Currently, I’m reading Oprah Winfrey’s memoir, What I Know For Sure. The book, named after the title of the last article in each issue of O magazine, was originally a question posed to her by Gene Siskel in the 1970’s. She says that she was absolutely silent when he asked the question. It’s a real doozy!
“What do you know for sure?” Well, here are ten things I know:
1. What you put out there always comes back to you.
My Achilles heel in life is not that I am angry or scared. I’m pretty even-tempered, and I never back down from a challenge, if it’s something I really want to do.
No, my Achilles heel is that I get sad. Like, can’t-move, doesn’t-want-to-do-anything-but-sleep, down-on-myself, beating-myself-up sad. Typically, something triggers this: a bad breakup, the loss of a friend or family member, or a disappointing time at work. But sometimes, every once in a while, I’ll get blue for no reason.
What used to be difficult for me during long sad periods is that other people didn’t seem to care. I would want support, a friend to come and cheer me up, someone to whisk me off of my feet and take me out and listen to me cry and balk all day and all night. But they seldom did.
And then, not long ago, it occurred to me: What I was putting out there was being returned to me. I was self-absorbed, low-energy, and tired. Other people sensed this, and in turn, they were self-absorbed in their own lives and interests, turning away from me, and not very interested in what I had to say. Low energy interaction, indeed.
Sometimes, yes, you need a support network. (See #6, below). But more often than not, if you want love, you have to give love. If you want success, you have to put positive energy out there, so it can come back. What you put out there really does come back to you, every time.
2. Nearly all successful people have certain things in common.
In the 1920’s, Napoleon Hill went and interviewed many of the most prominent and successful people of his day. He found that they had many traits in common, which he boiled down to these 17:
- Lesson 1: Definiteness of Purpose
Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement. Without a purpose and a plan, people drift aimlessly through life.
- Lesson 2: Mastermind Alliance
The Mastermind principle consists of an alliance of two or more minds working in perfect harmony for the attainment of a common definite objective. Success does not come without the cooperation of others.
- Lesson 3: Applied Faith
Faith is a state of mind through which your aims, desires, plans and purposes may be translated into their physical or financial equivalent.
- Lesson 4: Going the Extra Mile
Going the extra mile is the action of rendering more and better service than that for which you are presently paid. When you go the extra mile, the Law of Compensation comes into play.
- Lesson 5: Pleasing Personality
Personality is the sum total of one’s mental, spiritual and physical traits and habits that distinguish one from all others. It is the factor that determines whether one is liked or disliked by others.
- Lesson 6: Personal Initiative
Personal initiative is the power that inspires the completion of that which one begins. It is the power that starts all action. No person is free until he learns to do his own thinking and gains the courage to act on his own.
- Lesson 7: Positive Mental Attitude
Positive mental attitude is the right mental attitude in all circumstances. Success attracts more success while failure attracts more failure.
- Lesson 8: Enthusiasm
Enthusiasm is faith in action. It is the intense emotion known as burning desire. It comes from within, although it radiates outwardly in the expression of one’s voice and countenance.
- Lesson 9: Self-Discipline
Self-discipline begins with the mastery of thought. If you do not control your thoughts, you cannot control your needs. Self-discipline calls for a balancing of the emotions of your heart with the reasoning faculty of your head.
- Lesson 10: Accurate Thinking
The power of thought is the most dangerous or the most beneficial power available to man, depending on how it is used.
- Lesson 11: Controlled Attention
Controlled attention leads to mastery in any type of human endeavor, because it enables one to focus the powers of his mind upon the attainment of a definite objective and to keep it so directed at will.
- Lesson 12: Teamwork
Teamwork is harmonious cooperation that is willing, voluntary and free. Whenever the spirit of teamwork is the dominating influence in business or industry, success is inevitable. Harmonious cooperation is a priceless asset that you can acquire in proportion to your giving.
- Lesson 13: Adversity & Defeat
Individual success usually is in exact proportion of the scope of the defeat the individual has experienced and mastered. Many so-called failures represent only a temporary defeat that may prove to be a blessing in disguise.
- Lesson 14: Creative Vision
Creative vision is developed by the free and fearless use of one’s imagination. It is not a miraculous quality with which one is gifted or is not gifted at birth.
