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Act Like the Leader You Want to Be

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Nick Bilton, a prominent New York Times columnist and the author of Hatching Twitter, shared the best career advice he ever received in a tweet: “Imagine you in your dream job in 5 years, then work backwards figuring out how you got there."


Knowing your end goal is crucial. And visualizing yourself as the next bestselling author or head of marketing for a newly funded startup will empower you to take the necessary steps to arrive  there.

But maybe more important than the visualization is to act as if you’re already in your dream position. One of my favorite scenes in the 2000 cult classic Boiler Room is when the Ben Affleck character informs a room full of brokerage firm trainees how to behave. “Act as if you’re the president of the firm,” he commands.   

The film may have been based on the corrupt world of Wall Street in the late 1990s and early 2000s and inspired, in part, by Jordan Belfort, whose autobiography was adapted into 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street.

But the advice remains valid and strong, no matter what you want or where you want to go in your life: Act as if you’re "already there," much like the John West song.

Humans are creatures of habit. So it only makes sense that if they practice excellence every day, then they will eventually achieve excellence. As Tony Robbins said, "Whatever you hold in your mind on a consistent basis is exactly what you will experience in your life."

Want to be an author? Act as if you’re already a New York Times bestselling writer.

Want to start a company? Act as if your startup is about to be acquired by Facebook.

And don’t just play the part (that would be useless). Walk the steps.

Related: Lewis Howes On Being Confident: 'Own Who You Are'

I act as if I can bench-press 325. I’m far away from it, but in thinking and acting like I already do, everyone else around my sphere of influence is positively affected.

I watch what I eat, get enough rest and carry myself like I’m going to break NFL combine records every time I step into the gym. It goes without saying that the mind is a powerful tool and seeing yourself with the gold medal will motivate you to put in practice every day steps to make that a reality and not just a distant dream.  

I’ve long been fascinated by Kanye West. Not just because I’m a fan of his work but because of his confidence and swagger. If you trace his career since 2003, you'll notice that Kanye acted and worked like he was the king of hip-hop from the start. And he did this years before mainstream America took notice. 

A few months back, during guest appearance on Jimmy Fallon's show, Dave Chappelle recounted the first time he met Kanye West.

“You could tell he was going to be a star," Chappelle recalled. "It was like Muhammad Ali at Olympic Village," he said. "He just knew he was going to get the gold.” 

Chappelle was showing the largely unknown Kanye West and other hip-hop performers some footage. In the middle of this show-and-tell, West’s phone rang.  

“No I can’t," West declared, according to Chappelle, "because I’m at the edit for the Dave Chappelle Show, watching sketches that no one has seen before ... because my life is dope and I do dope things.” Then West hung up the phone. 

“And that's when we knew he was going to be a star," Chappelle said to Fallon. 

Similarly, you need to act like a king before you get the crown. One way to do this is by studying the habits of successful people in the targeted field and emulating them.

Make their habits your habits. For example, Tim Ferriss reads two to three books a week (that's actually a good habit to emulate, regardless of whether you’re into entrepreneurship).

In the end, it doesn’t matter what your goal is. Whether it’s training for greater strength, becoming a platinum artist or releasing your first book, the first step in the right direction is to act as if you’ve already accomplished it. With time and hard work, eventually you'll become what you set out to be.

Related: Chart Goals to Create a Road Map to Your Success


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