TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Ways Productive People See Life Differently

businessman-looking-out-window-rear-view
Getty Images

They find ways to do their best work even on their worst days

Inc. logo

Some people are more successful than other people — a lot more successful.

Sure, they work hard. And they work smart. But they possess other qualities that make a major impact on their performance:

1. They see disapproval as fuel.

Work too hard, strive too hard, appear to be too ambitious, try to stand out from the crowd. It’s a lot easier and much more comfortable to reel it in to ensure you fit in.

Pleasing the (average-performing) crowd is something the most successful people don’t worry about. (They may think about it, but then they keep pushing on.)

They hear the criticism, they take the potshots, they endure the laughter or derision or even hostility — and they keep on measuring themselves and their efforts by their own standards.

And, in the process, they achieve what they want to achieve.

2. They see fear as part of the process.

One of my clients is an outstanding — and outstandingly successful — comic. Audiences love him. He’s crazy good.

Yet he still has panic attacks before he walks onstage. He knows he’ll melt down, sweat through his shirt, feel sick to his stomach, and all the rest. It’s just the way he is.

So, just before he goes onstage, he takes a quick shower, puts on fresh clothes, drinks a bottle of water, jumps up and down and does a little shadowboxing, and out he goes.

He’s still scared. He knows he’ll always be scared. He accepts it as part of the process. Pre-show fear is like lunch: It’s going to happen.

Anyone hoping to achieve great things gets nervous. Anyone trying to achieve great things gets scared.

Truly productive people aren’t braver than others; they just find the strength to keep moving forward. They realize fear is paralyzing while action creates confidence and self-assurance.

3. They find ways to do their best work even on their worst days.

Norman Mailer said, “Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day.”

The most successful people don’t make excuses. They forge ahead, because they know establishing great habits takes considerable time and effort. They know how easy it is to instantly create a bad habit by giving in — even just this one time.

4. They see creativity as the result of effort, not inspiration.

Most people wait for an idea. Most people think creativity happens. They expect a divine muse will someday show them a new way, a new approach, a new concept.

And they wait… and wait… and wait.

Occasionally, great ideas do just come to people. Mostly, though, creativity is the result of effort: toiling, striving, refining, testing, experimenting… the work itself results in inspiration.

The most productive people don’t wait for ideas. They don’t wait for inspiration. They know that big ideas most often come from people who do, not people who dream.

5. They see help not as a weakness, but as essential to success.

Pretend you travel to an unfamiliar country, you know only a few words of the language, and you’re lost and a little scared. Would you ask for help?

Of course. No one knows everything. No one is great at everything.

Productive people soldier on and hope effort will overcome a lack of knowledge or skill. And it does, but only to a point.

The most productive people also ask for help. They know asking for help is a sign of strength-and the key to achieving more.

6. They see starting as important…

At times we all lack motivation and self-discipline. At times we’re all easily distracted. At times we all fear failure — or even success.

Procrastination is a part of what makes people human; it’s not possible to completely overcome any of those shortcomings.

Wanting to put off a difficult task is normal. Avoiding a challenge is normal.

But think about a time you put off a task, finally got started, and then, once into it, thought, “I don’t know why I kept putting this off — it’s going really well. And it didn’t turn out to be nearly as hard as I imagined.”

It never is.

The most productive people try not to think about the pain they’ll feel in the beginning; they focus on how good they will feel once they’re engaged and involved.

And they get started. And then they don’t stop.

7. … and they see finishing as everything.

More than anything, successful people finish — no matter how high the barriers, how many the obstacles, how great the challenges… they see things through when others would have given up.

(Unless there’s a really, really good reason not to finish — which, of course, there almost never is.)

The most successful person know they can’t always be first but they can always be last: the last to stop, to quit, to give up.

And in that way, they win.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

More from Inc.com:

MONEY Food & Drink

Starbucks Wants to Hire More Minorities

Starbucks is leading a "100,000 opportunities" campaign, trying to hire more low-income and minority employees.

MONEY Workplace

Do This If You Hate Your Job

Author Kerry Hannon has a few good tips.

The immediate thought may be, simply, to quit. For most of us, that’s not feasible option in the heat of the moment. So what do you do?

Kerry Hannon, author of Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness, says you could start by trying to clean the clutter out of your office. “When you start to clear out your office, you’re making decisions about your life,” says Hannon. “This is important to me; this is not important to me.” She also says you could try asking for new responsibilities; “I find the one reason people don’t love their jobs is because they’re bored.”

