Please don’t feel misled or manipulated by this parody title—I’d have clicked on it too. But before you read another three-to-three-hundred bullet points on how you can be more successful, please consider that doing so may actually be unproductive or counterproductive without a proper frame of reference:
We wake each day on a quest for personal validation that we apparently believe is found in someone’s definition of success. We then presume that rote replication of the habits of the supposedly successful will directly correlate to similar degrees of success in our own lives.
While appealing, this logic fails—for two primary reasons:
1) You’re not them.
2) They’re not you.
You’re Not Them
Michael Hyatt is a leadership/writing/speaking/creative/success blogger whom I’ve been following for a few years. He is a certified member of the successful people demographic, especially as a best-selling author and sought after speaker.
Michael blogs on a host of valuable topics and has introduced me to many productivity and technological tools, some of which (like Evernote) are now a major part of my life. But what attracts many if not most of his followers is that Michael is what his readers hope to be—a professional writer and platform speaker.
If you want to be a professional writer or speaker, I highly recommend Michael Hyatt’s blog. He offers oodles of free content on blogging, self-publishing, finding a literary agent and getting published. He also sells e-books on writing a book proposal, books on building a platform and conferences on launching a business as a public speaker.
Having personally consumed a wide range of Hyatt’s free content and paid-for products and services, I can attest to their benefit. But none of Michael’s followers (myself included) should delude themselves to think that by following Michael’s precepts to the letter their own success is guaranteed. Why?
You’re not Michael Hyatt.
You don’t have a lifetime’s worth of experience in publishing.
You weren’t the “Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, the seventh largest trade book publishing company in the U.S.”
You might not even be a good writer or public speaker.
While Michael Hyatt’s success is certainly at least a byproduct of the tangible habits that he has practiced and well-articulated to his followers, it’s possible—if not likely—that his success is contingent even more on the personal intangibles that he—and only he—possesses.
They’re Not You
I say this not to discourage you on your path if you’re an ardent follower of Hyatt’s or anyone else’s, but instead to affirm that the innate gifts you were born with are almost surely different from those with which Michael was endowed.
You might become Michael’s next contemporary co-headlining conferences with him—or you may be an even bigger commercial success than Hyatt pursuing a completely different methodology—BUT you also might be a better editor, copywriter, photographer or literary agent—or maybe a doctor, a sailing instructor, a stay-at-home dad or a rock-star plumber.
Laura Vanderkam is another successful person who has written extensively on successful people. Her What the Most Successful People Do e-book series is well-researched, artfully written and entirely practical. One of the books focusses on what the most successful people do before breakfast, outlining many of the great benefits of early risers.
I was shocked, then—and more than a little relieved—when Laura told me that she is NOT particularly a morning person. (Neither am I.)
Instead, Laura has designed her mornings to cater to her strengths. She has learned that her most productive hours are between 8:00am and 10:00am. Those two hours are sacred writing and creating time for Vanderkam. Phone calls, appointments and emails are never scheduled or touched until thereafter.
Who are you?
Sure, there’s a piece of me who wishes I was one of the star football players featured prominently for my beloved Baltimore Ravens on Sunday afternoons. But if I took one hit from an NFL safety while coming across the middle on a slant pattern as a receiver, you’d be reading my obituary, not this blog post. I’m not made to do that.
What were you made to do?
Once you get that far, once you declare who you are and what you were made to do, then it’s time to analyze how well you are applying your skills with the limited time that you have. “Know how you’re spending your time, so that you can see where space is available,” Vanderkam said (and she’s written an entire book on that practice alone). Only then is it time to start analyzing best practices of the people you most admire and integrating them into a regimen designed specifically for you, your skillset and your calendar. “You have to apply it through the filter of what will work in your life and what will not.”
“People should strive to be the very best version of who they are,” Michael Hyatt told me. “There are many paths to success. The best one is the one that allows you to use and develop your innate strengths. Those will look different in different people.”
The worship of success and successful people has become so aggressive in the blogosphere that I wouldn’t be surprised if we do see an article in the future instructing us on what the most successful people do in the bathroom. But we shouldn’t hope to find significance in being deemed successful (by whatever measure). Instead, when we cultivate our own unique significance through a perpetual cycle of self-examination, education and practice, success becomes a natural byproduct.