Sunday, May 30, 2010
Achieving success in all areas of your life is a marathon, it is not a sprint. It starts with defining success in your own terms and continues with daily focus on matching your behavior and results with your definitions. It will take time – nothing good or lasting comes quickly.
Having endurance means being able to weather the inevitable storms that will arise over the weeks, months and years ahead. Staying power is vital to achieving success. You can pick any successful person from the present or the past and you will find each was able to stay true to their vision regardless of what was happening around them.
Endurance is a discipline that has to be practiced throughout your life. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that once you achieve your definitions of success that you will no longer need the use of all the disciplines that make the achievement possible. You are either moving forward in life or slipping backward. There is no standing still. You may pause when you reach a certain plateau (which you should celebrate) but then you will need to re-group, re-focus and re-energize.
Develop your endurance. Just as a long distance runner gets better and better the more miles he/she puts in each week, you will accomplish more and more as you work on developing a single minded focus on your life’s objectives. True success begins within and true success takes time.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Your task is to define success on your own terms. You need to take some time to think about, really think about what success is and how much effort you are ready to put into making it happen. It will not happen on its own.
As you are aware I break success into five basic elements: head, heart, health, wealth and world. You need to decide and define what success in each of these areas. Let’s take wealth for example. Do you define success in this area as a 7-figure income and living in a 12 bedroom mansion in Beverly Hills with a Maybach or two in the garage? Or are you expectations more like a 6-figure income living in four bedroom home in Naples Florida with a Lexus in the garage? Or perhaps just a three bedroom home in a nice suburb with the kids’ college having been paid for and a retirement nest-egg put away. There is quite a difference between these three in terms of the actions needed to make them happen. One is not better than the other – it is strictly a matter of choice. You have to write down how you define success in this area.
Be a specific as possible in the definition. Being “rich” is not specific. Having a 12 bedroom mansion in Beverly Hills with a 5 car garage and a swimming pool and pool house in the back is more specific. See the destination in your mind and then write it out.
Do this for all five success elements and then put the sheets of paper in a drawer or save in your computer. Come back to your definitions after four or five days. Read through them to see if the still resonate in you. If they do, you now need to make a plan of action to get you from where you are now to where you want to end up – in all five areas. If you cannot or will not put a plan together your definitions are just a wish list.
If you decide your definitions are too lofty (and that is ok – these are your definitions) then go through the exercise again. It may take several versions before you get on paper what you see in your mind and feel in your heart. Don’t rush it. You’ll know when it’s right – you’ll feel it in your bones when you read them or talk about them with your spouse, loved one, or trusted friend.
Once you have them and a plan of action you will not be denied. Things may pop up on the way but you will work passed them and keep going. When your definition is so specific that you can almost taste it, you will start to see opportunities in areas you never even imagined. You will find clarity, focus and a drive you never knew you had. It has been inside of you all along – it has just been waiting for you to unleash it and let it run.
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Monday, May 24, 2010
Successful people are confident that both the gifts they were born with and the skills & knowledge they have collected to this point have them well prepared to deal with today’s needs and tomorrow’s challenges. All of us are born with certain gifts. Throughout your own life maybe you have found that you have a “natural” ability with numbers; or a “natural” ability to read and remember large amounts of information; or a “natural” ability to dance or play a musical instrument. Having “natural” abilities doesn’t mean these things were easy to master. No one attains mastery of anything without practice. But you were drawn to these areas and you found that you learned more quickly than others. That is what I mean by having been born with certain gifts. We all have our own unique set of gifts. Successful people have discovered their gifts and are working in harmony with them.
Successful people are also confident in the vision of what their life should be. They spend time thinking about and planning the path that their lives will take. Sure, there will be bumps in the road, but with a vision and understanding of where you are going the bumps will not push you permanently off course. Successful people deal with the bumps and move on. True confidence in where you are going is the only way to ensure that you arrive at the intended destination. We are all travelers down the road of life. Having the vision in your mind of where you want to go and the confidence in your ability to get there is the difference between successful drivers and unhappy passengers.
There is one word of caution. Do not let confidence turn into cocky. It is one thing to be confident in your abilities but you need to make sure you maintain some humility as well. True confidence shows itself to others when you are willing to ask for advice or assistance, and when you freely point out and celebrate the skills and contributions of others. You do not need to toot your own horn – your confidence will show through in your actions, your attitudes, and the challenges you are willing to undertake.
Confidence grows each time you master a new skill or achieve a short term goal you set for yourself. Take some time to think about what you have already accomplished in your life. Think about the obstacles that have popped up and how you worked through or around them. You already have all the skills you need to be successful. Be confident in yourself and your abilities and you’ll find yourself moving farther and farther down the road of success in both your personal life and your professional life.
