Live Your Legend | The 32 Lessons that Made All the Difference in 2011 (& some I might not want to repeat)
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The 32 Lessons that Made All the Difference in 2011 (& some I might not want to repeat)

The 32 Lessons that Made All the Difference in 2011 (& some I might not want to repeat)

2011 life lessons

“Making a mistake once is called learning. Making it twice means you’re not learning.”

~ William Brett Wilson

*Important Note: If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, the totally free 2012 Goal Setting and Action Workbook is available for download. It’s been downloaded over 5,000 times since last week and people seem to be getting a lot from it. Here’s the link to the download page. I hope it helps. Enjoy!


As far as I’m concerned, life is about learning and helping…

The more you can do the former, the better prepared you are to accomplish the latter. We all learn things every day. The problem is we also forget the great majority of what we learn, sometimes just moments after learning it. In order to avoid that and give today a chance at building on yesterday, you have to have a process for learning things once (and for all).

After all, the first time you learn something, it’s experience, but the second time it’s foolish.

As a part of my weekly planning (one step in my goal setting process), I write down any lessons I learned from the past week, either from my own experiences or that of others.

Below is the list of the top 2011 lessons from an initial list of hundreds.

They cover business, life, relationships, travel and just about everything else under the sun.

These have made all the difference for me – I hope they will for you too.

