Yann Martel’s book Life of Pi, sent Martel a thank you note praising his storytelling and powerful message.

I’ve found that helping students is a great way to elevate myself and those around me. Whenever someone in college contacts me, I always try to answer a question or make an introduction. Over the years, these students have become leaders in their own fields, now allowing me the opportunity to learn from them.

How do you start elevating yourself? Start by acknowledging one person who helped you get where you are or who positively shaped your life. Showing respect inspires others and builds influence.

E.N.G.A.G.E. will help you design experiences that promote “successful thinking”. However, the formula doesn’t work unless you do. Your potential is there waiting to be discovered!

Commentary by Francesco Marconi, strategy manager for The Associated Press and fellow at Columbia Journalism School.

Success is not a matter of luck—it’s an algorithm

4 Ways to Gain Success Through Safe Innovation


4 Ways to Gain Success Through Safe Innovation

Success comes on the leading edge, not the bleeding edge. Learn how to mitigate risk while stretching to new heights.

Innovation can be risky for any successful company. Most leaders want the progression of innovative thinking, but many also believe there is no need to rock a steady ship and potentially create unneeded turmoil.

Innovation doesn’t always have to be a risky proposition. On a recent episode of my podcast, YPO’s 10 Minute Tips from the Top, I interviewed NK Tong who is successfully innovating in one of the oldest professions, real estate.

As co-founder and group managing director of Bukit Kiara Properties in Malaysia. Tong is challenged daily with finding new concepts and ideas for buildings to not only give his customers more value, but to also keep the creative fuel running inside of his company.

Tong, a member of the YPO, is an MBA graduate from Wharton School of Business who built his company up from a team of five people to one with development properties worth over 375 million euros in Malaysia alone.

Here is Tong’s advice on innovating safely but surely.

1. Get your whole team involved.

Coming up with big ideas on your own is a tall order, especially when you need to innovate constantly. Tong’s method? Bring in the whole team. “I believe in the wisdom of crowds,” he noted. His company has very specific methodology. They bring in around 40 people into a meeting, dividing them up into seven groups. Each group comes up with different ideas that are then pitched to the entire staff using mind maps. The ideas are then revisited two to three weeks later with a more focused group of the lead creatives in the company and they eventually talk through the differing ideas until they believe they found one that fits the bill, even if it feels outlandish. “After 20 minutes, the idea that initially seemed ridiculous became the central idea.”

2. Stay close to the customer.

No matter how great an idea is, it will mean nothing if the customer finds it lacking in value. Tong’s company’s approach is to stay close to the customer.”On any project, we have 60 percent of the company involved in sales,” he explained. “On weekends, different team members from all departments get involved in sales. So the whole company then knows the customers because they have met the customers. They feel aligned with the customer.” They then create with the customer in mind. But the interaction does not end there as Tong’s team keeps in touch with customers on social media, creating Facebook groups that allow customers to interact with the company and other tenants. “Of course there are residents who will complain about issues on the ground. And we love that because if we can get instant feedback, then we can do something about that. It also gives us feedback on how the team’s doing,” acknowledged Tong. “But more importantly, it also creates sense of community so that they can get in touch with each other.”

3. Begin with the end in mind.

New and even radical ideas are crucial to the growth and innovation of a company. Tong advocates seeing the big picture first and working backward so you can identify the essential building steps. This approach also surfaces the potential pitfalls that could cause you grief later on. “We have to be careful to be on the leading edge, not the bleeding edge because that can be very expensive,” asserted Tong.

4. Be open to new ideas in the moment.

When executing an innovative and potentially risky plan, deviating from the structure in place could be challenging and seen as unsafe. But taking those risks at the right moment could potentially pay off as well. “We still shoot bullets before cannonballs,” revealed Tong, referencing Jim Collins’ Great by Choice. “When we go onsite, we will look around and if we see opportunities for improvements, sometimes these changes or improvements don’t add to cost but add to customer experience.”

4 Ways to Gain Success Through Safe Innovation

5 Key Steps to Learning from Failure

When we hear or say the words “fail” or “failure” in relation to all things tech, we generally conjure up images of locked doors, garage sales of office supplies, empty chairs and desks, and a battle for the best developers who are now on the job market. But there’s more to it than that, and in every startup failure, there are more details than most of us will ever know about because we weren’t there. We can only watch from the sidelines and make armchair quarterback calls about what we would have done differently.

But how do we actually learn from failure? It’s too often a platitude like “we only learn when we fail,” but that doesn’t help the person or startup that just failed. What we need is a tangible process or exercise to walk through – painstakingly – to make sure that we do indeed learn from each and every failure, regardless of how small or how epic. That process is outlined below:

Understand what caused the failure

Take responsibility for your own actions

Say it out loud – Own it

Document your failure like a textbook


5 Key Steps to Learning from Failure

This 7-Minute Morning Routine Will Change Your (Work) Life

This routine takes seven minutes each morning before you start work. Will you follow it?

It only takes seven minutes to change how you approach your day. Using the routine described below when you get to work will make a world of difference in your productivity, your attitude, your success, and your health.

1. Before you start: Prepare

2. Minute one: Clear your head

3. Minute two: Breathe a little

4. Minutes three through six: Write notes and draw

5. Minute seven: Debrief

This 7-Minute Morning Routine Will Change Your (Work) Life