Planning for a Better 2021 – The “Time Table”

Some people use time as an excuse. Highly successful people use time as a tool. 

Now that you know what you’ll stop doing in order to succeed and you know what you’ll start doing to achieve your goals you need to commit to a time table. This is such a critical step in the planning process yet many people skip it completely. 

Years ago when I would present Goal Setting Workshops for Dale Carnegie people would present truly outstanding goals. They presented them with such passion that it was obvious they wanted to achieve them. 

But when I asked when they would begin the pursuit of those goals they were completely flummoxed. They had not considered a starting date and time, they were simply going to do it. Except I knew they likely wouldn’t. Because they would most probably use time as an excuse for never actually beginning. I’ve seen it happen again and again. 

So for everything you committed to stop doing you need to add each one of those individually to a time table. EACH ONE, INDIVIDUALLY! If you think you can lump them all together and stop them all at once you need to be more realistic. 

Keep in mind you’re using a TIME table, not a date table. When adding a “stop action” to your time table list the date you will implement the stop action AND the time of day. Specifically. Exactly. Then put that in your calendar. In ink. In all caps. 

Tell the world about your commitment. Ask them, ask everyone, to hold you accountable. 

Use exactly the same process for everything you committed to start doing in order to achieve your goals and bring your plan to life. Specificity is key. You need to determine the exact date and time you will begin….or you’re unlikely to begin…ever.

Setting an exact date and time to begin your journey to goal achievement is an example of using time as a tool. Having an exact date and time in your plan and on your calendar gives you the tool of accountability. It helps you hold yourself accountable. Sharing that exact date and time with others might even give you more accountability than you want. 😀

One a word of caution about adding action items to your time table. The farther into the future you plan to stop or start an action the less likely it is that you’ll do it. The best time to begin is today. The second best time is tomorrow and the third best time is the next day. You can imagine how effective it WON’T be to start something 6 months from now…that’s almost as bad as having no start date at all. 

Today is the best day to take control of your life. If you begin today then all of your tomorrow’s will have a much better chance of going according to YOUR plan. If you don’t have a plan then you’ll have to settle for whatever happens to come your way. 

Don’t settle…plan!

Planning for a Better 2021 – The “Will Do”

The next step of the planning process is all about you! While some of the other steps could have involved other people this one does not. You are on your own here. You will ultimately determine whether or not your plan succeeds. I’ll suggest you have a coach or mentor in this step but they can help, they cannot succeed for you. 

There are no excuses in this step. I could have very well described this step as the Yoda step because this step is not the step where you “try” to accomplish the goals and objectives laid out in your plan, this is the step where you accomplish them…or not. As Yoda said, “No! Do or do not, there is no try.”

In the “will do” step YOU must make a commitment to yourself regarding what you are willing to do to achieve your goals. If you were serious about the last step then you will have cleared some time in your day to add some new activities to help you implement your plan and achieve your goals. In this step you lay out exactly what those activities will be and PRECISELY when you will do them. 

This is not a someday plan, this is a here and now plan. If you’ve gotten this far into the planning process you are closer to achieving your goals then perhaps you’ve ever been. All you need to do now is determine the investment you’re willing to make for it all to come true. 

Investments required to achieve goals come in two areas, financial and time. People typically make a commitment in one of those areas while forgetting about the other. Take me for instance, I have made substantial investments in fitness. I’ve joined one fitness club after another, giving them direct access into my bank account so my membership was always current. Over the years I’ve spent a small fortune on fitness club memberships because I take investing money in being healthy very seriously. 

Too bad for me I don’t take investing time in being healthy seriously too. Most of the fitness clubs I joined I never set foot in again after I had set up the automatic payments. I never even got to the new member tour. Because I never committed to making time to do it. I thought I was serious about it and I thought the money I spent proved I was serious but I was kidding myself. I got lucky when the last private club I joined burned down and I escaped the never ending payments. 

I proved the point that lack of initiative kills far more goals than lack of money ever will. 

I made two mistakes; I never actually stopped doing something so I could start doing something new. My calendar was already full every time I thought about going to the club. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice anything to get in shape so I didn’t get in shape. That’s a prefect example of a lack of priorities. 

My second mistake was not having someone to hold me accountable to get in shape. No coach. No mentor. I thought I could go it alone. No one achieves everything they want to achieve without help along to way. 

So in this step you need to do three things. 

First decide what investments you will make to achieve your goals. Consider both sides of the investment angle, time and money. Don’t promise yourself you’ll do it, commit to do it. Promises are pretty easy to blow off, commitments are stronger. 

Second, determine what you are willing to sacrifice. If you need a bit of extra money to achieve your goal then what will you give up. If you MUST stop at Starbucks every morning and that prevents you from taking a training course to improve yourself then I have but one word for you. Priorities!

Third, you need to find a mentor or coach. Even if it’s not a formal mentoring relationship you must have someone in your life who will challenge your commitment to the things you claim are important to you. Someone to ask you what the heck you’re doing. 

