High Performance Habits: #6 Demonstrate Courage 1 (part 15 of 22)



Many Kinds of Courage

It’s useful to have a look at the different kinds of courage so we can think through them.

  • There’s physical courage, when you put yourself in harm’s way to meet a noble goal.
  • Moral courage is speaking up for others or enduring hardship for what you believe is right, to serve the greater good.
  • Psychological courage is the act of facing or overcoming your own anxieties, insecurities, and mental fears.
  • Everyday courage could mean keeping a positive attitude or taking action despite great uncertainty, bad health, or hardship

While none of these types of courage are definitive or mutually exclusive, the terms are useful in conceptualizing courage.

The important thing is that you define what being more courageous means to you, and start living that way. … You are capable of remarkable things that you could never foretell and will ever discover without taking action.

If your future best self – a version of you ten years older, who is even stronger, more capable, and more successful than you imagined yourself to be – showed up on your doorstep today and looked at your current circumstances, what courageous action would that future self advise you to take right away to change your life? How would your future self tell you to live?


Practice One: Honor the Struggle

If we’re ever going to develop the strength that courage requires, we’ll have to get better at dealing with life’s basic challenges. We’ll ave to stop getting so annoyed and start seeing the struggle as part of growing our character. We must learn to honor the struggle.

We’re surrounded by memes and media an influencers telling us we’re not supposed to struggle, that life should just be an easy flow or we’re on the wrong track. Imagine what that’s doing to our abilities. Imagine what that is doing to our odds of ever taking courageous action.

If we keep telling people to do what’s easy, why would they ever think to do what’s hard? 

The good news is, I think people worldwide are discovering that all these quick fixes, hacks, and silver bullets aren’t enough. People are beginning to remember something they knew already: To achieve excellence requires hard work, discipline, routines that can become boring, the continual frustrations that accompany learning, adversities that test every measure of our heart and soul, and, above all, courage. i hop the research in this book has helped you discover a bigger picture: that high performance requires real intention and the mastering of complex habits.  The practices here are doable, but they will still require focus, struggle, and faithful diligence over the long haul.

When we learn to see struggle as necessary, important, and positive part of our journey, then we can find true peace and personal power. 

The alternative, of course, is crippling. Those who hate the struggle, or fear it, end up complaining, losing motivation, and quitting.

If you are unwilling to anticipate or endure the inevitable struggle, mistakes, messes, and difficulties of life, then it’s a rough road. Without courage, you’ll feel less confident, happy, and successful. The data confirms it.

The two human stories

There are only two narratives in the human story: struggle and progress. And you can’t have the latter without the former. … We accept that struggle will either destroy us or develop us, and the hardest of human truths is that, ultimately, it’s our choice. No matter how difficult it gets, the next step is still your choice. For that, let’s be thankful.

The struggle I’m now facing is necessary, and it’s summoning me to show up, be strong, and use it to forge a better future for myself and my loved ones.

I’ll end this section with [a saying] that my students find helpful. I learned [it] from working with members of the US Army Special Forces. They told me about a common maxim they use to help people realize they must deal with the hardships of service: Embrace the suck. Sometimes, doing your duty sucks. Training sucks. Patrol sucks. The weather sucks. Circumstances suck. But you can’t just avoid them or be bitter. You have to deal with it, face it, and will yourself to persevere and rise. You have to embrace the suck. If there’s one thing I respect most about he military, it’s how little complaining there is. Complaining isn’t respected or perpetuated. That inspires me. In any area of your life, if you have the opportunity and blessing to serve, you don’t complain about the effort involved.


  1. A struggle I’ve been facing in my life is …
  2. The way I could change my view of this struggle is …
  3. If something great could come from this struggle, it would be …
  4. The way I choose to greet life’s inevitable hardships from today forward is …

High Performance Habits: #5 Develop Influence 2 (part 14 of 22)

Practice Two: Challenge People to Grow

High performers challenge the people around them to rise to higher levels of performance themselves. If you could follow them around as they lead their lives, you would see that they consistently challenge others to raise the bar. They push people to get better, and they don’t apologize for it.

This is perhaps the most difficult practice in this entire book to implement. People are afraid to challenge others. It sounds confrontational. It sounds as though it might make people push back, feel inadequate, or ask, “Who the hell do you think you are?”

But this isn’t about confrontation. It’s about issuing subtle or direct positively framed challenges to motivate others to excel.

As with any communication strategy, intent and tone really matter. If your intent is to diminish others, then your challenges will likely influence people in negative ways. Look for a similar result if you sound condescending. But if your intentions are clearly to help someone grow and become better, and you speak to them with respect and honor, then your challenges will inspire better action.


Influencers challenge others in three realms. First, they challenge their character. This means they give people feedback, direction, and high expectations for living up to the universal values such as honesty, integrity, responsibility, self-control, patience, hard work and persistence.

Challenging someone’s character may sound confrontational, but in practice it’s a supportive, helpful gift. I’ll bet someone influential in your life once told you, “You could do better,” or “You’re a better person than that,” or “I expected more from you.” These were standard setting statements that challenged your character. You may not have liked hearing them, but I’ll bet they got your attention and go you to rethink your actions.

Of course, challenging someone to develop more character can happen in subtler ways, through indirect challenge. Asking someone, “How would your best self approach this situation?” challenges that person to be more intentional in how they behave. Other indirect challenges might sound something like:

  • “Looking back, do you feel you gave it your all?”
  • “Are you bringing the beset of you to this situation?”
  • “What values were you trying to embody when you did that?”

For leaders, I suggest the direct approach of asking people to think of how they can challenge themselves in future scenarios. Ask, “What kind of person do you want to be remembered as? What would life look like if you gave your all? Where are you making excuses, and how might life turn out differently if you showed up stronger?”


The second area where you can challenge others concerns their connections  with others – their relationships. You set expectations, ask questions, give examples, or directly ask them to improve how they treat and add value to other people.

What you wouldn’t condone is poor social behavior. High performing leaders call out anyone who is being inappropriate, rude, or dismissive of someone else on their team. … The just don’t let bad behavior slide.

What’s important to note here is that high performers are explicit in their expectations for how people should treat each other. Im’m always surprised at how direct they are in telling people, over and over, how to treat one another. Even when people around them are treating one another well, they still keep pushing for them to unite even more.

