The Fastest Way to Career Success

Clearing the Path
Source: venngage.com

In his book, Ego Is The Enemy, author Ryan Holiday talks about what he calls “The Canvas Strategy.” It’s a popular concept among the personal development community. So popular in fact that its excerpt was featured in Tim Ferriss‘ book Tools of Titans.

The strategy was taken from the Romans. The Romans had a word for this type of person. They called them an “anteambulo” which means a person who cleared the path in front of their patron. If you are able to do that successfully, you will secure a fast and educational position.

In today’s lingo, it would translate to make others look good. But these four words “make others look good” make us cringe. It goes against the very essence of the “self made person” culture we are raised in. That everyone one of us is supposed to focus on ourselves and may the best man win.

Now, when I say make others look good, some of you would think it implies a lot of ass kissing and passing your credit to someone else that you don’t feel deserves it as much as you do.

But this isn’t so – it’s a mindset change. It goes from “slaving away my livelihood for someone else” to “giving my best to make others succeed which in turn will make me more successful.”

To quote Ryan himself:

… it’s finding the direction someone already intended to head and help them pack, freeing them up to focus on their strengths. The canvas strategy involves actively finding outlets for other people – in fact, actually making them better rather than simply looking so.

… In other words, discover opportunities to promote their creativity, find outlets and people for collaboration, and eliminate distractions that hinder their progress and focus. It is a rewarding and infinitely scalable power strategy.

The following are his 3 keys to the Canvas Strategy:

3 Keys:

1) Find new trains of thought to hand over for them to explore. Track down angles and contradictions and analogies that they can use. Ex: I was reading the biography of ______, I think you should look at it because there may be something you can do with the imagery.

2) Find outlets, people, associations, and connections. Cross wires to create new sparks. Ex: I know _________, and I think you two should talk. Have you thought about meeting ____?

3) Find inefficiencies and waste and redundancies. Identify leaks and patches to free up resources for new areas. Ex: You don’t need to do ___________ anymore, I have an idea for improving the process, let me try it so you can worry about something else.

 

***

There is a common saying that I constantly remind myself –

“If you are willing to make others successful, then you will be successful.”

This can be making your company more successful through exceeding your KPI’s, thus getting you promoted faster.

This can be making your friends more successful through introducing them to other people that would help them in their journey. People will eventually know of you and you will be talking to influencers as a result of word of mouth. You never know where it leads to. (Who doesn’t want to associate with someone who is proactive in their success?)

This can be making your clients more successful through delivering better products and services. My aim with this blog is to make you, my readers more successful, so that in turn, I will get my blog to read by even more people.

Remember, clear the path for others on their journey.

 

***

If you wish to listen to the excerpt on The Canvas Strategy in full audio form, click here.

How to Have a Great Day Everyday

I don’t know about you. But whenever Friday comes along, two things come to mind:

  1. Hooray! It’s the weekends! I can finally rest and be at ease (for about 2 days and 2 nights of all-you-can-sleep)
  2. Damnit! It’s the weekends already. Time sure flies and I don’t remember achieving what I set out to do or at least enjoyed myself.

Fridays are a constant reminder to me that life is not meant to be delayed. Or as Tim Ferriss would call “a deferred life.”

It seems irrational to slug it out for 5 days while hating the process so that you can finally give yourself permission to enjoy yourself on the weekends.

This post was written to provide food for thought for those 5 days.

 

Designing Your Life By The Day

The exercise is to learn how to design your ideal day.

What on earth does that mean?

It would mean to really think about what would make the day a great one for you.

Now, some of you may think – but to me, an ideal day is travelling the world and sipping Margaritas on the beach.

Fair dream. Fair goal, I would say.

But if it is not within reach right now, why be unhappy till then?

 

Now, just imagine how great your life would be like if you were able to identify what makes a great day for you that you can do right now?

