What did you learn too late in life?

By Ivan Nikolov

I was born and grew up under Communist rule. I wasn’t free. I wish someone told me what I learned much later in my early 40’s as a free sovereign individual in a free country (the US).

Here are my guiding principles today that I wish I had 25 years earlier:

#1. Know what you want and why you want it

In life, if you don’t know where you are going any road will take you there. So, decide what is it that you want and go after it.

Once you know what you want, be absolutely clear why you want it. Your big “WHY” will be the driving force behind all your efforts. It’s your fuel. It’s your long-term motivation.

#2. Don’t settle for anything less

If you are building something big, if you are aiming to accomplish a lot it’s smart to forgo instant gratification. But, in the long run… don’t compromise.

#3. Contemplate, Meditate, Visualize

This is still looked at by most people as “woo-woo” stuff. I looked at it that way in my years being an atheist and relying purely on logic.

I can tell you right now from where I stand that deep contemplation, mindfulness practice, and seeing yourself as already being the person you aspire to be will be the main reason why you won’t be deeply puzzled by the human condition.

It’s the only way to truly know who you are, what you are, why you are here, and how you are going to accomplish what you “know” and feel you showed up for. It’s how you reach for your Higher Self.

#4. Give yourself permission to be imperfect, to fail, to mess up often

Every successful person that I’ve ever studied first became good at this one thing: failing, getting up, learning the lesson, and trying again… and again, and again.

The path of success is peppered with failure. The “overnight success” stories were typically years in the making. It’s just that there’s no drama in that and nobody wants to hear about that part.

#5. Don’t make assumptions. Ask great questions

This is huge! We base most of the decisions in our lives based on the stories we tell ourselves about the motivations of other people.

We “decide” that we are unloved, uncared for, unworthy based on what we think is happening or has happened, not based on the facts.

So, instead of making assumptions - and suffering (and possibly causing suffering to others) - ask questions and get to the real situation.

(By the way, this principle and the following three I shamelessly lifted from “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz - an amazing little book you can live your life by.)

#6. Be impeccable with your word

Your words have the power to build people up or destroy people. The reason for that is people who trust us to any degree believe what we say.

If you say to someone that they don’t have a talent and they should go try something else - you just destroyed someone’s dream… and possibly - life. And, we know that talent has very little to do with success.

So, be extremely careful with what comes out of your mouth!

#7. Don’t take anything personally

This alone - if you accept it - will serve you well for the rest of your life.

When other people are treating us poorly we usually assume (falsely) that there’s something wrong with us. And, that usually becomes a problem… for us.

The reality is, we are simply a mirror that reflects back to the other person the contents of their inner world.

Same with you if you behave badly with someone else. They are usually a reflection of your inner lack of peace.

#8. Do the best you can every day

This is an integral part of success and self-respect. Start your day knowing what you must accomplish and give it your best. If you don’t get everything done - that’s totally fine (usually you won’t… I don’t).

And, if you know you gave it your best - that’s success right there. It’s a success-ion of events where you know you gave it everything you’ve got.

It doesn’t happen all the time (at least that’s my experience). But, the intention to do the best you can every day - must be there.

#9. Be real, be unapologetically you

We have already entered a new age - the age of the truly authentic, unapologetic, real, raw leader. I don’t mean arrogant. I mean REAL!

People are hungry for authenticity, integrity, compassion, and humility. People are hungry for individuals who do not apologize, who do not try to be agreeable and likable.

People are truly hungry for examples of what they could be if they dropped the mask they are hiding behind… which, deep down at their core, they know is holding them back from living the life they were meant to live.

#10. Live in integrity - make sure what you feel, think and say matches what you do

This goes hand-in-hand with the above. What’s on the back of your head (thoughts), what’s deep down in your body (feelings), and what exits your mouth (your words) should match - that’s integrity.

If you get this to work most of the time - even if not always (I still catch myself out of alignment sometimes - it’s rare but it still happens) - you are golden. From there, your path is clear.

9 and 10 require constant work, nurturing, and conditioning. The pull of the drift is always strong. You must “train” these muscles daily.

Master half of these and you will join a small group of individuals who are not afraid to be who they truly are, and who are not afraid to claim their dream.... unapologetically, while effortlessly serving humanity in a major way.

Most of these are still a work-in-progress for me. I'm not there yet. I don't know if I'll ever be.

What I know is that I do the best I can every day.


~ Ivan

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