If you’ve observed a high performing leader in a team meeting, you’ve probably noticed how often they suggest how the team should be working together. They say things like:

  • “Listen to one another more.”
  • “Show each other more respect.”
  • “Support each other more.”
  • “Spend more time with each other.”
  • “Give each other more feedback.”

The word more seems omnipresent when they are challenging others.


The third area where you can challenge others in in their contributions. You push them to add more value or to be more generous.

This is perhaps one of the more difficult challenges that high performers issue. It’s hard to tell someone, “Hey, your contributions here at work aren’t enough. You can do better.” But high performers don’t shrink from saying this kind of thing.

When high performers issue challenges to contribute more, usually they are not giving feedback sole on the quality of what you’re delivering now. Rather, they challenge you to contribute more looking ahead – to create or innovate so that you make the future better.

In almost every in-depth interview I’ve done, it’s clear that high performers are future oriented when challenging people to make better widgets today; they challenge them to reinvent the product suite, to brainstorm entirely new business models, to find adjacent markets to go after, to push into unknown territory, to add new value.

Though I initially thought that high performers were doing this on large scale, telling their entire team to crate a bigger future, I was wrong. Instead, high performers challenge individuals specifically. They go desk to desk and challenge each person on their team.

They adjust the level of challenge they issue to each person they are leading. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to pushing people to contribute. That’s how you know you’re working with a high performing leader: They’ll meet you where you are, speak your language, ask you to help move the entire team toward a better future, in our own unique way.


Think about a person in your life you are trying to influence positively, and complete the following sentences:


  1. There person aI am trying to influence has the the following character strengths …
  2. She could become a strong person if she …
  3. She is probably too hard on herself in this area …
  4. If I could tell her how to improve who she is, I would tell her …
  5. If I could inspire her to want to be a better person, I’d probably say something like …


  1. The way I want this person to interact differently with others is to …
  2. Often, this person doesn’t connect as well with others as I would like, because he …
  3. What would inspire this person to treat other people better is to …


  1. The greatest contribution this person is making is …
  2. The areas where this person isn’t contributing well enough are …
  3. What I really want this person to contribute more of is …


Practice Three: Role Model the Way

High performers give a lot of mindshare to thinking about being a role model. Seventy-one percent say they think about it daily. They say they want to be a good role model for their family, the team, and the greater community.

Of course, everyone would say they want to be a role model. Who doesn’t, right? But what I’ve found with high performers is that they think about it much more often and specifically in relation to how they are seeking to influence others. Meaning they aren’t just seeking to be a good person in general, as you would typically think of a role model – someone who is kind, honest, hardworking, giving, loving. They go a step further and think about how to act so that others might follow them or them them achieve a specific outcome. It’s less “I’m trying to be Mother Teresa” and more “I’m going to demonstrate a specific behavior so that others will emulate that exact behavior, which will help us move toward a specific result.”

There’s just something magical that happens in our life when we let all the drama go and decide to ask how we can be role models again.


  1. If I were going to approach my relationships and career as an even better role model, the first things I would start doing are …
  2. Someone who really needs me to lead and be a strong role model right now is …
  3. Some ideas on how I can be a role model for that person are …
  4. If, ten years from now, the five closest people to me in my life were to describe me as a role model, I would hope they say things like …

High Performance Habits: #5 Develop Influence 1 (part 13 of 22)



Influence Basics

Most of the other high performance habits are under your direct personal control. You choose to seek clarity. The level of energy you feel is largely under your command. How prolific you are with productive output is up to you. But what about influence?

To keep a broad perspective on this topic, at least for the next several pages, let’s define “having influence” as the ability to shape other people’s beliefs and behaviors as you desire. It means you can get people to believe in you or your ideas, buy from you, follow you, or take actions that you request of them.

Ask (No, Really, Just Ask)

One reason people struggle to gain influence in their personal and professional lives is that they simply don’t ask for what they want. This is, in part, because people drastically underestimate the willingness of others to engage and help.

You can’t possibly know whether you have influence with your coworkers unless you ask them to do something. The same goes for your spouse, neighbors, or boss. … Underperformers fail to ask all the time. They let fear of judgement or rejection prevent them from speaking up, asking for help, trying to lead. And the sad thing is, they’re usually wrong.

Finally, when you do ask for what you want in life, don’t just ask once and quit. Research shows that influencers understand the power of repetition, so they try multiple times to get their ideas in front of those they hope to influence. The more you ask and share your ideas, the more people become familiar and comfortable with your requests, and the more they start to like the idea.

Asking isn’t just about making requests to get what you want. If you seek greater influence with other people, learn to ask them a tremendous number of questions that elicit what they think, feel, want, need, and aspire to. Great leaders ask lot of questions. Remember, people support what they create. When people get to contribute ideas, they have mental skin in the game. They want to back the ideas they helped shape. They feel that they’re part of the process, not a cog or some faceless minion. It’s universally agreed that leaders who ask questions and get those around them to brainstorm the path ahead are more effective than “dictator” leaders who just push their demands and requests on others.

This same principle works in your intimate relationship, your parenting style, your community involvement. Ask people what they want, how they’d like to work together, and what outcomes they care about. Suddenly, you’ll start seeing more engagement, and you’ll have more influence.

If you want more influence, remember: Ask and ask often.

Give and You Shall Receive

In all the asking, don’t forget to give. In just about any area of endeavor, giving to others with no expectation of return increases your overall success. And, of course, it increases the likelihood that you’ll get what you want. Researchers have long known that often you can double your ability to influence others by giving before you ask for something.

High performers have a giving mindset. They enter almost every situation looking for ways to help others. They carefully consider the problems people face, and offer suggestions, resources, and connections. They don’t have to be prodded to do this. They’re proactive in seeking give something to others, whether in meetings at work or while visiting in someone’s home.

In organizational settings, often the greatest thing you can give to others is trust, autonomy, and decision-making authority. Researchers call this giving someone “authorship,” meaning they get to choose what to work on or how to get things done.

Be a Champion of People

Since so many people feel ostracized, unappreciated, or undervalued, when you show up and give genuine praise, respect, and appreciation, you stand out. Be grateful for people. Just by offering gratitude, you can more than double the likelihood that those receiving your appreciation will help you again in the future. Give thanks in meetings; write thank-you notes; spend more time noticing positive actions by your people. If you’re the one who appreciates people the most, you’re the most appreciated.

