Sean Abrahams from the University of Cape Town has asked me to say briefly my advice to students wishing to develop their potential and possibilities.
Here are my Ten Commandments:
1. Do your own thing.
Yes, I know.
It’s very 1960s.
But it’s very 2010s and 2020s too.
Even more so. Because today if there is one thing which depresses me about people in their teens and twenties, it is how conventional they often are. Everyone follows the prescribed path.
Think about it. Everyone wants exceptional results and possibilities. But if you all do the same things, how is that possible?
Only if you are your own person, with your own way of doing things, do you stand a chance of standing out from the crowd.
But of course:
2. Deliver Exceptional Results
Not the same results as everyone else delivered faster or better.
But your results, that nobody else can provide.
What kind of results, you may ask.
That’s up to you. Use your unusual skills. Use your imagination.
It may take a while to develop your own approach, philosophy, and results.
But develop them you must.
Which brings me on to number 3.
3. Take Your Time
If you’re under thirty, this may seem strange or unwelcome advice.
That’s why it’s useful.
Life is not a sprint.
It’s a marathon.
Abraham Lincoln, who liked cutting down trees, used to say something like this: If I must chop down a tree in four hours, I’ll spend the first three hours sharpening the axe.
You are the axe.
Time spent honing your philosophy and way of delivering terrific results is not time wasted. It’s vital time.
Time is not in short supply. Good use of it may be, but the best use of time is finding yourself. The way to find yourself is to enjoy yourself, in many different arenas, with different people, and different guidelines. Experiment long and hard, before you specialize.
4. Get Ideas from People
To develop a high-results approach, you need to come across unusually productive ideas.
There are only two ways to do this.
One is to meet a lot of different kinds of people, in different cultures and sub-cultures, in manifold place, and observe an idea that really works surprisingly well.
Then adapt the idea to your environment or objective. Tweak the idea, but keep its power.
Then again …
5. Get ideas from books
Not from websites.
Not from magazines.
Not from YouTube.
Good old-fashioned books, with pages and print.
(Sure, you can use a Kindle. I do too. But if you really want to use a book, to write in it, to re-read it often, it’s much nicer and easier to use a real physical printed book.)
And the best ideas – and the most neglected – often come from old books.
Old books tend to be better than new books. Why?
Because they have survived a long time.
I will survive. You will survive. But not for centuries.
That takes a particularly valuable type of book.
If you want a fairly recent book, but one that has survived for twenty years, and will probably survive for another twenty, then another forty, then another eighty … may I recommend my own book, The 80/20 Principle. Not because it’s mine, but because it has all the advice you need for success and happiness.
Which brings me on to Commandment 6:
6. Enjoy Your Work
Don’t do anything you don’t enjoy, however well paid.
Enjoyment and achievement are two sides of the same coin.
Unless you really enjoy doing something, you’ll never become exceptionally good at doing it.
7. Learn to Collaborate
Very few great things can be done without the help of a few other people.
Kindred spirits, but separate people.
Schools and universities – and even companies – are very bad at teaching you how to collaborate.
It’s a great skill.
How do you learn to collaborate?
Choose your collaborator or collaborators carefully. People you like. But people who are different and therefore genuinely additive.
Be considerate. Listen to them. Nine-tenths of collaboration is listening.
The other tenth is delivering what you say you will deliver.
8 . If something isn’t working, quit
Don’t persevere at something you will never be great at.
The biggest mistake I ever made was persevering at a job for which I was never cut out. I wasted three miserable years doing that.
Get another job, where you can shine.
9 . Thrive on Failure
Failure can be traumatic, but it can also be energizing and enormously valuable.
It depends on your attitude.
With the right attitude, you either win or you learn. You can learn much more from failure than from success.
Decide to thrive on failure, and you will.
10. Be Generous and Warm-Hearted
You may be to start with, or you may be less so.
Decide to become generous and to help people you meet along the way, especially if you can identify with them.
Because the way to get, is to give.
It works in business just as well as it does in life generally.
Give and you will receive.
That’s it. Very simple. Do it.
And good fortune.
Richard Koch is an author and entrepreneur-investor who has a home in Cape Town and visits every year for 2-3 months. If you like this blog post, please follow me on Twitter - @RichardKoch8020
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