You would be able to do it all over and over again 🙂

 

Here’s my list to give you some ideas:

  1. Sleep eight solid hours (or as much as I need)
  2. Have a good meal (home cooked food tastes awesome)
  3. Exercise and sweat
  4. Meditate for 20 minutes
  5. Have a mid day nap for 20 minutes
  6. Make others more successful (for my company, or for my readers of my blog)
  7. Have “present” time (watching a movie, dancing, reading, writing)
  8. Talk to a loved one
  9. Explore a different part of the city / Change environments

 

Having a checklist such as this will not make you instantly happy but it would serve as a reminder of what you can do in order to feel as though that you made the most out of your day.

One of the things I do every morning is to ask myself what would make today great.

As you can see, it doesn’t have to be a big thing. It can be a good lunch, exercising, watching a good movie or accomplishing something at work.

 

Sometimes, we all need to shut up (or learn how to speak right)

Being young and brash, I often feel the need to exert my “righteousness” onto people. Whenever I notice something about my friends, I point it out. Not because it had to be said, but because my mouth has the habit of always having an opinion.

 

The Times I Messed Up

One time, I pointed out to a friend of mine that her straps on her backpack looked like seat belt straps. Now, it made a good joke but at the same time, was it important that she now views her once cherished bag as a sack with seat belt straps?

Or the other occasion when I was in a group and a friend of mine told me that a colleague is going to Company A. But I was so sure it was Company B that I mentioned it into submission. (Later I found out it was Company A)

Or this one other time where I was tempted to talk about this one fellow who I greatly admire, but just had to (for no good reason) mention what I think is wrong with him.

Ben, you just had to. Don’t you?
I know I know. I’m a jerk who just can’t shut up most of the time.

 

Getting It Together

Realizing my mistakes lately (always happens this way), I decided to look for answers by reading the classics like How to Win Friends and Influence People and reading articles by my favourite modern writer, especially Ryan Holiday.

His best pieces of advice?

  • Always say less than necessary
    (the more words you say, the higher the chances of saying something wrong)
  • Ask yourself: “Am I saying this because I want to prove how smart I am or am I saying this because it needs to be said?” When you’re just getting started, it’s usually the former.

This was in of itself extremely helpful, but there was a test that was written ages ago by a philosopher named Rumi that is still used today and it goes:

  • Before you speak your mind, let your word pass through the 3 gates:

    At the first gate, ask yourself “Is is true?”
    Is it factually correct? (My error with Company B fits here)

    At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?”Are you saying it to prove how smart you are or does it need to be said? (My seat belt observation fits the former)

    At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”
    Is it something good and positive? (My for-no-good-reason negative opinion of someone fits here)

 

The Cost of Being Wrong?

Being young and up-and-coming, we all feel the need to prove ourselves or exhibit some form of superiority to show that we got it going on. But at times, this is all merely a facade. Often times, it’s insecurity. But it is alright to be wrong or to keep your mouth shut.

What do you got to lose by being wrong? Nothing much.

What do you got to gain by being right? Nothing much.

On working smart and working hard

If you Google the words “working hard vs working smart” you will see images of hard workers being portrayed as frustrated or stupid whereas smart workers are seen as… well, smart.

Why is that?

This is mainly due to the rise of lifestyle entrepreneurship made popular by best selling books such as the Four Hour Work Week (great book btw).

Why wouldn’t you want do more in less time right?

Now, if you are the type of person whose main concern is to get work done so that you can enjoy your “me time” and have a social life, then the antidote of working smart was created exactly for you.

However, if you strive to be a CEO or founder of a successful startup one day, you should view the idea of working smart with an additional caveat – working hard as well.

The debate about working hard and working smart is getting out of hand.

The real question to be posed is “Why not both?”

As mentioned earlier, being able to work smart seems to confer some form of social validation. Just working hard now means you haven’t taken the time (nor brains) to figure out a more effective way to get stuff done.

I personally struggled with this for a long time thinking it is either working smart or working hard.