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Sure, you can sit and stew in your own pity pool. You can complain to anyone within hearing distance that this or that situation is unfair and that you just can't catch a break. But what is that going to accomplish. Unhappy victims of life quickly find themselves alone and standing still.
You are not one of those people. You are intelligent and mature enough to realize that things are going to go wrong and that you do not have complete control over everything in your life. You accept that fact and respond to adversity by digging in and re-doubling your efforts. When you hit a wall you figure out a way to go through it, over it, under it or around it.
You are success minded, always moving forward, and always ready and able to bounce back.
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Sunday, May 16, 2010
Successful individuals understand the importance of attitude. Whether you are conscious of it or not, your attitude greatly influences the outcome of every situation, every day and ultimately your entire life. You can let the events of each day determine how you feel, or you can keep control by taking few moments each morning to check and set your attitude for the day.
When you first wake in the morning your mind is in a very relaxed state. Your brain and your subconscious are open for business and ready to receive orders. Your initial thoughts will influence you all day long. Take a minute to think about what kind of a day you are going to have; Pre-program your day. Take a minute to tell yourself that today is going to be a great day. Tell yourself that you are going to be full of energy all day. Tell yourself that you are looking forward to drinking in everything the day has to offer. Tell yourself that you are more than capable to complete every task ahead of you.
You don’t think this will make a difference? Think that you can’t pre-program your mind in the morning? Then just think about this for a moment. Have you ever woken in the morning to hear a song on the radio? Maybe not even a song you like that much. But all day long that song keeps going through your head. You hear it in your head on the drive to work. It’s in your head as you move from meeting to meeting or task to task. This is the same thing. Since you had not taken the time to give your mind something to focus on, your subconscious found its own. Your brain never stops. Your brain is always thinking about something. And since it is so receptive to stimuli in the morning, take that minute before you get up to put some purposeful and positive programming (thoughts) into it.
A positive attitude changes everything. A positive attitude attracts more positive energy which in turn makes more opportunities come your way. A positive attitude and success go hand in hand. Nothing drains your energy faster than a negative attitude. Negative people waste so much energy seeing and complaining about the down side in every situation or event. They start the day exhausted and it only gets worse from there. A successful person, on the other hand, absorbs energy from those around him or her. The more that is going on, the more pumped up and enthusiastic they become.
Successful people choose to focus on the positive all around them. Successful people see the positive in their relationships, with their family, at the office, and in themselves. Successful people know that they control their attitude – and they choose to keep it positive and open to all the opportunities that each new day brings.
If you are serious about being successful, and having success in every facet of your life, then you need to focus on maintaining a positive attitude. It takes just a few minutes each morning to remind yourself of all the gifts you have to offer the world and that you are going to have a great day. Make this a habit each and every day for the next week and you’ll be amazed at how much more energy you have, how much more you get accomplished, and how much friendlier everyone around you becomes.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Farming and gardening are the two most commonly used metaphors to illustrate both the need for the seasons and for reaping and sowing. You reap what you sow. This universal concept tells us that we get back what we put in.
It doesn’t matter if we are talking about corn, wheat, soybeans or rice. The farmer must first plant the field or paddy. It is only after the planting and caring for plants that the farmer can harvest a crop. If he chooses not to plant, he will not harvest. If he does not sow, he does not reap. And he must sow smartly.
If a farmer stands at the edge of the field in the spring and simply throws his seeds into the air for the wind to scatter, will he have a good harvest in the fall? No, he will not. But the farmer who tills the soil, adds nutrients to the soil and plants the seeds properly will have a good harvest. Why? Because he took care of his precious seeds. He was careful and diligent in how he sowed. He made sure he put in the work to reap the greatest reward for his efforts. It took him longer. The lazy farmer who simply threw the seeds was finished in minutes. He had the rest of the spring and summer to rest, relax and have no worries. The hard-working farmer spent the time, got the knowledge, put together a solid plan, gathered the proper supplies and then worked his plan. He worked hard all spring and summer long. But come the fall his wife, his children, and his extended family had food to eat. The lazy farmer had some explaining to do and had to go and beg for help just to keep himself and his family alive.
If you do not sow, you will not reap. You must first put in the work in order to yield any return. Personal development, professional development, and healthy loving relationships are just as tied to this concept as the farmer and his crops. You must have a plan and work your plan in every area of your life in order in order to maximize your return. You most certainly do reap that which you sow.
