If you want to get ahead of the 99%, you need to think differently and you need to do differently. If you continue doing exactly the same as everybody else, you'll end up in the same position at the end of six to twelve months time.
Whether you want to beat everyone in your class at an exam, or you want to create a business, or you want to quit your job and just completely change your life from where you are now, you need to start thinking differently and you need to not be afraid to take risks. Now that's easy to say, but how can you actually do that? Well, it's all about something called leverage.
Leverage is really putting enough motivation behind you so that you have to make that jump and you have to stick with whatever habit you're going to be implementing to improve over the next six to 12 months. To build leverage, you need to focus on three key factors.
Firstly, you need to be brutally honest with yourself and look at where you are right now. You need to write down a list of all the things that you don't want. Think about the things that you're frustrated with. Think about the things that you don't like. Taking the time to sit down and reflect on your current situation as well as your goals and vision for the future will really help you to ascertain whether your current circumstances align to those goals or whether you need to make significant change. If you don't want to stay where you are at the moment, then you're going to have to do something and this realization through reflection is what can help to start build leverage on yourself.
Often we're heads down in work going through a nine to five job and really doing, doing, doing, without taking a moment to step back and actually reassess things and think about where we want to be heading over the next six or 12 months. This is what happens with 99% of the population. They go into work, they don't question things, and they continue on that treadmill of working and continuing, and then they might end up in five or ten years time in exactly the same situation complaining about where they are in life. and this is why reflection and goal setting is so important when it comes to building leverage and finding out exactly what you don't like about where you are now and what needs to change.
The second component to building leverage on yourself is then to think about what your life will look like if you keep doing exactly the same things that you're doing now, day in day out for the next six to twelve months. This is a really powerful negative visualization exercise. You'll probably know what's going to happen in six months if you keep using the same study techniques, stay at the same job, or don't go to the gym. You can also think about the implications of not doing new things too. For example, you know that if you just sit on the couch and don't change up your exercise routine, you're probably going to stay at the same weight or even gain weight. Equally, you know that if you don't quit your job or try something new, you're probably going to be in exactly the same situation you are now in 6 to 12 months time. If you're not 100% certain what it does look like, just look at those around you. By observing the 99% who are 6-12 months ahead of you or your own peer group, you'll see exactly what will happen if you follow with the same actions as everybody else and continue on your current state. This can be a really powerful way to build leverage. If you're competitive like me, this simple observation of the behavior of your peers can help you to build leverage really, really quickly and motivate you to make a change that's necessary and to also stick with any habits that are required over the next six months to completely change your life and get ahead of 99% of the other people.
The third and final component of building leverage on yourself is then to be very reflective and think about your driving emotions and what you're feeling on a day-to-day basis. Now these are often negative when we think about our current state. This might be emotions like frustration in your current job, anger towards people who are doing better than you in class, or just jealousy at people who might have got a promotion over you. Whatever negative emotion it is, use that to fuel your determination to make a change and to get ahead of the 99%. This can be really, really powerful, but you need to audit yourself and think about your own motivating factors. While harnessing these negative emotions is great for short-term impactful change in a short space of time like six months, you need to understand your real primary positive motivating emotions over a longer period of time because this is what's going to sustain you. There are lots and lots of people who start businesses for completely the wrong reasons, whether that's to make money, to show off to their friends, to prove to their family that they're successful. What will happen is, in the short term, they might make some really great headway. When things become difficult, when they encounter hurdles or obstacles in their way, they'll give up more quickly by people who are fueled by those more positive emotions and the love of doing whatever it is they're doing on a day-to-day basis because you need to push through those hurdles and blocks to really get to that level of mastery.
An Example Of Using Leverage
Now, to give you a really practical example of holding leverage over yourself in action, when I made the big decision to leave my career in medicine and pursue a career in business, I was actually forced to reflect on my current situation when I was in New York and I got trapped in a hotel room during a snowstorm. It was actually one of the first times that I got a chance to sit down in front of a desk with nowhere to go because I was literally trapped in a hotel with nothing else to do. This gave me a unique opportunity to actually think about my current situation but also the future of where I'd be heading if I stayed on the medical career path. I knew that I enjoyed a lot of medicine and my current situation was good but I knew that it could also be better. I looked around at a lot of my peers who were quite frustrated with their jobs and most importantly I looked at a lot of the consultants and people who've been working in medicine for say 10 or 20 or 30 years ahead of me and saw them doing exactly the same thing that I was and I didn't want to be doing this for the next 30 or 40 years of my life.
And actually, the emotions and the thought and the concept of making a change and taking on risk with a much higher reward was something that really really excited me. At the same time, I also became aware that I had some negative emotions like frustration and even jealousy towards people who'd started businesses and were doing really, really well. I knew that I was a naturally competitive person and I wanted to get the most out of my life. I didn't necessarily want to be working a nine to five job for the rest of my life and I was much more up for making a big shift and taking on that risk. It was these negative emotions of frustration and jealousy that really put that leverage on myself once I'd done this reflective exercise and focused on what would happen if I didn't change anything up.
