The Lottery of Life

I don’t often buy lottery tickets. I do when there is a jackpot over $500 million or so but why bother with those pesky $200 or $300 million ones. 

 

I think lots of people are just like me. Lottery officials seem to confirm that. The higher the jackpot the longer the lines to buy tickets and the faster the jackpot grows. 

 

There are a lot of people who play the lottery of life the same way. They ask for a little help but what they mean is “do it for me.” They will actually refuse “some” help because they want enough “help” so that they don’t have to do a thing on their own to succeed. 

 

The people who truly win the lottery of life are the ones who have developed the discipline and work ethic to succeed on their own. Except they know they never really do it on their own. They work their butts off and accept whatever help they can get along the way and use it to boost their own efforts, not replace them.

 

There are certainly people who seem to “luck” their way to success. There are people who have the appearance of success handed to them. There are also a whole lot of people hoping for success to somehow magically appear.

 

But the surest way to find success is to look for it in the hard work and effort you put forth to earn it. 

 

The legendary baseball player Babe Ruth once said, “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.” Are you that person? Do you suffer the setbacks that life offers and bounce back to try again? Are you working for success or hoping for success?

 

I don’t want anyone to stop hoping for something better but hope alone doesn’t accomplish much. Never allow hope to stop you from making a concerted effort to earn the success you’re hoping for. 


If you’re willing to work for it then I’m willing to bet you’ll find it. You’ll find it or you’ll make it but either way you’ll have won the biggest lottery of all. You’ll have won the lottery of life! 

Last Second Sam

There are people who claim to believe that procrastination helps them be more successful. To them I would say that once you become comfortable misleading yourself you can, and most likely will, mislead anyone. 

 

Procrastination will kill your opportunity for success. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow but eventually it most definitely will. That much is certain!

 

People who believe procrastination helps them because they think better under pressure are not being honest with themselves. People who believe they are more productive when working under stress are fooling themselves. 

 

Approaching deadlines do not make people smarter, calmer, more productive or more logical. They make everything more challenging.

 

The real reason many people procrastinate is that they see low value in the task. It’s either not fun enough or they see no reward for doing it. Some people procrastinate because they do not have confidence in their ability to complete the task. Fear of failure is a driving force behind many a procrastinator’s behavior. 

 

For some people procrastination is part of their personality. They are just more impulsive than other people. These are the people I call last second Sam or last second Sally depending on…well you know what it depends on.

 

One of the most effective tools for overcoming the tendency to procrastinate is a Prioritized Daily Task List. A prioritized task list is a to-do list on steroids. You list all the things you need to accomplish on a given day but you list them in order of importance. You DO NOT do the second most important thing until the most important thing is accomplished. 

 

Don’t worry about working on one thing all day if it’s truly the most important or most productive thing you could do that day. You’ll still be better offer than if you spent the day doing a bunch of unimportant or unproductive things. 

 

Many procrastinators put off doing things that are quick and easy to do. They don’t see a lot of fun or reward in doing them so they just put it off. Answering an email is a good example. A quick answer might take only a minute but they still open and read the email several times before answering it. 

 

So here’s a good rule of thumb to help stop at least some procrastinating. If a task takes a minute or less to do then do it immediately. No delay, no hesitation, and NO PROCRASTINATING! You will be amazed at how many things you do in a day can be completed in under a minute. 

 

Don’t kid yourself into thinking being a last second Sam or Sally has one ounce of benefit. You will not find even one very successful person who will tell you their success is due to putting off until tomorrow what should have been done today. 


And you’re highly unlikely to be the first.


Attitude and Effort

Many years ago I received some exceptional advice from a mentor that has stayed with me to this day. He told me to stop trying to control things I couldn’t control. His recommendation was that I focus 100% of my attention on the things within my control. He also said to “block out” the uncontrollable things from my field of view because they were nothing more than distractions. 

 

Through the years as I’ve considered his advice I’ve discovered there are far fewer controllable parts of my life than there are uncontrollable. I can influence what other people think of me but I can’t control their thoughts. I can try to influence their actions but people will eventually do whatever they think is best for them. The list of stuff I can’t control could go on forever. 

 

But that’s okay because through the years I’ve also discovered that I can control, completely, two areas of my life which have the greatest impact on my success and happiness. 

 

Those areas are attitude and effort. 

 

In his timeless book “Man’s Search for Meaning” Viktor Frankl describes the “last of the human freedoms.” He says that last freedom, a freedom that can be taken from no one, is the choice of one’s own attitude. Every human on earth is free, regardless of their circumstances, to choose their own attitude. No one and nothing can take that freedom away from you. 

