TIME leadership

3 Books Every Leader Should Read to Be Successful

Frank Gehry has selected personal favorites for his 'Curated Bookshelf' at Louis Vuitton's London flagship. The shelf is located in the first-floor librarie.
Jessica Klingelfuss

Teachings from the best in the business world

As an employee, you function mostly as a solitary unit. You do your part, produce your “output,” and the work is done. But as a manager (or more precisely, a leader—managers manage tasks, leaders lead people), everything changes. Your success is no longer about your own output, it’s about other people’s — the most important work you do is often what enables other people to do their jobs. But finding your way can be difficult. So in honor of National Book Month, here are three books that every leader should read to succeed.

High Output Management by Andy Grove

Key points: Grove’s book, reflecting on his time as Intel CEO in the 1970s, remains relevant today because of the basic principles it outlines: As a leader, you are an enabler of others. Your team’s performance, not your own output, is what you are judged on. Grove also shares five key things that should inform and govern your time: decision making, information gathering, information sharing, nudging and role modeling. If you are spending significant time doing things outside of those five key areas, it might be worth rethinking your schedule.

Best quote: “The art of management lies in the capacity to select from the many activities of seemingly comparable significance the one or two or three that provide leverage well beyond the others and concentrate on them.”

Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround by Lou Gerstner

Key points: Compared to High Output Management, which can read a little like a textbook, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? is practically a thriller. Gerstner’s well-known memoir about the turnaround of IBM is a vibrant book on leadership during a challenging time. It’s about transformation. Gerstner touches on the importance of speed and a clearly communicated set of principles—especially across a company as large as IBM was at the time. Gerstner also talks about the issues big companies run into with mid-level talent: “People do what you inspect, not what you expect.”

Best quote: “I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.”

The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World’s Most Disruptive Company by John Rossman

Key points: This is by far the easiest read of the three in this post, but it’s also the most effective at providing prescriptive and actionable leadership advice. Rossman, a former Amazon executive, decodes a lot of the behind the scenes at Amazon and points to what is most important at a company that complex: decision making and ownership. The owner of a project or product doesn’t have to be the most senior person at the organization. In fact, it can be a very junior person. But this person is the sole person responsible for the project’s outcome.

Best quote: “Amazon.com employees quickly learn that the phrase ‘That’s not my job’ is an express ticket to an exit interview.”

Have your own favorite leadership books? I’d love to hear them—tweet at me @cschweitz.

Read next: 4 Biggest Myths About Being a Great Leader

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Careers & Workplace

The One Crucial Trait All Successful People Possess

flower-growing-desert
Getty Images

Often other people make it difficult to maintain this trait, but that's why you need it even more

Inc. logo

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

Anyone can succeed without capital, without a business plan, without a marketing plan, and even without a great idea.

But no one can succeed without one essential ingredient.

Think about the keys to business success: plenty of capital; a comprehensive business plan; a thorough market analysis; remarkable employees.

Each is definitely important. But there is one trait every successful entrepreneur possesses:

Irrational optimism.

Why? To be successful you must embrace belief, which means pushing aside all those self-doubts: Feeling you aren’t smart enough, dedicated enough, adaptable enough, or simply that, in spite of your best intentions and best efforts, you won’t succeed.

Often other people make it even harder to maintain that belief. Family and friends tend to shoot multiple holes in your ideas, not because they want to bring you down but because they care about you and don’t want to see you fail.

That’s why people rarely say, “Hey, that’s a great idea. You should go for it!” Most people aren’t wired that way. Most people—myself definitely included—are a lot better at identifying and listing potential problems. We like to play devil’s advocate because that makes us seem smart.

And that’s why you need to be irrationally optimistic: Not because the odds are stacked against success, but because irrational optimism helps you succeed in ways capital, business plans, and marketing savvy can’t.

Of course you can take irrational optimism too far—but then again, maybe you can’t.

Think about sports, the ultimate zero-sum game. Only one individual or one team can win, but great athletes still go into every game believing they will win—because if they don’t believe they can win, they’ve already lost.

Is complete self-belief irrational? Sure. Is it also a requirement for high-level athletic success? Absolutely. Great athletes push aside doubt and disbelief.

So do great entrepreneurs.

If you listen to the naysayers you’ll never start a business, never expand, never work and struggle and overcome—and never succeed. If you don’t believe in yourself, however irrationally, you will not succeed.

Although no amount of self-belief is enough to ensure success, the smallest bit of doubt can ruin your chances.

