Apparently, I have been doing my twenties all wrong.
Apparently, I’m supposed to raise my standards in my twenties. I’m not supposed to fall for anyone and everyone who gives me the slightest bit of affection. I’m not supposed to stare at my phone for days on end, waiting for a specific text from a specific person. I’m not supposed to get excited when someone puts the absolute minimum amount of effort into me. I’m not supposed to accept such poor treatment when I deserve so much more.
Apparently, I’m supposed to stop caring about people who couldn’t care less about me. I’m supposed to remove toxic people from my world — and from my mind. I’m supposed to stop replaying the moments we spent together. I’m supposed to stop asking myself what went wrong. I’m supposed to accept they are bad for me. I’m supposed to move on. I’m supposed to forget about them, even though I loved them.
Apparently, I’m supposed to practice self-care. I’m not supposed to stuff myself with fast food and caffeine and alcohol. I’m not supposed to put off doctor appointments, hair appointments, therapist appointments. I’m not supposed to care about my work, my friends, my family, more than I care about my own mental health. I’m not supposed to treat myself so terribly.
Apparently, I’m supposed to love myself. I’m not supposed to delete selfies. I’m not supposed to criticize myself every time I walk passed a mirror. I’m not supposed to struggle with my self-worth. I’m supposed to stand tall. I’m supposed to feel comfortable walking around without my makeup or my hair done. I’m supposed to appreciate my authentic, true self.
Apparently, I’m supposed to take risks. I’m supposed to leave my comfort zone. I’m supposed to put myself out there. I’m not supposed to lounge in my bedroom all day long. I’m not supposed to cancel plans at the last second to watch Netflix alone instead. I’m not supposed to hide myself away when I could be seeing some friends, seizing the day.
Apparently, I’m supposed to travel. I’m supposed to see the world. I’m not supposed to spend all of my time in the same town. I’m not supposed to turn down vacation days. I’m not supposed to repeat the same routine day after day without any variation.
Apparently, I’m supposed to get my life together. I’m supposed to come up with a five-year plan. I’m supposed to figure out what I want from this world and how I’m going to work on getting it. I’m not supposed to fumble through each day. I’m not supposed to have so many questions and so few answers. I’m not supposed to feel like such a screwup.
Apparently, I haven’t been doing any of the things I’m supposed to be doing in my twenties. I haven’t been living up to expectations. But I am trying my best. I am putting effort into bettering myself every single day. I might not be able to call myself perfect — but I can call myself a work in progress. I can call myself a fighter.
In his new book, “The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success,” Northeastern University professor of network science Albert-László Barabási offers lessons we can learn from men and women who’ve achieved success after 50 based on his research. The following is an excerpt from this book.
When, at the age of 50, John Fenn joined the faculty at Yale, he was old by academic standards. He was 35 when he got his first academic appointment, at Princeton, where he started working with atomic and molecular beams, research that he continued to pursue at Yale. Though Fenn was hardworking and diligent, he was largely a low-impact scientist. His department chair must have felt some relief when Fenn turned 70 and they could force him to take mandatory retirement.
Yet Fenn had no interest in stopping. Three years earlier, at 67, he was already semiretired at Yale, stripped of lab space and technicians, when he published a paper on a new technique he called “electrospray ionization.” He turned droplets into a high-speed beam, allowing him to measure the masses of large molecules and proteins quickly and accurately. He saw it as a breakthrough and he was right.
A late-in-life Nobel Prize
After idling at Yale, he relocated to Virginia Commonwealth University and opened a lab. What he did in these later years was revolutionary. Improving upon his initial idea, he offered scientists a robust way to measure ribosomes and viruses with previously unbelievable accuracy, transforming our understanding of how cells work. In 2002, in his mid-80s, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Fenn’s story embodies a simple message: Your chance of success has little to do with your age. It’s shaped by your willingness to try repeatedly for a breakthrough. Realizing this was transformative for me — I started seeing Fenns everywhere.
There’s Ray Kroc, who joined the McDonald’s MCD, +1.02% franchise at 53; Nelson Mandela, who emerged after 27 years in jail and became his country’s president at 76. There’s Julia Child, who was 50 when she hosted her first TV show.
Key to success: the Q-factor
But these late-in-life successes had something else in common besides tenacity. Their pathways to success were guided by a hidden factor that unveiled itself throughout their careers. My team and I named it the Q-factor, and it helped us answer the question: Where do highly successful ideas and products come from?
Your ability to turn an idea into a discovery is equally important, and that varies dramatically from person to person. A person’s Q-factor translates the process of innovation into an equation. Each of us takes a random idea, with value r, and using our skill, we turn it into a discovery or “success” S, which captures its impact on the world. Multiply your Q-factor by the value of your next idea, r, and you get a formula to predict its success. Written as a formula, it is: S = Qr
In other words, the success of a product or a deal, or the impact of a discovery, will be the product of a creator’s Q-factor and the value of idea r.
Give your work qualities a chance to shine
Once my team and I figured out how to measure a scientist’s Q-factor, we learned it remained unchanged throughout her career. That’s right. The data was clear: We all start our careers with a given Q, high or low, and that Q-factor stays with us until retirement.
Well, I had a hard time believing that I was as good a scientist when I wrote my first research paper at 22 (the one with absolutely zero impact) as I am now. And you probably feel you weren’t anywhere near as good a teacher, writer, doctor or salesperson in your 20s as you are now. However, we spent six months rechecking our findings, and we came to the same conclusion.
The key to long-term success from a creator’s perspective is straightforward: let the qualities that give you your Q-factor do their job by giving them a chance to deliver success over and over.
