Do You Have a Plan for Success?

I’m sometimes asked for my definition of success. I always start the same way, by explaining success is very personal and my definition is likely to be different than the next person’s. But I’m convinced that whatever your personal definition of success happens to be you’ll be more likely to achieve it if you have a solid plan. 

 

To be sure, a plan does not guarantee success, there are other factors in play as well but a plan, a good, well thought-out plan, can take into account many of those factors and provide you with a level of control over seemingly uncontrollable events. 

 

As I’ve seen again and again through the years the single biggest cause of failed plans is that they are never actually put into action. No plan, no matter how good it may be, will succeed if you never take action on it. 

 

While a plan does not guarantee success not taking action on a good plan virtually does guarantee failure or at least much more limited success than you otherwise might have. The bottom line on plans is pretty clear, if your plan is not actionable then it’s not really a good plan.

 

As we near the end of 2017 I’d like to share with you a planning method I’ve used through the years with great success. It is a simple process for developing an actionable plan; be careful however not to make the mistake of thinking that a simple process makes the execution of your plan simple, success is hard work.

 

I also feel the need here to add another caution; we’re talking here about a strong 2018 but don’t let that lull you into thinking 2017 is over, there’s still time to finish strong. No matter what kind of year 2017 has been for you how you finish it absolutely matters. Finish strong!

    

So, first let’s determine what an actionable plan is not: It is not, “I’m going to work harder” or “I’m going to work smarter” or any variation of the same. That is not a plan; it is a dream, a dream that turns into the nightmare of the same old thing.

     

A plan that succeeds has action built into it, the actions are very specific, and the actions have measurable standards that leave no doubt as to whether they have been accomplished. Each individual action has its own deadline, a deadline which is critical because you’ll never find “someday” on a calendar.

    

Here is an 8-Step Planning Process that has been proven time and again to help people achieve success if they are willing to put in the required effort:

1. Develop a clear picture of your current situation – we must know where we are before we can know where we are going

2. Be certain you know your vision of the desired situation – specificity is a key here

3. Develop short, medium and long range goals – it is perfectly okay to adjust your goals as circumstances change and don’t forget, one of the secrets of goal achievement is to break big goals into smaller ones to make the big goal easier to achieve 

4. Develop your program – how will you succeed – what will you sacrifice – remember success is not just about what you will START doing, often what you STOP doing is just as important. Be as specific as you can possibly be in this step

5. Determine the investment you are willing to make (time & money) – the commitment of time is frequently harder to make than a financial commitment

6. Set your Time Table – When will it all happen – just like it says, Time Table, specific dates and times, giving yourself a range of dates is giving yourself the opportunity to delay your success

7. Implement the total plan – no plan is more worthless than the plan never put into action

8. Follow-up – Check back often on how you’re doing – and while you’re checking back find someone that cares about you to hold you accountable to your plan, this is a lot of work and is almost impossible to accomplish alone

     

That’s it, there is your planning process, and before you start telling yourself you can succeed without doing all this “work” let me share something else with you: What you call success today will pale when compared to the success that is possible when you execute a solid plan.

     

Don’t think of your plan as work, think of it is an investment and it is the greatest investment you can make because it is an investment in yourself. You matter, your success matters and if you will commit to a plan you will see results almost immediately. The plan may not always “work” the way you intended but I can promise you the planning always will.

What Do You Mean…Urgent?

ur·gent 

Function: adjective 

1 a : calling for immediate attention : PRESSING <urgent appeals> b : conveying a sense of urgency

2 : urging insistently : IMPORTUNATE

– ur·gent·ly adverb

     

Well, here is the definition from Webster’s.  I think I like the first one, but the second one isn’t too bad either.

     

I guess it really doesn’t really matter which one you prefer as long as you have one of these definitions that you can embrace as your own. 

     

Now when I say embrace I mean EMBRACE!  Really latch on to it and live the meaning of urgent, live it through your words and actions every single day.  I remember attending a Dale Carnegie™ Sales Conference about 25 years ago when one of the presenters was asked about his opinion on the most serious threat facing professional salespeople at the time.  I think his answer applies as much today as it did at the time: a lack of urgency. 

     

He believed, and I agree, that salespeople who go about their business as though a deal could wait another day are doomed to a career filled with limited successes and missed opportunities. 

     

Salespeople who lack a sense of urgency, whether it’s urgency regarding following up on a request for information, urgency to return a phone call, urgency to make that one additional sales call a day and urgency to do the things they know would make a difference, are what I call woulda, coulda, shoulda salespeople.  These are the salespeople who lament the poor business climate and challenging customers that the salespeople with a sense of urgency pursue, maximizing the market and reaping the rewards.

     

Which one are you?  Do you have that sense of urgency?  Or, do you “leave a little business for tomorrow?”  If you’re a woulda, coulda, shoulda salesperson, you had better hope your competition is too!  As of the date of this post there are only 27 or 28 selling days (depends on if you work December 26th) left in 2017. Will you press on with urgency or will you coast into 2018?