Appreciating people is one step. The next is to become their champion. Find out what your people are passionate about, and cheer on their good ideas. Be excited for people when they do a good job, and publicly praise them. The ultimate measure of whether you really support someone is to trust them, give them the autonomy to make important decisions, and praise them in public when they do well. That’s how people know they are  truly cheered on.

Perhaps all this sounds too basic, but every leader I’ve ever worked with has acknowledged they needed to do a better job of expressing appreciation and giving people more trust, autonomy, and praise. In fact, I’ve never met anyone, myself included, who couldn’t do a better job in these areas. And that’s why I know that anyone, including you, can gain greater influence.

These ideas are the low-hanging fruit of gaining influence. Now we’ll focus on the more advanced strategies. … To gain influence with others, (1) teach them how to think about themselves, others, and the world; (2) challenge them to develop their character, connections, and contributions; and (3) role model the values you wish to see them embody.


Practice One: Teach People How to Think

When I work with leaders, I’m consistently telling them they should always communicate how their people should be thinking about themselves as individual contributors, about their competitors, and about the overall marketplace. I mean that literally – in every email to the full team, in every all-hands meeting, in every investor call, in every media appearance. In the all-hands meeting: “This is how we should be thinking about ourselves if we’re going to win. If we’re going to compete, this is how we should be thinking about our competitors. If we’re going to change the world, this is how we should be thinking about the world and the future.”

Take a few moments now and think of someone you want to influence. How can you shape their thinking? Begin by identifying how you want to influence them. What do you want them to do? Then know your responses to these questions before you meet with that person:

  • How do you want them to think about themselves?
  • How do you want them to think about other people?
  • How do you want them to think about the world at large?

Remember, there are three things you want your people thinking about: themselves, other people, and the greater world (meaning, how the world works, what it needs, where it’s headed, and how certain actions might affect it).


  1. Someone in my life I would like to influence more is …
  2. The way I would like to influence them is …
  3. If I could tell them how they should think of themselves, I would say …
  4. If I could tell the how they should think of other people, I would say …
  5. If I could tell them how they should think of the world in general, I would say …

High Performance Habits: #4 Increase Productivity 3 (part 12 of 22)

Practice Three: Get Insanely Good At Key Skills

To become more productive, become more competent. You have to master the primary skills needed to win in your primary fields of interest.

When we say “skill,” we often mean a broad range of knowledge and capabilities that allow you to perform adequately in any given area. General skills might include communication, problem solving, systems thinking, project management, teamwork, and conflict management. There are also specific skills for any given task or company, such as coding, video production, finance, and computational skills. And, of course, there are personal skills such as self-control, resilience, and other forms of emotional intelligence.

My goal here is for you to determine the five major skills you need to develop over the next three years to grow int the person you hope to become.

One principle lies at the heart of this effort: Everything is trainable. No matter what skill you want to learn, with enough training and practice and intention, you can become more proficient at it. If you don’t believe this, your journey to high performance stops here. Perhaps the three best findings of contemporary research tell us that you can get better at practically anything if you keep a growth mindset (the belief that you can improve with effort), focus on your goals with passion and perseverance, and practice with excellence.

The concept of progressive mastery is very different from how most people approach skill development. Most people get interested in an idea, try it a few times, and gauge whether they are “good” at it. If they are not good, they chalk it up to a lack of natural ability or talent. At this point, most quit. And those who carry on think they have to use brute repetition to get better, hoping that simply by doing a thing enough times, they will become proficient and progress.

This, it turns out, is one of the lease effective ways to master a skill. Repetition rarely leads to high performance. and that’s why it’s important to understand “progressive mastery”:

  1. Determine a skill that you want to master.
  2. Set specific stretch goals on your path to developing that skill.
  3. Attach high levels of emotion and meaning to your journey and your results.
  4. Identify the factors critical to success, and develop your strengths in those areas (and fix your weaknesses with equal fervor).
  5. Develop visualizations that clearly imagine what success and failure look like.
  6. Schedule challenging practices developed by experts or through careful thought.
  7. Measure your progress and get outside feedback.
  8. Socialize your learning and efforts by practicing or competing with others.
  9. Continue setting higher-level goals so that you keep improving.
  10. Teach others what you are learning.

These ten principles of progressive mastery are a more nuanced version of what is often called deliberate practice, a term coined by Anders Ericsson. Like deliberate practice, progressive mastery involves getting a coach, challenging yourself beyond your comfort zones, developing mental representations of what success should be, tracking your progress, and fixing your weaknesses.

The difference is that progressive master places a high emphasis on emotion, socialization, and teaching. In other words, you are more strategic and disciplined in how you attach emotion to your journey, enhance your capabilities by training or competing with others, and leverage the extraordinary power of teaching to discover greater insights into your own craft. I find it a more humanistic, social, and enjoyable approach to mastering a skill.


  1. Three skills I could develop that would help me feel more confident or capable are …
  2. The simple steps I could take to improve the skills are …
  3. The coaches or mentors I could seek out concerning those skills are …

High Performance Habits: #4 Increase Productivity 2 (part 11 of 22)

Practice One: Increase the Outputs That Matter

If you want to become extraordinary, you need to figure out the productive outputs that matter in your field or industry.

High performers have mastered the art of prolific quality output (PQO). They produce more high-quality output than their peers over the long term, and that is how they become more effective, better known, more remembered. They aim their attention and consistent efforts toward PQO and minimize any distractions (including opportunities) that would steal them away from their craft.

This point seems almost universally lost in a world where people spend over 28 percent of their workweek managing e-mail, and another 20 percent just looking for information. People spend eons of time on worthless activities – say, creating folders and organizing their e-mail – even though these have nothing to do with real productivity.

Part of your job is to figure out what “relevant PQO” means to you. For the blogger, it might mean more frequent and better content. For the cupcake store owner, it might be discerning the two best-selling flavors and expanding distribution on just those two flavors.

Figuring out what you are supposed to produce, and learning the priorities in the creation, quality, and frequency of that output, is one of the greatest breakthroughs you can have in your career. 

One of the great realizations of life can come from discovering that the outputs you are being compensated for are not exciting or fulfilling. When that realization comes, it’s time to honor that truth and make a change.

