// Internet Duct Tape

Do Anything: 3 Steps for Success

Posted in Lifehacks, Technology by engtech on August 28, 2007

Lifehacks and Productivity

One of the strangest things about growing older is coming to terms with the idealism and certainty you had as a teenager compared to the reality of who you’ve grown into. I grew up in a house full of books on what I’d now refer to as lifehacks: books on happiness, psychology, time management, career development and how to influence people. From my post-adolescence surety I always looked at those self-help books with distain: “Why would you need someone else to tell you how to live your life?”

It’s funny how times change. If I’m honest to myself then I have to admit that I read far too many blogs that could fall into the category of self-help. I learn how to be a better blogger with DBT, Problogger, Copyblogger, and Skelliwag. There’s always programming and high tech tips to be learned from Joel, Jeff, Giles, Rands, Reg and the guys at 37signals. And let’s not forget about all the life tips from Gina, Leon, and Leo. It’s very easy to spend all of my time learning and not enough time doing.

Today I’m going to take a break from the usual Internet Duct Tape goodness, and share with you the ultimate time saving lifehack. After learning this secret you’ll be able to put down your self-help books, unsubscribe from all of those tip/learning blogs (I’m lying — don’t do that), and use all that freed time living your life, or just catching up on reruns of the O.C. I won’t judge. Success in any endeavor can be yours as long as you keep these three things in the front of your mind.

1. Be Happy

A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes. — Hugh Downs

I don’t mean listen to that irritatingly catchy song. If you start a task happy then you are coming from a position of strength. You’ll feel more energetic, more calm and be able to handle anything that life throws your way. People want to be around relaxed, happy people. You’ll have better relationships with friends and co-workers. You will be more aware of the chances and opportunities around you.

I’m not going to give you platitudes about how to find your happiness. There isn’t any one answer that suits all situations. Recognize that no one in your life can make you happy except for yourself, and if you don’t start from a position of happiness then everything else becomes so much harder. Irritation and constant complaining are the little yellow canaries in the mineshaft that you’re losing hold of your happiness. Keep hold of your happiness, it is the best asset you have.

2. Know What is Important

I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their life — Leo Tolstoy

Any advice on time/life management can be broken down to this essential idea: focus on what is important to achieving your goal and ignore all else. Stuff in your house you don’t use? Get rid of it. Features in your app that aren’t going to land the customer? They’re only adding complexity and tying up your developers. Cut unnecessary time sinks and distractions out of your life mercilessly and suddenly everything else becomes much more manageable.

Doing less as a way of achieving more is quite simple, the really hard part is figuring out what you want to accomplish, and then identifying what is truly important to get there. Don’t confuse urgency with importance. In any task only 20% of the activities around it are truly important, the other 80% are trivialities that can be ignored. One of the most important skills you can have in life is figuring out which is which.

3. Be Disciplined

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. — Jim Rohn

When you know what your goal is, and you have identified the 20% of tasks that are important, then it is only a matter of execution. Discipline, like patience, is more a muscle than a skill. You gain discipline by exercising that muscle, instead of letting it atrophy by following distractions and procrastination. The greatest productivity comes from achieving flow. Exercising your discipline is the road to being able to enter flow at will.

Like Chuck Jazdzewski says, programming is fun but shipping is your job. It doesn’t matter how much work, time and effort you put into something if your don’t achieve your goal. Discipline helps you always be closing on your goals.


Time and resources can play a big factor in success, but they are external factors. If you start from a position of strength (happiness), identify what gets you the most bang for your buck (know what is important), and execute (be disciplined) then you will always achieve the results you are looking for.

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46 Responses

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  1. Jan said, on August 28, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    So simple, yet difficult to put into action. At least for me. Thank you for posting this, I needed it. I really need to focus on the being happy, and discipline parts, they’re what really keep me from achieving my goals, in life and blogging.

  2. brightfeather said, on August 28, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    You’ve done it again. You’ve written another succinct and helpful post and I’m glad I read it. Keep ’em coming. :)

  3. David B. Bohl at Slo said, on August 28, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    Very direct and to the point. Thank you. We often need these reminders.

    Discipline gets a bad rap in this day and age, but I agree that it is integral for success. We often haven’t taught ourselves to do the hard work up front – that of figuring out where we are, what we want, and where we’re going.