32 Massive Lessons from 2011:

  1. Tolerable discomfort is the most dangerous in the world—make the pain enough to change. This is exactly what keeps people in jobs they hate – for the rest of their life.
  2. Focus on different as opposed to better. You will likely never be the best at something, but there’s always a way to be different. Just takes more creativity.
  3. Condition yourself to see failure as feedback—you have to get your ass handed to you to be good at just about anything. Everything is progress.
  4. Most people are workaholics because they’ve lost their fun non-work activities. If you have nothing you are excited to do on the nights and weekends, then what’s going to keep you from checking email and spinning your tires all Saturday (and every other day)? You need motivation to get out of the grind.
  5. Pick 5 books to reread every year instead of 50 new ones. We all have books that changed us more than others. Apply the 80/20 Rule to your reading. This is how I’m focusing my reading this year.
  6. Persistence changes everything. Most people give up before they give themselves a chance. You’re in control of when you give up. It’s like the 71 “No’s” that Jesse Jacobs got before a bank finally approved a loan for him to open Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco.
  7. Having airline miles makes continuous travel much more likely than paying with cash. Many people hate on airline miles programs because they can sometimes be a pain in the ass to use (and sometimes they are). They say they’d much rather just pay cash and save money another way. The problem is I know hundreds of people with plenty of money to buy a trip to the other side of the world but never get to it. Miles expire if you don’t use them – they encourage you to get off your ass. That’s a good thing (and it’s pretty fun).
  8. I get stress even from a moment of rushing. The second I’m in a hurry, stress hits my body. Doing things slowing is almost always more enjoyable.
  9. Be willing to lose ideas if you’re in a moment you want to savor. With how many things I write down each day, I don’t think I’ll ever be short on ideas. Sometimes writing things down the second they come to mind, will kill your presence. If it’s important enough, it will come back to you.
  10. At the end of a sale, the buyer says “thank you”. Remember that when you’re scared to ask a prospect to do something you know will help them. Does a doctor feel badly about recommending a life-saving surgery? I doubt it.
  11. When meeting someone, lead with an open vulnerable story about yourself. This connects much better than the typical cocky approach of puffing your chest out and talking about all the awesome things you’ve done. Show the world you’re human.
  12. Metaphors are incredibly powerful to your story and getting points across. Don’t explain anything directly. Find a story or metaphor for everything. People will engage, listen, connect and remember more than ever before. PurposeFinder Jullien Gordon does an awesome job of this.
  13. Your story is more powerful than anything. There is nothing more important for you to develop and communicate. We all have an interesting story. Many of us just don’t spend the time developing it. If yours still sounds boring, go out and doing something interesting!
  14. Build anticipation – for you and for everyone. Whether you’re launching a product or starting a new fitness regime, don’t start the day you think of it. Build momentum and excitement for a couple weeks, if not longer. The launch of Live Off Your Passion started over two months before it went live. I plan most fitness challenges a month in advance. I love looking forward to it and thinking of how hard I’m going to hit it once day 1 comes around.
  15. Don’t worry about what’s difficult today. Tomorrow will be here faster than you want. Just put your head down and do good work.
  16. Anytime you feel uncomfortable or out of place at an event or gathering, go up and greet someone. Don’t just sit around hoping someone will do the same to you. You’ll meet 10x more people.
  17. You must find the one or two things that really matter on your blog and and simplify to focus only on that. This goes for any business. 80/20 and Simplicity are a powerful combination.
  18. The questions are not how or if you can do it. By now we should all know it’s possible – there are examples everywhere. The question is what will you do and when? Get started.
  19. Plan too much and you won’t end up having time for the things you care about happening spontaneously. Excitement and surprise need space to thrive.
  20. I will never get it all done. I am finally ok with this fact. If I plan too much in a day, I will never be satisfied with the things I actually get done. Once again, plan less.
  21. If I schedule too many back to back events and trips, I stop getting excited for each of them individually. Noticing a trend here? Events can be amazing and fun on their own, but stack eight of them back to back and nothing’s fun anymore.
  22. Diversifying emotions is key. Having two businesses and other interests has helped tremendously when things go wrong with any one area. Say the stock market has a terrible week (which I can’t control, but can sometimes still affect emotions), but I also had a hugely effective coaching session with a client. I still get to feel awesome and empowered. And even when things are bad at work, you can always go home and run a bit farther or lift a little more weight. That will keep the momentum going. Don’t put all your emotional eggs in one basket.
  23. Don’t always check email just because you have free time. It’s liberating to just pick up a book and enjoy. Start filling your time with meaningful things. If you don’t then the meaningless will take over.
  24. It’s never that big of a deal. Everything that goes wrong usually feels like the end of the world when it happens. But give it a few hours or days (or sometimes just a few seconds) and you realize life goes on and everything’s usually fine. No single thing is usually that big of a deal. Act that way.
  25. Things always take longer than expected. Don’t be disappointed when it happens. Try to plan for it but realize it will still likely take longer. That’s ok. The best stuff takes time.
  26. Everyone loves gifts. It doesn’t matter if it costs five cents or five hundred dollars, the emotion of getting something is still about the same. Give people gifts, prizes, books or anything at all. This goes for friends, family, customers and business partners. Not to mention, “giver’s high” is even better.
  27. FOCUS is the most powerful skill in the world. Stop distracting yourself. Know the top 1-3 most important things to you and put everything else on a list for later.
  28. Preparation trumps everything. There is no excuse to show up and not be ready for something. That’s in your control and it’s often the easiest way to beat an opponent. We used to run stairs for hours on end in the weeks leading up to Jiu-Jitsu tournaments. Then we’d get on the mat and often be able to beat our opponent on endurance alone. It takes massive discipline to be truly prepared.
  29. Preparation creates confidence! That is priceless.
  30. A product can change everything. It changes credibility, the number of people who want to work with you, your ability to turn a side project into a full-blown business and most importantly, your ability to help people. That’s exactly what Live Off Your Passion did for me (and everyone who’s participated). Mentors had told me this for nearly two years, but I didn’t get around to do it until three two ago. I wish I did it earlier. It’s opened up a whole new world.
  31. Have non-working hours. The biggest blessing and also the biggest curse of entrepreneurship (especially online) is that you can do it anywhere and any time. But that does NOT mean you should. Block off hours where the computer or internet is not allowed. Have a designated ‘office’ (that ideally is not your home). Even if it’s just a coffee shop. The separation is crucial.
  32. Anything is possible with the right motivation. 80% of what I do on a daily basis today are things I used to think were impossible. I bet I’ll be able to say the same in five or ten years. Find compelling reasons to push the limits.
And finally I’ll leave you with my favorite quote of 2011 by Gary Vaynerchuck, uber-successful wine and media entrepreneur, bestselling author of Crush It and The Thank You Economy, and also the most crazy passionate (and a ‘tad’ vulgar) public speaker you will likely every see.
We spent some time together on the Summit Series boat last year, and this quote has stuck with me constantly since then…
“What fucking problem are you solving?”
-Gary Vaynerchuck
Now on to you!  What was one of your biggest lessons from 2011? Leave it in the comments and make us all a bit better in 2012.

