I first discovered Lewis Howes' "The School of Greatness" podcast almost two years ago. It was the first podcast I had ever listened to, and I just stumbled upon it randomly by scrolling through the iTunes charts. After only a couple episodes, I was hooked. Lewis' easy-going approach to interviewing and his ability to get deeper-than-the-surface with his guests really left a lasting impression on me. I went back and listened to almost every previous episode (I joined somewhere around Ep. 150) and have probably only missed a handful since.
Lewis' podcast introduced me to a whole new world of personal development. I heard story after story from people who found a way to do what they love for a living. Until that point, I didn't really believe it was possible.
I remember the first time I heard Pat Flynn explain his escape from the corporate world, I was floored at how similar his previous situation sounded to my current one. Rich Roll and Natalie Jill gave me real life examples of people who left their 9 to 5 jobs and became successful entrepreneurs in the fitness industry. Countless others have had a lasting impact. While I now keep more than 10 podcasts in my regular rotation, The School of Greatness is still my favorite.
When my wife got me Lewis' book for Christmas (also titled The School of Greatness), I couldn't wait to dive in. I learned from previous experience with Cory Gregory's The Mindset Manual that even though I may have absorbed a ton of someone's content by other means (podcasts, videos, articles, etc), a book enables the author to go REALLY deep and expand on ideas that they find extremely valuable.
In the book, Lewis essentially takes bits and pieces of knowledge from guests on his podcast and pairs it with personal experience to create his 8 steps to achieve greatness. Here are those 8 steps and what they mean to me:
1. Create a Vision
The power of a strong vision is something that has been echoed by literally every single successful person I know. A clear vision of your ideal life will keep you grounded, focused, and accountable. The only problem is, most people have never taken the time to create that vision.
Developing a vision can be a difficult exercise. It certainly wasn't something I was just able to sit down and knock out in 5 minutes. It took days of thinking before I could actually write it down on paper (writing down your vision on paper is a major key- do it!). Take the time to really visualize what your ideal life looks like.
- What is a perfect day for you?
- How do you spend your time?
- Who do you spend your time with?
This isn't the time to be practical. Swing for the fence. Sure, it may seem out of reach now, but that's the point! This is your dream, it shouldn't be easy.
2. Turn Adversity into Advantage
Everybody faces adversity. Sure, some have it tougher than others, but everyone goes through something in their life that challenges them. So when that adversity strikes, do you cave? Do you complain about how things aren't fair and how so-and-so has it easier than you? Do you blame your circumstances on your environment or your parents or the government? I hope not.
Charles Swindoll said, "Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it." The first habit in Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (which I highly recommend) is "Be Proactive"- that is, take responsibility for your own life. Viktor Frankl stated in Mans Search For Meaning (which I also highly recommend), "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
The bottom line: you control your life. If you created a vision in Step 1 that's hard to achieve, you're absolutely going to face adversity along the way. But don't let it beat you down. Let it build you up. Embrace it. Use it as an incentive to work harder and as a reminder of all the things you have to be grateful for. Use it to your advantage.
3. Cultivate a Champion's Mindset
To me, the champion's mindset is all about belief. Belief, either in one's self or something else (like God or higher power), is so crucial. In fact, I probably would have put this a step ahead of "turning adversity into advantage".
Creating your vision is a scary process, and probably the first thing you'll think to yourself when you do it is, "...but that's not possible." It's almost instantaneous. But talk to any successful person and they will tell you that they knew they would be successful. Champions believe in their dream.
I think believing that your vision is attainable comes from the process of reverse engineering. Break down your dream into yearly, monthly, weekly, and even daily goals. Having faith and trusting that your goals will be accomplished isn't delusional, it's tactical. Your vision may seem way out of reach right now (as it should be), but if you break it down to the day you can begin to grasp the exact steps you need to take to make it happen.
4. Develop Hustle
Hustle is the stuff that everybody wants to talk about, but nobody wants to do. It's the hard work. It's directing all of your efforts toward what you want to achieve. There's no replacement for it.
To be brutally honest, I never really hustled hard for anything in my life until recently. Maybe I thought I did at the time, but now that I know what real work feels like, it was nothing. It wasn't because I was lazy or unmotivated (well, maybe a little bit), it was because I didn't care about the work I was doing. There was no end goal. No vision. Now that I have a real "north star", the hard work has become second nature (and I actually enjoy it). I know that the hustle is a necessity to achieve greatness.
I think a lot of people can get complacent and, on the surface, lack hustle because they aren't directing their efforts at what they truly want to do. They're just going through the motions, letting life take them along for the ride. If more people harnessed their vision and discovered what they truly care about, more people would realize that they have the ability to hustle.
5. Master Your Body
Obviously I'm a fan of this one. I believe that taking care of your body is essential. Exercising and eating properly can have such a huge impact on your life. I've experienced it myself and have witnessed it first-hand with dozens of clients.
I'll use the airplane analogy: On an airplane, the flight attendant tells you that in case of an emergency, put your own mask on first before attempting to help others. Mastering your body makes you better equipped to handle everything in life. It makes you a better parent, spouse, and employee. It will make you happier, more energized, and more confident. Fueling your body with healthy food, regularly exercising, and recovering properly will ensure that you're best-suited to tackle any obstacle that comes your way.
Whether you like to lift weights, run, or do Crossfit, it doesn't matter. Just move. Find something you enjoy that you can maintain for years to come. Eat real food. Real, from the Earth, stuff that your Grandma would recognize, food. Drink lots of water and sleep more.
6. Practice Positive Habits
I've gone pretty deep on habits before (here and here). Strong habits are the foundation of productivity. The more tasks that you can make habitual, the more efficient you will become. The more automated your decisions, the less your brain will have to work (resulting in a surplus of brainpower to handle more difficult obstacles). Here are the daily habits I've established:
- Express gratitude
- Uninterrupted family time
- Review yearly goals
If I can do these things daily, even for just a couple minutes at a time, I know I will be successful and happy. I still have a few habits that I'd like to further develop (meditation being the main one), but these activities are my building blocks. No matter what happens, I lean on these few habits to guide me through the day.
7. Build a Winning Team
We've all heard the saying from Jim Rohn, "You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with." Your team is your inner circle- family, friends, or coworkers. And whether you know it or not, their attitudes and actions have a significant impact on your own. Are the people closest to you honest? Motivating? Supportive? Do they have a strong vision and relentless hustle? Sometimes, you have to ask these hard questions and take a step a way from the people who aren't moving forward with their lives so that you can.
This has definitely been something I've struggled with, but I've developed an interesting viewpoint on the topic. I think that in today's digital era, it's actually easier than ever to build a winning team. While many people criticize social media for taking away from "real life" interactions, I choose to take the opposing perspective. The internet has given me mentors like Lewis, Cory Gregory, and Gary Vee. It has introduced me to a group of hard-working dudes who have similar interests and aspirations. While I may not be surrounded by these people physically, their daily content provides a steady source of motivation, support, and information.
Don't be limited by your surroundings. If you don't have a winning team at your fingertips, you can create one- whether in person or online. Choose to surround yourself with positivity and influence so that you, in turn, can become more positive and influential.
8. Live a Life of Service
I love that Lewis included this. After listening to 300+ hours of School of Greatness episodes, I can confidently say that almost all successful people mention some form "serving others" in their definition of greatness or their three truths. Accomplishing anything of importance solely for yourself is not truly gratifying, and it's not truly great.
People often think of service as volunteering at the Goodwill or donating money to charity (which it is), but it can come in many other forms. Sharing your time, information, and positivity with those who may need it is service, and it doesn't necessarily have to cost you anything.