There are no formulas for who is successful.
But there are statistical probabilities.
For example, you are equally as likely to succeed if you go to Harvard as if you apply to Harvard and get rejected, according to Alan Krueger, Princeton economist. And you are more likely to be successful at work if you were a cheerleader than if you get a Ph.D.
So you can be proactive, and do things that successful people do. But you can also think the other way, and avoid doing things that only losers do. Here are five of those:
1. Retrieve voicemail.
Voicemail is over. All of Microsoft has voicemail that goes straight to email because it's so much more efficient to read email than listen to voicemail. However, voice recognition software has not caught up with our need to stop listening to voicemail, so most of these emails we see translated from our carefully planned voicemail are rubbish. Which means anyone in the know has just stopped using voicemail. And for those of you who still use it, your direct reports probably make fun of you.
2. Sort through resumes.
The problem with hiring is not that there are no good candidates—because really, there are great candidates for every job. It's just that maybe you are not paying enough or maybe you don't look fun enough to work for. You can fix that. But you can't fix it if you are plowing through stacks of resumes.
The biggest bottleneck in the hiring process is receiving too many resumes and then having to read them. If you have great jobs to offer, you never have to do that. If you sometimes have great jobs to offer, and sometimes you don't, you should at least avoid the dreaded stacks. One idea: use a company like CareerTagged, to create mentoring relationships that will provide you a steady stream of candidates who have already been vetted.
3. Play Solitaire on airplanes.
Have you no shame? It's one thing to have no idea what to do with yourself. It's another thing to let the whole world know. I would rather be caught looking at porn than playing Solitaire—porn, at least, is goal-oriented.
If you don't know how to spend your free time, you need to do some soul searching to find an interest. The biggest violators of the no Solitaire rule say it's relaxing. But you know what? It's not relaxing, it's vegetative. Nick Powdthavee author of "The Happiness Equation" reports that after a half-hour, the television drains you. You're better off with real relaxation methods than vegetating. So do them.
4. Put lame art on the wall.
What you put in your office says a lot about who you are. For example, a messy desk makes you look incompetent. It doesn't mean youare incompetent. But it also doesn't matter what you are when people judge you by your desk and not your work. So high performers simply do not have messy desks.
Snap judgment goes beyond the desk, though, according to Sam Gossling, author of "Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You." He found that the walls of your office have huge impact on what people think of you. So put up art that reflects who you want to be at work. This means Pottery Barn catalogue art if you want to look safe and going nowhere in life. If you want to be original and edgy, try independent photographers—that's what an interior designer would do. James Maher, for example, has really fun street photography (and you can use his book about street photography as a catalogue to order from!).
5. Work through lunch.
The people who get the most done at the office are not the people sitting at their desk working. Because your job is not actually to do what's on your to-do list. Your job is to do what your boss cares about and what other people notice. So it's important to know what matters at work, and ignore the rest. And also, it's important to never look like you're the hardest worker. Because if you are, why is that? Do you need to work harder than everyone else because you're slow?
These are five things out of a bazillion things that successful people never do. You can't memorize them all, but you can shift your mindset to intuitively function like a successful person. How? By rethinking what you do, all the time.
Ask yourself: does this make me look like I'm in charge of my time? Because the key to success, really, is controlling your time carefully to make sure you meet your own goals, and not just goals of people around you.
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