10 Critical Steps to Success

Business / Critical Thinking / Success

10 Critical Steps to Success

The internet is full of advice on how to become a millionaire. It seems that everyone wants to become one, and therefore, everyone is giving advice on how to get there. But there are only a few millionaires who spill the beans, while most will try to teach it without having walked the talk.

Having looked at a lot of advice that is out there, and used Critical Thinking, I find that Tom Corley’s study of 233 self-made millionaires to give some of the best advice I have found.

His 6 habits of success are all listed in the bestselling book Secrets of a Millionaire Mind and I have taken 5 of his habits and added my own 5 steps that I believe are essential to becoming financially successful.

To that I have added some Critical Thinking in order to tell you not only what to do, but also how to think the right way about what you are doing. Enough about my method, now lets get down to the business of how to become successful.

Step One: Keep Learning

For self-made millionaires, constant learning and self-improvement is a top priority. Corley found that 61 percent of the 233 millionaires, said that they practiced sport or learning a new skill, for example through an online class, for two hours per day.  

The world is changing fast and keeping up with change means that we need to keep learning and growing in step with our environment. Also if you are entering a new areas of business or just starting to learn how to be successful, you are back in grade one and there are tons to learn.

But what is the best way to learn? It helps to think critically about who the best experts and thought leaders are that you should listen to. Wasting time on listing to material and a person, who doesn’t know what they are talking about, will only waste your time too.

Personally, I started investing in crypto about three years ago. My first year was full of scams that I fell into because I was green and didn’t know anything about crypto investing. Then my second year, I lost 95 percent of my investments. That will teach you.  

Obviously, no one can predict the market perfectly. But I now know which experts where right and who was totally wrong. And in this process, I have learned enough to think independently about the market and my investments. I now take headlines or points from the news, experts, etc. but I do my own evaluation and analysis about this information. This is critical thinking.

Step Two: Listen, and Learn

When we are talking, we cannot listen. And if we do not listen, we cannot learn. Corley mentions a 5:1 rule where we should listen five times more than we talk. This is a bit technical for my taste, but the overall idea is powerful.

Of the 233 millionaires, 81 percent said that they actively sought feedback from other people every day. This was both inside and outside of their businesses as learning means to actively seek different perspectives.

Listening is really about learning, which is a process just like Critical Thinking. Critical Thinking is defined as the: “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.” An objective judgment is one that is not influenced by personal feelings, opinions or biases when considering facts.

This is why objectivity starts from a point of not knowing. To be objective we need to come from a neutral starting point, whereby letting go of subjective views, we can truly be open to new information. Critical Thinking is about being humble and open to the fact that we do not know everything. 

If we are always talking, there is no room for objective thinking in the sea of our busy subjective mind. That’s why to be successful we need to shut up and listen by calming our busy subjective mind so that we can receive new important information.

Step Three: Take Action

“What you hear, you forget. What you see, you remember. What you do, you understand.”

This quote from the book Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, makes a vital point about the importance of taking action. The human attention span is now 8.25 seconds and has dropped below that of a goldfish, and probably lower now since TikTok.   

The point is that if we keep everything inside our minds, we will never come out into the real world. That’s why we say that 80 percent of success is just showing up. And its real, the best way to overcome fear or ambivalence, is to take action.

You can try it with stress. If you are feeling stressed about something, try to take action. As soon as you do, you will see how the action takes you out of your mind and into the action that you are doing.

In fact, as soon as you are doing something, the mind changes from being introverted to extroverted. The action forces the change of mind. And action inspires more action just like the scientific principle of an object in motion; stays in motion.   

Personally, I like Nike’s slogan: “Just do it!” The tagline was inspired by death row inmate Gary Gilmore’s final words before his execution: “Let’s do it.” Its confident about getting things done and I think this attitude of just do it, is a big part of success.

This is also where passion comes in. In order to be motivated and take action, it helps a lot of you do something that you are passionate about. The motivation from having that passion will make you go long and be able to handle the hard times.

Passion gives the energy and then determination provides the key to following through. Just wishing or hoping does not get you anywhere. You need determination to follow through and this often comes from having a goal or purpose. So, you also need to know why you are doing what you are dong and what the desired goal is for you.