I chose to quit and begin my career as a writer, speaker, and online trainer. I saw the outputs of those efforts – creating content for inspiring and empowering others – as something that would be meaningful to me. The issue was, I had no idea how to start or what, specifically, to do. Like a lot of people new to the expert industry, I thought I had to figure out the writing industry, the speaking industry, the online training industry. I made the mistake of going to dozens of conferences to try to figure out each of the industries, without realizing they were all the same career of being a thought leader and had similar outputs that mattered most.

What changed the trajectory of my career that day was deciding, on a single page, what my PQOs would be. If I was going to be a real writer, then my productive output needed to become books. … I decided that if I was going to be a professional speaker, my PQO would be the number of paid speaking gigs at a certain booking fee.

I knew that if I was going to be an online course trainer, then my PQO would be curriculum, training videos, and full online courses. As I shared in the chapter on clarity, I stopped trying to learn every new marketing technique that came along, and put my full effort into creating and promoting online courses.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of this strategy. … No matter what topic or type of deliverables [you] decide to get productive toward, [you should] reorient [your] entire work schedule toward that endeavor. As quickly as possible, I want [you] spending 60 percent or more of [your] workweek oriented to PQO.


  1. The outputs that matter most to my career are …
  2. Some things I could stop doing so I can focus more on PQO are …
  3. The percentage of my weekly time I will allocate to PQO is …
    and the ways I’ll make that happen are …


Practice Two: Chart Your Five Moves

A lot of highly driven people think they don’t need well-defined plans. They have talent, so they just want to get in the game, hustle, wing it, and see what happens. That might work when they’re just starting out and everyone on the field around them is also uninformed. At that point, perhaps their innate, God-given talent can help them get ahead. But the advantage dies quickly. As soon as the other teams and players have actual experience and plans – they know the X’s and O’s, the routes and play calls – you don’t, you’re toast.

This is terribly difficult for high performers to hear. I can’t tell you how many high performers lose their perch at the top because of the inevitable distraction that comes from unfocused efforts. I’m not talking about the lazy kind of distraction. High performers are making things happen, all right. … But when they start making a lot of things happen with no unifying trajectory, they begin losing their power. 

And so, after all that we’ve discussed about finding the area where you want to create prolific quality output, it is now time to plan. Think of the most ambitious dream you’d like to take on, identify what you really want, then ask yourself: “If there were only five major moves to make that goal happen, what would they be?”

Think of each major move as a big bucket of activities, a project. These big five projects that move you toward achieving your dream can then be broking down into deliverables, deadlines, and activities. Once you’re clear on these things, put them into your calendar, scheduling the bulk of your time in protected blocks during which you do nothing but make progress toward the activity that the specific block is dedicated to. So, if I show up at your house and say, “Show me your calendar,” I should readily see the major projects you are working toward. If I can’t discern from your weekly and monthly calendar what major moves you are working toward, then you’re not optimizing your time and you’re at risk of getting sucked into a life of reaction and distraction. That, or you’re just going to have to take years getting a result that others could do in months.

High performers plan almost everything more than underperforms do: from workouts to learning, from meetings to vacation time. It’s easy to get confused at this point, thought, and become lost in tasks and overplaying. Lots of people will overcomplicate this. So let’s pause here and remember that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Know the big five moves that will take you to your goal, break those moves down into tasks and deadlines, then put them in a calendar. If that’s all you did, and you made sure these moves aligned with your PQO, you’d be ahead of the game.

Here’s a public example that I’m amazed worked so well. … I discovered that to get the results of a number one bestseller, all that really mattered were these five basic moves:

  1. Finish writing a good book. Until that’s done, nothing else matters.
  2. If you want a major publishing deal, get an agent. Or just self-publish.
  3. Start blogging and posting to social media, and use these to get an e-mail list of subscribers. E-mail is everything.
  4. Create a book promotion web page and offer some awesome bonuses to get people to buy the book. Bonuses are crucial.
  5. Get five to ten people who have big e-mail lists to promote your book. You’ll owe them a reciprocal e-mail – meaning you agree to promote for them later, too – and a portion of any sales they might make for you on other products you may be offering during your book promotion.

That’s it. I know it’s less inspiring than a “find your truth and write each day with magnificent passion and love for the audience whose hearts and souls you will impact forever” kind of thing. but these were the five major moves that most of the authors told me about. These were the ones that mattered most. I was stunned. And scared. I had no idea how to do any of these things.

It doesn’t matter whether you know how to achieve your Five Moves at first. The important thing is that for every major goal you have, you figure out the Five Moves. I you don’t know the moves, you lose.

It’s a simple process that my clients have used over and over again to achieve equally impressive results:

  • Decide what you want.
  • Determine the Five Major Moves that will help you leap toward that goal.
  • Do deep work on each of the major five moves – at least 60 percent of your workweek going to these efforts – until they are complete.
  • Designate all else as distraction, tasks to delegate, or things to do in blocks of time you’ve allocated in the remaining 40 percent of your time.


  1. The biggest goal or dream I have that I need to plan out right now is …
  2. The five moves that would help me progress swiftly toward accomplishing that dream are …
  3. The timeline for each of my five moves will be …
  4. Five people who have achieved that dream who I could study, seek out, interview, or model are …
  5. The less important activities or bad habits I’m going to cut out of my schedule so that I can focus more time on the five moves in the next three months include …

High Performance Habits: #4 Increase Productivity 1 (part 10 of 22)



To get the most out of this chapter, it’s important that you set aside any preconceived notions about work-life balance or whether seeking tangible achievements in life is a worthy goal. Stay openminded, because mastering this habit can have far-reaching consequences into every aspect of your life, especially how you feel about yourself and the world in general. Our research found that if you feel you are more productive, you are statistically more likely to feel happier, more successful, and more confident. You’re also more likely to take better care of yourself, get promoted more often, and earn more than people who feel less productive. These are not my opinions; they are important and measurable life outcomes that we’ve found in multiple surveys and studies.

Productivity Basics

The fundamentals of becoming more productive are setting goals and maintaining energy and focus. No goals, no focus, no energy – and you’re dead in the water.

Productivity starts with goals. When you have clear and challenging goals, you tend to be more focused and engaged, which leads to greater sense of flow and enjoyment in what you’re doing.

Energy is another huge factor in determining productivity. As we discussed in chapter three, almost everything you do to take good care of yourself matter in increasing your high performance.

