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. 

How You Doin’?

We’re a little bit past the middle of the year and some of you have already decided whether this is going to be a good year or not so good. For those of you who have struggled thus far let me remind you we’re a little bit past the half-way point. You have plenty of time to turn things around. For those of you who have done well so far let me remind you too, we have a whole lot of this year left. If your year has been good so far then there is no reason it needs to stay that way…you can change it into a great year.

The key to moving from not so good to good is the same as moving from good to great. You must know where you are today in order to know what you need to do to be someplace else tomorrow. 

Many people reading this have not yet invested any time this year to determine exactly where they are and how they got there. Now is the perfect time for some self-reflection. 

What have you been doing that is not working for you? What haven’t you been doing that you should be doing? When was the last time you sat quietly and reviewed your goals for the year and your goals for life? Are you spending time with people who feed you negativity or investing time with people who build you up?

NOW is the perfect time to ask yourself those questions. The opportunity to change direction remains yours to seize. The decision to speed up your progress is yours to make. 

Wherever you are at this point in time it’s vital that you understand that you put yourself there. Your decisions, choices and actions have consequences or benefits. If you’re blaming others or blaming your circumstances then you’ve lost control of your year…maybe even your life. 

The most successful people don’t blame their circumstances. They create circumstances that give them the best chance to succeed. They create those circumstances with thoughtful decisions, good choices and taking appropriate action to follow through on both. 

Self-reflection requires that you be honest with yourself. Sometimes brutally honest. It also requires an understanding that you are the master and creator of your future…if you choose to be. 

Invest some time today to take a mid-year assessment of your current situation and your desired situation. Adjust what you must and be fearless in jettisoning the things, actions and maybe people, who add no value to your life. 

You still have time to make this year exactly what you want it to be. Perhaps even better than you could have imagined. Just remember, if it’s to be it’s up to you to make it so.

Model the Behavior You Desire

A whole bunch of years ago I was invited to speak at a conference for retailers of outdoor power equipment. I had work in some adjacent industries for years but I hadn’t worked with this specific group before so I didn’t know them well.

I was mingling a bit with them at one of the evening functions and happened into a small group of dealers. One of them seemed to be doing the majority of the talking. He was telling his peers about a new video camera system he had installed in his dealership. He had enough cameras that he could see every inch of his business with them. 

What made it really unique at the time was he could see the videos from his home over something called the internet. (I did say it was a WHOLE BUNCH of years ago.) He was kind of bragging that none of his employees could do anything without him knowing about it. Then he turned to me and asked what I thought of that. 

Well I couldn’t exactly tell him my first thought. That’s because my first thought was I was really glad I didn’t work for this guy. So I shared my second thought. I said it was actually only fair that he should be watching his people that closely. 

He asked why that was “fair” and I told him it was fair because they are watching him that closely too. I said that they watched every move he made. They weighed it against every word he said. They try to determine if what was done matched what was said. I said they were watching him to determine if they can trust him. They are watching to see if you’re the kind of leader worth following. 

I added that they are watching that closely because every leader leads by example whether they intend to or not. 

That’s as true for you as it was for that business owner. Your people watch every move you make and listen to every word you say. If those two things aren’t in sync they merely toss aside what was said and follow your actions. They do want you do about 100 times faster than they do what you say. 

Whatever you want your people to be you need to be first. However you want your people to think, you need to think first. However you want them to behave you need to behave. If you want them to have a positive attitude then you must have a positive attitude first. If you expect them to care for customers then you need to care for them first. 

As a leader you are your people’s model for the behavior they will exhibit. If you’re modeling successful behavior then you can expect the same from them. If you’re modeling behavior that will lead to something other than success then don’t be surprised when they do the same. 

What you model for your people you get from your people. If you want some changes from your people it’s more than likely those changes will have to start with you.

Don’t Start Unless You Have a Plan to Finish

Starting a new project or task is easy…at least when compared to finishing it. I think the vast majority of people start a project or task with the full intention of finishing it. The problem is that the road to failure is paved with those full intentions. 

You don’t need any intention of finishing what you start if you have a plan to finish it before you start.

Step one in that plan should be a decision. The decision that no matter what, the project or task will be completed. If you’ve begun looking for excuses to delay the completion of something you started do not allow yourself to start anything else until what you’re working on is complete. The longer your list of things “in process” the harder it will be to complete any of them. 

Don’t be afraid of saying NO when someone asks you to start something new. Don’t be worried about saying NO to someone who asks for your help if you already have 12 balls in the air you’re trying to juggle. 

Remember, “NO” is a complete sentence. No explanation should be required.

The plan should include what actions you will take each day to move closer to the completion of your task. Even a huge task can be divided up into doable daily tasks. If you can only afford 15-30 minutes a day towards a task you are still making progress and building momentum towards completion. 

