Average is over.

The middle-ground has all but dissolved, leaving you in one of two positions: among the leading few or mediocre many.

Your relationship with technology will either facilitate unthinkable opportunity and growth or keep you on the wrong side of average. As Cal Newport has said in his recent book, :

The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.

Success has never been so attainable, thus making many of us spoiled and lazy. But the following eight strategies are intended to shake up your approach, challenging you to work and live at a higher and more conscious level.

Here we go:

1. Dont Be Afraid Of Making An Ugly Move

Until recent history, certain chess strategies were unquestioned dogma among the worlds elite. They were written in books and taught to all rising padawan learners. But the validity of these strategies have come into question as computers have been programmed to consistently beat top players. While analyzing the computers strategy, players have been shocked and amused by the computers use of certain ugly moveswhich no trained chess player would ever dothat utterly clash with conventional wisdom.

Rather than finesse and aesthetics guiding their strategy, the computers brute calculations allow it to examine every position concretely. In response to the surprising insights learned from computers, chess players have been forced to question their long-held assumptions.

As Magnus Carlsen, the World Chess Champion, explained in an interview with Business Insider:

You cannot rely on what has been taught in booksthat this is good, this is badthere are always exceptions and every situation is different.
Even if something looks bad, it doesnt look right, you calculate it, it works and there you go! Its just forcing us to look a bit further, to look away from what the books used to teach us. Its forcing us to break the rules.

No matter what field you are in, there are rigid norms guiding your thinkingthe rules considered best practice. However, life (and chess) is messy and complex, and every situation calls for a more contextual analysis.

What is right in your situation may not be right in mine.

For example, it makes little sense to most people why Im getting a PhD. Many would consider it an ugly move. And perhaps, to most people pursuing my aims, it is an ugly move. But given my situation and personal calculations, its a strong strategic decision. The ugly zig while most are zagging.

There are always exceptions. And rather than obsessing how your decisions are perceived, make the best possible decisions you canwhether standard or anomaly. Your calculations are solid, and like the computers in chess, youll be able to connect the dots looking backwards. What may look ugly to others in the moment will be your victory in the end.

2. Realize That Youre Not Way Behind

In sports and all other forms of competition, people perform best when the game is close. Which is why big magic happens at the end of games, like on-sides kicks retrieved followed by 30 second touchdown drives. But when the contest is decidedly in one opponents favor, neither side acts with the same effort. When youre winning big, its easy to get lax and overconfident. When youre losing big, its easy to give up.

Sadly, you probably perceive those at the top of your field in a different league altogether. But when you do this, you perform with less intensity than you would if you perceived the game to be closer. When you elevate your thinkingand see yourself on the same level as those at the topyou quickly become disillusioned by the fallibility of those you once perceived as immortal. They are just people. Most importantly, you will begin playing with an urgency that often surpasses even them.

The game is close. The game is close.

3. Do More With Less

We have all become addicted to input. As a culture, weve developed cognitive dependencies in order to sustain even lackluster performance. For example, although people think they perform better on caffeine, the truth is, they really dont. We use it to merely get back to our status-quo. When were off it, we underperform and become incapable.

A current Kickstarter campaigna rug alarm-clock that literally makes you get out of bed and stand on it to disarm itis another example. Although clever and funny, I personally would not want to depend on a rug to get me out of bed.

We can move beyond the dependencies of constant training, spiritual assurances, and external reinforcements. We can learn to be agents that act rather than objects that are acted upon.

We shouldnt need the best software to start a business, or the best guitar to play guitar. As Jason Fried and DHH have said in Rework:

Guitar gurus say, Tone is in your fingers. You can buy the same guitar, effects pedals, and amplifier that Eddie Van Halen uses. But when you play that rig, its still going to sound like you.

Likewise, Eddie could plug into a crappy Strat/Pignose setup at a pawn shop, and youd still be able to recognize that its Eddie Van Halen playing. Fancy gear can help, but the truth is your tone comes from you.

Many amateur golfers think they need expensive clubs. But its the swing that matters, not the club. Give Tiger Woods a set of cheap clubs and hell still destroy you.”

Detach yourself from your dependencies. Try going running without all the running gear. Try waking up without a Ruggie. Try living a day without caffeine. Try outputting without having to inspire yourself.

Do more with less.

4. Increase Your Responsibility

Uncle Ben once told Peter Parker, With great power comes great responsibility. Unfortunately, he had it backwards.

