Procrastination has been around since the start of modern civilization.
Historical figures like Herodotus, Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Benjamin Franklin, Eleanor Roosevelt, and hundreds of others have talked about how procrastination is the enemy of results.
One of my favorite quotes about procrastination is from Abraham Lincoln:
“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
The funny thing about procrastination is that we all know that it’s harmful. Who actually likes to procrastinate? No one enjoys doing that. Me neither.
If you think that you have to compete for better jobs or more market share, you’re as wrong as I was.
The idea of competition is engraved in our minds. We believe that we have to compete for the same jobs with others. If someone has a job, that means you can’t have the same job. And if a company has a certain market share, that means you have to compete with that company to “win” a piece of their share.
At least, that’s what conventional advice says. It’s also what I learned in business school. My entire education was based on competing with other businesses. And almost every business book that I’ve read, also assumes that business is competition.
They couldn’t be more wrong. When you assume that you have to compete with other businesses or people for money, jobs or attention, you’re engaged in limited thinking.
What does success look like? What do you want from life? What career do you want?
Most of us answer “I don’t know.”
And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. And yet, we think it’s the worst thing in the world if you don’t know what you want to do in life.
We say: “OMG! I don’t know what I want!” And then we have a full-on panic attack. Be honest — it happens to all of us.
Especially, when you see that your old college friend just got married. Or that your co-worker, who started at the same time as you, just got promoted.
It’s at those moments of weakness when we shine a spotlight on our own uncertainty about life.
These two lessons are true for every person who wants a long, happy, and satisfying career.
But it’s very hard to put that advice into practice. It took me the first six years of my career to figure that out. And I still have to remind myself that life is bigger than work.
Almost everywhere that I’ve worked in the past, there was a “perception is reality” culture.
That means looks are more important than reality. In other words: The person who’s in the office the longest appears to be the hardest worker. Now, that may be true.
The biggest mistake you can make is to ignore the basics in your profession. This is true no matter what you do, where you live, or who you are.
When you ignore the foundation of what makes you a good person, athlete, friend, entrepreneur, student, etc., you will never be consistent.
That’s the biggest lessons I’ve learned from studying athletes. People who play professional sports are under constant pressure to perform.
Take Daniel Cormier, the current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, and former Olympic wrestler. The 38-year-old champion has an impressive career until now. He won multiple gold medals as a wrestler. And in MMA, he has won 20 of his 22 fights in total. He’s considered as one of the best.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from reading books, interviewing smart people, and having conversations with my mentors is that questions are more important than answers.
But that goes against everything you learn in school where you’re rewarded for the quality of your answers.
However, that’s not what you should judge a person on. Instead, look at the quality of a person’s questions, like Voltaire famously said:
“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”
And one of my friends who’s a consultant at one of the big three management consultancies, once told me that, “my job is to be ignorant.” He was referring to Peter Drucker, arguably one of the greatest management consultants of all time, who said:
One of my mentors is an art dealer. He specializes in art from the middle ages. Last time we met, he showed me a part of his personal collection. Impressed by the size of the collection, I asked how long it took to accumulate everything.
He said “45 years,” and then he laughed when I looked surprised. He continued:
“This is not something you can buy in one go. It’s not like going to the IKEA. Accumulating anything worthwhile in life takes time. First, because you don’t have the money to buy everything at once. Second, not everything is always available. You must wait for the right opportunity.”
And waiting is one of the hardest things in life. But if you take a close look around you, you see many examples of people who waited for the right opportunity.
Take all the investors who bought stocks and real estate during the financial crisis that started in 2008. That recession lasted several years. Recently, I spoke to someone who invested a big chunk of his assets in the stock market between 2009 and 2011.