5 Little-Known Success Tricks

How top performers make achieving success seems effortless

Your friend got promoted twice in less than a year. The blogger you’re aspiring to become is now a published author. And your brother lost weight and finally got the abs he wanted in a matter of months.

You’re proud of them. You said congrats to them. But deep down, there is a sense of jealousy in your gut, as if you’re being left behind because you wanted to accomplish the same things. The problem is that you failed, again and again, every time you tried.

How come?There are two solutions when people feel this way:

  1. Losers ask “why me?!” and start believing that successful people are not normal. If they are not born geniuses, they must have superpowers.
  2. Winners try again and try smarter. Make friends with successful people, hang tight to their goals long enough to achieve them. And learn from both their friends and their own experiences.
Success Tricks

I picked the second option. After a while, I realize that many high achievers are not smarter than you and me and they certainly have no superpower.

Instead, they think and behave differently. They have specific mental frameworks and behaviors that make them successful. I call this the success tricks and here are five of them.

Success trick 1: develop base-level habits

Most accomplishments don’t happen overnight.

  • People don’t get rich by working hard for a day.
  • Athletes don’t win an Olympic gold medal by training hard for a week. (Read more about Michael Phelps)
  • And you shouldn’t expect to become a master — at anything — by practicing it for just a few months.

It’s what we do every single day repeatedly that counts. Our habits are what bring us to the place we are today. In other words, we are the result of our habits. No matter how well-established and lucky you are, your life will go down the drain with bad habits. On the flip side, your life will eventually improve with good habits, however small they are.

When talking about habits, people usually have a long list they want to start breaking or building. The problem is that changing one’s behavior is often difficult. Wanting to change a long list of habits all at the same time is a recipe for failure.

What I found works best is to keep a small list of base-level habits. These base-level habits are things that keep you away from the what-the-hell effect — the behavior of going all-in and giving all up again and again based on the ups and downs of your emotions.

In most cases, base-level habits should come with these three distinct characteristics:

  • Habits that you can get done easily.
  • Routines that you will commit to no matter what.
  • Tasks that when you’ve done them, you know you’re going in the right direction and you won’t beat yourself up.

Success trick 2: automate decision making

Our energy is limited and decision-making takes a lot of energy. On top of that, our emotional brain is really bad at making smart choices. We disagree with many things but the one thing everyone on earth can agree on is that all of us are experts at messing things up.

For example, I can spend hours going back-and-forth on which headphone I should buy. At the end of the day, I wasted tons of time only to conclude that I don’t need a new headphone. Worse, I sometimes hop back into the process of trying to make decisions for the same problem again.

High performers know this and they want to make all kinds of decision-making easy. I’ve written an article about decision minimalism that talks how some brilliant minds like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg automate their choices.

To sum it up, here are three ways you can automate decisions:

  • Make quick decisions on small things by having a default choice in advance so you don’t need to think about it again. For example, Ramit’s book-buying rule.
  • For larger decisions, use principles and decision-making models to help you make a good choice in less time. For example, Warren Buffett only invests in companies and businesses that he understands.
  • Set rules for things you can’t decide on or hire someone else to make better decisions about things you’re not good at. For example, businesses hire consultants and celebrities hire personal trainers.

Success trick 3: focus on the foundation

Tell me if this sounds familiar to you? You’re scrolling through your Facebook feed on a Thursday afternoon. You see a post from your friend who is taking a vacation to Spain. This gets you thinking: “That should be me! That would be great if I could have that lifestyle too.”

When we see successful people doing what they do, we assume that they’re living the dream every moment of their lives.

  • Traveling to an Asian country during the winter.
  • Hanging out with other higher achievers on a Friday night.
  • Work on an exciting project whenever and wherever they like.

We visualize the fun part and we think their lives are always filled with adventurous moments. The truth is the opposite.