 

Before you say “well Viktor Frankl never worked where I work. He never experienced how tough my life is. He just doesn’t know,” before you say any of that you should know that Viktor Frankl is a surviver of Nazi Concentration Camps. He knows.

 

He would tell you that his choice of a positive attitude was literally life saving. 

 

I can only imagine, actually I can’t even imagine, how tough a fight it must have been each day for him to choose a positive attitude. But he fought the fight and won. 

 

The choice of a positive attitude is a big fight for me even in my relatively cushy world. I lose that fight too often but this much I’m certain of: every single part of my life is better on the days I win that fight. 

 

The question for you is will you consciously engage in that fight or will you allow other people and things to make the choice of your attitude for you? 

 

When it comes to making an effort I realized early on that there was a direct correlation between the level of effort I put into something and the results I received from that effort. When I really want something I remember the words of the immortal Yoda who said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” 

 

You alone control the level of effort you’re willing to put into any endeavor. You can allow obstacles to stop you or you can learn from them and use them as launching pads to your next level of success. You can make excuses or you can make progress. It’s hard to do both. 

 

As Babe Ruth said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” If you allow yourself to be beaten you can be assured there is someone close by willing to put in the effort to do just that…beat you. 


If you adopt Yoda’s thinking then you won’t try to succeed you’ll do it. 

The Challenge of Low Accountability

I don’t like to place blame. I’m not a big fan of finding fault. I am however a huge fan of assigning responsibility and holding people accountable for their actions and decisions.

 

For those of you who believe there is no difference between placing blame and assigning responsibility let me share with you what the difference actually is. 

 

Assigning responsibility and accountability has to do with being answerable. It means your actions and their results will be measured objectively. Most people are willing to accept responsibility when they realize it comes with the opportunity to improve.  

 

To place blame is not only to be held responsible but to find fault. Blame assumes there will be a penalty, whether implicit or tacit. When someone in a leadership role assigns blame their actions usually stop there. The “blamed” individual awaits the punishment they are certain is coming their way. 

 

Authentic Leaders will hold their people accountable for outcomes without automatically placing blame. Accountability helps people grow. Whether they like it or not accountability motivates people to improve. Accountability actually leads to empowerment. Once an Authentic Leader holds someone accountable they follow up with coaching and offers of help. I can think of no downside to accountability. 

 

Placing blame on the other hand is one of the most demotivating actions a leader can take. Blame leads to disempowerment. It causes shame and a feeling of defeat. It is demoralizing. Blaming someone slows their development. There is no upside to blaming someone.

 

When something goes wrong in your organization do you think of terms of holding people accountable or do you look for someone to blame? It’s an important question because accountability will help your people grow while blame will stymie their development. 

 

This is somewhat a generalization but when the level of blame within an organization is high the level of accountability is usually low. 

 

Low accountability in an organization leads to a high level of chaos. Low accountability leads to low profitability and higher turnover. Low accountability leads to disengaged employees uninterested in improvement. Low accountability eventually leads to no need for accountability because there is nothing left to be accountable for. There is not an organization in existence today that can afford low accountability.


If you’re dealing with the same problems and mistakes again and again maybe the blame isn’t with your people. Maybe it’s with how you’re leading them…or not leading them. Is it time to hold yourself accountable?


Are You Efficient or Effective?

Almost everyone can be efficient under normal circumstances. That’s good since in order to survive in today’s competitive business environment you must be efficient. 

 

The thing is I don’t think merely surviving is a worthy goal. I do think however that succeeding is. 

 

If you’re going to succeed in business or any other endeavor efficiency alone will not do. You must also be effective. 

 

The difference between effectiveness and efficiency can be summed up like this: Being effective is about doing the right things, while being efficient is about doing things right.

 

One of the biggest wastes of time and money any person or organization can undertake is to be efficient at doing something that doesn’t need to be done. 

 

I would much rather have people working for me who are only partially effective at doing things that need to be done than to be 100% efficient at doing things that add little or no value to the organization. 

 

Spreadsheets are an example of being efficient without being effective. Some of the least effective people I know are highly efficient at creating beautiful spreadsheets with what appears to be a wealth of information. 

 

But upon closer review you see there is no real useable information contained in the spreadsheet. No data, no statistics, and no percentages. They could have just as easily created a word document but people seem to fall for information contained in little cells with lots of color. 

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of spreadsheets when properly used. A colleague of mine is currently creating a spreadsheet loaded with actionable information laid out in an understandable format. That is a highly effective use of the tools available when using a spreadsheet. 

