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Here’s some pointers on life that I wish I had known earlier.

1) Treasure opportunities to stand out.

When someone has a birthday, write them a meaningful card or send them a personal email.

Always be ready to make someone feel special.  Did anyone ever do something that made you feel wonderful?  Now go and find a way to do that for someone else!

2) Exercise 2.5 hours a week.

Exercise has amazing health benefits.  It makes people feel better, improves circulation, and strengthens the immune system.  Make it a part of your routine.

Yes, it sucks.  But if you want to improve your life, exercise is by the far the best decision.

3) Promise little, do much

People hold you to your promises.  If you say something – then don’t do it – you’ve lost credibility.  But when you always meet your word, and exceed it, people know they can trust you.  And they associate you with excellence.

4) Always think “why am I here?”

Sometimes it’s hard.  You’re with someone, and you’re just not connecting, or you’re at an event and you’re just standing near the wall.

Why are you there?  What do you want?

In all areas of life, being able to think bigger and gain perspective refocuses you and lets you achieve.

5) Remind yourself why.

Why are you doing what you do? Let’s say you want to lose weight. Put a picture of a hot celebrity or yourself when you were skinnier on the refrigerator. Use a similar principal to keep your mind focused on whatever goal it is you have.

6) Listen to music.

Research shows that listening to music can increase your creativity.  When you do, mix it up!  Try classical, or African hip hop.  It’ll make you cooler and possibly improve your thought process.

7) Sleep at meetings.

I heard of a famous economist/mathematician who would always spend meetings with his eyes shut and leaned back. Anyone who didn’t know him assumed that he was sleeping. At the end, he’d lean forward and ask the most penetrating and interesting questions.

He learned best with his eyes closed, and he wasn’t worried what people thought about him.  Neither should you.

8) Think of your positive traits, not your bad.

A study asked one group of people to think of themselves as very smart and competent before taking a test. The other group was told to think negative thoughts.  Naturally, the positive thinking group scored significantly higher.

Before an important event in your life, stop.  Focus on your positive traits.

9) Commit yourself to your goals in a public setting.

If you want to do something, let people know.  Make promises to the people who matter in your life.  It’ll keep you focused, on target.  And being accountable makes you succeed.

10) Drink tea or coffee.

Tea and coffee have health benefits.  Additionally, they contain the magical substance caffeine, which can possibly give you a boost and make you perform just a little better.

11) Do one thing

Pick one habit you’d like to have, something small and easy.  Now do it, always, without compromise or fail.

The power of succeeding at one thing has radical effects.  Once you get in the habit of holding yourself accountable, and doing things, you’ll find it easier to face other challenges.  As the Chinese say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

12) Call or email someone who you haven’t seen or spoke to in a while.

Don’t fall into obscurity!  Reach out to your friends.  Not only is socializing good for your health, it increases creativity and gives you a deserved break.

13) Present yourself professionally.

If you provide a service, have business cards.  Have a website!

14) Use to do lists.

Each day, write a list of tasks.  Then cross the tasks off as you accomplish them.  This holds you accountable and makes achieving your goals a little more fun.

15) Give, always give.

People naturally return favors.  If you are nice to people, people will be nice to you.  Of course, it goes without saying that sucking up and being nice just to gain favors is a bad idea.  Be genuine.

16) Don’t complain.

The next time you find yourself about to complain, take a step back.  Focus on a constructive answer, and reframe the issue.

17) Deal with paperwork once.

If you can deal with something immediately, do so.  Like if you can deal with an email right away, do so.  This will improve your efficiency and reduce how much time you spend on annoying small tasks.

18) Be eager to greet people, and do so with a smile.

19) Humility

Remember where you came from – a drop. Remember where you’ll go – a grave where worms will eat you.

And remember what you’ll leave behind – the memories of what you did.

20) Listen.

Ask relevant questions, be interested, and listen.

21) Learn from everyone.

Everyone has their place and their time.  The most annoying, hard-ass person you know?  Yes, him too.

22) Have a great photo of yourself

Having a photo of yourself that looks great will help you out in surprising ways.  Online, for instance, having a great photo in your profile will improve the way people think of you.  Most importantly, it might even help you think better of yourself.

23) Treasure your family

No one else loves you like they do.  No one else will be there for you at 2am.  Always put your family first – they’re the only people who really deserve it.

24) Review your flaws

We all have negative traits that get us into trouble time and time again.  The great philosopher Maimonides said that the best way to overcome a negative trait, is to do the exact opposite until doing so becomes second nature.

That might be a bit difficult for us normal people.  But know what your flaws are – and, more importantly, do something to remedy them.