You’ll recall that capital “E” Energy wasn’t just about sleep, nutrition, and exercise, but also about positive emotions.

Finally, if you’re going to be productive, you’ve got to maintain focus. This isn’t easy in the modern era. Information overwhelm, distractions, and interruptions cause dire consequences in both our health and our productivity.

These facts should get you seriously disciplined about setting challenging goals and keeping your energy and focus on track. But that’s hard work, and often those efforts are derailed by our assumptions that it’s just not possible. Too many people say they can’t set larger goals or maintain energy because their work-life balance would be upended. In fact, the conversation around work-life balance has become so absurd, I’d like to address it specifically before moving on to our habits.

The Work Life Balance Debate

The great mistake most people make is to think of balance in terms of evenly distributed hours. … That’s why I think there’s a better approach to thinking about work-life balance. Instead of trying to balance hours, try to balance happiness or progress in your major life arenas.

The solution is to keep perspective in life by keeping an eye on the quality or progress of the major life arenas. A simple weekly review of what we’re after in the major areas of our life helps us rebalance or at least plan for more balance.

I’ve found that it is useful to organize life into ten distinct categories: health, family, friends, intimate relationship, mission/work, finances, adventure, hobby, spirituality, and emotion. When I’m working with clients, I often make them rate their happiness on a scale of 1 through 10 and also write their goals in each of these ten arenas every Sunday night. Most of them have never done that before. But doesn’t it stand to reason that only from measuring something in the first place can we determine whether it’s in “balance”?

If you aren’t consistently measuring the major arenas of your life, then you couldn’t possibly know what the balance you seek is or is not. … this activity is just a simple check-in, I know, but you’d be surprised how powerful it is.

The other distinction generally missed about work-life balance is the it’s not so much about evenly distributed hours as about feelingsYou’ll always feel out of balance if you’re doing work that you don’t find engaging and meaningful.

Take A – Gasp! – Break

Your brain also needs more downtime than you probably think – to process information, recover, and deal with life so that you can be more productive. That’s why, for optimal productivity, you should not only take longer breaks – claim your vacation time! – but also give yourself intermittent breaks throughout the day.

If you want to feel more energized, creative, and effective at work – and still leave work with enough oomph for the “life” part – the ideal breakpoint is to stop your work and give your mind and body a break every forty-five to sixty minutes.

This means you shouldn’t work longer at any one thing without a mental and physical break for more than an hour tops. A break of just two to five minutes every hour can help you feel much more mentally alert and energized for your work and life overall.

For example, if you’re going to work on e-mail or a presentation for two hours, I recommend you get up from your chair at fifty minutes in, then take a fast stroll around the office, grab some water, come back to your chair, and do a sixty-second transition meditation. … If you want extra credit, also ask the desk trigger question from the previous chapter (on necessity): “Who needs my on my A game right now the most?”

Notice what’s not included during these breaks: checking e-mail, texts, or social media. Checking in is the exact opposite of our goal here: checking out so we can recharge.

Achievers often brush off this advice because they just want to sit and “power through” hours of activity at their computer or in meetings. But that’s exactly why they are feeling so wiped out in their home life and thus report a terrible work-life balance. Remember, hours at home versus at work is not the issue. It’s more about their feelings and overall sense of energy. Powering through is just bad advice. Studies of the world’s top performers in dozens of fields found that they don’t necessarily practice or work longer than others. It’s that they are more effective in those practice sessions or simply have more sessions (not longer ones). Putting in longer hours is almost always the wrong answer if yo wan too reach balance, happiness, or sustained high performance. It’s counterintuitive, but it is true: By slowing down or taking a break once in a while, you work faster, leaving more time for other areas of life.



High Performance Habits: #3 Raise Necessity 2 (part 9 of 22)

Practice One: Know Who Needs Your A Game

To help you tap into both the internal and the external demands of necessity, they this simple practice. Set a “desk trigger” for yourself. From now on, whenever you sit down at your desk – that’s the trigger action – ask: “Who needs me on my A game the most right now?

Butt hits chair; then you ask and answer the question.

You have to put yourself in situations that make you good. Fortunately, research has clearly outline exactly what will help you find those challenging and immersive experiences. This popular concept in positive psychology is know as flow. According to Mihay Csiksgentmihalyi, flow happens when several of these elements are in play:

  1. You have goals that are clear and challenging yet attainable.
  2. Strong concentration and focused attention are required.
  3. The thing you’re doing is intrinsically rewarding.
  4. You lose self-consciousness a bit and feel serene.
  5. Time stops – you feel so focused on the present that yo lose track of time.
  6. You’re getting immediate feedback on your performance.
  7. There’s a balance between your skill level and the challenge presented. You know that what you’re doing is doable even if it is difficult.
  8. You have a sense of personal control over the situation and the outcome.
  9. You stop thinking about your physical needs.
  10. You have the ability to focus completely on the activity at hand.

You can use this list as a list of conditions to increase the odds you’ll bring your A game to those you hope to serve.


  1. The people who need me on my A game at this point in my life are …
  2. The reasons each of those people need me include …
  3. The reasons I want to become a high performer for each of these people are …
  4. I know that I’m on my A game when I think, feel, or behave …
  5. The things that throw me off my A game are …
  6. I can deal more effectively with those things by …
  7. A few reminders i could set up for myself to be my best for the people in my life could include …


Practice Two: Affirm the Why

High performers don’t keep their goals, or the why behind those goals, secret or silent. They confidently affirm their goals to themselves and others. If there is one necessity practice that seems to divide high performers and underperforms the most, it’s this one. Underperforms are often unclear about their why, and they don’t use affirmations or speak about the whys they do have.

When we verbalize something, it becomes more real and important to us. It becomes more necessary for us to live in alignment with that truth. So that next time you want to increase your performance necessity, declare – to yourself and others – what you want and why you want it.


  1. Three things I would like to become extraordinary at doing are …
  2. My whys for becoming excellent in each of these areas are …
  3. The people I will tell about these goals and whys behind them include …
  4. The things I can say out loud to myself to affirm these whys – my affirmations – are …
  5. Some ways I can remind myself about these important goals and whys are …


Practice Three: Level Up Your Squad

One of the easiest quick wins is to have [my clients] spend more time with the most positive and successful people in their support network. … I tell my clients that their job is to start spending more time with the best in their peer group, and less with the more negative members. That’s an easy win. But it’s not the full picture.

