Successful people can seem like they have some kind of magic powers beyond our understanding. For us mere mortals, it often feels like money, fame, fortune and contentment just rain down on these folks from the heavens. GASP!
Truth is, successful people have three simple habits for excellence (habits WE can learn).
Granted, they actually have more than three habits, but today we’re focusing on the BIG ONES. It’s Saturday. Let’s have fun and give our brains a break.
These are habits we can use in every area of life. What are three simple habits our mentors or heroes have that we don’t? What do successful people DO differently? What is their “magic”? For any success? Business, life, marriage, parenting or even a life of joy and contentment, what are the basics?
Understand though, simple is not synonymous with easy. Simple is simple, but rarely easy.
I’ve worn a lot of hats over the years from retail to software to sales and now blogger, editor, entrepreneur. I’ve read countless books on success and then applied what I learned. I stepped out, fell on my face, tripped, failed, learned, whined, grew, read more books, tried again, won THEN CRASHED.
I put out the flames and started over and I work hard to use these tough lessons to get better day by day. I’m always searching for ways to grow, to fire out weaknesses and improve.
I’m currently part of an on-line entrepreneur mentorship program. At first, I was super excited. Now?
I see it quickly devolving into what makes so many writing groups, on-line support groups, businesses, families and marriages unravel and all for the same exact reason.
On and on about their business, what they can sell, can they put up a price list? Ugh. Only talking to me so they can sell me something (manipulation). They don’t give a rip about me at all, only my debit card.
Reminds me of the old Toby Keith song…I WANNA TALK ABOUT ME!
The group’s mission statement involved entrepreneurs networking, learning, growing and locating mentors. Yet it’s becoming a “What Can I SELL YOU?” thread with a quickness. I’ve seen this happen with almost every single writing support group. These groups begin with service and end in spam.
Buy my book! Have you bought my book? Can you review my book?
Too many people want a shortcut, to take without serving, listening, hearing, and engaging and realizing someone else in the world exists other than THEM.
That’s sadly why the success they long for never arrives because manipulation is a lousy foundation for…pretty much everything. Ergo why Cait and I are going to continue our posts on grifts and how writers being manipulated and used.
For now, though I’m going to focus on YOU 😀 .
#1—Successful People Serve
I’d like to say I was born a completely selfless person devoid of any personal agendas, but yeah. I try to keep my lying to my fiction. I even wrote a post Pride, Perfectionism and Anger—Confessions of a Recovering Jerk because I want all of you to know you are not alone.
I might be an “expert” but I’ve worked very hard to make it clear that I struggle. Every day I work to check my agenda. Am I talking to someone, being kind, offering help to serve first? Or, do I want something later?
There’s a difference between motivation and manipulation. Motivation is for the benefice of others. Manipulation always looks like “helping others” but it’s all about ME, I, MINE. People are a means to an end.
Which consumers pick up on and then will avoid the manipulator like Ebola, btw…
Over time (and a lot of failures) I learned to value others not because I wanted something from them, but because valuing others is part of possessing good character.
All authentic success has a foundation of integrity and service above self. Great businesses focus on serving not selling.
My motive for blogging for FREE is to serve. If class sales follow? Great, I really dig electricity and eating. Whoo-hoo! But even then my business mission statement is: Superior and affordable training to shape emerging writers into successful, professional commercial authors.
See? Service 😀 .
#2—Successful People Remember
They remember a lot about other people. It’s because they make a point to do this. They recall faces, names, hobbies, victories, struggles, and the stories of others.
The best advice I can give might initially seem silly, but the best way to show people you value them is to ask for and then remember their name. All people, not just people who can do something for us.
I hear this all the time, I am SO bad at remembering names. This is an excuse, one I used for a long time, myself. Thus, I’m totally NOT judging.
Hard truth is we can remember names when we think the name/person is important.
If I was at a conference and there was a mega agent I wanted to get eyes on MY BOOK. Oh heck to the yeah I’d remember THAT NAME. Some millionaire wanting to give out seed money for struggling authors? Yup. Would remember that one, too.
