“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
For the past five weeks I’ve been counting down the top 50 habits of smart and successful people. In other words, the top 50 habits of all time.
We’ve looked at all kinds of habits: Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything from meditation to yoga, introspection to visualization, networking to role models.
Now it’s time for the best of the best: The top 10 habits of all time!
10. Honoring the present moment
“Have you ever experienced, done, thought, or felt anything outside the Now? Do you think you ever will? Is it possible for anything to happen or be outside the Now? The answer is obvious, is it not? Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now.” – Eckhart Tolle
I was first introduced to “The Power of Now” after reading Eckhart Tolle’s great book of the same name back in 2004.
Growing up in New Zealand 99% of the time I only thought about the past or the future. I really didn’t see the point of being present. As far as I was concerned the future was where it was at. That’s where all the good stuff was. The now? What’s so good about now? Fuck the now! I’m not rich now. I’m not famous now. All my dreams haven’t come true now!
What I didn’t realize when I was younger is that:
NOW is where the magic happens.
NOW is where your power is.
NOW is where your life changes.
NOW is the only time you can create change, make a decision, seize opportunity and take action. If you are in the habit of ignoring the now you will miss out on all the best opportunities because it is the here and now that they are presented to you.
Past and future are only an illusion. There is no time but now and there never will be. Even if you jumped into a time machine and went 1 million years into the future or 1 billion years into the past it would still be NOW.
If you doubt what I’m saying ask yourself:
- When does the now stop being the now?
- When does the past end and the now begin?
- When does the now end and the future begin?
Isn’t it obvious that life is just one long continuous stream of now?
When I first started practicing the Power of Now as a 24 year old in 2004 it was incredibly difficult for me. In fact, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I found it absolutely exhausting staying in the moment or even listening to someone for more than 30 seconds without interrupting, daydreaming or going off on a tangent.
I talked a lot more than I listened and I liked to drive and dominate conversations because I found most topics and people boring. I also thought constantly about the past and future and didn’t see the point of being present.
Now listening to the world’s most boring person telling the world’s most boring story for the 50th time is the easiest thing in the world for me. I’m able to be fully present with anyone no matter what the topic without the slightest urge to interrupt/share my opinion/change topics/daydream/talk about something else.
Because I made a conscious effort to change and I persisted with it until it became a habit.
But it wasn’t easy. Truthfully it probably took me 5 years to really switch from being a talker to a listener and to fully accepting the present moment as it was without trying to change it.
I didn’t realise it at the time but one of the major benefits of being present in the moment is that you learn a lot and get a lot smarter. I used to think the only way to learn was to get hands on experience, study and ask questions, but what I’ve learnt is that life reveals it secrets every second if you have the eyes to see and ears to hear.
In fact, the more you listen and pay attention the more you learn!
So I advise you to make a conscious effort to stay focused in the now because life takes place in the moment, and when you are constantly thinking about something else, somewhere else, you are denying the now and resisting ‘what is’ which leads to stress and suffering.
In addition to staying present in the now I think it’s important to also pay attention to what takes you out of the now.
Obviously certain people/places/situations make it easier to be in the now and some things make it harder.
Certain things make it easier to be present:
- A quiet mind
- Doing something you love
- Eating delicious foods
- Living/working in a quiet neighborhood
- Watching a great movie/TV show
- Working in a stress free job
Certain things make it harder to be in the now:
- Coffee/Energy drinks
- Fast paced music/intense music
- Fast paced stressful environments (It’s hard to be in the moment when everything and everyone around you is stressed and going crazy)
- Being surrounded by people you don’t like
- Doing something you don’t like
- Working in a job you hate
“Time is an illusion. The dividing line between past, present, and future is an illusion”. – Albert Einstein
9. Radical Honesty
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” – Thomas Jefferson
One of the biggest problems with the world today is that everyone is full of shit. Everyone lies all the time about everything. People lie to your face. They lie on their CVs. They lie at job interviews. They lie on dates. They lie under oath. They swear to God and lie. Men lie. Women lie. Children lie. Celebrities lie. Presidents lie. Everyone lies!