If you truly want to increase your performance in any area of your life, get around some new people who expect and value high performance. Expand you peer group to include more people who have greater expertise or success than you, and spend more time with them. So it’s not just about increasing time with you current squad of positive or successful peers, but about adding new people to the squad as well.

They are more strategic and consistent in seeking to work with others at or above their level of competence, experience, or overall success.

They seek networking activities or group affiliations with more successful people. At work, they communicate more with people who are more experienced and often “above” them on the organizational chart. In their personal lives, they volunteer more, spend less time in negative or conflict-ridden relationships, and ask for help from their more successful peers more than others do.

This doesn’t mean that high performers have gotten rid of all the negative or challenging people in their lives. Somewhere, there’s this myth that to be happy or succeed, you have to “get rid of” all negative people in your life. We hear things like: “If someone doesn’t support your dream, dump them as a friend.” “Your spouse doesn’t cheer you on and meet your every need? Get a divorce!” “The kids at school don’t like your son? Change schools!”

This is half-baked advice. Learning to live with people who are different from you and who challenge you is just part of becoming a mature and resilient adult. “Cutting people out” of your life just because they’re not a bright and shiny ray of light all day every day will only result in you, alone on an island, talking to coconuts.

Build What You Need

Still, you don’t need to spend extraordinary amounts of time or give tremendous mindshare to negative people. People on a path of purpose don’t have a lot of time for drama. So here’s what I advise: Instead of “getting rid of” all the negative people in your life (especially if they are family, friends, loyal peers, or those wha are just in need), spend more time (a) hanging with your positive and successful peers and (b) building a new positive peer group.

How do you do that? Here’s my go-to list for helping someone get around a more successful group:

  1. Add one more awesome friend. To make a difference in your life, you don’t need dozens of new friends. You need one more positive person who brings out the best in you. So find your most positive and successful friend and ask him to bring one or two of his friends to your next night out. Then start hanging with them a little more often, just a half hour more per week. One more positive person leads you one more step toward the good life.
  2. Volunteer. This is always my first move in working with people who feel surrounded by negative people. Volunteers are spirited, positive people. They are givers. You want to be around that spirit of service for your own personal and spiritual development anyway. You also want to be around volunteers because they tend to be more educated and successful people.
  3. Play Sports. Join that intramural league. Visit that racquetball club. Get that golf membership. Hit the park and join more pickup games. Being in competitive situations teaches you to pay more attention to your own performance, and as we’ve learned, self-evaluation of performance promotes increased performance.
  4. Seek Mentorship. I tell high performers to have one or two lifelong mentors: older, wiser, highly respected, successful people. I want you to call them once per month. I also want you to have one new “domain mentor” every three years. this means someone who has precisely the expertise you need to succeed in your field. You should also call that person every month. These two mentors, one for life and another for specific domain expertise, will give you extraordinary perspective.
  5. Earn It. You want to get around more successful people? Then earn your way into that party by becoming exceptional at what you do. Work hard. Practice the high performance habits. Never give up, add a tremendous amount of value, and stay on the path to mastery. When you become supremely skilled and successful at what you do, doors will open and you’ll meet more and more extraordinary people.


  1. The most positive people in my life who I should hang out with more include …
  2. To add to the number of high performers in my network, I should …
  3. Some new routines or get-togethers I could create to bring together the positive and supportive people in my life could include …

High Performance Habits: #3 Raise Necessity 1 (part 8 of 22)



Necessity Basics

These are the factors in performance necessity (which I call the Four Forces of Necessity): identity, obsession, duty, and urgency. The first two are mostly internal. The second two are mostly external. Each is a driving force of motivation, but together they make you predictably perform at hight levels.


Internal Forces

Naturally, we all want to do a good job on things that are important to us. But high performers care even more about excellence and thus put more effort into their activities than others do.

The goal for all underperforms must be to set new standards, self-monitor more frequently, and learn to become comfortable with taking a hard, unflinching look at their own performance.

Sometimes the fastest way to get back in the game is to expect something from yourself again.

Go ahead and tie your identity to doing a good job. And remember to set challenging goals. Decades of research involving over forty thousand participants has shown that people who set difficult and specific goals outperform people who set vague and non-challenging goals.

See yourself as a person who loves challenge and go for the big dreams. You are stronger than you think, and the future holds good things for you. Sure, you might fail. Sure, it might be uncomfortable. But what’s the alternative? Holding back? Landing at the tail end of life and feeling that you didn’t give it your all? Trudging through life safely inside your little bubble bored or complacent? Don’t let that be your fate.

High performers’ dreams of living extraordinary lives aren’t mere wishes and hopes. They make their dream a necessity. Their future identity is tied to it, an duty expect themselves to make it happen. And so they do.

Obsession With Understanding and Mastering a Topic

If an internal standard for excellence makes solid performance necessary, then the internal force of curiosity makes it enjoyable.

What I know about high performers is that they do indeed spend an enormous amount of time thinking about and doing their obsession(s). Is this “abnormal”? Absolutely. But normal isn’t always healthy, either.

When high personal standards meet high obsessions, then high necessity emerges. So, too, does high performance. And that’s just the internal game of necessity. The external forces are where things really get interesting.

Before we move on to the external forces, spend some time reflecting on the following statements:

  • The values that are important for me to live include …
  • A recent situation where I didn’t live my values was …
  • The reason I didn’t feel it necessary in that moment to live my values is …
  • A recent situation in which I was proud of living my values or being a particular kind of person was …
  • The reason I felt it necessary to be that kind of person then was …
  • The topics I find myself obsessed with include …
  • A topic I haven’t been obsessing about enough in a healthy way is …


External Forces

High performers often feel the necessity to perform well out of a sense of duty to someone or something beyond themselves. Someone is counting on them, or they’re trying to fulfill a promise or responsibility.

It’s hard for underperforms to see that obligations are not always a negative thing, which is why we found that underperforms complain more about their responsibilities at work than their high performing peers. Some obligations can naturally feel like something to complain about. A sense of obligation to family, for instance, might lead you to live your parents or to send them money. This kind of familial duty might feel like a ball and chain to many, but meeting such duties also happens to correlate with positive well-being.

