Little Things Matter Most
Success in life is not fireworks, flashes, and overnight victories.
There are no surprise victories or dark horse winners.
There are only untold stories of struggle, preparation, training, and, most of all, daily, consistent, simple efforts that accumulate overtime to produce success.
What are these little, daily, simple efforts?
This video is one of three training sessions I did outlining simple daily habits that are common among super successful writers. It contains details on the Habit One and Two.
Where did I get this list?
I interviewed dozens of the world’s most successful writers and asked them about their daily habits. The patterns were striking and powerful.
As you listen (or read the transcript below), take note of how many of these simple daily habits you’re using.
The more you use, the more success you’ll have. It’s really that simple.
Hello, Joshua Boswell here. I’m so excited that you have decided to take a look at these seven simple daily habits of successful writers. I thought I’d start off by talking about how I came up with this list, and why I started down the process of putting this list together. A few months, well, let’s go back to the very beginning of all of this. I grew up in what some people would call a “Broken family.” No disrespect, I say this very carefully. No disrespect to my mom and dad, I wasn’t in their shoes, I didn’t know what was going on but my parents divorced when I was pretty young. I watched as my mother struggled really hard to put food on the table for six children, she did all kinds of entrepreneurial stuff to try to stay home, be with her children, be able to raise us, but also still be able to provide for us.
Through the course of that I of course saw some great things, some not so great things, but the over arching theme of it all was there was always money pressure, there was always a sense of, “Oh, there’s not quite enough money.” I didn’t want to live like that my whole life, again, it’s amazing what my mother did raising all of us but I just didn’t want to live like that all of my life, I wanted to have a little bit sense of freedom, do you know what I mean? I wanted to have a distance from the day in day out financial concerns. I began at a fairly young age, in my teenager years trying to look around and discover what made people successful, why was it that one person was successful and the other person wasn’t? It sounds like I’m the Wall Street Journal right? If you know what I’m talking about there. What made the big difference here?
I just started following successful people and listening to them, and reading about them. I discovered that there was something very interesting amongst all of these things, and I think it would be highlighted by this. When I was nineteen I went on a mission for my church. I went over to the Netherlands and I was there as a missionary and the leader of that area in the Netherlands one day happened to be … or I was driving with him I should say. He was a multi millionaire in his regular business world practices, and very successful, had done great things, and was just a wonderful individual, just very successful. I say he was a multi millionaire, I don’t know, he did very, very well. How much he actually made I don’t actually know.
He was very successful, and we got talking about this thing that was always in the back of my mind about what created success. He talked to me that day about these routines that he did, like things that he did consistently every single day. He mentioned a number of them, which interestingly enough he wasn’t a writer but they are in lock step with what I’m going to share with you over the next few minutes. He started explaining to me and it was this major revelation to me, like, “Oh wait a minute, successful people do a number of things.” What was amazing it wasn’t a lot of things, and it wasn’t a lot of complicated things, but they did these things consistently over and over and over again. If you know anything about like great really successful people, people like Warren Buffet. Warren Buffet has these crazy routines, from what I have read, I haven’t asked him personally. From what I read like every day he drinks five bottles or cans of coke-a-cola, everyday. I’m not sure that’s part of his success routine but I am sure that this predisposition, having regular, consistent habits and routines makes all the difference.
What I found is that not successful people have routines and habits as well, right? What are the simple things that create success, those daily habits, and what are the daily habits that don’t create success, that’s what I was after. A few years ago I read a book that helped me understand and see this more. The book was called, “The Slight Edge,” by Jeff Olsen. Great book, if you haven’t read it I highly recommend it. Inside of Slight Edge Jeff makes this statement, he presents this idea that success is really, it’s the slight edge. Meaning if you have a knife, there’s a very fine edge on the knife. He says, “Success is as easy as being on one side or the other of that fine edge, that’s all the difference that separates really successful people and mediocre people that struggle all the time, the slight edge.” What is the slight edge? What is that thing that makes the separation?
