7 Uncomfortable Things That Will Make You More Successful

Brace yourself. It’s about to get awkward. To quote W.E.B. Dubois, “Make yourself do unpleasant things, so as to gain the upper hand of your soul.”

1) Learning to Take a Compliment

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You work exceedingly hard. You’ve honed your skills. You know when you’ve done great work and take a quiet pride in it. And yet, the moment someone verbalizes it in the form of a compliment you can’t seem to string two words together. Instead, you revert into one of the following:

  • The babbling-response.
  • The self-deprecating response.
  • The total and complete blackout.

You need to quit doing that. Here’s how to take a compliment:

  • Realize that someone is paying you a compliment.
  • Let them finish.
  • Seriously, let them finish.
  • Take a breath.
  • Smile and say “Thank you. That’s really good to hear.”

Move on in the conversation. Don’t over-explain. Don’t undercut yourself. Just thank them sincerely and move on with a question about how they’re doing.

One way to turn that discomfort on its head is to realize that the compliment has more to do with the person giving it than with you. When someone is complimenting you, they are not asking if you agree.  So don’t rob them of that moment.

2) Waking Up Early

It’s exhausting, this modern life. While it may seem like you should squeeze as many extra minutes of sleep out of the morning as possible, the opposite is usually true. Your energy, focus and mental capacity are at their highest during the morning hours and proceed to wane throughout the rest of the day.

Take advantage of that time before breakfast when the chaos of the day has yet to set in. For most people, waking up early is a learned practice.

Putting your alarm clock right next to your pillow is bound to result in you hitting snooze from a dazed state. You can’t be expected to make smart choices while you’re still dreaming. In addition, waking up early needs to become a pleasant experience. So if the thought of going straight from your warm bed to a shower or treadmill seems abrupt, then don’t do it. Instead, move from your bed to the cozy corner chair in your living room and read for a bit with a mug of coffee. What you do early on doesn’t matter, what matters is that you use the time in productive ways.

3) Taking Critical Feedback

This one stings sometimes, but it’s important. Learning to hear criticism without turning your back to it can be one of the most fortifying achievements of your career.

Sometimes, even with the best intentions, taking feedback well can be a struggle. Your impulse will be to protect yourself; to get defensive, or stop listening. So, be conscious of it. Much like accepting a compliment, take a breath when you realize critical feedback is coming your way. Listen to it all without interruption. Write down what you can. Then, ask questions to make sure you’re interpreting it right.

4) Exercising

I keep waiting for the study that says that exercise isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s fair to say that study isn’t coming. Not only is exercise good for your physical health, the ties between exercise and mental capacity are becoming undeniable. If you like working out, skip right ahead.  If you don’t, here are the only things I’ve found to work.

Find your reason. Maybe you want to lose weight. Maybe it helps you think more clearly. Maybe you have high blood pressure. The reasons don’t matter.  Just find the one that feels authentic for you and use it.

Make the time. Treat exercise like you treat brushing your teeth. It’s just something you do; a non-negotiable daily ritual.

Find the exercise format that you hate least. If a crowded gym makes you uncomfortable, then work out at home or outside on your own. At the very least, walk!

5) Unplugging

I love the internet. And smartphones? They’re like personal escape hatches that you carry with you all the time. But maybe “all the time” is not such a good idea.

According to a TIME poll of more than 5,000 people, 84% of respondents said that they could not go a single day without their cell phones, and 20% said they check them once or more every 20 minutes. 71 percent said they usually sleep with or next to their mobile phone — and 3 percent of those people said they sleep with their device in their hand, 13 percent said they keep it on the bed and 55 percent leave it on the nightstand.

It’s not the frequency of usage that’s the problem; it’s what that level of usage does to our focus. Using our smartphones at night can make it a lot harder to sleep. When we use our smartphones nonstop it can be harder to think clearly.

So, here’s an experiment. For two weeks, set aside some screen free time blocks in your day. During that time fight the urge to open your laptop, watch TV, or glance at your phone. Sustain it for 60 minutes or more and see if you’ve gained better focus at the conclusion of the experiment. Then, go find some cat videos on YouTube to celebrate.

6) Networking and Making Small Talk

Everyone has a small-talk formula. Some people start with the weather (nice, mild winter we’re having, huh?), while others ask how things are going with you at work. But here’s the trick to mastering small talk: Get fascinated by it and the person wielding it.

If someone asks you how work is, don’t say “fine” — or worse, “busy.” Tell them it’s good and follow up with a question to them. You can use their answer to ask another question. Use each question as a spring board to the next one. Eventually, you’ll hit on something substantial. Then, you can have a real conversation.

7) Admitting You Don’t Understand Something

This is a pet peeve of mine.  People not doing something because they don’t understand it and don’t ask for help. If this is you, please bite the bullet and ask for help.

However, I believe that many people use not understanding as an excuse not to do the work.  It helps them rationalize their own laziness. Don’t do that! I know that it might be hard to ask for help when you don’t understand something.  Maybe because you think that it’s silly and something you should know.  But, don’t let your ego get in the way. Ask!

I got a new camera recently.  I plugged in the power adapter to charge the battery.  A couple of days later, I couldn’t figure out how to remove the power jack.  It was locked in.  I went to the manual, but all they said was to remove when the batter was charged.  Not how to remove it.  So, I called technical support.  You have to pull up on the collar of the jack to remove it.  The information they gave was incomplete.  It didn’t account for people like me who just didn’t get it.

See, sometimes the info given you is incomplete. It’s not your fault.  So, ASK! Believe me, no one wants to help you more than me.  I want you to be successful.  So, ASK!

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