Have you ever noticed that over the years, you tend to do pretty much the same things? What I mean is, if you're a reader you remain one, if you're a writer you tend to write, if you're a procrastinator you tend to keep procrastinating, and so forth.
I think one of the real tricks of success is to simply recognize these things you tend to do, and then find ways to make these tendencies support your success. In fact, I think most people are miserable because they fail to do just that. Instead of working with their tendencies in order to succeed (almost effortlessly), they identify their tendencies as the problem and vow to change.
That, my friend, is called swimming against the river. And while you may get credit for working your tail off while doing it, you're not going to make much progress relative to the shoreline.
Case in point: for the longest time I was worried about my information addiction.
And make no mistake… I am an info-addict.
Just this morning, I read the six magazines I bought yesterday. Read part of a book. Checked out the over 1,000 new items in Google Reader. Watched a brilliant little video by Ed Dale over at the Thirty Day Challenge site. And sifted through 52 emails (it was early, and it's the day after a US holiday, so email was light this morning).
I have dozens of PDFs in my “To Read” folder on my Macbook Pro. I have dozens more videos and audios to go through in my “To Listen” and “To Watch” folders.
And once upon a time I thought something was wrong with me because of this kind of behavior. So I struggled against it. I read books about it. I read articles about it. I listened to self-help material about it. Is anyone other than me seeing the irony yet?
One day I stumbled across an article by Dan Kennedy in which he detailed his working habits… and I was shocked to discover they were identical to mine (at least when it came to info-consumption)! And Dan saw it not as a weakness to be changed… but rather as a strength to be nurtured.
That was life-changing for me.
It gave me a way to stop struggling against my natural tendencies, and to embrace the way God made me. That tendency to process large quantities of unrelated information allows me to form connections between ideas, concepts, and methods that I would not possess if I limited my information intake. So now I structure my work and my routine in such a way that my behavior in this regard in strengthened, reinforced, and nurtured — and then put to profitable use in my writing.
I look for ways to channel that stream of information so that it's not wasted.
For instance, I found this excellent piece by Chris Brogan on focused blogging just this morning. You can bet I will be implementing many of Chris's suggestions in my own routine.
Another source of inspiration and information on effective ways to channel my own natural tendencies is at the blog of my new friend Brian Clark (we met in Vegas last week at a blogging/marketing get-together). Brian's site, Copyblogger, is an excellent resource no self-respecting copywriter or blogger should ignore.
So what does this all mean to you?
In my experience, it means that if you find yourself fighting the same old battles (chronic lateness, procrastination, forgetfullness), you've probably unwittingly been holding yourself back by resisting your own gifts.
If you have trouble with authority, why work in a job when it's clear you'd be happier as an entrepreneur?
If you are always late for appointments — why not just stop making appointments (Arnold Shwarzenneger reportedly refuses to make appointments with anyone, and he seems to be doing okay running the state of California).
And if you have tendencies that are frowned upon by others — for instance, sleeping during the day and staying up all night — why not look for a way to turn the tendency into an asset (for instance, by working via Internet with clients or companies in a different time zone… where suddenly YOU are the early riser!)?
My friends Frank Kern and Jason Moffatt are both self-admitted “lazy surfers”… yet they've managed to turn these personality “quirks” into a financial asset. Frank and Jason both market products and information to other people who are drawn to the very personal traits that would be frowned upon in most business settings.
Just because certain tendencies, behaviors and attitudes are not “acceptable” in one context does not mean those qualities are “bad”. It simply means — at least in my experience — you need to find a different context! And that decision — how you live your life — is (for most of us) entirely a choice.
(And to ward off the inevitable objections to my premise: yes, I recognize that there are behaviors and “tendencies” that are illegal, immoral, and unethical. That's not what we're talking about here, okay? Anything that falls into those three categories should be jettisoned from your life. ‘Nuff said on that.)
Now take a moment to think about this…
In what ways could your “limiting tendencies” become strengths?
How could your re-arrange your life to make it so?
If you can find positive, proactive ways to answer those questions, you just might find yourself more productive, profitable, and happy.