You’re probably here because you’ve been dreaming about a new life… but instead of creating it you just keep passing out and waking up to the same life every day.
Burn your vision boards and trash your bucket lists. Drop the get-rich-quick schemes and “get skinny while eating pizza all day!” diets.
There’s no magic to success. It’s hard work… but that’s not all it is (although you do need to stop being lazy).
It’s about smart work. You know the old saying “80% of your success comes from 20% of your efforts”. Being more successful is about working toward your goals in a smarter way so that all of your efforts lead to success and you have more time to live your life instead of wasting away in an office.
For similar articles, check out the best online business ideas, the best small business ideas, and how to start a business.
Travel bloggers, 25 year-old CEOs, and stay-at-home-moms making six figures. It’s never been easier for just about anyone to achieve their wildest dreams. This list favors means to success that are digital, automatable, and scalable, because that’s how you squeeze the most success out of your efforts.
41. Take action now
If you want to make a change, start by taking action right now (well, after you finish this article). If you’ve ever read The Confidence Code by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, you already know that taking action is the #1 difference between people who have confidence and people who don’t. (1)
Put down the self-improvement books and blogs every once in a while. Doing something, ANYTHING, even if you fail, will help you build the belief in your ability to succeed.
40. Quite chasing shiny objects
While you’re out there taking action, make sure you focus on one thing at a time. Too many people make absolutely no progress because they start on their cool new business idea, give up when the novelty wears off, then leap to the next cool thing.
Folks, success isn’t easy to come by. If we’re talking business have to pick one business idea and go all in on it, even when it starts to become mundane. Otherwise, you’ll never taste success.
39. Get new friends
We’ve all heard it before: “if you want to see who a person is, look at their friends.”
You don’t have to drop your old friends, but you should be looking for new ones who live their lives the way you want to. Surrounding yourself with successful people is the single most underrated key to success. You might even persuade your old friends to join you on the journey to success.
38. Develop grit
Angela Duckworth, professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, studied everything from West Point cadets to high power salespeople to national spelling bee competitors to figure out the number one predictor of success in all of these different contexts. Intelligence? Nope. Good looks? Social connections? Nope. (2)
Grit. What Duckworth defines as a combination of passion and perseverance for long-term goals is actually far more important than talent. And unlike IQ, it can be learned over time.
37. Network, network, network
When a high profile exec is flipping through hundreds of resumes, emails, and business pitches every day, connections are the only way to make sure your name stands out. Start by using social media (Twitter, Facebook groups, and LinkedIn are great for this) to engage with people in your industry.
36. Get out of your comfort zone
They say that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Get used to being uncomfortable because staying inside your comfort zone will doom you to a life of mediocrity.
How do you get out of your comfort zone? Do something minorly uncomfortable (but socially and legally acceptable) every day. Being uncomfortable is a sign you’re growing.
35. Get a daily routine
Now I’m not talking about going back to that 9-5 BS, but sticking to a daily routine that promotes good habits is the foundation for building bigger habits for success. Even the smallest habits, like waking up a little earlier or meditating before bed, can totally change your life.
According to Business Insider, one of the most popular habits among highly successful people from business mogul Kat Cole who became VP of the Hooters corporation at age 26 to Huffington Post founder Ariana Huffington is about as simple as it gets: drink a glass of water every morning when you wake up.
34. Get in shape and stay healthy
Hit the weights, run on the treadmill, ball on the court. Whatever you do for exercise, being fit gives you more confidence, more energy, better health, reduces stress, releases those feel-good endorphins, and it makes you look good, all of which can contribute to your success in a big way.
Plenty of rich and successful people would agree with me. (3)
33. Vet your social media feeds
Good chunks of many social media feeds are people complaining about whatever they can complain about, or showing off the highlight reels of their life. Unfollow all these people and replace the negativity by following people you look up to or strive to be like (aka successful people). You’ll get plenty of motivation and education delivered straight to your timeline every day.
