Some Hollywood scenes are iconic. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stoic “I’ll be back”. Or Darth Vader telling Luke Skywalker who his father is; the Joker taking his mask off for the first time in The Dark Knight; Neo stopping bullets in the closing scenes of The Matrix… And of course, Jack and Rose standing on the deck of the Titanic.
We yearn to live our entire lives like Jack and Rose lived that moment – carefree, arms spread, the breeze in our faces.
Of course, you know the Titanic and the (infamous) iceberg that sunk it. Today, you have access to in-depth details about every major crash in the history of mankind.
But when it comes to people, you don’t hear about sunk ships. Instead, the media fawns over achievers – people whose ships stay on course to reach their destinations.
These achievers are portrayed as people who live each day like Jack and Rose. But, scratch the surface and the truth is the opposite.
Achievers are not carefree people. They are the captains AND watchguards of their ships, ever vigilant about the direction their ships are headed in, and icebergs standing in their paths. Sometimes, icebergs get the better of them. They might damage achievers’ ships. But they can never sink them.
Achievers are especially careful about certain icebergs, as should you. These will damage and sink your ship before it sails.
1. Low Accountability
The first iceberg is also the most dangerous.
To achieve your goals, tracking progress and holding yourself accountable is not just effective. It’s mandatory.
Unfortunately, most people’s performance tracking mechanism is all over the place, like toys strewn across a toddler’s room. Setting goals is not enough. To make life meaningful, you must set the right goals, and hold yourself accountable. This will enable you to stay in control of your ship.
Weird huh! Tardiness, an iceberg? Being late is as fashionable as outraging today.
But tardiness shows two things: how you manage your time, and how much you respect others’ time.
Achievers guard their time as zealously as Apple guards its business secrets. As a result, they respect others’ time too. They prefer being punctual, and don’t hang around places that don’t offer much.
Watch Barack Obama emphasize on the advantages of treating your time well.
If busy leaders like Obama and Narendra Modi can be punctual, you can too. (Yes, Modi is punctual. Here is proof.)
Punctuality doesn’t just apply to meetings. It applies to deadlines, task management, and family time also. Manage your time, respect others’ time, and watch your productivity soar.
3. Chronic Procrastination
Procrastination is not all bad. In fact, research states that it makes you more creative.
But chronic procrastination is terrible. It handicaps your ability to distinguish between important and urgent. You end up doing everything in front of you, because you are always late. (Another drawback of not being punctual.)
People claim they procrastinate because they don’t feel inspired enough. But inspiration and motivation don’t offer themselves on a platter. To quote Jack London, “you must go after [them] with a bat.”
Don’t strive to be brilliant. Strive to be reliable. Achievers are not superhumans. But their discipline is as solid as granite. Give discipline as much respect as you would give a mentor. Gradually, discipline invites its friends, motivation and inspiration, along. The four of you can then have a party!
4. Less Sleep
We envy people who sleep less than six hours a day. To some people, less sleep comes naturally. Others follow the adage, You can sleep all you want when you’re dead.
But if you sleep less, you will die of exhaustion long before your destined time.
According to a study, the less you sleep, the more stupid you become – literally. Sleeping seven hours a day doesn’t just give your body much needed rest. It also lets your mind absorb sixty percent more information than you would if you slept for five hours each day.
Life should be enjoyed throughout, not just when you are young. What’s the fun in working your ass off early on, and becoming a liability once your grow old? To maintain good health and live a happy life, you must eat healthy, exercise and sleep well.
5. Being Right
We know every truth. We know what’s right. Sometimes, we impose our opinions and beliefs on others, and are frustrated when they don’t agree. Well, they have beliefs and opinions of their own too.
In reality though, we just know a portion (bhaga). According to Hindu mythology, only the all-pervading entity – God – can see every bhaga of the truth. Hence, God is also bhagavan.
Related: What to do when you feel helpless
So if we don’t know the truth, and cannot be accurate about what is best for others, what should we focus on? Being right or being kind? If you have any doubt, recall instances when you were wrong and others were accommodative of you.
Focus on being kind. It lifts a huge burden off your chest and makes you happier. And it makes people around love you more.