Huge thanks!

Two up and coming Living Legends worth checking out:

Today is an exciting day for a couple reasons (and not just because I sorted out my big lessons from last year).

Two long-time loyal Live Your Legend readers (and awesome community contributors), Rick Mulready and Amy Clover have launched their new businesses today and are absolutely loving their work – music to my ears! And they even claim that their businesses going live have at least a tiny bit to do with some of the things they’ve learned from our work here ;).

Rick and Amy have both since become good friends and they do amazing work. I highly recommend you check out their stuff – one because they might be able to help you, and two because they will likely inspire you.

Rick is a rock star at leveraging Facebook Ads to grow your business (he actually did some really helpful testing for me  to come up with the name of Live Off Your Passion). His site is I Rock Paid Traffic. It has some excellent how-to videos and a great free guide that’s very appropriately titled: Make More Money with Facebook Ads. I plan to do a lot more work with Rick in the coming year.

And Amy is a rock star personal trainer and fitness coach and has a very powerful program for using fitness as a change agent for life (not bad timing with it being a brand new year). She just relaunched her site, Strong Inside Out and her articles always seem to get me fired up to get out moving and breathing. She’s also created a great (and free) Restart Your Life guide. Check them both out.

Congrats to Rick and Amy. From business to fitness, I’m inspired!


Other Articles in the 2012 Goal Setting Series:

I’m documenting my goal-setting process step by step on Live Your Legend. Here’s what we’ve covered so far:

  1. The Best (and most life-changing) of Live Your Legend 2011
  2. The 2012 Goal-Setting and Action Workbook is Live (free download)
  3. Today’s post
  4. My goals for 2012 (and yours) – will be published later this week
Image courtesy of Tomorrow Never Knows
  • Amy
    Posted at 16:12h, 09 January Reply

    Scott! Wow! Thank you for all the kind words!

    Yeah, I guess you could say Live Your Legend has had some impact on me… 😉

    In regards to your lessons, these are the ones I really need to work on this year:
    10. At the end of a sale, the buyer says “thank you”.
    27. FOCUS is the most powerful skill in the world.
    31. Have non-working hours.

    Especially 31! I finally stopped worrying about commenting back to people on my site as soon as they posted and instead designated a couple times a day to comment back to all of them. This way, I am not so scatter-brained, and can focus more on the tasks at hand.

    Again, thank you. I look forward to what 2012 is going to bring for both of us!

    • Scott
      Posted at 08:15h, 12 January Reply

      My pleasure Amy. You deserve them! I’d say you picked the right three to focus on. And as you can see, I totally agree with batching comment responses ;). Good luck with the new site!

  • Lisa Alessi
    Posted at 16:21h, 09 January Reply

    Brilliant, so many great words of wisdom!

    #4 about workaholics resonates with me and I absolutely love #5 about rereading the most impactful books and #20 you can’t do everything and that’s ok – boy does that one hit home.

    Thanks Scott for all this inspiration you share and the lessons learned.

    • Scott
      Posted at 08:16h, 12 January Reply

      I am really excited to make #5 a big part of 2012!

  • Deacon Bradley
    Posted at 16:32h, 09 January Reply

    I started taking journaling seriously this year so I’m looking forward to being able to look back like this next year.