Thus my excuse of “being bad at names” crumbles under the litmus of motive and agenda. The challenge then is to work on authentic connection with all who cross our path, not just people who can get us an angle.
Remembering names and people is a habit of excellence and builds integrity.
The best way to remember names is to first get the name. I look at name tags in grocery stores (ask if no tag available), then call the person BY their name. I talk to the person slicing my deli meat, ask questions and then listen. Then answer the person BY NAME.
Using a name makes it more likely we will remember it.
Remembering names places me in a mindset of valuing others, slowing down and thinking of other people first with no agenda other than kindness. This habit will pay off major dividends not only in our spirit, but the hearts of others.
When it comes to business, our odds of success improve because people are tired of being sold to non-stop. They’re weary of folks who only talk to them or know they exist when they want something.
#3—Successful People LISTEN
Successful people listen first, act later. Effective entrepreneurs listen to what consumers are in need of, what problem needs solving, and then act. Their business, service, product is FOR others, not solely “to make money.” People don’t like feeling like walking piggy banks, FYI.
Great authors listen to the world around them and pay attention. These writers seek out stories audiences crave even when the readers might not yet know that was JUST the story they wanted.
Yes, the writers want to sell books #DUH. But SALES come organically as a result of connection gained from listening (and serving) first.
If we don’t listen with the goal to truly hear? We frustrate ourselves and others because we’re blathering opinions, suggestions, thoughts, services that might not even be salient let alone desired. In fact, might even peeve others off.
Yet, if we’d stop and listen, we’d be in a far better position to connect authentically and be successful (with books, sales, kids, marriage, life). We’d be working smarter, not harder because we’d know the actual need instead of guessing then blasting others with a scattergun.
In the end, simple changes in daily habits add up over time. It seems kindness, authenticity, excellence are great buzz words for sermons or self-help. Yet, these habits of excellence appeal to all humans (even ones buying stuff).
I know we all want the express elevator to the top, but it doesn’t exist. Anyone who says differently is selling us something completely useless (grift).
LET’S HAVE FUN! I WANNA TALK ABOUT YOU, JUST YOU! ALL YOU, YOU, YOU! I WANT TO KNOW YOU!
Tell me something about YOU!
Doesn’t even have to do with this post. Have fun! What are your hobbies? Loves? Passions? Fears? Struggles? Favorite movies? Foods? Favorite songs? Greatest accomplishment? What are you most proud of? What do you love about writing?
Funniest thing ever happened to you? Worst date EVER? Best date ever? Tell us about your pets, your kids, your garden or quilting project. Pictures and links welcome! Show off! I am giving you the stage *bows dramatically*
I want to know about your dreams, your hopes, about the bodies in your basement! …okay maybe not that. #Accomplice
I LOVE HEARING FROM YOU! And I am NOT above BRIBERY! I will pick someone for a FREE class recording from comments today AND enter you in usual contest.
What do you WIN? For the month of OCTOBER, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
For subscribers, click to my site to view gallery of upcoming classes (gallery doesn’t show up for you). But here are the two biggies coming up…
BRAND BOSS! When Your NAME ALONE Can SELL! November 9th, 7-9 EST and comes with FREE RECORDING. $45 for General Admission, GOLD Option Available!
PLOT BOSS! Writing Novels Readers WANT TO BUY! November 16th, 7-9 EST and comes with FREE RECORDING. $40 for General Admission, GOLD Option Available!
I’m in the trenches writing the marketing section of a nonfiction proposal, so this was a very good reminder for me today. I make excuses for myself not to be interested in people by hiding behind my own anxiety. Thank you for the wake-up call. BTW, I two kids ages 5 and 2, a blind dog, and a husband who’s from Spain.
Great post! I have this one grocer that rings up my order and after I swiped my debit card says, “have a nice day, Amy!” And I’m simultaneously creeped out and honored lol, that she took the time to read my name from the transaction. I need to work on that – the creepy factor or the honorimg factor, I have yet to decide 😉
Bad at remembering names – guilty! Do you think at 61 I can get better at this? I figure I have limited brain power/space to remember everything I need to remember, much less names of random people I may never see again. I realize this is an excuse. I will try to do better, but I may need a twelve step program to do it.