Most high achievers and peak performers have a boring lifestyle — often to the point where it’s uncomfortable. They spent a lot of time in building the foundation behind the scene:

  • Malcolm Gladwell spent a decade writing for The Washington Post before he started working on his first book that was then published three years later.
  • Warren Buffett started his first side hustle when he was still in high school and only became a billionaire at the age of 60.
  • Jerry Seinfeld appeared on open-mic nights for years before getting his first big break on TV.

Furthermore, these people are still spending time in building and strengthening their foundation. And that’s exactly what makes them different because most people are getting distracted by other shiny objects.Instead of focusing on getting results fast, spend the time in deliberate practice. Only by having a strong foundation you can place higher peaks on top of it.

Success trick 4: make use of leverage

“Okay. I know I need to work hard but I thought successful people didn’t just work hard, they worked smart. How do I do that?”

Great question! It’s exactly what I’m going to talk about next.

Everyone has the same number of hours in a day, but not everyone produces the same results by the end of the day. Highly productive people get more work done. Smart entrepreneurs make more money. Some geeky housewives get to finish their chores faster and have more time to relax.

These people work smart by making use of leverage. Productive people leverage the processes they set in place. Entrepreneurs leverage the value that their products and team produce. Geeky housewives leverage some high-tech home automation systems.

The purpose of leveraging is to create a greater output with smaller inputs. You can get more results by spending less time and energy. There are many forms of leverage and here are a few you can use right now:

  • Leverage compound interest and time to grow your wealth by starting to invest as young as possible.
  • Leverage others’ knowledge, expertise, and experiences — good and bad — by reading, taking courses, and attending seminars.
  • Leverage technology by using online tools and apps that save you time and energy.

Success trick 5: be optimistic and confidence

Do you know someone who has everything he could ever ask for but still feels unhappy? While you’re aspiring to become as rich, lean, or whatever it is as this person, you perceive the underlined insecurity when you dig deeper. Do you still think he’s successful? Often the answer is NO.

Now let’s flip the script. Do you know a person who just started her career, has faith in herself and believes that the future is bright? At the same time, she’s ready to face challenges and willing to work hard for what she wants. Do you think she will be successful? Yes. Sometimes, you feel as if she is already successful.

The final trick isn’t a trick at all. It’s a mindset many high achievers and top performers adopt:

  • They believe in themselves.
  • They take ownership for what they do.
  • And they have faith in their future.

These people don’t tell you what they have, they tell you what they’re going to do and show you what they’re capable of. It seems like they have it all figured out and you will never reach that level of confidence yourself.

However, being optimistic and confident is a choice. The trick is to be grateful for what you have right now and be proud of what you’ve accomplished so far.

Take the time to celebrate every success — big or small, even for failures because they are the opportunities to learn and grow. Make a conscious decision to live in abundance and be aware that whatever life throws at you right now, the biggest growth is always ahead of you.

Behind-the-scenes are what we don't see

You don’t usually hear about these success tricks from most people. First, they are not as sexy. Stick to a good habit? Have a boring lifestyle? Come on, ain’t no one have time for that. Besides, many people won’t get it even when they are being told so.

One thing that most people don’t see is that successful people have the same struggles many of us have: the hard work, self-doubt, and confusions. They have weaknesses like you and me. The main difference is that they learn to act in the face of struggles:

  • They’re proactive and consciously choose their reactions despite fears and doubts.
  • They ruthlessly eliminate distractions and focus on what matters to them.
  • They invest the time, energy, and money in building their foundation and accumulating capital.

What do you think about these success tricks? Which one is your favorite? And do you have any tricks you want to share?


More recommended reads

Get my email delivered to your inbox once in a while

Three to five things I learned—that will help you work less, earn more, and live a better life. (Also get notified of new posts and masterclasses)

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

👆 Join 3,100+ leaders, creatives, and knowledge workers today.

Dean is a strong voice in the self-mastery space. His newsletter consistently delivers insightful ideas on how to become a better version of yourself and is the only newsletter that I always read.

Sebastian Kade

Head of product and engineering