Success in life is largely a matter of habits.
So said a wise relative of mine. He explained that doing something useful each day eventually adds up to a lot of goodness.
In other words, you couldn’t reliably become massively successful by putting in one great effort; it’s better to chip away at success every day. That’s possible and predictable; a sudden attack of genius is not.
Besides, he said (quoting someone famous): “Chance favors the prepared mind.” If you engage in good daily habits, it’s far more likely that you’ll be ready if and when greatness calls.
In that spirit, here are seven daily habits that will incrementally take you to success as a speaker:
1. Scan the environment for ideas. Whatever your field of expertise, always be looking for new ideas, research or opportunities to test your thinking. It’s about keeping it fresh, keeping up with the new developments, and keeping yourself a top-notch expert. Ultimately, it’s the ideas, not the applause, that should motivate you.
2. Work your voice. Your voice is your most precious asset. If it goes, you’re no longer a speaker; you’re a mime. Develop a routine of exercises and practices to keep your voice strong and ready. Never, ever take it for granted.
3. Practice daily. This is especially important for speakers who speak fewer than, say, 12 times per year. Get into the habit of performing a short section of your speech while in the car or shower or, if you’re really bold, while waiting in line at the DMV. OK, that last idea might get your license revoked, but there are always patches of downtime in everyone’s day when you can run a two-minute segment of your speech to keep it fresh.
4. Surround yourself with (positive) speaker friends. The world of public speaking has unique stresses and strains, so hobnob with others who get it, so you can share what’s on your mind with minds that understand.
5. Review your goals every day. Always know where you’re headed and how you’re doing on the way there. Set goals, and review them regularly. Make them specific goals, such as X number of speeches, “doing a TEDx talk” or whatever the goal might be. If you don’t have a target, you won’t know where to aim, and you won’t know whether you’re making progress.
6. Exercise, eat right, and sleep enough. This advice should go without saying, but when you’re on the road it’s hard to stick to it, so it warrants reinforcing.
7. Streamline something. After reading that marvelous book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” I tried to put it into practice. I made a little headway, but I was stumped by the scope of the task in some rooms. So I redefined the task as getting rid of one item, any item, per day. That was much easier, and over time it added up to a great result. If you approach the complexity of your work life in the same spirt and find one task that you don’t have to do, soon you’ll have a short list of essentials and a lot more time in your day.