In other words, successful people engage in project after project after project. They don’t just count their winnings; they buy more lottery tickets. They keep producing.
Prime example: J.K. Rowling
Take writer J.K. Rowling, who followed “Harry Potter” by creating a successful mystery series (under the name Robert Galbraith). Each time she publishes a new book, her new fans go back and read the older volumes as well. Each new book, then, breathes life into her career, keeping her whole body of work present and relevant.
A high Q-factor, combined with Fenn-like persistence, is what drives the engine for career-long success. People like Shakespeare, Austen, Edison, Curie and Einstein are not remembered for a single work that changed everything. They tower over their fields thanks to their exceptional Q-factors — and their willingness to test their luck repeatedly.
Stubborn creativity, combined with a John Fenn—like tenacity, not only gives our lives their essential meaning, it also provides the true secret to career-long success.
The Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai is one perfect, parting exemplar of that. “All I have produced before the age of 70 is not worth taking into account. At 73 I have learned a little about the real structure of nature,” he wrote at 75. What followed made my day. “When I am 80 I shall have made still more progress. At 90, I shall penetrate the mystery of things. At 100 I shall have reached a marvelous stage, and when I am 110, everything I do, whether it be a dot or a line, will be alive.”
Hokusai lived to be 89, and he created his most memorable works in the final decades of his life, including the iconic woodblock print “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.” The image is of an enormous white-capped wave that slowly unfurls over a half-drowned skiff, dwarfing Mount Fuji in the background. It’s an apt depiction of how success ebbs and flows over a lifetime, building sudden momentum and crashing over us, only to start all over again.
Albert-László Barabási is a Northeastern University professor of science and author of “The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success.”
Sticking your neck out and taking charge of your career is no trivial matter. Whether that’s switching careers, going back to school, or walking away from a j-o-b to start your own business, it takes a lot of guts.
But guts will only get you so far. Once you build up the nerve and make the leap, you’re no more than 5% of the way there. You still have to succeed in your new endeavor, and trying to succeed is when your worst fears (the ones that made you hesitate in the first place) will come true.
I’m going to assume you’re like me and don’t have a brilliant mentor, a rich uncle, or some other person who is going to show you the ropes and explain each step you need to take to take charge of your career.
You see, it’s been almost 20 years since I last had a boss. I went from working in a surf shop to striking out on my own, eventually starting TalentSmart (with a partner) before I’d finished grad school.
When I set out on my own, I had all the gumption and appetite for risk that I needed to take charge of my career. At the time I thought that was all I needed to succeed.
It wasn’t. I also needed guidance. Without it, I learned some difficult (and often painful) lessons along the way.
I’d like to share some of my biggest lessons learned with you so that they can help you as you take charge of your career (in whatever form that takes). As I look back on these lessons, I realize that they’re really great reminders for us all.
1. Confidence must come first
Successful people often exude confidence — it’s obvious that they believe in themselves and what they’re doing. It isn’t their success that makes them confident, however. The confidence was there first.
Think about it:
Doubt breeds doubt.Why would anyone believe in you, your ideas, or your abilities if you didn’t believe in them yourself?
It takes confidence to reach for new challenges. People who are fearful or insecure tend to stay within their comfort zones. But comfort zones rarely expand on their own. That’s why people who lack confidence get stuck in dead-end jobs and let valuable opportunities pass them by.
Unconfident people often feel at the mercy of external circumstances.Successful people aren’t deterred by obstacles, which is how they rise up in the first place.
Confidence is a crucial building block in a successful career, and embracing it fully will take you places you never thought possible. No one is stopping you from what you want to accomplish but yourself. It’s time to remove any barriers created by self-doubt.
2. You’re living the life that you’ve created
You are not a victim of circumstance. No one can force you to make decisions and take actions that run contrary to your values and aspirations. The circumstances you’re living in today are your own — you created them.
Likewise, your future is entirely up to you. If you’re feeling stuck, it’s probably because you’re afraid to take the risks necessary to achieve your goals and live your dreams.
When it’s time to take action, remember that it’s always better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than at the top of one you don’t.
3. Being busy does not equal being productive
Look at everyone around you. They all seem so busy — running from meeting to meeting and firing off emails. Yet how many of them are really producing, really succeeding at a high level?
Success doesn’t come from movement and activity. It comes from focus — from ensuring that your time is used efficiently and productively. You get the same number of hours in the day as everyone else. Use yours wisely. After all, you’re the product of your output, not your effort. Make certain your efforts are dedicated to tasks that get results.
4. You’re only as good as those you associate with
You should strive to surround yourself with people who inspire you, people who make you want to be better. And you probably do. But what about the people who drag you down? Why do you allow them to be a part of your life?
Anyone who makes you feel worthless, anxious, or uninspired is wasting your time and, quite possibly, making you more like them. Life is too short to associate with people like this. Cut them loose.
5. Squash your negative self-talk
When you’re taking charge of your career, you won’t always have a cheerleader in your corner. This magnifies the effects of self-doubt. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that — thoughts, not facts.
When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says, it’s time to stop and write them down. Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking.
Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.
6. Avoid asking “What if?”
“What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry, which are detrimental to reaching your goals. Things can go in a million different directions, and the more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend taking action and staying productive. Asking “what if?” will only take you to a place you don’t want — or need — to go. Of course, scenario planning is a necessary and effective planning technique. The key distinction here is to recognize the difference between worry and strategic thinking about your future.
7. Schedule exercise and sleep
I can’t say enough about the importance of quality sleep. When you sleep your brain removes toxic proteins from its neurons that are by-products of neural activity when you’re awake. Unfortunately, your brain can remove them adequately only while you’re asleep.
