How an underdog has an advantage.

As an underdog, it’s not likely we can win using conventional methods. If our competitors are already the best at what they do, we can either wait for them to move on, or find our own approach. Finding our own strength means going against what is expected and requires creative strategy. Many battles have been won by small armies (e.g. Trojan horse), new businesses have been revolutionary in a crowded market (e.g. Uber), and leading sports players have been outplayed by strategic underdogs (e.g. Michael Jordan). Often, finding our competitive edge relies on figuring out where our competition is weak, and then making that our strength. All giants have a weakness, it may be obvious or they may be hiding it well so will require some digging, but if we can find it and become strong in that area, it’s a huge advantage. In the case of Uber, the startup knew how frustrated customers were with unreliable taxi service, so made knowing where your ride is, and how long it will take to arrive, one of their key features.

Take action: Think of a winning goal you’d like to reach. What aspect of it do others not do well, and can you make that your strength? Perhaps you coach a kids’ softball team with average skills and you want them to win the championship this year. It’s not happening by traditional methods, so how else can you win? If you don’t have any home run hitters on the team, can you make your strength hitting consistent singles, advancing runners and scoring one run at a time?

Inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

Train our subconscious to reach our goals.

Auto-suggestion, self affirmation, and visualization are methods of tapping into our subconscious, and training it to be aligned with our goals, so that it can do some of the heavy-lifting for us. However, common methods to perform these actions, such as repeating what we want over and over, or writing it down, is only the start. The subconscious works with emotion, so we need to feel our goals, immerse our heart and soul in what it feels like to reach our goals, what we’ll do when we get there, and the path we’ll take to achieve it. This immersion needs to happen regularly, even daily, for us to truly have faith in it, to the point where our subconscious will take over and make it happen for us. External expressions of our plan will help our internal focus though, such as declaring our goal out loud to ourselves or a friend, and having a visualization board of what we want to achieve. We just need to be sure to connect with not just what it is, but also with how it feels, so that it can translate to our subconscious.

Take action: Start by knowing your goal specifically, and a path to reach it. For example, “I am going to make $100,000 by January 1st through selling consulting packages.” Then write it down, say it out loud, and visualize it in your head and make an image board of what it looks like. Then connect with how it feels, spend time with the emotion of it, and revisit this emotion every morning until your subconscious takes over.

Inspired by Napoleon Hill’s book, Think and Grow Rich

Persuade with emotion, connect with the “Why”.

If we tell someone what to do, they might blindly trust us and do it, but maybe only once. If we tell them how to do it, they are more likely to comply, and we might get what we’re looking for, for a little while. If we explain why we believe in the importance of the task, and connect with the person so that they believe it too, we could be amazed at what can happen. Life is easiest when we work with people who believe what we believe. That is, why we do what we do. We know connecting through emotion works. However, we so often forget about the person or people we need to connect with, and let our own perspective get the better of us. We ask for what we want and ignore why the other person would want to give it to us. In Simon Sinek’s TEDx Talk he explains how Martin Luther King inspired so many people by connecting to their emotions, with words like, “I believe…” and “I have a dream.” Not instructions of what to do such as, “I have a plan.”

Take action: Next time you’re presenting or asking for something and want people to follow your lead, focus on why it’s important for them. Tap into their needs instead of your own.

Inspired by Simon Sinek’s TEDx Talk: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

The right mentor can springboard our success.

We all know there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, someone already has much of the information we seek. The easiest way to access a mentor’s knowledge is through something they’ve produced, and many experienced people do share a great deal through books, articles, and videos. But it’s also wise to connect in person with someone who can answer our questions specifically and guide us in ways we can’t anticipate. We should look for someone who has at least 10 years experience on us in the area we want to learn. Research them to make sure we’re not going to waste time (ours or theirs). Be prepared with thoughtful questions, and then call or email them, let them know why you’ve sought them out in particular, and ask if they’d mind giving some advice. Remember that we’re building a relationship, which takes time and effort. Be prepared, don’t leave it on the mentor to do all the work, they are busy people and we’ll only get out of it what we put into it.

Take action: Think of three people who could be a good mentor for you; don’t be afraid to go big. Start researching them to know if they’d be a good fit, narrow it down to 1 or 2 so you’ll have time to focus on them. Prepare some questions, and reach out to them. If you’re not ready to connect yet, figure out when you will be, and mark your calendar to give yourself a deadline.

Inspired by Tai Lopez’s TEDx Talk, Why I Read a Book a Day

Be in control of your thoughts by designing how you think.

You’re the only person who can truly control your thoughts so it makes sense to put some planning into it. Want to think more positively? Or maybe you want to be more present in the moment? More decisive? Or how about a stronger appreciation for what you have? It’s important to first know what you want your thoughts to be and why, then you have a goal to focus on. Next, make a plan for how you’ll achieve it. For some, meditation will work, for others it will be a matter of consciously checking in with your thoughts at scheduled times of the day, or a small reward for when you find yourself thinking in line with your goal. You may need someone close to you to help monitor your actions, body language and words since those things are telling signs of what’s happening in your mind.

Take action: At various times through today, note what kind of personal thoughts you have, write them down and before you go to sleep, review what thoughts you like, and those you want to change. Then figure out what you want to change them to, and why.

Inspired by Carrie Green’s TEDx Talk, Programming Your Mind for Success

Thought starter (no pun intended): Share with us what new sorts of thoughts do you want to start thinking?

Do what you’re good at, the passion will follow.

The phrase “Do what you love, the money will follow” has sent many people chasing unrealistic dreams and feeling lost when they don’t come true. Maybe you love playing baseball, but there are very few of us who have the ability to actually turn that passion into a successful career. On the flip side, finding something that you are good at, and that you enjoy well enough, has a better chance of turning into something great. As you develop your ability and become more skillful, you are likely to enjoy it more and more, you may even become passionate about it.

Take action: Make a list of about 20 things that you are good at, such as analytical thinking, socializing, planning, or creating. Ask people who know you to help – they may see strengths in you that you under appreciate. Then circle the ones that you enjoy doing long term, as in you could happily do it daily, for years. Take what stands out and think about what project you could work on with these skills. Start small and grow your ability in that area, if your passion starts to follow, keep going. If you don’t like it, tweak it and try again, and again until you feel you’re on a good path.

Inspired by Cal Newport’s book: So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Thought starter: Are you doing what you love? Did you love it from the start?

Efficiency is not the same as effectiveness.

Finding efficiencies is important to enhance your productivity, but will only enhance your life if they are also effective. Getting a lot done is worthwhile if those things are in line with your goals, otherwise you may just be busy for reasons that are not very important. Before you put your energy into accomplishing a task, question what that task is for, and if it really needs to be done (done by you or done at all). So many people run around trying to get on top of everything they need to do, and it’s possible that many things they accomplish aren’t very important.

Take action: The next time you go through your emails, put thought into which ones align with your goals. Instead of reacting to everything in front of you and trying to get through it all as efficiently as possible, focus only on what will be effective for your future.

Inspired by Stephen Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Thought starter: Have you focused on being efficient and accomplished tasks, that in hindsight, aren’t very important? Where should you be putting your efforts instead?