7 Unconventional Success Tips I Stole From People Way Smarter Than Me

When I was a young(er) man, my grandfather’s job as the VP for a major medical device sales company treated our family to a yearly vacation at Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

For those of you who’ve never been, Kiawah is the sort of place Jordan Belfort would have bought a home (or two) during the Stratton Oakmont hay days.

Ten million dollar homes are the standard, not the exception. Pristine golf courses cover vast swaths of the island. And wildly overpriced boutiques–the kind that charge $750 for a paper weight that looks like a dog–are where locals and vacationers alike do their Sunday shopping.

As a child, it was one of my first glimpses into the world of real luxury.

But what I remember most about these vacations wasn’t the homes, or golf courses, or the beaches, or even the time we watched an alligator gobble up a stray deer (although that was pretty crazy).

What I remember most were the boring networking dinners and parties I was forced to attend–the price we had to pay for our company-funded family vacation.

Specifically, I remember a dinner I attended the summer before my freshman year of highschool.

Like most 14-year old boys, my dream at the time was to be a Navy SEAL. And my grandfather, supportive as he was, decided to introduce me to a co-worker of his who just happened to have spent 20-years in the teams.

I don’t remember his name, what we talked about, or what advice he gave me regarding training or mindset.

All I remember was a simple piece of wisdom my grandfather shared with me at the end of the night.

“Austin,” he said, “Whatever goal you set, I’m sure you can achieve. But if you want to do it as fast as possible, you need to get around people who have already done it. Learn from them and you’ll save a lot of time and mistakes.”

And ever since that day, I’ve done my best to take this wisdom to heart.

The successes I have achieved in my personal and professional life are a direct result of finding individuals with the results I wanted and shamelessly stealing their best thoughts and ideas.

During my tenure on this planet, I’ve been privileged to connect with and be mentored by some of the most incredible people in the world from best-selling authors to serial entrepreneurs to billionaires.

And every single time I’ve had such an opportunity, I’ve had pen and paper handy to capture their best ideas in hopes of implementing and one day sharing them with others.

Here are seven of the best (and most unconventional) ideas that I’ve learned that will help you elevate your game and achieve the success you desire much faster than you ever thought possible.


1. Craig Ballantyne: Get Massive Accountability From Someone You Don’t Want to Disappoint

Every night before I turn off my phone and begin my evening routine, I send one final text message to close out my day. It includes only three things:

  1. A picture of my watch
  2. A selfie from the gym
  3. A list of tasks I accomplished for the day

The message in question is sent to none other than “The World’s Most Disciplined Man,” Craig Ballantyne.

If my watch shows anything other than the numbers 0630 or my gym selfie is absent or my list of tasks accomplished too sparse… I send $50 to a charity (which will remain nameless) I despise.

As annoying as this agreement might be, it’s effectiveness is unparalleled.

When I first started working for Craig, my life felt crazy and out of control.

I was (and still am) working two full time jobs, freelancing for several other clients, and in the beginning stages of launching my own side-business.

I hadn’t taken a vacation in five years, couldn’t remember what it felt like to have a weekend off, and would regularly find myself sitting behind my laptop completing projects and sending proposals until eleven o’clock at night.

Since I was privvy to the advice and coaching of one of the world’s leading high-performance coaches, I decided to capitalize on the opportunity and ask Craig what his “secrets” for success were.

To my surprise and chagrin, he didn’t send any convoluted productivity tricks or detailed planning strategies or recommendations for the latest nootropic.

Instead, his advice was simple…

“Get massive accountability from someone you deeply do not want to disappoint.”

I’d had “accountability partners” before. Typically in the form of childhood friends or less-than-engaged clients. And these arrangements were fine. But they weren’t particularly effective.

I didn’t deeply respect the individuals to whom I was accountable. I didn’t care what they thought about me or feel a need to prove anything to them.

Craig, on the other hand, was different.