So when you don’t get enough sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc by impairing your ability to think — something no amount of caffeine can fix.
Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough — or the right kind — of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present, which are a major productivity killer.
Ambition often makes you feel as if you must sacrifice sleep to stay productive, but sleep deprivation diminishes your productivity so much throughout the day that you’re better off sleeping.
A study conducted at the Eastern Ontario Research Institute found that people who exercised twice a week for 10 weeks felt more competent socially, academically, and athletically. They also rated their body image and self-esteem higher.
Best of all, rather than the physical changes in their bodies being responsible for the uptick in confidence, it was the immediate, endorphin-fueled positivity from exercise that made all the difference. Schedule your exercise to make certain it happens, or the days will just slip away.
8. Seek out small victories
Small victories can seem unimportant when you’re really after something big, but small victories build new androgen receptors in the areas of the brain responsible for reward and motivation.
This increase in androgen receptors increases the influence of testosterone, which further increases your confidence and your eagerness to tackle future challenges. When you have a series of small victories, the boost in your confidence can last for months.
9. Don’t say “yes” unless you really want to
Research conducted at the University of California in Berkeley shows that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression, all of which make it difficult to take charge of your career.
Saying no is indeed a major challenge for many people. “No” is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield.
When it’s time to say no, avoid phrases like “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.
10. Don’t seek perfection
Don’t set perfection as your target. It doesn’t exist. Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible.
When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure that makes you want to give up or reduce your effort. You end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently instead of moving forward excited about what you’ve achieved and what you will accomplish in the future.
11. Focus on solutions
Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions which hinder your ability to reach your goals.
When you focus on the actions you’ll take to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance.
12. Forgive yourself
When you slip up, it is critical that you forgive yourself and move on. Don’t ignore how the mistake makes you feel; just don’t wallow in it. Instead, shift your attention to what you’re going to do to improve yourself in the future.
Failure can erode your self-confidence and make it hard to believe you’ll achieve a better outcome in the future. Most of the time, failure results from taking risks and trying to achieve something that isn’t easy.
Success lies in your ability to rise in the face of failure, and you can’t do this when you’re living in the past. Anything worth achieving is going to require you to take some risks, and you can’t allow failure to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed.
When you live in the past, that is exactly what happens, and your past becomes your present, preventing you from moving forward.
Bringing it all together
I hope these lessons are as useful to you as they have been to me over the years. As I write them, I’m reminded of their power and my desire to use them every day.
“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.” — Elizabeth Gilbert
The winter solstice recently passed and now, we find ourselves deep in the peak of shortened days, cold weather and lots of time inside with family and relatives. The lack of sun can really damper our moods and take away some of our energy. If we let it. Winter can make it challenging to find inspiration at times. But the days of less sunlight can also lead to great opportunities for solitude, reflection and contemplation.
While it may be tough to feel as inspired, I find that wintertime often is great for planning and refocusing our priorities. Some of my best ideas, as well as my most productive planning and actions have taken place at this time of the year. In fact, the majority of the writing that I did for my first book, The Value of You, occurred during the wintertime last year. It was a special time I’ll never forget.
Following the holidays, there are less distractions. And as a result, there are more reasons to find things that inspire and light the fire inside of our hearts.
In this vein, I urge you to develop an inspirational routine each morning. It may come through the power of meditation, prayer, genuine heartfelt interaction with those that you love or from your favorite song. It could be a video that plays back the piano recital you played to perfection that brought the house down.
It may be the words of this article or a book you find so profound and hold in such high esteem, you get the chills before opening the pages.
Develop your routine. I’ll show you what works for me and how you can integrate this into your life.
Here’s How to Develop Your Routine
“Great are they who see that spiritual is stronger than any material force — that thoughts rule the world.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Make your routine an every day thing. As I’ve climbed the mountain of productivity this year, I realize that I never want to come down. The ascension — the journey — has been a magical ride and it reassures me that all of my progress toward self-actualization, as well as greater harmony and rhythm in living the life of my destiny has been worth the pain and occasional doubts.
Dedicate 10 minutes of contemplation time, ideally, at the beginning of each day. This sets the tone for your day and gets you feeling inspired. All you need are 10 minutes of deep, powerful thinking without distraction and with a beginner’s mind.
Use this time alone in solitude, in a quiet place. Focus your thoughts on positive, stimulative thoughts such as: romantic love, sexual love for a partner, girlfriend/boyfriend, wife or husband. Also, music, friendship and envisioning yourself attaining success or fame. There’s tremendous power that comes through dreaming and seeing yourself standing “in the winner’s circle.”
Get these positive thoughts going and keep them going. Write down these thoughts that come to mind. Keep referring back to them throughout your work day or school day. Think of them when you’re out in the social world, during moments of difficulty or times of joy. Look at them again before you go to bed at night and reset your mind. Then rest and get read for the new day with excitement, anticipation and a clear mind for fresh, new thoughts.
What has become truer for me by the day is the concept that we control our own destiny through the power of our thoughts. We emotionalize our ideas with the power of love, faith and hope. We take these thoughts and envision ourselves doing what we desire. And we put it into plan and take the action that we’ve dreamed of. It really is that simple. Do this and you will never be denied.
There is no shame in any idea, as long as you believe in it and feel it will add value to your life and the lives of others. Don’t concern yourself with the ingenuity of your idea. Your race, your cause is the one that speaks to the desires and dreams of your heart. That’s what makes you unique and special.
