The Importance of Perseverance

I read in story in the sports section of my local newspaper. The coach of our Division One NCAA Basketball Team was talking about the importance of getting off to a fast start.

 

I read another article on the same page of the same paper about the local NBA team. That coach was talking about the importance of finishing strong. 

 

Is it possible they could both be right? Well, not only is it possible they are right they are in fact absolutely right. 

 

But here’s what’s more important than both starting and finishing strong: finishing period. 

 

Some successful people start strong, some successful people finish strong but the most successful people finish what they start….pretty much always. 

 

I wonder if by chance anyone reading this knows who won the 1968 Olympic Marathon in Mexico. I suppose not but you could always look it up. I have no idea who won either but I do know who came in last….way last. 

 

His name was John Stephen Akhwari, from Tanzania. Not long into the race John Stephen Akhwari got tangled up with some other runners and took a massive fall. He was pretty banged up and no one would have blamed him for quitting on the spot. But he made the decision to continue on. 

 

Long after the first place runner had finished, long after pretty much everyone had left the Olympic Stadium one solitary runner entered the stadium. He was limping badly from a seriously injured leg. He was bleeding from cuts to his arms and head and he was clearly exhausted and in severe distress.

 

The few hundred people left in the stadium realized what was happening and began to cheer this runner on. To the shouts and cheers of those straggler spectators John Steven Akhwari crossed the finish line more than an hour after the race had been won.

 

He was quite the spectacle as the few remaining media in the stadium surrounded him to find out what had happened to him. Most were bewildered as to why he persisted when the race was clearly over. 

 

His answer to their qurstions speaks volumes about the heart and attitude of true champions. He simply said that his country had sent him 5000 miles to the Olympic Marathon not to start the race but had sent him 5000 miles to finish it. 

 

And finish it he did!

 

Do you have what it takes to finish what you started? When faced with unforeseen obstacles can you remember why you started and re-dream the dream of success that motivated you to begin?

 

Can you muster the strength to continue when no one would blame you for quitting? Do you have the courage to overcome your fear of failure and the heart to persist when the voices of doubt whisper quietly “you can’t?”

 

Do you have an attitude of success? An attitude that says it’s not a question of “if” you can finish, it’s only a question of “how” you will finish. 

 

Success in any meaningful area of life requires that you overcome obstacles, many of which you may not have anticipated. That’s why all successful people have at one time or another demonstrated the character trait of perseverance. 

 

You really can’t succeed without it, that’s how important it truly is.

 

Every worthwhile endeavor comes with challenges, some of them seemingly insurmountable. But people with an attitude of success know that quitting is a choice, they also know it’s a choice that can quickly become habit forming. 


So don’t make that choice unless you absolutely have to and if you absolutely absolutely absolutely have to then don’t make it until you have another, better plan to begin again. 

The Low Cost of High Expectations

Successful people expect more from themselves. More discipline, more effort, more planning, more teamwork, more results, more everything. They won’t settle for less. And it costs them very little.

Less successful do hope for more but most often expect to settle for less. When they expect to settle for less then less is exactly what they get. And it will cost them a ton.

As I write this I’m reminded of a story that comes from the great state of Texas. It happened years ago, when Texas was was beginning an extensive school testing program. The goal of the testing program in a nutshell was to determine if the teaching methods, and the teachers, were effective in helping the students learn. 

Towards the end of a particular school year each student was tested to determine their level of advancement from the prior school year. The results were shared with both students and their parents. 

This story involves two individual students, one a classic “A” student and the other, well the other was just kind of hanging on.  When the test results came back for these two students the educators and counselors were astonished. 

According to the test results the “A” student was way over-performing, he really had no business getting anything higher than a C. They told him that what ever he was doing he should keep doing it but they couldn’t hide their surprise at his results. The other student was found to be way under-performing, it was determined that he was capable of much higher grades if only he would make the effort. They encouraged him to try harder.

I’m sure both students and their parents were surprised by the results but in any event, the expectations for the next school year had been set. They were set by educators and counselors, both I’m sure well-meaning, whose job it was to manage students, not lead them.

