How to Give Yourself an Edge in Making 2013 Your Best Year Ever

I first met Robert D. Smith in 1996. He was managing Andy Andrews, a comedian who would eventually become the author of several New York Times bestselling books.

I was immediately taken by Robert’s enthusiasm and zest for life. It was contagious! I can honestly say I have never met anyone like him before or since.

Over the years Robert has become one of my closest friends. We have been involved in numerous business deals—most successful, a few not-so-successful. Regardless, my respect and love for him continues to grow.

What I have never revealed until now is that he is also one of my most important mentors. His words and life have inspired me to think bigger, push harder, and strive for excellence in everything I do.

Here are just ten of lessons I have learned from him.

  1. You can never be too generous. Give to others—and then give some more!
  2. The only difference between you and the people who accomplish great things is the way you think.
  3. Always be asking yourself, “What is important now? What is next?”
  4. Make today count. Live it like it is your last. Every minute matters.
  5. Eat dessert first. Learn to celebrate life and then live out of that celebration.
  6. Assume YOU are the problem. When you do, you quit becoming the victim and begin shaping the outcome.
  7. Embrace rejection. Every no puts you one step closer to a yes.
  8. You never really cross the finish line. Performing at a big show, publishing a book, or even getting a record deal isn’t the finish line. It’s the new starting line.
  9. Life is not about finding yourself; it is about creating yourself.
  10. Play full-out. Hold nothing in reserve.

The really cool thing is that Thomas Nelson has just published Robert’s first book. It is called, 20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course for Mastering Your Life Right Now. It is a distillation of everything he lives and teaches.

It’s a really short book—about a hundred pages. You can read it in less than an hour. But don’t be fooled by its size. It is packed with wisdom and inspiration. (As of this writing, the average review on Amazon is 4.8 stars—out of 57 customer reviews.)

Honestly, I can’t think of a better book to read during the first week of a new year. Do yourself a favor and buy it NOW. It will give you the edge you need to make 2013 your best year ever.

Here’s just one of the many quotes I highlighted:

Decisions you make right now can change your life forever. Literally forever. You do not choose to be born. You do not choose your parents. You do not choose the time period in which you live. You do not choose the country of your birth. You do not choose the circumstances of your upbringing. In most cases, you do not choose to die. You do not choose the time or conditions of your death.

Despite all the realms of this choicelessness, we do choose how we will live. May you have a glorious ending by beginning today.

Question: What one action can you take today to make 2013 a banner year? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Jon Stolpe

    I really like number 9 on the list above.  I think the world would be a different (and better) place if we all started with this in mind.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Agreed. It is a difference-maker.

      • Jane Bromley

        I agree. I have realised that somewhere along the line I began doubting myself. So from today I am creating myself as I really am- someone with a lot to offer who IS successful. Thanks so much for this. 

  • Jeremy Statton

    Thanks for the recommendation. I’m looking forward to learning more.

  • Michael Nichols

    Love these thoughts:
    The only difference between you and the people who accomplish great things is the way you think.
    Assume YOU are the problem. When you do, you quit becoming the victim and begin shaping the outcome.
    Life is not about finding yourself; it is about creating yourself.

    They all involve one mindset – and one’s mindset is truly life shaping.

    Leadership is awkward – most of the time. Because, at its core, leadership involves change. After all what are we leading others to do? To be? 

    The way one thinks makes all the difference.

    • Noah Coley

      Total agreement with Michael Nichols. 

      It reminds me of the difference of when I was growing up in a home with no leadership (but rather a victim outlook), and when I went to college and met these incredible people called LEADERS who had a totally different mindset than anyone else I had ever met. 

      The common thread among leaders is a willingness to adapt to change rather than get stuck in the victim trap.

      • Michael Nichols

        Thanks Noah. I am pleased that you were able to connect with great leaders who poured into your life.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Leadership does involve change—starting with us. Thanks, Michael.

      • Michael Nichols

        Yep – thanks my friend.

    • BeckyCaldwell

       “Leadership is awkward.” Boy howdy, does this ring true for me! I came into an all-volunteer organization as their new leader and have been working through cultural differences (big city vs. small town), egos (including mine), and a number of other issues that have tested my patience and ability to extend grace.

      I unintentionally started following #6 “Assume YOU are the problem” and what do you know? We actually started working together and solving the issues troubling the organization.