I’ve got a long way to go. Chances are, so do you. The way to cultivate and build momentum — which you can then transform into empowered thought and constructive action is through inspiration — the power of “fire” that lifts your spirit and brings you unbridled enthusiasm. Be inspired everyday.
A Story To Tell
Any idea, plan, or purpose may be placed in the mind through repetition of thought. — Napoleon Hill
This is a story I know well. It’s the story of my best friend, my brother, Kevin. These days my brother is seen on national television five nights each week on ESPN. He’s a broadcast journalist and celebrity in his own right. Everything he has can be attributed to his natural talents, perseverance, desire and faith in himself.
Kevin worked hard until he reached the pinnacle of his profession. He reached the top because he envisioned himself reaching the top. He dreamed big and thought prodigious, stimulative thoughts. He had the mindset of a winner. But keep in mind, Kevin’s success did not come overnight.
Kevin knew when he was in 8th grade what he wanted to do with his life. He started announcing sports scores over the intercom at our middle school. He did the same thing while in high school. Kevin used his basketball-playing ability to earn an athletic scholarship at the college level, where he attended a school with one of the top Radio & TV programs in the United States.
After graduation, he embarked on what is now over a 20-year career in sports broadcasting. He busted his tail for nine long years at a regional television station making meager money. There were moments of doubt, frustration and at times, loneliness. Kevin dreamed of being on national television or working in a big market. But it seemed so far away.
He concentrated on getting better each day. He surrounded himself with inspiring thoughts, stories and images of fellow broadcasters who made the big time, as well powerful stories of athletes. He kept going. Kept believing.
Finally, his big break came in 2006 when he accepted a job with WCBS radio in New York. Less than one year later, he was working on television for WCBS-TV. And in 2008, he reached the big time: he was hired by ESPN. 11 years after graduating from college, with a few lean years in between where he thought about quitting or changing professions, Kevin received an offer to work at the worldwide leader of sports.
We all have unique stories to share with the world. Where are you on your journey? Are you going through the doldrums of doubt and fear? Do you see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel — the end-vision of your goal? And if you do, are you running into road blocks of creativity? What are your mental challenges? What are your emotional battles?
Perhaps your path is as open as the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset in Laguna Beach. Maybe it’s a Midtown Manhattan traffic jam. It’s all a state of mind. We need inspiration to help us create the beautiful landscapes of limitless possibility in our mind that serve as the foundation for our magical journeys.
You are the creator of your world. When you are safe in the knowledge that you control your worldly destiny, nothing will ever stop you. Those with a winning mindset are never denied. They inspire themselves to achieve great things.
Be inspired. Enjoy this winter season and take some time for yourself to develop a routine that positions you for fulfillment and productivity. As St.Francis of Asisi once wrote, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
Working out at the gym got a lot easier the day I realized the sweat served a higher purpose. I’m 43, and have three kids under eight years old, so if I want to be around—healthy and active—for my grandkids, I better put the work in now or face regret later.
Activities that aren’t inherently joyful, like clocking time on a treadmill, get better when done in service of something bigger.
The same can be said of cleaning out one’s closet. Satisfying, yes, but the buzz is too fleeting to be self-sustaining. It’s only when decluttering is reframed as a piece of a larger, more significant puzzle that it sticks.
Without a bigger picture in mind, our actions are often dictated by “What’s more pleasurable in the moment?” rather than “What’s better in the long-term?” In the moment, the consequences of most choices are insignificant. It makes little difference, on a particular day, if you opt to stay on the couch rather than hitting the gym, but over the course of a year, the negative results from this repeated decision will compound.
An intentional life is one marked by long-term thinking that leads to beneficial short-term decision-making. First, decide what you want. Then, decide—every day, in ways big and small—how to get there. Have the ends in mind, and the means will become clear.
Determining the ends, however, is not always easy.
What makes Netflix so appealing—the quantity of programming—also makes it hard to decide what show to watch. The same quandary applies to life, but the stakes are obviously far greater. There are countless ways to live, values to prioritize, and experiences to optimize for. However, because there’s no clear path to follow despite the abundance of options, it’s easy to bounce aimlessly through life like a tumbleweed.
One of the best ways to live a fulfilling, intentional life, and direct one’s actions toward a beneficial end, is to adopt an “ism” operating system. Some “isms,” such as materialism and consumerism, have proven to be harmful and should be avoided. Others, such as minimalism, lead to smart decision-making, contentment, and happiness.
Years ago, when I first stumbled across the notion of minimalism, I bought into the idea that a life with less could lead to more. Like many, I began my journey by eliminating the low hanging fruit of plentiful and obvious excesses from my life. Over time, despite how satisfying purging could be, I came to realize that minimalism is not an end in itself. The process of decluttering, detaching, and deemphasizing materialism is simply a step on the road toward something more significant. Minimalism is a mechanism to create space and time for what really matters.
The Real Secret to Happiness
For thousands of years, people have grappled with the big question of “What really matters?” What, among the many alternative ways we can choose to spend our finite time, will bring us happiness?
Recently, another batch of smart people have attempted to answer these eternal questions, and their conclusion reinforces something that most of us intuit.
According to Harvard’s Grant & Glueck Study, which tracked more than 700 participants over the course of 75 years, the key to long-term happiness and fulfillment comes down to a single factor: the quality of our relationships.
The root of happiness is not money, fame, or good looks—it’s the people we choose to surround ourselves with and how well we nurture our relationships with them.
Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, explained that: “The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
As with most things in life, when it comes to building good relationships, quality is more important than quantity. Indeed, practicing minimalism is as important in curating relationships as it is in decluttering a closet.
