Five Little Pieces of Advice That Changed My Life

I’ve received so many great pieces of advice over the years, from family and friends, from great books, and from wise people.

Recently, I sat down to make a list of the key pieces of advice that I wanted to make sure to clearly pass along to my children. Part of my role as a parent is to fill in the gaps that they don’t learn in school, after all.

As the list grew, I found some of the items to be very useful and some perhaps not so useful. A handful of them rose to the top of the list, though.

Here are five really useful pieces of advice that have served me very well in many different aspects of my life. They’ve helped my career, my personal relationships, my finances, and my personal growth as well. May you find some value in them, too.

1. Smile a lot. Be nice, too.
Over the long haul, people gravitate toward others that they perceive as being happy and pleasant and gravitate away from people who are negative. If you make a conscious effort to be kind to everyone and keep a smile on your face regularly, the net benefits will really add up over time in the form of better relationships with people and a stronger social reputation.

I use two little tactics here that work really well. I try to keep several things in mind that naturally make me smile and I think about them regularly, particularly when I see or meet other people. Thinking about a hug from my youngest child brings a smile to my face really quickly and I can draw on that in mixed situations to mask any uncertainty I might be feeling.

Similarly, if I don’t have something nice to say, I don’t say it. I usually try to think of something nice to say, though. Sometimes, when criticism is called for or asked for, I give it, but I include the positive aspects as well. The simple act of having the courage to put yourself up there for criticism deserves respect and a kind word.

2. A daily routine that makes you feel healthy and energetic makes the rest of the day much more productive, making up for the time you invested.
For a long time, I thought the idea of spending half an hour exercising in the middle of my work day was a terrible idea. I viewed it as half an hour of vanishing productivity.

Over time, what I found was that after exercising, I focused really well. I felt better and that made it easier to just bear down on the task at hand. I didn’t get distracted nearly as much and I wound up usually being more productive over the course of an entire day than a day where I didn’t exercise.

Find room for some exercise and for an actual healthy meal. The rest of the day will be more productive because of that break and because you’re treating your body well.

3. Just start doing what you want to do. If you have a job you don’t like, view that job as your “funding phase.”
If you want to be a writer, write. If you want to be a sportscaster, volunteer to do voiceover work for tapes of high school games. If you want to make films, get out your camera and write a script.

Just do whatever it is you dream about doing. Try to do it at least a little bit each day.

Yeah, most of us have a job that doesn’t revolve whatever it is that we want to be doing. View that job as your “funding phase.” It’s how you’re investing time to finance what it is that you really want to be doing.

Taking this to heart might mean sacrificing some free time. Trust me – it’s well worth it.

4. Good. Inexpensive. Fast. Pick two.
Any task you take on in life is constrained by a lot of factors. How long will it take? How much will it cost? How good is the result? Almost always, you end up having to choose good results with regard to two of those factors and expect a bad result for the third one.

You can fix a good and inexpensive dinner, but it probably won’t be fast. You can get a good and fast dinner, but you’ll probably pay a lot for it. You can make a fast and inexpensive dinner, but it probably won’t be a great dinner. Which do you choose?

You can apply this to work tasks as well. I am constantly making this choice with my professional life and the projects and tasks I take on. The only way I can do something really well and do it quickly, for example, is to hire people to help out, which makes it expensive. Similarly, I can do a task quickly and without help, but it won’t be done with a high level of quality. I can do it myself with a high standard of quality, but it will take a long time. Which do I choose?

Knowing that you’re going to have to make that choice in advance makes it easier to make decisions and plan out your ife.

5. You are the average of the five people you associate with the most.
Make a list of the five other people you associate with most in your life. Consider a particular trait shared by all of those people, and rank the other five. Most of the time, you’ll be right around the middle of that list if you included yourself on it.

In other words, our performance and our life is in many ways dictated by who we spend our time with. We become like the people we associate with the most.

Thus, the best way to improve yourself is to make a conscious effort to associate with people who are strong in a particular area where you want to improve. If you want to read more, hang out with other people who read. If you want to get in shape, hang out with people who make physical fitness a part of their life. If you want to be frugal, hang out with the frugal people, not the big spenders.

They’ll rub off on you.

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