Look, I'll be the first person to admit that I'm not a fan of the 20-something “life coaches” that you see all over the place on Instagram. I'm not writing this to try to position myself as an expert on life, because I just straight-up haven't lived enough of it to do that.
But, a recurring theme I've noticed lately is that people who are older than me say I have “wisdom beyond my years.” I guess that is pretty cool, but it also makes me feel like an old man river trapped in a 28 year-old's body.
The unfortunate reality is that people (all of them…not just the young ones) crave success. I think it's a product of advertising really, because everything we see and hear tells us that what we have isn't great, and our lives aren't as good as they could be.
That's just the reality of consumerism, and it's definitely not going away any time soon.
After spending a lot of time with successful people and experiencing some early levels of success personally, there are some lessons I've learned that I feel are important to share.
Here are three rules to follow if you want to start an early path towards success in life:
1. Listen more than you speak
This may the hardest thing to do on this list, because it goes beyond human nature and our egos.
When you're young, it's so easy to think that you have everything figured out, when it reality we barely know anything…and it's OK.
Being comfortable with the fact that you aren't the smartest person in the room is an amazing asset, because it forces you to hear what the people around you are actually saying and take it to heart.
That doesn't mean that you have to blindly accept what everyone else says as truth or the “right” way to think, but it gives you more options to filter through and form the best opinions and strategies for you.
Also – if you are the smartest person in the room, pretend that you aren't. You'll still learn something.
2. Realize that success is relative (and not solely about money)
Far too many people intertwine money with success, when it reality they aren't that tightly connected (in my opinion).
No matter what you do in life, someone will always have and make more money than you.
I could make $200,000 this year, but consider myself a failure if I'm comparing myself to someone that made $1,000,000.
That person that made $1,000,000 is probably looking at the person who made $2,500,000 and feeling down on themselves.
The person that made $2,500,000 looks to the person that made $10,000,000 as the peak of success, and so on.
You get the point.
Making money is great and very important, but if you tie your ideological image of success to it…you'll live a life of constant failure.
Read also: Does a Higher Salary Lead to Happiness?
To me – success is ultimately about three things:
- Being a genuinely good, compassionate person
- Contributing to society in a meaningful, positive way
- Being great at what you do
All three of those are something that you can actually achieve in your younger years. The money will come later.
3. Surround yourself with winners and mentors
If you don't do anything else from this post, at least do this one.
My life changed when I decided to surround myself with people who I knew were smarter, wiser, and more experienced than me.
I don't let crap people into my life. All of us know someone who is surrounded by terrible people and constantly gets pulled down by it. You're probably imagining them right now and feeling slightly bad for them.
The reality is that those people are screwed because they make a conscious choice to roll with the wrong crowd.
When I taught high school, I saw a very straightforward version of this with students. Good students always had friends that were good students. Bad students always hung out with idiots. VERY rarely did good students hang out with bad students. It was a very simple concept.
As life goes on and we get older, people tend to complicate that reality and weave in excuses for why they hang out with certain people that drag them down.
Go out of your way to avoid people that aren't going anywhere, and make a real effort to reach out to people that have intellectual assets you don't. That's how you become a success.