In the 1990s, British anthropologist and researcher Robin Dunbardetermined that we are only capable of having a finite number of people in our social sphere—150 at most—due to the size of our brains. Any more, and it becomes impossible to manage one’s social network. This theory is known as “Dunbar’s Number.”
Dunbar went on to conclude that while we can form, at most, 150 loose relationships, we only have the capacity to form close, meaningful relationships with approximately five individuals.
The takeaways from the Grant & Glueck Study, and Robin Dunbar’s research, are both hopeful and daunting. Hopeful in the sense that our capacity to lead happy, fulfilling lives rests on our capacity to forge close bonds with merely five individuals. Daunting in that most can appreciate the challenge posed by nurturing just one close relationship over a lifetime.
Nonetheless, despite how hard it may be, the reward is worth it. As Booker T. Washington once said, “Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.”
The Payoff from Positive Relationships
The benefits of having close, healthy relationships with members of one’s immediate family are self-evident. A safe, secure, and loving family results in happy, independent children and parents who derive the satisfaction of having completed a job well done. The payoff from social and professional relationships may be less obvious, but are no less important. Consider the following historical examples of people leveraging close relationships into meaningful success:
In the 1920s, Ernest Hemingway moved to Paris to join a group of expatriate, “Lost Generation” writers, including Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who had taken up residence in the Left Bank. They hung out at cafes, argued about politics, caroused late into the nights on the streets of Paris, and produced some of the greatest works of literature of the 20th Century.
In the 1970s, young and brash directors Francis Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Brian De Palma, known as the “Movie Brats,” took Hollywood by storm. They competed, collaborated, shared resources, worked on each other’s films, gave critical feedback, and formed friendships. They transformed an industry because of, not despite, one another.
A “tribe” of inspiring and supportive people can lift you up, hold you accountable, and inspire you to live to your greatest potential. As motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously observed, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. So choose wisely.
Implicit in this principle, of course, is the fact that it works both ways. If you fail to choose wisely, and surround yourself with people who exhibit behaviors and habits that are inconsistent with your own desires, you’ll have a hard time bucking the group’s standards—as unappealing as they may be.
For example, if you desire to lead a healthy and active lifestyle, you’ll be hard pressed to do so if your inner circle consists of couch potato friends who spend their days playing video games and eating junk food. On the other hand, if your friends are physically fit you stand a much greater chance of being fit yourself because the cultural norms of your group will influence your own behavior. Who you spend the most time with is who you are.
Find the Tribe that’s Right for You
Our instincts to fit in have ancient roots. For thousands of years, humans have lived in tribes in which it was essential to conform. To buck the tribe was to be shunned or cast out altogether, leading to great hardship. Modern culture is different, but from fraternities and sororities to sports teams and social groups, tribes still exist and still enforce social norms. Just ask a young college student who is pledging a fraternity whether participating in hazing rituals is optional if you doubt the existence of modern tribes and their codes of social conduct.
In this environment, faced with the expectations of a tribe, you have a few options: (1) conform to the rules of the tribe, (2) resist, or (3) find a new one.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with conforming to a tribe’s social norms—as long as those norms align with your own desires. If you’re living out of alignment with your desired values, and those around you are exemplifying the lifestyle you want to live, then the quickest way to get what you want is to surrender to the group’s standards. But often the opposite is true—you want something different than what the group demands. In this scenario, surrendering to the group is sacrificing the life you desire.
Another option is to resist the group, but this path is perilous. It’s hard enough to change one’s own thoughts and behaviors. Why take on the nearly impossible task of trying to change someone else’s?
The third way is to practice relationship minimalism, which is not always the path of least resistance, but is certainly the path of greatest benefit. Most people enter into relationships too haphazardly, or maintain existing ones by default. They rely on proximity or convenience to guide relationship decision-making, or are gripped by the inertia of the status quo.
Finding the tribe that’s right for you is not always easy. It requires careful consideration. Often it means making difficult decisions to part ways with those who don’t align with your values. But isn’t the payoff of lifelong happiness and fulfillment worth it?
There are people out there who can bring real joy to your life, who you can share meaningful experiences with, and who will be there to lift you up when you need it. Cultivate a tribe in which your desired behavior is the normal behavior. Surround yourself with people who are leading lives you want to live.
First, use minimalism to shed the extraneous excesses that clutter your home and your mind. Cast aside harmful “isms” that are detracting, not adding, value to your life and the lives of those around you. This will create the space and time necessary to tackle life’s more important issues.
Second, leverage your newfound mental bandwidth to think deeply about how you want to live your life. How do you want to spend your time? What makes you happy? What kind of person do you want to be?
Third, make the hard decisions necessary to part ways with toxic people in your life, and scale back ambivalent relationships to make room for new, better aligned ones.
Fourth, find people who exemplify the values and lifestyles you aspire to. Clusters of such people may already have found each other and formed groups—from book clubs to biking groups—centered around the activities and experiences that are consistent with your desires. Begin to engage.
Fifth, take frequent, consistent steps to strengthen budding relationships with members of your newfound tribe. Show up. Give back. Express gratitude. Let your guard down. Be generous. Find your people, then never take them for granted. You’ll become a transformed and better person when you surround yourself with people who push, prod, and encourage you to reach new heights.
Give of yourself to others who inspire you and a delightful thing will happen: you’ll get so much more than you could ever imagine in return.
Jay Harrington blogs at Life and Whim where he offers insights and inspiration about how to live a life full of more First Moments.
Truth is everybody is going to hurt you: you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for. –Bob Marley
Relationships are the lifeblood of business. Bob Marley understood that sometimes the people we care about can hurt us, but life without good friends — both on and off the job — would hurt more. Cultivate your relationships and you will live well.