I knew that the uncertainty of making a change and focusing on getting ahead of other people over the next six to 12 months was something that I really wanted to get after and so that's exactly what I did, which leads us to the next part in getting ahead of 99% of people. Okay, so once we've audited our own lives and we know that our current situation isn't what we want for the future, it's now time to execute and make things happen and this is where Monk Mode really comes in.
Monk Mode is all about quiet, focus, determination and execution. The most important part here is self-education and investing in yourself to learn new skills and to get better over the next 6-12 months.
One thing that I've always done is made sure that I've invested in myself at every stage of my professional career, whether that was in medicine or whether it was outside building businesses. Instead of putting money into things like ISAs or stocks and shares, I would always invest it back into myself. This would either be through courses or paying for coaching or just going on workshops or experiences or just whatever it is to get me to that next level. The faster you understand what needs to be done to move you to that next level, then the faster you can execute on it. Self-education really comes in two components. Firstly, the self-education that you can do right now. This involves simply observing what other people are doing. This might be diving into free resources like blogs or YouTube videos where you're seeing people explain their own journey. If you know someone who's left medicine and then started a successful business, it might be that you can either reach out to them or at least figure out what they've done and then follow in a similar path. If you want to improve your study technique, you might want to look at the people who are the top of your class already or who are the top of the class a few years ahead of you and go and figure out exactly what it is that they do and how they study and then figure out how you can learn that yourself. This is exactly what I did when I turned my grades from bottom of the class to top in my first year of medical school.
For me, I looked around and I saw that pretty much every single student was reading from their textbook and sat in a library for hours and hours. Now I knew that I didn't want to do this and this is where actually questioning that status quo comes in as a really powerful tool. I had a drive to figure out a more efficient way to learn and to get more time to spend on things I enjoy doing, rather than spending hours and hours in the library. And so I went and spoke to some people who had done really, really well on the exams in previous years and figured out what they did. A lot of the advice they gave me was to do lots and lots of active recall questions. And I also found a book called Make It Stick, which I then dove into and actually taught myself how to learn.
But before I even got that stage, what I did was I educated myself on what good looks like and I started to create a plan and a system for actually learning and executing on this plan over a period of three to six months. Similarly, if you want to do something like set up a YouTube channel, become a creator, or start a business, you need to figure out the steps that you need to make over the next six months before you start doing anything. So before you quit your job or give up or whatever it is is you're doing, you need to figure out what those steps are. And that's where self-education and research comes in. If you decide you want to be a writer or a coder, signing up to a writing course or researching the best coding courses online is a great way to start. Because this then directly leads into step two, which is to create a plan that you can then execute on.
Creating a plan and getting organized is absolutely critical for getting ahead over the next six months. Once you've figured out the steps to actually improve something in research phase, you can then break these steps down into manageable bite-sized chunks and divide this up into monthly or weekly or daily tasks that you can execute on in a way that's not going to burn you out and which is entirely sustainable. Going back to our example of coding or learning how to write online, what you might do is you might sign up to a course and then you might say, okay, I'm going to do a certain number of hours of this course every single day, and I'm then also going to execute on a few of the things that I learn and I'm going to do something practical like set up a blog or try and code an app.
This means that you're learning from experience but you're also learning in a manageable way where you're getting better and better the more that you build or the more that you write over a period of time. This is the same for pretty much anything whether it's learning how to study or starting that business you need to break things up into manageable bite-sized chunks. For example, when I was improving my study technique, I was reading this book, Make It Stick, but then I was also applying a lot of the things that I learned from that book into my own practice. I wasn't thinking, I'm just going to read this and then do nothing and I'll just stay at the theory side. I was always thinking, I need to test out a lot of these assumptions and I need to put it into my own study practice to see what works and what doesn't. And the cool thing about that is when you find something that works that you've researched, it actually gives you a little bit of an endorphin hit and you find it really, really exciting and then you want to use it more and more.
So now we self educated and created a micro plan for the next six months. What we then need to do is get into actual focused monk mode and eliminate all distractions and any negative influences. You see, one of the problems with being a bit of an outlier or doing things differently than anyone else is that people will put you down for it. People like to be comfortable and they don't like seeing people improve. If you've got people in your friendship group or even your family who say things like you shouldn't be doing that or just stay doing what you're doing at the moment or who mock you for doing things differently or trying something new, then you need to put those people on the back burner. You can either cut them out altogether or if you want to be a little bit less confrontational, just don't tell them what you're doing. problems with telling people about your goals or telling them what you're going to be doing over the next six months is that actually telling people has been shown to simulate dopamine release and then you're less inclined to actually follow through and execute on your goals. While I'm a big fan of building in public, what I don't do is tell people what I'm going to do ahead of when I actually do it.