But the longer you work in the “real world”, and not the world peddled by most self-help and productivity gurus, you soon begin to realize that hard friggin’ work is equally if not more important than smart work.

Don’t be fooled that by just working smart alone that you are able to get to the top – you can’t.

Working smart often implies getting away with less and doing the Minimum Effective Dose (so to speak), as in doing just enough to get by and not much else. When in actually fact, doing what’s more than needed is what that is going to separate you from the others.

Anyone can be lazy once the needed work is done, but few are willing to do that a little more extra to make their minimum needed work shine like a piece of art.

You learn to work smart so that you can get creating a masterpiece faster, not to producing mediocre work at scale.

So where does hard work come in?

With hard work, it looks like [SMART WORK] + [HARD WORK] = create masterpieces at scale.

Considering the fact that top CEOs have reported an average wakeup time of 6:15 a.m., with many rising before 5, and most worked at least two hours at home after dinner. In some cases, they work 18-hour workdays. Many of these industry leaders credit their success to working while others aren’t.

As Michael Moroney said in his piece on the matter:

“If we want to be successful, we shouldn’t be content to simply work smarter. The most successful people work smart, but they also work exceptionally hard. They maintain the same level of persistence and drive while learning ways to do things more efficiently.

We don’t all have to aspire to be CEOs, but for those of us that do, finding more effective ways to do things is only half the battle….

Young professionals and budding entrepreneurs must work smarter, harder, longer and better — because their competition already is.”

How to Think About Choosing Your Spouse

 

The most important decision you can make in life (as agreed with Warren Buffett and Sheryl Sandberg) is marrying the right person.

I have been reading a lot of mental models (learning how to think) and thoughts on decision making.

Warren Buffett has this notion of the “20 Slots”. He says if you were to imagine that we are given just 20 slots on a punchcard in life and no more, you would think very carefully before you punch any of the holes.

And he believes that all you need is less than 5 good decisions to have a great life – financially, emotionally and so forth.

My aim with this post is to give you my thoughts and how I think about making the most important decision in your life.

 

  1. Your worst is your best indicator

Growing up, I was told to do well in school so that I could eventually get a good job and have my life financially settled before dating someone.

There is merit to this argument as it highlights the importance of financial security.

Given the fact that most couples argue about money more than anything else, I can see why this path is often preached by our elders.

But what if the reason people argue about money is because they expect it to always be there?

In other words, the financial security itself is the set-up for setting expectations that money will always be ready and that the worry for money is distant.

We strive so hard to be the best version of ourselves (well off, educated and calm), but we forget that the worst version of ourselves are still within us (irrational, emotional and unstable).

Look for a person who can deal with your worst side, because anyone can deal with you at your best, but not anyone will bother with you at your worst.

Have someone who will love you at your worst, not your best.

 

  1. She will not always love you

Like all things in life, they don’t last forever.

The more poetic way to say this is “This too shall pass.”

I learnt a concept from Seneca on making friends, he contends that one should not make friends so that he will have people be there when he is in trouble, but instead make friends so that he can help them when they are in trouble.

Simple, but profound.

Don’t view marrying someone as a having a lifevest when you are sea, but view it as being the lifevest when they are at sea.

This goes contrary to popular belief, I know. But it is this that brings true joy.

Shakespeare once said that the mother of all disappointment is expectation.

When we put the onus onto us to do what we can do for them, every little act done by them is greatly appreciated on our end and that forms the basis of most relationships – being appreciated for each one’s efforts.

Don’t make friends so that they will be there for you, make friends so that you can be there for them.

 

  1. Good things only come about through compound interest

What does this mean?

It means that little things done everyday add up to something stronger over time.

I can attest to this personally.

I used to hear that marriages are soul-sucking affairs; not to mention all the marriage jokes one hears.

But it does age like wine if you put in effort everyday to make it good.

Little things done daily amount to great things over time.