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3 Tips for Accomplishing Anything

Photo by Flashback Tunisie
Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment. ~Thomas Carlyle

About a month ago, I finished knitting my first sweater. I’m so proud of it; I think I’ve worn it more often than anything else in my wardrobe since then. When I tell people I knit it, most people — even some of the knitters — say “Oh, there is no way I could do that.”

I used to feel this way too. About sweaters and novels and 14-mile hikes and much more. I think a lot of people, including myself, look at a big project that is seemingly over their heads and decide they will fail before they even begin.

But tackling something you think is huge isn’t about having loads of time to dedicate to it or even all sorts of ambition. It’s about stamina and persistence. Sure, you might only be moving an inch every day, but a year from now, you’ll be a lot farther ahead than if you never started at all.

In the past few years, I have worked on loads of different “big” projects. I’ve knit an afghan. I wrote a novel. I saved money for several big vacations. While they all have different outcomes, I looked at every one with similar attitude and approach.

3 Ways to Build Your Confidence

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A great figure or physique is nice, but it's self-confidence that makes someone really sexy. ~Vivica A. Fox

Confidence isn’t something you’re born with. And confidence isn’t something only a small portion of society is blessed with.

Nobody is blessed or born with self-confidence. I’m no exception. I had to earn my self-confidence the way I have to earn respect.

And that fact hasn’t changed. Confidence building is an ongoing task we all have to pursue in all areas of our lives.

It’s easy to look at people like Beyoncé, or whoever you believe radiates confidence, only to feel insecure and inadequate in comparison.

Beyoncé (as well as everybody else) had to build the confidence muscle and exercise it relentlessly to be as confident as she is.

4 Ways to Stop Procrastinating

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Procrastination is opportunity's assassin. ~Victor Kiam

After a nice walk on a Saturday, my friend told me she had some housework to do and was weighing her options.

“I really don’t want to do it now, but if I wait until Sunday night, it’ll put a damper on my whole weekend. It’s like I won’t really enjoy anything until it’s done.”

Boy, could I relate. I had been the world’s worst procrastinator in high school, somehow managing to pull off amazing feats of academic strength with all-nighters, but that all changed after an incident in college.

I stayed up late into the night finishing a paper and had to drive to class to hand it in. (Oh the days when professors wouldn’t accept email files!) On my way back, I was exiting off the freeway and a cyclist ran a red light in front of me. I was so exhausted I didn’t notice him right away.

3 Ways to Know What You Want

Photo by Kurt Budiarto
If you don't know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else. ~Lawrence J. Peter

I was riding in a taxi cab with a few coworkers years ago after a long day working a convention when I said something I thought was basic knowledge.

“You’ve got to know what you want in life,” I said matter-of-factly. “I think the reason so many people are unhappy is because they’re busy chasing things they don’t even want.”

One of my coworkers laughed and called me a guru. I took the compliment. But she also said this:

“If that’s our problem, then fixing it should be easy, right? We just need to figure out what we want.”

In saying that, she’s sent me on a bit of a quest these past years. How do I know what I want? How can I help other people figure it out too?

How to Succeed Through Acceptance

Photo by Antoine Robiez
Of course there is no formula for success except, perhaps, an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings. ~Arthur Rubinstein

I’ve spent a great deal of my life trying to figure out what I should do next, determining where I stand in relation to those around me, creating a harsh comparison between where I am and where I should be.

In these moments of contemplation, I’ve always found a way to diminish the beauty of where I stand today. What is out there always seems a little brighter, a little more impressive than what already surrounds me.

And this way of thinking and interacting with the world plants the belief that action is king — action is the only way to change and change is the only way from point A to point B.

But what if you’re supposed to stay at point A for a little while?

How to Be More Confident

Photo by Lauren Hammond
When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things. ~Joe Namath

I was so far outside of my comfort zone it was hard to believe I even had one. I thought just turning up to my first Toastmasters International meeting was the hard bit.

I was wrong. I realized all of the things I had read about being confident and fun around new people was about to be put to the test …

I used to wish I could stroll into a new social situation and feel completely comfortable. I wanted to be able to talk with new people, share my ideas and opinions with an open heart. I wanted my new acquaintances to love my openness, and I wanted to admire them for adding to the momentum of the conversation.

I longed for the day every new interaction would begin like this, and everyone in the room would be drawn to my humor, confidence and insight like magnets. I wanted to leave these new situations filled with excitement because I shared myself openly; I remained true to myself and, most importantly, had fun.

Want to Succeed? Let Go

Photo by Cyril Lookin
By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond the winning. ~Lao Tsu

When I joined my college improv comedy troupe during my freshman year at UPenn, I wasn’t the only newly inducted member in the group. Another guy named Pete came on board with me.

Pete and I were total opposites. Right before a show I was a ball of nervous energy, while Pete was super cool and relaxed.

I worked hard in practice, memorizing the rules of each game and studying what worked and what didn’t, while Pete — always on cruise control — seemed to just wander into practice and wing it.

I didn’t like Pete at first. I didn’t think he was a good performer and didn’t trust him in scenes. He would say something totally random that no one else was prepared for, and the scene would suddenly turn in a completely different direction.

There was just one thing though — Pete was funny. Real funny.

Stop Limiting Yourself & Start Living

Photo by Tyello
The limits of the possible can only be defined by going beyond them into the impossible. ~Arthur C. Clarke

It’s said that there’s a common, first-year art major exercise where the teacher divides students into two groups and gives each group a different assignment.

The first group must study how to throw a perfect pot on a potter’s wheel and spend one week perfecting the process so as to get the proportions just right.

They are to create one pot and refine as they go, in pursuit of creating one perfect final work. In essence, they are to create systemically, according to a system or plan.

The second group’s assignment is to simply throw a lot of clay on the potter’s wheel, making multitudes upon multitudes of pots.

At the end of the week they are to choose which one is best, of the many they have created. In essence, they are to create “prolifically,” or in abundance.

At the end of the week, the art teacher assesses their work. Guess which group tends to turn out better work?

The group that creates prolifically. Guess which group has more fun?

The group that creates prolifically.

4 Questions to Help You Find Your Passion

Photo by Daran Kandasamy
It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live. ~Mae Jemison

I woke up earlier than usual and stayed in bed with the sheet pulled up to my chest thinking. How is it that I’ve come to live someone else’s life? The apartment was quiet. Early mornings were the perfect time to think.

As a child, I knew exactly what I wanted to be. I wanted to take pictures of nature and write magical stories. As an adult, those dreams became distant.

I listened to the cacophony of voices around me, and they all knew what I should want. They all knew what I needed to do: go to college, get a stable job, get married, buy a house, have children, work hard until retirement …

I’d listened to everyone else and tried to contort myself to fit into a mold that just wasn’t right for me, leaving a string of abandoned jobs in my wake, each less suited for me than the last. The only joy I found in the nine-to-five grind was handing in my resignation notice.

5 Ways to Fail Successfully

Photo by Robert Bejil
If you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something … Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, do it. Make your mistakes next year and forever. ~Neil Gaiman

There’s a story about a ceramics teacher who, at the beginning of the quarter, divided his class up into two groups. The first group was told that their grade would be based solely on the quantity of their work and the second group, on quality.

At the end of the quarter, contrary to what one would think, it was the first group that received the higher marks. Why? Because every day they churned out pot after pot, trying out new things and quickly learning from their mistakes.

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