He argues that’s it doing very simple things consistently over a long period of time. Its not doing big, huge things. It’s not doing that Herculean effort where you’re like, “All right I’m just going to go and do this,” and sprint as hard as you can. No, no, it’s the consistency of the thing. The amazing part about it is the things that you do consistently don’t even have to be that hard or complex, they can be super, super simple. In doing those things you build up and you create synergy. Now, I will say that, and we’re going to talk about this. I’m going to go through all seven of these, but just as a foundational piece here. The simple basic things that you do every day, they don’t need to be complex, they can be very, very simple. They do need to be high leverage, right?
They are high leverage things, in other words I think of that analogy, when I go and I sit down in my car, I pull out my key or my key fob, and then I hit a button and by doing that or turning the key, by doing that, that one action fires up hundreds, thousands of systems inside of this car that allows the power steering, the breaks, the anti lock break system, the back up cameras or sensors, the seat warmers, the seat adjusters, the windows, the engine, the pistons firing, the air conditioning. All of that stuff is now at my command because I did, “Doop,” just one simple act. It was a high leverage act that allowed me to do hundreds, dozens of other things almost effortlessly, right?
The daily actions I’ve discovered they don’t need to be complex, they can be simple. They do need to be high leverage, they do need to be things that you do one thing and it creates results, and impact in lots of other areas of your life. You’ll see that as we go through these seven things. Now, I guess I could tell lots more stories but let’s just jump into it and let’s talk about what the first thing is, and the second thing we’ll go through them. This is going to be a three part series, and in this three part series I’ll tell a bunch of stories, we’ll have a lot of fun, but what we’ll do is we’ll break it down. I’m going to share with you two of the seven habits right now, and then when we come back for the second segment I’ll share two more with you, and then on the last one we’ll do three, then I’ll do a summary and we’ll kind of talk about some stuff, sound good?
All right so let’s get started. Now, the very first one, let me go back to that story when I was driving with my mission president, the leader over that area in the Netherlands. He and I were driving alone and we were talking, let me share with you one of the things he shared with me … I almost forgot to tell you this, let’s back up for just a minute. Where did I come up with this list? Is this just something I fabricated, is this something I made up? We’re going to go through these seven, I’m going to fill this in as we go. Where did we come up with the seven things? Where did I find this? Well let me tell you where I found it, here’s where I found it or discovered it.
Over the past couple of years I’ve had this really cool opportunity to visit with very, very successful people. I’ve done a bunch of interviews, and I’ve just talked with them about what they do everyday, and how they live their life, and I started piecing stuff together. More recently I reached out to a handful of some of the most successful people that I know and I asked them a very simple question. I said, “You and I both agree, I knew this because we talked about it. We both agree that success comes from doing basic small things every single day.” I talked about the slight edge, like Jeff Olson says, “You’ve got to do these simple things every … they’re easy to do, they’re easy not to do. You do them consistently it creates success.” The problem with slight edge that bothered me was that it’s kind of shallow on what to do, what are those slight edge kind of habits that really, really successful people do? I mean I got the idea that I should be doing them, but what are the things? Yeah he talks about some, but it’s kind of weak in that department. My opinion, sorry Jeff.
I wanted some more specifics, I wanted tangible tactical stuff. I sent a note out to these really successful people that I know and I asked them, “Hey what are some of the routine things you do every single day you feel like contributes to your success?” I got all of that data, I pieced it all together, I looked at patterns. It was amazing, it was like these guys were … it was like they had SWAT emails, “Oh hey, Josh was asking me this. This is what I’m going to tell him, why don’t you tell him the same thing?” It was amazing the overlap of the things. Now I didn’t say, “Share with me seven things,” I just said, “Share with me stuff.” As I looked at everything, compiled it, it naturally came out to be seven things. I guess the list could be ten, or twenty, or fifty but I actually am not sure. I think that there’s some magic to seven.
I’ve heard, I’ve read through psychological studies that the brain can focus on and have in your conscious thinking seven to ten things at any given time. I don’t know that research is different now, that was a few years ago that I read it. Oh my gosh, here we are, seven things that all overlap from these successful people, it was pretty cool. Now is this the end all be all list? Was my research scientific? Have I captured everything? I’m not sure that I did and I’m not sure that it is, but I do know when you see this you’ll be like, “Oh, wow. All of those really successful people do that?” Yes, they do, or they do some version of it, okay? I just think it merits our time, if you knew all of that stuff that these successful people are doing, don’t you think it merits at least our consideration to sit down and say, “Okay what did they do and can I replicate that in my life to get some of the results that they are getting?” I think the answer is yes, that’s why I’m doing this video, right?