“I want to say something to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman. I never told anybody a lie. These allegations are false.” – Bill Clinton
“We’re just friends” – Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie
“No sex until marriage” – Britney Spears
“There is no sex tape” – Kim Kardashian
“I’ve never doped. I’m a natural athlete” – Lance Armstrong
“I don’t do drugs” – Paris Hilton
“I’m faithful” – Tiger Woods
Why do people lie?
- To avoid embarrassment and save face
- To avoid punishment
- To avoid taking responsibility
- To avoid having to do someone else a favor
- To avoid hurting someone else’s feelings
- To get what they want
- To get out of something they don’t want to do
- To sound important/impressive
- To fool/trick/manipulate you
- To influence/persuade you
- To play dumb
- They even lie for no reason! (Because they’re addicted to it)
Lying is a bad habit for most people. It’s an addiction.
Not only do we lie to others but we lie to ourselves too.
Common lies we tell ourselves:
- I’m fine
- I don’t care what anyone thinks
- I’m not hurt, I’m just angry
- I’m over it, I don’t even think about it anymore
- I’ll do it tomorrow
- I’ve got time, this can wait
- I’ve done my best
- I’ve done everything I could have
- I don’t need anyone else
- I won’t do that again
- I don’t have a problem
- It’s all their fault – not mine
- I’m not addicted
- It’s not about the money
- I can live without this
- I know all I need to know
- I know what’s best for me
- I know what’s best for other people
- I see things the way they really are, objectively
- I make decisions logically based on the evidence, not emotionally based on habit
- It’s not my fault – it’s theirs, it’s them, not me
- I had nothing to do with this
- This person will change
- Everyone else is doing it
The problem with lying to yourself is that it doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t alter anything. It doesn’t improve anything. All it does is just waste valuable time that could actually be spent improving the situation and making things better.
My advice is to avoid all forms of self-deception and be completely honest with yourself at all times about everything. Even when you don’t want to. Even when it’s uncomfortable to do so.
If you’re afraid – admit it.
If you’re angry – admit it.
If you’re insecure – admit it.
If you’re overweight – admit it.
If you can’t take criticism – admit it.
If you hate your family – admit it.
If you hate your job – admit it.
If you hate your life – admit it.
If you aren’t going to take action – admit it.
If you aren’t going to change – admit it.
If you’ve made a mistake – admit it.
If you’re in the wrong – admit it.
You have nothing to lose by being honest with yourself and everything to gain.
Honesty is empowering. The truth is your friend not your enemy. When you are completely honest with yourself, no one can use anything to threaten you with. You have nothing to hide. Nothing to run away from. People will also trust you more and you will like yourself more.
“The degree to which a person can grow is directly proportional to the amount of truth he can accept about himself without running away.” – Leland Val Van de Wall
8. Face your fears and go outside your comfort zone
“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.” – Buddha
I’ve never been a confident person.
I was raised by an anxious mother who taught me to fear life and everything in it.
I struggled a lot with anxiety and fear growing up and instead of facing my fears I avoided them. If I was scared or unsure of something I wouldn’t do it.
Until one day I realized something: My fears aren’t going anywhere. I’m no more confident now than I was 5 years ago. If I have to wait until I feel confident before doing something new I’ll be waiting forever. I might never feel confident. I’ll probably die waiting. I’ve just got to feel the fear and do it anyway. If I can’t do it confidently, I just have to do it scared.
So now I just do things when I’m still feeling scared. I do them when I’m feeling anxious and afraid.
Because I know it will be good for me.
I wasn’t confident doing any of these things in my life:
- Cage diving with Great White Sharks in Cape Town, South Africa
- Drinking Ayahuasca in the Amazon jungle
- Hosting my own radio show
- Learning Martial Arts (Boxing, BJJ, Muay-Thai, Kung Fu and Wrestling). I definitely didn’t feel confident about fighting, sparring and competing either.
