17 Most Powerful Ideas From 'The Excellence Habit'


17 Most Powerful Ideas From 'The Excellence Habit'

17 Most Powerful Ideas From

The Excellence Habit


1.     Most of us have two lives. The first one is the life we actually live; the second is the imagined life where we achieve all the success we dream about. Some build a bridge between these two lives.

2.     We all face outside barriers, misfortunes, and obstacles. Most of us also struggle with internal resistance, procrastination, and distractions. To conquer these, often all we need is a small idea and the courage and tenacity to see it through.

3.     One of the key sources of success is our ability to change. It is our ability to recognize when it matters and take active steps to adjust. This is how we succeed—no matter what we call success. We succeed by learning to use “uncomfortable” and live with it, not by avoiding it.


4.     The Excellence Habit is biography of an idea, and the idea is simple. The main source of success is excellence, and excellence depends more on our internal circumstances. Grit, determination, and the discipline to put in the hard work as a matter of habit, and not a matter of need, are crucial.

5.     As we’ve grown out of childhood we have automated our days and we have automated our ways. Our decision-making is guided, and, more often than not, misguided by habits, which are often based on biases. We build habits centered on irrational beliefs.

6.     We have evolved to make our brains happy. Ironically, for a fulfilling life we should accept the opposite. A fulfilling life requires embracing rather than running from difficulty.

7.     Success and excellence are often used as interchangeable synonyms, but they are not the same. There is an important distinction. Success is often defined and measured against a set of external goals. Excellence, on the other hand, is about our internal circumstances and how we use what we have to do our best.

8.     The notion of excellence is essentially the fulfillment of purpose or function: the act of living up to our full potential. For those practicing it faithfully, excellence is its own biggest reward.

9.     The Excellence Habit answers two simple, but important questions: Why do we so often need to compel ourselves to do the right thing, and find it hard to follow the path to a life we want? What can we do to deliberately start and build a fulfilling life?

10. We now officially live in the age of meritocracy. If you’ve got talent, energy, and skill, you will get to the top. If we truly believe in this, by implication the opposite must be true as well. Those who deserve to get to the bottom will get to the bottom and stay there. In other words, your position in life is merited and deserved. As a result, failure feels much more harsh, personal, and devastating. It is almost presumed to be deliberate.

11. We are in the driver’s seat of our lives, and, therefore, we own both success and failure. By accepting the idea that we could achieve anything, we have increased the pressure on ourselves to do so. Paradoxically, this makes it more difficult to reach our goals.

12. There is more than one way to achieve excellence.

13. The Iceberg Principle simply says that the majority of our efforts are invisible to the eye. An important aspect of this principle is that often the effort we make is meant to achieve other goals. We train for one field, and then it turns out this also prepares us for another.

14. When we discuss the power of context and its role in building our Excellence Habit, the assumption is that all context is external. However, there is another kind that really matters. This is our internal context. We tend to spend a lot of time thinking about and noticing our external circumstances, and pay little or no attention to our internal context. Our thoughts and our feelings often go on automatic.

15. Just as with our external circumstances, our internal state can have “broken windows.” From childhood trauma and bad experiences, to poor habits and wrong choices, we carry with us the luggage of our inner circumstances.

16. There is another class of inner context factors that are even more powerful in determining the kind of life we are going to have. These factors are our prevailing thoughts, beliefs, and values. This is what we tell ourselves on a daily basis, and what we tell ourselves in situations that matter.

17. The ability to accept ourselves for who we believe we are is one of those major mental context factors that have the power to shape our lives.

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Back, when I was going to journalism school, we had a class called Creativity. The professor in Creativity once told us: “You have the responsibility to become good journalists, despite your comprehensive education in journalism!” It took us a moment to process what he was saying. “Despite", not “because of”. In his unusual way he was waking us to the fact that we were the ones who need to do the learning and the doing. All the best classes in all the best schools cannot compensate for the lack of effort. And vice-versa. All the lack of great classes and schooling cannot stop one from fulfilling their authentic goals. Yes - authentic. I used the word as a disclaimer. 

Despite the power of our imagination, we need to let someone else be the fist man on Mars. Or the first woman to discover time-travel. Despite the vastness of the universe we need to focus. Have a singular vision. Despite the endless possibilities to dream up many and big scenarios for our life, we need to choose one. Why? I will use a quote from the introduction to The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury - “So as not to be dead!” And also because if we choose two or more - we will have to divide our time between these two or more. Despite maintaining a wide range of interests and hobbies, we need to choose a primary mission. An occupation, vocation, purpose, life’s goal. Call it what you will, but choose it. Then go after it. With all you’ve got. Despite how scary it may be.