Okay, so let’s go through the first one. Back to my story, I’m driving in the car, I’m in the northern part of the country in the Netherlands, we’re having this conversation. He’s sharing with me some of the things that he does on a consistent basis, and he turns to me and he says, “All right one of the most important things that you can do everyday is before you go to bed at night, before you go to bed make a list of the things that are most important for you to get done the next day. Don’t just look at the list as just a list of a bunch of things,” he said, “Make it a small list, and make it a list of high priority things. If you’ll do that every night before you go to bed, as you’re sleeping your subconscious will chew on that list and think about ways that you can do it better, or restructure the program. Then get up in the morning, look at the list, and as you begin on your work part of the day, just start on number one, “Choo,” and move forward.
Again, I was like, “Whoa, that’s an amazing thing.” As I emailed out all of these other successful people I found out, “Oh my gosh, here we are twenty years later after I was a young nineteen … or I guess more than twenty years. Anyway, a little over twenty years later and I’m hearing the same advice from super mega wealthy successful people.” Mark Ford told me, he’s like, “The most important fifteen minutes I spend everyday is going through my list.” He goes through that. That’s number one, what’s the very first habit here? The very first habit is daily task list in the evening. You can say night time or whatever, but before you go to bed at night have a little window, ten, fifteen minutes and all you do is you sit down and you have some place on your computer, on a notepad, on your smart phone, whatever. I don’t care whatever it is, there’s lots of different ways you can do it.
Oh by the way let me just say one other thing. My intent here is to give you the seven things, but not to go into enormous detail about how to do them. That’s not really the scope of this particular program, now I suppose I could put a whole one or two day seminar on all of these things and we could talk about the tactics, the very, very best tactics in this, but I’m just going to give these to you and then I’m going to hope that you spend some time thinking about the best ways to implement them in your life. I can share best practices later on as we go, but here it is. Every night before you go to bed sit down, make a list of things that are the most important to you. Now, i will talk about some elements in that list because number seven ties back into number one, and you will see some best practices here because they were repeated to me over and over again.
Does this sound complicated? Sit down and make a list of things. Now, here’s a simple best practice here. Number one is, and let’s just talk about this. Number one is review of your goals, and your mission, and your purpose, right? An interesting pattern again, all of them said they reviewed their list of things to do, they sat down and they said, “Okay where do I want to be going and what do I need to do to accomplish that?” It sounds so simple, it’s like checking a map on your direction. You’ve got to always be making course corrections but you have to remind yourself where you’re going. If you’re not reminded about where you’re going then it doesn’t matter exactly what you’re doing.
The second thing is they all reviewed results. It’s the evening time that day, what did they accomplish, what did they need to check off their list? Did it help them move forward, did they need to make course corrections, what is it that they’re doing? Okay? They reviewed the list, now the other thing that was interesting … or they reviewed results. The other thing that was interesting was almost to a T all of them said, “This list is small.” This list is small, which is amazing to me. Now I have been teaching for years this concept of your daily six, just have six main things that you focus on each day and try to get through that list. Some days you only get done with one or two, the small list, small is okay. I think a lot of us wear this badge of business, it’s like, “Oh I’m super busy,” and we sort of brag about it like, “Oh I’ve got this list of two thousand things to get done today.” You know what? Super successful people, they just don’t act that way, they don’t think that way, they don’t talk that way. They talk in terms of doing a few small things, that idea of high leverage that I talked about before.
The other thing they do is non urgent, non urgent. Non urgent stuff, so what comes up to the top of the list? Non urgent higher priority things, right? You know Steven Cubby, this is like right out of the book, non urgent top priority stuff, that’s what comes up to the top of the list, and that’s how it gets prioritized. Now the last one, and I think I already mentioned this before. At the end of this day they leave it open. What I mean by leave it open is wherever they’re doing it, if they’re working on their computer, or they’re writing it out in notes, whatever that work space is that they go back to the next day, the list is right there and available.
