Successful People Have One Thing in Common

It’s impossible to finish anything that you don’t start. That’s the one thing for certain that all people who have accomplished something have in common…they started. 

Starting may have involved risk. Primarily the risk of failure. Successful people started anyway. Starting may, in fact likely did, mean ending something else. That ending may have felt like a loss. It’s tough to start when it feels like it will result in an immediate loss. Successful people started anyway. 

Less successful people, those who don’t understand that never taking a risk is the riskiest thing they can do, too often use their time to criticize the efforts of the people trying to accomplish something. 

I sometimes wonder if they use their criticism of others to shield themselves from the feeling of loss that comes with knowing they didn’t have the courage to even try. 

Knowing that success can only come from trying and understanding that trying often ends with something less than complete success I encourage people to make failing (at least temporarily) a regular part of their lives. 

I’d much prefer to make an effort that results in failure than to live my days wondering “what if.” Failing gives me another chance to start again, another chance at success. Not even attempting to succeed gives me nothing. It’s the same for every person reading this post. 

What we think of as failure isn’t failure unless we decide to not trying again. What we think of as failure is really a lesson in how not to do something…so long as we try again. 

Every person you think of as successful has attempted something that ended with less than complete success. They could have stopped and accepted failure. But they began again, and again and again until whatever they were attempting ended in complete success. 

I can assure you they had detractors along the way. People who criticized them and their efforts. They ignored the “can’t do” crowd and listened only to people who said “you can do it.” If they couldn’t find “can do” people then they told themselves… “I can do this.”

The quote below from President Theodore Roosevelt expresses these thoughts better than I ever could. One modern day caveat about this quote. I firmly believe that if he were alive today President Roosevelt would adjust his quote to use less inclusive language. Today we know that every human being born is endowed with the potential for greatness. There are circumstances in life that can make it more difficult for some to achieve that greatness. Successful people however make sure that none of those circumstances are of their own making. 

Here’s the quote.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Do not be a timid soul. The only way to achieve success is to try. The goal in life is not to arrive at death’s door safely, it is to accomplish something along the way. 

It is with absolute certainty that I say you can accomplish much if only you’re willing to try. 

The Hopelessness of No Goals

I’ve always been a big believer in the power of goals. Goals that my wife and I set decades ago are still being achieved. Things we said would happen in 2021 are indeed happening, almost to the day we said they would years and years ago. Most of what we have and have achieved we owe to the power of setting goals and developing a plan to achieve them. Even though some of the plans spanned decades. 

So when I was invited recently to attend a full-day Goal Setting Seminar my instincts said to decline, especially considering the Seminar was being held on a Saturday. I figured I knew enough. But then I discovered that the day included 9 holes of golf and I was suddenly way more interested. 

I figured if nothing else I’d learn something I could add to the sessions I present on the subject of goal setting and play some golf too. So I signed up. 

The early session was about what you’d expect if you’ve ever taken a class on setting goals. Lots of talk about setting SMART goals and having goals for different parts of your life, career goals, financial goals, personal goals, health goals and the like. 

The second session was a little more unusual; it covered the motivational aspects of having goals and how we can actually lose interest in life without goals. It was okay but it was a little blah blah blah for me. No examples or evidence, only an instructor telling you goals were important. Duh! 

But then the best part of the day…a boxed lunch and off to the golf carts for some fun. The Golf Course was in the community were I live so I was very familiar with it. Something didn’t feel exactly right as we left the conference room and headed outside. It was a Saturday, and normally a busy golfing day. 

We were only playing nine holes. There should have been plenty of tee times available for other golfers. But the place was completely empty other than those of us participating in the seminar. 

I asked what was going on and was told the course was preparing for some renovation work.  We would be the last group playing before it closed for a couple of months. That’s not unusual in the Phoenix area for a course to do major work in the summer, golf actually slows down when the temps reach 100 degrees day after day. While that all turned out to be true it wasn’t the only reason there weren’t other people on the course. We’d discover the other reason soon enough. 

