The following are observations from individuals who are atop their respective fields. If you want to get better at whatever it is you do, keep these pearls in mind. 

Embrace acute failure for chronic gains.

What feels like failure today is often part of success tomorrow. Of course, don’t aim to fail. But when you do, view it not as a devastating event but rather as critical information on the path of mastery. This may sound cliche but it’s true: if everyone stopped when they failed, there would be no world-class performers in anything — at some point, everyone fails. The key is to learn and keep moving forward.

The most important person you should aim to beat is a prior version of yourself.

This is how the best keep getting better. Drop the social comparisons. You be you. You beat you. Worry about that and the rest will take care of itself.

The best way to network? Do good work.

Spend less time chatting and more time doing. You may indeed need to promote your work, but that is the icing on the cake — not the other way around. Unless you are a professional promoter or marketer, focus on doing the work itself first. Good work generally gets realized — and when it does, it lasts. 

Don’t mistake talking about the work with doing the work.

Somewhat related to the above the point, there are people who just love to talk about all the great work they’ll do and all the great work they’ve done (generally, it’s either not that much or not that great because these people are too busy talking to actually produce). Talking about the work may satisfy you while you’re doing it, but once the social gathering has ended, you’re liable to feel empty again. Lasting success and fulfillment, on the other hand, comes from doing the work.

Follow the 48-hour rule.

After both failures AND successes, give yourself up to 48-hours to feel sad or happy. Then, get back to your craft. This keeps you fulfilled, mentally healthy, and improving always. It ensures that the lion’s share of your drive comes from within (good) and not from external validation (bad).

Though these may seem like simple rules, no more than little stories we tell ourselves, they are extremely powerful. Because the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves by in large determine who we become.

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Brad Stulberg writes about health and the science of human performance. He’s a columnist at Outside Magazine and New York Magazine and author of Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success.


  • Brad Stulberg

    Author of The Passion Paradox and Peak Performance

    Brad researches, writes, and coaches on health and the science of human performance. His new book is Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success. He is a columnist at New York and Outside Magazines.