Despite spending a big chunk of my early adult years as a television sports anchor paid to ask a ton of questions, one of the few regrets I have in life is not asking even more of them. Having a grandfather with a treasure trove of knowledge, an essential time capsule of historical awesomeness, was a huge opportunity that I could have and should have taken more advantage of during my childhood years.

Story-time with my grandfather was always an interesting tale of life growing up in Brooklyn during the 1910s and ’20s. He’d tell of going over to the ballpark to watch the Yankees or of his time spent as a shoe salesman.

But when my grandpa passed during my teenage years, I lost that time machine. My Delorean was now without a Flux Capacitor. I still find myself wishing I could have another conversation with him about his life and of all the interesting things he saw during his glory days.

We should all be so lucky to have family members share those unique and interesting memories with us as we grow up. And now in the role of parenthood, the responsibility is essentially passed on to us to do the same for the next generation.

Banging out a memoir of the hows and whys of your ridiculously awesome life is quite the undertaking. No one expects you to be the next Elizabeth Gilbert and pen the Eat, Pray, Love of your own life. But knocking out a few words every day into a book, journal, or notepad is a much easier and acceptable task that will document the many adventures that molded you into the person and parent that you’ve become.

Before we begin, this isn’t about sitting down and writing in a diary to talk trash about the mean girl in math class. This is about a measured and specific approach to daily writing that will improve your own life along the way. It’s worked for centuries for some of the most important historical figures who’ve ever walked the planet:

  • Abraham Lincoln

  • Benjamin Franklin

  • Winston Churchill

  • Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Maya Angelou

  • Oprah Winfrey

Journaling worked for this collection of super-fine scholars and historically phenomenal people, so it’s very much well-positioned to work for you, too. And none of the above who journaled would ever have their relevance called into question because they kept a “diary” of gossip. So, essentially, you no longer have an excuse.

The benefits of keeping a journal

When done with diligence and consistency, keeping a journal will not only unlock a window to the past for your kids and grandkids and every additional branch of the family tree that is blessed with seeing your work, but the therapeutic aspect of a daily writing practice will benefit you in numerous ways.

Historical reference — Just like the newspaper dateline is a great time piece that we use to chart historical events and experiences, the journal is a perfect and much more personal newspaper for your life. As events of importance progress, you’ll have a current events medium to document the occurrence in vivid fashion without losing out on littlest of details; things that may seem minutia now, but end up being terrific nuggets 15-20 years down the road. Think back to something that happened 15 years ago and try to remember every single detail. It’s almost impossible to accomplish this with perfection off of random memory. But, if you charted this in your journal, you could easily refer back to those details in a particular entry.

Spur Creativity — For the writers in the bunch: nothing will improve your writing like writing some more. And in doing so, your brain adapts and learns to identify and communicate complex ideas more effectively. It’s also a fantastic way to brainstorm for new ideas, challenges and goals.

Combats Stress — While keeping a journal is a terrific way to document the past – especially if later generations are able to see the regular writings – it’s also extremely therapeutic for the author. Take the time during the daily practice to vent if needed and let off some steam. Doing so will have you feeling much more focused and driven on the flipside of the journal entry. It’s a daily form of catharsis in action. In fact, a study from Advances in Psychiatric Treatment revealed that a 15-20 minute practice of journaling on 3-5 occasions were enough to help combat trauma, stress and other emotional events.

Improve Mental clarity — Daily reflection through a journal allows a complete and total environment free of judgment that opens up the door to truly process an experience. Whether that is a positive or negative experience, it doesn’t matter. No one is there to judge or make crucial comments, which provides a free zone to explore the inner workings of your own emotions and thought processes.

Help establish and achieve goals — Checking in with your goals on a daily basis is a big step in the right direction towards achieving success. Go the extra mile and document your journey through the use of a journal to chart the progress. Track your successes, failures, learnings and emotions along the way to improve as you move closer to your goal.

Pick a medium

The day and age of finding a random cave or wall to chart your adventures through Hieroglyphics are no more. In other words: there are so many different options for starting and maintaining your daily practice, so essentially, there’s no excuse not to get started.

Paper Journal — For many of us, there’s nothing flipping through the pages of a book and jotting down the thoughts for day with a good pen in hand. For those that want to take a page out of the old-school days of journal writing, find a good notebook and use this as your regular medium for an outlet.

Word Processor — If you want to bang away at the keyboard as part of your daily release, simply open up a new Microsoft Word or Pages (Mac) document and start going to town. You can save each entry as a specific document in folders based on dates; or you could even keep one long document open and just add to it each and every day.

Blog — Now that we’ve hit the 21st century, things like blogs are wonderful opportunities to keep your thoughts in one place without taking up room on your bookshelf or in your own personal computer space. Use outlets like Blogger or WordPress to express yourself on a regular basis. Both allow you to keep posts private so it’s really like a blog for an audience of just one.

Evernote — Saving your work in the cloud means being able to access it anytime, anywhere. Especially when using an app like Evernote. I’ve written blog posts in this app, while also utilizing its wonderful properties for organization. Keeping a journal here is a great idea, too.

What to write about

There are no hard and fast rules for how a journal is comprised. Which means it can be more than just words on a paper. For the uber creative or just the visual peeps, think outside the box and take to some drawing and diagramming to help encapsulate the thought process of the day. The key to victory is consistency. Just plan out a 5-10 minute (or even more if you are so inclined) and sit down to start writing on a regular basis. As you continue the practice of daily introspection, you’ll improve in your writing. You’ll begin to develop more ideas and topics to write about and you’ll see.

And 20, 30, 40 years from now, your grandkids and great-grandkids may just be sitting around and noodling through some old notebook and having an awesome time reading about all of the wacky adventures that you unlocked in their own little Delorean to the past.