6. Sucking Up
The world is filled people who, knowingly or unknowingly, make you feel inferior. Some appoint themselves as your ‘most constructive critics’ and constantly point out your faults. Others suppress you and your aspirations because they secretly fear that you will fare better than them.
Ironically, instead of steering clear of such people, we gravitate towards them. We feel a compulsion to appease them, to prove ourselves to them… like their approval will enhance our sense of self. Online and offline bullies are lionized, their sarcasm celebrated. We fawn over their opinions like a mother over her newborn cub.
Guess what. Their opinions of you will never change. And it’s not you. Their criticism of you doesn’t reflect on your shortcomings, but their personal insecurities.
Related: How to get better at what you do
If you try to please people who are critical about everything, stop. Right now!
This iceberg will pull you back each time, no matter how far you progress. Instead, surround yourself with people who encourage you. It doesn’t matter whether they belong to different fields, or don’t share similar opinions (it’s better if their opinions differ). You are the result of the five people you spend most time with. Choose them carefully.
7. Restricting Your Learning
Achievers have their hands on their ships’ steering wheels, and eyes on the weather and surrounding topography. This observation and awareness helps them course-correct when needed.
We expect life to progress in a straight line. But it doesn’t matter how low your appetite for risk is. Life will curve, diverge and shatter in ways you can never imagine, leaving you with two choices. You can feel victimized. Or you can learn from what occurred and strengthen your inner self.
Remember why you were happy as a child? Because you learned every day. The world intrigued you. You wanted answers. If elders didn’t have them, you figured things out yourself.
The only way to live a fulfilled and meaningful life is to become a lifelong learner. Be curious. Ask questions. Don’t just see how something works. Figure out why. Stoke your creativity and your intellect. Keep learning, keep teaching, and remain young; 18 till you die.
8. Doing Everything Yourself
Many times, I volunteered to help a slower work colleague on a task. It was part of a project which involved me. He repeatedly refused, intent on doing everything himself. Of course, he slowed everyone down. Then he complained to our boss that he didn’t get enough support. Each time, after being reprimanded, I was assigned the task. And each time, I would clean up a mess which could have been avoided altogether.
I am not whining or bragging. I love bragging as much as MS Dhoni does (okay, more than him, but you get the drift). I want to highlight the importance of collaboration.
Related: You can’t do everything alone
We try doing something ourselves when we want to impress others, according to research. We worry that others will hog the spotlight, or share it. Their names, listed alongside ours, will undermine our effort. Or simply because we can complete a specific activity faster than them right now.
You can do something alone. But not everything. There always have been (and will be) ways to complete a task better than you do. Stop trying to do everything yourself. Don’t burn out. Collaborate. Delegate. You will find more time to do what you enjoy.
9. Undermining Yourself
Your teacher, parents, and elders told you as a child that you were not intelligent enough. Or you don’t have a caring and supportive spouse. Or your boss says ‘you are lucky to have a job’ (I’ve heard this). Well, what do they know?
You are gifted with virtually unlimited potential for learning and creativity, according to author Michael J. Gelb. You are far more intelligent than you give yourself credit for. And yet, research says, we underestimate our own strength.
Your brain is the most flexible supercomputer that existed. It can learn seven facts per second, every second, for the rest of your life, and still have plenty of room. If used properly, it will improve with age, and can make unlimited synaptic connections and potential thought patterns.
Stop heeding naysayers and doubters. Tear up your old IQ test scores. Scientists have declared them useless. If people won’t help you achieve your dream, do it yourself. You are enough.
Pursue what you want with patience and discipline. When you witness positive results, your faith in self will increase. With that come heightened self confidence and esteem.
Life never sails in auto pilot… unless all you do is go to work, pay bills, retire and die. You want more from life, right? Else you wouldn’t have read this far.
Remember, balance is the key. Merely making your boat or ship leave the harbor isn’t enough. It may get you short-term success, but does not work in the long run. Life is an ongoing process. Like top notch athletes, you must refine nuances consistently and progress.
Jack and Rose are a myth. If they did exist, they sank with the Titanic. You can do better. So watch out for icebergs. Keep your hands on your ship’s steering wheel and eyes on the ocean. Don’t be afraid or complacent. You are able. You are enough. Go out there and achieve all you want to. And don’t forget to have a lot of fun on the way.