    #5 really spoke to me – reading only 5 books. I read 25 last year and this year decided to read only a handfull and spend more time creating. Easier said than done with all the awesome stuff out there!

    What are some of the books on your list to spend more time with?

    • Scott
      Posted at 08:19h, 12 January Reply

      That’s exactly what I did. I used to read like 40-50(sometimes more) books in a year. The problem is it’s way to much data to process and act on, let alone remember. So last year I resolved to read less and apply more. Now I want to get into more reading but with the stuff I know has already had an impact.

      As for top books, some are:
      1. How to Win Friends and Influence people
      2. Influence
      3. The 4-Hour Work Week (read that one each year)
      4. The Alchemist
      5. Born to Run
      6. Let My People Go Surfing

      For starters…

  • Rick Mulready
    Posted at 19:14h, 09 January Reply

    Thanks so much, Scott! Getting to know you as well as your content here on LYL have been huge inspirations in launching my business.

    #s 22, 24, and 30 really speak to me. Can totally relate to those.

    My biggest lesson in 2011, though, was appreciating and being thankful for those things you tend to take for granted (good health, a smile from someone, whatever). I think it’s so important to appreciate those “little” things that so many people don’t give a second thought to.

    • Scott
      Posted at 08:21h, 12 January Reply

      I could not agree more. It’s wild how we tend to take the most foundational and important things for granted. The things we don’t notice day to day when they’re there, but we notice the second they’re removed (i.e. health). Powerful stuff.

      Good luck with the new business!

  • Jon Wilburn
    Posted at 19:50h, 09 January Reply

    Great list Scott. I always appreciate you putting yourself out there. You give inspiration to many and I appreciate all you do.

    • Scott
      Posted at 08:22h, 12 January Reply

      Well thank you Jon. I put myself out there because all of you do as well, in your participation in the community and teaching all kinds of stuff you probably don’t even realize ;). Thanks for that!

  • Paige Burkes | simple mindfulness
    Posted at 23:50h, 09 January Reply

    This is an awesome list and I’ll be making some changes in 2012 because of reading it.

    One of my biggest lessons has been to be in the moment and notice what’s going on. I have 3 young kids who can provide all kinds of distraction when I’m working. I used to feel very stressed about trying to get whatever I was doing done while they’re pulling my arm and trying to get my attention. I’ve learned to stop in the middle of whatever I’m doing and completely focus on them. It usually only takes a minute or two and I’m back to work. They’re happy and feel my love more and got their need met, it only took me a minute and it gave me a reason to look into their beautiful eyes and notice how wonderful they are and there was no stress.

    I’ve used mindfulness and being in the moment much more often in all areas of my life and I feel much more relaxed and happy while still moving things forward. As it relates to your opening quote, I take a moment to notice the lesson as it’s happening instead of letting it pass, only to have to learn it again.

    Thanks for all you do Scott!!

    • Scott
      Posted at 08:25h, 12 January Reply

      This is one I constantly struggle with and always hope to improve Paige (and I don’t even have kids!). I’m actually taking a transcendental meditation course in the next couple months to really direct my focus towards presence. Good reminder.

  • Dan Holterhaus
    Posted at 06:51h, 10 January Reply

    Scott – #8 really hit home with me. In my last job I was always rushing around trying to get to the next thing because I didn’t really enjoy much about my job. This led to all sorts of stress/unhappiness. Since then I am doing work that I love and have learned to slow down and enjoy the ride!

    • Scott
      Posted at 08:26h, 12 January Reply

      Amazing how all of that tends to come at the same time eh? Things are more connected than we usually realize… Congrats on doing what matters to you!

  • Colleen
    Posted at 08:47h, 10 January Reply

    Hello Scott! Thanks so much for the Lessons Learned! 1, 2 and 18 hit me square between the eyes and 4, 6 and 32 were close behind! LOL! I’m new to all of this find your passion and live it, so I am learning and absorbing all I can right now!
    Thanks, also, for the link to Amy’s website. She is a true inspiration and I look forward to getting to know her better!