YOU must make the commitments to your future success. YOU must ultimately honor those commitments in order to succeed. Remember earlier in this series when I said this is YOUR plan? Well this is where that gets real. 

What will you do to accomplish your goals. When will you begin? What safeguards will you put in place to ensure you don’t quit before you reach your goal?

You’re getting closer to having a real plan. Real plans lead to real success. If you take this planning process seriously then you’ll have some serious success as well. 

So Much to Learn

I have been fortunate over the years to work along side some smart people. Some of them were so smart that they even knew they had a lot to learn. Unfortunately, while some of them were smart they weren’t exactly smart enough to know that they didn’t actually know it all.

I’ve learned a lot over the years myself, including this little nugget of truth…the day I’ve learned all I need to know will be my final day on earth. I have so much more to learn that I may live forever!

Several years ago I was on the interview team for an open marketing position. One candidate in particular seemed very qualified. He had great experience and at first it seemed like he would fit the culture well. The interview was pretty much done and we were just kinda talking and I mentioned I was in the process of earning a Marketing Executive Certification. We talked about all the classes involved and he stated that he would never do something like that.

When I asked him why he said, “I’ve learned all I need to know about marketing.” “There isn’t anything else left to learn.” I had worked with people who seemed to think they knew it all before but I had never before heard anyone actually say it out loud.

Now the interview was really done and so was this guy’s chances of joining our team. He was maybe in his early forties and he was convinced he knew it all. Not only knew it all, he knew all that would ever be known about marketing.

It was obvious he wouldn’t be a good fit for a company with learning in it’s DNA. I actually felt kind of bad for the guy because I knew his future was going to be full of missed opportunities and limited success.

The amount of learning a person does seems to be directly linked to the amount of success they have. Let that sink in a bit…do you understand what that actually means? It’s fantastic!

It means that since a person’s ability to learn is limitless so is their level of success. It means that so long as we keep learning our opportunities for success keep multiplying. It means that your potential success is completely within your control and totally unlimited.

That is incredible.

If you’re looking for success you now know exactly where you’ll find it. You will find it in a mentor. You will find it in a book or a classroom. You may find it in a TED talk or a blog. If you’re really committed to succeeding you will find it everywhere you look.

Keep in mind that the goal of learning isn’t packing more information into your head, it’s taking action based on that information packed into your head. Successful people never stop learning. They also never stop adapting based on what they have learned.

So…what do you have to learn today?

So…You Say You Want to be a Leader

Odds are there are a significant number of people reading this who want to be a leader one day. They are waiting for a promotion to “leader” in their organization. Perhaps they are searching for a role with another organization that will “make” them a leader.

I’ve got some disappointing news for anyone who falls into those categories. No one can promote you to “leader.” No position or title in the world can make you a leader. Technically speaking, even you can’t make you a leader.

Only the people who follow you can make you a leader. You can call yourself a leader all day long but if no one is following you then you might be leading yourself (which is good) but you are not leading anyone else.

I don’t know any other way to say this except to say that waiting for a position or title to make you is leader is a mistake. It is a very common mistake so don’t beat yourself up over it too much.

People don’t follow positions or titles, they only follow other people. So instead of working for a position of leadership work to become the type of person other people will want to follow.

That type of person has a clear, realistic vision of their future. They can communicate that vision in a way that excites and inspires other people. They celebrate the success of other people as much as they celebrate their own success. They are outstanding listeners and they listen with the intent to understand rather than merely respond.

But more than anything else they genuinely care about people.

People follow people who care about them. One of the truest things I know about leadership is that you can care for people without leading them but you cannot lead someone without caring for them. Truly caring.

Caring about the person. Caring about their lives and caring about what’s important to them.

If you’re only caring about what they can do for you or your organization then you may be a boss but it’s unlikely that you’re seen as a leader.

If your goal is to be an Authentic Leader then you must put people first. If you want to grow your company then first you must grow your people. If you want your people to take care of your customers then you must first take care of your people.

If you’re in a leadership position and you think your people are nothing more than disposable assets then whatever success you may be experiencing today will not be sustainable.

Leadership is people centric. When you occupy a leadership position and you put “stuff” before your people then you forfeit the right to lead.

When you’re people believe you don’t care about them they won’t care much about actually following you. That is a mistake no organization can survive.

Your Best Coach

I write from time to time on the importance of having a coach or a mentor. The best mentors show you what to do and how to do it. They don’t do it for you.

At some point all successful people did something to make themselves a success. They likely had a coach or mentor but they had to make the effort to act on the advice they received. THEY HAD TO ACT THEMSELVES!

Taking action to accomplish something requires a whole different kind of coach. It requires a “self-coach.” That would be you!

At some point you must push yourself. You must accept responsibility for your actions and decisions. What you’re taught can’t help you if you don’t apply it. The best advice in the world falls flat if you don’t use it.

If you do nothing then nothing is exactly what you should expect in return.