     

That’s not a question about your ability, that’s a question about your attitude. Successful people know that a fast start is important but the most successful people know that how well you finish what you started is the real key to continual success. 

Goals are Intended to be Flexible

Did you set goals for 2017? I sure hope so because your chances for a successful 2017 increased ten-fold if you invested time in a serious goal setting process as the year began.

     

But once your goals are set you’re not done. Goals are meant to be flexible, changing as your circumstances change. That means you must review your goals on a regular basis, adjusting some, adding others and maybe even discarding those that no longer fit.

     

Only 25% of 2017 is left to accomplish the goals that you set forth earlier in the year. Now is a great time to conduct a review of your goals. 

 

What’s working and maybe even more importantly, what’s not. Has what’s important to you changed to the point that your goals need to change to stay in sync? Do your goals still seem realistic and obtainable? Are you on pace to achieve the things you hoped for when you set these goals? Are your priorities the same today as they were when you first wrote your goals?

     

These are all questions you should seriously consider asking yourself; even if the year is not going as planned, it’s not too late to make whatever adjustments are required in order to achieve the success you envisioned for 2017. 


Flex your goals for success! That’s how successful people achieve their goals.

Are You a Successbut?

I used to work with a guy who always seemed to be getting in trouble with his wife for working during “non work hours.” 

 

He would sneak into a different room after dinner to check his email only to hear her shout to him, “you’re not working in there are you?” I was always surprised to hear him talk about this because his office was right next to mine and I would hear her call him once in a while, most definitely during work hours. I was tempted to go into his office and say loud enough for her to hear me, “that’s not a personal call is it?” 

 

Apparently she was okay with him using work time for personal stuff but using personal time for anything related to work was strictly forbidden. 

 

I honestly don’t think that type of mindset works anymore. Let’s face it, technology, smart phones in particular, have burred the lines between “work hours” and personal time. I cross them ALL THE TIME. For my personal benefit. 

 

I see nothing wrong with taking a few minutes in the evening to check email and even shoot off a quick answer if need be. That helps me start my next day in the office faster because I don’t have a bunch of email to go through first thing. I’ll admit I’m luckier than some in that I enjoy my work and actually like the people I work with. Even if I didn’t however there would still be the benefit to me of not starting my day under the crush of unanswered email. 

 

I’ll look at my email on the weekend in case anything is going on that I need to see or in case a co-worker has a question I can help with. It seems perfectly normal to me. I also don’t have a problem taking a call from my wife or kids in the middle of a work day…that’s every bit as normal. 

 

But, and some would say this is a pretty big but, there are times when I am totally disconnected from work and my precious smart phone. I’m focused on my personal life, to the exclusion of everything else. 

 

Here’s another but…there are times when I’m totally focused on work. Some of the stuff I do is best done in a distraction free environment. So I create one for myself. 

 

It’s all about balance!

 

I once asked one of my mentors who was perhaps the most successful salesperson who ever lived, how he defined success. His one word answer was balance.

 

He went on to explain that while you could be successful in one area of your life without being successful in others, true success, or complete success, required balance. He believed, and I agree with him, that you are kidding yourself to say you’re a success when any part of your life is less than successful. It’s the type of success I call “successbut.” Its like, “I’m a success at work but…” or “I consider myself a true success except for….” 

 

If you’re a leader who expects your team to be available 24 hours a day everyday then you may have some success in your life but it’s most likely successbut. Your team will care more, they will do more, they will do it better, all of it, if you help them achieve balance in their life. 

 

Authentic Leaders help their people become successful….in all areas of their life. If you only help your people achieve successbut then your missing a key component of Authentic Leadership. 


Don’t miss out, find your own balance and then help your people find theirs too.

Success is no Accident

Success is no accident. Success is the result of hard work, perseverance, help from those around you and a solid plan. The more solid the plan, the better. Developing a plan for success increases your chances of success 100%. Yep, a plan doubles, at least, the likelihood of success. I find that statistic very interesting but here is one even more interesting, or scary depending on your point of view. 80% of people go through life with no actionable plan for success. 80%!

     

I’m pleased that everyone reading this has a real plan for success, one that truly drives their behavior. I must admit however that I am a little suspect that everybody reading this is indeed among that 20%. So let’s see if it’s true.

     

First let’s determine what an actionable plan is not: It is not, “I’m going to work harder” or “I’m going to work smarter” or any variation of the same. That is not a plan; it is a dream, a dream that turns into the nightmare of the same old thing.

     

A plan that succeeds has action built into it, the actions are very specific, and the actions have measurable standards that leave no doubt as to whether they have been accomplished. Each individual action has its own deadline, a deadline which is critical because you’ll never find “someday” on a calendar.