This is amazing, because I’m a super squirrel distraction kind of a guy, like, “Raaa, what was that?” Shiny object syndrome, and apparently all of these guys are too. They had to figure out how to shortcut themselves so that they get up in the morning, they sit down, and bam the things they need to be doing are right there so they don’t get distracted. That made me feel really good because I’m easy to get distracted, it was nice to see that they were too. Here’s just some best practices here, daily task list, review the things you’ve done before, review your purposes and your plans, make it a very, very short list, and focus on the things that are not urgent but are high priority, so not urgent but high priority. Then leave it open, have it accessible so that when you get up you can move right into your daily program.
That’s number one, that’s number one here. I think I’ve got a blue marker here, I do. Number one here, I’m just going to put evening task list. Evening task list, we get this done in the evening and that’s one of the daily habits. Super simple, you can do that, and you can make it small. I’m going to recommend six things, six things, okay? Non urgent, but priority. Okay now, the next one will go very quickly, this one’s very simple. This was universal, there were no, none, zero outliers on this second daily habit. Let me repeat this, no outliers, there were none. What is this thing? This thing is Benjamin Franklin’s old early to bed, early to rise makes the man healthy, wealthy, and wise, right? This was rise early, get out of bed early. How early? Most of them talked about getting out of bed at 4:00 AM, and going to bed between 8:00 and 9:00 PM.
That sounds crazy, you’re probably saying, “Well they don’t have jobs, they don’t have like all of this kind of stuff.” I understand that, I’m reporting to you what I said. For years I have been getting out of bed between 4:00 and 5:30, it depends on what time I get to sleep. We’ve been putting the children to bed for years, for years, and years, and years. Since the time they were very little, between 8:00 and 9:00. This wasn’t a surprise to me but what was amazing to me was there were zero outliers. I’ve got to tell you the truth, there were some outliers on the daily task list being done in the evening. Now most of them did it in the evening, all of them did the task list, but some did it in the evening, some focused in the morning on reviewing that, but most did it in the evening. I’m going to tell you to do it in the evening because advice I’ve been given. No outliers here, every single one of them to a T gets up early in the morning between 4:00 and 6:00 AM. Most of them go to bed early as well.
This is our first two simple daily habits. Is this simple? Yeah, this is super simple. Now again you might say, “Well I’m just a night owl.” You know what? Okay, you can choose to be a night … I’m going to talk really direct for just a second, and the reason is because there were no outliers on this, all of them to a T did this. Therefore I have to assume this is like a universal thing, so if you say, “Well, I’m just a night owl.” Then you have a choice to make, you can choose to be a night owl and try to be an outlier here, and be an exception to the rule. Or you can just choose to say, “Okay, I’m going to change.” By the way, you can change, we all can change, we all have the ability to start and to be different. You have the ability to change, my suggestion to you is decide that you won’t be an outlier and start figuring out how you can change, how do you do that? Just start waking up an extra fifteen minutes early and go to bed an extra fifteen minutes early every single night.
Do that for long enough, so fifteen minutes early, do it for a week or two until you get in the habit of it. Back it up fifteen minutes a week or two until you get in the habit of it. Within a month or two or three you’ll be able to wake up early and get to bed early. What about social things and family things? Hey, you know what? All of these guys are doing it so obviously they’re organizing their life and their circumstances in a way to make this viable and possible. If you really want to be successful you’ve got to do the things that create success. Benjamin Franklin was talking about this a couple hundred years ago, early to bed, early to rise makes the man healthy, wealthy, and wise. Apparently it’s still true today.
Okay, so that’s the first two. We’re going to stop right here, that’s our first segment. I’m going to be back with the second segment, we’re going to talk about the next two success things. Oh, I better write here, rise early. Rise early, okay? Simple, so far, super simple. I think you can do this, I think you can make a list every evening and I think that you can get up earlier every day. In fact, I don’t think, I know you can. What are the next two things? I’ll be back in the next segment, we’ll talk about them. Thanks for listening.