Whatever you think about President Donald Trump you have to admit: he gets things done. In the productivity department, The Donald has always been amazingly active, building a business empire, pursuing a busy social life, becoming the star of a popular TV show, and still finding enough energy to run for President of the United States, and win.
Everybody wants to be a winner, but we all have different definitions of what success actually entails. For some, it’s all about helping other people; for others it’s just selfish ambition. Yet for Donald Trump, neither of those definitions seems to apply. Winning, for Mr. Trump, appears to be his primary source of personal energy, a springboard for further success.
The Energy Feedback Loop
No one can be productive without high energy. To describe it as “the key to productivity” is perhaps misleading because it’s more than that. Energy is both the motivating fuel and the byproduct of activity. Successful activity breeds more energy which in turn motivates the person — such as Donald Trump — to become more active and even more successful.
The obvious danger of the “energy feedback loop” (often demonstrated by rock stars and sports personalities) is the tendency for it to get out of hand. You need to be able to channel the energy into constructive work, yet all too often — for those who don’t broaden their activities — a lack of control causes “burn out” and the inevitable crash.
So, to recap: to be productive and successful you need to tap into the energy feedback loop, then you need to control it by being smart. Whether consciously or intuitively, Donald Trump has demonstrated an ability to do both of these things — and to do them in spades.
Energy + Control = Productivity + Success
Yes, that’s all very well (you’re probably saying) but how do you get started? Donald Trump kickstarted his career with a million bucks from his Dad, so what can we learn from his privileged example?
Plenty. In fact, we can identify 5 important productivity traits in the life and career of Donald Trump which can help anyone, whether you’re for or against his particular brand of politics.
1. Build a Strong Base
As the former governor of Alaska Sarah Palin pointed out during the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump is a builder. One of his primary motivations is to construct things: skyscrapers, businesses, and now a plan to unleash the energies which lay dormant inside the American economy.
At the top of the list — a box he checked many years ago — was the need to build a strong base. You could argue that Donald Trump was gifted a strong base by being brought up in a wealthy household, but that would be to miss the point. Thousands of heirs have squandered their fathers’ fortunes without even attempting to build upwards from the gift they’ve received.
You can’t build without a strong base. Famously, New York City rests on a particularly strong set of bedrock layers including “Manhattan schist,” a metamorphic rock created during the formation of the supercontinent Pangaea. As a result, the city was able to establish its own “energy feedback loop” by becoming the first to have clusters of skyscrapers where people could live and work together in close proximity. It was among these, in the mid-town area, that Donald Trump established his own base, Trump Tower, his centre of operations: a statement of intent.
In a capitalist world, capital is the base. Without material or monetary capital you’re more or less naked, which means you have to start building pretty darn quick. For many in New York, this perceived nakedness — painfully apparent in a city of large buildings — was sufficient to galvanize them into action. Budd Schulberg’s novel “What Makes Sammy Run” told the rags to riches story (inspired by the author’s own father) of a boy from New York’s Lower East Side who escapes the ghetto and claws his way to success.
Working, saving, investing — these are the activities which build capital and enable you to create a firm base. Don’t worry if your desire for such a base springs from common sense or a feeling of insecurity. It’s a good trait to have, as Donald Trump has shown.
2. Feed Off Negativity
“Don’t get mad, get even” was the advice given by Joseph P. Kennedy to his sons John F. and Robert F. Kennedy. It worked for them and it still works for Donald Trump. When other people attack, criticise, or direct any kind of negativity towards him, he grabs it and throws it right back at them. The process seems to give him more energy to cope with the next batch of attacks and criticism.
“Feed off negativity” is not like the conventional advice you get from self-help books. Experts are more likely to tell you to shrug off negativity, to ignore it and get on with what you’re doing. Yet that non-response requires a certain expenditure of energy because everyone takes criticism on board, at least temporarily. We ask ourselves, is this guy right when he says my ideas are stupid? Is my work really as bad as this woman tells me?
Once you’ve come to the conclusion that your critics are mistaken, it’s time to hit back. Mock them, sneer at them, hold them up as examples of everything that’s wrong with the world. Your active response to their negativity will give you bags of energy to spend on something positive and constructive. That is the Trump Way.
3. Get Organised
Getting organised makes you more productive. It saves you from expending time and effort on tasks that absorb energy rather than helping to create more energy. Nothing is more debilitating than hunting for documents you can’t find, or being unable to give a good account of yourself because of insufficient preparation.
Although you rarely see him carrying a notepad, Donald Trump is surprisingly well organised. One of his first acts on taking control of the family business in 1971 was to rename it: “The Trump Organization.” Despite all the personalised branding and the highly public persona of The Donald himself, the reality is very different: this is not a one-man business but a tightly organised corporation with over 22,000 employees.
To become organised you often have to rely on other people such as accountants, lawyers and managers. But they take their cue from the person paying the bills. A culture of organisation comes from the top and permeates the entire company. Without tight controls, the creative forces of a successful enterprise cannot continue to flourish.
4. Dare to Dare
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali said: “Be among those who dare to dare.” Few people get the opportunity to put this maxim into practice on a truly grand scale, but Donald Trump has done so, many times.
Daring to dare means taking a calculated risk, even when you could choose to take no risk at all. Most people go for the second, softer option. After all, why bother to take risks when you can work in a safe job and live from day to day an enjoyable, largely stress-free life?
Like many entrepreneurs, Donald Trump is instinctively risk averse, yet he takes calculated risks all the time. He likes the odds to be very much in his favour but he’s open to new ideas and willing to back them. He doesn’t go so far as to gamble; he prefers to own the casino.
Unless you “dare to dare” it’s hard to be productive. Daring to dare is all about taking action, it’s not about being philosophical. Forget “The Audacity of Hope,” the title of Barack Obama’s second book, sub-titled “Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.” The American Dream was a reality built by people who took calculated risks. Getting it back surely requires similar action.
5. Seek New Challenges
All the great entrepreneurs of our time have sought new challenges throughout their careers. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Donald Trump — they’ve all surprised us by hopping from one massive project to another. Very often, their later projects are completely unrelated to their earlier ones, although they’re every bit as successful.
Why do they do it? What drives a person to move from the record business to airlines (Richard Branson) or from building skyscrapers to politics (Donald Trump)? It’s partly because they see an opportunity, but that’s not the true reason. They make these great leaps into the unknown to stop themselves from getting bored.
Seeking out new challenges Donald Trump maintains his energy level by placing himself in a position where he has to develop new skills. This means laying down a lot more neural pathways in the brain, even at the advanced age of seventy-one.
Can Anyone Do It?
In a world of chattering media, Donald Trump has become a controversial and confusing figure. You can watch him for hours on “The Apprentice” and conclude he’s probably not the person his detractors say he is.
Clearly, there’s a unique combination of personality, circumstances and luck which help to shape the career of someone like Donald Trump. Even so — and whatever your political leanings — he exhibits certain traits you can use to make yourself more productive and successful.
The 5 Trump Traits discussed above are all, in a sense, calls to action. Salesman that he is, Donald Trump talks persuasively and at considerable length, but he’s essentially a man of action rather than one of reflection.
If you think about the 5 Trump Traits, you can see how anyone could use them to achieve success, even without The Donald’s head start. Do you fancy giving them a try?