- Learning public speaking at Toastmasters
- Riding Elephants or touching Crocodiles, Snakes and Tigers in Thailand
- Skydiving from 15, 000 feet
- Spending 6 months alone in India
- Taking Acting and Improv classes
- Traveling the World (40 countries)
- Walking across 800 degree burning hot coals at the Tony Robbins seminar “Unleash the Power Within”
- + A Zillion other things
Take my advice:
Do what scares you if you know it would be good for you.
Don’t let fear hold you hostage, keep you prisoner and stop you from following your dreams.
Feel the fear and do it anyway. Do it nervous. Do it scared. Just do it.
Don’t wait until you feel confident before taking action because that’s outside of your control. You might never feel confident until you do it. If you wait until you feel confident you might be waiting forever. You might die waiting.
Facing your fears is a habit. So is avoiding the things that scare you. But if you start doing the things you fear, soon you won’t fear them. Each time you go outside your comfort zone you stretch it and you also create a memory, a reference, which you can draw upon to gain confidence the next time you face your fear. “I’ve done this before and I can do it again.”
Most people will do anything they can to stay within their comfort zone, but everything you’ve ever wanted is outside of your comfort zone. That’s where the magic happens. Not in the known, but in the unknown. In the places you have not been. In the things you have not experienced. With the people you have not met. If what you wanted was within your comfort zone, you would already have it instead of talking and dreaming about it.
Also remember that everything you’re comfortable with now was once outside of your comfort zone.
What will it take to make you go outside of your comfort zone?
- Fear of failure?
- Fear of loss?
- People telling you it can’t be done?
- The desire to prove people wrong?
Whatever it is, use it to motivate you. I’ve personally found anger to be extremely helpful in getting me outside of my comfort zone. The thought of missing out and wasting my potential is often enough for me to take action and face my fears.
“Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. Life begins where your comfort zone ends.” – Oprah Winfrey
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt
If you ask anyone who has failed why they failed, most often they will say it was due to a lack of:
In other words – resources.
But lack of resources ISN’T why most people fail.
Most people fail due to a lack of resourcefulness.
It’s not that most people need more ability, knowledge, skills, time etc.
It’s that they’re not using the ability, knowledge, skills, time etc. they already have.
They’ve got it – but they’re not giving it.
They have it – but they’re not using it.
They know it – but they’re not doing it.
If you want to be more successful, be more resourceful. Give what you’ve got. Do what you know. Show what you have. Stop holding back.
If you want the world to give you its best, give it your best.
If you can be more, be more.
If you can do more, do more.
If you can give more, give more.
Don’t just hope, pray or wish for the right things to happen, go out there and make them happen. Create your own options. Make your own luck.
Do what you can, from where you are, with what you’ve got. Don’t leave anything to chance and don’t let what you can’t do prevent you from doing what you can do. That’s all you can do and that’s all you need to do.
“I’m a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” ―Thomas Jefferson
PS: I spoke about the importance of resourcefulness in my very popular article about Tony Robbins
“If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you’ll achieve the same results.” – Tony Robbins
If you want to be successful a good place to start is by copying the habits and strategies of the world’s most successful people.
Copy the best. Steal their strategies. Make them your own. Successful people are successful for a reason. They’re obviously doing something right.
- Who has already achieved what you want to achieve?
- Who is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) of what you want to do?
- What habits do they have that you don’t?
- What resources do they have that you don’t?
- What training have they done that you haven’t?
- How do they spend their time differently than you?
- How do their beliefs differ from yours?
- How do their standards differ from yours?
- How does their work ethic differ from yours?
- How do their values differ from yours?
- What are the top 5 lessons you can learn from them?
- What mistakes have they made that you should avoid?
By copying the habits and strategies of the world’s most successful people and making them your own you can dramatically shortcut your learning curve and save yourself a ton of time, effort and energy.
“I steal from every movie ever made.” – Quentin Tarantino
PS: I spoke about the importance of modelling in my very popular article about Tony Robbins
5. Strategic decisions
Decision making is incredibly important.
Your decisions determine everything about your life:
- What you do
- Where you live
- What you eat
- What you wear
- How you spend your time
- Who you spend it with
The problem is that most people are in the habit of making bad decisions.
