What is the mindset of high achievers? originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question.
Answer by Nicolas Cole, writer, fitness model, and entrepreneur, on Quora:
I'm a very high achiever. I know this. I am obsessive, I am overly ambitious, and I am definitely out of balance at times (something I'm working on), but that's just how I operate. The rules I live by are strict, but that's because they have to be. As a result, a I'm criticized a lot by people who aren't "high achievers." But that comes with the territory. And as a result, I achieve what I set out to achieve.
Here is my mindset:
1) My time is gold.
Time is the only thing I have. Time is what creates my writing. Time is what makes me money. Time is what allows me to eat, sleep, read, and learn. Time is my most precious resource.
When deciding where to invest my time, I am extremely greedy. I have to be. I give my close, close friends the time they deserve because I value our relationship. Casual friends and acquaintances I give extra time I have to, when I can. Anyone else, I weigh the investment versus the return and go from there. It might not be "normal", but it's required to reach the levels of success I know I want for myself.
2) I set goals and I reach them.
When I set a goal, I put a date to it. I tell myself when I'm going to have it done by. If I don't have it done by then, I'd better have a good reason for not doing it. If I don't have a good reason, I set another date and push myself harder to reach it. I do the same thing even if I had a good reason in the first place.
The difference between those who "achieve" and those who don't is the follow through. It's the ability to set a goal and walk through the finish line.
3) I see every decision as crucial.
Every decision I make has an effect. What time I go to bed, how much time I spend reading or writing, how much time I spend with my friends, etc. Everything I do, every choice I make, I ask myself whether or not it is moving me closer to my goal. Will this burger make me feel sick and will I waste an hour feeling groggy later? Yes? Ok, I don't eat it. Will me going out late tonight keep me from waking up early to write? Ok, I don't go out. Every single decision has to, in some way, be contributing to my growth. Am I perfect? Am I 100% consistent? No. But I'd say I'm somewhere around 80-90%. And that percentage over a long period of time is insanely, profoundly, immeasurably valuable.
4) I learn something from everyone.
Every single person I meet, I try to learn something from. Whether it's a CEO of a major company or a random person next to me on the train, I believe we all cross paths for a reason and there is a lesson everywhere you turn. By seeing life this way you are always open to the process. Every moment is an opportunity to grow. And the more moments you string together, the faster you learn, the more you grow, and better you become at everything you do.
5) I invest in skills, not in rewards.
I can play classical piano. I can beatbox. I can write stories. I can sing. I can produce music. I can rap. I can write songs. I can take pretty good pictures. I can lift weights with top athletes. I can cook. I can do a lot of things. I don't say this to brag, I say this to point out the fact that I am not a prodigy, I am not a genius, I am not any more gifted than you. The only difference is that instead of spending my Friday nights going to clubs and getting drunk, my Saturday nights hanging out at bars, my Sundays at brunch sipping mimosas, instead of being super social and Mr. On-the-Town, I work. I work really hard. And to me it's not even work, it's fun. I'd rather learn a new skill than get drunk. I'd rather socialize with people who I can learn from rather than having the same repetitive conversations with inebriated acquaintances. And it's sad how this mentality is seen as "above" other people. That's just part of the gig. People don't like it when you get good at stuff. People want you to be lazy like them. Screw that.
6) I surround myself with like-minded people.
There are people out there who live life like me. There are people who want to learn more than they want to get rich. There are people who want to build something of their own more than they want to climb their way up the corporate ladder. There are people out there like you, you just have to find them. And once you do find them, become friends and help each other. Once a week I meet up with a few entrepreneurs I know and we exchange ideas, set new goals, and hold each other accountable. Once a week I also meet up with an artist group from my college and we help each other stay grounded, meditate, and share our art. These sorts of groups of peers are beyond valuable. They will help you remember what you're working toward.
7) I read. A lot.
I read #ABookAWeek, minimum. On my website, I share which book I read last week and allow people to sign up for my weekly newsletter: www.nicolascole.com/blog.
I know you can learn without reading. I know that experience is immensely valuable. But if you're not reading you're not learning fast enough, and that's just the truth of it. When someone asks me what I'm reading, I say, "What genre?" I alternate between self-development "How To" books, timeless fiction literature, books on spirituality and meditation, books on creative process, nonfiction memoirs, and books on marketing and advertising.
Pick up a book. Now.
8) I know the value of a mentor.
I write about mentorship a lot because I believe it is the single most effective way to learn, period.
When I find a mentor, I give them everything. I throw everything I think I know out the window and I allow myself to be completely open to what they have to teach. I work harder than they expect me to work. I ask a million questions. I spend as much time around them as possible because I know how rare and valuable a mentor can be.
Since I was 15 years old, I've had some sort of mentor in my life. To show you how crucial mentors are, here's what happened:
15-18: Gaming Mentor. I sought out and played with one of the best World of Warcraft players I could find. As a result, we became best friends and I went on to become one of the highest ranked World of Warcraft players in North America.
19-22: Lifting Mentor: I became friends with a powerlifter at my gym. He took me under his wing and taught me everything. We became great friends (still friends today) and he helped me gain 40lbs of muscle and lift more weight than I ever thought was possible for a once-skinny kid like me.
23-Present: My current mentor is also my boss--a successful entrepreneur and marketing master. He hasn't just taught me about business, he's taught me how to be my own man. He's taught me how to carry myself, how to dress, how to handle clients, how to pitch clients, how to explain my creative ideas, how to stand up for what I believe in, and how to be willing to pursue ideas that other people would call "impossible."
9) I care about what I create.
This might be the most important differentiating factor in being a high achiever: I care. I care a lot. I care what I create, I care about the difference I make, I care about helping people, I can about helping others learn. I care, and as a result, I take things personally. I care if someone doesn't like what I make. I care about what people think. I do. It doesn't deter me from what I want to do, but I do care. And because I care, I put my everything into what it is I do.
People that don't care go nowhere. And do you know why most people don't care? Because it's hard. It leaves you vulnerable. It is a chink in the armor where people can point and aim and say, "Hah, you care." Especially as a man, we're told not to care. And a lot of people don't care out of fear that what they do care about will make them look naive. What if other people don't care about what you care about? How weird will you look then?
If you want to achieve, if you want to become successful--use whatever words you want--if you want to reach something that is slightly out of your grasp, you have to care. You have to care a lot. You have to allow yourself to feel all those emotions: excitement, fear, ambition, vulnerability. And you have to use what you feel to propel you to create, create, create.