At work, a sense of “doing the right thing” drives positive emotions and performance as well. Organizational researchers have found that employees who are the most committed, especially in times of change, feel that it would be “wrong” to leave a company if their absence would hurt the company’s future. They often double down on their efforts to help their managers even though it requires longer work hours. Duty to the mission replaces their short-term comforts.

I learned that when you have the opportunity to serve, you don’t complain about the effort involved. When you feel the drive to serve others, you sustain solid performance longer. This is one reason, for example, why members of the military are often so extraordinary. They have a sense of duty to something beyond themselves – their country and their comrades in arms.

Real Deadlines

Why do athletes work out harder in the weeks immediately before walking into the ring or onto the field? Why do salespeople perform better at quarter’s end? Why do stay-at-home parents report being better organized right before school starts? Because nothing motivates action like a hard deadline.

What is a “real” deadline? It’s a date that matters because, if it isn’t met, real negative consequences happen, and if it is real, benefits come to fruition. … but just as important, high performers are not seeking to meet false deadlines. The reality is that when you choose to care for others and make a big difference in the world, the number of deadlines coming at you will increase.

Keeping the Fire

Identity. Obsession. Duty. Deadlines. As you can imagine, any one of these forces can make us bring up our game. But when internal and external demands mix, you get more necessity, and an even stronger wind at your back.

I’ll repeat the part about this being a sensitive topic. Lots of people really dislike necessity – they hate feeling any sort of pressure. They don’t want internal pressure because it can cause anxiety. And they don’t want external pressure because it can cause anxiety and real failure. Still, the data is clear: High performers like necessity. In fact, they need it. When it’s gone, their fire is gone.

Bottom line: We change and improve over time only when we must. When the internal and external forces on us are strong enough, we make it happen. We climb. And when it gets most difficult, we remember our cause. When we are afraid and battling hardship and darkness, we remember we came in the cause of light and we sustain positive performance over the long term. Here are three practices that can fire up a greater sense of necessity.

High Performance Habits: #2 Generate Energy 3 (part 7 of 22)

Practice Three: Optimize Health

When people are unhealthy, it’s not because they don’t know how to be healthy. We all know what to do to increase our physical energy, because by now it’s common sense: Exercise – work out more. Nutrition – eat healthier food. Sleep – aim for seven to eight hours. Nothing to argue about there, right?

Unfortunately, plenty of people do argue. They say a lot of nonsensical things that justify poor behavior in these areas. Too often, achievers blame their low physical energy on “how I’m built” or on the time demands of their industry, company culture, or personal obligations.

“Everyone in my industry works this hard, so I have to cut out something somewhere”

“Well, I’ve become successful sleeping only five hours, so sleep isn’t a factor for me.”

“I’ll focus on my health and happiness again in ninety days. I’m just busy now.”

“I’m just built this way.”

“I don’t have time for X.”

Get Fit Now

If you’re being honest, you know that the research is conclusive: You need to exercise. A lot. Especially if you care about your mental performance. … This is a huge point that too many people miss: Exercise improves learning. Exercise also decreases stress.

Because it increases your energy, exercise also enables you to perform general tasks faster and more efficiently. It boosts your working memory, elevates your mood, increases your attention span, and make you more alert, all of which increase your performance.

So if the demands of your job or life require you to learn fast, deal with stress, be alert, pay attention, remember important things, and keep a positive mood, then you must take exercise more seriously.

Once you get your workout routines in order, start improving your diet.

Beware of using meals as a way to push down negative emotions. If you feel bad, move. Go for a walk and change your emotional state before eating.

Where to Start

When I work with executives, I draw a hard line: If the organization you spend your week serving doesn’t promote well-being, then either you start an internal initiative that gets well-being on the map or you start looking for a new place to work. That is, if you care about working with high performers and becoming one yourself.

At my seminars, I challenge people to use the next twelve months to get in the best shape of their lives. It’s astounding how many people have never truly committed to doing that. If you’re willing, here are few things you can do to begin:

  • Start doing what you already know  you should be doing to optimize your health. You already know whether you should start exercising more, eating more plant-based foods, or getting more sleep. If you’re honest, you probably know exactly what to do. Now it’s just a matter of commitment and habit.
  • You should know every possible health measure about your body available. Visit your primary care doctor and request a complete health diagnostic. Tell them you want to get in the best health of your life during the next twelve moths and that you want every reasonable screening she or he has that will help you assess your health.
  • In addition to a full assessment by your primary care doctor, I suggest you seek out the best sports medicine doctor in your hometown. Find someone who works with the pro athletes. Sports med doctors often have an entirely different approach to optimizing health.
  • If you don’t know what to do for nutrition, find the best nutritionist in town to help you put together a customized meal plan. Make sure you test for food allergies and leave with a clear understanding of what you should eat, how much, and when. One visit to a great nutritionist can change your life forever.
  • Start training yourself to sleep eight hours a night. I say “training” because most people can’t sleep a full night – not because of biology but from lack of conditioning for sleep. Try this: Don’t look at any screens an hour before bed; drop the temperature in your home to sixty-eight degrees at night; black out the room from all light and sound. if you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t get up and don’t check your phone. Condition your body to just lie there. Start teaching your body that it has to lie in bed for eight hours no matter what. For tother sleep tricks, read The Sleep Revolution by my good friend Arianna Huffington.
  • Get a personal trainer. If you’ve made optimal fitness a primary goal in your life, under no circumstances should you try to optimize your physical health without a trainer. Yes, you can watch workout videos at home, but accountability to a trainer will make you better. If you simply can’t afford a trainer, then find a friend who is in phenomenal shape and ask them if you can start working out with them. Don’t let your ego get in the way – just because you can’t keep up doesn’t mean you can’t show up. Get on a regular workout routine and make it social.
  • If you want a simple start plan, and your doctor approves, I recommend you start doing two-by-two’s. That’s two twenty-minute weight-lifting-based workouts per week, and two twenty minute cardio-based workout routines per week. In all the sessions, give about 75 percent of your full effort – meaning, be more intense than casual during your workouts. That’s just four sessions of intense exercise per week. On the other three days, you can walk briskly outside for twenty to forty-five minutes. Again, consult your doctor to see if this is a routine that is optimal for you. And work up to it. Don’t jump in at 75 percent effort if you’re coming off the couch. Otherwise, you may hurt yourself or get so sore you decide that exercise just isn’t for you. And that would be a terrible outcome.
  • Finally, stretch way, way more. Just five to ten minutes of light stretching or yoga every morning and night will help you gain greater flexibility and mobility. It will loosen up your body so you’re not carrying so much tension.


