• 4 reasons why overnight success is overrated

    ‘Actually, I’m an overnight success. But it took twenty years.’  Monty Hall

    Creating legacy is about organic growth

    When creating legacy, it is sometimes tempting to look for shortcuts. We all hear of ‘overnight success’ stories, people who have made their mark through one massive PR stunt or something similar, and were remembered for it for ages.

    I would like to warn you against ditching the slow process of creating legacy in favour of ‘overnight success’. First of all, people rarely become overnight successes, even if it looks like that from the outside sometimes. Before doing the one thing that made them a big hit seemingly overnight, many of these people have been slowly building up a loyal following, that at one point became a critical mass. In other words, they are legacy creators like the rest of us, who exited out of the Dip with a bang.

    Why true ‘overnight successes’ do not create legacy

    In the case of those that do become an overnight success without the very long organic growth phase, here are four reasons why you should not be too envious:

     1. Overnight successes have nothing else to keep the attention on them. So once the buzz about their success vanes, they are likely to get forgotten by the general public.

     2. Overnight successes do not have the chance to get used to the pressure gradually. They therefore have not developed good legacy habits and are likely to succumb to temptations.

     3. Overnight successes have run out of time. They now have some level of fame, but no resources to set up something durable. They are therefore less likely to develop a second hit in the short time they have.

     4. Overnight successes can’t make low-profile mistakes. They therefore make lots more costly mistakes than if they had built things up gradually and had time to experiment.

    I hope this helps. Go for slow growth, not overnight success. Creating legacy is for the long-distance runner, not the short sprint. Just trust in the path and keep going.

    What are your thoughts?

    What’s your take on ‘overnight success’? Do you agree with this post? I’d love to ‘hear’ your thoughts in the comments section.

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  • Creating legacy through self-forgiveness

    ‘Do not brood over your past mistakes and failures as this will only fill your mind with grief, regret and depression. Do not repeat them in the future.’  Swami Sivananda

    Creating legacy and breaking resolutions

    Creating legacy is a (very) long-term process. This means you cannot complete a legacy project without making particular resolutions and keeping to them. But equally – because creating legacy is such a long-term process, you are bound to break your resolutions now and again.

    Breaking resolutions is part of the game

    I want you to know that this is okay, and that you are by no means alone in this. All legacy creators break their resolutions at some point or another. It’s bound to happen. The main thing is not to let the bad feelings that usually accompany breaking resolutions drag you down further. In other words – try as much as possible to approach every day as a new opportunity for keeping your resolutions.

    Forget yesterday; make today count

    Don’t think about what you did or didn’t do yesterday. Just make today count. And today. And today. Eventually, your legacy project will be complete. And then you’ll start the process all over again with a new legacy project. And again. And again.

    Self-forgiveness as a virtue

    Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the amazing book Eat, Pray, Love, says that the most important virtue for writers is self-forgiveness. Because, as she says, ‘your writing will disappoint you. Your laziness will disappoint you.’ And it is only through self-forgiveness that you will be able to keep on writing after all that deluge of disappointment.

    This is very sound advice indeed – not just for writers, but for anyone aiming to create legacy. Don’t let your momentary weakness rob you of the opportunity to complete your project; just get yourself back on track the next day, as if nothing happened. The more you get yourself into the habit of ‘forgetting’ the bad days, the more progress you will make on your projects.

    What do you think?

    How do you get back on track after a bad spell? Do you agree that self-forgiveness is required for creating legacy? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

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  • How to make resolutions you can keep

    ‘I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.’  Jimmy Dean

    Creating legacy and making resolutions

    Creating legacy is very much connected to the resolutions you make for your everyday life. If you want to create legacy, you’ve got to learn how to meet resolutions you can actually keep – big things are accomplished one little bit at a time.

    It is important that you set yourself targets for your everyday work on creating legacy. Otherwise, the things you dream about will never happen. Working on them little by little, through resolutions you endeavour to keep day by day, is much more important than ‘binging’ on legacy actions and then forgetting about creating legacy for months.

    How to keep your resolutions

    If you want to make sure you keep your resolutions, then it is fatal to set too large a target. Otherwise sooner or later a day will come when the thought of doing it that day will be too much for you.

    For example, let’s say you want to get into the habit of jogging. Don’t set yourself the target of running for two miles every morning, because there will definitely come a day when it is pelting down with rain and nothing is going to get you out into the bad weather.

