How to Live Closer to Successful People and have their Success Rub off on You

by David · 4 comments

It’s common knowledge that surrounding yourself with successful people is a step in the right direction to becoming successful. This is a great advice. However, like most great advice, the idea isn’t difficult to grasp, It’s in the application that most people fall short.

Observing successful people from a distance tends to brew skewed representations. This is largely because highly skilled/successful people tend to make what they do seem effortless. However, that’s a large part of the illusion. I say illusion because having the chance to see what goes on behind closed doors always leaves me a little disappointed; It’s as if I hope to discover a secret formula, but I’ve never discovered a secret that wasn’t already out in the open.

Robert Greene writes in the 48 Laws of power:

‘Make your accomplishments seem effortless. Your actions must seem natural and executed with ease. All the toil and practice that go into them, and also all the clever tricks, must be concealed. When you act, act effortlessly, as if you could do much more’

That’s eye opening information for how to create an illusion of power and prestige. However, the reason I shared that quote is to illustrate how believing that a person’s performance is effortless, is the belief that  makes them seem more special than they are. It’s in your interest to demystify what makes ‘successful’ people perform as they do so you can start doing the same.

In the Polyglot project podcast me and Claude speak with some of the most accomplished language learners you’ll ever hear about – some of them speak over ten languages. However, despite their amazing accomplishments, each and every one of them told us the same thing: the secret is hard work and a lot of passion. This isn’t break through news but it’s an example of how getting closer to successful people demystifies their craft, and as a result leaves you feeling that you can accomplish the same by doing what they do.

How to Live Closer to Successful People

Listening to the Podcast Claude and I put together is one way you could live closer to successful people. However, these successful people are language learners. What about everyone else? Well I’m glad you asked because I have a suggestion:

Read biographies

Like most solutions, It’s simple, and that’s what’s great – simplicity.

Reading the biographies of those you consider successful is a great way to demystify the illusion of success.  What you’ll find is that most people had to work extremely hard to become who they are/were.  This is something that we all know to some degree, but there’s something magical about by seeing it yourself in a story.

Why Stories Work

I recently read the biography of Steve Jobs and I walked away with a better understanding of what it takes to build a multi billion dollar corporation: a lot of hard work, passion and hurdle jumping. There’s of course more to it, but these are the main points that I took away.

Steve Jobs was once a mystery to me, but reading his biography demystified a lot about the person he was, made it clear how he built Apple and how I too can can build what I want.

Stories have been used for thousands of years to get messages across to people; they are extremely powerful for teaching and learning because they add context and make it easy to connect with what would  have otherwise  been abstract.

Religious books like the Bible and the Quran are classic examples. These books teach people how they should live life through hundreds of stories, and it’s probably one of the reasons these books have had so much influence on the world.

Context is key to grasping that which seems abstract. Pick up a biography and learn about success in context. Of course, you’ll also want to set up a project, nothing beats learning from experience, but for the purpose of motivation and making things clearer, a biography Is more than a good place to start – It’s great place!

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  • I can’t agree more with the “hard work and passion” observation.  It’s never going to work unless you have that fire in your belly forcing you to e.g. do 30 minutes of learning German vocabulary when you’d much rather be sitting back watching TV.  

    Love the blog btw – very inspiring 🙂

  • Adam

    This is excellent advice.
    This is excellent advice.
    As for myself, I compare my habits, goals and aspirations to The Greats, and that makes all the difference.
    Just the other day, I listened to a podcast in German which touched on a topic quite similar to this. This motivational speaker employed an analogy which I really liked:
    Imagine ourselves as chickens, spending our days eating and drinking on the farm. One day, we look up and see an eagle in the sky, soaring over the neighbouring canopy. We then look left. And then we then look right. All we see are our fellow chickens, doing what they have always done since they left the egg. We then wonder if we are capable of more than this.
    I think of Cassius’ words in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are
    underlings.”
    Keep your eyes up! Reading biographies of great people helps a lot in this regard.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more! And what a great analogy, I’ll have to borrow it 😉

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