The constraints of responsibility force you to think more creatively. Responsibility qualifies you to show up at a higher level. I never thought parenting three foster children would increase my productivity, but it has. Failure on my part doesnt impact only me anymore. Similarly, chess players are at their toughest when it matters most, when everything is on the line. If you must perform to provide for your family, youll get it done. If its a matter of life or death, youll do whatever it takes. If your vision is compelling enough, youll avoid distractions.

Taking on the right forms of responsibility can put life on easy-mode. Its like injecting yourself with motivation steroidsurgency and desperation.

When youre desperate to be healthy, you eat right and exercise. No excuses. When youre desperate to be successful, honing your craft is far more appealing than mindlessly surfing Facebook.

5. Every Billionaire’s Secret: Build A Team Around You Sooner Than You Feel Comfortable

According to Alex Charfen, CEO of Charfen consulting services and founder of the Entrepreneurial Personality Type (EPT), the one thing billionaires have in common is that they are comfortable. And by comfortable, he doesnt mean they wear comfy slippershe means they barely lift a finger except when theyre doing what they do best. In order to do so, they build a team around them to take care of the rest.

When most people hear this, they initially think, Of course, they are billionaires. However, the truth is that this is why they are billionaires. When Charfen was in his 20s, he was at a friends (a billionaire) and was surprised to see a staff of two people working at his house, and a team of 30 people, including a driver. Charfen couldnt help but ask his friend:

Is it ever embarrassing to have so much help and so much fuss as you go through the day and get around? I mean at least 10 people have helped us so far and its only 11 A.M.

His friend responded:

It would be irresponsible for me to do anything that you observed any member of my team doing today. They are there for me and I am there for them. We have grown together and we built everything together. If I had done anything that one of my team members had done today they wouldve been uncomfortable and worried. Each one of them is here for a reason and many of them played a role in training and hiring each other. They know that the more they help me get accomplished, the more secure we all are and the more we can grow our foundation.”

High performers build a team around them much sooner than they are comfortable with. They are willing to think big, take on greater responsibility, and focus in on their superpower. The sooner you can remove all of the personal pressure and noise the faster your income will skyrocket.

Thus, increasing your responsibility is not about doing more. Its about leading more.

6. How Much Are You Willing To Put On The Line?

Elon Musk is considered eccentric in many ways. One of which is how uncomfortably long-term his thinking is. The man is trying to change the world and populate Mars. Hes willing to make any sacrificeno matter how difficulttoday, to manifest his worldview in the long-awaited future.

Musk sunk all of his own money into his companies. Most of his decisions make little sense to other people. Hed rather wait to have his company go public if going public means stalling or misdirecting his mission to populate Mars. But hes calculating. Hes willing to make ugly moves because he is not flinching on his long-term vision. Dramatic risks accompany everything Musk does.

His propensity for risk does not come from insanity. But rather, from a level of conviction so intense as to be off-putting to some. When asked, How much are you willing to put on the line? he responded:

Everything that other people hold dear. I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact. Ideally, Id like to go for a visit, come back, and then go there when Im like 70 or something and just stay there. If things go well, that would be the case. If my wife and I have a bunch of kids, she would probably stay with them on Earth.

7. Short-Term & Low Cost Experiments

Tim Ferriss doesnt do what he thinks will make him happy. He does what excites him.

Although his overarching vision remains consistent, Ferriss doesnt have long-term plans. Instead, he does 36 month experiments, which he puts all of his energy into. He has no clue what doors may open as a result of these experiments, so why make long-term plans? Hed rather respond to the brilliant and best opportunities that arise, taking him in now unforeseen directions.

Ive recently adopted Ferriss concept of doing short-term experiments. This has changed my approach to my work. For example, a few months ago I stumbled upon a personal development article that had over 1,000,000 social shares. I decided to perform an experiment to attempt creating an article that would also get 1,000,000 shares. The result was this article.

Although the article wasnt shared a million times, the results were profound and unexpected. An editor at TIME asked if they could syndicate the article. Additionally, the article brought several thousand new readers (including some of my favorite authors & researchers) and subscribers to my blog. Lastly, it brought on several new coaching clients.

That was just one short experiment that took a week to perform. Experiments are a fun way to pursue goals because they allow you to get innovative and bold. Experiments are short-termand thus relatively low riskthus, they should be moon shots.

Why play small? Whats the worst that could happen, you waste a few months and learn a lot while doing it?

8. Stay In The Zone As Long As You Can

We have an addiction to input. If given a few spare moments, we hastily resort to our devices. Half of Americans couldnt make it 24 hours without their smartphones. According to research, most men and a large portion of women would rather experience painful electric shocks than sit alone with their thoughts.

However, the longer you can stay in the zone, the greater will be your reward and impact in the current economy.

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