Because they don’t know how to make good decisions.
If you are smart you will start factoring realistic probabilities into your decision making. Whilst you can’t guarantee success and ‘make it happen’ – obviously certain decisions, actions and habits are a lot more likely to give you the result you want.
What decisions, actions and habits are most likely to pay off for you 1, 3, 5, 10+ years from now? (Hint: This article has some good ideas)
What will you wish you had started today a year from now?
I strongly recommend you read my in-depth article on decision making because there is an art to decision making and BIG decisions shouldn’t be rushed into.
4. Do whatever it takes
“Whatever it takes.” – United States Marines
It’s often said that the best things in life are free.
Nothing in life is free. There is a price that must be paid for everything you want.
There is a price that must be paid for:
- The career you want
- The girl/guy you want
- The house/car/phone you want
- The lifestyle you want
The price might be money, time or effort. It could be years of hard work, study and sacrifice. But whatever it is, nothing in life comes freely without effort.
Most people have a dream, but they’re not willing to pay the price:
- They’re not willing to change careers
- They’re not willing to face their fears or go outside their comfort zones
- They’re not willing to invest the time, money, or effort
- They’re not willing to put in the work
- They’re not willing to re-educate
- They’re not willing to relocate
- They’re not willing to sacrifice
- They’re not willing to study
They want to get, but they don’t want to give.
They want to reap, but they don’t want to sew.
In short: They have an attitude of entitlement and want something for nothing.
But that’s not the way life works because it violates the law of cause and effect.
There is no such thing as:
- A free lunch
- Reward without risk
- Something for nothing
If you don’t cause anything, you won’t get anything.
If you put nothing in, you’ll get nothing out.
If you don’t sew, you won’t reap.
Listen to me: If you want something you have to pay the price. Don’t try to get something for nothing because you’ll only cheat yourself.
Other people fail because they want success on their terms and have all kinds of rules and restrictions about what they will and won’t do, where they will and won’t go, who they will and won’t speak to etc.
But life doesn’t work that way. You can’t just do whatever you like and be successful. If you could everyone would be successful.
If you are serious about success you must take all restrictions off your success, pay the price and do whatever it takes to win.
Your attitude should be: Whatever. Wherever. Whenever. However. With Whomever.
Are you willing to pay the price?
- Are you willing to change careers?
- Are you willing to re-educate?
- Are you willing to relocate?
- Are you willing to knock on 1, 000+ doors and face 1, 000+ rejections?
- Are you willing to put in 10, 000+ hours of study and hard work to become an expert?
- Are you willing to wake up at 5am and work 12-16 hour days 7 days a week for years on end?
Whatever it is you won’t do, wherever it is you won’t go, whoever it is you won’t speak to, whatever line it is that you won’t cross, could easily end up costing you your dreams.
“Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.” – Jerry Rice
3. Invest in yourself
What’s the best investment you can make?
“The most important investment you can make is in yourself” – Warren Bufffett
An investment in yourself pays off forever and it doesn’t matter what happens: stock market crash, recession, depression, bear market etc. no one and nothing can take it away from you. You’ve got it forever.
How do you invest in yourself?
30 ways to invest in yourself:
- Get a coach or mentor
- Join or start a mastermind group
- Make your bucket list your ‘to do’ list and take action to achieve it
- Eat healthy
- Meditate every day for at least 30 minutes
- Buy a new suit – when you look good you feel good
- Learn critical thinking
- Become aware of your cognitive biases
- Learn how to learn
- Learn how to make great decisions
- Learn how to negotiate
- Learn how to influence, persuade and sell
- Learn business and entrepreneurship skills
- Learn finance and how money works
- Learn about the opposite sex
- Learn MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)
- Learn public speaking
- Learn Yoga
- Move to a city with an abundance of opportunity such as: New York, London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Palo Alto/Silicon Valley, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore, Sydney or Melbourne
- Read the following books:
- Think and Grow Rich
- Rich Dad Poor Dad
- The Millionaire Fastlane
- Maximum Achievement
- The Success Principles
- Awaken the Giant Within
- The Power of Now
- Build your network face to face and online through social media platforms like LinkedIn. Your network = your net worth.
