45 Greatest Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence

1. If you are interested in something, you will focus on it, and if you focus attention on anything, it is likely that you will become interested in it. Many of the things we find interesting are not so by nature, but because we took the trouble of paying attention to them. (Source)

2. Nobody will protect you from your work. You can’t think it away or read it away or travel it away or eat it away or sleep it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you just have to get started, play with it, and get it done.

3. To overcome the anxieties and depressions of contemporary life, individuals must become independent of the social environment to the degree that they no longer respond exclusively in terms of its rewards and punishments. To achieve such autonomy, a person has to learn to provide rewards to herself. She has to develop the ability to find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstances. (Source)

4. Those three things – autonomy, complexity and a connection between effort and reward – are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying. It is not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether our work fulfills us. (Source)

5. The feeling that we have endless time to complete our work has an insidious and debilitating effect on our minds. Our attention and thoughts become diffused. Our lack of intensity makes it hard for the brain to jolt into a higher gear. The connections do not occur. For this purpose you must always try to work with deadlines, whether real or manufactured. (Source)

6. Getting to the next level always requires ending something, leaving it behind, and moving on. Growth itself demands that we move on. Without the ability to end things, people stay stuck, never becoming who they are meant to be, never accomplishing all that their talents and abilities should afford them.

7. Striving for perfection can get in the way during the early stages of the creative process. Conscious effort inhibits and ‘jams’ the automatic creative mechanism. Self-concious thoughts and feelings central to perfectionism are related to levels of burn-out.

8. Too many people believe that everything must be pleasurable in life, which makes them constantly search for distractions and immediate gratifications which decrease their mental entropy and lost contact to reality. When no real challenge faces us, a mental and physical lethargy sets in.

9. Creative brains are a valuable, limited resource. They shouldn’t be wasted on re-inventing the wheel and drudgery, when there are so many fascinating new problems waiting to be solved.

10. Achievement is talent plus preparation. The problem with this view is that the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger role preparation seems to play. (Source)

11. Once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it. And what’s more, the people at the very top don’t work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder. (Source)

12. Persistence is often more important than intelligence. Approaching material with a goal of learning it on your own gives you a unique path to mastery. (Source)

13. We often try to make it complicated. We say things like, “I don’t even know where to start” or, “I just don’t have the time” or, “I’m afraid to do it the wrong way,” when it comes to hard work and putting in effort. But our desire to complicate it is all too often just a cover for laziness or fear. Hustle is not hard. If you write your blog every day, at the end of the year you will have more readers than when you started. If you get up early and work on your dream two hours more than somebody else, your dream will progress faster. (Source)

14. Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it. (Source)

15. Hustle isn’t just doing the things you love all the time. Hustle is doing the things you don’t enjoy sometimes to earn the right to do the things you love. (Source)

16. Most enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person’s skills, it usually begins to be intrinsically rewarding. (Source)

17. “Live in daytight compartments”. The only time we have any power over is the present moment Don’t waste time worrying about the past or future; do the things you need to do right now to heal the past or prepare for the future. (Source)

18. The unexpected benefit is that if you work on your dream in the morning, it gives you a natural boost that can last the entire day. There’s a great sense of joy that comes from accomplishing something that moves you closer to your dream job. There’s a sense that regardless of what the day brings, you started with the work you love. You started by doing what matters to you most. That sense of joy and contentment can make the rest of your day even better. (Source)

19. “Be willing to make a few mistakes and suffer a little pain, to get what you want”. Bring courage to your life, do the hard thing, be vulnerable, and take a risk for something you really care about. (Source)

20. Skill in any performance whether it be in sports in playing the piano in conversation or in selling merchandise consists not in painfully and consciously thinking out each action as it is performed but in relaxing and letting the job do itself through you. Creative performance is spontaneous and ‘natural’ as opposed to self-conscious and studied. (Source)

21. The truth is, what you do matters. What you do today matters. What you do every day matters. Successful people just do the things that seem to make no difference in the act of doing them and they do them over and over and over until the compound effect kicks in. (Source)

22. You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine. (Source)

23. Remember, habits are powerful because they create neurological cravings. It helps to add a new reward if you want to overcome your previous cravings. Only once your brain starts expecting the reward will the important rewiring take place that will allow you to create new habits. (Source)

24. Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned. (Source)

25. An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory. Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.

26. The path to excellence is more about following a direction than arriving at a destination. It’s a chaotic experience, and how we respond matters more than what happens to us.

27. Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard for twenty-two minutes to make sense of something that most people would give up on after thirty seconds. (Source)

28. The key then to attaining this higher level of intelligence is to make our years of study qualitatively rich. We don’t simply absorb information – we internalize it and make it our own by finding some way to put this knowledge to practical use. (Source)

29. Frankl learned there are three things that give meaning to life: first, a project; second, a significant relationship; and third, a redemptive view of suffering. He realized that if people, even in the bleakest of circumstances, have a job to do, something to return to tomorrow, then they have a reason to live another day. (Source)

30. To master any skill, you must first choose a task; then do it over and over again until the activity becomes second nature; and finally, push through the times when you fail, exhibiting even greater focus as you repeat the action until you’ve done it right. (Source)

31. The way to create something great is to create something simple. Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.

32. When it comes to creative inspiration, job titles and hierarchy are meaningless. (Source)

33. Do everything you can to prepare, and then relax in the doing of it. The more you can detach yourself (and your self esteem) from the outcome, the better you will perform. Get out of your own way. (Source)

34. The lesson here is very simple. But it is striking how often it is overlooked. We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth. We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that thirteen-year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that’s the wrong lesson. Our world only allowed one thirteen-year-old unlimited access to a time sharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today? (Source)

35. Understand: your mind is weaker than your emotions. But you become aware of this weakness only in moments of adversity–precisely the time when you need strength. What best equips you to cope with the heat of battle is neither more knowledge nor more intellect. What makes your mind stronger, and more able to control your emotions, is internal discipline and toughness. No one can teach you this skill; you cannot learn it by reading about it. Like any discipline, it can come only through practice, experience, even a little suffering. The first step in building up presence of mind is to see the need for it — to want it badly enough to be willing to work for it. (Source)

36. Think of the mind as a river: the faster it flows, the better it keeps up with the present and responds to change. The faster it flows, also the more it refreshes itself and the greater its energy. Obsessional thoughts, past experiences (whether traumas or successes), and preconceived notions are like boulders or mud in this river, settling and hardening there and damming it up. The river stops moving; stagnation sets in. You must wage constant war on this tendency in the mind. (Source)

37. The time that leads to mastery is dependent on the intensity of our focus. (Source)

38. 90 percent perfect and shared with the world always changes more lives than 100 percent perfect and stuck in your head. (Source)

39. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.

40. I know sometimes it’s scary to think that you might do the wrong thing. It’s terrifying to imagine wasting your “one shot”. But let me assure you, nothing you do will be wasted. Every decision you make, every path you take, has the ability to contribute something you need to succeed at your dream. (Source)

41. Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen. For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last blockon a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves. (Source)

42. What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours – that is what you must be able to attain. To be solitary as you were when you were a child, when the grown ups walked around involved with matters that seemed large and important because they looked so busy and because you didn’t understand a thing about what they were doing. (Source)

43. It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were. When we choose a goal and invest ourselves in it to the limits of concentration, whatever we do will be enjoyable. And once we have tasted this joy, we will redouble our efforts to taste it again. (Source)

44. We are all in search of feeling more connected to reality—to other people, the times we live in, the natural world, our character, and our own uniqueness. Our culture increasingly tends to separate us from these realities in various ways. We indulge in drugs or alcohol, or engage in dangerous sports or risky behavior, just to wake ourselves up from the sleep of our daily existence and feel a heightened sense of connection to reality. In the end, however, the most satisfying and powerful way to feel this connection is through creative activity. Engaged in the creative process we feel more alive than ever, because we are making something and not merely consuming, Masters of the small reality we create. In doing this work, we are in fact creating ourselves. (Source)

45. In the end, people don’t view their life as merely the average of all its moments—which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep. For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story. A story has a sense of a whole, and its arc is determined by the significant moments, the ones where something happens. Measurements of people’s minute-by-minute levels of pleasure and pain miss this fundamental aspect of human existence. A seemingly happy life maybe empty. A seemingly difficult life may be devoted to a great cause. We have purposes larger than ourselves. (Source)

This article was made possible thank to the ideas presented by these powerful books, especially the Mastery, Flow, and The Nature of Personal Reality.