Head

Success Element One: Head

     Head refers to knowledge and the concept of continuous learning. This is the most critical of all the elements. Success cannot be achieved without first developing a clear understanding of where you are and where you want to go. You have to objectively analyze what skills and information you possess, and what skills and information you need to obtain. Truly successful people understand that they need to constantly improve their skills. What got you to where you are now will not take you where you want to go. Let me repeat that – What got you to where you are now will not take you to where you want to go. You must gain new knowledge and develop new skills in order to move along the road of success.

Let's dig a little deeper:

     A successful life starts with your head. The thoughts, feelings, ideas, and information moving around the three pounds of gray matter in your head make all the difference between living the life you want and living the life you have. Successful people have learned to take control of and utilize their brain power in positive forward moving ways. Successful people are knowledgeable. They may not have been the smartest kids in their class, but they all continue to learn. They have learned that the more they know the more options they have. They have learned that knowledge gives them power, provides light, and is the key.

Power
     It has been said by many people for many years that knowledge is power. That simple statement could not be any more accurate. Knowledge gives you the power to accomplish many things, great and small. Knowledge gives you the power to make correct decisions. Knowledge gives you the ability to be efficient, to be effective. Knowledge allows you to be persuasive. Knowledge allows you to teach others, help others.
     Power is not an evil thing. Power is not bad. Power is influence. Influence is not bad. Power gives you the ability to get things done, to make things happen. Getting things done is not bad.
     Where would man be if man had not discovered and then learned to control fire? Man did not invent fire. Man discovered fire and then man harnessed fire through knowledge. Early man’s knowledge may have been crude compared to today’s man but it was knowledge nonetheless.
     Where would civilization be if individuals did not have the knowledge or power to get things done? Civilizations would not have developed if individuals and then groups did not gain knowledge and learned how to make things happen.
     How would the great cities of antiquity have been built without knowledge? And without the power that comes with the knowledge. You can argue that that power may have been used poorly, when one takes into account the use of slave labor and the way sometimes humans treat other humans, but this is not a discussion on morality, ethics, or history’s rights and wrongs. I am simply pointing out what would not have been possible without the awesome power that knowledge brings.

Light
     Knowledge is light. Light that illuminates the darkness around us. We are all in a room, a world of possibilities; a world of success. How bright is your light? Does it shine bright enough to see all the possibilities right in front of you? The difference between someone with great success and someone struggling and finding relatively little success is the brightness of their light. Knowledge is the wisdom and the light to see all the wondrous offerings and possibilities of the world.

The Key
     Knowledge is the key. You may have high desires or you may be more moderate in your desires, your want and your needs. You may or may not be willing to put out the effort needed, but at least with knowledge you can make an informed choice. You can choose to reach, to put in the effort to obtain your higher desires, or you may set the bar for your development and lifestyle at a lower level. But having some knowledge about what the journey involves helps make that decision.
     Many of you reading this are probably aware of the great libraries of Alexandria, and that the many scrolls were lost through the ages. Depending upon the historian you source, somewhere from 40,000 to half a million books were in the collection. There is also debate as to what happened to the library but it is clear that the collection was lost. Who can say how much farther civilization and man could have come had we not lost such a vast storehouse of knowledge.
     Jumping forward in history we know that the dark ages plunged us into a period of intellectual and cultural decline. Again, who is to say how much further we may have advanced had we not stepped backward. The Renaissance was a great period for man. The Renaissance brought back a re-emphasis on learning, creativity, experimentation. People flourished. People like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and others. Great works were done. These were done through knowledge. Through knowledge they could adapt to the world, serve the world, and give things back to the world. Passed on from the time of the renaissance comes thousands of ideas, artworks, theories and philosophies which have lasted from their creations to the present. Simply because they were born out of knowledge and pure thought. Applied thought, and applied reason.
     Knowledge is truly the key. The key to your success. The key to moving forward. The key to growing as a human being. The key to contributing as a human being. I have never met an idiot. I have however, met many uneducated people. But never make the mistake that uneducated equals stupid, or equals being an idiot. There are many smart people that have not had the opportunities nor had the education that others have had. And if they only had access to knowledge, to a teacher, a mentor or other sources; some one or some thing to inspire them and to guide them, someone to show them the light; they would be contributing as much or more to the world around them as any other member of society. So do not look down at any one else that you do not feel is up to your intellectual “level”. It has nothing to do with intellect; it has everything to do with opportunity, experience and drive.