Purpose can come early or late in life and it can have different motivations. I was working in a low paying job, when my aunt got cancer in Denmark. I wanted to see her before she died, but I didn’t have enough money for an airplane ticket. This made me look for a high paying job. Later after getting fired from a job, I told myself this is the last time I want to get fired. And so I bought a business and become self-employed.

Step Four: Make Your Own Luck

Fun fact: 94 percent of Corley’s millionaires said that they didn’t gamble. That isn’t to say that successful people do not gamble in business, but it means that you cannot rely on pure luck.

Instead, in order to win successful people come up with creative solutions and alternative routes to success. They think their way to success by thinking out of the box. And they then take a gamble on these new alternative solutions.

This is also in the area of Critical Thinking. Critical Thinking with its objective reflection and unbiased analysis is a strong creative force. When we are free of the past and our subjective views, we can be open to new and fresh ideas.

This is the source of success in entrepreneurship because with critical thinking we are able to find new opportunities in the market and the right product/market fit to build products and businesses that people love.

If you have ever done a startup or been part of one, you will know the word: pivot. This is where the startup changes its business model to find or adapt to an opportunity or hidden demand found in the market. In a way, this opportunity is uncovered and that’s what is meant by making your own luck.   

Making or having luck, can also be in the form of having an advantage. In the startup world, we call this having an unfair advantage. The point is to have an advantage that puts you in front of everyone else. For example, musician Drake started out as an actor on the TV soap Degrassi and then used that platform to go into the music business.

Its about leveraging something that you have which makes you stand out. My first job out of high school I got by showing up in person to deliver my application in front of over 200 applications sent by mail. And my current high end furniture store, I got because it’s a Danish franchise and I am originally from Denmark. I used my Danish connections to get the opportunity.

It can be big or small, but the point about having an advantage is that it puts you ahead of the rest and being number one is what makes the success. For example, if you were early with a website using keywords or first on Instagram, you now have millions of site visits or followers. Or if we go work for a top company, you will have an edge if you go work for smaller companies after.

If you don’t have an unfair advantage already, you can start thinking about how to get one. Obviously, you can build an online following to promote your business or what you are doing. Also you can go work for a startup and then use that experience to do your own startup later or get hired somewhere else.

Step Five: Be Prepared

“Success is when opportunity meets preparedness.”

When the Beatles in 1964 appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, which was a talent show like the X Factor today, they had already played over 1200 hours of live performances in a small club in Germany. 

In the same way, Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos didn’t stumble upon their success. They made it happen and predicted the future of what would come. Musk saw online payments coming with Paypal and Bezos used books to create the largest online marketplace.

Preparedness and the ability to spot opportunity is one of the most important parts of success. Throughout history the big paradigm shifts are what has created the greatest wealth. From the industrial revolution to the internet, and from the iPhone to OpenAI, being prepared to take advantage of these big shifts is where huge success can be gained.  

In investing, you may know the saying: “Buy when there is blood in the streets.” This is another way of saying buy when the markets are down and everyone else fearful. And to meet this opportunity, investors need to be prepared with dry powder and cash ready in hand.

Personally, after losing 95 percent of my crypto investments, I haven’t given up. I have taken another large sum and kept it on the sidelines as dry powder to buy the dip. Keeping cash to buy crypto when its low is my preparedness to meet the opportunity that is crypto.

Step Six: Dream Big                                                                                                                     

“Shot for the moon, even if you miss, you will land among the stars”

I know what my investment goal for my crypto is. And I already have a bank and strategy to cash out in Portugal, tax free. Sure, crypto is risky, but I am pretty sure with another three or four big dreams in business, my success will only increase.

That’s the point of aiming high and dreaming big. You may not get all the way to your goal, but just the fact that you start walking towards your goal, means that you will not be totally lost. The saying goes: If you start walking the path, the way will appear.

It’s a bit spiritual or mystical. But its no different from the red bicycle. You may never have noticed one, but once you buy one, you start seeing red bicycles everywhere. It has something to do with our attention and where we put it. Where attention goes, energy flows.

Your life is controlled by what you focus on, so why not focus on a big dream? With Critical Thinking at the core of your focus, you will be able to solve problems and find solutions to anything you can put your mind into.