 

I use spreadsheets as an example because too many ineffective people are using them to hide their ineffectiveness. Efficient leaders may fall for that but effective leaders will not. 

 

So, are you efficient or effective? Ask yourself that question frequently. Ask yourself if what you’re doing at any given moment needs to be done. What might the consequences be if it weren’t done? Would anyone notice? 

 

Then ask yourself what you could be doing if you weren’t doing that. Would what you could be doing be more valuable to you or your organization. And by the way, you MUST be honest with yourself or don’t bother asking the questions at all. Lying to yourself is neither effective or efficient. 

 

I think if you’re honest with yourself you’ll discover that many of the things you do efficiently are things you like to do. It’s likely you’ll also discover that many of the things you don’t like to do, or are unsure of how to do, are things that would make you far more effective. 

 

That’s why it’s relatively easy to be efficient and a serious challenge to be effective.


The most successful people opt for effectiveness over efficiency. Which one do you prefer?


Is Micro-Managing Killing Your Business?

So let‘s get this part out of the way early. If you’re a leader who micro-manages your people then you may be in a leadership position but you’re likely not doing much leading.   

 

Leaders who insist on micro-managing have some problems. The first problem is that they are trying to manage people. That doesn’t work. “Stuff” gets managed, people need to be led. I’ve written frequently about the difference between leading and managing so feel free to look back a few posts to see what I mean. 

 

The second problem micro-mangers have is that they believe they must check on every detail. That’s most likely the result of being an insecure leader. Micro-managers tend to base their leadership on a lack of faith and trust in other people. 

 

That’s a huge morale killer. 

 

It leads to little or no growth. It discourages the development of their people. It focuses on problems of detail, many of which are inconsequential. It discourages teamwork. If they micro-manage often enough or long enough and they will kill their business. It might be a long slow death but it’s death all the same.

 

Micro-managers take positive attributes – an attention to detail and a hands-on attitude – to the extreme. Either because they are control-obsessed, or because they feel driven to push everyone around them to success. But they risk disempowering their people. They ruin their confidence. They degrade their performance, and frustrate them to the point where they may quit…or worse, they stay and just disengage.

 

Micro-managers limit each individual’s ability to develop and grow. They also limit what their entire team can achieve, because everything has to go through them.

 

They don’t trust their people or their judgment. They are unwilling to allow them to assume any responsibility. What micro-managers fail to realize is that they are cheating their organizations out of the talent they are paying for.

 

Micro-managing may work for a while but in time it acts like an anchor on all progress. Innovation, new products, and new markets are discouraged because the talent to create and move forward has been derailed by the micro-manager.

 

The inability of micro-managers to “let go” and allow other people make some decisions, even risk failure, ensures that the growth of the organization will be severely limited. It may take years for those limitations to show up but they will eventually show up. When enough people disengage the business dies, slowly perhaps, but it does eventually die.

 

Micro-managing is not about the weakness of the team, it’s about the weakness of the leader.


If you’re a leader that suffers this weakness then you must exercise your leadership skills through effective delegation. Delegation is the single greatest tool for building future leaders. It’s also a great tool to help micro-managers break free from the limitations that come from attempting to do it all themselves.

The Best School in the World

Almost every successful person in the world attended this school. I should probably remove that “almost” qualifier and say every successful person. It is a tough school with lessons so difficult they often seem insurmountable. Some people, the less successful types, don’t even have the courage to walk through the virtual doors of this school. 

 

It’s the school known as “The School of Hard Knocks.” Some people call it the school of life.

 

For those of you unfamiliar with this school it isn’t found in a building. It’s not located in any particular place. The school never closes, not even when you want it to. When you’re trying something new or working your butt off to succeed you can find yourself in this “school” with no notice. All of the sudden it just happens!

 

The “classes” taught there can be very challenging but once learned they tend to stay with you forever. They are frequently life changing. They are most often self-taught. The “tests” associated with these classes can leave scars that last a long time. Some of the scars can be seen but many of them are only felt. But the feeling can be incredibly painful. 

 

These lessons cannot be bought, they must be earned. As difficult as they can be I’d encourage anyone to attend “The School of Hard Knocks” because some of life’s best lessons are taught there. It seems as if that Hard Knocks place is the one that shows you how to use all those fancy degrees and formal education you received from the other schools.


Don’t shy away from life’s tough lessons. The stuff you learn in a school with four walls can help you make a living but the stuff you learn outside those walls can help you make a life.