Isaiah Hankel (@isaiahhankel) is an expert on mental focus, behavioral psychology, and career development. His new book is The Science of Intelligent Achievement: How Smart People Focus, Create, and Grow Their Way to Success.

What We Discuss with Isaiah Hankel:

  • Why busy people are easily manipulated.
  • Why 50% of your friendships are fake.
  • How to defend against negativity without becoming negative.
  • How to go on a relationship fast and why you should.
  • How to make the most of your daily productive time by tracking emotions and predicting feelings.
  • And much more…
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When you think of what success means to you, is it a true reflection of the fulfillment and happiness you might achieve on your own terms, or a distortion of expectations put upon you by — and dependent upon — others?

The Science of Intelligent Achievement: How Smart People Focus, Create, and Grow Their Way to Success author Isaiah Hankel joins us for this episode to discuss scientific strategies for achieving sustainable success through selective focus, creative ownership, and pragmatic growth. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

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The meaning of success varies depending on who you ask. One person might think success is simply finding the right partner with whom to build a life, while someone else may eye bags of money as the prize for their achievements. Others would consider both of these together a good place to start, and others still would find success in a place furthest removed from either.

But when you stop to examine what success means to you, it’s important to take an extra step that many ignore: is your idea of success something that would truly fulfill you, or are you giving chase to something instilled in you by someone else? Are you dreaming with your own head, or have you been eavesdropping on someone else’s dreams for so long that you’ve forgotten to check in on what you really want out of life?

The Science of Intelligent Achievement: How Smart People Focus, Create, and Grow Their Way to Success author Isaiah Hankel joins us to help make sure we’re setting our sights on the things that matter to us and trimming the fat of expectation foisted upon us by others with their own agendas that are often at odds with our own.

Why Busy People Are Easily Manipulated

Have you ever found yourself so busy doing things for other people that you forget to do things for yourself? Take pause to consider if this happens by your own design, or if you’re being manipulated by external forces. Sometimes these manipulations are unintentional, but usually, says Isaiah, they’re not. He describes the pulse of a business meeting as an example:

“A certain meeting rhythm or pulse is set up to keep all of the employees busy. Why is that done? It’s so they will keep pushing the agenda of the organization forward and they will not have time to think or to disrupt the systems that are in place. By keeping people busy at the right level, it will keep them moving forward; there will be less disruption, less going against the grain. Less rocking the boat.

“It’s highly effective, and in one sense [there’s] nothing terribly wrong with it, but if you’re the employee and you’re trying to make a massive leap forward in your life, it’s not going to be by keeping up with other people’s rhythms and staying busy, because that’s how they’re keeping you on their track.”

So what do we do when we find ourselves under the thumb of such manipulation? Don’t we risk our jobs or relationships if we take a step back and refuse to be kept busy for the sake of agendas that don’t always match our own?

“That’s the opposite of the case,” says Isaiah. “In fact, the employees, the individuals that stop being busy, they step back, they disrupt things temporarily to say, ‘This system is wrong; why are we doing this? This doesn’t make sense. Hey, boss, that is a horrible idea. I can’t believe you just brought that up.’ These are the people that will get promoted. These are the people that will change the system because they’ll be able to step back, zoom out, get out of the weeds and say, ‘If you fix these three things, instead going from A to B to C to D, you can go right from A to D.’

“So it’s the people who are able to get out of that busy-ness and stop just doing whatever they’re told that end up having the biggest breakthroughs and actually the best careers and best lives, overall.”

Isaiah recommends taking some time — even if it’s just 15 minutes — every morning to reflect on what you’re doing that day and separate legitimate tasks that drive your agenda forward from time-wasting busy work. Identify patterns from the past that have proven unproductive and make the decision to not repeat them. Then communicate with the person who might be putting you through this busy work — whether it’s your boss or your significant other — and communicate how you might better spend your time going forward.

“Really, a lot of it comes down to being bold enough to do that and to realize that there’s more benefit in that,” says Isaiah.

50 Percent of Your Friendships Are Fake

If you want to make sure you’re using your time as wisely as possible to pursue your own version of success rather than succumbing to someone else’s expectations, Isaiah says it’s important to identify the people in your life who constantly refuse to let you.

Citing MIT research that found only about half of friendships to be reciprocal, Isaiah says we’re generally as guilty of being a “fake” friend to someone as they are to us.

“It doesn’t just mean that they’re not adding value to you,” says Isaiah, “It could mean that you are not adding value to them…those are fake friendships, and those are the things that are really eating away your time and your mental energy and that’s why it’s important to call this out — to identify which friendships are fake and which are real.”

So how do we identify our fake friendships?

Some of our relationships are so natural that they don’t require much time or effort to maintain. But non-reciprocal relationships — fake friendships — are usually a lot of work for one side to prop up for little to no reward for the trouble.

“What you need to do is you need to sit down and think about the relationships in your life,” says Isaiah. “As soon as you do this, in the first five minutes you’re going to identify some people that you clearly know should not be in your life because they are sucking a lot of energy out of you or taking a lot from you and not giving anything in return. And likewise, if you can be honest with yourself and hold yourself to a standard of needing to add value back to somebody for them to add value back to you, you’ll realize that you need to remove yourself from some people’s lives because you’re bad for them!

“Sit down; make a list. Why is it weird to make a list of the relationships in your life on paper? Some people get weird about it, but I think it’s one of the healthiest things you can do. Make a list and then write down what these people have done for you in the past and what you’ve done for them.”

Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about how to be more selective with our attention to benefit agendas that include rather than disrupt our interests, how going through a friendship audit can make you a better friend to others while eliminating the friends who probably won’t even notice they’ve been cut out of your life, how we can simultaneously avoid turning our friendships into transactional acts of scorekeeping, how to go on a relationship fast — and choose the type that’s right for you, what a goal contagion is, four strategies for defending against negativity without becoming negative, how to make the most of your daily productive time, and much more.


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