6 Habits Thought Leaders Should Get Used To

As an entrepreneur myself, I’m always on the lookout for words of wisdom from fellow innovators.  Looking to the rule breakers (who often evolve into rule makers) for ways to successfully challenge the status quo has given me the following six suggestions for my fellow entrepreneurs.

1. Strive for minimalism.  

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, has found that he works best with a streamlined workspace that’s free of distractions.  His office isn’t cluttered with stacks of papers or an array of screens.  Newmark’s setup includes his desktop, a window, and Homer Simpson and Grandpa Simpson figurines.  That’s it.  A little nature, a little inspiration from his animated heroes, and the tools he needs to accomplish his goals.  Minimalist workspaces let thought leaders spend the important time where they do their best work: in their own minds.

2. Get regular exercise.  

New evidence confirms what we’ve always suspected – that people who get regular exercise perform better on cognitive tests and are more creative than people who are sedentary.  Guy Kawasaki, business guru, bestselling author, and public speaker extraordinaire has certainly found that exercise provides a welcome break in the middle of his work day and helps him maintain his focus when he’s working.  Kawasaki plays two hours of hockey midday and rides a stationary bike or does yoga in the evenings.  It’s hard to argue with the results of exercise on this admitted workaholic’s productivity.

3. Say “no” a lot.

I am a huge admirer of Seth Godin, and he taught me an important lesson when I approached him about endorsing my first book, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur.  He declined – politely and firmly – because it didn’t square with his vision, his brand that he worked tirelessly to promote.  I learned that you absolutely must say no to the projects that don’t support your vision, or you run the risk of diluting your brand and your leadership.  Tenacity pays off, by the way.  Godin did support my second book, The Pumpkin Plan because it made sense for his brand to associate it with the principles I laid out in that book.

4. Embrace your inner introvert.  

Malcolm Gladwell is a simply brilliant public speaker, and it’s partly because he’s an introvert, and it’s also because he embraces his nature, rather than trying to be someone he’s not.  Public speaking for him is a performance – a role he inhabits in order to share the important thoughts that sold out every seat in the auditorium.  Thought leaders are typically introverts by nature – spending their most productive time turning inward to their own thoughts.  Check out Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

5. Get back to the room.  

I do a lot of public speaking, and I recently spoke at an event with Michael Gerber, Jack Canfield, and Guy Kawasaki.  Now these gentlemen were thoughtful, generous in sharing their thoughts and ideas publicly, but I noticed that they were absent from the social, networking portions of the event.  I had dinner with Michael, and I asked him about his routine – his work habits – and he typically speaks at events, sharing his stories and inspiring attendees, and then he goes back to his room and gets to work.  He doesn’t recharge by networking, but by turning inward.  That habit lets thought leaders work with the public and still have time to generate the ideas that make them worth listening to.

6. Take sleep seriously.  

Your body needs sleep in order to function at its highest level, and productive people create their own routines to get the amount – and quality of sleep – that works for them.  Joel Gascoigne, CEO of Buffer, realized that he was having trouble filtering out work concerns when it was time for bed, and it was negatively affecting both the amount and quality of sleep he was getting.  Establishing a routine that lets him reflect on the day’s work before consciously putting work away, clearing his mind for restful sleep, has been a productivity booster.


We all work differently, but we can learn a lot from the habits of uber-successful folks – the ones who reshape the world to fit their unique vision.  Modeling some of the traits of thought leaders can boost your productivity by helping you focus, encouraging you to turn your thoughts inward, and learning to shape your schedule to support your entrepreneurial vision.



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