So off we went. My first drive was a little right on a hole that bends to the right, not ideal. I’d have to make a decision to either play back out into the fairway or take a shortcut over the trees to the green. I decided on the shortcut. The shot I hit felt pretty good but I couldn’t see the green so I’d have to wait until I got the the green to see how the shot turned out. I knew I made it over the trees and I knew I went in the general direction of the green so I was pretty hopeful.

As we approached the green I was focused on seeing whether my ball was on the green or not, so focused that I didn’t see what I normally would have. When I got right up by the green I noticed there was no flagstick. For those of you who don’t play golf the flagstick indicates the location of the hole on the green.

Then I discovered why there was no flagstick. It was because there was no hole. It was absolutely the weirdest feeling I’ve ever had. I hit balls on the range like I usually do. I studied my yardage, carefully selected my clubs and hit the best shot I could, all with the goal in mind of making par or better on the hole. 

But there was no hole. The would be no par, no birdie, not even a bogey. I would have been mad except I figured out almost instantly what was going on. The evidence that was missing from the second session was now staring me in the face. The goal of golf is to get the ball in the hole with the fewest strokes possible. With no hole for the ball to go into the rest of the game becomes pointless in a hurry. 

The roaming instructor showed up and told us to go ahead and pick up the ball and move to the next hole, maybe there would be a hole on that green…or maybe there wouldn’t. 

I couldn’t win at this game of golf, I couldn’t lose. I couldn’t measure my results against other rounds I’d played in the past. I couldn’t measure myself against the other players. I lost interest in the game before I got to the second green. It was no fun at all. And when I did get to the green there was no damn hole again. The roaming instructor said “maybe next time.”

It was hopeless. It was pointless. 

It was also the best example of what a life devoid of goals must be like. I suppose if you’ve never had real goals you wouldn’t know what you’re missing. If I’d never played golf I might not have known there was supposed to be a hole in the green. 

But I did indeed learn something that day. I learned a life without goals can get hopeless even quicker than I thought. I was disappointed, frustrated, confused, even mad when I reached a place where I should have been able to accomplish a goal. The only reason I couldn’t was because a goal didn’t exist. 

Are you disappointed, confused, even mad at the end of a day? Do you wonder what the point is of going to work day after day for a mere paycheck? Could it be that you don’t have clearly definable goals you’re working towards each day? 

Setting goals and developing a plan to achieve them will make everything in your life more meaningful. Goals give you purpose. Goals provide you with motivation, even on very difficult days. Goals become the roadmap to success, in your career, in your relationships, in every part of your life. 

Don’t go one more day without knowing exactly what you want out of life and exactly how you’re going to get it. Invest time to set goals and invest more to build a solid plan to achieve them. 

It will truly change your life. 

Who to Believe

It’s hard to know what to believe these days. You can find “facts” to support pretty much anything you want to believe. It’s just as hard to know who to believe. People who seem to be thinking and talking logically one day appear to be completely off the rails the next. 

But I do have one solid recommendation on who to believe that you can take to the bank…maybe even literally. 

That recommendation is you. Yes, I wholeheartedly recommend that you believe in you. The most successful people, regardless of their walk of life, have that one thing in common. They believe in themselves. 

Believing in yourself changes everything about your life. You’ll not only see things differently but the things you see will actually be different. You’ll be less judgmental of other people because your focus will be on your life and what you want to accomplish. You’ll no longer feel the need to measure yourself against other people because you know, without a doubt, that you have what it takes to succeed.

You’ll discover that you do in fact have enough time. The old excuse about not having time falls away when your priorities are in order. You no longer waste time, you invest it. You invest it in accomplishing what’s best for you and those you care for. The activities a less confident you did with regularity to avoid taking risks will no longer be a part of your day. A self-confident you becomes a productivity monster accomplishing more in a day than most people do in a month. Yes, that is the real you when you believe in yourself!

Self-confident people attract other people and you very well may inspire other people to believe in themselves. Think about people who inspire you. You not only can be like them…you ARE like them, you only need to believe it. 

When you believe in yourself you become immune to the unjust criticism of others. You are able to accept the comments and decide for yourself if there is anything helpful to consider. Then you are free to use whatever part of the criticism you feel helps you succeed. When you believe in yourself all criticism becomes constructive, no matter how it was intended. 