    Your target should be to get outside your front door wearing your jogging kit. Once you have got that far, you will probably go for a run. There may be some days when you will turn right round and go back indoors, but even then you will have reached your target.

    The same thing applies to writing a book, a very common type of legacy project. Firstly, it is important that you work on the book every day. And secondly, you should set yourself only modest targets for each day.

    Successful children’s author Kate DiCamillo, for example, has a target of two pages a day. Even when things are going well, she sticks to her two pages. By reaching her target and not going beyond it, she ensures she never runs out of steam – instead, she creates legacy every day, at a steady pace.

    What are your thoughts?

    How do you go about setting goals? Do you have any strategies that might help with goals that relate to creating legacy? I’d love to read your ideas in the comments section.

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  • The 4 principles of luck

    ‘I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.’  Thomas Jefferson

    Creating legacy is about how we interpret our circumstances

    Finding the time and energy to create legacy is often about the way in which we interpret the circumstances in our live. Are we prepared to be grateful for what we have and willing to give something back through creating legacy? Or are we constantly dwelling on what we’re lacking and feeling that we should be the ones on the receiving end?

    Our capacity for positive thinking is therefore strongly connected with our willingness to create legacy. Yesterday was the 13th – an unlucky day, some people claim. It got me thinking about luck, and I dug out psychology research which reminded me of the value of positive thinking.

    Luck and positive thinking

    Lucky people meet their perfect partners, achieve their lifelong ambitions, find fulfilling careers, and live happy and meaningful lives. Prof Richard Wiseman’s research scientifically explores why some people live such charmed lives, and aims to develop techniques that enable others to enhance their own good fortune. The main findings from the research have been published in his bestselling book The Luck Factor.

    The results of this work reveals that people are not born lucky. Instead, lucky people are, sometimes without realising it, using four basic principles to create good fortune in their lives:

    1. Maximise chance opportunities. Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing and acting upon chance opportunities. They do this in various ways, including networking, adopting a relaxed attitude to life and by being open to new experiences.

    2. Listening to lucky hunches. Lucky people make effective decisions by listening to their intuition and gut feelings. In addition, they take steps to actively boost their intuitive abilities by, for example, meditating and clearing their mind of other thoughts.

    3. Expect good fortune. Lucky people are certain that the future is going to be full of good fortune. These expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies by helping lucky people persist in the face of failure, and shape their interactions with others in a positive way.

    4. Turn bad luck to good. Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and often even thrive upon, the ill fortune that comes their way. For example, they spontaneously imagine how things could have been worse, do not dwell on ill fortune, and take control of the situation.

    What’s your take?

    How do you see luck: as a ‘given’ or as something you can work towards? How do you maximise ‘luck’ in your life? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section.

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  • Unconventional ways to have a supportive network

    ‘If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.’  Isaac Newton

    When creating legacy, you have to be resourceful in building a supportive network  that will help you complete your legacy projects. Not all members of your supportive network need to know that they are helping you out. In fact, many of them may have never even heard of you, or may even be long gone. Here are three unconventional yet effective ways of proceeding:

    1. Turn your rivals into mentors. Make your rivals be part of your supportive network, not just people who mean you well.

    2. Use others’ success as pace-setters. Use the success of people you have never met but can read about as a standard by which to measure your own progress.

    3. Role models. Use role models to create the ‘your are not alone’ feeling that you need in order to get over the hard times. These role models don’t need to have heard of you, they just need to be really inspirational and have gone through difficult times themselves.

     As you can see, you can still have a supportive network around you even when it seems like you are on your own.

    What are your thoughts?

    Can you think of other unconventional ways to have a supportive network? Share your ideas with us in the comments section.

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  • How to honour your commitments

    ‘The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.’  Vince Lombardi

    Honouring commitments

    When you take on a commitment you need to do it properly. Taking on things that you are not doing to do properly is pointless, and only ensures that your chances of doing things properly are diminished as well. It is better to do a few things well than a lot of things badly.

    Be careful when taking on a new commitment

     Whenever you take on a new commitment you must carefully consider the effect it is going to have on your existing commitments. We are already filling twenty-four hours a day with something. Whenever we take on something new, something else is going to have to give up some of the time that we are currently spending on it. That’s fine if the something else consists of sitting around aimlessly watching television. It’s also fine if time is being released by another project that is coming to an end. It’s not so fine if we are already having trouble fitting everything in.