Here are 17 more wise quotes to live by:
1. “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” —Bill Gates
2. “Each person must live their life as a model for others.” –Rosa Parks
3. “Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.” –H. Jackson Brown Jr.
4. “If you can’t tolerate critics, don’t do anything new or interesting.” —Jeff Bezos
5. “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” –Nelson Mandela
6. “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” –Bobby Unser
7. “Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.” –Harold S. Geneen
8. “Predicting rain doesn’t count. Building arks does.” —Warren Buffett
9. “Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.” –John Wooden
10. “To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.” –Reba McEntire
11. “Time is more value than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” –Jim Rohn
12. “To get rich, you have to be making money while you’re asleep.” –David Bailey
13. “The most simple things can bring the most happiness.” –Izabella Scorupco
14. “There is always space for improvement, no matter how long you’ve been in the business.” –Oscar De La Hoya
15. “Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.” –Helen Keller
16. “Friends and good manners will carry you where money won’t go.” –Margaret Walker
17. “Family and friendships are two of the greatest facilitators of happiness.” –John C. Maxwell
For improving one’s personal life, I called on Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and science to help us frame our lives with what’s most important.
Let’s look at both sides of the life-improvement coin, starting with your work life. Which of these habits can you start putting into play this week to elevate your game and be more productive?
1. Focus on doing the things that truly matter.
If you’re stuck in a perpetual cycle of overwork with an endless to-do list that won’t go away, try this to keep your sanity: Only do the things that create value in your life.
This prophetic quote by Steve Jobs 22 years ago hits the nail on the head. Here’s what he said at an Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in 1997:
People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.
Without focus, your very ability to think, reason, and make decisions will naturally suffer. You just can’t maximize your efficiency or go into a state of flow if your mind is wandering off in 1,000 directions.
2. Work in intervals.
Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness, co-authors of Peak Performance, discovered that what separates great performers is how they practice “with full attention, focused on high-quality work, and in chunks of 60 to 90 minutes separated by short breaks.”
In their research, Stulberg and Magness found plenty of evidence that adopting an interval-based approach to productivity isn’t just for gifted artists, jocks, and docs and other brainy types. It can transform the workplace for employees as well.
In one study, the most productive people apply the rule of 52 and 17: They spend 52 minutes engrossed in their work and then break for 17 minutes before getting back to work.
3. Master your morning routine.
You arrive at the office and, as if on cue, distractions start to pile up and fires need to be put out. If that sounds familiar, productivity psychologist Melissa Gratias recommends this morning routine the moment you sit down at your desk.
Map out the first 30 to 60 minutes of your day. What do you need to do to start the day well, and how much time should you allocate to each task?
Avoid jumping into email. Once you open your inbox, you may be sucked into a whirlpool of others’ needs. Do this last, even toward the end of the day.
Minimize interruptions. Mute your phone and make sure your email notifications are off. Schedule morning huddles rather than interrupting others (or being interrupted).
Avoid tasks that steal your productivity. Your “opening ritual” is a time to look at your calendar, update your to-do list, note your top priorities for the day, and clear off your desk.
Here’s the other side of the coin. Did you ever consider how these life strategies could drastically improve your outlook and put you on the path you’ve always imagined?
1. Measure your success in life by one word: love.
Basically, when you get to my age, you’ll really measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you.
I know many people who have a lot of money, and they get testimonial dinners and they get hospital wings named after them. But the truth is that nobody in the world loves them.
That’s the ultimate test of how you have lived your life. The trouble with love is that you can’t buy it. You can buy sex. You can buy testimonial dinners. But the only way to get love is to be lovable. It’s very irritating if you have a lot of money. You’d like to think you could write a check: I’ll buy a million dollars’ worth of love. But it doesn’t work that way. The more you give love away, the more you get.
The third-richest person on the planet says the most important lesson and “the ultimate test” of a life well-lived has nothing to do with money and everything to do with the most powerful emotion a human being can feel: love.
2. Treasure your friendships.
If you’re not aware, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are really close. Gates once said the biggest lessons he’s learned from Buffett over the years are more personal than dollars and cents. And the most important thing he’s learned from Buffett over 25 years?
What friendship is really all about.
Gates writes, “It’s about being the kind of friend you wish you had yourself. Everyone should be lucky enough to have a friend who is as thoughtful and kind as Warren. He goes out of his way to make people feel good about themselves and share his joy about life. To this day, every time I go to Omaha (which I try to do whenever I can), Warren still drives out to the airport to pick me up.”
Who are your true friends? Whom can you really count on in crisis or when the chips are down? Those are the friends you should treasure for life. Just remember: It’s a two-way street.
We’ve all heard the cliché that it’s better to give than to receive. Now science says the very act of giving away your money leads to more happiness. But there’s a catch.
Is it really possible to change one’s life in such a short timeframe?
Well, yes. Just don’t expect a complete overhaul of your life in 30 days or you’ll be terribly disappointed! You can, however, change your life to a certain degree in 30 days.
Remember, 1% positive change in a month is still change. Realistic professional athletes aim for less than 1% change in a month and they’re satisfied with it.
So the first step is to define what change(s) are you looking to have in your life. Ask yourself the following questions:
What do you want to change in your life?
Why do you want to change it?
What do you need to do to change it?
How can you track your progress?
Who can help you change it?
What are you willing to risk to change it?
When can you start to change it?
Why not now?
That will bring you clarity on what it means for you to change your life. The 23 micro-habits below cover most aspects of health, wealth, love and happiness.