I love this post.
My 11 year old is practicing his violin and I realized that somewhere along the line his playing has gone from some vaguely violin-ish screeches to the most beautiful music. And it looks hard. And he’s worked so hard. And it’s giving me All the Feels.
Also, I love everything you have to say. All the time.
That’s wonderful! My poor mom went through the same thing, God love her. I played clarinet. Eventually I was the best in the state (for 9th grade) but early on it sounded like I was water-boarding a goose. Sighs.
And thanks for the encouragement!
Poor goose 🙂
Intriguingly, (look, Janice, I used an adverb! A first!) I finished reading your post and went, no, it’s not like that in every writing group. There are good people in the world – who care. Came over to the comments and smiled. Here ahead of me, a member of my online crit group. Loveliest lady you could ever meet.
Kristen, the past several blog posts? Resonate. Compelling. The “right stuff.” Our group’s been talking about ‘why we write.’ Many have said, “For myself.” While I may be ‘projecting,’ I get the feeling you’ve come to a different answer.
For myself, I write for my reader. If I can’t get them to cry, feel or yearn, pfitt! Back to the keyboard I go.
Thanks as always for a motivating post full of humanity and humour! I am proud to say that I can recite all the colours of Joseph’s amazing technicolour dreamcoat at top speed in one breath. Do you have a fantastically useless talent too? 🙂
LOL. I am like a lint roller for useless random trivia 😀 . You need to know the formula for sulfuric acid? I am YOUR GAL! I can recite the first 20 minutes of “Labyrinth” from memory and I also can recite Robin Williams at the Met on cue. I also can remember faces from movies. Like we’ll watch a movie and I have Hubby stop because some bit actor playing a gang member, I remember he was one of the bullies in “A Christmas Story” even though he’s 20 years older.
I watched “Dirty Harry” for the first time ever about a year ago. Actually, my my husband watched it while I piddled on the computer. At one point I looked up and saw the Scorpio Killer and something seemed familiar about him, but I couldn’t figure it out. Then the camera focused more on him, and I saw his eyes.
I knew immediately who he was because he played my favorite alien in Star Trek DS9 over 20 years later. I showed my husband a picture of Andrew Robinson as Garak, and he was stunned that I was able to see past the alien makeup and recognized the actor’s much younger self.
The eyes don’t change.
Ha ha, that’s brilliant – there will always be moments where useless random trivia will shine!
I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome so I wear a set of Silver Ring Splints. It’s the first thing everyone notices about me, and it’s a great conversation starter because they just look like goth jewelry. 🙂
You make great points here! I work with the public, often on an appointment basis, and I will admit that I refresh my memory on everyone I have scheduled that day when I start work. People are already stressed that they have to come see me, and remembering their name is a nice way to defuse a potentially hostile situation.
Hi Heather:) I have a very good friend with EDS; she’s amazing! Somehow despite a hell of a lot of pain and general weakness, she’s raising two kids and I believe still drives and possibly still teaches dance (something I too love, but after years of severe hits from lupus dunno if I’ll ever be able to do it again:( ). You sound equally amazing yourself, and as you too are a disabled writer, I will pass along this link: http://observationdeck.kinja.com/disabled-people-destroy-science-fiction-presented-by-1819367521 I heard somewhere they won’t be taking unsolicited subs till 2018 but that’s coming up:)
Thank you for the link! I wasn’t aware of this Kick starter. 🙂
I’ve been very lucky with my EDS and have actually improved enough to get off disability and go back to work. I can’t imagine balancing work and EDS with kids! Hats off to your friend for her efforts, hats off to you for still trucking along and thinking of others, and thank you for reaching out to me. <3
So, as it turns out, I am not above bribery. I am one of your most enthusiastic blog lurkers, and now here I am actually making a comment! You asked for a personal story. This is one of mine.