- Improve your social media profile on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter
- Promote yourself/your business/your brand (Everyone has a brand and it’s called YOU Inc.)
- Start a blog, podcast, vlog or YouTube channel
- Start your own business
- Program your mind for success by reading, watching and listening to various kinds of inspirational and motivational audiobooks, podcasts, seminars and hypnosis tapes
- Read and subscribe to my blog: www.lifelessons.co (only articles – NO SPAM EVER)
- Try psychedelics like Ayahuasca, LSD, Magic Mushrooms etc. because they will open your eyes and open your mind and change your perception of life and other people
- Travel the world and get a real life education
Don’t invest in others. Invest in yourself. Invest in your education, knowledge, experience, network and skills.
2. Conscious Evolution: The Ultimate Habit
“I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.” – Elon Musk
Conscious evolution is the ULTIMATE HABIT.
It’s so damn important I almost put it at number one.
Let me explain…
Change is a fact of life. Nothing lasts forever. Nothing stays the same. Nothing is static or permanent. You can’t stop or prevent change. Everything changes – including you.
But although change is a fact of life most people don’t like change. They fear it.
Simple. Things can change for better or worse.
- Your body can change for better or worse
- Your career can change for better or worse
- Your relationships can change for better or worse
Here’s the thing: Change is automatic but progress is not. If you don’t make a conscious effort to improve your lifestyle and circumstances, it’s highly unlikely that they will change for the better. Most things left to themselves don’t tend to get better, they tend to get worse. Weeds are automatic, flowers are not.
Conscious evolution is about being the catalyst of your own change and having a say in what kind of change you experience.
Conscious evolution is:
- Constant and never ending improvement in every area of your life
- It’s about looking for a better, faster, smarter, more effective, more efficient, more intelligent way to do everything
- It’s about always looking for a better approach, habit, method, practice, strategy, system or technique
- It’s about leading by example and being the change you wish to see in the world, and not waiting for anyone else to change before you do
- It’s about lifting the bar and raising your standards and always looking for a way to outdo and beat your previous best work
- It’s about being proactive, not reactive, and not waiting for the day, but making it the day
- It’s about daily improvement not perfection. It’s not about being the best, it’s about trying to be a little better than you were the day before
“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” – Jim Rohn
Imagine 2 businesses:
Business A) Is reactive. It only deals with problems as they present themselves. It doesn’t do anything to change, improve or get better.
Business B) Is proactive. Problems are prevented and solved ahead of time. Everything is constantly evolving, improving and getting better. The bar is always raised and the standards of quality get better every day. Nothing is ever good enough.
Which business would you rather deal with? Which one will go further?
Imagine applying those principles to your life.
I advise you to look at every aspect of your life: Your thinking, learning, decision making, actions, habits, body, mind, career, clothing, diet, finances, friendships, relationships, where you live, what you do, who you spend time with, and everything else and ask yourself:
- How could I improve this? What would make it better?
- What’s an even better, faster, smarter, more effective and efficient way to do this?
- Why isn’t this perfect? What would make it perfect?
1. Critical thinking
“The most important aspect of my personality as far as determining my success goes; has been my questioning conventional wisdom, doubting experts and questioning authority.” – Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle
The number one habit of all time is without a doubt: Critical thinking
Critical thinking is the single most important thing I’ve ever learnt in my entire life. It’s that important. It’s that valuable. It’s that life changing.
5 reasons you must become a Critical Thinker
The benefits to critical thinking are limitless. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.