Exercise Your Brain Muscle

     Just like the muscles in your arm, your brain needs a good work out in order to grow. You strengthen your biceps and triceps by repetitive exercise and increasing weight levels over time. You strengthen your brain the same way (Well not exactly – I certainly am not advocating placing weights on your head.) Your brain needs to be challenged in order to improve. The more you use it the more it can handle. Feed it information and feed it issues that need to be solved. The better the input the better the output.

Where do I find Knowledge?

     The smart aleck answer would seem to be “all around you”, but that is actually not that wrong of an answer. Knowledge will not arrive through divine intervention. Rather it is amassed through time, experience and effort.
     When I am working with a new manager I refer to their skills of solving employee issues as cards. Being new I tell them that they have just a card or two in their deck (Since they are new they have not had the time or experience to “collect” more cards). They will inevitably encounter a problem which neither of their cards will solve. They will need to seek assistance (guidance, advice) from their supervisor or someone else with more experience. Are they a poor manager? Certainly not, they are simply too new at the job to have built up a larger deck of cards (options) to use to solve the original employee issue. But (and this is the great thing about knowledge) by asking for help they learn something new (they add a card to their deck for future use) and the person who helped them still retains the knowledge as well.

Let’s talk about specific areas that you can utilize to increase your knowledge.

1. Formal education
     All those public service advertisements about stay in school had it right. The more you know the more options you have and the more places you can go. Formal education includes standard school (elementary school, high school, college, vocation/trade school) as well as formal apprenticeships and seminars. I define formal education as education focused on a specific area of study, for a defined period of time, with a specific teacher.

2. Personal education
     Formal education is not enough. You have to take commit to a plan of personal education and to be a continuous learner. There are many way to accomplish this.
     Read books on a wide variety of subjects: history, math, science, business, psychology, sociology, sports, art, music, gardening, home repair, etc, etc. Successful people are well rounded. Read biographies and autobiographies. Learning from and about the successes and failures of others will help you more than you know as you move down the path to increased success.
     Are you a music lover? Have you ever really read the lyrics to your favorite songs? Depending upon your musical tastes there are some very powerful insights in the words to many of yesterday and today’s songs.
     You say you cannot afford college classes, or your schedule just doesn’t lend itself to getting to class on a regular basis? Find out what books are used for a class at the local college. The cost of the class may be out of reach – but you can track the book down to start learning more about that particular subject.
     Join your local Toastmasters or service club to become involved with and learn from others in the group.
     Turn your car into a classroom. Pop a CD into the player and listen to lectures, seminars and even books while you drive. I always have CDs in my car. I cannot tell you who many classes/seminars I have “attended” or books that I have “read” while driving in my car. Turn you car into a mobile idea lab as well. Keep a personal recorder with you. As you think of ideas simply record them before you forget them. A great number of wonderful ideas could easily be captured this way. Later in the evening when you transcribe these thoughts to paper you can evaluate their worth and elaborate on them as needed.

3. Learning from experience
     This is often one of the best teachers. Your own experiences can teach you a lot; especially your failures. As hard as it may be you have to step back and thoroughly examine what happened when you failed. Ask yourself what went wrong. Take responsibility for the failure. Do not pass it off on someone else, do not pass it off on the economy, and do not pass it off on the circumstance. Dig into what went wrong and find as many answers to the following question as you can. What could I have done differently to have changed the outcome? The knowledge and insight gained from answering that one question will be invaluable to you down the road.

4. Have a Mentor
     It always helps to have someone to talk with who has gone where you want to go; who has walked down the same path you are trying to find. A mentor helps you develop – they are someone to ask the tough questions and point you in the right directions. And as you grow and change your mentor(s) will change as well. Some people have one mentor at a time and some have individual mentors for different areas of their lives. Whether you have one or many is not that important. What is important is that you have someone to help shed light on your path and push you in the right direction. Jim Rohn often said that “success leave clues”. A mentor can be one of those clues and can dramatically shorten your education process.

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