My mother-in-law passed away several years ago, after a long, steadily losing battle with dementia. She was a kindhearted and fun-loving person until the end. Before that, she was also a very talented artist. When she was younger, Mom took a class and tried her hand at writing short stories–fiction but based on true events. Her teacher told her that her stories were good, and there was one in particular that the teacher said would make a fine novel.
Somewhere in her middle-dementia years, when she no longer had the artistic eye for painting, Mom tried turning back to writing. My sister-in-law typed her old story into the computer, a device Mom could use a little. And Mom would come and visit my husband and me, and, knowing that I was a writer, she would sit in front of the computer with her story on the screen. She’d stare at that screen for long, long minutes at a time, and then turn to me. She’d tell me (time and again) that she wanted to turn this story into a novel, and then ask with sad eyes what she should write.
To this day, I feel bad that I couldn’t tell her what to write. I hope that I did tell her that *her* story lives on in me. And I hope that I get many more of my own stories written while I still can.
Great insight. I greeted a lady that I’d seen a couple of times by her first name, and later she came up to me to find out my secret to memorizing names of people. I told her that I did not really have a secret but I associated the person and the name with an event or something about the person–in other words, I thought about the person and made a conscious decision to remember her name. In her case, I remembered the moment we met and where we were. That single remembrance made a huge impact on her and she felt valued. I had no idea that remembering a name could mean so much to someone. Thank you for your post. Karen
Bad at names. I remember using that. Then I realized all I needed to do was change my thinking. I remember names well.
Do I remember every name every time? No, but I do remember much more often
Enjoyed your post! Worst Date Ever (screech!!) HS Senior Prom fix up by mom. Double dated. So happy that my date ended up with the other girl. My Guardian Angel worked overtime this event! (haha)
Years ago, I worked in a convenience store (in Texas… just saying) and my boss and I would have a competition over how many customers we could greet by name. In between people we’d work and sing the theme song to Cheers—the place where everybody knows your name. I’ve never forgotten the lesson of how important it makes a person feel to be called by their name.
I’m glad you shared this and as a side note: I’m a random fact magnet, too. It drives my hubby nuts. Bonus!
Reminds me of a conversation I had with my husband earlier this week about how we also need to *listen* to our children. My oldest child was heartbroken because she thought she’d left her star week poster at school and wouldn’t get to bring it with her on Monday.
I was getting really annoyed by the tears. This wasn’t a big deal. We’d get the poster on Monday, and it wasn’t like I could do anything to get it sooner.
My husband reminded me that this was a big deal to my daughter. All I had to do was listen.
Yeah, I’m learning, too.
OMG, that first paragraph about service… I used to do a lot of leadership in the pagan community and I told those I worked with that the best leader is a servant. It’s not what YOU need, you are serving the people in the capacity of leadership. I think a lot of the government types have forgotten that.
I took my baby werewolf to Texas Renaissance Festival today. It was go five feet, talk about the werepup. Go five feet, talk about the werepup and let them snap a picture of her. On and on over the largest fairground in the U.S. And as I talked about where she came from, what her name was, etc, I would mention that she sits on my table when I sign my books and I get people to come talk about the werepup and then I can open up about vampires. It’s in listening to them, answering their questions, letting them touch, hold, take a photo and be genuinely interested in THEIR interest in Ella. She’s a door to talking to strangers (not that I have much of a problem with that, but it’s better, IMO, than saying “hey, buy my vampire book.)
It’s all about people. How you talk “with” them, not “at” them. It’s their show, I’m just here to say hi.
Great post as usual Kristen. My mother always said, smile at strangers, you might make their day, especially if they’re having a bad one. I do, and this often leads to a conversation. I am shocking at remembering names, especially when introduced to more than two people at a time. I use your trick by saying their name back, maybe twice and it helps. Of course having an interesting conversation also helps. I have a cat that uses me. It loves my husband and daughter, but I’m only good for feeding it and vet visits. He wants to rule the roost, and I’m not having a bit of it. The monster will nip me or stand over my foot and piddle when his two admirers are not there to witness his naughtiness. He will put out a paw to scratch the couch, waiting for me to notice and come running. Beast. He is very pretty by the way, and knows it.