    Whenever you draw up a list of your commitments, it is essentially saying ‘this is what I am going to confine myself to.’ Commitments don’t just spell out what we are committed to. They also imply that we are not going to get involved with anything else that would take us away from that commitment.

    What are your thoughts?

    How do you make sure you honour your commitments? If you use specific strategies that work well for you, it would be great if you could share them in the comments section.

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  • How to minimise emergencies

     ‘The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.’  John F. Kennedy

    Emergencies as a barrier to creating legacy

    It’s the week-end – the perfect time to think about how we can free up some more time during the week for creating legacy. Over the years, I’ve realised that one of the main obstacles in creating legacy is the fact that we have to deal with emergencies, sometimes on a day-to-day basis.

    When something needs doing urgently, it is of course very difficult to persuade yourself that you really need to keep to your one-hour-a-day commitment to working on that legacy project that may or may not come to fruition one day. In other words, emergencies are part of the short-term aspects of our lives that prevent us from making steady progress about the kinds of things we really want to achieve long-term.

    So it’s easy to think that there’s nothing we can do, and we simply have to accept that our circumstances are such that we simply cannot dedicate them to creating legacy.

    Distinguishing between different kinds of emergencies

    But if you look at the kinds of emergencies you are having to deal with more closely, you will see that they fall within two categories:

    1. Emergencies that are urgent due to external circumstances outside your control, e.g. evacuating the building when the fire alarm rings.

    2. Emergencies that are only emergencies because you haven’t addressed the issues at a much earlier time.

    If you make a list of the kinds of emergencies you are having to deal with on a daily basis, you will probably find that the second category comes up far more frequently than the first.

    This is good news, because there’s a very simple solution to eliminating the stress and daily interruption caused by the second category altogether.

    How to minimise the number of emergencies you have to deal with

    Of course, as you will expect, the solution is to do everything a few days before it becomes an emergency. This sounds good in theory, but in practice how do you know exactly how long a task will take, i.e. when it is time to start work on it? This problem means that despite your best intentions, sooner or later you will find yourself in the same situation of having to deal with something as an emergency only because you did not expect that the task would take so long to complete.

    A more effective approach, I’ve found, is to prioritise everything by reverse order of urgency, i.e. do the least urgent thing first. By reversing the order of urgency, nothing will get left undone for so long that it becomes an emergency. Try doing this for a few weeks and see how it works for you. I think you will be amazed by the result.

    What about you?

    How do you minimise the number of emergencies and interruptions while trying to create legacy? What strategies do you use? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section.

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  • How to distinguish between real work and busywork

    ‘Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.’  Thomas Alva Edison

    A few days ago, we were talking about the distinction between real work and busywork in relation to creating legacy and making progress on your legacy projects.

    What a leaky roof can teach us about real work

    Thinking of the distinction between the two reminds me of the situation they keep telling you about in management seminars, when your roof is leaking and you have fewer buckets to hold the rain in than you have holes in your roof.

    So you keep running around, constantly shifting buckets around so the floor doesn’t get too wet, when what you should be doing instead is going up and fixing the roof. Sure, the floor will get very wet by the time you’ve finished fixing the roof, but now you’ve got a long-term solution instead of a short-term one that leaves you exhausted despite not having made any progress.

    Five signs you are doing busywork rather than real work

    If this sounds like fancy imagery rather than something you can apply to your own situation, here are some concrete tell-tale signs that you are doing busywork instead of real work:

    1. Your work overwhelms you but doesn’t challenge you. Real work is challenging but not overwhelming.

    2. There are some vital actions that you haven’t got around to. Real work is those vital actions.

    3. You never have time to stop and think. If you are not thinking, you are unlikely to be taking the long-term into account, and are therefore only coming up with solutions for the short-term – such as putting buckets underneath the holes in your roof instead of fixing the roof.

    4. You are only addressing short-term problems. Real work involve planning ahead, not just dealing with emergencies. As some of your emergencies are only emergencies because you did not take action on them when there was plenty of time, this means that addressing long-term problems will allow you to only have real emergencies to deal with, i.e. emergencies arising from completely unexpected circumstances rather than your own lack of organisation skills.

    5. You are continually bumping up against the same problems. Real work consists in large part in setting up excellent systems, so you do not have to go over the same old problem time and time again. Good systems will in turn provide you with more time for focusing on the long-term instead of always having to deal with short-term emergencies.