When reading the list below, always keep in mind what you want to change. Note the micro-habits you think can help you and do them every day* for the next 30 days and beyond.
*some can’t be done every day
1. Reading uplifting content before going to bed
Don’t let yourself go to bed in a bad mood, or by filling your brain with “crap”. I understand that you need to decompress before going to bed. I completely get that. But what you do before bed affects how you wake up, and the state of mind you’re going to be in for the first part of the day.
My top recommendation here is to read biographies or self-help books. I find them so uplifting. It’s always nice to hear that even the inspiring people in our lives are just as imperfect as we are, sometimes even more so.
The best months of my life was when I was doing physical activity. I was feeling great in my body.
I’ve always been a skinny guy, but when I’m working out and seeing even small gains in muscles, I feel incredible. Whatever your goals are health-wise, be active, measure every little gain, and keep going.
This is the starting point, and most likely the most important one. Habits are strong. We’re creatures of habits. Good or bad. Keep the good ones. Drop the negative or ineffective ones. Make new, better ones.
The hard part is doing when you don’t want to, be as many things in life, consistency is key! If you can’t be consistent, add accountability.
Always make your lists bigger than you can chew. We, as humans, like comfort. If we allow ourselves to be comfortable, we end up doing close to nothing. Make your lists big. But make sure the tasks are small and achievable. I have about 15–20 things to do every day. Most are 10 minute-tasks.
If I aim to accomplish 10 tasks. I will. And I will be “satisfied”. Now if I aim to accomplish 20 tasks and complete 15–18 of them, I’ll be pumped. I won’t see time go by and the dopamine rush I’ll get rush for accomplishing so much will strongly contribute to building that momentum up.
What I’m proposing you here is to simply make a list of things you want to accomplish for the next day a few hours before bed, and then review it shortly before “calling it a night”. Don’t make it too complex. Just a simple list. It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. I usually come up with a list of anywhere between 10–20 things to do.
Here’s what happens when you prepare your next day the night before:
While you sleep, your subconscious is “working on” things you “fed it” before going to bed. When you feed it with things you want to accomplish for the next day, it will “prepare” you for them.
I knew meditation would be hard when I decided to start doing it. But what I didn’t realize was that it’s a skill and it needs practice. I quickly learned that I had the wrong expectations, and that held me back. Meditation is not about “not thinking”, it’s about being aware.
When I started journaling, I had the preconception that it was a dumb idea and that I wouldn’t have anything to say. I could not have been more wrong. On my first journaling session, I wrote for 3 hours without even noticing.
It’s a powerful tool that frees up your mind and aligns your goals together. You become more aware and focused.
19. Take a well-deserved vacation
It’s hard to brake when your pedal is all the way back. But you know what, sometimes that’s exactly when you need to brake.
You can’t function at peak state when you’re constantly under pressure.
If you’re like most of us, you don’t get many big wins in a month. It’s hard to keep our motivation when we don’t win frequently. It’s not by accident that people, including myself, rush to video games — you are constantly being rewarded. That’s also why we’re trying to gamify everything now.
So I say to you, every time a small event happens where it could be considered a “win”, acknowledge it. Take note of it. Have a “success” journal.
You know that junk drawer you dread opening? It’s no bueno. Not only can chaotic environments stress us out by competing for space in our brains, but clutter in a room like the kitchen can also make us more likely to eat unhealthy stuff. Clean the deep recesses of your cupboards and fridge, then organize and maintain them (try adding hooks, racks, or dividers) so you don’t have to panic every time you open ’em.
Cook With Friends
Maybe there’s no such thing as too many cooks in the kitchen. An 80-year-long study at Harvard University found that close relationships—more than lavish lifestyles or money—are what keep us happy and healthy. Invite your loved ones to help you chop, stir, and savor meals together. Another way to keep the good vibes going? Find kitchen soaps or candles with scents that remind you of happy times—research says it can up your mood.
Just Add Greenery
Even though your garden isn’t growing outside, you can still bring plant life inside and reap the positive effects it can have on your well-being and mood. Research shows that greens can improve our attitude, reduce stress, and make us more productive. Decorate your kitchen counter with a hearty potted herb like sage; add a bamboo plant to a side table; or fill a vase with fresh-cut flowers and place it on your dining room table.
Coloring books for adults are more than just a quirky pastime: A 2016 study at the University of Otago in New Zealand found that people who spent time on creative goals during the day felt more positive the next day. Take a break to knit a scarf, bake a cake, write a poem, play a song, or craft with your kids. Short on time? Add creativity to workday tasks by using colored pens to take notes, or make domestic duties more fun by listening to an audio book.
This three-bedroom home is just outside San Vito dei Normanni, a rural town in the southeastern Italian region of Apulia, about 15 miles west of the coastal city of Brindisi and the shores of the Adriatic Sea.
Completed in 2017, the 2,691-square-foot home includes a contemporary one-story villa with two bedrooms and a cluster of traditional structures with conical roofs known as trulli, made from Apulian dry stone.
Set on nearly four acres, the property has landscaped gardens, fruit trees, an olive grove and a swimming pool.
The five attached trulli have been refurbished and include a single bedroom, dressing room, living room with open kitchen, and bathroom. The trulli complex is linked by a glass hallway to the contemporary portion of the stone-and-concrete home, also painted white, which has barrel-vaulted ceilings made from a volcanic stone called tuff. The living area has an open kitchen with a four-burner induction cooker and professional oven, among other appliances. The two bedrooms in the contemporary structure each have an en suite bath.
All of the main rooms in the home open to a patio area with a barbecue, anchored by a 50-by-16-foot rectangular pool. The contemporary wing is topped by a roughly 1,000-square-foot roof deck.