Thanks for this wonderful reality check. I’m encouraged because I DO have a sincere motivation to serve people. Although I could do way better at recalling names!
Sometimes your posts beat me up. But no matter how badly you scold me, you’re always so much fun!
Here’s an example of God’s sense of irony. Living in the Midwest, (where football is a religion) I had a horrible high school experience. My husband grew up on Cape Cod, and was one of the burnouts in high school and eventually quit–partly due to finances and mostly due to apathy. He is now the head custodian (the guy who actually runs the school) of the place he quit. Our son, diagnosed with high-functioning autism, was elected 9th grade Homecoming King. Go figure.
Great advice, Kristen. Thank you. I do try to follow it all, but reminders are always good. Wouldn’t you know it – I love to write but get stumped when asked to share something about myself. 🙂
Excellent post Kristen!
When as an author we think of our readers first, and create communities for them(like you have done here for writers)and apply those 3 traits without the focus of “just selling” it really starts to happen.
One’s definition of what success is, what it means to that person, determines one’s level of success. If corporate ladder topping is success than none of the above applies, rather the level of a sociopath’s evil is the measure. The above three do apply well to persons wishing to function as real human beings. Living with humanity is the greater choice but that will seldom make wealth, more so, it often prevents material success.
My part-time day job for the last fourteen years is at Starbucks. (I like having affordable health insurance but most days it’s also a fun job.) We used to write names on cups. Now we type them into the POS system and they print out on a sticker. But I still need to know names. If customers come in often enough I will remember their names (if they don’t change their orders too often!). Faces light up when I greet them by name before they order. It’s like they became members of the club. Starbucks has always been about making a personal connection with customers. Probably a big part of their success. That’s why I like booksignings. I get to meet and connect with readers in person.
Love this! ?
Btw not only has your blog been a great resource, but you’ve also been willing to give me of your time, for free-I was blown away – and in the classes, I noticed you used my name.
I so appreciate you and your approach to writing!
Some great words of wisdom. I’d sheepishly count myself in the “bad at names” camp, but my real issue is remembering faces. I could spend the evening talking to you, then pass you in the street the next day and not recognize you. Or maybe there’d be a sense of familiarity, but no ability to pinpoint with any certainty where I’d seen you before. Watching movies with me is a nightmare. I’m constantly nudging my wife and asking things like “is that the same guy we saw back at the parking lot hot wiring that car …” ‘cos I honestly can’t tell the difference 🙁
BTW – There is one outstanding insight from your earlier post that rang so true to me – people will remember and respond to how we made them feel. Yes!
Posts like this are why I keep coming back to read what you write again and again, even when I’m not actively working on any writing projects. You give great advice. Literary advice, obviously, but even better is your General Life advice. Thank you for always being so generous and putting your knowledge out there.
And I went to my husband’s High School reunion this weekend and there was a photo booth complete with Viking hats. I instantly thought of you!
AWESOME! And thanks for the encouragement!
See, I have a problem with this. While I detest not being completely independent, I have an illness that makes that pretty hard if not impossible. Back about a decade or so ago, I did a lot of stuff for many years within the Society for Creative Anachronism, and the thing I absolutely loved about it was I got to serve. It was really how I had fun at events (lol SCAdians call it “helium hand”)! But then, the lupus reared its ugly head, gave me first peripheral neuropathy issues and then some time later attacked my intestinal tract, leading to three years of in and out of hospitals and rehabs, and a colostomy pouch which forced me to completely change my diet among other things. I’m currently working hard at actually getting strength and stamina back that was lost from all of that, but it does drive me absolutely crazy that so much has to be focused on ME. I want to be able to go to events and help out again, really. I can’t honestly think of something else I could do; I mean I’m a gamer, play a lot of LOTRO, and try to be helpful there as much as I can be, but I dunno what else I could do to tell the truth. Currently all I can manage for the SCA is helping out with kingdom heraldry submissions, since those are online. It’s a something. I just miss my Shire.