In Bounce, Matthew Syed quotes Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, one of the most successful football (soccer) coaches in the English Premier League, on how athletes must approach competition:

To perform to your maximum you have to teach yourself to believe with an intensity that goes way beyond logical justification. No top performer has lacked this capacity for irrational optimism; no sportsman has played to his potential without the ability to remove doubt from his mind.

The same is true for entrepreneurs—and, really, for everyone. Be smart, be logical, be rational and calculating, and never stop trying to improve your skills. But most important, be irrationally optimistic.

Belief in yourself will take you to places no external forces ever can.

TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Scientifically Proven Ways to Achieve Better Success in Life

woman-mountain-top
Getty Images

Hard work alone won't get you there

Inc. logo

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

Success is a subjective notion, if there ever was one. But for simplicity’s sake, let’s assume the higher you are on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the better you’re doing. In case you don’t remember the levels from Psych 101, essentially, people can’t be their best possible selves (self-actualization) until lower-level needs are met first. In other words, you can’t be an ideal version of yourself if you don’t have enough food and money to pay the bills, or enough love and esteem to feel good about your value as a human being. So, what can you do to move yourself up the pyramid?

Check out the findings from several studies, which shine a light on what it takes to achieve more in life.

Increase your confidence by taking action.

Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of The Confidence Code, wrote a stellar article for The Atlantic on this subject. Highlighting scads of studies that have found that a wide confidence gap exists between the sexes, they point out that success is just as dependent on confidence as it is on competence. Their conclusion? Low confidence results in inaction. “[T]aking action bolsters one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed,” they write. “So confidence accumulates–through hard work, through success, and even through failure.”

Broaden your definition of authenticity.

Authenticity is a much sought-after leadership trait, with the prevailing idea being that the best leaders are those who self-disclose, are true to themselves, and who make decisions based on their values. Yet in a recent Harvard Business Review article titled “The Authenticity Paradox,” Insead professor Herminia Ibarra discusses interesting research on the subject and tells the cautionary tale of a newly promoted general manager who admitted to subordinates that she felt scared in her expanded role, asking them to help her succeed. “Her candor backfired,” Ibarra writes. “She lost credibility with people who wanted and needed a confident leader to take charge.” So know this: Play-acting to emulate the qualities of successful leaders doesn’t make you a fake. It merely means you’re a work in progress.

Improve your social skills.

According to research conducted by University of California Santa Barbara economist Catherine Weinberger, the most successful business people excel in both cognitive ability and social skills, something that hasn’t always been true. She crunched data linking adolescent skills in 1972 and 1992 with adult outcomes, and found that in 1980, having both skills didn’t correlate with better success, whereas today the combination does. “The people who are both smart and socially adept earn more in today’s work force than similarly endowed workers in 1980,” she says.

Train yourself to delay gratification.

The classic Marshmallow Experiment of 1972 involved placing a marshmallow in front of a young child, with the promise of a second marshmallow if he or she could refrain from eating the squishy blob while a researcher stepped out of the room for 15 minutes. Follow-up studies over the next 40 years found that the children who were able to resist the temptation to eat the marshmallow grew up to be people with better social skills, higher test scores, and lower incidence of substance abuse. They also turned out to be less obese and better able to deal with stress. But how to improve your ability to delay things like eating junk food when healthy alternatives aren’t available, or to remain on the treadmill when you’d rather just stop?

Writer James Clear suggests starting small, choosing one thing to improve incrementally every day, and committing to not pushing off things that take less than two minutes to do, such as washing the dishes after a meal or eating a piece of fruit to work toward the goal of eating healthier. Committing to doing something every single day works too. “Top performers in every field–athletes, musicians, CEOs, artists–they are all more consistent than their peers,” he writes. “They show up and deliver day after day while everyone else gets bogged down with the urgencies of daily life and fights a constant battle between procrastination and motivation.”

Demonstrate passion and perseverance for long-term goals.

Psychologist Angela Duckworth has spent years studying kids and adults, and found that one characteristic is a significant predictor of success: grit. “Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality,” she said in a TED talk on the subject. “Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Embrace a “growth mindset.”

According to research conducted by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, how people view their personality affects their capacity for happiness and success. Those with a “fixed mindset” believe things like character, intelligence, and creativity are unchangeable, and avoiding failure is a way of proving skill and smarts. People with a “growth mindset,” however, see failure as a way to grow and therefore embrace challenges, persevere against setbacks, learn from criticism, and reach higher levels of achievement. “Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training,” she writes.

Invest in your relationships.