Neither student disappointed, they both met the expectations set for them. The now former “A” student begin turning in “C” level work and sometimes even worse. The formerly low performing student suddenly begin doing “B” and sometimes even “A” level work. 

Expectations are an amazing motivator. 

Here’s something even more amazing… about half-way though the school year the guidance counselors discovered a mistake had been made with the test results. The test results for the previous year’s “A” student showed that he was in fact an outstanding student with the ability to quickly learn new concepts. His “A’s” should have been expected. The results also showed that the previously under-performing student was, for whatever reason, not able to internalize the curriculum and turn it into useable information. His grades accurately reflected that reality.

The only thing that had really changed for those two students were the expectations that they had for themselves. Other people “helped” them set their expectations but they had to agree to them for any real change to happen. 

The leadership lesson here is pretty straightforward. Managers may expect more from their people but leaders encourage their people expect more from themselves. 

The life lesson here is even clearer. High expectations cost virtually nothing but low expectations can cost you your success. If you want more then you need to expect more. Expect more from yourself and never allow yourself to settle for less than you’re capable of accomplishing. No one, not even you, rises to low expectations. 

Expecting less, and settling for less, results in less, of everything, and that is a fact!

 

Motivational Leadership

I’m often asked “how do I keep my people motivated?” Sometimes the question will pertain to a particular person such as “How do I motivate Bob?”

In either case my answer is almost always the same. Now I know it’s not a good practice to answer a question with a question but for these instances I make an exception. My answer is “I don’t know, what does “Bob” say when you ask him what motivates him?”

I’m usually answered with silence.

I just kind of let that silence hang there for a few seconds and then I expand on my answer. I tell them, honestly, that I can’t have any idea what truly motivates a particular person or team unless I’ve asked the team or person.

One of the key responsibilities of a leader is to help their people stay motivated. That being the case I am always surprised at how few leaders know what motivates their people. They either guess or they try to motivate them with the most common, strongest motivators: fear, anger, and spite.

Just because those are the strongest and most common motivators doesn’t mean those are the best motivators. They are not!

If you want to know what motivates your people or if you want to know how to motivate your people then ask them. They may not have an immediate answer so give them a day or two to consider the question. Encourage them to give it serious consideration because their answer could be the key to unlocking the door to their future success.

When talking with your people about their motivation consider these questions:

What are you passionate about?
What work would you do for free if you could afford it?
What could I do to show you how important you are to me and our organization?
What are your hobbies and interests?

I’ve talked to leaders about asking these questions and I usually get the same two “hesitations.” The first one is that the questions seem “weird.” It seems to the leader that it is too personal or invasive to discuss these matters. My answer to that is always the same… leadership is about people, people and nothing but people. If you think it’s “weird” to truly get to know your people then you will struggle as a leader of those people.

By the way, the questions are only “weird” to the person asking them for the first time, to the person being asked they generally feel good about someone caring enough to actually ask.

The second hesitation is one of time. They say they simply can’t afford to “spend” the time getting to know their people. Keep in mind, these are the same leaders who would proudly say that their people are their organization’s greatest asset. If they don’t have time to spend on their most important asset then what are they spending their time on?

I encourage leaders to NOT think in terms of “spending” time “on” their people but rather to “invest” time “with” their people. It’s a change of mindset that can make a huge difference in how a leader interacts with their people.

One last thing…. when you discover what motivates your people then use it to THEIR benefit and yours.

You’ve Chosen Your Life

You’ve chosen your way to the life you have.

To those who would say they have not chosen their life, that their circumstances and events outside of their control have chosen their life I say to you: excuses, excuses, excuses.

The more you allow circumstances to control your life the less control of your life you have. If you’re allowing circumstances to control your life you’ve undoubtedly forgotten about the incredible power of you. You, like every other person on the planet can have more control over your life just by taking it.

Successful people control the circumstances of their life, they put themselves in a position to succeed. They use the circumstances of their life to their benefit, regardless of what those circumstances happen to be.

You make choices every day, and every choice has a consequence. It could be a positive consequence or it could be a negative consequence but no choice in life goes unnoticed.