I’d been following him and Early to Rise since I was 17-years old. When I wrote down my “Dream 5” clients, he was number three on the list (right behind Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss… sorry Craig).

And as a result, our accountability agreement led to immediate and drastic changes in my life and results.

When you’re held accountable by an individual at or below your current level of performance, you aren’t tapping into the true potential of accountability.

By getting radically accountable to someone you deeply admire. Someone you respect. Someone you do not want to disappoint, you can change your life overnight.  

Discipline becomes automatic. Bad habits are effortlessly eradicated. And becoming the person you need to be to achieve your dreams becomes all but guaranteed.

2. Andrew Ferebee: Lifestyle Comes First 

In the many years (5 to be exact) I’ve worked with and for Andrew to grow his company Knowledge for Men, I’ve learned countless lessons from his entrepreneurial journey.

I watched him struggle through the early years, sleeping on his brother’s couch and struggling to pay my $60 weekly invoices on time. And I watched him rise through the ranks, building a 7-figure business that requires less than 25 hours a week of maintenance and living a truly free and abundant life.

But none of the lessons I learned were quite so profound as his simple philosophy that, “Lifestyle comes first.”

And the reason for this lessons power is that I witnessed both side of the proverbial coin. When I first started working for Andrew, the idea of prioritizing his lifestyle was unheard of. He was obsessed with hitting 6-figures. Then a quarter million. Then half a million.

And around the time that he broke through the upper 6-figure limit, I received an email informing me that (like Craig), he had checked himself into the ER with what he presumed to be a heart attack.

As seems to be a common theme among high-performers, his heart attack was “nothing” more than a severe anxiety attack. But it served as the wake up call that he needed to reassess his priorities and reconsider the structure of his days.

He took his foot off the pedal in his business. He went from 14 hour work days to 7 hour days. He started going out with friends two or three times a week. He invested more time into his romantic life. He renewed his commitment to fitness and a low-stress lifestyle.

On our calls he was more laid back and relaxed, yet simultaneously more focused, motivated, and creative. There was a profound difference in his attitude and mindset that, intentional or not, spilled over into our business and led to some rather unexpected changes.

Within 2 years of his visit to the ER, and the drastic shift in priorities that proceeded it, Knowledge for Men broke the 7-figure mark.

And the funny thing?

Andrew didn’t even know it had happened.

One of our coaches pointed it out to him weeks after the company surpassed $1,000,000 in annual revenue.

So does this mean you should cut your working hours in half, double down on your partying, and hope that your business will grow as a result?

Not exactly.

I don’t share this story or lesson to encourage you to work less or stop pursuing more money and success in your business. Simply to point out that your pursuit of success must be tempered.

You must prioritize your lifestyle, your friends, and your family along side your business and income.

Spend more time each week doing things you love. Make date night a non-negotiable. Start a weekly meetup with your closest friends. Let your hair down and have fun every once in a while.

Build your business around your life and not your life around your business.

Make time for the things that are most important to you even if it means slower growth in your company’s bottom line (although the inverse is often the case).

Your business won’t implode when you make time for what matters most to you.

3. Ryan Holiday: Don’t Seek Credit

Other than the title for this article–which was flagrantly stolen from Ryan’s excellent essay on productivity–the most important lesson I stole from multiple NYT Best-selling author and CEO of Brass Check can be summed up (as it was delivered) in one sentence.

Don’t seek credit.

All too often, high performers (especially those of us in the younger generation) are far too eager to be noticed. To be recognized. To prove our worth to the world.

To show off our hard work and accomplishments and illustrate, in no unclear terms, just how amazing we really are.

We seek credit at every turn and attempt to earn glory and recognition for our effort and accomplishments.

Yet, the most successful people in the world, are often those who make other people look good. Who shirk public acclaim and instead give credit to their peers and subordinates. Who intentionally avoid the limelight to focus on mastery.

And regardless of your industry or position within it, this is a powerful policy to adopt.

When you give credit to your employees, you earn their loyalty.

When you give credit to your employers or partners, you earn their favor.