After following the lives of 268 Harvard undergraduate males from the classes of 1938 to 1940 for decades, psychiatrist George Vaillant concluded something you probably already know: Love is the key to happiness. Even if a man succeeded in work, amassed piles of money, and experienced good health, without loving relationships he wouldn’t be happy, Vaillant found. The longitudinal study showed happiness depends on two things: “One is love,” he wrote. “The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”

TIME Business

10 Things Successful People Do Before Going to Sleep

thought bubble
Getty Images

The actual routine starts an hour or two before going to bed

Everyone is obsessed with how successful people start their day. And if you’ve decided to do something about the quality of your life, you’ll start working on developing a morning routine and trying different versions of it.

But we seem to have forgotten that what productive people — those who work each day to achieve what they want and who have hacked so many areas of their lives — do before they go to bed is just as important.

The evening routine is one of the most underestimated habits, and yet it’s an absolute must when it comes down to changing how your day goes and whether you want to get stuff done.

A nighttime ritual affects your sleep and the mood you’ll be in when you get up, and thus becomes the foundation of your whole day.

It’s a wind down period, and there are many things you can do at that time.

The actual routine starts an hour or two before going to bed, and you must turn it into a regular thing done at a certain time if you want to see changes in your energy level, productivity, mood and motivation.

Here’s what you can include in it:

1. A walk

Go for a short walk in the evening. It will help you leave everything behind and stop thinking about the workday.

It will be quiet time for yourself, without any distractions. And you can use it to reflect on different things that interest you or to just empty your mind and enjoy the silence.

2. Assess your day

Every single night Benjamin Franklin took the time to make an examination of his day. And it helped him stay focused on what he was doing, see if he was making progress, understand where he needed to improve and whether or not he was happy with the results.

It’s a great thing to do at the end of the day as a part of your evening routine.

It takes 5-10 minutes but helps you evaluate your day’s work and have control over your goals, tasks and progress.

3. Read

Many great people read right before they go to sleep.

It’s a good thing to do at the end of your ritual, and even in bed. The reading process itself will help you fall asleep faster, if you struggle with that.

What your book will be about is your choice. But it’s important to leave the digital devices for tomorrow and have the company of a real book now.

Also, this can be another opportunity to learn new stuff, get inspired, generate ideas or challenge your mind with some philosophical topics.

4. Meditate

A short meditation session is a great thing to include in your morning routine, but it has an even greater effect when done twice a day.

So set aside a few minutes and just sit still. Let your thoughts flow naturally and don’t try to focus on some or ignore others.

Then try to let go of all that. Because it’s in the past now. You need to empty your mind and eliminate those regrets and worries for the past day if you want to go to sleep in peace and start the next day fresh.

5. Unplug

Turn off everything around you. You only need your alarm.

A good nighttime ritual’s purpose is to let you sleep well, and that means no notifications, sounds, lights or other interruptions.

6. Affirmations

Another powerful moment of the day, when your mind is as susceptible as in the morning, is before going to sleep. So add some mantras.

These positive affirmations (which you can say in the mirror for a better result) will stay in your mind when you sleep and will influence your confidence, belief in yourself, goals and dreams, and how dedicated you are to them.

So let yourself know one more time before you go to bed that you can achieve whatever it is that you put your mind to, that each day you’re getting closer to your dreams, that you’re staying focused on what’s important and aren’t allowing others to direct your life.

7. Journal

Why can’t the morning pages be done in the evening too?

Share what’s bothering you on a piece of paper, write down everything important that happened throughout the day and analyze how it affected you. Think about how you felt and whether you completed your tasks for the day.

Or just write about the things that come to your mind, positive thoughts, big plans for the next few weeks, etc.

8. Plan your next day

That’s a simple and quick thing many leaders do each night. It helps them to get ready for the next day and know what they have to do right after they wake up, so that they won’t waste any time and can just start working.

So spare a few minutes to make a to-do list and think of all the tasks – big or small – you need to get done tomorrow, even the non-essential ones.

This way you won’t need to remember anything and will know exactly how the next day will go.

9. MIT’s

Now decide what the 3 most important tasks are.

They must be things that are urgent, that are connected to your goals and that you really want to accomplish and will affect you as a person and your future.

Now try to break them into smaller tasks, then figure out what you need to do first and make it easy and simple. This way you won’t have an excuse not to go all the way and complete them.

And then, if you’re really motivated to succeed, you’ll get up early, do your morning routine and start working on these 3 right away.

10. Thank

Now that the day’s over and you’re headed to bed, take a minute to say thank you.

Go through all the opportunities you had, the nice people you met, the work you did and the goals you worked on, the nice meals you had and the great chats you had time for in that day, and be grateful.