Believing in yourself doesn’t eliminate life’s ups and downs. It does however make them a ton easier to deal with. You KNOW you will overcome whatever obstacles appear in your way. You are certain of it, there are no doubts, only possible solutions to consider. 

But here’s the best part…every single word I’ve written is 100% true for every single person reading this. This post isn’t about someone else, it’s about you!

I believe it, I believe it with all my heart. All you need to do is believe it too. Once you believe it, really really believe it, every obstacle becomes smaller, every possibility becomes clearer. You begin to live a life of purpose, on purpose. You begin to live the life you deserve.

Believe! 

The Most Important Thing to Know

I often tweet about success. I also often get replies that I have no business defining success for someone else. That is 100% true.

Defining success is deeply personal. 

I met a couple a few years ago who felt very successful. They were in their sixties and didn’t have a dime saved up for retirement. They had worked on and off through the years and for most of their adult lives had received some kind of government assistance. They had no disabilities and except for a few aches and pains that come with being in your sixties they were both healthy as could be. 

I was very curious about these two and that perhaps made me overly bold about asking them a few questions. One I asked was about their plans for living in retirement with no income besides a likely small social security check. They weren’t the least bit offended. In fact they smiled and said, “we’re talking to our retirement plan right now.”

There assumption was that “somebody” will always take care of them because in America, “they have to.” And they were fine with that. They didn’t need a lot to be happy and they were okay with living off the efforts of others. Having what they needed and being comfortable with how they received it was their definition of success. 

I was a little shocked with their answer but the longer I thought about it the more I began to think, “good for them!” They have found their personal formula for success. Who am I to judge? Their definition of success is about as far away from mine as you could get but that’s okay, it’s THEIR definition of success. It works for them. 

Whatever your definition of success is, it only needs to work for you. If you’re going to be happy in life it is important that you know that. Do not let other people define what success looks like for you. Ever!

You also must be willing to accept the fact that other people might disagree with your definition. As for the couple who are willing to live off the effort of others I would prefer to burn my money in a pit before they get their hands on it. But this post isn’t about that. It’s about the most important thing to know and the most important thing to know is that your definition of success belongs to you and you alone. 

I kinda hate writing this post. In fact this is one of those posts where I sat down to write one thing but something completely different came out. I really do wish the whole world would accept a unified, socially acceptable definition of success so we can properly judge people as successes or failures. I also wish the Easter Bunny was real. 

But since neither of those are real I’ll share with you what may be the second most important thing to know. You’ll never make yourself happier by trying to judge someone else according to your standards of personal success. 

So don’t judge. Realize that one of the things that make people special is how different we all are. So when somebody doesn’t meet your standards of success don’t try to sway them to your way of thinking. Just say, “well ain’t you special,” and they can’t take that however they want. 

Back to Basics

As the story goes, the legendary former coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, would start every training camp the same way. He would hold up a football and announce with great gusto, “This is a football.” 

Keep in mind he was speaking to a room full of professional football players. I think I’m safe in assuming that they all had at least a passing familiarity (pun intended) with what a football looked like. 

But Coach Lombardi was making a point. His point was we are going to begin with the basics because it’s the basics that will make us champions. 

You may not be a professional football player but that point is as applicable to you as it was to those Green Bay Packers. 

Skipping the basics, or believing your skills are so advanced that the basics no longer apply to you is one sure way to fall short of your potential. 

As the year ahead comes into focus it’s a great time to review your own “basics.” What have you skipped, or simply forgotten, that used to bring you great results? Maybe you used to send thank you notes…remember those, the kind you wrote out by hand, put in an envelope and dropped in a blue box on the corner? That practice remains to this day a solid basic skill when building and nurturing relationships. Perhaps more than ever considering how rare thank you notes have become. 

Maybe you skip making yourself a prioritized task list each morning. Using a prioritized task list is key to strong time management. For most people it’s not that they don’t have enough time, it’s that they lack a clear sense of priorities. 

People who prioritize what they want and need to accomplish will in fact accomplish much more than the people who don’t. Even if you’ve never applied that basic skill to your life before, now would be a great time to start. 