The thing is we tend to believe service is the BIG stuff. Nope. It’s a small accumulation of daily acts of kindness. Marriages, businesses, families, friendships etc. don’t implode over one thing. Usually it’s an accumulation of the small things. The small indifferences, the small slights or cruelties. They pile up like oily rags and left alone long enough? Combust. Kindness is the antidote. It’s the asking someone about their day and waiting long enough to hear the response. The smile. The compliment. The little things are always the biggest of all and ((HUGS)). I know what it’s like to be taken out by an illness and your own body turn against you. It’s terrifying, frustrating, and on and on. I get it. And it is especially frustrating for us crusaders who love to help and serve. Yet, peace is wonderful medicine. And never underestimate the power of a small act of kindness. It can be the thing that changes someone’s day or even life.
I came across a quote from Tim Keller last week which said something like “for most people, being heard and being loved are nearly indistinguishable.” Interesting thought!
Something about me: I’m a Kiwi who grew up in Papua New Guinea, and when I moved permanently back to NZ as a teen I used to wish I had vitiligo so I could be as piebald outside as I was inside. Now I know that vitiligo only makes you paler 🙁
I’ve been here fourteen years now, and I still feel piebald inside.
Great post, as always, Kristen!
Kristen, powerful words here, and I thank you. As you point out, it’s so easy to convince oneself of altruistic intentions when really personal motivations are so much more complex and regularly have an element of self-serving in them somewhere. So I love your point that we just have to keep being intentional about it: look at other people in the eye, learn their name, stop thinking about what we want to say (sell/obtain) and start thinking about the other person’s needs and wants.
I too am “bad at names” – and your point about “remembering when it is important” is well taken.
I’m a blog “lurker” and am very rarely a commenter. But this post was so excellent that it was definitely time to join in. 🙂
Good stuff here.
I write to a writing summit and one of the people there remembered all 250 of our names. At the end Ben Hale went around and said them all. His take away statement was ‘you are worth remembering’ so from then I’ve tried harder to remember people’s names.
I’m an author, having published a novel on Amazon. In addition, I’m a husband, a salesman, and perhaps my most unique role:
I’m a Jehovah’s Witness whisperer.
Yes, I have been reaching out to them with love and care, attempting to help them to be set free from that high-control religious group. It involves a lot of listening and serving, as you describe. If you know of any Jehovah’s Witnesses, or those who have family and/or friends trapped in that system, let them know about my blog, which I think will be helpful to them (listed below under “website”).
Take care, and thanks for all you do! I have been learning a lot from you!
This post is full of wisdom. I’ve heard of several people who were seriously ill, but instead of focusing on their own illness, they reached out to others in their community who were in desperate need. As it turns out, serving others is healing and extremely healthy for us.
One of my passions is playing around with movie clips in iMovie and trying special effects. In this YT video (one of my favorites), I recorded my grandson’s baby babble and used parts of it that sounded like he was actually speaking real words. Then I put a conversation together with parts of his babbling and added some voice overs to make it sound like a discussion. This was for a blog post to go with Debra Kristi’s Thor project. She asked her blog subscribers if we wanted the Thor action figure to be mailed to us so we could spend a day with him and write a blog post, then mail it on to the next writer who had signed up.
Turned out to be great fun! Mighty Thor Irritated With One-Year-Old Baby: https://youtu.be/-k-h6xGg0Vc
I’m definitely a big believer in symbiosis. There’s the age old question “How can I expect others to read my writing if I’m not willing to do the same?”
It’s funny how often success is portrayed as one rising above the rest, when the reality is “we rise together”.
I think what I most like about writing is how it allows us to have rich conversations with other people that we might otherwise never interact with. Even if I never meet an author in person, they’ve shared their thoughts and ideas through their writing.
Outside of writing one of my main interests is crafting, particularly Halloween costumes. I like to take a hat, maybe a bit of PVC from Home Depot, and a few other innocuous items from Joan Fabrics, and combine them into a semblance of a costume (with a healthy dose of paint or tape to create the necessary colors). I’m not an engineer, and I have little skill with needle and thread, but I like creating things, even if all I’m doing is combining a few existing props and pieces of clothing.