10/14/2013 04:42 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

The Difference Between Good and Great: My Tips for Being Exceptional

I meet highly successful people every week. Many are accomplished business leaders, entrepreneurs, award-winning entertainers and visionaries -- and all share a commonality: reaching out for help and not being ashamed to do so. These people are truly inspiring and have similar attributes that lead to their success and separate them from others. These people were not born great. Some of them went from rags to riches, while others are a work in progress. As a psychotherapist and executive coach, I teach these folks how to conduct themselves with determination, drive and an unwavering pursuit of their goals and passions. They have gone on to achieve great success and know the difference between good and great.

To guide you, here are my tips:

  • Have a clear vision of what you want and think what's possible while maintaining high standards. Ask "why not?" and see any obstacles as challenges, not deterrents, as you creatively work to overcome them.
  • Be daring and choose to be different, even if it's unpopular. Thinking uniquely will lead to exceptional outcomes, while doing things as others do will result in more of the same. Case in point: In 2012 I wrote a landmark op-ed article for the New York Times "In Therapy Forever? Enough Already" that proved to be highly polarizing and led to hundreds of hate emails from other therapists but countless calls from people who wanted my help. This article was a perfect vehicle for me to talk about my therapy style and what is wrong with traditional approaches. I wasn't afraid to put my unpopular beliefs out there as I was entirely confident in what I do. The result: I have clearly set myself apart from other therapists and as a result, business has grown tremendously.
  • Sell yourself. A strong belief in who you are and what you do can lead you to become a brand in itself. It worked for Oprah and it worked for Ralph Lauren. They both built empires around their names.
  • Work really hard and focus on what you can control, not on what's beyond it.
  • Make sure you have a plan for the day, stick to a schedule and maintain diligence and determination. Doing so will prevent you from being sidetracked and distracted.
  • Be proactive and take initiative rather than waiting for things to happen. Had Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg been passive the world might not have Microsoft and Facebook!
  • Be selfish. Put your needs and goals first. Don't socialize until you have finished all your tasks for the day.
  • Defy the norm, be curious and don't accept the status quo. If you're striving for better than what exists, then think and dream big. It certainly worked for a junior senator from Illinois named Barack and a once poor and unknown British writer named J.K. Rowling.
  • Surround yourself with supportive and positive people. Success breeds success. If you mingle with losers, you won't go far, but if you surround yourself with optimistic people who are successful then you will be too. At the time that I wrote my book, Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days, I made a decision to only surround myself with people who were supportive and believed in me. All others would have been just a distraction.
  • Never ever do drugs and don't drink in excess. Both will set you back and cloud your thinking. Drugs are never cool or the in thing to do. Drinking to the point of being buzzed or drunk never looks sexy or smart either.
  • Always return calls and emails and never let them sit for more than 48 hours. This is customer service 101 that you should never forget. Even if it is a quick, "I got your message." Do it. No delays or ands, ifs or buts.
  • Finally, be fearless and enjoy what you do with passion!
To get more tips on being exceptional check out my new book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days.