There are so many “basics” to success that I could go on forever. But instead I’ll encourage you to invest some time to think back to some of your greatest successes. What were some of the basics that helped you achieve that success? Are you still using them? If not can you say with specificity why you’re not? Or have they somehow faded away with not much thought as to why?

Consider the basics you need to be consistently successful and then go back to them. This is a great example of when “going back” is the fastest path forward to future success. 

So, what are you going back to?

The Promise of Tomorrow

Every year holds it’s own set of lessons. Those who study history know that the years teach us many things that a single day will never know.

I don’t think we’ll need much history however to understand some of the lessons from the year 2020. For too many families around the world one of those lessons is that tomorrow is promised to no one. No one can know if their own tomorrow will actually arrive. 

But we also know that if our tomorrow does arrive we have much more control over it than we often choose to take. Many people let their days unfold as if they have no say whatsoever in the events of that day. They let the day happen. 

The happiest and most successful people never let a day happen “to them.” They make the day happen “for them.” 

They may not be able to choose each of the “events” that come their way each day but they are able to choose exactly how they will respond to them. They choose very very frequently to respond with a positive attitude.

That positive attitude allows them to take something good from every experience. It allows them to learn from even their least favorite event of any given day. It allows them to constantly be looking forward to the promise of an even better tomorrow. 

You have the same choice. The only question is whether or not you’ll actually make it. 

I know people who make the choice of a positive attitude 100% of the time. They are happier than me. I am happier than people who make the choice of a positive attitude less frequently than me. 

I know people who choose to look for opportunities in every problem 100% of the time. They are more successful than me. I am more successful than people who look for opportunities in problems less than I do. 

It is very clear that happiness and success come from our choices and no choice we make is more important than the choice of a positive attitude. Choosing to look for opportunities inside problems is a close second. 

Yet I’m tempted to tell you it’s not possible 100% of the time cause it seems impossible to me. But I know people who prove me wrong. It’s not only a possibility for them, it is a reality. So I’m going to keep trying to make it my reality too. 

The promise of tomorrow doesn’t wait. You need to go get it. Your choice of a positive attitude is the fastest ride to those promises you’ll ever find. You willing to hop on board with me?

Planning for a Better 2021 – The “Follow-Up”

Congratulations! You have a plan. If you’ve followed the steps we laid out in the previous 7 posts you not only have a plan, you have a plan based on your values and goals. There are not too many people who can say that. So good for you.

While your plan is ready to be implemented, or “launched” it is not yet done. In fact, the best plans are never done. That’s why the 8th and not really “final” step in the process is called The “Follow-Up.” 

Even as you work your way through your plan you should be reviewing it periodically to make sure it still “works” for you. If we’ve learned anything from 2020 it’s that life has a not so funny way of turning our plans to mush. 

Mushy plans are not good plans. So constantly be tweaking your plan. 

While tweaking your plan you must keep this undying principle in mind…you plans can, will, and should change as circumstances require. The Core Values upon which you’ve built your plan should remain rock solid. 

Your well thought out and developed plan is a living plan. Do not allow it to die a circumstantial death. As your environment changes, as you change, as circumstances change, your plans must change as well.

The “Follow-Up” step is where you schedule 30, 60, 90, 180 day reviews of your plan. During the 180 day review schedule additional follow-ups as needed. Put these follow-ups on your calendar. Ask your coach, mentor, or accountability partner to review the progress you’ve made towards your plan. They can offer suggestions for adjustments or advise you to stay the course. 

You now have a plan that clearly states who you are and where you are. You have a plan that says specifically who you will be in the future. You have a plan that illuminates the path that you need to follow to arrive at your goals in life. 

Continuously feed your plan with fresh thinking. Provide it with the effort and discipline needed to keep your plan in constant forward motion. 

Your reward will be a life full of the things you earned while working your plan. Pay particular attention to that previous sentence. Your reward will be the things you EARNED while WORKING your plan. 

You have an awesome plan but it will not work for you if you do not work for it. Work your plan and enjoy the life it helps you earn.