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By Nida Leardprasopsuk

Over all the years that I have worked with entrepreneurs, I have seen many cases where people spend a lifetime trying to fulfill their dreams yet never make it happen. I have seen dedicated professionals working overtime to get to a certain position and still not reach it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that their ambitions were simply too outrageous to achieve in one lifetime; it’s more often because they do not have the right strategy to chase their success. After all, passion and perseverance will only get you so far when you do not have a solid, actionable plan.

So what can we do to collapse time and have success in our lives sooner rather than later? Here is what I have learned about expediting success as a coach and mentor working with hundreds of high achieving individuals and from two decades of working with professionals who have made it in their respective fields.

1. Invest in leveling up your skills

To taste the sweetness of success, you need to establish yourself as the best in your field. If you want to be looked upon as a true authority in your field, always strive to be better than you were the day before. Invest in programs and education that can help you improve the skills you already have and take up courses to learn new skills that are needed to be an expert. Work on yourself so that you have more to offer when it comes to your business.

2. Be smart about how you spend your time

Everyone is given the same 24 hours in a day. It is what you do with them that largely decides how successful you will be. If you have a habit of getting caught up in activities that do not contribute positively in your life, try to slowly eliminate them from your day. Instead, spend your timeon productive things such as meditating before a long day at work or reading.

3. Build up a reading habit

Remember the quote that decorated the walls at kindergarten: “Today’s readers are tomorrow’s leaders”? Well, that is one thing that stands true even after graduating from college.

When my clients ask me how they can find more opportunities and become the best at what they do, I often advise them to build up a reading habit. It is not only an extremely productive pastime and a great way to unwind yourself before bed, but it also helps you become a better version of yourself in multiple ways.

Reading books — no matter what the subject is — makes you more intelligent and wise and educates you on limitless themes. It can also help you avoid typical yet costly mistakes that might get in the way of your success.

4. Choose your ecosystem wisely

The late entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, “You become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” According to this theory, if you hang out with five people that are smarter and more successful than you, you will eventually become smarter and more successful yourself.

Hence, you must carefully choose the people you surround yourself with. Make friends with active individuals that inspire you to achieve more, rather than those who like to waste their time and are indifferent to success.

5. Be selective about the projects you take up

While wasting time binging on Netflix is one sin for an entrepreneur, investing your time and effort in projects that do not align with who you are is another. Before you take up any project, task or opportunity, ask yourself, “How can this activity help me become who I want to be?”

On the road to success, you cannot afford to be distracted by side quests that do not contribute to the big plan you have for yourself. Do not waste your time doing things that are not aligned with who you want to become. Do not be afraid to say no to opportunities that are not aligned with your values and who you want to be. Don’t ever take on a project or a client just because you feel you are obligated to or because you fear you can’t find other clients.

6. Focus on perfecting your ultra-genius

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about The 10,000 Hour Rule. He explains how “excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice,” which he decides is 10,000 hours. True enough, but what if you want to be even better than that? What I always say is 10,000 hours might make you master a skill, but 100,000 hours will make you exceptional.

Your ultra-genius is a mix of skills and talents that makes you uniquely exceptional at something. This something is not always obvious to us because it has become second nature to us. In order to discover your ultra-genius, write down all the things you uniquely do really well. Ask others that know you really well to tell you what they think your strengths and talents are. If you were a superhero, what would your superpowers be? You want to gather clues to find out what your ultra-genius is. When you find out what it is, you want to continue developing it and putting it to use in the right ways that will lead to fast success.

7. Differentiate yourself from the rest

Success often means finding stability and becoming indispensable to your field. The surest way to make yourself invaluable and irreplaceable is to make yourself a brand of your own. Don’t blend in and try to be like everyone else. Instead, find out what makes you unique from everyone else. Develop your unique talent and skills. Successful people become successful because they are different, not because they blend in with everyone else.

8. Hire a coach, consultant or mentor

Last but certainly not least, a little bit of help from a coach or a mentor goes a long way. From my experience, investing in this is the best investment one can invest in themselves.

Someone may have told you to keep taking action to be successful, kind of similar to “practice makes perfect,” but that’s not always effective if you’re practicing the wrong strategy. Clients that come to me looking for a consultant to help them grow their businesses will discover that what they needed to change in their business was totally out of their awareness. We humans don’t see our own blindspots, and we need others that have the experience, expertise and outside perspective to point it out for us.

Apart from helping my clients build and scale their businesses, I happen to run another business where I train and mentor coaches on their coaching skills. Some of the coaches that have come to me have been practicing coaching for years but have not gotten much better. And the reason why is because they didn’t have a mentor to give feedback to them and tell them what they were doing wrong and what could be improved. You can work with a mentor for three months and improve your coaching skills or really any skills more than you could ever have done alone in years. Hiring the right experts and specialists can greatly expedite your success.

There is no doubt that lasting success is not achieved overnight. Being the best requires persistence, consistency and a truckload of hard work. But working hard without a strategy will not guarantee you success.

Working smart can help you achieve this excellence earlier in your life. Using clever strategies that are proven to work and investing in hiring a mentor can save you a lot of time and unnecessary labor.