If you’re a good self-coach then you’re setting goals for yourself. Long-term, medium-term goals and short-term goals. Those short-term goals can be daily or even hourly. As an excellent self-coach you turn large, seemingly insurmountable tasks into a series of smaller tasks that you can accomplish on a daily or weekly basis.

That old city in Italy wasn’t built in a day and neither is long-term success. Doing a little each day will most definitely help you achieve a lot over time.

That’s the best thing about being/having a great self-coach…they are with you every day, all day.

The challenge with your self-coach, or your inner-coach, or whatever you want to call it, is the same as it is with a mentor or outside coach. You MUST listen to their advice and then act on it.

A single pound of action is worth more than a ton of good intentions. One thing highly successful people have in common with less successful people is that they both have good intentions. What most often separates the highly successful people from the less successful is that the most successful people act on those intentions.

So follow this coaches advice and ACT!

The Envy Monster

Envy is an emotion. It’s a very dangerous emotion at that! If you allow that particular emotion into your life you run the risk of being overtaken by it. Envy will consume you. It will diminish every other part of your life. Envy is a destroyer of all that is good.

Stated another way…envy sucks!

I may not have everything I want in life but I can say with great confidence that I have everything I wanted badly enough to work for.

You see here’s the thing, successful people simply outwork less successful people. They work smarter, harder, and longer than less successful people. Yes, luck also plays a part but the most successful people put themselves in a position to be “lucky” through hard work and determination.

If you’re going to be envious of other people don’t be envious of their “stuff.” If you insist on risking your own happiness by being envious then be envious that they have the discipline to do what you are unwilling to do.

I know that sounds pretty harsh but until you accept that as fact you will continue to limit your own potential for tremendous success. You will also struggle with envy until you define what success looks and feels like in YOUR life.

The life we live comes to us as a result of our choices. Some people choose to sacrifice relationships, family, life balance, and pretty much everything in the pursuit of success. Now I can’t know this for a fact but I’d bet most of that type of person measures success in terms of titles and sizes of bank accounts. If that is how they define success then good for them.

But why in the world would I be envious of them?

One of my life choices was to sacrifice a fancy title and bigger bank account for other things. Faith, family, friends, fun, and health among them. I am 100% certain I’ve made the right choices for me. If given the chance to do my life over I’d make the same choice 100 out of 100 times.

Understanding that what you have, or don’t have, is the logical outcome of your choices in life should help keep The Envy Monster away.

You see, I have no reason to be envious of anyone’s success. I’m as successful as anyone I know, I just define success differently than some others do. I could have easily had the other kind of success, so can you. You can have anything in life you’re willing to work for.

So that means envy is also one of the silliest emotions to carry around with you.

So here’s a huge question for you…How do you define success? I would submit to you that you cannot be successful until you can answer that question. When you can answer that question you may discover that you’ve already achieved all the success in life you’ll ever want.

What History Teaches

Whenever I hear of someone heading off to college who is planning to major in History my thoughts always go to “oh boy, taking on a ton of student loan debt for a low paying teaching job.”

I mean, what else do you do with a History Degree.

But then I start to think more and I am so grateful for anyone willing to teach History. It is history that teaches us everything we need to know to be successful.

In High School my least favorite class was Military History. (I attended a Military High School) I had a hard time figuring out why we were studying old battle plans and tactics from lost battles. I eventually came to understand that if we were ever required to lead a group of brave service members into battle the job wasn’t just to win the war. It was to bring the people we were charged with leading home alive.

As General George Patton frequently said, “it’s not the job of the American Solider to die for their country; the job of the American Solider is to make the other SOB die for theirs.”

Small pieces of historical knowledge can make a huge difference. It can prevent history from repeating itself. If Adolf Hitler had studied Napoleon’s battle plans from years earlier he likely would have not opened up a second front in Russia. If he had waited only a handful of months to attack it is very possible the outcome of World War 2 could have been different.

Companies are like countries when it comes to history. Those that are unwilling to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Emphasis on the doomed.

History can teach us what to do as well as what not to do. The problem is, if we don’t learn from history we tend to take the same shortcuts. Use the same level of thinking, say the same things, and do the identical stuff as the people who failed before us.

It’s fine to study successful companies. Following the practices of those who have succeeded before you makes perfect sense. But I also like to learn from companies that were highly successful right up until the time they weren’t.

I want to know what changed. I want to know what it was that caused them to go from great to good to downright bad.

It most often has to do with people. Mostly the people who run the company. History teaches us that the most common mistake they make is assuming that their future is an automatic extension of their past. Those organizations believe that because they are currently successful they will always be successful. They begin to take their success for granted. They begin to believe that their success is solely due to their efforts. They forget about all the people who have helped them along the way.

Successful companies and organizations do not fail the people leading them. The people leading them fail their companies and organizations.

History is full of examples of how organizations create sustainable success. It is also full of examples of what organizations did to kill their success.

Successful people learn from their mistakes, the most successful people, and organizations, learn from the mistakes of others. Those “lessons” are found in history. Are you willing to learn?