Want to earn more? Practice these 4 uncommon habits

Updated to Business on January 3, 2023.

If you want to earn more maybe you need to earn it first. Let me explain.

Most people I know want more income. Sure they want to do great work, serve the world, and make a difference, but they also like to eat. Can’t blame them there.

In the “old days” you increased income by putting in more time. You climbed the corporate ladder, won over more clients, added staff and slowly income steadily grew. And then we got lotteries, Internet, IPO’s (Initial Public Offerings) and shows like American Idol, Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank where jumping the line to success seemed almost common. After all, who wouldn’t like to wake up a millionaire. Sweet.

In the “old days” you increased income by putting in more time.

Remember when (seemingly overnight) the kid with a hoodie became a billionaire with something called Facebook? Or a YouTube video of a kid singing in his Ontario bedroom launched a mega-singing career? Or how about that guy who seemed to have come out of nowhere to take on the world with electric cars, solar panels, open-source battery innovations and even space travel?

They’re all overnight successes, right? Wrong.

One of the jokes in music industry is that successful performers are often “ten-year overnight successes.” They put in their 10,000 hours (hat tip to Malcolm Gladwell) and now they get to reap the rewards.

One of the jokes in music industry is that successful performers are often “ten-year overnight successes.”

Let’s look at the business I know the most: the speaking business. What does it take to be successful?

Well, ask most wet-behind-the-ear speakers and they’ll say it take a good break and the right audience. That might help, but I don’t know any audience that’s dramatically changed the course of my career. Instead, you have to earn your success.


I’m all for astronauts, athletes and best-selling authors jumping the queue—they’ve earned their street cred in other ways. The rest of us need to earn it.

Here’s my success formula. It might not get you found on YouTube, or push your book to the top of the charts, but these four principles will endure and serve you well, year after year.

1. Have a dream. I listened to an interview with Lewis Howes this past week. Howes is a newly minted New York Times best-selling author with his book School of Greatness. The interviewer was recalling how eight years ago, when he first met Howes at a conference, Howes was declaring that one day he would be a best-selling author. That’s a dream that gets you out of bed in the morning.

2. Get up early. Something powerful happens when you take control of your mornings. In ancient times, mornings were for hunting, building fires, and collecting—not sleeping in. Make a plan, go to bed early, get seven hours, wake up and launch your routine. Meditation, writing (what time do you think I’m writing this?), reading, a work-out, whatever, stick to your routine and your routine will serve you.

3. Work smart. Become a distraction dodger, single focussed, working from a plan, and allowing small bad things to happen (hat tip to Tim Ferriss). Everyone is more effective the day before vacation—you have to be. Make every day the day before vacation and you will always be ahead of the crowd. Read my post with a list of ways to remove distractions.

4. Be humble. Your ego is not your amigo—be humble and learn from mis-steps. Our mistakes, screw-ups and embarrassments are lessons in disguise, if we are humble and paying attention. What was stressful today? Who did you ignore? When were you beating yourself up? We don’t need to show up perfect, we just need to be open to learning.

I wish I could promise a short-cut—there aren’t any. And here’s the good news: when you put in the work the rewards are always sweeter.

What do you need to do?