Now you’re ready to move on to the next day, where even more beautiful things will be waiting for you.

Lidiya Kesarovska is a writer and blogger in the fields of self-improvement, life hacking, human potential and minimalism. She’s the creator of Let’s Reach Success, where her mission is to motivate and inspire and think of creative and unusual ways to overcome fear, procrastination, insecurity, clutter, failure, overthinking, discontent and much more.

This article originally appeared on Pick The Brain.

Read more from Lidiya Kesarovska:

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Here’s the Only Secret to Being Truly Successful

man-woman-wedding-rings
Getty Images

Your significant other has a huge impact on your success. Science says so

Inc. logo

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

Your customers are hugely important. And your key employees. As well as the industry you’ve chosen, politics, macroeconomics, and education.

And luck.

While all those are important factors in the success of your business (or career) and your earning power, here’s one factor you probably haven’t considered:

Your spouse.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that people with relatively prudent and reliable partners tend to perform better at work, earning more promotions, making more money, and feeling more satisfied with their jobs.

That’s true for men and women: “Partner conscientiousness” predicted future job satisfaction, income, and likelihood of promotion (even after factoring in the participants’ level of conscientiousness.)

According to the researchers, “conscientious” partners perform more household tasks, exhibit more pragmatic behaviors that their spouses are likely to emulate, and promote a more satisfying home life, all of which enables their spouse to focus more on work.

As one researcher said, “These results demonstrate that the dispositional characteristics of the person one marries influence important aspects of one’s professional life.” (In nonresearch terms, a good partner both sets a good example and makes it possible for you to be a better you.)

I know that’s true for me. My wife is the most organized person I know. She juggles family, multiple jobs, multiple interests—she’s a goal-achieving machine. Her “conscientiousness” used to get on my nerves, until I realized the only reason it bugged me was because her level of focus implicitly challenged my inherent laziness.

I finally realized the best way to get more done was to actually get more done, and she definitely helps me do that.

And I try to do the same for her. Since my daily commute is two flights of stairs, I take care of most of the house stuff: laundry, groceries, cleaning (I don’t do all the cleaning, but I make sure it gets done), etc., so when she comes home she can just behome.

So, while she’s still much more conscientious and organized than I am, she’s definitely rubbed off on me in a very positive way.

Which of course makes sense: As Jim Rohn says, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with—and that’s particularly true where our significant others are concerned.

Bad habits rub off. Poor tendencies rub off. We all know that. But good habits and good tendencies rub off too.

Plus, if one person is extremely organized and keeps your household train running on time, that frees the other up to focus more on work. (Of course, in a perfect world, both people would more or less equally share train-engineer duties so that both can better focus on their careers, whether those careers are in the home or outside.)

Keep in mind, I’m not recommending you choose your significant other solely on the basis of criteria like conscientiousness and prudence. As the researchers say, “Marrying a conscientious partner could at first sound like a recipe for a rigid and lackluster lifestyle.”

Nor am I suggesting you end a relationship if you feel your partner is lacking in those areas.

But it does appear that having a conscientious and prudent partner is part of the recipe for a better and more rewarding career.

So instead of expecting your partner to change, think about what you can do to be more supportive of your significant other. Maybe you can take on managing your finances, or take care of more household chores, or repairs, maintenance, or schedules.

After all, the best way to lead is by example, and in time you may find that you and your significant other make an outstanding—and mutually supportive—team.

How awesome does that sound?

TIME psychology

These Types of People End Up More Successful and Make More Money

money
Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Join over 151,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

6 Hostage Negotiation Techniques That Will Get You What You Want

How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY

4 Surefire Ways to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

$20, $1, $5 arranged to read 2-0-1-5
Sarina Finkelstein

Aiming to make positive changes in 2015? It's easier than you think to reach your goals.

If you’re like most people, this is the time of year when you pledge to shed bad habits and improve your life. About half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions each January, according to research by the University of Scranton.

It’s no surprise that people set intentions. What is surprising is how much the failure rate of resolutions is hyped. In fact, a good number of people do make goals with staying power: 59% of people who made resolutions for 2014 say they kept them, a Marist poll found. The University of Scranton’s researchers found that 46% of resolvers maintained their pledge past the six-month mark.

Money-related goals are one of the most popular, making up one-third of resolutions that people set for the coming year. More good news here: When it comes money, financial resolutions seem to be easier to achieve than other popular self-improvement vows.

