Erik Seversen is a bestselling author, speaker, adventurer, entrepreneur, and educator. He helps people reach bigger goals through motivational and practical content, helping them see through distractions and focus on the important. Seversen is the founder of Language Linq, a company providing English as a second language training and support for teachers and students.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

I was born into an average, middle-class family, and grew up in a suburb of Tacoma, Washington. I had a good childhood, but in an attempt to always please people and do the right thing, I lived with anxiety that existed just underneath the surface where no one could see it. In an attempt to fit it, I wanted to be just like everybody else, but as I grew, I realized that being different was my superpower, and I embraced it.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

That things will work out. I think it is important to always work toward solutions to problems but to also remember that we can only control what we can control. We shouldn’t let stress build up over things we can’t do anything about.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

Currently, there seems to be a trend to preach about learning to say, “No.” I believe “Yes” is a much better answer. I get that these successful people are proud to show that they are too busy to help others with requests for this or that, but many of those same people reached success by asking and getting help from others. I’m not naïve in this outlook. Not getting your own work done because you’re spending too much time on other’s is not healthy, but I think the I’m-too-successfully-busy-to-help-others-so-I-need-to-say-no platform doesn’t match my mission.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

In 1989, while I was hitchhiking through Africa (I made it from London to Central Africa), I had a machine gun pointed at my face, and actually inserted into my mouth, by an angry Nigerian guard at a checkpoint who accused me of being a spy. That same day, I had one-fourth of all my money stolen from me, I had to give my tent away as a bribe, and I was essentially mugged in Lagos. That remains a horrifying day in my life, but I learned two major things from this. First, I learned that “Things work out” because of something that happened with a wonderful Nigerian family at the end of the day, and I learned that fear is meant to make us stronger, faster, and smarter when we need it. I learned we should embrace fear and use it to our advantage rather than let it paralyze us. I use this lesson in my life and business to this day.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

I copy the habits of billionaires, thought leaders, professional athletes, and other top performers by praying, meditating, visualizing, focusing, and treating my body well through diet and exercise. And, lastly, I believe I can do anything I choose to do.

What is your morning routine?

My morning routine is the same every day (except Wednesday when I go surfing at 6 am). My routine is: Wake up at 6 am; read the bible, read the newspaper, quickly scroll through Facebook, two of my main email accounts, and LinkedIn. (This takes about 10 minutes total because I’m not responding to anything), meditate for 15 minutes, go for a 1-mile walk (with my teenage boys and dog), make a quick to-do list, and then I start working which is usually about 7:45 am.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Meditation.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

Focus and prioritization. Every Monday morning, I make a massive list, usually about 50 items long which includes large projects as well as small details from emailing David Brownlee (which might take 30 seconds) to completing the manuscript for the next book (which might take 3 months). I then read through the list, and I put a star next to the items I want to accomplish that day. I also circle the one thing that scares me most or that I least want to do, and I do something towards it that day. I also live by Pareto’s 80/20 principle and try to keep my energy on the 20% of things that produce results rather than the 80% that is just keeping me busy.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

There are too many to list, but two that quickly come to mind are, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand because it is the first novel that made me conscious of philosophy in everyday life, and The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss because he really pushes the limits of what is possible and inspires people (including me) to define and create their own unique, successful life. I could go on and on because I read about 50 books a year, and I strongly believe that reading provides foundational tools for the way I choose to live. 

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

“I think it is possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary.” — Elon Musk

“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.” — Bruce Lee

“You can have anything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want.” — Zig Ziglar