  4. Wet said, on August 28, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    August 28, 2007

    Quote of the Day
    “Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing.”
    – George Sheehan

  5. JL Fleck said, on August 29, 2007 at 10:30 am

    You are spot on; great post. This is the kind of advice we give our clients and you summed it up perfectly.

    Nicely done!


  6. jeremy said, on August 29, 2007 at 10:46 am

    A very focused series of tips. I like it, and I might be able to remember these. Thanks!

  7. A.J. Valliant said, on August 29, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    I Imagine don’t work 80 hour weeks that keep you at work until midnight on the weekends should be included in the happiness part.

  8. […] Do Anything: 3 Steps to Success […]

  9. […] Do Anything: 3 Steps to Success […]

  10. Fred said, on August 30, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    Hey, thanks for dropping by Silicon Island! Do I know you in real life? :)

  11. Webomatica said, on August 30, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    Personally I find the first item on your list the most daunting. While on average I’d consider myself “happy” the truth is I worry too much about ridiculous things. Meanwhile the cats sun and lick themselves and I sometimes envy their responsibility free life. I’ll have to ponder this some more.

  12. Diane said, on August 31, 2007 at 3:06 am

    Expecting too much from ourselves is our downfall. Life is much more complicated, but only as we make it. Our own doing I believe. I do like my self-help books though. I guess that makes me a self-help junkie?!
    Great post!

  13. Joe Pistell said, on September 02, 2007 at 8:19 am

    Note to Self:
    It all depends on where you are in… The Big Hunt.

    THE TRANSITION from idea into goal is where we creative types get frustrated.

    Before there is a goal, there is the journey to find it. You can’t have a journey without an idea. To move the idea into a goal we all “wander thru the ether” in a discovery process that resembles a meandering directionless journey. This creative discovery process is a lot of fun (at times) and not well suited to achieving goals.

    So… Know where you are in “The Big Hunt”. If you’re having problems with THE TRANSITION, it’s time to put down your idea seeking toolset and pick up a roll of Internet Duct Tape and get to work!

    The whole “throw out the noise and focus” begins once you have a GOAL established. If your idea 80% prepared, then its time to switch tools.

    Your article couldn’t be more timely for me!

    many thnx!

  14. engtech said, on September 04, 2007 at 11:59 pm


    I’m glad it spoke to you, Jan.

    It’s one of those things that are much easier to say than to do. An hour to type, but a lifetime to follow through.

  15. engtech said, on September 05, 2007 at 12:02 am


    I think you’re on to something…

    Step 1: Kill Stephen R. Covey
    Step 2: Channel his ghost.
    Step 3: Profit!

  16. engtech said, on September 05, 2007 at 12:06 am

    @David B. Bohl at Slo:

    I find that what we want and where we’re going are the two hardest questions — if you can figure them out than where we are comes naturally.

  17. engtech said, on September 05, 2007 at 12:11 am


    Happiness and pleasure also have the distinction that with pleasure you’ll always seek new highs, where happiness is more constant.

    We could all do with more delayed gratification, although not to the point where we no longer enjoy our lives.

  18. engtech said, on September 05, 2007 at 12:14 am


    Hmm, I need to find something more buzz worthy so those tips can fit on a post-it.

    Strength / Direction / Discipline?

    btw, I’m a fan of Welcome to the Future

  19. Jan said, on September 05, 2007 at 12:14 am


    so true… but I’m trying everyday, improving little by little. I know, because people keep telling me am not as depressing as usual :)

  20. engtech said, on September 05, 2007 at 12:17 am

    @A.J. Valliant:

    Yes, I imagine that would help out with the happiness part. :)

    As would hanging out with friends, and being in the sun, and any number of other things.

  21. engtech said, on September 05, 2007 at 12:31 am


    We all worry about ridiculous things… I mean, look at techmeme.com? I find it terribly interesting, but most of the stories have little impact on my life.

    But I wouldn’t put to much stock into the fact that cats are happier and worry-free. They can lick their own balls.

  22. engtech said, on September 05, 2007 at 12:42 am


    I find life is as complicated as you make your focus. Focus on the wrong things, and life becomes very complicated.

  23. engtech said, on September 05, 2007 at 1:31 am


    That’s an admirable goal :)

  24. […] week I wrote a post about the 3 steps to be successful at anything: be happy (position of strength), know what is important (goal setting, heading in the right […]

  25. do ANYTHING: 3 Steps for Success said, on September 05, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    […] Do Anything: 3 Steps for Success « Internet Duct Tape […]

  26. […] to start in your quest for accomplishment. What rules do you live by to achieve your success? Do Anything: 3 Steps for Success [Internet Duct […]

  27. james said, on September 06, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    I travel, eat right, bike or exercise daily, and am not consumed by a drive for materialism and excess stuff. I make time for my neighbors, family, and friends, and make sure I keep a good work ethic in order to save money for financial security.