According to a recent survey by Fidelity Investments, 42% of people find it easier to pay down debt and save more for retirement than to, say, lose weight or give up smoking. Among those who made a financial resolution last year, 29% reached their goal, and 73% got at least halfway there, Fidelity found. Only 12% of resolutions having to do with things like fitness and health do not end in failure, other research shows.

Unfortunately, the booming stock market and improved jobs picture may be making people a little too confident about their finances. Just 31% of people are considering a financial resolution this year, down from 43% last year. But the top goals remain the same: Save more (55%), pay off debt (20%), and spend less (17%), according to Fidelity.

No matter what kind of changes you are pledging to make in 2015, here are four ways to improve your odds of success.

1. Resolve to resolve. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t articulate a goal, according to another University of Scranton study by professor John Norcross. After six months, 46% of people who wanted to change their behavior and made a resolution to do so were successful, vs. just 4% of people who desired to make a change but didn’t put it in resolution form.

2. Be specific. People who make vague goals are much more likely to fail. Set a well-defined goal and write down a plan of attack. For example, vowing to save more is too broad. Instead, make a plan to research savings accounts with higher than average rates, pick one by Feb. 1, and aim to save $3,000 a year, putting away $250 a month to get there. (For help, check out our annual list of the Best Banks and accounts.)

3. Keep a log. One key to sticking to your New Year’s pledge: track your progress. Two-thirds of those who set a goal find progress to be motivating, according to the Fidelity survey, and a study from the University of Washington found that the more that you monitor your performance, the better you’ll do at sticking to your goals. Use an app such as SavingsGoals to see how close you are coming to your savings target or DailyCosts to track your spending and see where you can cut back.

4. Enlist a buddy. Research from Dominican University of California psychology professor Gail Matthews found that people who shared their goals with a friend were 33% more successful than those who didn’t. So if you’re already contributing to your 401(k) but haven’t boosted the amount you’re saving in years, tell someone who is important to you that you’re going to do it. Then ask that person to call you in a week to see if you followed through. Make a pact to help your friend with his or her own goal, and you’ll both be more likely to achieve your resolutions in 2015.

Have you had success with your New Year’s resolutions? Write me with your tips and advice at drosato@moneymail.com, and I’ll share the best ideas in an upcoming post.

TIME psychology

How to Be Successful: 6 New Shortcuts Backed by Research

Hiker/Climber in Triumphant Pose
Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

We all want success. And we’d like it fast. But we can only work so long and so hard. The more-more-more ethos only goes so far. What to do?

I decided to ask someone who knows about this stuff: Shane Snow.

Shane’s the bestselling author of Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success.

He did the research and looked at how people and companies achieve success quickly by trying new things, breaking the rules and taking shortcuts — or, as Shane calls them, smartcuts.

What’s a consistent theme throughout the book? Lateral thinking. The secret to succeeding faster isn’t working more, it’s working different.

Here’s Shane:

Lateral Thinking is the process of solving problems via different angles than you might expect. It doesn’t happen when you do more of the same thing. So just simply working harder may not accomplish a goal like rethinking the approach you’re taking. Lateral thinking is about getting in the mindset of breaking the rules that aren’t really rules; they’re just the way things have been conventionally done in the past.

The book is loaded with proven, counterintuitive strategies to help you get better faster. Shane and I talked about six of them.

Okay, you know the drill — let’s break them down.

1) Forget “Paying Your Dues”

If paying your dues was essential, there would be no child prodigies or Zuckerberg billionaires.

Looking at the research, Shane realized the best US Presidents had the least experience in politics. Here’s Shane:

The best presidents of the United States actually have less time in politics than the worst presidents of the United States. In all sorts of industries, what you see is that the fastest risers and the most successful are often not the ones with the most experience. What the patterns show is that people who tend to switch tracks, switch from different ladders or different careers, or even different jumps quickly, end up amassing more skills and more flexibility and more of this critical, lateral thinking that allows them to make breakthroughs and surpass their peers a lot faster than others.

And this lines up with the research of Harvard professor Gautam Mukunda: it’s the renegade outliers who make the big changes.

Often when people talk about the importance of paying dues, they’re afraid of failure or afraid of breaking rules.

Playing it safe can help you do “pretty good” — but it’s rarely the way to get to the very top or to get there fast.

(For more on what the most successful people have in common, click here.)

So you don’t have to suffer for years before you can take your shot. But you do need to learn. Where’s the best place to get help?

2) Find Your Yoda Outside The Office

The research Shane initially looked at said mentors don’t help you get ahead. And Shane reacted the same way I did…

Mr. Miyagi didn’t help? Morpheus didn’t help? Yoda was useless? HERESY.