      • Michael Nichols

        That’s great Becky! Trust things continue to progress.

      • Michele Cushatt

         Love your honesty and humility, Becky.

  • Noah Coley

    I can hear Dave Ramsey saying number 6, but only slightly different…”What are you some kind of victim, oh my gosh!”

    This truth is very important to me because when I wait for others to fix a problem I am the one who truly pays in the end.  However, when I assume I am the problem, (and the solution)  I am enabled to take control of MY life!

    • Annelies Van Os

       Yes, but how can you do that when you are close to a serious depression? (Not me, my mum, unfortunately). I try to explain this to her, but the idea doesn’t stick…

      I agree on this idea, but how to pass it on to others?

      • Rayulmer

        Even Christ couldn’t change everyone, and he would have…  I have seen good Christian people beat themselves up for not being able to save everyone.. you can’t.  You always keep trying, kindly, …and pray.

        • Annelies Van Os

           Thanks. You are right of course… I tend to forget these things, when I’m thinking about it too hard.
          Reminder: don’t trust me, trust in God.
          I’ll try to keep it in mind. Thanks again.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Haha, I laughed out loud when I read the Oh My Gosh! comment. 

    • Jim Martin

      Glad you included this quote, Noah.  I can just hear him say this.  Good reminder as well.

      Great point you make regarding the problem with waiting for others to fix a problem.

  • Kate Luella

    yes that quote is amazing!  His thinking is so profound it’s easy to ignore it as too hard.  I really like the “recreating” idea, and your fav quote further promotes this idea.  Love it!  Will def try to keep present and grateful.  :) Kate

  • Skip Prichard

    I agree–it’s a thought-provoking book. It may not take long to read, but you will be implementing ideas from it long after you finish.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree, Skip. I have read it now twice. There are many chapters I intend to re-read on a regular basis. Thanks.

  • Todd Liles

    Seek Wisdom.

    • Michael Hawkins

       Change Yourself.  Change the World.

      • Todd Liles


  • Peggy Barnes

    The last quote is one I had seen online several months ago and loved it.  I did not know who he was…..just liked the quote.  Now I know and look forward to reading his book.  

  • Eileen Knowles

    Looks like a great book.   I really like #3.  Being intentional every moment really is key.  We drift way too much.  

  • Jeff Jones

    I read it and loved it! Really changed my perspective on life and business. He is my “virtual” mentor.

    Here is my amazon “video” review:

    • Michele Cushatt

      Thanks for sharing your review, Jeff.

      • Jeff Jones

         Your’re welcome, Michele!

  • Jim Hamlett

    Heading for the cockpit shortly for the first flight of 2013. Saw your post drop in my email box and stopped to read it. Thanks again for the encouragement. Will definitely take a look at the book. 

    • Michael Hyatt

      Have a safe flight!

  • Laura Crosby

    I love #6 – the power of choice – choosing not to be a victim, but recognizing you’re part (at least) of the problem, and looking for how you can be a constructive “solution side” person.

  • John Richardson

    Number 7 really resonates with me. Being in outside sales for over five years taught me to always embrace rejection. Learn from it. Conquer it. It is from rejection that we can truly find new avenues of thought. If this didn’t work, what does?

    Unfortunately, most people, myself included, tend to run from rejection. We put our heads in the sand, wishing the world would go away. However, the world doesn’t stop, just because we feel bad. Just because our feelings are hurt. No, it goes on. It keeps rotating. Days come, days go.

    When you embrace the monster–face it head on–it immediately shrinks in size. Suddenly, the answers to your problems are right there, staring you in the face. It’s like a team of engineers designed a solution. So many times, the words of rejection contain the answers to the problem. If we are willing to listen.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I so agree, John. I learned this in my first job as a telephone salesman.

    • Michele Cushatt

      “Many times, the words of rejection contain the answers to the problem. If we are willing to listen.” Well said, John.

      • John Richardson

        Unfortunately, many times we don’t want to hear it. My Toastmasters evaluation experience has really helped me here. Now when things don’t go so well, I really appreciate a thoughtful overview and look for ways to improve. It can be really painful at times, but it really pays off.

        • Michele Cushatt

          I’ve been guilty of that very thing. But I’m learning the value of leaning in and listening to what it can teach.

