My husband, Ben, and I recently attended a convention in Cancún, México. One of the first speakers of the event was Peter Shallard, who is a business psychology expert. Peter gave an excellent presentation called The Four Pillars of Productivity that really resonated with me and my personal journey, and gave me great insight into the minds of many of the people I work with on a daily basis. At the end of his presentation, I turned to Ben and said, “This guy just helped me write my next blog post!”
I decided to split up what I learned from Peter about each of the Four Pillars into separate posts, and each will be discussed as a “secret of productive people”. I want to give each “secret” ample space to permeate your mind.
4 Secrets of Productive People
It’s been loosely estimated that only 1-5% of people who try to start their own business are successful in the long haul. That means that potentially 95-99% of people who start up their own businesses, freelance or otherwise, do not succeed: they fail.
So many people have a dream when they start out on their own — they want to have more freedom in their lives, they want to travel more, do more of what they love, and work less.
Life is short. Many people who sacrifice the stability of a “real” job to “DIY it” know that. They want to live an exceptional life, and they have realized for one reason or another they need to take matters into their own hands to have their best chance of making that happen, or life could pass them by. In other words: they need to take action.
This post and the ones that will follow in the coming months are going to touch on some sensitive topics for a lot of people. People just don’t like to hear why they are not as successful as they’d like (which is totally normal and squirm-inducing), and that if things don’t change, maybe they never will be. I was actually one of those people at one point in my life, not long ago. If you’re one of those people right now, take heart. I know now that I was put on Earth to serve people and teach them, despite my imperfections and failures. But so were you. Whatever goals you set for yourself in life, whether it’s to become awesome at proofreading transcripts or something else, if you take each action toward that goal out of love for both yourself and for those you’re helping with your product or service, you will reap the rewards of success.
The way you do anything is the way you’ll end up doing everything in life, and whatever you do, you must care. It wasn’t until I woke up and started caring (about how I was spending my life, what impact I was having, and how I was using my talents, among other things) that I decided to build this website, this community of blog readers, and my two courses. For a long time, I put it off, always coming up with some veiled excuse about “wanting a simple life” or “not wanting more work”. The truth was, though, I didn’t actually care. I didn’t care about my quality of life or helping others improve theirs. I hadn’t tuned in to the finiteness, the inconceivable brevity of my human life. I had bought in to the Netflix-binge, Farmville-addicted way of living lazily in mediocrity and being okay with it. I was lost in my own complacency and passivity. I lacked aspiration for anything more in life than what I had, and thought by wanting more, I’d be seen as “selfish” (O, dread!) and that others would look down on me for not being happy with what I had. The thing is, sometimes it’s not even about being happy with what you have, it’s being aware of who you are, what you are capable of, and the small amount of time you have on Earth — then taking action based on that awareness.
My choice (and it was a choice — it is always a choice) to live with complacency mostly stemmed from a limiting belief I didn’t even know I had: a belief that I was unworthy, was not qualified, or not good enough to do more or that I somehow had no right to strive to rise above mediocrity.
Before you step out to pursue success and/or tackle the “secret” I’m going to share with you, you must know and accept that you are enough. You do deserve more. You are not being “selfish” by wanting to live a life you’re proud of. But just know that if you don’t care, if you make excuses like I did for so long, or if you prefer to look for shortcuts, success will always seem like it’s beyond your reach — and that’s because it will be.
But it doesn’t have to be. You can unlearn your beliefs and habits to change your life, to get off the hamster wheel, whatever it is your heart is longing to do.
Success has many rewards … and problems
Achieving any measure of success has its rewards. People will compliment you, and it may feel really weird or even awkward. Many of my students, who are achieving wild success all their own as a result of some serious action-taking, have given me some of the most flattering yet sincere compliments I’ve ever received. I don’t always take it easily. It’s weird for me. I’m not used to it.
And then of course with success often comes more freedom to do what you really want to do, and sometimes more money. For many folks, success is being able to have the flexibility to work from home and earn an income on their own time.
If you’re lucky enough to know success when you see it (and it looks differently for everyone), beware: it’s not without its own set of problems. For one, you’ll find some folks react very negatively toward successful people. I’ve personally experienced a lot of that, even from the people I’m trying to help. This usually comes from people who simply do not understand you or what you’re trying to accomplish, and may make quick assumptions about your intentions. For example, court reporters (the very professionals my students are seeking to work with) have publicly defamed and gossiped about me on Facebook, claiming that instead of a solid, thorough training program, I’m selling “snake oil”. They even go so far as to say I’m lying to people when I share openly just how productive I am in my business endeavors.
If you think something like what I just described can’t happen to you, just wait. Especially if you’re on a life path where you’re learning to proofread and/or create a life for yourself that you are madly in love with, it can rub people the wrong way. This is usually not a reflection on you. You will take action, and keep taking action, until you see results — then you’ll keep going. People around you are going to notice. People may even accuse you of cheating somehow. You may, like me, even struggle greatly with impostor syndrome — Neil Gaiman mentioned it in the video that was part of the last blog post. It’s the feeling that you actually are cheating somehow, you’re fooling everyone, and that at any moment you’ll be found out as a fraud, or someone will knock on your door and demand that you shut down your awesome life and go get a “real” job like you’re supposed to. The feelings are intense and haunting. I’ve struggled with impostor syndrome for years without even knowing what it was, and while simply being aware of its presence in my life has been quite freeing, I know it’s not something that will just go away overnight.