The property functions as a single-family home, but could also be rented to tourists, as many renovated trulli complexes in the Apulia region are.
A large kitchen in the home’s contemporary wing has a dining table and barrel-vaulted ceilings made from a volcanic stone called tuff.CreditAndrea Wyner for The New York Times
“This project was born from a completely renovated period village of trulli, to create a luxury residential and tourist facility equipped with every comfort,” said Francesco Cavallo, a founding partner of PROF.IM. Real Estate Agency, which has the listing.
Specific to Apulia and dating back several centuries, trulli are built from stone, without mortar. They were originally used as temporary field shelters or dwellings for agricultural laborers that could be disassembled easily. This home’s trulli, which date to the early 19th century, were rebuilt with an eye to retaining their historic authenticity, Mr. Cavallo said. One of the structures had partly collapsed and had to be rebuilt by local artisans, known as trullistos,who specialize in the regional architectural style, he said.
The furniture, which is included in the asking price, was handmade by a local cabinetmaker in keeping with the home’s design.
The pool terrace has an outdoor shower, a large barbecue and a wood-fired pizza oven. Several dozen lemon, orange and other fruit trees have been added to the property’s centuries-old olive grove. There is also a large English-style garden, an irrigation system, parking for four cars, a security system and an automatic vehicle gate at the entrance.
The town of San Vito dei Normanni, with a population of about 20,000, dates to the Middle Ages and is notable for its religious architecture. San Michele Salentino, a small community with shops, is about a mile from the property, Mr. Cavallo said, and Ostuni, known by tourists as the White City because of its whitewashed old town, is 10 miles north. The beaches of Alto Salento and the Torre Guaceto Nature Reserve are about 20 minutes away. Brindisi’s international airport is about 25 minutes by car, while Bari, a city of more than 300,000 with an international airport and a cruise port terminal, is just over an hour up the coast.
In the past decade, Apulia, a scenic region encompassing Italy’s “boot heel” and bordering the Adriatic and Ionian seas, has become a destination for those seeking second or vacation homes, said Huw Beaugié, the founder of the Thinking Traveler, a company specializing in Mediterranean villa rentals.
“It’s part of a general increase in desirability of a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle,” he said. “Apulia appeals to a desire to return to basics.”
A 2018 report by Gate-away.com, an Italian property portal for overseas buyers, ranked Apulia second among Italian regions (after Tuscany) for the volume of inquiries from potential investors, said Simone Rossi, the company’s managing director.
The area’s traditional properties, which typically sit on the Adriatic coast or in inland fields shaded by olive groves, are “very much in demand among investors who renovate them and bring them to their ancient splendor,” Mr. Rossi said. “In many cases, they turn them into B&Bs.”
Properties that attract vacation-home buyers have increased in price over the past decade, although it is difficult to say exactly how much, Mr. Beaugié said. “It’s still possible to pick up pieces of land with a few tumbledown stones for a few tens of thousand euros,” he said, while a large feudal farmstead, or masseria, “will cost a few million to buy and restore to a good standard.”
Apulia has become a destination for celebrities in recent years, with lavish weddings and parties, said Marta Calligaro, a property researcher with the brokerage Homes and Villas Abroad. “The global recession just over a decade ago saw prices fall,” Ms. Calligaro said. “But the past two to three years have seen renewed growth, with the market for second homes being its driving force.”
A bedroom in the contemporary structure overlooks the patio area and a 50-by-16-foot swimming pool.CreditAndrea Wyner for The New York Times
The average price of a home in Apulia is about 1,300 euros a square meter ($136 a square foot), with the city of Bari being the most expensive area and Taranto the most affordable, although prices can vary widely, Mr. Rossi said.
A country house or seaside villa might cost about 150,000 to 300,000 euros ($170,000 to $340,000), and a masseria could run from 400,000 euros ($450,000) into the millions of euros, Ms. Calligaro said.
Many buyers plan to rent out their properties when they are not in residence, Mr. Cavallo said. Rental prices range from about 1,500 to 2,000 euros a week ($1,700 to $2,260) to 4,000 or 5,000 euros a week ($4,500 or $5,700), he said.
Who Buys in Apulia
A decade ago, Northern Italians were the first to seek deals on vacation homes in Apulia, back when a trullo in need of work could be had for as little as 20,000 euros ($22,600), Mr. Beaugié said. But now more buyers are foreign, from Britain, the United States and Australia, as well as Germany, France and other European countries, brokers said.
The ongoing Brexit turmoil and the most recent American presidential election may be responsible for driving the “huge growth in the interest of both Brits and Americans,” Mr. Rossi said.
There are no restrictions on American or Canadian buyers in Italy, although citizens of some countries face obstacles, making it easier to buy through a company, Ms. Calligaro said.
Buyers may hire a real estate agency to assist them, typically for a fee of 3 percent of the sale price, Mr. Rossi said.
The closing of home sales is handled by a notary, for a fee of 2,000 to 3,000 euros ($2,260 to $3,400) paid by the buyer, Ms. Calligaro said.
The home is in the Apulian countryside, near the town of San Vito dei Normanni, which has about 20,000 residents.CreditAndrea Wyner for The New York Times
A personal lawyer can provide legal advice throughout the process, for a fee of about 1 to 2 percent of the sale price, she said.
In all, buyers should budget 10 to 20 percent of the sale price for closing costs, Mr. Rossi said, including a 9 percent tax on the assessed value of the home if it is being used as a part-time or vacation home. Those buying a home as a primary residence pay only 2 percent, he said.