It’s similar to surrounding yourself with successful people, just with your social media.
32. Don’t be afraid of failure
Part of being successful is failing a bunch of times. If you’re scared of failure, you’re never gonna get anywhere. Instead, you gotta think of failure as a chance to learn something.
It goes back to the tip at the top of this article. Don’t wait around. Act, fail, brush yourself off, and try again.
31. Trash bad habits
According to Marketing Strategist Jerome Knyszewski (4), the two most important bad habits to avoid if you want to be successful are saying yes when you should say no and not planning for the future.
While you’re at it, quit smoking, throw out the junk food, and limit yourself to one hour of TV per day.
30. Improve your emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand your own and other people’s emotions. Having a high level of emotional intelligence is an asset to your success because you can understand and control your emotions well. Plus, emotionally intelligent people know how to empathize with other people, which is obviously important to creating professional relationships with others and building your network.
29. Sleep well
The most important habit to break? Quit skipping sleep. Studies show that a single night of poor sleep affects your entire work week, and the problem of bad sleep among the U.S. workforce costs our country a collective $411 billion per year. (5)
According to Harvard Medical, you should sleep for at least 7 hours, maintain a regular sleeping schedule, create a relaxing bedtime routine, avoid stimulating food and drink in the evening, and exercise regularly for optimal sleep conditions. (6)
28. Set SMART goals
We all know it’s important to set goals, but writing vague things like “get rich” and “be happy” up on your dream board aren’t going to get you anywhere.
S.M.A.R.T. goals are used by everyone from Fortune 500 companies to MIT, because they work. Make sure your goals are: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. (7) So, instead of “get rich”, write something like “make over $70,000 in 2018”, or “average $6,000 per month in 2018.”
Another piece of advice? Break these S.M.A.R.T. goals down into smaller “bite-sized” goals. Keeps you motivated when you’re hitting goals on a regular basis and before you reach that big goal.
27. Just say no
Steve Jobs was no tech genius. But he said that the one thing that made him stand out from other people and helped him succeed was an ability to focus.
According to Apple’s co-founder, focus is all about saying no. “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. 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.” (8)
26. Quit seeking external validation
You aren’t going to get very far if you have to ask everyone around you if they approve of your ideas or actions. After all, you can’t please everybody.
Just get to work and find success in your own way. If you feel like you’re doing it right, you don’t need someone else to tell you you’re doing it right (barring your mentor, of course).
25. Growth mindset
Adopting a growth mindset means recognizing that we not fixed and are all capable of growing and changing, of shedding old habits and adopting new ones, and of learning to be successful. That person who always has “bad luck” keeps failing because they believe that those failures are an innate, permanent part of who they are, whereas the successful person sees those failures as an opportunity to change and grow.
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck explains that the growth mindset means believing “that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.” (9)
In order to act on that growth mindset, successful people regularly engage in self-improvement. They read on a daily basis (kudos for reading this post today, cross that one off the list), they learn new skills, they identify their faults and weaknesses and foster their strengths.
Instead of wasting your spare time on activities that provide no return, like binge-watching Netflix for 6 hours or hitting the bar every weekend, use that time to get ahead. Read a book, take a course, hone your skills, work on your business, etc.
23. Celebrate your wins
Working hard is important, but you can’t be “on” all the time. Take a break to celebrate your wins. Not only will it keep you motivated and looking forward to accomplishing the next goal, but taking a break to do whatever you want every once in a while helps you recuperate so you can attack your work in full force.
22. Get a mentor
Ramit Sethi schools us in “Why Successful People Don’t Want to Mentor You.” (10) The answer is simple: they’re busy, and you’re wasting their time. Stop asking them generic questions and expecting them to do work for you, and start doing the work yourself.
Instead, find yourself a good mentor, do your homework on them, put some work in to show them you’re serious (maybe read their book and reference specific chapters), and ask focused, thoughtful questions. Basically, STOP BEING LAZY.
21. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Speaking of mentors, don’t be afraid to ask for help from them and from your own network. After all, even the most “self-made” people in the world didn’t accomplish so much completely on their own.
While you’re at it, make sure to thank people who help you as well.
20. Practice delayed gratification
The classic Stanford marshmallow experiment: Back in the ‘70s, a group of children were given a marshmallow and told that if they could refrain from eating it for 15 minutes, they’d get a second one. Some kids said “screw it” and ate the marshmallow while others waited for the chance to eat two marshmallows. (11)
Well, 40 years later the researchers tracked down these same kids, and they found out that the kids who delayed their gratification for a higher reward grew up to be significantly more successful than the other kids by a number of different measures.
19. Upgrade your skills
One of the quickest ways to ensure success is to beef up your resume with some solid, in-demand skills. Here are some skills that the World Economic Forum and Bureau of Labor Statistics determined will be even more useful in the next 10 years: software development, data analysis, physical therapy, digital marketing, customer service, teaching, accounting, business analysis, and social media. (12)
Thanks to the internet, now you can learn a lot of these skills from your home for wayyy less than a college degree by taking some online courses. Khan Academy, Udemy, and Lynda are all great places to pick up skills online. (13) (14) (15)
18. Save money
The Instagram-friendly picture of lavish success, popping bottles and paying to do a photoshoot on a private jet that’s not yours (yes, that’s a thing) (16), actually just leads to debt and bankruptcy.
No more fake friends. Truly successful people live within their means and don’t overspend. They save their money for lucrative investment opportunities and top-notch business ideas.
If you really want that Instagram lifestyle, you can buy it once you actually have the money to do so.
17. Track your finances
Speaking of saving money, tracking your finances is the key to understanding your financial health. It’s important to know how much money’s coming in and going out so you can make changes to stay in the green and avoid debt.
Also, you can monitor your progress towards your financial goals by keeping track of your money.
16. Stay positive
Some things are cliche because they’re true. Self-help books can be cheesy and generic, but there’s a reason that The Power of Positive Thinking has sold over 5 million copies and is still flying off the (virtual) bookshelves almost 70 years after being published. (17)
More than talent, skill, connections, and money, attitude is the most important factor for success.
15. Learn to adapt
The world’s always changing. If you can’t learn to adapt to changing situations, you’re going to get left behind. Learn to be adaptable and take change in stride, as having this skill will help you react effectively and succeed.
After all, adaptability is what allowed us humans to go from cavemen to the highly advanced society we live in today.
14. Sales training
What’s the one goal that every single business on the planet has in common? Make money.
A reporter for Inc. Magazine asked 20 different major CEOs and business owners for the one skill that contributes to success in every single industry, and they all said the same thing: sales. (18) Without sales, you’ll never succeed in anything. With sales, you’ve got half the work done. Read up on sales and psychology, then get some training if you can afford it.
13. Real estate
This is one of those fields that has a low barrier to entry and no ceiling to how much you can earn. While you do have to get educated, licensed and trained, it’s pretty affordable and only takes about a year.
After that, the sky’s the limit if you’re good enough – just look at someone like Barbara Corcoran. Plus, thanks to websites like Airbnb, building up your own real estate empire by buying out buildings and renting them is more feasible than ever.
12. Learn to code
“Code is the new literacy,” and now you can learn to code from home for free at places like Code Academy. (19)
Whether you’re looking to work from home, create your own start-up, flex your creativity, or make lots of money, web development has all the markers of a fulfilling career. Senior software engineers are topping up at $160k/year…not bad. (20)
11. Graphic design
Sure, websites like Fiverr are dragging down graphic designer prices to lows like $5 (ouch), but clients who pay that little aren’t always great. Legit companies will pay way, way more than that for a designer who actually knows their stuff.