When it all does become too much, and you know you have to leave, it’s time to start making a plan. Start looking on the down-low, build up your network and start investigating what opportunities there are for you.

TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Get What You Want at Work

business-people-shaking-hands
Getty Images

If you want something, ask how to get it

Getting what you want is often exceedingly difficult. Everyone knows what it’s like to want something: a promotion at work, a date with your crush, an extension on That Impossible Problem Set, an expedited premiere date for Season 6 of Game of Thrones. But when it comes to actually asking for the things we desire, most of us hit a wall. We tend to succumb to stress, nerves, anxiety, or some terrifying combination of all three, in fear of being labeled as overly pushy or too demanding.

Asking for what you want is a crucial part of life, and the more you practice, the easier it becomes.

How to ask for what you want — and get it

According to Dan Johnston, the 25-year-old co-founder of online tutoring company InstaEDU, the most important element in successfully getting what you want is how you frame the question.

“Typically, you think your boss is the one who holds the keys to your next promotion or raise,” says Dan. Yet, when it comes to successfully asking for either of these things, Dan firmly believes adapting such a mentality is nothing short of fatal. Going into a meeting with the notion that your boss wields ultimate control is the equivalent of handing over all of the power before the conversation even starts.

Any strategy that involves “hoping” for a yes or positive response is doomed from the outset: in being reactionary, you’ve already lost. “If you want a raise, don’t ask for a raise,” Dan says, “Instead, ask your boss what steps you need to take in order to earn a raise. Same rule applies for anything else you want in life. If the person in power tells you what you can do in order to earn what you desire, then you’ve taken control of your own destiny.”

This methodology forces an honest conversation which lays out a straightforward path to the outcome you’re looking for. “When you frame success that way to the person who holds your fate, and they tell you what you can do, then you have created a situation in which your success is in your hands,” says Dan, “I think it’s the most powerful way to get what you want.”

This methodology isn’t limited to promotions. “It could just as easily be a round of funding for your company. It might be better not to ask for funding, but instead to ask an investor, ‘What does the company need to do in order to earn your funding?’”

Dan did not become an advocate for this technique without empirical precedent: he used it to successfully get funding for his startup before selling the company to Chegg for $30 million a year ago. Earlier this year, Dan was featured on the Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list.

“This is the one thing I would tell young people of all walks of life,” says Dan. “If you want something, ask how to get it, and act accordingly. Most people just sort of want things, but they’re not willing to invest in what it takes to get them.”

Dan now works at Chegg, where he oversees product development for Chegg Study and Chegg Tutors.

The three qualities that all great employees have in common

To build anything meaningful, you have to step back and let the best people shine. “As a founder, you’re only so scalable,” says Dan. “In hindsight it’s all about the people you hire, and very quickly you become more of a coach than a player, to the point where your impact is really by association.”

In Dan’s experience, there are three key qualities that almost all great employees possess:

1.) Legitimately care about succeeding

“You can tell who these are very quickly,” says Dan, “They’re genuinely upset by failures, because they care so much.”

“There are a lot of workers in [Silicon Valley] who are just there for the paycheck. They might be good at what they do, but they don’t actually care if their project or assignment isn’t successful,” says Dan.

When you are deeply invested in the project, it naturally makes people want to help you. “If I get invested in someone’s project, I want them to be just as happy as I am if it succeeds, or just as pissed if it doesn’t,” says Dan, “I like people who invest in their work. Emotionally, not just time wise.”

2.) Be extremely good at one thing

It’s good to be the jack of all trades, but if you want people to take you seriously, it’s imperative to be an expert in just one thing. According to Dan, the best employees are intelligent. “Not in the did-well-in-school sense or IQ sense. But intelligent in their role,” says Dan. This can refer to a genius marketer who writes shiny copies, or a support staff member who is adept at resolving customer conflicts. “Whatever it may be, there are certain types of intelligence that can astound you for a particular skill set,” says Dan, “It’s incredibly motivating to work with those people.”

3.) Don’t push people out of the way to get ahead

“One of my pet peeves is people who are motivated by their own gains to an extent where it shows,” says Dan. While it’s natural for everyone to want personal success, truly selfish behaviors are more conspicuous than most people realize. “You can notice when people care about looking good more so than doing well — in the sense that they present a good picture to their bosses or peers. It may sound nuanced, but when you see it, you know it.”