- Lesson 15: Health
Sound health begins with a sound health consciousness, just as financial success begins with a prosperity consciousness.
- Lesson 16: Budgeting Time & Money
Time and money are precious resources, and few people striving for success ever believe they possess either one in excess.
- Lesson 17: Habits
Developing and establishing positive habits leads to peace of mind, health and financial security. You are where you are because of your established habits and thoughts and deeds.
Not much has changed, even today. You can probably be successful if you don’t have 1-3 of these traits, but if you’re missing half or more on the list, you’ve got some personal development work to do if you want to be all you can be in this world.
I mean, this can actually be boring. The highest achievers in virtually every career path tend to be very structured, disciplined, and even a little boring. Even actresses whose careers have taken off tend to get all zen and pleasing with their personalities — for instance, the comedienne Sarah Silverman, once a firecracker who reamed other famous women out on Twitter, now tweets things like, “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.” I’m like, What?!
But at the same time, I get it. Success means you have to give up some of your more rigid stances and be more loving, open, and flexible. You can’t be off raging about this or that. The drama has got to go. Creating positive works comes from peace, contentment, and love. Not rage, angst, and disregard for others. (If that were the case, most teenagers would be millionaires by 20).
That said, when I say, “Your life can be a success with these 17 traits,” I don’t necessarily mean you own a big house or a fancy car. What I am talking about is doing what you want to do and being content in your life. If you can say you do that, whether you make $10,000 or a million dollars per year, it doesn’t matter. You are a success.
3. What angers or frightens you often holds secrets to who you are.
People used to send me these articles about bloggers who earn a million dollars or more per year. It used to make me really angry.
At the time, I took it either that they were saying I wasn’t as successful as these other bloggers, or that my friends assumed I was “just a blogger.” I was a medical student! Then I was a scientist/formulator reviewing products! Didn’t they see that?!
But when the ego subsides, so does the anger. When the ego leaves, you’re left with just heart, mind, spirit. Then you start to realize that the anger holds clues to where your soft spots are.
My anger, as it turned out, was nothing more than jealousy. Some of these bloggers are putting so much more into their posts than I was: Incredible staged pictorials, more perfected layouts, and just more work put into it overall. Once I got over my anger, then my jealousy, I started to realize there was a ton to be learned from these blogging pros. And now, I’m out here, trying to do it.
4. The vast majority of people do not care about you nearly as much as you think they do.
I heard a quote once I loved: “At 20, a woman worries everyone is looking at her. At 40, she worries no one is looking at her. By 60, she realizes it didn’t matter if anyone was ever looking at her at all.”
Most of my friends care deeply about Facebook. Who is getting married, who is having babies, who is getting divorced, yadda yadda. In turn, because they care so much about what so-and-so is doing, they feel paralyzed to admit they are single, not having babies, switching jobs, or anything that could be misconstrued as not-so-positive.
In the end, in 100 years, it’s all going to be new people walking around, short of a few babies. Think about that. I learned after a series of mistakes in my early 20’s (i.e., bad relationship, enrolling in medical school) that it doesn’t really matter to the people who matter. As Dr. Seuss said, “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Life is messy. I suggest you enjoy it and live it, and forget about how you do or don’t look to someone on Facebook.
5. That said, a few close friends (and pets) can save your life.
By nature, I am not that social. Ever since I was a child, I’ve been more of a loner. I love to work, and then I tend to fill the rest of my time with books, my family, my boyfriend, and a few choice hobbies. (Which, more often than not, tie in with work somehow.) I tend to be the “Big Moment Friend” — I am there for weddings, babies, and to help people move. But I’m not the person who goes out to chill with a group on a Friday night.
That said, my boyfriend is a person who adores having lots of friends in his life. And through him, I’m learning how important friends can be. Don’t get me wrong — I’m still not entirely comfortable going on two-week vacations with friends, as he is. But seeing him be there for his friends without a moment’s hesitation, whether they are moving or having a birthday party or simply want to meet him for a drink, is an attractive quality. And I am learning that a strong, supportive network can be a wonderful thing.