    What do you think?

    How do you deal with real work vs. busywork in relation to your own projects? How do you make sure you do real work? I’d love to read your ideas, thoughts, and personal insights in the comments section.

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  • Commitments vs. interests in creating legacy

    ‘Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.’  Peter F. Drucker

    Creating legacy through deciding on your commitments

    In choosing a legacy project with which you can create legacy, it is important to distinguish between the areas you are interested in and what you are prepared to commit to.

    There is no real upper limit to the number of things you can be interested in. But nothing very much is likely to come of any of your interests, unless you turn some of them into commitments.

    The problem with commitments is that you can only keep a limited number of them. This is because commitments imply exclusion. You cannot be committed to everything you are interested in; you can only keep a few commitments, and the rest of your interests will have to wait, or you might never get to them.

    A concrete example of interests vs. commitments

    To give you a concrete example, the list of areas I’m interested in is extremely long: writing, psychology, entrepreneurship, academic research, acting, politics, media, music, fashion, painting etc.

    Within each of these areas, I’m interested in many other things. For example, I have an interest in writing both fiction and non-fiction; each of these types of writing requires different (if at times overlapping) skillset, training, mindset etc. and the number of legacy projects I could start within each of these areas is endless. And it’s the same with each of the different areas I’m interested in.

    Which means, sadly, that I have to neglect a large number of my interests so I can dedicate my energy and attention to the few areas I have decided to make a commitment to.   

    How knowing what your commitments are can help with creating legacy

    It is only within those areas to which you are prepared to make a commitment that you should start your legacy project. Also, limiting your actions to what you are committed to will make the real difference to completing your legacy projects.

    Knowing what your commitments are is an essential part in choosing a legacy project, and later in organising your day so as to be able to make steady progress on it. This means you can use your commitment as a signpost to help you decide what you should be doing at any given time, and thereby doing real work (which leads to real progress on your legacy project) instead of busywork. 

    What are your thoughts?

    Have you found this distinction between interests and commitments helpful? What sacrifices are you prepared to make in terms of your interests, to make sure you honour your commitments? I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas in the comments section.

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  • How to clear your backlog

    ‘Learn to pause … or nothing worthwhile will catch up to you.’  Doug King

    Creating legacy while dealing with unexpected setbacks

    When you are aiming to create legacy, you have to become extremely well-organised, so you have enough time in your life to work on long-term projects as well as taking care of the short term.

    But sometimes, unexpected things happen on top of your daily schedule, which means that you accumulate a backlog.

    A few days ago (as you may already know from reading this blog) I got an extremely sore throat and a very annoying cold. So I’ve had to take things a bit easier over the past few days. As I’m now returning back to work, I’m of course faced with the backlog, which I’ve got to clear on top of the daily work on my legacy projects.

    A great little system for clearing away your backlog

    As I know many of you are faced with having to clear backlogs, I thought I’d introduce you to this delightfully simple and effective system I’m using, which I’ve nicked from Mark Forster’s excellent book Do it tomorrow

    1. Isolate the backlog. You need to get the backlog out of the way so that you can’t see it any longer. With a backlog of email you can open a folder called ‘backlog’ and move the entire contents of your inbox into it. If your backlog is paper, then gather all the paper together and put it in a folder called ‘Backlog’. The aim is to close off the backlog and isolate it from new stuff coming in.

    2. Only action the urgent matters in your backlog for now. If anything that is part of the backlog is too urgent to leave out of your sight, write it down on a separate list and action it asap, but only that one urgent thing (one of Mark’s excellent pieces of advice is to never take even the simplest action without writing it down first)

    3. Deal with the daily work on your legacy projects as if the backlog wasn’t there (apart from the urgent stuff mentioned above). Yes, you heard me. Forget the backlog. This is why we isolated it in the first place. By dealing with the day’s tasks on the legacy projects as usual, you can get back to making progress on each of them without worrying about the lost days.

    4. Spend some time on clearing a bit of your backlog first thing every day. The backlog will maybe take a couple of weeks to clear rather than if you tackled it alonside the daily tasks, but the nice thing about doing it this way is that you can see the backlog getting smaller every day. This is quite motivating and keeps you chipping away at it at an even pace, which is what makes this system quicker in the long run. 

    What’s your system for clearing a backlog? 

    How do you go about clearing your backlog? Any ideas and suggestions for the comments section would be greatly appreciated.

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