So Shane dug deeper. Turns out formal mentorship didn’t work. That guy they assign to guide you at the office? Zero effect on your career.

But the mentors you seek out on your own? Boom. They take you to the next level in a big way. But what’s the difference between the two?

Mentors need to care about you.

Here’s Shane:

In great mentorship relationships the mentor doesn’t just care about the thing that you’re learning, they care about how your life goes. They are with you for the long haul. They are willing to say, “No,” and to tell you what you’re doing is wrong. Those kinds of relationships yield outsized results in terms of future salaries and happiness.

And caring goes both ways.

If you don’t feel a bond with your mentor and you don’t open up, you won’t get the most from them. You need to care about them too. Here’s Shane:

An organic mentorship is built around friendship and vulnerability. You need to be open about what you’re scared about and what you’re going through. Good mentors don’t just guide your practice, they guide your journey. This is the thing that you see in Star Wars and in the Karate Kid.

Forget the silly “mentor” that work or school assigned to you. Hitch a ride to the Dagobah system. Go “wax on, wax off” an old Japanese man’s cars.

Find a teacher who you care about and who cares about you and you’re not just on your way to a great career, you’re on your way to a primo life.

(For more on how to find the perfect mentor for you, click here.)

So informal mentors can really make a difference. How else can you keep improving? The answer might surprise you…

3) Watching Others Fail Helps You Succeed

Not making others fail, mind you. But seeing others screw up helps you learn.

It’s a shortcut to getting around a little known cognitive bias Shane discovered in his research.

When surgeons tried to learn a new procedure, which ones improved the most? The ones who saw others make mistakes.

Here’s Shane:

Surgeons who did successful surgeries tended to continue to improve, but surgeons that sucked at the surgery got even worse. And if you saw your buddy succeed at a surgery, it didn’t help you at all. But, paradoxically, if you saw your buddy fail at a surgery, you actually got better.

Huh? So unless you’re good from day one the only way to get better was to watch other people fail? Why?

Because your brain is trying to stop you from feeling bad about yourself. So it lies to you.

When you screw up, you make excuses. “Not my fault. Sun was in my eyes.” When you see someone else do well, you say, “Well, of course, I’d do it just like that.”

But when you see someone else bomb you say “Whoa, better not do that.” Here’s Shane:

If you are a heart surgeon and your patient dies on the operating table, you’re gonna say, “Oh, the patient was in bad shape. Oh, there wasn’t enough time. Oh, it was hard to see. The incision wasn’t very clean…” You blame your failures on things that are outside your control. But by watching a surgery you are less personally invested in you are able to be objective. “Oh, they did that wrong. Note to self. I shouldn’t do that.”

It’s one of the fundamental differences between the beginner and the expert mindset. Beginners need encouragement so they don’t quit.

But experts love negative feedback. That’s the secret to how you keep improving. Here’s Shane:

Experts have gotten to a place where they don’t take it personally and they can take the negative feedback as feedback on the activity rather than on them as a person. And that’s what you should do.

Turn failure into feedback and then turn feedback into actionable steps.

(For more on how to have an expert mindset, click here.)

Mentors, watching others fail… so you’re learning a lot. But what if you’re just too late?

4) Forget First Movers. Be A Fast Follower.

“I had that idea but they beat me to it.” Ever said that? Okay, you’re now officially a whiner. Because you were dead wrong.

You were actually in the better spot. Research shows the guy who starts second is more likely to win.

Via Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success:

…Peter Golder and Gerard Tellis of the University of Southern California, published a study in 1993 to see if historical evidence backed the claim that market pioneers were more likely to succeed. They researched what happened to 500 brands in 50 product categories, from toothpaste to video recorders to fax machines to chewing gum. Startlingly, the research showed that 47% of the first movers failed. Only about half the companies that started selling a product first remained the market leader five years later, and only 11 percent of first movers remained market leaders over the long term. By contrast, early leaders — companies that took control of a product’s market share after the first movers pioneered them — had only an 8 percent failure rate. Fifty-three percent of the time in the Golder and Teller study, an early leader became the market leader in a category.

When you’re first you have to waste a lot of time and energy figuring out best practices. When you’re second, you can just play “follow the leader.”

Dan Coyle said the two most important words when it comes to getting better are “reach” and “stare.”

  • Reach: Keep trying to get better.
  • Stare: Study and emulate those who are better than you.

You’re not too late. You’re right on time.

(For more on the attitude that produces success, click here.)

So timing isn’t as big a deal as you thought and you can learn from those who came before you. But what about when you need original ideas?