- Critical thinking makes you smarter. The better your critical thinking skills are, the better your decision making, problem solving and analytical skills will be
- You need to know how to sort fact from fiction, reality from opinion, and truth from lies because no one else is going to do it for you. 99%+ of everything you see, hear, read, watch and listen to on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and in magazines, newspapers, radio, TV, movies, blogs, podcasts, and websites, is nothing but gossip, lies, rumors, speculation, opinions parading as facts, propaganda, pseudoscience and bullshit
- There is a war on for your mind. The news media and social media are engaged in a 24/7, 365, effort to brainwash you. They want to program you and tell you what to think, what to believe, what to want, what to value, what to like, what to dislike etc. critical thinking stops you from being gullible and naïve and from being an easy target
- Chinese whispers are common. If we lived in a world where everybody was fully committed to speaking only the absolute truth, we probably wouldn’t need to screen information for accuracy and be as skeptical. However the reality is that not only are people not honest but they lie and talk crap all day long. People don’t tell you the way it is, they put their own spin on it and tell you the way they want you to hear it.
- It makes you a better planner. By looking at your plans critically you’ll be able to factor in any potential obstacles and problems weeks, months or even years before they arise, and you’ll be able to spot, uncover, and kill any potential monsters whilst they’re still small, or better yet, prevent them from being born in the first place
So how do you improve your critical thinking skills?
21 Critical thinking tips:
- Don’t let anyone else do your thinking for you or tell you what to think
- Beware of your starting assumptions and the way you have pre-framed information
- Follow the evidence wherever it leads – no matter where it leads
- Stop seeking a certain type of answer and be open to any answer
- Don’t just believe whatever you want to believe
- Welcome correction, critique, and disagreement with open arms
- Don’t hold any teachers or teachings sacred or off limits
- Examine the statement, not the speaker
- Don’t take information or people so literally, look where the finger is pointing
- Look at information and evidence without attachment, desire or fear
- Don’t be impressed by a lot of evidence. A million pieces of evidence doesn’t make something true. It’s about quality of evidence not quantity.
- Learn to falsify: Instead of trying to prove it, try to disprove it.
- Realize that nothing means anything. Beware of the meanings you give to things.
- Who cares if it’s hypocritical? The only question is: Is it true?
- Don’t prejudge the importance or relevance of new information
- Don’t jump to conclusions until you have all of the facts
- Don’t assume you’re right – even if the whole world agrees with you
- Don’t assume you’re right, just because you can’t think of any other possibilities
- Don’t assume you’re right, just because you can’t (yet!) be proven wrong
- Just because someone else is wrong, that doesn’t mean that you’re right
That’s it. That wraps up the top 50 habits of all time. All it takes is just ONE of these habits to change your life forever for the better and I’ve just given you 50.
Let’s do a quick recap:
Top 50 Habits of all time
49. Audiobooks and podcasts
48. Look good
47. Eat healthy
46. Intermittent fasting
44. Get a good night’s sleep
42. Inspirational and motivational speakers
41. Written goals
40. Positive role models
39. Play to win instead of playing not to lose
36. Learn from your mistakes
35. Learn from the mistakes of others
34. Kill the monster whilst it’s small
33. Examine the statement – not the speaker
31. Open mindedness
30. Peer review
28. Influence others with their criteria
27. Listen with your eyes
26. Take responsibility
25. Be early & over-prepared
24. Lead by example
23. Automate and delegate everything you can
22. Test your limits
21. Make your Bucket list ‘to do’ list
19. Truth seeking
18. Stand on the shoulders of giants (choose your teachers wisely)
17. Get a coach or mentor
16. Put yourself in a position to succeed
15. Use your energy wisely
14. Control your focus
13. Reduce your lag-time between what you know and what you do
12. Be adaptable
11. Raise your standards
10. Honoring the present moment
9. Radical honesty
8. Face your fears and go outside your comfort zone
5. Smart decision making
4. Do whatever it takes
3. Invest in yourself
2. Conscious Evolution
1. Critical Thinking
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and have learnt something from it.
Habits are important. They determine your destiny. It’s not about what you do sometimes that counts but what you do repeatedly and consistently that makes a difference to your life.
I strongly advise you to review these articles again and again and to make a conscious effort to adopt at least one of these habits into your own life because they are powerful and life changing!
This is Part 5 of a 5 part series: The Top 50 Habits of all time
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