Perhaps the most important choice you make every day is the choice of a positive attitude. A positive attitude makes everything in life easier. Some days you’ll need to make that choice more than once but never allow others to make that choice for you.

You choose the friends and people that you allow into your life and these friends and people have a major impact on the direction of your life. If you choose to spend your life with negative people, chances are you’ll be a negative person. If you choose to spend your time with unmotivated people it’s likely you won’t be motivated either. 

The people in your life are there because you allow them to be there, you may not realize this is a choice you’ve made but it is one of the most important choices you can make in life. Choose very carefully!

Victor Frankl, author of the life changing book, “Man’s Search for Meaning, ” says “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” When you accept that challenge to change yourself then you begin to control your life through better choices. 

I believe that we all are born with a purpose in mind. Something that makes our life worth living, something that makes our life matter. It’s something important. Once you have determined that important thing in your life you can live your life on purpose for a purpose. You no longer live your life just for today and take what comes, instead you make what comes.

You may not like where you are in life, but it’s your choices that have put you there. If you desire to be someplace else in life then make different choices because you choose your way to the life you have.

It may seem to you that others can force their choices on you but when you begin each day with the choice of a positive attitude you’ll have more choices than you could have ever imagined. No one, absolutely no one, can force their attitude on you. Frankl says that the choice of our attitude in the last of human freedoms, meaning “they” can take everything else from you but they can never take away your choice of a positive attitude.

Wherever you are in life today, your first step to being someplace else is to acknowledge that you put yourself exactly where you are. Acknowledge that you’ve done that, your choices have done that, the decisions you’ve made have done that. When you acknowledge that your choices in life have consequences, then you begin to control your life and it’s then that you begin to make your success.

Some days I’m happier than others and on the days when I can force myself to be honest about it I realize that it’s my choices that have determined my level of happiness. Successful people find a way to force that honesty upon themselves more days than not.

When you’re willing to accept 100% responsibility for who you are, what you are, and where you are then you’ll discover the power to change any part of your life that you desire.

You’ll also discover that you’ve had the power all along. Don’t waste another day of it! 

Recognizing the Power of Recognition

People need to know that they matter. They need to know that what they do is noticed. They need to know their efforts, whatever they are, are not in vain. 

Authentic leaders seldom miss the opportunity to recognize their people. When there is no opportunity to recognize their people then they create one. For authentic leaders recognizing others is not a part time job, it is not something to “fit-in” or something to do in their “free-time.”

Authentic leaders are intentional and strategic with their recognition practices. They use recognition to reward, coach, and motivate their people. They know that true recognition goes deeper than the basic “nice job” and that it requires thoughtfulness and meaning.

Authentic leaders provide authentic recognition. Authentic recognition comes in two parts: the “what” or action being recognized and the “why” or how the “what” has made a difference.

Lazy leaders might toss out a nice job while crossing paths with a team member but an authentic leader will invest the time to make the recognition meaningful and lasting. They are very specific as to “what” was a nice job, why it was noticed and how it made a difference. This requires that an authentic leader put thought into the recognition of others. 

Leaders who seldom provide recognition to their people are missing an essential trait of leadership and that is almost certainly being reflected in the commitment level of their followers. Many factors can affect the compensation and benefit levels a leader can offer their people. Still more factors can affect the work environment a leader is able to provide. There are just any number of factors that a leader cannot control. That is why authentic leaders don’t let the controllable become uncontrollable.

Recognizing your people is completely within your control. You can choose daily to affirm their importance or simply let them wonder if they really matter or not. 

When you choose affirmation you choose authentic leadership. You choose to build people and you choose to build your organization. Making an intentional effort to recognize your people encourages them to push themselves. They know what they do matters and that the more they do the more it will matter. 

Authentic leaders know that there is a direct link between recognizing success and the amount of success available to recognize.

Recognize your people today and they will ensure that there is even more success to recognize tomorrow. 

 

How to Stay Motivated

The pain of discipline is greater than the pain of failure. That simple fact leads to more failure than any other single factor. When we lack the discipline required for success we also lack the ability to “push-on” when we face the struggles associated with long-lasting success. There are struggles within every successful endeavor and within every successful endeavor someone found the motivation to continue the way forward.

