Focus on the Letter “R” for Success

Hero or Zero?
What draws the line between a hero and a zero? Would your high IQ secure you a number in Forbes’ List of Billionaires or a Nobel Prize nomination? The answer is No. An interview by Steven Viney with Mensa members reveals that many respondents lead ordinary lives as workers, assistants or drivers. In fact, despite varied levels of intelligence, the exceptionally renowned usually share several behavior patterns that feed achievement. The letter “R” more or less initiates the habitual check points you should follow on your way to achieve greatness.

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Respect is earned, and the key to earning the respect of others is self-respect. While a to-do list is a visual representation of your self-promise, to get most of it done, you need to schedule all related items on your calendar. According to Travis Bradberry, writer for Entrepreneur Philippines, typically about 60% of items on a to-do list are left unfinished at the end of the day. For many people, the hardest thing to do is to work when no one is looking. Apparently, success is the fruit of incredibly hard work, especially without supervision. A survey of 50 billionaires of Forbes Australia in 2014 revealed that about 60% of participants worked 60 hours or more per week. One example is Elon Musk, the pioneer billionaire in futuristic technology, who is working 100 hours/week. From the very start, Musk has been working hard under his self-oath to sustain the existence of humanity via renewable energy, clean transportation and space exploration. You must first have respect for yourself and your goals to warrant respect from others for your work, ideas and achievements.

2. Rank
As claimed by Warren Buffet, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” Once the goal is set and tasks emerge, the challenge is to identify which tasks will contribute to your progress. The Covey’s Time Management Grid might be a handy tool to help you get things done:

Your task inventory should be categorized in terms of urgency and importance. As a result, the tasks in upper left quadrant are essential, requiring extra time and immediate scheduling. Up next are important but non-urgent tasks which bring long-term productivity and balance. On the bottom left, urgent but unimportant tasks are likely time-wasters, which can either be done later or eliminated. The last quadrant consists of tasks that are not urgent and not important to your goals. They are largely time-wasters which must be eliminated.

According the 80/20 rule or Pareto Principle, in practice, about 20% of activities contribute to 80% of the results. Individuals like Warren Buffet are particularly good at identifying the odds and filling their calendars. Here are several tips to optimize your time management:

  1. a) Schedule activities minute by minute. Every minute should be counted when planning your schedule. On average, 5 minutes is enough to answer 5 emails or return a phone call.
  2. b) Avoid meetings at all costs. Most meetings tend to be ineffective and tiresome. If you must attend a meeting, make sure it has a meaningful agenda and the time frame is short. Start on time. End on time.
  3. c) Schedule specific times for checking emails. Emails are largely distractions. Two 30-minute sessions per work day should be sufficient.
  4. d) Solve important tasks that will take less than 5 minutes right on the spot. For example, do not postpone replying to an email if you can quickly reply to it at once.

3. Record
A photographic memory is by no means a typical gift. Taking physical notes makes a good alternative. A notebook helps free up “brain space” and facilitate creativity and cohesion. It is a personalized storage of ideas and knowledge. Da Vinci’s Notebook (Codex Leicester), owned by Bill Gates after bidding $30.8 million, is an artistic and inspiring manuscript packed with world-changing ideas. Note-taking is not just a habit of the Renaissance genius but also a productivity hack of Richard Branson, the ambitious founder of Virgin Group. Branson’s notebook, recording his observations and deductions, helps the billionaire gain advantages in management, negotiation and legal situations. Many of his handwritten notes set the foundation for his million-dollar projects.

4. Read
Reading is a traditional, but never outdated, way to stay ahead of competition. Apart from entertainment, a good book facilitates self-improvement, education and success. Thus, non-fiction books are recommended, especially those on new technology. The richest nerd on the planet, Bill Gates, reads 50 books per year (about one title per week) despite his hectic schedule. Gates goes the extra mile to promote a reading culture by building his personal blog ( which specializes in reviewing books and exchanging ideas. He proudly presents: “This is my personal blog, where I share about the people I meet, the books I’m reading, and what I’m learning. I hope that you’ll join the conversation.”

5. Refresh
Refresh yourself by keeping a healthy routine and reducing trivial decision making. The more powerful an engine, the more maintenance it requires. A good night’s sleep, healthy breakfast and suitable level of exercise before working hours will help to revitalize you and boost your productivity. President Obama starts his morning at 6:45. He then hits the gym before heading back for breakfast with his wife and two daughters. His office is officially open after the girls leave for school. Obama has been keeping his routine as a starting podium for his stressful work days. Night owl Mark Zuckerberg, on the other hand, eliminates morning stress by simplifying how he dresses. Every morning, Zuckerberg puts on his plain gray T-shirt and favorite pair of jeans, and he is good to go.

Following this focus on the letter “R” (Respect, Rank, Record, Read and Refresh) cannot ensure the life of a millionaire or world recognition. However, positive habits will yield better mental and physical health. Simple yet constructive changes in behaviors are small steps that everyone can take to meet their desired goals. Try to embrace these changes, and at the very least, the “R” magic will make you a remarkable sidekick that all heroes desire!

Phong Nguyen

BA from St. Olaf College
MBA from University of St. Thomas
SEO from "the School of Hard Knocks."

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