The reason I titled this series of posts 4 Secrets of People So Productive It’s Almost Superhuman is this: when your personal productivity level is really high, it can appear superhuman to people, and this is actually awesome. We live in a world where we are all subconsciously conditioned to expect and accept mediocrity. Then when someone like you shows up, and you are taking so much action, you are crazy organized and clear in your purpose that it literally ruffles feathers. It blows people’s minds. Naysayers may think it’s not fair you have this “fire” and they don’t — even though you worked your tail-end off for it. The truth is, they don’t see what goes on behind the scenes in your life, that you had to work for what you’ve achieved. It may cause people to make false judgments about you, but don’t pay it any attention. Anything other than the truth serves no purpose in your life, and it doesn’t help you in any way. You just keep being the best version of you. You’re fueled by your results and motivated to take action by your desire to make a difference. Not everyone is. Naysayers and skeptics will eventually just give up trying to bring you down due to sheer exhaustion — it’s tiring carrying around all those preconceived notions, judgment, and false assumptions all the time.
Why isn’t everyone as successful as they want to be?
Even though a large majority of “wishers” will never take action to fulfill their goals, everyone has the desire to be successful. In fact, everyone really wants to be successful. So why is it, then, that even when there’s a relatively level playing field, some people are successful, and some are not? Why isn’t everyone as successful as they want to be?
What I mean by “relatively level playing field” is this: A group of 10 awesome people may have all undergone the same training or education, are similar in “aptitude” and all possess a similar drive/motivation/determination. Yet despite these things, not everyone succeeds. So what is it that separates the “awesome people” from the “successful people”?
It’s their productivity. You may have guessed “hard work”, but the truth is, people can and do work really, really hard and get nowhere. So what makes that hard work “stick”? What causes the hard work to produce results? What makes the hard work productive?
That’s where these secrets come in.
Secret #1 is Specificity
Specificity is very much like it sounds: being specific about what you want to accomplish. If you want to become a transcript proofreader, a freelance writer, or an entrepreneur of some kind, you set your sights on it and don’t stray from it. Ever. Not till it’s done (and it’ll probably never be done). You’re focused, you know exactly where you want to go, and you know what steps to take to get there. If you don’t know the steps, you seek them out.
If you’re strong in the specificity area, you likely take clear, consistent action toward your goal. For example, the most successful Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice™ students enroll with a very specific intention to put their best effort into the entire course, master the skill, then take action on the information they learn to create the proofreading business they want for themselves.
I make it very clear to prospective students that no action will be taken on their behalf. Absolutely none. I make it clear that if they enroll, then never log in, never get past Module 3, and never finish the course at all, nothing will happen. Your actions matter. In fact, your actions matter more than anything else! Remember the last blog post about getting over the fear of finding clients? Sometimes it’s hard to swallow, but it’s true: your getting clients actually depends very little on the quality of the course. Yes, the course quality does matter some, and I pour my heart and soul into making it the very best it can be. But your own actions matter, like, 200% more than the course content. I’m serious. Just paying the enrollment fee will not magically transform you into the proofreader you want to be. You get to do that. If you want to become it, you must do it.
If you want to become it, you must do it.
A lot of people, I’ve found, expect the “becoming” part to just happen, though. And here’s the interesting part: it’s actually not their fault. You already know we’ve been conditioned in culture. We live in a culture of instant gratification, and we’re trained to expect a LOT of results from little to no action. Think of the weight loss and fitness industries — everyone wants to see massive changes in their appearance without any actual effort, or very little effort. We’re marketed to and essentially taught to believe the impossible is possible. Sometimes losing 30 pounds in a week is possible, but is it realistic? And is it safe? Is it sustainable? Often, it’s not. Many times, those who put forth the effort initially just can’t stick with it (I’m one of those people). The effort required is too demanding.
Taking specific, achievable, consistent action steps toward our goal is what works. We create these specific goals in alignment with our vision for success and for permanent, positive change in our lives. Making these goals achievable is huge. If you make your goal too lofty, you’ll quickly lose focus and become overwhelmed. If instead of planning to climb Mount Everest, you plan to climb each of the 49,764 steps one at a time, you are much more likely to succeed. That’s one reason why I break down Transcript Proofreading into 42 “chunks” of content instead of one GIANT eBook or one module. Each piece by itself is much more easily processed than trying to look at the whole thing at once, then getting scared you won’t be able to pass the test before you’ve even done the practice, causing you to stop altogether.
If we seek to go the “easy and effortless” route, the one that’s so heavily marketed, we likely lack specificity. We don’t know what steps to take. There are no clear priorities. Ask someone without specificity what they’re doing to accomplish X, or what they’re doing to make Y happen, and you’ll likely get a very vague answer. Doubts may begin to creep in, and you may start giving yourself an unrealistic time frame to achieve your desired results: “If X doesn’t happen by Y time, I guess it’s not going to happen for me.” And you give up. This is NOT GOOD. Again, it’s just been something so heavily pounded into our heads by our culture and media that success should be effortless that we’ve grown to expect that for ourselves. But the hard truth, for some, is that you’ve got to work your butt off to achieve success. Most of the time, it takes a LOT of action to see results. I’ve found most people report being most satisfied by their results when they set a specific goal, then see their results stem directly from the specific actions they took to achieve that goal. All those little steps add up. Each step matters. Each step gets you closer to the “you” you want to be, whether that’s “almost superhuman” or just an amazing human who’s living the life of their dreams.
Stay tuned in the near future for the second installment of 4 Secrets of People So Productive It’s Almost Superhuman.
What thoughts are going through your mind after reading about this first productivity “secret”? Are you aspiring to live the life of your dreams? What specific steps are you taking to make that happen? If you’re not yet taking steps, can you pinpoint what’s holding you back? Let’s chat about it in the comments below!