     

Here is an 8-Step Planning Process that has been proven time and again to help people achieve success if they are willing to put the plan into action:

 

1.  Clear picture of current situation – we must know where we are before we can know where we are going

 

2. A clear understanding and vision of the desired situation – specificity is a key here

 

3.  Development of short, medium and long range goals – it is perfectly okay to adjust your goals as circumstances change

 

4. Develop your program – how will you succeed – what will you sacrifice – remember success is not just about what you will START doing, often what you STOP doing is just as important

 

5. The investment you are willing to make (time & money) – the commitment of time is frequently harder to make than a financial commitment

 

6. Time Table – When will it all happen – just like it says, Time Table, specific dates and times, giving yourself a range of dates is giving yourself the opportunity to delay your success

 

7. Implement the total plan – no plan is more worthless than the plan never put into action

 

8. Follow-up – Check back often on how you’re doing – and while you’re checking back find someone that cares about you enough to hold you accountable to your plan, this is a lot of work and is almost impossible to accomplish alone

     

So there is your planning process, and before you start telling yourself you can succeed without doing all this “work” let me tell you something else: What you call success today will pale when compared to the success that is possible when you execute a real plan.

     

Your plan is not work, it is an investment and it is one of the greatest investments you can make because it is an investment in yourself. You matter, your success matters and if you will commit to a plan you will see results almost immediately. 


So, what’s your plan?

Are You a Carrot, an Egg or a Coffee Bean?

There is a great story about a young woman who went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as if she solved one problem only to have a new one pop up almost instantly.

 

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word.  In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what do you see?”

     

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” the daughter replied. The mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. The daughter did and noted that they got soft. Her mother then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, the daughter observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, her mother asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she smelled its rich aroma. The daughter then asked. “What’s the point, mother?”

     

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity — boiling water — but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. It’s thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, it’s inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.

     

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

     

That’s a fair question for all of us. When “stuff” happens, how do you respond? Do you get weak in the knees? Maybe hard headed or worse, hard hearted? Or do you take control and change the very circumstances that created the challenge in the first place?

 

Every successful person has overcome challenges on the road to success. Many people who failed were just a few steps away from success and only needed to push ahead a little more to succeed. In both cases their outcomes weren’t determined by the challenges they faced but by how they responded to them. 

 

The next time you’re tempted to quit think about why you started and then think about how you’re going to change the circumstances to eliminate that temptation. 

Are You All In?

There are lots of things that can slow down your progress towards success and the more of them that you accept responsibility for the better. 

 

If you’re thinking that some of those things or maybe even the majority of those things are just “bad luck” then you should know that most bad luck comes straight out of bad decisions and worse choices. 

 

Here’s the deal…until you accept complete responsibility for both your success and shortcomings YOU will be slowing down your own progress towards success. You must be all in for your best chance at success.

 

Lots of people are credited with quotes about making your own good luck by working hard. I believe that to be true. But you don’t hear too much about making your own bad luck by not working hard. You almost never hear anything about creating “bad luck” by consistently making bad choices and hair brained decisions. 

 

But that’s every bit as true as the quotes about good luck. We make our “luck” both good AND bad.

 

If success is going to be in your future then you must accept 100% responsibility for everything you say, think and do today. Everything!

 

If some of those things that you say, think and do today are holding you back then YOU must make the decision to change. No one can change you, you can only change yourself. Real change, the kind that can lead to improvement must begin with you.

 

Again I tell you that YOU must be willing to accept 100% responsibility for every decision you make and every action you take… or don’t take.

 

Blaming others for your decisions and actions prevents you from learning from them. It prevents you from growing and it lessons your chance at ultimate success.

 

Please don’t tell me, and most importantly never tell yourself, that you didn’t want to do the things you did but someone made you. No one can make you do anything that you do not want to do. Now, before you start disagreeing with that let me explain. You have almost certainly done some things you would have preferred not to do but someone or something found a way to make you decide to do it.

 

They may have threatened you, maybe they tricked you or maybe they gave you some sort of incentive but in any event, YOU choose to to it rather than the alternative that seemed even less pleasant to you. 

 

You made a choice. 

 

Most of my bad choices were not about doing bad things, they were (and are) about doing nothing. I delay, I hesitate or I downright procrastinate. Usually because it’s easier than doing what I should be doing. So I don’t do what I should, I do nothing instead. 

 

Lots and lots of people are just like me in that regard. We think we can do it later but discover again and again that later all too often becomes never. 

 

I’ve absolutely missed some opportunities in life but you know what? Those were MY choices not anyone else’s. I attribute whatever success I’ve had to the fact that I’ve never blamed someone else for the decisions and choices I’ve made. I’ve never given up the power to improve but failing to accept responsibility for my actions. 

 

Your own chances for success go way way way way up when you accept complete and total responsibility for BOTH the good and bad choices and decisions you make everyday. 


Blaming someone else for what happens to you makes someone else responsible for your success and that my friends rarely turns out well.