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If You Want to be as Great as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk or Sir Richard Branson, Read This

Success, real insane success is a marathon. Oh, and there are no shortcuts. You can’t spring your way to greatness. It takes times, a very long time.

Here is Richard Branson’s business timeline – his business ventures from the 1960s to today. It’s a very long list. It will give you an idea of what it took him to get to now.

These are two of the most upvoted responses on Quora to this question: “How can I be as great as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk or Sir Richard Branson?

1. Justine Musk, Canadian author, and the first wife of Elon Musk

Extreme success results from an extreme personality and comes at the cost of many other things. Extreme success is different from what I suppose you could just consider ‘success’, so know that you don’t have to be Richard or Elon to be affluent and accomplished and maintain a great lifestyle.

Your odds of happiness are better that way. But if you’re extreme, you must be what you are, which means that happiness is more or less beside the point. These people tend to be freaks and misfits who were forced to experience the world in an unusually challenging way.

They developed strategies to survive, and as they grow older they find ways to apply these strategies to other things, and create for themselves a distinct and powerful advantage.

They don’t think the way other people think. They see things from angles that unlock new ideas and insights. Other people consider them to be somewhat insane.

Be obsessed.

Be obsessed.

Be obsessed.

If you’re not obsessed, then stop what you’re doing and find whatever does obsess you. It helps to have an ego, but you must be in service to something bigger if you are to inspire the people you need to help you  (and make no mistake, you will need them).

That ‘something bigger’ prevents you from going off into the ether when people flock round you and tell you how fabulous you are when you aren’t and how great your stuff is when it isn’t. Don’t pursue something because you “want to be great”.

Pursue something because it fascinates you, because the pursuit itself engages and compels you. Extreme people combine brilliance and talent with an *insane* work ethic, so if the work itself doesn’t drive you, you will burn out or fall by the wayside or your extreme competitors will crush you and make you cry.

Follow your obsessions until a problem starts to emerge, a big meaty challenging problem that impacts as many people as possible, that you feel hellbent to solve or die trying.

It might take years to find that problem, because you have to explore different bodies of knowledge, collect the dots and then connect and complete them.

It helps to have superhuman energy and stamina. If you are not blessed with godlike genetics, then make it a point to get into the best shape possible.

There will be jet lag, mental fatigue, bouts of hard partying, loneliness, pointless meetings, major setbacks, family drama, issues with the Significant Other you rarely see, dark nights of the soul, people who bore and annoy you, little sleep, less sleep than that. Keep your body sharp to keep your mind sharp. It pays off.

Learn to handle a level of stress that would break most people.

Don’t follow a pre-existing path, and don’t look to imitate your role models. There is no “next step”. Extreme success is not like other kinds of success; what has worked for someone else, probably won’t work for you.

They are individuals with bold points of view who exploit their very particular set of unique and particular strengths. They are unconventional, and one reason they become the entrepreneurs they become is because they can’t or don’t or won’t fit into the structures and routines of corporate life.

They are dyslexic, they are autistic, they have ADD, they are square pegs in round holes, they piss people off, get into arguments, rock the boat, laugh in the face of paperwork.

But they transform weaknesses in ways that create added advantage — the strategies I mentioned earlier — and seek partnerships with people who excel in the areas where they have no talent whatsoever.

They do not fear failure — or they do, but they move ahead anyway. They will experience heroic, spectacular, humiliating, very public failure but find a way to reframe until it isn’t failure at all.

When they fail in ways that other people won’t, they learn things that other people don’t and never will. They have incredible grit and resilience.

They are unlikely to be reading stuff like this. (This is *not* to slam or criticize people who do; I love to read this stuff myself.) They are more likely to go straight to a book: perhaps a biography of Alexander the Great or Catherine the Great* or someone else they consider Great.

Surfing the ‘Net is a deadly timesuck, and given what they know their time is worth — even back in the day when technically it was not worth that — they can’t afford it.

I could go on, it’s a fascinating subject, but you get the idea. I wish you luck and strength and perhaps a stiff drink should you need it.

2. Michael Simmons, Co-Founder, Empact & Award-Winning Entrepreneur

Most of these people have focused on individual traits such as hard work, deliberate practice, etc.. But when we look in the real world, we see that individual traits aren’t the whole story.

There are so many people who work extremely hard, have great ideas, plan out big things and so forth, yet they are not nearly as successful as these four legends.

I myself am an entrepreneur. I have been since the age of 16. Recently though, I had the same underlying question you had.

Because of that, I went out searching for the answer.

Through my interviews I do for Forbes, I recently came across the field of network science. This field has studied how people become successful from a completely different angle. They’ve found that how we build our network may be the best predictor of success.

Since then, I have interviewed many of the world’s top network scientists on a quest to understand how networks create competitive advantage in business and careers.

Out of the four legends that have been mentioned, I feel that the best person to showcase as a prime example of how networks impact success is  Steve Jobs.

Since then, books have been written and movies have been made.

Each has celebrated his legacy and aimed to share the secrets he used to build the largest company in the world; things like attention to detail, attracting world-class talent and holding them to high standards.

We think we understand what caused his success.

We don’t.

We dismiss usable principles of success by labeling them as personality quirks.

What’s often missed is the paradoxical interplay of two of his seemingly opposite qualities;

  1. Maniacal focus
  2. Insatiable curiosity

These weren’t just two random strengths. They may have been his most important as they helped lead to everything else.

Jobs’ curiosity fueled his passion and provided him with access to unique insights, skills, values, and world-class people who complemented his own skillset. Job’s focus brought those to bear in the world of personal electronics.

I don’t just say this as someone who has devoured practically every article, interview, and book featuring him.

I say this as someone who has been monomaniacal in the study and research of what the underlying key components are that create career success.

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