How to not be reactionary when bad things happen

The road to success is bumpy, and you better be prepared for the ups and the downs. When you’re in the middle of a setback — you didn’t get a promotion, your project was a huge failure, your boss is losing confidence in you — it can quickly spiral out of control and sap your ego. In this stage, the only thing you should care about is what’s next. “All that matters is figuring exactly what you need to do right now,” says Dan.

“This is going to sound horribly cliché, but my high school football coach used to always tell us whether it’s going well or poor, only think about what’s important now,” said Dan, “The idea is that if you just dropped a pass, or missed a tackle, if you’re upset about what happened, it doesn’t really matter.”

While growing his company, Dan dropped a few passes. “Our things were breaking all the time. It was hard to raise money. It was hard to hire. We launched a ton of failed features.”

During these times, it’s important to catch when you’re becoming too emotionally reactive.

“People will tell you I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve,” says Dan, “I’ve gotten a lot better about it, but in the early days it was bad. I was too reactive to things rather than being logical.”

Often times, people are so caught up in the negative stimuli that they overplay it in their heads, which consequently hampers their ability to think about what comes next. It takes a strong character to overcome that.

“The past doesn’t matter, and the future doesn’t matter yet,” says Dan, “Just optimize for the moment.”

This article originally appeared on Bit of News

More from Bit of News:

TIME Gen X

Here’s Why Your Boss is Probably Younger Than You

McDonald's Flagship Restaurant Re-Opening In Frankfurt/Main
Hannelore Foerster—Getty Images Steve Easterbrook, CEO of McDonald's, was born in 1967.

Young CEOs already leading huge Fortune 500 companies

As baby boomers head for retirement, members of Generation X, or those born between 1965 and 1980, are taking their places in the c-suite.

The Wall Street Journal reports that this new batch of top executives comes with shared traits, including being more tech savvy on average, quicker to react, and more prone to retaining young employees.

“There is going to be a sea change in terms of the ways that individuals in the corner office lead,’’ Sandra Davis of MDA Leadership Consulting said in an interview with the newspaper. “They are far more nimble and agile.”

CEOs under age 50 have already been tapped to lead some of the world’s largest companies, including Microsoft, McDonald’s, 21st Century Fox and Harley-Davidson, according to the publication.

Satya Nadella, a star Gen X CEO, has used his post to attract from talent from young startups. He became CEO after Steve Ballmer, his older predecessor.

The publication also points out that younger CEOs tend to go for a flatter organization structure versus one that’s highly hierarchical, meaning less bureaucracy and more fluidity in decision-making.

MONEY The Economy

The Worrisome Number in This Month’s Jobs Report

Despite a jump in jobs and lower unemployment, analysts are focusing on a different stat.

MONEY Careers

Obama Hopes to Expand Overtime Pay

The president wants to raise the overtime threshold for workers to $50,000 a year, up from the current $23,660.

MONEY Careers

How to Answer the Job Interview Question “How Much Do You Make Now?”

Responding to salary questions the right way will maximize your offer and keep you in the running.

Answering “What are you looking for in terms of salary?” is a tricky question to answer, especially early on in the interview process. Dodging the question by asking “I’d actually like to talk a little more about the job responsibilities” is a good way to deflect. Try to prepare yourself by using tools like PayScale and Glassdoor to find out what other people earn for similar jobs at the company. It’s important to remember there’s more to your income than your salary; you can feel comfortable including your benefits, 401(k) matching, and bonuses when talking about your current compensation.

Read next: The Secret Formula that Will Set You Apart in a Salary Negotiation

TIME facebook

Facebook Poached This Influential Yahoo Exec

US-IT-INTERNET-FACEBOOK
KAREN BLEIER—AFP/Getty Images

He held his post at Yahoo for a little over a year

Alex Stamos, Yahoo’s chief information security officer, announced on his Facebook page Wednesday that he’s leaving to take a similar post at Facebook.

“The Internet has been an incredible force for connecting the world and giving individuals access to personal, educational and economic opportunities that are unprecedented in human history,” Stamos wrote. “These benefits are not without risk, and it is the responsibility of our industry to build the safest, most trustworthy products possible.”

He added: “This is why I am joining Facebook.”

The post generated over 800 likes on the social media service he’ll soon be working for.

Stamos had served as Yahoo’s top cybersecurity officer and was with the company for a little over a year. He succeeds Joe Sullivan, who left Facebook in April to join ride-share startup Uber.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com