    • Amy
      Posted at 21:17h, 10 January Reply

      Thank you so much, Colleen! Such a great compliment from a fellow Live-Your-Legend-er!

    • Scott
      Posted at 08:29h, 12 January Reply

      Well welcome to the adventure Colleen. I think you’ll be right at home here! And I know you’ll have some fun with Amy’s stuff too. Glad to have you a part of what we’re building!

  • Ali
    Posted at 14:39h, 10 January Reply

    In 2011, I learned how to create space in my life. I created physical space in my house by giving and throwing away items I had not used since I moved in two years ago. Coincidentally, I donated a majority of my book collection to the library. This year, I’m re-reading the books I’ve kept, in hopes of enjoying them as much as I did the first time around. I created mental space by saying “no” to social events that I only felt obliged to go to and putting my “to do” list aside in favor of relaxation. I created emotional space by taking the time to reflect on certain experiences, heal and move on. This newfound space gives me time to breath and be creative.

    Thanks, Scott, for the inspiration to articulate this lesson.

    • Scott
      Posted at 08:30h, 12 January Reply

      I can only imagine how amazing it must feel to have experienced all that you mentioned. To be honest, most of all those were all big focuses for me as well!

  • Victoria
    Posted at 16:25h, 10 January Reply

    This is a great list, Scott. I find #32 “Anything is possible with the right motivation” is especially true!

    • Scott
      Posted at 08:31h, 12 January Reply

      Once you realize that, it’s pretty crazy how your mind starts to think!

  • Sandy
    Posted at 15:53h, 11 January Reply

    Hi Scott,

    Been a fan of the site for a year or so now, and really appreciate the wisdom you shared in this post. Was just wondering what the 5 books you have chosen to re-read this year are? I recently read The Alchemist for the first time based on your recommendation in an article a couple of months ago – hugely enjoyed it, so many life lessons to be taken from that book. Would be v interested what other books you consider to be worth revisiting year after year.


    • Scott
      Posted at 08:33h, 12 January Reply

      I get something new from the Alchemist every time I read it! As for my top five books. I mentioned them above and here they are again (I’m sure there’s a few I’m leaving off but this is first thought):

      1. How to Win Friends and Influence people
      2. Influence
      3. The 4-Hour Work Week (read that one each year)
      4. The Alchemist
      5. Born to Run
      6. Let My People Go Surfing

      For starters…

  • Adelina
    Posted at 16:17h, 11 January Reply

    – great achievements require time.
    – results are important
    – personal development meant nothing without action
    – long term direction make easy to take decisions
    – observing yourself make sense for doing changes

    • Scott
      Posted at 08:34h, 12 January Reply

      “personal development meant nothing without action.” So huge!

  • Aaron
    Posted at 11:52h, 21 January Reply

    Scott: Thanks for sharing your lessons learned. The one lesson I learned from 2011 was how important meaning is to one’s work, no matter how miserable one’s work may be. I currently work for a non-profit health plan which is undergoing significant changes to the benefits being offered to clients as well as the rates being paid to providers. While I literally HATE the work I do, I have found a powerful meaning in what I do, which is to educate both providers and members in the importance of the plans’ covered benefits and services. Because of both my knowledge and newly discovered compassion for the situations members and providers find themselves in, I find I am doing my job more effectively than almost any other person in my department. Even though I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, sorry U2, I haven’t stopped searching for meaning in both my work and my life. That’s what I’ve dedicated 2012 to myself.

    P.S. – I really liked your lessons 3, 6, and 15. Your lesson 5 is one I should probably work more on also. Again, thanks for sharing.

  • Denise
    Posted at 22:03h, 29 June Reply

    I know it’s late to comment on this but I really like #10. Somehow, I have a hard time saying “Thank You.” I know it’s weird but I’ll be working on it.

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