When you give credit to others, even when it’s rightfully yours, you will build a powerful reputation that will open more doors than you can imagine.

So put your ego aside and consider, if for just a moment, that perhaps the fastest path to success is not to elevate yourself, but others.

4. Sol Orwell: Slow Down, Success Isn’t a Sprint

Serial entrepreneur, master connector, and the closest thing to the real-life Cookie Monster you’ll ever meet, Sol Orwell, is without a doubt, one of the most eccentric high performers you’ll ever meet.

But, when I asked him for his advice to a “young person looking to achieve success” his answer was rather simple.

“Slow down. Develop skills, foster relationships, and build authority. Then, when the time is right, make your move.”

He told me that of the hundreds of entrepreneurs he knows under the age of 25, only three are highly successful… And all three of them had been working on their respective craft for nearly a decade.

Too many people are in a rush to become successful, to hit 7-figures, and to make their name known. Their urgency is fueled by a seemingly endless stream of stories highlighting “This 20-something who built an 8-figure business in 18 months” or “That teenager who makes 7-figures drop shipping”.

They never take into consideration that there is often more to these stories than meets the eye and that they are a dramatic exception to the standard path to success.

The simple truth of the matter is that success takes time. And it actually takes a lot longer when you try and shortcut your way to the top instead of embracing the long game.

Most successful entrepreneurs leave a lengthy trail of failed businesses in their wake. Most best-selling authors have a pile of rejection notes thicker than an Advanced Calculus text book.

Most people’s path to success is anything but a straight line and their timeline is anything but “overnight.” They are preceded by countless failures. By hard earned lessons. By screw ups and missteps infinitely more numerous than their successes.

And that’s how it’s supposed to be.

So slow down. Be patient. And enjoy the ride.

Become a master at your craft. Expand your network and provide massive value to the people in it. Realize that anything worth doing is worth doing well.

Instead of trying to rush success, embrace the fact that it takes time.

As Tony Robbins says, “Most people radically overestimate what they can do in a year but underestimate what they can do in two to three decades.”

Play the game in decades, not years and you’ll be surprised by how pleasant the journey to the top will be.

5. John Romaniello: Stop Reading Business Books

“Stop reading business books.”

The advice of New York Times best-selling author and Founder of Roman Fitness Systems was about almost as unconventional as the man himself (seriously, the dude is a walking paradox).

However, after spending the past five years of my life binge reading countless business books, his wisdom struck a chord.

It’s not that business or self-help books are “bad” or that they don’t provide value. Rather that they often trap entrepreneurs into a narrow path of self-education.

Most business books offer little insight into the world of top performing entrepreneurs. They might be informative to some, but more often than not the writing is blase and the content unoriginal.

Of the hundreds of business books I’ve read, perhaps eight of them provided me with actionable and original information that I successfully implemented.

On the other hand, of the scant number of high quality novels, biographies, science, history, and philosophy books I’ve read, I’d estimate 80% of them led to a lasting change in my mindset, life, and business.

They made me a better thinker. A more informed person. And a far better writer.

For example, It wasn’t until I read Arnold’s The Education of a Bodybuilder, that I understood the mindset driving top performers and was able to adopt it into my own life to achieve consistency at the gym.

This is not to say that you should stop reading all business or self-help books. Rather that they should serve a purpose. They should be prescriptive and address a specific problem you are facing in your life or business.

So expand your horizons with your daily reading.

Pick up books on a wide breadth of topics beyond business and personal development.

I promise, you’ll be a better person for it.

6. Sharran Srivatsaa: Sell Money at a Discount  

I always hated selling.

When negotiating terms with a new client or discussing my fee for a new project, I would always have a clear number in mind… And then ask for at least 25% less than that number.

It wasn’t that I doubted my services or my ability to deliver. Simply that I had a fundamental misunderstanding of what selling really is.

Luckily, Sharran Srivatsaa, CEO of Teles Properties and one of the brightest entrepreneurs I’ve ever met, cleared everything up for me during his presentation at the 2018 Perfect Life Retreat.

