9 Great Tips for Success in Everything

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Image by Gerd Altmann

9. Be New

Madonna in the eighties and nineties. David Bowie. Lady Gaga. What do these artists have in common? They did what no one else was doing. They stood up and said: “this is me. Like it or lump it.” The success of these people didn’t come from trying to please everyone; it didn’t come from following trends. It came from doing something that was new, astonishing—even genre-changing. While Metallica was busy fighting in the courts against Napster to maintain a stranglehold on consumer dollars, other bands—such as Radiohead (as early as 2007) — were dumping the traditional model and selling direct through their own website.

It is one thing to be a great artist. It is another thing to be a great artist who isn’t sucked into consumerism and greed—merely wants to maintain the status quo. Would you rather be Metallica—earning a few pennies their label tosses at them (at the expense of being reviled by everyone but the label) or Radiohead—earning less but keeping true to their art and having a passionately dedicated fan-base?

8. Ignore Advice

If your friend said jump off a cliff, would you? I know . . . it’s a cliché, but that’s the point—most of us would. We see our fellow lemmings diving head first off the cliff and follow suit. And we don’t even need Disney staff to help push us! One of the most significant pieces of advice you can heed is this: ignore everyone else. You are amazing. You are amazing because you are different from everyone else. If the majority of the people around you say X, you need to think Y. Did Steve Jobs bow down to the majority? You may remember a site named Digg. It was huge. It was Facebook before Facebook (in terms of popularity). Then they took venture capital and, on the advice of their financiers, changed how they worked. The result: Before the changes, Digg was worth 164 million dollars. Digg sold for $500,000 in 2010 . . . and no, I didn’t accidentally leave off three zeroes.

7. Love What You Do

A lot of people currently advocate the idea of working four hours. Forget it. For the last two years we have worked from the moment we woke until bed time. That is no exaggeration. It is currently 7 pm, and we have been working on Zambianface since 5 am. Time and time again you see people complaining that their blog isn’t popular: but they only post an article every other day. When we started to feel as if we didn’t need to work such long hours, we tripled our daily lists, so we had more to do. This isn’t a burden—it is a pleasure. Not many people can say they spend fourteen hours a day doing something they absolutely love. When we wake up at the minute in the morning, we jump out of bed and go straight to the computer to start working—because we love it (actually, we have coffee first, but we get it over as quickly as we can). If you are passionate and love what you are doing, you will succeed. We could work four hours and pat ourselves on the back while we head out to play golf or whatever it is. The four-hour work day is meant to allow you time for, but we would much rather be sitting here in front of Zambiaface.

6. Don’t Copy Success

Steve Balmer of Microsoft scoffed at the iPhone and—rather awkwardly—pointed out: “It doesn’t have a keyboard. [ . . . ] We’re selling millions [ . . . ] of phones a year: Apple is selling zero phones a year.”

Ouch. How’s that Zune going, Steve? McDonald’s created McDonaldland and Burger King thought it was a great idea so they copied it with their Burger King Kingdom. McDonald’s made twenty-seven billion dollars in 2011. How much did Burger King make? Just under three billion. That’s what happens when you copy. Burger King was recently taken over, and the first thing the acquirer did was dump the ridiculous rip-off Burger King mascot.

If you want to succeed, don’t copy success. Create your own. Don’t mimic those who have done well—do well in your own niche. This applies on all levels. If you want to set up a stall selling lemonade, don’t just copy the neighbor’s kids. Find a way to make your lemonade better or find a way to make your customers happier.

5. Fail

A fear of failure is probably the number one thing stopping someone from succeeding. If you think you will fail, you are not likely to even start. This even applies to activities you are currently engaged in. When we first started, Zambianface, we created five blogs all on completely different subjects. After a week none were succeeding. At that point most people would give up thinking it was a failure. And it was for four of the blogs. In a week two Zambianface took off. We closed the other blogs and focused all of my attention on Zambianface alone. If we had let the fear of failure stop us, you wouldn’t be reading this right now, and we would probably still be programming software for other people instead of spending our days doing what we love most: sharing fascinating facts with friends.

4. Be Tiny

We all have a tendency to think big. But that tendency can actually inhibit our success. If you want to write a book or create a product or the next big thing on the net, focus on attracting a small audience of very dedicated fans. Don’t be put off if your idea only appeals to a few. If you work hard for that few, they will reward you by sharing your passion with others. It is far better to have 1,000 devoted followers than 100,000 take-it-or-leave-it customers. Calvin Klein isn’t so hot now that you can buy their underwear at most department stores; but when they started out, they were exclusive. Who wants to rave to their friends about having CK underwear now?

3. Be First

This is getting harder, we will admit, but a difficult job of getting traction for your ideas is made significantly easier if no one has seen it before. Be the first to do something, and you are already half-way to success. Seth Godin is a great author whose books I strongly recommend. In one of his books he talks about the leader of a village in India with no electricity. The leader—a very old man—bought the first solar-powered lantern (everyone else was using kerosene lamps). For months after his front yard was filled with all the villagers watching the lamp and discussing how long it would last. He was a hero in his town—he had everyone’s eyes on him. Eventually, everyone else got the same lanterns, but do you think the second guy who bought one had a yard full of people? Nope. He was second.

2. Be Remarkable

In every aspect of your life: be remarkable. Be the person that turns heads by going the extra mile. If someone asks for $1, give them $10. If you want to start a website, don’t publish one article a day: publish four. Put everything you have into whatever you are doing. It may seem like hard work, but in the end you will be the one everyone remembers. And quite often doing something remarkable doesn’t have to be hard. It can be as easy as responding to every comment on your blog—or remembering someone’s name when you meet them for the second time. People don’t pay extra at Harrods because the goods are better (though sometimes they are,) they pay for service that makes them say “Wow!”

1. Start Right Now

Right now you can start putting all of these ideas into practice. You have no excuse to wait. It is Saturday, so you will be more likely to go to the Mall than work, but try—even if only once—to make a stranger remember you today. Do at least one act that turns heads. Make someone say “Wow!” Alternatively, start that book you want to write. Start that blog you have always wanted to create. Make your dinner remarkable: set the table and have a high-class restaurant experience at home. All it takes is a bit of change and a new way of thinking to completely transform your life.

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