I don’t have that level of energy and may be a little lazier. But look at Elon, he is going to Mars! Like him or not, you got to give him A for effort.  

Step Seven: Focus

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that are there.” – Steve Jobs

When Steve Jobs was brought back to Apple, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. Apple had too many products and by using focus to simplify the product portfolio, Jobs brought Apple back from the brink of bankruptcy and then developed new breakthrough products like the iPad and iPhone.

Its the same principle in Kitchen Rescue, where restaurants with long and difficult menu’s have their number of dishes cut to under ten. We cannot be everything to everyone, and therefore, focus is a very important part of success.

You have probably heard the words: focus on your niche and this is the same idea. In order to gain traction, we need to focus on one area or niche and then work our way up from there. Jeff Bezos did the same when he started Amazon focusing on books and then after broadened his focus to the thousands of products that he sells today.

Step Eight: Don’t Give Up

We say when opportunity comes knocking. The emphasis here is on when as we live in a highly competitive world with over 8 billion people who all want to get ahead of us. I say this because I used to be married to an aspiring actress and really saw first hand the emotional impact of getting rejected audition after audition after audition.

If you don’t believe me, try getting famous on Instagram or 100K followers on Twitter. Its hard work and takes persistence and consistency. But why is it that success take time? I think the 10,000-hour rule has an element of truth to it. Afterall, we don’t watch losers in sports, so the idea that real experts inspire us the most seems true.

However, I think with some Critical Thinking we can cut the waiting time down and the five years of the 10K hours, can be distilled into 18 months or maybe less. That is my personal experience and I am wondering how people like Elon Musk do as much as they do.

Musk’s First Principles Thinking cuts through the noise and into the bone of the most fundamental elements of a problem. Critical Thinking does the same as you can use it to analyze a problem and get to the best objective solution to it.

Instead of just doing your job or running your business, you ask: what does real success mean in this job or business? Once you know the answer, then you can focus on getting there faster. The ‘don’t give up’ mantra is hard to maintain for 10 years, but if we can think critically about your path to success, you can get there faster.   

Step Nine: Build a Team

When I came from the corporate world and bought a small furniture business with 5 employees, I had very different ideas about teams and team building. The corporate world with HR departments etc. is very politically correct and operating towards an ideal.

From the day I took over my furniture store, I had a wakeup call. The previous owner had difficulty finding a buyer for the business and therefore he had started the process of selling it to the manager of the store. Till I came along, and the Franchisor picked me instead.

I did not become aware of this fact before after nine months of fighting with my manager she left. But needless to say, her jealousy of me buying the store instead of her, created a toxic work environment. And it was not till going through about four or five hires, that I finally understood the value of a small team.

Team building is not just about getting along and being on the same page. You can also strategically look for complimentary skills and build a dream team that covers all the bases. However, its done, your business can sink or swim solely based on your team and its performance.

Step Ten: Diversify

In the US, 3 in 4 people have anxiety about money and their financial situation. This is the same for rich people as anxiety follows on the way up. But there is one way out of this anxiety and that is to diversity.

When the pandemic hit, I had put all my eggs in one basket in the form of my bricks and mortar furniture store. I thought: “hey, I got a real business, so I am safe.” But nothing could have prepared me for three lockdowns as my business was not considered essential in Ontario.

Overnight, I went from secure prosperity to sleepless nights thinking about bankruptcy. I was in total shock. Never in a million years had I considered the possibility that my business could be forced to close down due to a pandemic. 

Today, I keep cash under my pillow, gold stashed away and my regular investments together with my crypto both online and in cold storage. I keep money in three bank accounts in Canada, two in the US and one in my native Denmark.

I have also diversified my business with an e-commerce store and I am involved in three new startups plus I do online coaching. All this to feel safe and not to end up in the same situation as I was in at the start of 2021 when the pandemic hit.

You can diversity in many ways. If you are an employee, you can research the most desired skills in the market and hone them to make yourself recession proof. You can also learn new skills online and outside of work, that gives you diversified job opportunities.

With the current recession and AI on the attack, you want to make sure your job is not obsolete in a few years. Follow the trends and position yourself and your skills at the top.

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