  • Alisha Hickey

    I absolutely love listening to your podcasts. I think I need to be willing to take more risks . I need BOLDNESS in 2013. I am praying about that . What is your advice for people who are timid about taking risks?

  • Rechanjo

    Make every minute count.  I love the enthusiasm that flows from your words.  Good advice.  Now. . . to buy the book.

  • Matt

    Very excited to read the book.  I know the one thing that I can do to make 2013 become a game changer in my life is become fluent in Japanese.  

    • Michele Cushatt

       How are you planning to accomplish that goal, Matt? Have you already started?

  • Seana Scott

    I love the quote you included.  I have always thought: the choices we make, make our lives.  Great post.  This year I am choosing to FINALLY finish my first draft of a book, work on your suggestions for blogging, and pitch for a writing agent.  Choosing to start making dreams come true.  God can’t open doors I am not walking up to for Him to open.

  • Shannon Steffen

    Love number 6 on your list, Michael! Of course, I had to purchase the book myself after your great review. Looking forward to the read!

  • Leslie A

    Love the list! Oftentimes, complacency and apathy is our greatest enemy. Each one of the points on that list can only happen with very intentional living. Here’s to living intentionally in 2013!

  • PatGarcia

    I like your list. The one action that I have done today is to take your advice. I’ve ordered the book. Thomas Nelson is a known name in the publishing world for publishing quality. 

  • TNeal

    Assume YOU are the problem. I know I’ve had my most significant and sustained changes when I stopped making excuses and started accepting responsibility. Good 10 thoughts. Thanks.

    • Michele Cushatt

      Parenting my kids helped me see the value of taking responsibility. The more I talked to them about it, the more I realized I could (and should!) do the same.

  • Dan Erickson

    I like #1: give more.  I’m going to “excel” this year in as many areas as I can.

  • Eirene241

    Will a digital/Kindle edition be available soon?

    • Michael Hyatt

      It’s available NOW. You can order it here.

      • Eirene241

        Thanks! Just bought it.

        FYI, it did not show up when I searched Amazon from my iPhone. I tried switching to the “Full Site”, and when that did not work, searching the Kindle Store. It showed up only as hardback or audiobook.

  • Dean Deguara

    I cant believe I passed on that book a couple weeks ago I had a choice between two books and I chose the other one…bummer. One thing I’m going to do is be more active on other blogs I follow this year. There is so much I can learn and opportunities I know will come through consistency.

  • Mike Hansen

    I will read all my goals EVERY SINGLE DAY! That alone will be the game-changer for me.

    • Michele Cushatt

       Nice. Great plan.

  • Krista O’Brien

    Thanks for the book recommendation! Just placed my order.

  • Debbie

    Love this AND Robert D! He is the real deal! Can’t wait to read the book!

  • Joe Hendrix

    It was funny to see this. In the last few days my wife and I have been on a mission to clean out the clutter in our house. We’re going through every nook and cranny. During this, in the back corner of a drawer, I found a small notebook. Around 25 years ago, at 29 years old,  I read a book by another author and had used this notebook to make notes on inspirational quotes, and to do the exercises on examining your life, your beliefs, your goals, etc. It was really interesting to see such an in depth account of myself at that time. I shared it with my wife and we laughed and wiped a few tears as well. Two things that struck me were some of the goals I had set and had accomplished even though at that time I had no clue how we were going to get them done. The second were the changes that I wanted to make in myself, and how many of them are part of me today. I am a big believer in changing your thoughts to choose your future. I am keeping a copy of the list you’ve posted and am looking forward to reading this book as well. 
    Thank you

  • Shelley Hess

    Happy BLESSED New Year, Michael!  Looking forward to “sitting round the coffee table” with you, Robert D. and all tomorrow during the Spreecast! 

    THANKS SO MUCH for spreading the good word about Robert and his New Release! 

    The personal details about your meeting and relationship have huge impact in this post.  And, I find you always “nail it” with your points, in this case these ten.  Every one resonates!  Having spent time with Robert, I know  the man LIVES his message.  Most powerfully!

    I too, will be rereading his book for years to come, as I focus on intentional living for God’s glory.

    Having just completed ‘studying’ Platform, I’ll close with this deeply meaningful quote from your acknowledgments, with regard to your wife, Gail, “always believing the best and forgetting the worst”.  That’s awesome “take-home”!  Thanks again, Michael. 

  • Carolyn R. O’Connor

    Trust my inner voice and speak up. I’m so afraid of being wrong and ruining things that I don’t ever speak up until it is either too late or the usefulness has faded (or never speak up at all). 2012 was a year of getting to know myself and allowing God to heal me/transform me. While that transformation continues indefinitely, it is time I stop hiding in the shadows, waiting to be picked. Trust the voice God has given me and follow His leading and speak up. :-)

  • Rayulmer

    Quit listening to all the old voices in my head that have all the reasons “You (I) can’t do that!”

    • Michael Hyatt

      That’s a great one!

  • Hjcarstens

    BELIEVE IN YOURSELF………BELIEVE IN GOD!!!!!     Phil 4;13 I CAN DO ALL things through Christ which strengteneth me…………………FOR 2013

  • Frank

    Number 9 really hit home. Thanks for all the great encouragement Michael. 
    Perfect book recommendation. Purchasing..NOW   Thanks

  • Brad Ball

    Coach John Wooden used to say, “Make each day a masterpiece.”

  • Cindi White

    Believe that with God all things are possible!  Dream the impossible dream!

  • Jeremy Birch

    To answer your question, Michael, read….this book in particular.  As an avid reader and lifelong learner you already know this, but I’m surprised at how many friends I have asked in 2012 that read almost nothing!  I began the habit in 2012 of reading to expand my horizons.  Today I started reading Chris Guillebeau’s “$100 Startup” and have 13 more Audible books queued up.  I may need to start exercising to get through it all.  ;-)

  • AIDAN1114


  • Ryan Knight

    Very inspiring. I saw this book somewhere else and have added it to my 2013 reading list.

    I like number one the best. I’ve realized in the past few months that if I over-focus on myself then I stop thinking of others. If I keep giving to others it helps me not become self-absorbed. Something to remember for all of us self-improvers.

  • kimanzi constable

    Being intentional about EVERYTHING I do this year!

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  • Tom Dixon

    #10 really resonates with me, and has the most potential to make 2013 a huge year for me.   I’ve not been 100% in the game for lots of “good” reasons, but not holding back any longer!

  • Stephen Melancon

    Great post and thanks for the information about Robert’s new book. I just downloaded a copy via Kindle.

    I love the ten lessons that you posted. I agree with Tom Dixon, number 10 is the one that struck me the most. This one is a challenge because it requires courage to be “all-in” and hold nothing in reserve. The stakes are even higher when you are breaking new ground in your life… you know, like creating a Platform!

    Appreciate the post, and I’m looking forward to the book!

    • Joe Lalonde

      Being all in is scary. But I think the rewards justify the effort we put into it. Keep playing all in!

      • Stephen Melancon

        You’re right, Joe! Thanks for the encouragement and enjoy the rest of your week.

  • Bill Gibson


  • Bill Gibson

    I love the list above Michael, especially #2, #6, and #10! And I just purchased a Kindle version of Robert’s book. :) Thanks man!

  • Dale Melchin

    I’m getting this book.  I’m actually doing several things to make 2013 my best year, but I’ll name two.  I’m reading my vision everyday.  I’m also being very strict in how I spend my time.  I have made it my number one priority to spend my time only in such a way that it is going to help me achieve my goals.  Fortunately, family and recreation are a part of those goals so they don’t get steamrolled and I burn out.  I’ve decided though that after God I am the Supreme Commander of my life.  I mean, if I’m not leading my life then who is going to lead me?

  • Steveoboh

    Doing it instead of thinking it

  • Joe Lalonde

    Robert sounds like a great guy. I’ve heard him on Andy Andrews’ podcast a couple of times and have been amazed by his wisdom and insight. 

    You mentioned his Eat Dessert First rule. That was just on the last podcast and it stirred something within me. I’m hoping I can make that a change I implement into my life over the coming months. 

    I took an action last night. I hosted one of the Seth Godin Icarus Sessions in our town. Got to meetup and reconnect with a couple of great guys. I need to keep these connections strong to help make 2013 a great year!

    • Joe Lalonde

      Also, a crazy step I’m taking is canceling our cable TV subscription today. This way I can be much more intentional about what I watch and the time I spend in front of the TV.  This will give me more time to focus on what really matters.

  • Joydekok57

    Amazing guy. I just went and ordered the book for my Kindle. Thanks for sharing him and his book.

  • Noelle Meade

    But what if we DID choose to be born? This would empower us
    to KNOW we came here ON PURPOSE; WITH PURPOSE. And, what if we DID choose our
    parents? This would EMPOWER us to know that because we made that conscious
    choice before coming here, we have a great deal to learn in this life FROM them
    and WITH them. And, what if we DID choose the time period in which we live?
    This would empower us to KNOW that our special gift and talents are exactly
    what the Earth, in this specific time/space continuum, needs. This would
    empower us to SEEK AND UNCOVER our unique gifts. And, what if we DID choose the
    country of our birth? This would empower us to KNOW that this is the exact
    place that we needed to experience at that moment of birth and upbringing; that
    we CHOSE this ON PURPOSE, WITH PURPOSE. And, what if we DO choose to DIE; we DO
    choose the time and conditions of our death. This would empower us to KNOW that
    death is part of life; part of the grand plan and we needn’t fear it because we
    HAD A SAY IN IT…  I believe that #6 in
    the absolute truth, but it has to start with the belief that we are not
    victims, without a voice, from the start –BEFORE we come here. Life is a gift;
    our souls inherently know this. We CHOOSE our life’s circumstances before we
    come here because our souls KNOW, for this particular lifetime, these
    circumstances will serve us in the most profound way possible… 

  • Michele Cushatt

     Lol. I liked that one, too. :)

  • Jim Martin

    I really like this list!  A keeper!  What a great way to begin 2013.  Glad you posted this, Michael.

  • Susan Meador

    today i decided that i will no longer “create” myself – this has led to me creating a self that i think others want to see – this year will begin to “reveal” my true and authentic self – to me and to others!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Nice distinction. Thanks!

  • Michael sheppard

    By understanding that my job is to plow the ground and plant good seeds and then rely on the LORD to grant the harvest or not. Then keep repeating.
    Michael Sheppard, CEO
    The Sheppard Group, Franklin, Tn.

  • Matt Gray

    Great post Michael. I’ve known Robert for 33 years and you’re right there is no one else like him when it comes to enthusiasm and zest for life. He’s been a great friend and mentor to me. Being an avid Alabama football fan,  point #8 reminds me of the mind set of Nick Saban. Point #8 and Point #3 are very closely related. I recommend this book to anyone and don’t just read it. Inhale it and live it.

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  • Apostro

    Number 6 is amazing. It gives you control to change the course of life when you know you are the problem. It shall be my new guiding principle in life. I just hope that I don’t blame everything on myself. It’s actually tougher than you think..hmmm

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  • Karl Rohde

     Like Jon Stolpe, I love point 9 about creating yourself. This is the secret I think. Creativity is well worth the effort. All great people are marked by their creative expression . To help keep momentum going through the year I wrote a blog post: Simple Tips to Keep Your New Years Resolutions Alive. I hope it helps.

    Thanks to Michael for another great post.

  • Jenny H

    I was already considering shifting my wake up time when I read your morning person post a few weeks ago. Today I got up earlier to have breakfast with my husband before he left for work and stayed up to shower and get some work done before my boys got up. Tomorrow I will do the same. This is going to benefit my marriage, my family, and my job. Thanks for the proverbial kick in the pants. :)

  • Judi

    I love this … I believe a mentor is so important in buidling a successful happy life that is intentionally focused.   My favorite is #10.  As an improviser, we preach that in our work …. to play full out … to go for it … to not leave anything on the table … to take risks.  It’s a powerful think to know how to do and to not be afriad to DO IT!

  • Rohit Gupta

    Your recommendations have always been helpful.
    Its funny how generosity always comes back, like some boomerang.

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  • Richard Quinonez

    Just press forward and do one thing that moves you in some way toward your goal or project. If you have a day where you don’t get anything done give it to the Lord and let Him know that it was His in the first place and that you are committing all things to His care. What will happen is that you’ll experience a peace and a joy that gives you strength to persevere and focus on tomorrow. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” Phil 4:13 

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  • Angela Goodeve

    Hi Michael, I am getting caught up on reading some of the Fellow Top 50 Bloggers, and having some great reads today!  My favorite lesson from the list:  Life is not about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself…and like you said, making the right choices in line with your intuition along the way!  Congratulations on second place, and you deserve it, what a wealth of information here, I am humbled to be on the same list as you! :)

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