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Three and a Half Things that All Successful People Do (They Aren’t What You Expect)

As the year winds down, many authors take the time to reflect. Such reflections often result in publication of their insights…and this article is one of those. Many of these types of articles include some sort of reference to how surprised you will be by the amazing information you are about to receive – and with the parenthetical “They Aren’t What You Expect” in the title, this article is also one of those.

So much has been written already on the habits, practices and behaviors of the wealthy, the famous, the successful, the productive, the creative…so here’s my take on the top three-and-a-half things that rigorous research reveals that ALL such people do (and surely, if we all just follow such habits, we will all be rewarded with peace, love, and happiness all the days of our lives):

1) They all – on virtually a daily basis – wake up after a period of sleep.

2) They all – each and every day – relieve themselves when they hear “nature’s call;

3) They all – throughout their entire day – practice the habit of inhaling, followed by exhaling;

3-1/2) They all – when they find themselves underwater – temporarily suspend habit number three.

Disappointed with my list? Good.

Obviously, sarcasm is dripping from the above like grease out of a good Chicago Polish (the kind you get, smothered in grilled onions, from a little dive on Maxwell Street). The reason is that such articles, more often than not, are lacking in real nutritional value, yet we tend to just eat them up (like that aforementioned Polish).

Unlike my list, most of this genre is well-meaning. But remember what they say (whoever “they” are) – the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

But hey, my mom always told me not to complain about something unless I had a solution to offer (although I have not yet discovered a solution to Brussels sprouts, and I still complain about them). I won’t just stop at whining about one of my bigger pet peeves (another is people who think that the end of an escalator is a good place to stop and have a conversation about where to go next, even with seventy-three people getting off the escalator right behind them…buy that’s for a different article).

You can extract what limited nutritional value such articles have to offer, if you just know how to digest them properly. Consider the following list of suggestions the Milk of Magnesia for the end-of-year success list binge:

  • If you read a suggestion, and it immediately sounds like a good idea, slap yourself. Figuratively would be better than literally, but even do the latter if necessary to snap yourself out of its spell. Don’t immediately click “like” or “share.” Instead, challenge it. Is this really a good idea? Is it something that helps separate the winners from the also-rans? Or is it just a pleasant-sounding aphorism that tastes great on the tongue but leaves the stomach empty? (Okay, I hear you, enough with the food analogies) It may very well be a good idea, but challenge it anyway.

  • Keep in mind that correlation does not equal causation. I’ve railed on this point before, but it’s worth repeating like a mantra until the world gets it. Just because one thing happens in the same time frame as another, doesn’t mean one caused the other. If you see something that seems to plausibly cause something else, take some time to verify it (especially before creating or sharing a post about the recent presidential election – ugh). It may surprise you that it just ain’t so. For example, I left Chicago to move to Idaho this year, and the Cubs won the World Series. I’m pretty sure that means I caused the Cubs to win it all after a century plus of failure. Cubs fans, feel free to post your gratitude in the comments section below.

  • Remember that just because something worked for someone else doesn’t mean that it will work for you. Their success came with a specific set of additional factors – timing, education, dumb luck, helpful connections, serendipity, environment, new regulations, market conditions, whatever. Don’t think for a second that you can recreate it all. Nor would you want to. I read about a hugely successful entrepreneur who came up with the unique business insight while spending six months in a hospital recuperating from a skiing accident injury to the spine. That doesn’t mean all budding entrepreneurs should go hurtle themselves down double-black diamond runs without a helmet. Similarly, merely mimicking the behaviors of the successful, like doing things “the Apple way,” isn’t going to make you successful – just ask JCPenney.

  • Make sure that the suggestions support what differentiates the successful, not just happens to be something they have in common. If you can’t tell from the original three-and-a-half points, just because a group of people shares some things in common, doesn’t mean that those things distinguish the group from anyone else.

So, there you have it – my end-of-year success list article. Please note that I am well-aware of the irony of writing a listicle about how not to get duped by listicles.

I hope that it helps you identify and use the good ideas that you discover, and leave behind the garbage, fluff, and chaff. Of course, just like every other article you read, I recommend that you take this one with a grain of salt (oh, sorry, you said enough with the food analogies – my bad).

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