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This is hard to write about, and hard for business owners to accept. It seems so negative. Still, it seems like we all need a fresh reminder. Bill Cosby said it well: “I don’t know the secret to success, but I do know that the secret to failure is trying to please everybody.”


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We call people weird because they do things differently than we would. Seth Godin wears those bright colored, but mismatched socks. Steve Jobs’ work uniform was a black turtleneck and jeans. Look around and you can see the obvious differences in a lot of successful people. Those are fun to spot, but they’re not necessarily the habits you need to acquire. These are.

What most business owners don’t see when they look at successful people are the habits they’ve developed. Leonardo DaVinci slept two hours a day at four-hour intervals. Charles Dickens would only write and sleep facing north. Some of their weirdness was superstition, but a lot of it wasn’t. Here are six weird habits of successful people.

1. Think like a rocket scientist— Successful people start at the finish. Most of us have been taught to take one step then the next, and the next until we arrive at our destination or goal. But successful people, like rocket scientists, actually clearly define the outcome they want first, and then reverse engineer the steps they need to take to get there.

2. Broken record planning— They repeat themselves a lot. If you’re pre-vinyl and never heard a broken record, think “repeat” or “loop.” Successful people don’t stop when they have a success. When they succeed then they try to figure out ways to repeat that success over and over.

4. Cut corners— Once successful people figure out how to repeat success, then they figure out how to get the same result faster, easier and cheaper. There’s a fine line between cutting corners and cutting quality though. Make sure you recognize the difference.

5. They are quitters— You know the saying “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” Not so much. In fact, that’s wrong. Winners quit a lot. They have a keen eye for what is not working and not supporting the finish line (check rule one again for that). Once they identify the thing sucking energy, money and resources from their business they cut it out fast.

6. They say “no,” way more than they say “yes”— You’d think the best way to success is to get involved with a lot of great opportunities. You’d think wrong. Successful people know the greatest opportunity is the one that is selected, catered to and protected from other great opportunities. They constantly say “no” to anything and everything that is not in support of the one great opportunity they’re focused on. If your goal is to grow giant pumpkins, growing giant melons as well doesn’t distract you.

7. They don’t look the part— I learned a great lesson playing Texas Hold ‘Em. The person with the weak hand acts the strongest (hoping others will fold so he gets the money). The person with the strongest hand acts the weakest (hoping others stay in the game and keep filling up the pot so he gets the money). This is true in life too… that flashy, “look at me” guy is inevitably the one struggling. Successful people don’t look for others approval for their success and therefore don’t need to show it off. I’m not saying successful people are meek, I am just saying that have inner confidence and rarely feel a need to show off the glitz and dazzle.

Learning to look at what people do more than what they say they’re doing is the best way I know of to spot the true habits of successful people. If they’re telling you that you have to work 100 hours a week, but they’re going home at 6 p.m. every night and taking weekends off, chances are they know something you don’t. Figure it out and start building your own list of habits. Those successful habits will ultimately become the system that makes you famous.

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In a famous video clip from Penn and Teller's Showtime hidden camera show, diners are lured to an upscale restaurant branded as the world's first boutique vendor of bottled water. A water steward presents each table with a menu discussing the finer qualities of water purportedly shipped in from mountains and streams all over the world, some of which cost as much as $8 a bottle.


Of course, the joke is on the customers because all the water actually came from the garden hose out back, but the message was clear: People are willing to pay more for a product if they think it gives them a truly special or significant value—and if you present it to them in just the right way.

Your company is probably selling a stuff that's a lot more valuable than fancied-up hose water. Selling on value, not price, involves a balance of confidence, personal rapport, and doing your homework, and it's become more difficult as technology gives consumers greater access to price information and competitors. We've talked with veterans of selling their value, and they share some tips on how to make your products stand out in a low-cost world.



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The key to being successful lies in finding ways to be constantly improving. Leadership expert Lee Colan shares eight easy ways to help you build your competence.

Building your competence boosts your confidence...and confidence is a close friend to high achievers. Building your competence is like cleaning your house. If you stop cleaning, dust collects. The need to clean never ends. To achieve the success you deserve, you need to find ways to be constantly improving. The task of building competence never ends.


Competence includes anything that improves your ability to perform--your knowledge, skills, relationships, resourcefulness, processes, systems, and information. Olympic athletes are not only testaments to the human spirit, they are also living examples of competence. Only when we hear their backstories do we fully appreciate all it takes to build Olympic-level competence. We learn about gut-wrenching daily training regimens, strict nutritional standards, rigorous mental discipline, top-notch training equipment, reams of collected data, various supporting relationships, and even past adversities that motivate the Olympian. It is an intentionally developed set of systems and processes designed to produce a golden victory.

So, here are eight proven ways to help you build Olympic-level competence:


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Jessica Wade started a high-end clothing label in 2009. The business, which she named Jes Wade, is based in Manhattan and has two employees. While many owners of small companies have a low tolerance for mistakes, which I believe is one reason many of them never get bigger, Ms. Wade realizes that mistakes are learning opportunities 


When they happen in her company, she asks herself or one of her employees what went wrong, and then they figure out what they can learn from the mistake. And they look at the company’s systems to try to minimize the chances of the same mistake happening again.

Occasionally, for example, Ms. Wade’s employees would cut a garment the wrong size, which wasted time and material. Instead of blaming her employees, Ms. Wade looked at the system. She color-coded the different sizes for dresses, which eliminated the problem.

Allowing mistakes requires that you trust your employees. You must trust that they are doing the best they can — that they aren’t trying to make mistakes. But here’s the thing: If you don’t allow mistakes, they will happen anyway. They’ll just get swept under the rug. When they are discovered, they have often become much larger problems.


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