How do we choose? By focusing on the one thing that makes us most alive. It is ok, to change it later. We will discover something else that makes us more alive. Our lives’ stories are going to evolve. Better be ready to evolve with them. Despite how we might feel today, someday we will be able to connect the dots. That’s why we need to keep going. We can’t leave dots behind if we stay in the same spot. There will be just one giant dot, and we will be in the middle of it. Nothing to connect to. 

It is a common practice - when we receive our college diploma, we take it as a license not to learn anymore. We have completed our education. School is out forever. It is a very official document giving us permission not to study anymore. So many stop learning. Despite your diploma your education is not over. It can only be over when you say it is over. Despite your diploma, you have a responsibility to keep learning. Despite your achievement, you have a responsibility to become really good at something.

This is what I tell myself too. Next Generation Indie Book Awards, which is like a Sundance Film Festival for the independent book industry, named The Excellence Habit 2016 winner in the Motivational category. Despite this award, I need to become a good writer. May be my next book will be titled Despite. Would you read it? What would you expect to learn from a book like that?


Everything Is Illuminated


Everything Is Illuminated

Fear of success is real. It is a kind of fear that is irrational and easy to dismiss. It almost sounds like a clever play of words, not a real thing. A nifty construct of an academic scholar, who is using it to justify his research. Many of us claim they don’t have fear of success. Some might be right. But I am feeling it right now. While I am scheduled to receive a book award next week, I still feel like it is not fully deserved. Like they made a mistake, or something went wrong. And I realized something about this fear. Success is change. Fear of success is just a flavor of the fear of change.

I enjoyed writing The Excellence Habit and promoting it. I love the fact that in less than 6 months more than 23,000 people have downloaded it, or bought the paperback. And I absolutely am thrilled that I have more than 40 5-star reviews. THANK YOU to all readers, followers and especially those 5-star reviewers – you are the best. Some readers would even send me a personal message telling me how much they enjoyed the book and that it changed their lives. This moves me. It feels fantastic. And scary.

I can’t explain it. Most likely I have automatic negative thoughts that are so well practiced that I don’t notice them anymore. A negative thinking habit. The opposite of the excellence habit. Some kind of inner darkness that creeps and promotes this fear. Is it perhaps change-fatigue? It could be. Writing the book was a long process. Nothing much changed while I was writing. I didn’t meet with a lot of people during that time. Most of the progress was between me and the white pages that needed my words. Now things are changing and sometimes way too fast. I just gave my first radio interview and I am scheduled for the book award next week.

So I have to remind myself – negative thinking is the disease. I need to change. I need to enjoy and reach out for more success, even if for the sake of paying the bills. In the words of Elizabeth Gilbert – the universe has hidden gems inside us and I perhaps have uncovered one of mine. This is my time and this is what I want. My book, my writing is meant to serve others, not me. It is meant to uplift and illuminate the path of others. And by doing that work, my inner darkness gets illuminated too. And hopefully as this happens, I’ll find more hidden gems and share them. I pray I get a chance to keep finding these gems. All the way – until everything is illuminated. And hopefully by then I would have built my own excellence habit and conquered my fear of success. 


Book Award for The Excellence Habit


Book Award for The Excellence Habit

Last week I got fabulous news. The Excellence Habit was named the Winner in the motivational category of the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. The rush, the kick, the buzz … all kind of emotions, and all from the same emotional family. THANK YOU to all the fans, the readers - you are the best.

Do I call this a success? Is it a result of excellence? How do I translate it into continued Excellence for my next book? Questions, questions. While I search for answers - I decided I'm attending the awards ceremony next month in Chicago. It will be during Book Expo America, so it’s like the Superbowl for book lovers and publishers. I’ll tweet about it and share anything interesting I see and learn. In the meantime - a few thought-provoking sentences that have been brewing recently.

Towards understanding of religion: God does not negotiate; You can only make a deal with the devil.

Towards understanding of social security reform: Politicians can statistically prove that after age 65 people only exist as a form of revenge to the social security system. 

Towards understanding of statistics: When you measure 3 elephants and 6 mice, the average animal weighs 2,985 lbs.

Towards understanding of politics: If a politician offers no promises, people will feel cheated.

Towards understanding of hope: All potential arguments about the toilet seat stop, as soon as we realize that there is no recorded instance of an egg-cell chasing a sperm-cell. 

Towards understanding of aging: We dream of staying eternally young and healthy, but being eternally old and healthy might work just as well.  

Towards understanding of social media: It is not enough to be modest; you have to let everybody know about it too.