If you can leverage design to increase conversions, you can make big bucks, and your success won’t dry out with increasing automation because creativity is hard to copy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that top-level graphic designers can hit $78k/year. (21)
10. Project management
According to a study done by the World Economic Forum on automation, the skills that will make sure you can still succeed ten years from now are things like people management, coordinating with others, critical thinking, and project management. (22)
Start by learning your way around project management software programs like Trello, Slack, and Basecamp.
9. Start a blog
Regardless of what field you go into, blogging is still a major way to get your name out there, increase brand recognition, and ultimately paint that picture of success for yourself. For those who’ve made it, blogging is a great way to give back to aspiring mentees who want to learn about how you did it, closing up the circle of success.
Plus, blogging itself can be turned into a very lucrative online business or complement your main income stream.
8. Data analysis
Big data, SAS, web scraping, machine learning…we’ve all heard the buzzwords. Data analysis is one of those elusive skills that are actually not that hard to learn if you have some time and an analytical mind, and having the ability to understand and manipulate data is an incredibly powerful skill in all fields.
Data analysis skills like SAS (Statistical Analysis System) will get you a 17% increase in any field of work. (23)
7. Pick up photography
Photography is a great supplemental skill for furthering your success in other fields. Basic photography, photoshop, and even some video editing and web design can help you land better jobs, or they can help you make side money or get your online business idea off the ground. Working for yourself is the dream, right?
6. Start tweeting
There’s a reason most companies look at applicants’ social media profiles. A big part of success is branding yourself online. Good branding on social media rakes in the cash and, more importantly, helps you get recognized and make connections.
Twitter is great for industries like journalism, blogging, film, finance, aviation, and telecommunications, whereas Instagram is a requirement for photography, art, fashion, travel, etc.
If you’re into business, marketing, finance, or tech, hit up LinkedIn and start writing articles.
5. Digital marketing
Everything is digital. There are 7 important components to digital marketing according to Forbes: analytics, SEO, HTML, WordPress, video, basic design skills, and SQL. (24)
You don’t need to become an expert in them all, but having a basic understanding of each one will increase your chances of success in just about anything.
4. Learn SEO
Google runs the world. Learn about SEO, and you can be successful in doing just about anything online.
I’ll give you the basics: do the keyword research (tools like SEMrush, Moz, Ahrefs), and create high quality, epic content that targets those keywords.
Build relationships with high-level publications, blogs, and websites that will share and link to your articles.
3. Start a vlog
If you’ve got a little video editing know-how, starting a vlog is one of the best ways to get your name out there – arguably even more than blogs.
Famous vlogger Casey Neistat uses nothing but an iPhone to make his videos, and he has over 8 million subscribers, has gotten sponsorships from companies like Burton and GoPro, and has been featured everywhere from the BBC to the New York Times. (25)
Good content is everything in business, and it’s not easy to outsource. If you can do it well, companies will pay big money. The starting salary for a copywriter is $10,000 more than the national average. (26)
2. Content writing
Improving your ability to communicate with writing translates to success in every field. A study by Grammarly shows that LinkedIn professionals with fewer grammar mistakes in their profiles have significantly higher positions and more promotions. (27)
But it’s not just grammar and spelling. Learning how to inform, persuade, and tell stories through writing is a powerful skill to have on your side.
1. Generate leads for local businesses
If you’ve been paying any attention, you’ll notice that most tips for success in today’s world involve sharpening your skills and then using them to do something digital, automatable, and scalable.
But the very best ideas are also painfully simple.
Local lead generation is about as simple as it gets without trying to sell you a BS get-rich-quick scheme. It’s got a low barrier to entry, low competition (you against a handful of local businesses instead of you against the whole internet), and the market is completely unsaturated, unlike everything else on this list.
Plus, it can be done from the comfort of your own home (or the Bahamas), and once you get it right, there’s no ceiling to what you can earn.
If you ever want to branch out, local lead generation will make you a pro at SEO (#4 on the list), and that’s a skill that can take you just about anywhere in life.
I’ll Paypal you $500 if you show me a better business to start than our method.