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?

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?

Better Voices

Most people won’t actually admit to hearing voices in their head. They think if people find out they will be sent immediately to see a psychiatrist…or worse. People think that way because one of the voices in their head tells them to think that way.

Everybody hears voices in their head. Sometimes it’s the voice of fear. Sometimes it’s the voice of reason. Sometimes it’s the voice of self-doubt. Sometimes it’s the voice of belief and confidence.

Some of the voices are stronger than others. For too many people the voices they hear most often are the voices of fear and self-doubt. For successful people the voices they hear most often are the voices of self-belief and confidence.

What someone hears in their head will determine their level of success. Do you allow the loudmouthed fear to overrule your voice of reason? Do you allow the voice of self-doubt to out shout your voice of confidence.

There are people in your life that you know better than to pay attention to. There are people in your life who you trust and listen to. You seek out their advice while ignoring the nattering naysayers of negativity.

Those voices of fear and self-doubt are nothing more than nattering naysayers of negativity. They are to be ignored just like the people you know better than to allow into your life.

Successful people have the voices of fear and self-doubt in their heads like everyone else. But they drown them out with their “better voices” of confidence, self-belief, and reason. When fear and doubt start their yapping successful people cut them off immediately with self-affirmation and confidence.

I think the key is paying attention to that voice in your head. It’s always there and if you aren’t careful it can influence your actions whether you realize it or not. So pay attention to those voices, when you realize it’s an unhealthy voice then either out shout it or overpower it with something better.

You have to admit to the voices before you can take control over them….but maybe you don’t have to admit them to other people. 🙂

One Small Step

Sometimes success begins by taking a mighty leap of faith. Sometimes, but not very often. Most often, success begins with one small step.

As small a step as it often is, many people just can’t make themselves take it. They might see success somewhere on the path they want to take but it appears to be a long way off. Between where they are standing and the success they seek are obstacles called risk, failure, effort, problems, lack of financing and other various unknowns.

Those obstacles cause many people to wait. To wait for the obstacles to magically disappear. To wait for someone or something to remove the obstacles for them. These people have a desire for success but their desire is small when compared to what they have told themselves are huge obstacles.

But here’s a funny thing about obstacles on the path to success…the closer you get to them the smaller they turn out to be.

But sadly, many people will not get to experience that because they never take that one small step that starts them down the path to success.

The journey of your success will always begin with the small step of taking a risk. Whether in business, in personal relationships, or in life, all success most often starts with that small step made with a hefty desire to be more. To be better. To make a difference. To leave behind a legacy that’s not soon forgotten.

Despite what you may have heard or hoped, success in NOT available to everyone who wants it. It is only available to those who are willing to work to achieve it. That work includes overcoming any and all obstacles. That work includes maintaining a “can do” attitude, even when you’re surrounded by a pack of “can’t do” people. That work includes making an effort every day, not only on the days you feel like it.

That work includes taking one small step on the path towards success. Sometimes that’s the hardest work of all. The question isn’t whether you want success, the real question is whether you’ll work hard enough to achieve it.

Well, will you?

The Power of Attitude

When I was a young salesperson (yes, it was long ago) I made a cold call with my Sales Manager on a potential customer. The purpose of that call was to drop off some literature and get the name of the individual who made training decisions for the organization.

There were two pieces of literature I wanted to leave behind. As I reached into my folder to pull out the second one I saw the receptionist tossing my first piece into the waste basket. As I handed her the second piece I asked her what she just did with the first piece. She said “I speeded up the process.”

I said I didn’t understand. She then explained that if she gave the information to her boss he would just throw it away…so she was speeding up the process. I made some comment about her unprofessional behavior (which I shouldn’t have) and we left the building.

When we got back into the car I made a negative comment to my Sales Manager about the women who had thrown away our literature right in front of us. His reply surprised me.

He said “what woman?” “I don’t remember any woman, we have lots of calls to make, let’s keep going.”

Without saying anything else his point was made. He had made a choice, he wasn’t going to let anyone rob him of one his most precious assets, a positive attitude. He truly seemed to have put the whole thing out of his mind before we left the parking lot. He is likely to read this post and he won’t remember this at all but it’s just one of the many things Mark taught me. I on the other hand remember it very well and it happened almost 30 years ago.

And that’s one of the challenges I have long faced in my career, I allow too many things to have a negative impact on my attitude. And I hang onto them for too long. That’s bad but what’s worse is when I pass that attitude along to others.

There will always be “stuff” that gets us down. There will always be “things” that can negatively impact our attitude. But, and this but can make all the difference if you remember it…but it can only have a negative impact on our attitude if we allow it.

And that’s a choice.

On the days I remember that my attitude is my choice I always choose a positive attitude. On the days that I don’t remember to make the choice of a positive attitude other people and those “things” make the choice for me. It’s never the choice I would make.

I am willing to bet that many of you face that same struggle with the choice of a positive attitude. So here’s what I’m going to do…from this day forward there will be a reminder on my iPhone, it will be at 6:00am EVERY morning. That reminder will be one word…that word will be Choose. That will be my reminder to make my choice of a positive attitude.

I’d encourage you to do the same. The power of a positive attitude is so great that we can’t allow other people and “things” to choose a negative attitude for us.

When you control your attitude you control your life. If you don’t control your attitude then your life is out of control. That’s a fact we need to keep in mind if we want to be the ones to control our lives.

The Decision to Try

All self-made successful people have one thing in common. They made the decision to try. I hesitate to say “self-made” since I’m not sure I’ve ever met a truly successful person who wasn’t aware that they had lots of help on their journey to success.

But whether they realize they received some help along the way or not that doesn’t change the fact that their success began with a decision to try.

One of the factors that prevent many people from trying is they wait until the timing is right to begin. Some of them wait until the timing is perfect. Those folks are likely still waiting.

People who try know that the best time to begin is now. People who try know that the best place to start is from wherever they are. People who try are willing to fail…bigly, if that is what it takes to eventually succeed. People who try have a 100% greater chance at success than those who don’t.

It is just my opinion but it’s much better to try and risk failure than it is to never try at all. I’d be willing to bet a sizable amount that people who try have far fewer regrets than people who don’t….whether they succeed or not.

I know for certain that people who try will never be failures even if they never achieve the full measure of success they sought. I’m not at all sure that can be said for those who are not willing to even try.

If you’re willing to try then craft a plan that gives you the best chance to succeed. Then put the plan into action assuming it will succeed. When it doesn’t then craft another, better plan and put that one into action with the absolute certainty that this time it will work. When it doesn’t then craft another, even better plan and launch yourself into it head first with complete confidence that you cannot fail.

If you’re wondering how many times you should do that don’t. Just keep doing it until your final best plan actually works.

As long as you keep trying you cannot fail. When you finally achieve your full measure of success remember that your success wasn’t due to the final best plan, it wasn’t even due to all the better plans along the way. Your success was ultimately due to your decision to try in the first place.

So….what are you going to try today?