    And I like this quote from Bill Murray in Lost in Translation:

    The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.

    james http://www.futuregringo.com

  28. Techy-Feely » links for 2007-09-07 said, on September 06, 2007 at 10:18 pm

    […] Do Anything: 3 Steps for Success « Internet Duct Tape Three core values – discipline, be happy, know what is important. Good stuff (tags: happiness lifehack personal motivation success) […]

  29. engtech said, on September 07, 2007 at 1:40 am


    That’s one of my favorite Lost in Translation quotes as well. Great movie.

  30. Barry said, on September 07, 2007 at 11:13 am

    “To life a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”
    Joseph Chilton Pearce

    To know who we really are, to fully express our unique gifts and talents and live a life of authentic creativity is the stuff of happiness. Our culture does not really support this path as well as we think. Most people feel “threatened” by those who are truing their lives to be in alignment with their values and visions of what they’d like their life to be. There are a million reasons to fear and reject the seeming “risk” one needs to take to live their dream. Many “know ourselves,” as a sort of cognitive exercise, however few demonstrate the commitment and discipline required to “be ourselves” and start walking in the direction our DNA heading the Universal GPS that n’er ceases to entice us down the true path to fulfilment.

  31. Invroz said, on September 08, 2007 at 3:37 am

    I can’t help but agree with you on those three points. For me,you must start with happiness – so that you use that to filter all other things in pursuits of your goal : from that angle alone. Knowing what’s important will save you a lot of time & frustration to get to your goal. And discipline will get you there.

  32. […] to start in your quest for accomplishment. What rules do you live by to achieve your success? Do Anything: 3 Steps for Success [Internet Duct […]

  33. […] know that is a lot to deal with so I’m leaving you to think about the meaning of success. Just don’t think to long. Go find something to […]

  34. […] Pilnu tekstu ar komentāriem, lasīt šeit  […]

  35. […] where to start in your quest for accomplishment. What rules do you live by to achieve your success? Do Anything: 3 Steps for Success [Internet Duct […]

  36. […] Do Anything: 3 Steps for Success « Internet Duct Tape […]

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  38. | 3 soļi līdz veiksmei [self-help] said, on September 23, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    […] Pilnu tekstu ar komentāriem, lasīt šeit  […]

  39. […] Pilnu tekstu ar komentāriem, lasīt šeit  […]

  40. […] Do Anything: 3 Steps for Success […]

  41. […] Do Anything: 3 Steps for Success […]

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  43. Qrystal said, on February 21, 2008 at 8:42 am

    I’m hooked. I don’t know how I found this page, but I’ve heard of the site before… and I’m not quite sure why I didn’t subscribe right away. That’s been remedied!

    And your readers! How insightful! I’m feeling even more warm and tingly after reading the comments!

    I just wanted to add that I’ve noticed there is some interdependency in the three steps listed here. I was doing okay with the happiness part, always have been one of those annoyingly cheerful people, but eventually the lack of #2 really started to drag me down. It took awhile to figure out, too. Now that I have, I feel like a zillion bucks! But I really have a lot to work on for #3. It’s not enough to just have #1 and #2. It’s like #1 is the foundation, #2 is the framework, and #3 is the humanpower needed to actually build something wonderful out of it all.

    Anyways, I thank you for this delicious recipe for success, and I’m glad to hear that I already have all the ingredients! I guess that means I should stop searching for answers, and get to work, eh? :)

  44. asmhan said, on May 21, 2008 at 12:57 am

    the sucssufl is not easy.it need more things in the beging from inside the person imean when i need become sussufl i must have many things such as the chaling and ambaition and

  45. Claudia said, on March 02, 2009 at 10:32 am

    I know people who are happy without any particular reason. They seem to be so much more interesting then people who doesn’t smile at all. Why is that so? The answer is simple: No one likes a sad face… And if no one likes you, you can’t be happy. So smile as often as you can, make you dreams easier to reach and live your life the way you want it :)

    thank you for the “Do Anything: 3 Steps for Success” text. It reminds me something what is important :]

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