Life lessons from: Mark Twain
“The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man
who can’t read them.”
“Name the greatest of all inventors. Accident.”
“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on
Pic - .powerofpositivity.com
The always witty and perceptive Mark Twain is a fountain of timeless
tips for life and living. An American lecturer, satirist, humourist
Twain authored classic books like ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’
and ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’. This week we take some pointers from
Twain on living both a simpler and a more successful life.
1. The secret of getting ahead…
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of
getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small
manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” When you start to
look too far into the future any task or project can seem close to
impossible. And so you shut down because you become overwhelmed or
fearful (of success or failure) and you start surfing the internet
*Break that task down - Into small and practical steps.
*Then just focus on taking the first step today - That is all you
need to focus on, nothing else. By taking the first step you change your
mental state from resistant to “hey, I’m doing this, cool”. You put
yourself in a state where you become more positive and open, a state
where you may not be enthusiastic about taking the next step after this
first one but you are at least accepting it.
And so you can take the next step. And the next one after that. Until
you have arrived at your destination and at completion.
2. Less talking, more doing…
“Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often” “There are
basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people
who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.”
It’s often easy to talk but developing the habit of being a person of
action is quite a bit harder. Being in the habit of breaking down your
task into smaller pieces is one of the most effective things you can do
to take more consistent action.
Two other habits that work very well for me are to:
*Start your day with a positive morning routine - A good start often
leads to a good day. A bad or indecisive start often leads to a pretty
mediocre day. So create your own morning routine that reliably gets you
off to a good or great start. Mine includes a good breakfast, positive
information as I eat my first meal of the day and getting started with
my most important task of the day right away when I start working.
*Block out the distractions - Before you take one of those small
steps forward make sure you have created a zone where you are a lot less
likely to be distracted or disturbed. So shut down your internet or use
a blocker program for your most visited websites. Put your phone in
silent mode and somewhere where you can’t see it for a while. Close the
door to your room. Then get to work.
3. Be courageous in the face of fear
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of
fear.” Being courageous can be difficult but if you want to live the
life you want to live then sometimes you have look into the face of fear
and get going or keep going anyway.
And although it is rarely easy to be courageous I have found a few
ways to make it easier.
*Ask yourself: what is the worst that could happen? Don’t just think
about it for a few seconds. Sit down with a pen and piece of paper or
your laptop. Write it all out as you think about what the realistic
worst-case scenario would be. Then write down a plan for how you can
come back from such a scenario.
This brings clarity, defuses fuzzy fears and helps you realise that
you can most often bounce back pretty quickly even if the worst-case
scenario somehow becomes reality.
*Share your fear with someone - By just keeping it on the inside it’s
easy to build a fear up into this massive nightmare and extremely
dangerous thing. By sharing and by getting some input from a level
headed friend or family member he or she can help you to alleviate the
fear and inner pressure. And you can gain a much healthier perspective
on things again.
??Accept the fear - It is a natural impulse to try to deny the fear
when shows up in your life. Perhaps you try to not think about it, you
try to push it away. I have found that in many cases it is actually
better to just accept that fear is here right now. After a few minutes
of fully taking in this uncomfortable feeling and accepting it then it
starts to lose steam. You have stopped feeding more energy into the
fear. And it just seems to float away – or at least becomes smaller –
and you feel more open and centred.
4. A good compliment is
a wonderful thing
“I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Compliments are
awesome. But make sure you make it:
*A genuine one - Make sure you really mean it or it may have the
opposite effect as your insincerity shines through.
*Something a bit unexpected - Like a great taste in old soul music
rather than something the other person has heard a hundred times like
for example about looks.
*Something that is important - To the other person.
5. Keep positive company
Less talking - hypster.guru
“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small
people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too,
can become great.”
I have mentioned this many times. But it bears repeating. Spend more
time with positive people, books, music, movies, podcasts and websites.
Spend your time in an environment that lifts you up. And spend less time
or no time with the negative sources out there. Make a conscious choice
and start to shape your environment instead of just going along and
reading, listening to, watching what people in general or people around
you may be in the habit of consuming.
6. Focus on what is truly important for YOU.
“Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of
Make a conscious choice to focus on what is most important in YOUR
life. And not on the things that various companies – or other people –
may tell you are the most important things. A note with the four most
important things in your life smartly placed where you will see it every
day – in your workspace – helps you to keep your mind consistently on
your top priorities.
And if you want a couple of practical tips that will help you to
de-clutter your ad/information intake then:
*Ask yourself: is this useful? If for instance a TV-show or magazine
isn’t bringing me anything useful – fun, fascination, useful tips– then
why am I spending my time on it? It’s kinda easy to just fall into a
habit of doing stuff or consuming things without really having much of a
reason for doing so.
*Find out what you really like to do - That will probably be more
interesting that surfing the internet or TV-channels randomly. And so
these less exciting things just tend to fall away from your life as you
find – or spend more time with – things that you really like to do, like
for instance a new hobby.
7. When emotions are
“Time cools, time clarifies; no mood can be maintained quite
unaltered through the course of hours.” It’s easy to make bad decisions
when you are full of negative emotions. And it is very easy to become
riled up, angry or defensive when you, for instance, receive some
criticism or when someone is attacking you verbally.
This is not a good position to be in to fire away a reply if you
don’t want to wind up making the situation worse. And to lash back at
this person or to not be the better person here can really hurt your
It might feel good for a while to do so but it is a dirty high that
comes with a hangover of feeling worse about yourself and subtle or not
so subtle self-destructiveness.
But how do you control the impulse to attack, overreact or make a
*Remind yourself of the potential consequences - I don’t want to hurt
myself, my self-esteem or make bad decisions with negative consequences.
By repeatedly reminding myself of these potential consequences then they
will also often pop up automatically when I receive criticism or when I
*Count to at least 10 and take a few belly breaths - Then respond.
This simple way of calming yourself down and regaining some perspective
can save you a lot of trouble and help you avoid saying something you
can’t take back.
*Accept how you feel - If you have a little more time than under a
minute then take a look at tip #3 again and try to accept how you feel
to lessen the big emotions more quickly.
*If possible, wait until tomorrow or at least later today. By then
the most negative feelings will most likely have lost their steam and
you can see things with more clarity and cool. And take action in a
better and smarter way.
(The writer is a
34-year -old journalism major from Sweden, who has dived into the topic
of personal development, which has seen him learning from him own
experiments and experience and figuring out how to build a better life.
This article is one of his building a better life experiences)