6. Slow and steady wins the race.
At this point, I have written 2,500 posts for FutureDerm.com in the past seven years.
Most of these posts, quite frankly, need some sort of editing. I look at these posts and half of them are a mess: Errant typing, flagrant misalignment, little or no SEO optimization. Looking at it sometimes is like being on a weird virtual blogging battlefield, where people are throwing blog errors at you. Boom, boom, pow!
I used to write posts completely on the fly, like someone was lighting a fire under me. Between medical school classes: get out a post! Between work meetings: get out a post! Bam, bam, bam! Crank those babies out!
I’ve finally gotten to the point where I’ve realized: I need to slow this down a little. Quality speaks for itself. I would love to be the blogger with the well-formatted, perfectly-proofread, beautifully-illustrated and photographed posts. And I think I’m finally mature to do that for myself and my readers. It might take longer, and it might mean going a day or two here and there between posts. But sometimes that breath is what you need.
7. It’s never too late to be who you might have been.
I had my life figured out at 14: I was going to graduate high school valedictorian, get a full scholarship to college, attend medical school in an eight-year program, become the world’s top dermatologist, and start a skin care company. My ultimate goal? To have a professional career to help support a family someday.
Somewhere around 24, I started to realize that dream wasn’t working for me anymore. I am feisty, dynamic, and I love to create things. I’m all about writing, creating, inventing, making, and designing. But I was scared to admit it.
It wasn’t until I was 27 and won a business competition that I finally admitted to myself that I didn’t want to be a dermatologist. I wanted to own my own company.
I shamed myself about this for a long time. I took a leave of absence from medical school, instead of just leaving like I wanted. And then I took another leave. I thought there was something wrong with me: Who doesn’t want to be a doctor in this economy?! How could I not want this?!
But I didn’t. And I’ve come to terms with that now. Instead of constantly shaming myself and denying myself success in my own business as a result, I have a new attitude: I’ve come full circle, and it’s time to be who I was going to be — someone with a professional career to help support a family someday. That’s still the goal, and I’m still going to do it.
8. The perfect career is not a ladder. It’s more like a jungle gym.
School gives us the wrong idea: You have to make it past grade 1 to get to grade 2, and in a year’s time.
In the real world, there are no deadlines. There are no “right” paths. Take one of my favorite quotes:
For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.-Benjamin Button
Ladders don’t exist. You fall down, you find another way. Get to where you want to be, but don’t think there’s only one way to get there.
9. You have to make peace with it. Whatever “it” is.
I was pretty judgmental as a kid and a teenager. I think I felt weird, being one of only a handful of Asians I knew, and had some issues around being adopted as well.
I made peace with it in my early twenties.
Now, as a result of all that work, I don’t judge much at all. Or, at least, I try very hard not to. As a result, I have one of those personalities that tends to invite people to tell me their life story, for whatever reason. Sitting at work, alone in a coffee shop, waiting for a plane in the airport, at a party — it doesn’t matter, people love to tell me gritty details of their lives. Perhaps it’s because, deep down, I really don’t mind and find it quite fascinating.
At this point, I have heard it all in the past decade: rape, incest, abusive parents and grandparents, robbery, theft, suicide, murder, neglect, abortions, secret adoptions, double marriages, divorces, cruelty — you name it, I have heard it.
It’s all awful.
But the truth of the matter is, almost everyone has their something. And whatever “it” is, you have to make peace with it. Whether that means seeing a therapist, reading a bunch of self-help books, or talking to a trusted friend or family members, you have to deal with “it”. Because once you do, all of the energy that “it” takes from you each day, consciously or unconsciously, will be free to devote to other things.
10. Life is really, really short.
You don’t get long on this planet. It could all be over tomorrow, for all you know.
So enjoy it. Laugh. See that movie you’ve been meaning to. If you’re miserable in your job, quit. Try something new. Start a blog, if you love to write. Start a video blog, if you love to talk. Make mistakes with the best of intentions. Dance around. Play your favorite music. Have fun. Go on that vacation. Take walks in nature. Look foolish — if you’re having fun, who cares? Tell someone you love them. Spend time with children (if you like spending time with children). Life is short, and so am I, and I don’t plan on wasting any more time. Neither should you.