5 Things I Do Every Day to Be Successful


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I often say that my success is a result of good habits I’ve developed over the years, both in football and in business. Bad habits have led me down the wrong roads, and sometimes to bad decisions.

As a quarterback during my NFL career, I needed to establish a regular routine for preparing for a new game each week. The night before a game, I thought about and visualized different situations in my head, like “1st and goal at the 5-yard line, right hashmark”; “3rd and 8th at the 40-yard line, left hashmark,” and so on. And I would play out the different scenarios in my mind, like a movie script.

Inevitably, I ended up with almost those exact situations in the real game. As a result of my previous mental preparation, my reflexes were stronger and faster, and my reactions were better matched to each of those scenarios on the field.

It works in business the same way it did in football. Here are the 5 things I do every working day to hone my reflexes and expand my thinking:

1. Read.

After I wake up and walk and feed the dogs, I warm up by reading. I read everything — The New York Times, The Wall St. Journal, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, my hometown paper. Reading current news makes your brain explode with ideas and sets off your creativity and curiosity for the entire day. Some people exercise, some do crosswords. I read the papers.

2. Check in with coworkers.

As soon as I get into the office, I take a tour. I ask everybody what they’re thinking, what they’re working on, what they’d like to be working on. I do it not to check up on them, but to learn from them. My brain has already been warmed up from the reading, so the next step is listening. I ask everybody questions and I listen hard, especially about things I don’t know much about.

3. Be responsive.

I’ve had one consistent mantra throughout my life — treat people with respect. And on any given business day, treating people with respect starts with returning calls and emails. Everybody who has ever done business with me knows that I am always reachable. And if for some reason I’m not, you’ll be told why and when I’ll get back to you.

More from Fran: 4 Success Strategies I Took from the NFL to My Business

Treating people with respect is a discipline, no different than exercise or balancing your accounts, and it has to be practiced every single day.

4. Expose yourself to outside ideas.

I never have business lunches. I don’t believe in them, and I don’t think they’re especially productive. I also never have lunch in the office. Every day I have lunch outside my office with non-business people; sometimes they’re my regular group of friends, sometimes they’re people I recently met. But we never talk business.

If all day you’re thinking about business, doing business, worrying about business, you never have a chance to calm your brain or expand your world. Having lunch with people outside your business circle breaks up your day and resets your brain, so you return to the office refreshed and relaxed and ready to conquer the world.

5. Thank someone.

At least once a day, I send a message of positive reinforcement to someone. It might be a partner, a coworker, or even a stranger I just read about in the paper. The message is never long or fancy; it can be an email, a phone call, or a text. But it is sincere and it always has the words “thanks” and “appreciate.”

Usually, I do this multiple times a day to many different types of people, and my coworkers know to conclude every business transaction, whether with a customer or vendor, with a sentence of honest appreciation.

Of all my daily habits, positive reinforcement is probably the single most important ingredient to consistent success. If you can find even one person in the course of your day whom you can sincerely thank for something, then I guarantee that your day, and your business, will be richer for it.

This article was originally published on Business Insider.

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Fran Tarkenton

Fran Tarkenton

Fran Tarkenton is an entrepreneur and NFL Hall of Famer, and the founder of GoSmallBiz.com and Tarkenton Companies. With a passion for small business, he’s started more than 20 businesses during and after his NFL career. Fran is a small business coach for entrepreneurs and business owners, providing advice and guidance through sites such as GoSmallBiz.com, SmallBizClub.com, and more. He has written about business issues in the Wall Street Journal, U.S. New and World Report, and USA Today, along with regular appearances on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. You can follow Fran on Twitter @Fran_Tarkenton.