If I'm building things in public, I'm talking about the metrics, I'm talking about what I've learned and I'm sharing my journey, but I'm actually on the journey. I'm not talking about things before I've set out. To get better quickly, part of your plan needs to eliminate all distractions. This can involve planning time for relaxation and when you're not going to be working on the thing you're improving, but it can also be scheduling time where you're going to have really focused sessions of work.
Now, I go into this in detail in my article on how to study with a full-time job, but just to summarize that, I tend to block out a lot of my work in the first few hours of the day because that's when I'm at my most focused and I have my most energy. I'll then do things that require less cognitive load later on in the day because that's when I start to tire a little bit. Now, the good thing about reducing distractions and procrastination here and keeping our skill focused in the center of attention is that we've built that leverage in the first step of this. We know that if things get tough or we're tired, all we need to do is think back to that visual picture of what will happen if we don't execute on all the things that that we're learning will stay the same, things won't change, and they might even get worse.
And if that doesn't motivate you, then just letting some of those negative emotions, those frustrations from a hard day at work, or from people doing better than you fuel your behavior change in the short term to help you get ahead as quickly as possible. Because this then brings us to the final step, which is when you're in monk mode, the most important thing is to execute and to fail as much as possible. Having a growth mindset means that you learn from absolutely everything. And we often learn the most from failures. I know that I certainly have.
Things that I haven't done so well at, I've learned the most from. Whether it's failed businesses, failing exams, or whatever, I remember those really, really acutely because they're so emotionally charged. No one likes to fail, but because of that, we learn lots and lots for every failure. Now these failures don't need to be absolutely catastrophic. When I talk about failure, I'm talking about things like having a go at something and it not working out and you quickly then figuring out how to overcome that challenge. A really good example of this is learning how to code. When I taught myself how to code websites for the first time, I was learning full stack web development and there were some things that I just couldn't figure out. Then I had to jump into resources like Stack Overflow where I could see walkthroughs and figure out what I'd done wrong. I might also share some of my code so that I got some online coaching so that I could actually learn in detail what I was doing wrong and figure out the solutions to some of these challenges. Now, the key thing here is to appreciate that some days you're going to have really, really difficult and challenging experiences and want to give up.
This is where having those positive emotions as well as the negative emotions driving you are so, so important. The amount of times I've set out to build a new type of website or learn to code something new and it's taken three times the amount of time that I expected it and I've wanted to give up is just absolutely insane. but what keeps me going is not just the negative emotions but it's actually the positive emotions that knowing that if I make these changes my life is going to be completely altered in the next six months and I'm going to level up to the next stage of my professional development and this really really excites me. So whatever it is you're doing you need to execute quickly and don't be afraid to fail. Now the final and probably most important point I want to make here is that 99% of people don't stick to routine, they don't follow through on things and they don't want to make change because challenging ourselves is really uncomfortable and really really difficult.
And so if you want to get into that top one percent and get ahead of everybody else, you need to set up routines and systems to allow you to manage your time and use resources that help you to execute things and reduce that time delay between thinking about doing something and actually doing it. By this, I mean when you have that idea that you need to put leverage on yourself and you need to learn a new skill, you need to get on and do it immediately or you're likely to procrastinate and let that leverage slip away.
For example, for me, I decided I wanted to learn the guitar as it was something fun and it was a huge challenge for me. Now, I didn't think about that. I didn't really do a huge amount of research into what was involved or how hard it was to speak to anyone, I knew I needed a guitar and I knew there were loads of online resources that would help me learn and practice. So I got into the Fender store, grabbed a guitar and then downloaded the Fender app and started working through some of the tutorials. It was only then that I started bringing in more theory around my actual practice and I set up a routine that allowed me to do those Fender tutorials every single day at the same time and I fitted it in around my busy schedule of building businesses. I could take a little bit of a break, practice some chords for just even 15 minutes a day, and then slowly, I gradually got better and better. As I got better and powered through that early learning curve where I knew absolutely nothing and I was absolutely rubbish and it was pretty demotivating, I then became better and better. It was actually really fun being able to play proper songs and and learn how to actually strum chords and write my own music. And this is why both leverage and monk mode are so important.
Whenever you start doing something new to help you get ahead, it's always going to be really difficult because you're in a state of unconscious incompetence and you have absolutely no proficiency at that new thing. People don't want to be in that state because it's not nice and it's uncomfortable. But if you push through, you keep going, your life will completely change. Whether it's uploading videos to YouTube, playing the guitar, starting a business, or learning how to study, with consistent, deliberate, regular practice, you will get better and you'll get ahead of everyone else over the next six months.