  1. I want to get as physically healthy as I can at this stage in my life because …
  2. If I was going to get in the best shape of my life, the first three things I would stop doing would be …
  3. The things I would start doing include …
  4. A weekly schedule that I could use to get healthier and actually stick to would be …


Make the Commitment

Energy is critical to high performance. You can have all the other habits up and running in your life, but without mastering this one, you won’t feel good. No one wants to feel mentally foggy, drowned in negative emotions, or physically exhausted, Happily, though, these states are usually the results of bad decisions, not bad genetics. you can optimize your overall energy quotient in your life if you choose to.

High Performance Habits: #2 Generate Energy 2 (part 6 of 22)

Practice Two: Bring the Joy

Our research has shown that joy plays a huge part in what makes high performers successful. You might recall that joy is one of the three defining positive emotions of the high performance experience. (Confidence and full engagement in the moment – often described as presence, flow, or mindfulness – are the other two)

That’s why I suggest that if you decide to set one intention that will raise your energy and change your life more than any other, make it to bring more joy into your daily life. Joy won’t just make you a high performer, it will cue almost every other positive human emotion we desire in life. I don’t know of any more important emotion than love, though I also believe that love without joy can feel hollow.

To understand how they do this, I ask a group of randomly selected people who had score high on the HPI to describe how they generated positive emotions and feelings in general. What specifically brought joy into their lives (and what didn’t)? And what habits,  if any, did they deliberately make themselves practice in order to stay in joyful states for longer? What emerged from their responses is that high performers tend to follow similar habits every day. They tend to …

  1. … prime the emotions they want to experience, in advance of key events (or of the day in general). They think about how they want to feel, and ask themselves questions, or practice visualizations, that generate those feelings. (This aligns well with “focus on the feeling” from the previous chapter.)
  2. … anticipate positive outcomes from their actions. They’re optimistic and clearly believe that their actions will be rewarded.
  3. … imagine possible stressful situation and how their best self might gracefully handle them. As much as they anticipate positive outcomes, they’re realistic about hitting snags, and they prepare themselves for difficulties.
  4. … seek to insert appreciation, surprise, wonder, and challenge into their day
  5. … steer social interactions toward positive emotions and experiences. They are what one respondent called “conscious goodness spreaders.”
  6. … reflect regularly on all that they’re grateful for.

If you were to do these six things consciously and consistently, you’d feel pretty joyful, too. I know, because that’s what happened for me.

Getting my life back

Every morning in the shower, I asked myself three questions to prime my mind for a positive day:

  • What can I be excited about today?
  • What or who might trip me up or cause stress, and how can I respond in a positive way, from my highest self?
  • Who can I surprise today with a thank-you, a gift, or a moment of appreciation.

This simple morning practice can create anticipation, hopefulness, curiously and optimism – all positive emotions proven to lead to happiness and to positive health outcomes such as lower cortisol, less stress, and a longer life span.

New mental triggers

Every high performer I’ve every interviewed speaks about how they take control of their thoughts and bend them toward positive states of mind. They don’t wait for joy to land on them; they bring it.

  1. The first trigger was what I call the “notification trigger.” I put a phrase BRING THE JOY into my phone as an alarm label. I set the alarm for three different times throughout the day, and I set the text for the label of the alarm to read BRING THE JOY! I could be in a meeting, on a call, or writing an e-mail, and all of a sudden my phone would vibrate as the alarm went off and display those words. (As you learned in the chapter on Clarity, I also put other words and phrases in my phone to remind myself of who I want to be and how I want to interact with others.)
  2. The second trigger I set was what I call a “door frame trigger.” Every time I walk through a doorway, I say to myself, “I will find the good in this room. I’m entering this space a happy man ready to serve.” This practice helps me get present, look for the good in others, and prepare my mind to help people. What positive phrase or sentence could you say to yourself every time you walk through a doorway?
  3. The third trigger I set up was a “waiting trigger.” Whenever I’m waiting in line to buy something, I ask myself, “What level of presence and vibration do I feel right now, on a scale of 1 to 10?” By asking myself this question, I’m checking in on my emotional state, scoring it, and choosing whether it’s sufficient to how I want to feel and how I want to live my life. Often, when I fell at a level 5 or below, my mind snaps to attention and says, “Hey, man, you’re lucky to be alive. Raise your energy and enjoy life!”
  4. The fourth trigger I set up was a “touch trigger.” Whenever I’m introduced to someone, they get a hug. Not because I’m a natural hugger – I’m not. I started this trigger because I read so much research about how touch is vital to well-being and happiness.
  5. The fifth trigger I created was the “gift trigger.” Whenever something positive happens around me, I say, “What a gift!” I did this because so many high performers talked about t how they felt a sense of reverence or sacredness in everyday life.
  6. The sixth trigger was a “stress trigger.” My brain injury was causing me to always feel hurried, almost panicked. And then one day I decided that hurry and stress were no longer going to be part of my life. Stress is self-created, so I decided to stop manufacturing it. I always believed that we can choose an internal calm and joy even amid the chaos, so I decided to do just that. Whenever things felt like they were getting out of hand, I’d stand up, take ten deep breaths, and ask, “What’s the positive thing I can focus on and the next right action of integrity I should take now?” Over time, this practice took the power away from the stressful and hurried feeling caused by my injury.

To complement the triggers, I began an evening journaling activity in which I wrote down three things that made me feel good during the day. Then I took just a few moments to close my eyes and actually relive them.

Gratitude is the golden frame through which we see the meaning of life.

High performers cultivate joy by how they think, what they focus on, and how they engage in and reflect on their days. It’s a choice. They bend their will and behaviors to generate joy. This enlivens them but also serves others. And so it is now time to awaken and remerge into the world with a youthful spirit.


  1. Three questions I could ask myself every morning to prompt positive emotions for the rest of the day could be …
  2. Some new triggers I could set for myself include (see my examples of notification, doorway, and waiting-in-line triggers) …
  3. A new routine I could begin for replaying the positive moments of my days is …