I want to be a successful teacher, which to me means having successful students.
So I need to define student success.
I’m defining success as the ability to find fulfillment and have a positive impact, regardless of the situation. It’s a notion of success that is different for each individual, because everyone has unique paths to fulfillment and unique abilities that impact the world.
Every student will find success in a unique way. I can’t find success for them, or tell them how to do it. But I can model my own version of success, I can share my own success principles, and I can help equip students with an environment in which they can find their own success.
Here are the actions I would recommend to any student who I love as much as myself.
- Hang around people who are fascinated by the world around them. You’re pretty much the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so the greatest power you have over your life is in choosing your friends, coworkers and role models, because you will become like them. The best thing to become is fascinated by life. It’s the closest thing to a guarantee of success that I can imagine. So hang out with people who are fascinated by life, and generous in sharing their fascination.
- Be brutally honest with yourself. It’s the most normal thing in the world to lie to yourself, to tell yourself stories that you want to believe, to believe that you’re at the center of the universe. But every time you lie to yourself, you get 1 dose of pleasure today and 14 doses of pain down the road. It’s dumb, but everyone does it. So if you want to be normal, lie to yourself. If you want to be extraordinary, be brutally honest with yourself.
- Share your perspective honestly, even though it’s scary to be different, scary to try an idea that might be wrong, you’ll come out with the prize: you’ll know who you really are and most people around you will admire your courage. And you’ll earn trust, a currency that is more valuable than money, and increases in value over time.
- Make something new every day that could benefit someone else. Creators have the most control over their lives, while consumers can only get by, at best. So realize that even if you’re creating something that you will throw away later, it’s great practice for becoming more creative, more powerful, and more in control of your life.
- Embrace the suck. Whenever you try something worthwhile, even if you have all the innate talent in the world, you’re going to suck at it. It’s never going to be comfortable, but competing with people who are one level better than you will accelerate your progress. When you realize that discomfort often leads to progress, and progress is the most motivating thing in the universe, you start to enjoy the process of getting your butt kicked on a regular basis.
- Never wait for the right time. Now or never is always the right time.
- Identify as a problem solver. Give yourself a superhero name. Financial success, meaning and happiness are a function of how many problems you solve for others.
- Zero in on some geeky obsession. Everyone says to find your passion, and this is my own version of that, because I think “find your passion” is easy to misinterpret and mess up. Spend a lot of time with that thing, and mastered it. It has to be geeky so that not everyone else is doing it. It has to be an obsession so you will continue to do it for very long time. It will take a very long time for you to become master of your craft. But it is worth it, and even the process of getting there itself is it’s own success.
- Keep solving bigger and better problems. Keep getting your butt kicked by a bigger adversary.
- Stay curious. Some say “find your passion.” I say “never waste an interest.” When you keep everything that interests you around you, your passion finds you.
- Read books. There are only a few things that stand out about people who are incredibly good at something, compared to everyone else. They love to learn, and they read at least 2 books a week.
- You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. When you choose your friends, when you choose the people you work with, and the person you marry, you are choosing who you will become. This is the most important power you have over your own life, so choose carefully and with intent. And stop hanging out with people who don’t make you better. Someone smart said, “when you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”
- Construct daily habits of success. For me, at a minimum I exercise and meditate every morning, and journal at night. I built these habits one at a time, by starting very small. When they became second nature, A great starting place is the book, Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod, a guy who deconstructed the most common daily habits of the world’s most successful people.
- Ask for help regularly. People think asking for help is a sign of weakness, but really it is a superpower. It means recognizing that other people are better than you at things, and giving them the opportunity to prove it. I used to try to do everything myself, I got nowhere and no one ever thanked me for not bothering them with a request. When I started asking for help, everything got easier and people liked me more.
- Get advice from others. People love to give advice, so it’s almost a favor to them to ask for it. But mostly it’s a favor to yourself, because other people always see something you don’t. And even if you don’t take the advice, it’s very interesting to hear new perspectives on things.
- Be playful. When you’re playing, you suddenly can withstand setbacks, you are more fun to be around, you have more energy, you can learn quickly, you stop noticing discomforts, and you give everything you have to the game. All that is useful at work, so be playful at work.
- Make your own list of success principles. You probably will do nothing on this list, because thousands of people more successful than I have their own advice that you’re already not listening to. But you might just listen to your own advice.
- Take your own advice. The best reason to give advice that I’ve found is that now you have to follow it or else you’re a hypocrite. Your advice to others is usually the best advice to yourself.
So create a list of your own success principles and place it somewhere you can’t avoid it. As you gather more principles, add it to your list. That way you’ll have a living document to your philosophy which will serve a constant reminder of your values.