Now let us add to that concept. The more you sow, the more you will reap. Seems simple enough. If a farmer wants a larger harvest he increases the size of his fields. If he wants to reap more rice, he needs to plant more paddies. If you want a deeper relationship with your loved ones, you need to spend more time with them nurturing those relationships. The more you sow, the more you reap.
I personally feel that it there is even more. There is yet another layer to reaping and sowing. My belief is that you reap much more than you sow. This does not work in the very real world of growing crops but it does apply to the world of development, relationships and success building. What you sow today in terms of helping develop yourself and helping to develop others provides dividends over and over in the future.
Think about the power of compounding interest on your money. You put your hard earned cash into an account which pays 5% compounded annually. The first year you earn 5%. But the next year you earn 5% on both your original principle AND on the interest you earned last year. In the third year you again earn interest on your principle AND now on the interest earned in both years one and two. As the interest dollars compound your account starts to grow at a faster and faster rate. The growth curve is relatively flat at the beginning but as time moves forward the curve starts to get steeper and steeper. As time moves forward you earn (reap) much more than you originally invested (sowed).
When you help others (you sow your time) the benefit continues to increase (more and more is reaped). Steps in personal development are not stand alone actions, and neither are the resulting benefits. Rather, they build upon each other, so much like ripples on the surface of a pond the results continue to expand farther and farther out. The more you do for yourself, and the more you do for others, results in more and more ripples. Your combined efforts push out into the surrounding universe like a tidal wave.
You may not see the results of each and every action you take today, but rest assured each and every one is building a tidal wave of results for your future.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
"The remarkable thing we have is a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude." - Charles Swindoll
The American Heritage Dictionary defines management as: “The act, manner, or practice of managing, handling, supervision or control.”
Webster’s New American Unabridged Dictionary defines manage as: “To take charge or care of; to dominate or influence; to handle, direct, govern or control in action or use.
The reality is that you cannot manage, supervise, dominate, influence, direct, govern or control time. There are 60 seconds in every minute. There are 60 minutes in every hour. There are 24 hours in every day. My day, your day and every day. Time marches forward unrelenting and unstoppable. To think you can manage time is simply foolish.
What you can manage is yourself and your energy. How you structure your day makes all the difference. Are you organized in thoughts and your actions? The more you bounce from one thought to another and from one activity to another the less productive you become. You need to establish some routine to your day(s).
Do you check and react to every email as they arrive in your inbox. I’ve told my staff that e-mail is for non-urgent communication. If they need something immediately they should pick up the phone and call. I check work email first thing in the morning, before lunch, early afternoon and before I leave the office. To keep e-mail from interrupting my day I keep Outlook reduced on my computer screen and my computer sound off.
Do you make/use lists? I make a short list of tasks I need to complete each morning. And before I leave the office I make a note/list of where to start the following morning. This system allows me to keep moving forward on projects, but also frees up my mind to think of other things. Once I write them down I do not have to keep concentrating on remembering.
Do you group similar tasks together? For example you may have invoices that need to be reviewed and approved, you may have personnel performance reviews to audit, and you may have reports to read and analyze. All can be combined into one focused session at your desk. Another example – Keep a running list of phone calls you need to make and/or return. Pick a time to sit down and go through the list top to bottom. By grouping similar tasks together you immediately become more efficient.
Speaking of efficiency - Do you strive to touch each piece of paper only once? Once you open an envelope or pick a piece of paper up from your in-box take care of it right then and there. Moving paper from pile to pile around your desk, cubical or office is a tremendously unproductive habit. By focusing on and changing this one behavior you will greatly increase your personal productivity.
How does your energy level change throughout the day? Does your energy seem to slip away mid-afternoon? If so you likely need to change your lunch habits. A burger and fries or other heavy lunch does nothing to provide for your afternoon energy needs. And that mid afternoon vending machine pick-me-up is even worse. The short term sugar rush is followed by an energy crash. What you need to do is eat a sensible low-fat lunch and keep a healthy snack on hand for the afternoon. A handful of walnuts for example is a great afternoon snack. They refuel the body without the crash an hour or two later.
Regular exercise also helps regulate your daily energy levels. If you are physically fit you’ll find your natural energy levels will be more than enough to meet the demands of even your most hectic day. A strong heart and body are natural fatigue fighters.
Stop looking at the clock and wishing for more time. You cannot slow the pace of time, but you can make yourself more organized, energized, and productive throughout each day.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
I have been to accountability seminars, read countless articles and books, and have discussed the subject with co-workers, friends and family many, many times. I have identified five consistent steps that when followed help tremendously in creating and sustaining accountability.