Average people need someone to motivate them. Successful people find a way to motivate themselves and ask for help when they can’t. Here are just a few of the methods they use to get going when the going gets tough:

They re-dream the dream. Before they quit they remember why they started, they remember what’s in it for them if they can keep going. They see the end of the rainbow and reach for it again. It is that “reach” that provides them the momentum and motivation to continue forward. 

They make it fun. They enjoy what they do. Here’s a fact: almost 100% of successful people enjoy what they do. It is nearly impossible for a human being to excel at something they truly dislike. If you’re involved in a career or job that you simply don’t like then either find a way to make it fun or find your way to another career. You’re not likely to become the first person to put a square peg in a round hole so don’t burn up your motivation trying.

They are not afraid to change course. If something doesn’t feel right it’s probably not. There is almost always more than one way to accomplish something. Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean it’s being done the best way. You’ve likely heard the saying “there’s no need to invent the wheel’, well if that was true we would all still be driving on stone wheels. Looking for a “better way” is an excellent method for staying motivated. Settling for what you have makes it very difficult to push yourself for better.

Motivated, successful people reward themselves. They also celebrate their successes, both big and little. The bigger the goal, the greater the task the more likelihood of set-backs along the way. Set-backs wilt motivation and lessen resolve. Rewards, even small rewards like a longer lunch break once in a while or knocking off an hour early can be just the ticket to reinvigorate yourself. Small celebrations can refill your energy tank and provide the motivation needed to overcome the next challenge. 

Successful people have a mentor to motivate them. Staying motivated in the face of obstacles is  pretty darn tough to do day in and day out. It’s really tough without a little help. A good mentor will help you over the rough spots and help you to re-dream that dream. Successful people aren’t afraid to ask for help and the person they are most likely to ask is their mentor. 

If you don’t have a mentor today then find one now. Select a person who cares about you, a person who is successful and willing to invest themselves in you to help you succeed too. 

Here’s a big statement to make but I’m going to make it anyway…. there is not a single thing you can do in 2014 that will have a greater positive impact on your chances of success than having a coach or mentor. If you don’t have a coach or mentor then get one. 

Your motivation is your responsibility but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a little coaching along the way. 

Why YOU Matter!

There are few things in life that you absolutely must know. I suppose even those few things could be debated. The few things we must know vary by person as well. Your occupation or profession will also partially determine what you need to know too. Where you live might make a difference along with how long you live. 

What you need to know is at least a little different than what I need to know or what the person who lives down the street needs to know. But there is one thing that every single living human being needs to know.

They matter!

YOU matter!

There is absolutely no way you could ever stop mattering. Even if you allow someone to convince you that you are somehow inferior to other people YOU still matter. YOU matter whether you believe it or not, so believe it! 

Because YOU matter, never let someone tell YOU that you don’t. People, anyone, that would tell you that YOU don’t matter clearly do not have your best interests in mind. Ignore them. Those kind of people will likely always be part of your life but it is solely your choice as to whether you listen to them or not. Always remember this: NEVER be one of those people who think or say that YOU don’t matter. Some days you may need to remind yourself often that YOU are amazing and that no matter what happens in your life YOU matter!

The world needs YOU and it needs YOU to be just as YOU are. Even if you’re an identical twin there is only one YOU. No one else can be truly be identical to YOU so don’t rob the world of YOU by trying to be someone or something you’re not. Just be the very best YOU possible. 

Don’t believe that you’re just “good enough” or only “average” because you’re not only the best YOU, you’re the only YOU. Out of billions of people already born and yet to be born there is only one of YOU and that ought to prove just how special YOU are and how much YOU matter. 

Because YOU matter YOU can accomplish great things. You’ve been given a life that allows you the opportunity to make a difference in the world. As long as you can draw a breath you have the opportunity to use your amazing life to make a difference in the life of someone else. YOU do!

Maybe helping other people know how much they matter is the difference you’ll make. It’s a worthwhile difference to make and YOU can do that.

It’s only a question of whether or not YOU will! So answer the question today by telling, and maybe even showing, someone how much they matter to YOU!