Be sure to block that time in your calendar and neither take or make any excuses for using that time for something else. 

Be sure your first 15-30 minute block of time begins immediately. Not tomorrow, not next week, begin immediately. If you’re not sure what I mean by immediately I mean begin in the second after you have made your plan. 

Add a completion date to your plan. You need to be realistic here. You can’t allow yourself 53 years to complete a task that should take a couple of weeks of focused effort. Put a “drop dead” date on your calendar and complete the task by that date. If you don’t then that task is likely as dead as your chances of success. 

Share your plan and progress with a mentor or an accountability partner. Nothing is more helpful in completing a difficult assignment or task as having someone hold you accountable for the commitment you’ve made to get it done. 

You must know that you have the ability to finish what you start. You can create within you the discipline required to do it. You can have tremendous success in all areas of your life as a result. 

The one question that only you can answer is….will you?

Leaving Life to Chance

Most people would describe themselves as relatively cautious. They say that they are willing to take some risks but there must be something in return. They say any risks that they do take are considered in advance. Most people are “careful,” or so they say. 

But watch them a while and ask a few, and I mean very few, questions and you’ll discover that they are in fact huge risk takers. They make huge gambles all the time. Taking chances that no truly prudent person would ever consider. 

So how would you describe yourself? Are you a person who makes well considered decisions or are you a Willy Nilly type who mostly throws caution to the wind and takes life as it comes. Asked another way…do you control your life or does your life control you?

You are free to disagree with this but I would submit to you that if you do not have written goals for your life along with a fairly detailed plan for how you will achieve those goals then you DO NOT have control over your life. 

If you’re thinking to yourself that you do have goals but they aren’t written down then you may be kidding yourself. You likely have dreams, aspirations, wants, and hopes but you DO NOT have true goals and the control over your life that comes with them. 

Write down those dreams. Write out a detailed plan that includes how much effort you’re willing to invest to make those dreams come true. Write down the date that effort will begin. Write down how many minutes or hours a day you will invest in turning that dream into an actual goal. Write down the month, day, and year you will achieve that goal. 

If you won’t invest the time to even write down the dream then other people and other events are controlling your life. If you don’t have a plan that turns your dream into a goal those other people and the events that they control will frustrate you even more than you realize.

Don’t leave your life to chance. Stop gambling that the life you want will happen as a result of other people’s plan for their lives. Stop hoping that “everything” will somehow magically turn out fine. Write out your goals and invest the time to plan them into reality. You’ll wake up every morning knowing without a doubt that you are the master of your universe. 

Without goals and plans you might as well be buying lottery tickets. Your chances of controlling those ping pong balls are about as good as your chances of controlling your life. 

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. 

Um…You do Know it’s a Video Call, Right?

I’ve been told that one of the advantages of working from home is that you can dress as you please. Working from home has apparently done wonders for the sweatpants business. From my experience it would seem that the shift to working from home has had the opposite effect on any company selling razor blades. 

I’ve also noticed of late that t-shirts are becoming more common. I didn’t pay much attention to that until people starting using their t-shirts to clean around the house and then put them back on for the Zoom call. 

From what I’ve seen the hair care business would be another bad business to invest in. There is far less need for good grooming and hygiene on a Teams Call cause well after all, it’s not like “they” can smell you. 

But they most certainly can see you on a Video call…I’m pretty sure that’s why they call it Video. If it’s a work call then your appearance matters. (Actually it kinda matters all the time but more so in a professional setting)

Right or wrong people form opinions of you based at least partially on your appearance. When your face is the last to pop up on the screen as the meeting is beginning and you’re wearing a t-shirt with holes in it, with grease spots, and you didn’t take the time to even run a comb through your hair then you should know that you are severely damaging your credibility. 

That might not be fair, it might not be right but it is absolutely true. Your colleagues are likely talking about you behind your back…and not in a good way. Worse, your organization’s leadership team are forming long lasting opinions of you. They will last well after you’re back to being in the office and looking all spiffed up. 

Each day dress exactly as if you were going into the office, because you virtually are going into the office, even if you have no calls on your calendar. You will feel more confident, the quality of your work will be higher and perhaps the quantity too. 

If dressing for work even when you’re working from home seems pointless to you then you’re missing the point. The point of dressing professionally even when working in the room down the hall is to maintain your credibility and the respect of the people you interact with. 

Don’t give people anything to talk about other than your excellent work. If they are talking how poorly you look on those calls they won’t be talking about what you said, no matter how insightful you may have been.

That’s today’s reality. Don’t try to fool yourself into thinking your appearance doesn’t matter cause they can only see you on a screen. They can see you…and what they see matters.