5) Want To Be More Creative? Add Constraints.

When you have limitations you can’t take the easy route. Constraints force you to think. And often, unless forced, we don’t think much at all.

When challenged, we have to be original.

Via Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success:

Constraints make the haiku one of the world’s most moving poetic forms. They give us boundaries that direct our focus and allow us to be more creative. This is, coincidentally, why tiny startup companies frequently come up with breakthrough ideas. They start with so few resources that they’re forced to come up with simplifying solutions.

One of the most insightful DVD commentaries I’ve ever heard was Robert Rodriguez discussing his movie, El Mariachi.

He made a 90 minute film with only 7000 dollars. Such an incomprehensibly small budget forced him to rethink every part of filmmaking.

He didn’t have a dolly so he attached the camera to a wheelchair.

The critics loved his editing but the only reason he cut the film like that was because his cheap recording equipment would lose sync during long shots.

You don’t need the freedom to be creative. You need the constraints.

(To learn the four principles that will take you to breakthrough creativity, click here.)

So creativity comes from limitations but your goals, well, they need to go in the total opposite direction…

6) “It’s Easier To Make Something 10 Times Better Than To Make Something 10% Better”

That line is from Astro Teller, head of Google X. Those are the guys who build driverless cars and other supercool stuff.

When you try to make something 10% better, your brain is burdened with all the baggage that came before. You have no room to maneuver.

When you say 10 times better, you have to reinvent the whole process. It makes you think big. You toss out the old rules and start fresh. Here’s Shane:

If you’re aiming for 10% improvement you are going to work within the conventional bounds of what normally happens in your product or industry. If you say that this has to be 10 times better, then it forces you to get down to the first principle of what is most essential. This is a way to force reinvention, which is really what innovation is.

And when you dream big, people want to join you. The media wants to talk about you. Venture capitalists want to throw money at you. Ambition is a force multiplier. Here’s Shane:

If you’re working on a business that has small potential, it’s going to be hard to recruit really great talent for it. But if your mission is to get humans to Mars it’s easier to attract the world’s greatest rocket scientists. So it’s rallying the support, and not just from employees and investors, which you need if you’re doing something big, but also from customers and from press and the universe that needs to conspire around you in order to make you successful.

And, perhaps most importantly, when you think 10x instead of 10%, you behave differently.

Research shows when you set bolder, more audacious goals you work harder than when you’re reasonable. Here’s Shane:

Subconsciously, we actually push ourselves harder when we’re going after bigger, loftier, harder goals. Research shows people who set higher goals end up outperforming their peers or themselves because they push themselves harder or because they force themselves to find more creative, alternative, unconventional solutions to problems.

So dream big. No, even bigger.

(For everything you need to know about setting and achieving your goals, click here.)

These are some great ideas. Let’s round them up and finish with the one thing you absolutely need to remember.

Sum Up

Here are Shane’s tools for achieving bigger, faster success:

  1. Forget “Paying Your Dues”
  2. Find Your Yoda Outside The Office
  3. Watching Others Fail Helps You Succeed
  4. Forget First Movers. Be A Fast Follower.
  5. Want To Be More Creative? Add Constraints.
  6. “It’s Easier To Make Something 10 Times Better Than To Make Something 10% Better”

That’s a lot to remember. So if you forget everything you just read, what’s the one thing you need to keep in mind? I asked Shane that and here’s what he said:

The mistake that all of us make is we don’t step back enough to ask, “Why are we doing things this way?In fact, we should first be asking ourselves, “Why are we doing this in the first place?” But certainly ask, “Why are we doing it this way?” Often the answer is, “Because that’s the way people have always done it in the past” — and that’s a problem if you want to make more rapid progress or if you want to get off the plateau that you’re on.

So look around today at the things that are important and ask why you’re doing them that way.

Is there a better way? A way that’s quicker, more effective, and more fun?

More often than not, I’ll bet you there is.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Join over 140,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

6 Things The Most Productive People Do Every Day

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

 

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME leadership

Melinda Gates on How Women Limit Their Opportunities

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, former Microsoft executive and spouse of the Uber-nerd has turned her attention to the issue of women and girls. Her purview is mostly the world’s poorest, but she had some things to say about how even educated and affluent women hold themselves back.

“They doubt themselves,” Melinda told TIME during this week’s 10 Questions interview. “Women don’t tend to see themselves as ready for the next role, as they ought to.” Gates, who recently raised $2.3 billion (that’s with a B) at the London Family Planning Summit, said that at first she didn’t want to head up the drive to make contraceptive choices available to women in developing countries. “I wasn’t sure I was the right person,” she said. “I kept looking for somebody else to lead the effort.”