The way he did this was with a simple question…

Would you feel “weird” or guilty or sleazy if you offered someone a $100 bill in exchange for $50?

Of course not!

You are, quite literally, selling money at a discount.

Yet, when we do the same thing in business, offering our skills, services, or products to others knowing that we will help them make more money than the amount we are asking for in return… We freeze up and sputter through our presentations (well, you probably don’t, but I did).

The reason is that we often fail to realize that we are selling money at a discount.

If you can write copy, or design a website, or provide consulting that helps someone make $100,000 in the next twelve months, why would you have any reservations about charging $25,000 for your services?

You shouldn’t. And hopefully, with this simple lesson and reframe, you won’t.

7. Ashley Roberts: Treat Customers Like a Pretty Woman (Or Man)

A few months before I began my work here as the Editor for Early to Rise, I made a rather painful mistake–one that cost me upwards of $36,000 in annual revenue.

The mistake, as odd as this might sound is that I tried to provide too much value too quickly.

After reaching out to The Hardcore Closer, Ryan Stewman, I managed to sell him, and more importantly his right-hand man AJ Roberts, on my email marketing services.

To my delight, Ryan and AJ eagerly agreed to a 7-day trial run that, if successful, would lead to (what I hoped would be) a substantial monthly contract.

I sent them a simple plan, drafted out five new emails, and prepared to get to work.

And then… I slipped up.

Upon looking at the state of their email list, I realized that there were a few glaring issues that would prevent me from achieving the success I wanted during my trial. Because email was not something their company focused on at the time, I realized that the first order of business was to run a campaign to re-engage their list. An undertaking that I thought would take about a month.

So I messaged AJ and Ryan with a detailed plan of action, offering to spearhead the re-engagement campaign for the entire 30-day period completely free.

To my surprise, not only did they not appreciate the fact that I was trying to go above and beyond to prove myself, they decided to rescind the entire agreement. No trial. No test run. No potential for a contract.


After following up with AJ to try and figure out what went wrong, I was surprised when he responded with an insightful and thought-provoking answer.

“Look,” he said, “Imagine that you just met a woman at the gym and she agreed to get coffee with you. Then you text her the next day and tell her that you don’t want to get coffee and instead you want to fly her to the Bahamas for a 2-week vacation… How do you think she’s going to respond?”

The point was abundantly clear.

In business and marketing, it’s easy to unintentionally skip steps in the relationship building process. To rush too eagerly and too quickly into “marriage” when you haven’t even had a first date.

Whether you’re asking for the sale too quickly, or promoting a product that’s too highly priced too soon, or simply asking for someone’s email address before providing them with any concrete value, you must remember where your customer is in their journey.

Even in the world of digital marketing and online business, relationships are still the lifeblood of any business.

And you must be intentional in the way that you build these relationships.

Treat your customers like an attractive man/woman that you just met.

Take them on a date first. Build trust. Establish rapport. Then slowly and methodically escalate the relationship until you earn their lifelong loyalty and business.

Remember, if you try and marry someone you just met, you’ll fail every single time.


These seven simple lessons have changed my life in more ways than I can count and, hopefully, they will help you improve your performance and elevate your personal and professional success to the next level.

What did you think about them? What counter-intuitive success principles have you learned from the people in your network? Let me know in the comments below!


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Austin Gillis

After dropping out of college at 18, Austin set out to travel the world and turn his passion for sharing big ideas through writing into a full time income. Today, he's succeeded at his goal and is the Editor for Early to Rise, Director of Content for Knowledge for Men, and a highly sought after freelance writer whose ghost-written work has been featured on Forbes, The Huffington Post, Inc.com among other major outlets. When he isn't exploring new cities, writing game-changing content, or devouring his latest stack of books, you'll find him kicked back in a hammock on the beaches of Mexico with his girlfriend and two-year old Pomeranian, Zelda