The Difference Between Successful and Very Successful People
Myth 1: Successful people say, "If I can fit it in, I should fit it in."
Truth: Very successful people are absurdly selective.
As Warren Buffet is credited with having said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything."
Related: The Most Important Hour of Your Life (LinkedIn)
As I wrote in a piece for Harvard Business Review, this means, "Not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials. Not just once a year as part of a planning meeting, but constantly reducing, focusing and simplifying. Not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but being willing to cut out really terrific opportunities as well. Few appear to have the courage to live this principle, which may be why it differentiates successful people and organizations from the very successful ones."
Myth 2: Successful people sleep four hours a night.
Truth: Very successful people rest well so they can be at peak performance.
In K. Anders Ericsson's famous study of violinists, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell as the "10,000 hour rule," Anders found that the best violinists spent more time practicing than the merely good students. What is less well known is that the second most important factor differentiating the best violinists from the good ones was actually sleep. The best violinists averaged 8.6 hours of sleep in every 24 hour period.
Myth 3: Successful people think play is a waste of time.
Truth: Very successful people see play as essential for creativity.
Just think of Sir Ken Robinson, who has made the study of creativity in schools his life's work. He has observed that instead of fueling creativity through play, schools actually kill it: "We have sold ourselves into a fast-food model of education, and it's impoverishing our spirit and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies. Imagination is the source of every form of human achievement."
Myth 4: Successful people are the first ones to jump in with an answer.
Truth: Very successful people are powerful listeners.
As the saying goes, the people who talk the most don't always have the most to say. Powerful listeners get to the real story. They find the signal in the sound. They listen to what is not being said.
Myth 5: Successful people focus on what the competition is doing.
Truth: Very successful people focus on what they can do better.
The "winningest coach in America" is Larry Gelwix, the former Head of the Highland High School rugby team. His team won 418 games with only 10 losses in over 36 years. One of the key questions he challenged his players to ask was “What’s important now?" He didn't want his players getting distracted with what the other team was doing. He wanted them to play their own game.
Last week I took a tour of the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, Massachusetts. One of the quotes there grabbed my attention. John F. Kennedy said, "The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."