But she noted that good managers can provide a simple workaround for this problem, simply by making sure to give the women a little nudge to throw their hats in the ring. “I think it’s up to the managers—men or women— to reach down and pull those women up and say, “No, you are ready for that promotion,” or, “You’re at least as qualified as the men.”

In the interview Gates also spoke about what she’s doing to make sure her kids handle their great wealth (including how they allocate their pocket money) and how she refocused her life after turning 50. Subscribers can read the interview here.

MONEY Jennifer Lopez

5 Smart Career Insights from J-Lo’s New Memoir

Jennifer Lopez performs onstage at Fashion Rocks 2014
Kevin Mazur—Getty Images for Three Lions Ent On how touring right after her breakup with Marc Anthony was the right move, both professionally and personally, Jennifer Lopez writes: "Everyone in the world knew that I had recently gone through a divorce, and night after night they were helping me get back up again."

With record sales topping $70 million, Jennifer Lopez can teach us about more than just "True Love."

In Jennifer Lopez’s new tell-all book True Love, on sale this week, the singer-dancer-actress-entrepreneur has much to say about her past relationships and how they have shaped her career trajectory.

While some might be most excited by the juicier details of her breakups with Ben Affleck and Marc Anthony, J-Lo offers some nuggets of wisdom on success that can help anyone looking for career stardom. Here are the highlights:

1. Don’t let money make you complacent.

Lopez says her parents, who held down multiple jobs to be able to send her and her sisters to Catholic school, were an early source of inspiration and taught her that hard work is about more than financial prosperity.

There was a certain hustle I grew up with, a hustle that I learned from watching my parents. They showed me that you put your head down and work—you work for a living and then, when you’re making a living, you still don’t stop… We don’t stop working because we have money in the bank—we do what we do and we keep on doing it.

2. Embrace your mistakes.

Lopez is candid about the imperfect parts of her career, including less-successful albums, her tendency to succumb to pressure from managers, and times during the filming of What to Expect When You’re Expecting when her makeup artist had to use ice to de-puff her eyes because of all her crying following her divorce from Anthony. But at 45, she says, she is finally able to look back on her errors as learning experiences.

Being ambitious, being a perfectionist, means I’ve spent my life beating myself up for not being good enough, or for screwing something up. It took a long time, but I finally figured out that I wouldn’t have half the instincts or insights I’ve had as an artist over the years if not for those screwups.

3. Never stay in a job out of fear.

One of the scariest choices Lopez has made, she writes, was quitting the hit show American Idol after two successful seasons to go on a world tour. But she’s glad she mustered the courage to do it.

I had been so afraid of it all—afraid I would fail, afraid people would criticize me… And then I realized if I didn’t believe in myself, nobody else would either… If I didn’t do this tour, I’d probably regret it for the rest of my life… I loved being on Idol, but it was time to move on. It didn’t make sense for me to spend a third year in a row sitting on a panel, judging other singers, especially if the main reason I was doing it was for the security of it.

4. Look for experienced mentors and advisers.

Though much of her book discusses overcoming problems, particularly self-doubt, Lopez also points out that sometimes it takes someone with more life experience to point out you have a problem in the first place.

Back in the beginning of my career… I was in a meeting with my agent and stepped out for a call with my boyfriend at the time. Through the glass door, my agent could see that I was arguing and pleading. She asked my assistant, “Does Jennifer have low self-esteem?” My assistant looked at her like she was crazy. Later, when my assistant told me she had said that, we couldn’t stop laughing … “That’s so stupid!” I told her. But was it really? That agent saw something I didn’t. She was a little bit older. Maybe she’d been through something like that herself, or maybe she’d seen it in others.

5. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

Like people in all fields, Lopez says, she has at times compared herself with her peers and felt that she wasn’t living up to expectations. But, she writes, the only way to actually be the best version of yourself is to do just that—be yourself.

Your power is in your individuality, in being exactly who you are … that’s why there is no competition in artistry. It’s not about being the best or the biggest, the king or queen. That notion is so ridiculous. That competition or comparison is actually the exact opposite of what being an artist is. As an artist, you should be in competition with only one person—yourself. You can’t worry about what others are doing or saying.

For that reason, Lopez says the only advice she gives out now to less-experienced or aspiring artists is: “Listen to yourself; listen to your gut. Because only you know what’s right for you.”

Related:
6 Money Lessons From Ben Affleck Movies

 

 

 

 

 

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser