7 Success Principles Anyone Can Use to Turn Around Their 20s For the Better

Last week I shared an epic article on the core strategies that helped me turn 2015 into my most fulfilled, happy and successful year ever.

Five years ago when I created Milk the Pigeon, I had no idea that this would be the direction it would go in.

Today, I want to help tackle something that I know has  been holding you back:

How the hell do you go full-steam ahead if you don’t know what your passion or dream job is?

Here are a few strategies that have helped me dramatically – things I would’ve KILLED to know five years ago.

Follow them, and you can seriously leapfrog the competition and get ahead.

Strategy #1 – Stack The Bricks

Stacking the Bricks

Literally, three years ago, if I told you I’d be where I am now, I wouldn’t have believed you.

And you know what’s funny? I’m not even crushing it yet or doing that well.

I can’t wait to see where I’m going to be in three years, now that I’ve realized this stacking the bricks concept.

There’s a fantastic talk by Amy Hoy called “Stacking the Bricks,” where she talks about a lesser-known success principle, which is….

You just have to keep stacking bricks before you hit it big.

But if you don’t stack brick #1, you’ll never get to see what results from brick #35.

Here’s the problem:

Most of us don’t act, because we can’t see the next step, but the paradox is that you have to keep stepping in the darkness BEFORE you get to see the next step.

She talks about knowing Gary Vaynerchuk while he was pouring wine at some startup event, thinking he basically was some clown that had ADD.

Five years later, Gary is a household name and absolutely dominating in his business.

Here’s the thing:

In my own business, when I launched it, I didn’t have a goddamn clue how I was going to help people, build an audience, and run an actual business. I had an idea, but ideas always change when the rubber meets the road.

It started with a cheap course.

Then a more expensive one.

Then a coaching program.

Then a continuity program.

Then a book.

Then speaking, and other gigs.


And right now, the book has been the most impactful, fulfilling project I ever worked on.

You have to stack the first brick, before you find your way to the last.

Lesson: If you find yourself paralyzed and not taking action whether it’s finding a job, or changing careers, take the damn step, because you have no idea where hustle can lead you (even if you can’t see the entire staircase right now).

That brings me to lesson #2.

Strategy #2 – Ladder Hopping


There’s a really interesting book called Smartcuts, how people (a couple you might know are Skrillex & Michelle Phan) rapidly rose to the top, and how they did it.

In it, the author talks about how people sometimes leapfrog their way to the top by becoming skilled or well known in one industry, then using it to jump to a new one – way beyond entry level.

For example:

Use connections – e.g. if you’re at a decent level as a marketing manager for a company, maybe you can use those connections in the marketing industry to leap frog into an entirely different industry – a start up, medical, travel, etc.

Skip the line.

Forget starting back at square one.

Enter as a marketing person, leave in an entirely different sector you’re interested in.

Use skills – maybe as that same marketer, you know how to run a business –  like driving searches via blog content.

Let’s say you’re also a guitarist who wants to have a side business.

You can combine the skills you have as a marketer, and then add them to being a guitarist, and turn that into a business.

The point is to think strategically about how to:

A. Skip the line

B. Get to where you want faster

Also, consider this: one well-placed introduction has the potential to change your life forever.

A couple years back when I was shotgunning resumes and looking for a job, I was pissed off to see dumbass, unqualified kids taking jobs before me.

How’d they get cool jobs at Twitter in NYC then?

They had family friends introduce them.

(Note: they’re still dumbasses and suck at their jobs, they just had the right intro. Think about that)

Strategy #3 – Validate, Then Commit


In startup land, it’s a massive faux pas to launch a product or startup without some kind of market validation that people will pay you $$ for.

So, you would never launch a product without getting pre-orders or customers (unless you want to heavily risk failure).

So why do we do this with graduate school and careers?

We commit to jobs, or 2, 4, 6, year master’s and PhD programs, without having a goddamn clue of whether or not we’ll like them.

For example, I’m about to enter a 4 year medical degree for Chinese Medicine.

I would normally suggest NEVER EVER to do this unless you are 100% about the path going forward (which I am).

So many conventional medical students get caught up in the prestige and income of being a doctor, that they end up in a career that they hate, that doesn’t suite them, but then they have so much goddamn debt they don’t have a choice.

Stuck. Don’t make this mistake.

The fix: Think about careers or even graduate school like a startup – how can you validate it before committing?

One way is to shadow a person in the potential field you’re interested in.

Thinking of going into wildlife rehab or back to school to be a teacher?

Don’t make a decision until:

A. You’ve followed a wildlife rehab person around at their job (is it outdoors? Is it doing paperwork? is it writing proposals?)

B. You’ve sat in on a typical class in a typical location you’d teach (community college? high school? preschool?)

One day in the trenches of a career is worth infinitely more than one year trying to think about it.

Again, I would’ve killed for this insight.

Strategy #4: The Dilbert Skill Acquisition Code of Awesomeness


I read about 300 books on success in the past 4-5 years alone, and if you asked me which one was the best, my answer is simple:

How to fail at pretty much everything and still win big.

It’s the dude that created those nerdy Dilbert comics, and his own biography of how he became successful, and what he thinks it takes to be successful.

Easily the best book on the subject, only because his advice is so honest and UNIQUE – the strategies he recommends are so different from most of the same stories you hear.

Most stories are the same:

– Kid works 16 hours a day
– Kid may or may not have a few lucky breaks
– Kid makes a shitload of money

…And there are ALMOST NO USEFUL POINTS for me to study and apply.

Most success biographies I’ve found to be this way.

In any case, the dude in the dilbert comics talks about one concept that was a game changer for me:

Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success.

He says in his book that he’s a mediocre cartoonist, and mediocre in terms of how funny he is, and mediocre at most other skills in business that he has.

How did he become a multimillionaire then?

The fact that he knew a little bit of drawing + a little bit of comedy + a little bit of marketing + a little bit of entrepreneurship = a 1+1 = 10 effect.

Your Lesson: If you are pissing away time right now, or are wondering how to get ahead, focus on acquiring new SKILLS. I’ll define skills in a second, and how to actually systematize this habit.

If you know a bit of marketing, a bit of online business, a bit of guitar, a bit of public speaking, those can all come together in VERY unique ways to serve as a competitive advantage at a job, or your own business.

Strategy #5: Earl Nightingale – One Hour a Day


So how do you regularly do this and acquire skills?

One of my favorite audiobooks is by Earl Nightingale and is called The Essence of Success.

He talks about passing a bunch of unemployed blue collar workers one day complaining about their lack of job prospects, and he asks: “Don’t you guys have any other skills? In 20 years of free time, you could’ve become an open heart surgeon in an hour a day.”

It gave me a huge aha moment, and anytime I needed to truly succeed, I started devoting one hour a day to skill acquisition, OR focusing on a project. Here’s what I mean.

Writing a book: For example, I wrote my book in one hour a day.

Think of that – just one hour a day, for 100 days. It didn’t take decades, it wasn’t grueling, and I almost never had writer’s block.

Most people think that achieving big things is a matter of massive effort – I take almost the opposite approach.

What are the few things I can be world-class consistent at, patient, and then see come to fruition?

Figuring out your career: For example, you can read career books one hour a day. Or watch “day in the life” type videos. You may realize that as a doctor you do more insurance paperwork than treating patients. And that might totally remove being a doctor as an option.

Or, better yet, begin getting concrete skills in a career you want (only if you’re sure it’s a path you want to go in).

If you just take ONE hour a night, and dedicate it to a skill, you can become really good in just six months. Definitely good enough to freelance or get a new job in that industry.

Imagine – one hour a day (5 days a week), over 6 months, is 120 hours. You can be pretty damn good doing 120 hours of anything, I guarantee it.

Even if you want to change careers, you can literally go into almost any field knowing 120 hours of focused, specific work. You’d be surprised at the number of people doing jobs for 5+ years with even less specialized knowledge than this.

Some example, and very valuable skills:

– Online marketing (content marketing, paid traffic, SEO)
– Sales (phone sales, via email, copywriting)
– Coding (can you make a website?)
– Graphic design (can you make pro looking book covers?)
– Book formatting for kindle and print (createspace)
– Video editing

Here’s your homework: Start time-blocking one hour a night, to acquire some kind of tangible skill. It’s ideally something you can produce results with – editing videos, writing/editing/designing a book, knowing the different kinds of wine, being able to learn to read and play basic songs on the guitar.


This is the exact principle scaled up I used to build my online business into a full time income, write my book (one hour a day) even with a full time job, and more.

For me, I dedicated 3 hours a night after my full-time job, and that’s all I did, 7 days a week, for 3 years. Each one hour block of those 3 hours was a different thing.

Seriously, talk about an “awesome sauce” success habit.

Strategy #6: The Power of One Good Introduction


This picture is so fucking weird, so I figured I’d post it.

I resisted it for my entire life, and wanted nothing to do with it: the power of connections.

Here’s the thing: in college, I was the guy who would get assigned to a group project full of stoners, do all the work, then get 1/5 the points that they did since we shared the group.

And it annoyed the shit out of me – If I’m doing all the fuckin’ work, why should I get 1/5 of the credit?

And after gradually finding myself in these situations, I figured I would just do things myself, and not rely on other people. It was a massive pain in the ass.

It wasn’t until years later that I actually first-hand saw the value of actually knowing people and learning to work with them.

Guess who was the “good student” yet didn’t get A SINGLE GOOD JOB after college?

Yup… me.

(I’ve never made over 40k at a job).

Guess who had better skills, a better personality, and was better overall than most of the candidates for certain jobs?

Yup.. me.

But guess who got any job – especially the good ones?


I was fucking pissed.

Any time I had an interview – I got the job.

But most of the time, I couldn’t get through the gatekeepers. This was a huge insight.

The reality is that one introduction can give an unqualified, shitty candidate a DREAM job, or dream intro.

Guess who gets book deals?

Friends who had book deals, who can intro you to their agent.

(one introduction).

Guess who gets once in a lifetime opportunities to travel or meet high level people like Richard Branson?

Friends who have already done it who can intro you to the right people.

Guess who can show you how to become successful at something you’re sucking at?

A friend you get introduced to via another friend.

The truth is that one introduction can change your life, and I truly regret not fully understanding this sooner.

I have no doubt you can become successful alone – you can.

But if you can take a shortcut – the easy way – why not?

Why not shave off 1, 5 or 10 years?

Strategy #7: The Andrew Carnegie & Thomas Edison Principle


Almost a hundred years ago, a young man named Napoleon Hill was chartered by Andrew Carnegie – then the richest man in the world – to visit all his fellow rich friends in his rolodex, and spend 20 years writing down their success “secrets.”

Think about that. 20 YEARS. This isn’t some google-this, google-that, business insider shit.

He spent his entire life studying the ultra achievers of his time, all the world’s most innovative, richest people. And guess what he found?

The largest, most common principle was one thing: the mastermind principle.

The mastermind principle is simple: when you bring 3, 4 5 or a dozen people together to solve a huge problem, the amount of ideas, input, and results you get (output) is infinitely more.

It’s that 1 + 1 = 3 effect. Or 1 + 1 = 10.

Think of Elon Musk sending men to Mars – he definitely isn’t doing this alone. His huge vision called in other high achievers in every industry ranging from Physics to Math and Engineering.

And as a result, they’ve done things no one in history has.

The reality is that when you bring in a few people to help you solve YOUR problems, it’s like you’re collectively working to solve something. And the results are miraculous.

The Mastermind Principle

Three years ago, I started my first mastermind.

It was originally three other entrepreneurs building their own businesses, and each week we’d have a call that was simple:

  1. What’s not working?
  2. Let’s brainstorm some ideas on how to fix it

Now, when I tell you we made QUANTUM leaps in those years of mastermind calls, I’m not even kidding. It was quantum leaps.

Each person has their own skillset. Their own experience. Their own connections they can introduce you to, to help you reach your own goals (and hopefully help the other person succeed too).

And most of all – if you’re just a lazy bastard, nothing will compel you to take action unless you have something with this level of WEEKLY accountability.

Didn’t do shit?

Boy you’re going to look dumb on the call.

The mastermind – really more than anything – has been one of my best, most effective success principles I’ve ever done. And I frequently am in 2-3 masterminds at once.

As a whole, these seven principles are things I think about on a daily basis now, that the 23 year Alex didn’t have a damn clue about.

Adopt these, and I’m confident you can turn around your 20s, or 30s or 40s – for the better.

What about you? thoughts on this? Tell me below.


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