Step 1: Define the need
You must clearly define what is needed and why. I have always found it easier to get a buy-in when the other person understands why something needs to happen. You cannot just tell/ask someone to do something and expect compliance. That only works when there is fear of retribution/punishment such as living under a dictator. The person complies, but really only at the bare minimum. The real goal is for the other person to see the big picture and how his/her actions fit within that bigger need. If they understand the importance of the assignment they are much more likely to take ownership.
Step 2: Define success
You must also clearly define what a successful outcome looks like. No one should be left guessing what the end product will look like. I am not saying that you spell out what the final numbers on a financial report should be, but rather, what information should be tracked and tabulated so you have the information you need when the report is finished. Defining success works for any task. If the task is to sweep the store floor what does success look like? Is it running a broom down the center of each aisle and then leaving a pile of debris in the back room? Is it moving each display rack and sweeping from edge to edge throughout the entire store and then putting the debris into a designated trash can? Or is it something altogether different from either one of those two? You would be amazed at the different interpretations to what would seem like a simple task. If you cannot define what the end result needs to be, you really can’t assign hold anyone accountable.
Step 3: Get a commitment
After you have defined both the need and what success will look like you need to make sure the other person truly understands. The only way to know is by asking for feedback. Without feedback you have no idea what information actually made it into the other person’s head. Have them tell you what their assignment is, what the end result will look like, AND when they will have it completed. Getting a verbal commitment on completion is vital to holding people accountable. It is very hard to wiggle or fudge your way out of something after you have looked someone in the eye and committed to a time frame. Skip this step and you can forget about things happening on time.
Step 4: Follow up early
Following up early in the process helps to ensure the other person’s success. By following up early you create a positive atmosphere where it is easy to make adjustments before a lot of time and energy has been wasted. It does not matter if the task is going to take two hours or two full months to complete. No one wants to hear at the end of the job that it was done wrong. That creates frustration and can ruin relationships. Make it a goal to follow up after the person has put in somewhere between 5% and 10% of the time needed. This is early enough to make adjustments to their process without them feeling like they have wasted a lot of time. Inform the other person when you assign the task that you will follow up closely at the beginning just to make sure you are both on the same page and that you’ll then get out of their way and let them run with the ball. This gets everything on the table up front and will help eliminate and bruised egos later.
Step 5: Keep your Word
Do you do what you say? Do you follow through on commitments? Do you follow through with repercussions for poor performance? If you say it out loud or write it down you better be prepared to act. If you promise a reward for hitting a certain metric you have to provide it as close to the event as possible. If you let it be known that certain behaviors or low performance standards will result in disciplinary action, you best be prepared to carry them out. When you make good on your word, both the positive and the negative actions, you will notice the accountability of everyone around you increases. If you never follow through on your promises/threats you lose all credibility and any hope of holding those around you accountable.
These five steps may seem cumbersome when you first read them, but when you put them into action you’ll find they flow easily from one to the other. The more you stick to the routine the faster it becomes, AND the more productive your team will become.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Dead men tell no tales; at least in old movie westerns. The villain either threatens or takes the life of one of his gang in order to protect a secret (usually the location of some stolen money or other treasure). It all seems to work in the movies.
But hey, we aren’t in a movie. This is real life and we’re looking for information. And some of the best sources are dead people. You’ve heard it stated that history is the best teacher. You’ve also no doubt heard that those who ignore history are bound to repeat it. Both statements are very true.
Why do so many people make it so hard on themselves? Let history help you. Study people who have done what you want to do. Jim Rohn used to say that “Success leaves clues”. This could not be any truer. Study successful people and the clues pop out. Why not take some times to converse with and learn from the thousands of successful people that have lived before you.
I realize that you cannot speak to them but they can certainly speak to you. How? Books. There are thousands and thousands of biographies and autobiographies in bookstores and your local library just waiting for you to discover their secrets. These books are filled with insight and information about the difficulties and the solutions each person worked through. You would be amazed at how many of the situations you are facing today were already dealt with by others. Times and technology changes, but the basic human challenge to grow and become successful is timeless. Learning from the lessons of other’s means you will not have to waste time learning the same lessons through direct experience. True, experience is a great teacher, but no one ever said it had to be your own experience.
Study Lincoln and you’ll really learn about vision, commitment and determination. Study Edison and you learn about innovation, creativity and drive. Study Ford and you learn about focus. Notice the word study and not the word read. Reading is for pleasure (a Clancy novel for example) but to learn the lessons of others requires study. You need to find multiple books on the same subject or person and read slowly and with purpose. Dig out the nuggets of wisdom in each book; make notes of what you learn in your journal for future review and reference. If you buy the book read with a highlighter in your hand. Highlight key passages, phrases and ideas. This helps you find the information quickly when you re-open the book at a later date.