Success Can Only be Defined by You

Many years ago I was helping with a Dale Carnegie Course in Effective Speaking and Human Relations. Those classes are often made up of a very diverse group of people at varying stages of their lives and careers. They come from all walks of life and all income levels.

 

Even though I have not been in a Dale Carnegie class in many years I can vividly recall many of the participants. But one participant stands out above all others. He stands out because he caused me to redefine the meaning of success in my life. 

 

He was a senior level executive at one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies. He was a rarity. Some people were “sent” to a Dale Carnegie class by their organizations as a last ditch effort to “fix” them. But I’d never seen someone as his level required by their company to attend. 

 

This guy was one of the older people in the class and in every way I measured success at the time he was a huge success. Multiple houses, fast and fancy cars, a big title and a lofty position. He made tons of money. The guy pretty much looked and acted like the epitome of success.

 

As someone “required” to attend he didn’t have much to say in the first couple of weeks. He obviously didn’t want to be there but as is common in a Dale Carnegie course he was drawn out of his defensive posture in short order. 

 

As he began to open up during his presentations the tone and topics of his 2 minute talks (every Dale Carnegie Graduate is VERY familiar with 2 minute talks) changed dramatically. His focus moved from being all about himself to being about his family, especially one of his daughters. 

 

In his rush to succeed he had left his family behind and among his resentful family his adult daughter was most resentful of all. They rarely spoke. 

 

In week eight of that twelve week course he made a commitment to repair his relationship with his family and especially his daughter. At the final session the “graduates” are allowed to bring a guest along. This guy was so very proud to be accompanied by his daughter. 

 

As he delivered his final two-minute talk about what he got out of the course he said he learned a lot about himself and people in general. He said his relationships at work were much better and far more productive. 

 

But through his tears what he said he “got” from the class was his daughter back in his life. He said that for the first time in his life he felt like a success. He had a completely different outlook on what it meant to be a success. He said that for him success was no longer about what he had in his life but about who he had in his life. 

 

Dale Carnegie Instructors are supposed to help people change their lives, not the other way around. But lots of things changed for me that night, my definition of success was changed almost entirely. 

 

That was the last night I worked for any company. Since that night I’ve worked at a company but I’ve only worked for my family. By the way, I believe that makes me a much more effective asset for my employer, my customers and my colleagues. I get to go to work everyday and do something for the people who matter most in my life. There’s no better motivation than that.

 

That change in mindset has changed almost everything else too. I certainly could have had “more” but I couldn’t have had “better.” Some people would say I could have achieved more or made more or been more but those people are trying to apply their definition of success to me. 

 

My participant in that Dale Carnegie Course was 30 years into his career before he considered himself a success. Thanks to him I learned I could never succeed by chasing someone else’s definition of success. 

 

Neither can you!

 

Don’t allow anyone to tell you what success is “supposed” to look like in your life. If you can look at yourself in the mirror and smile back, if you are comfortable with your decisions and your actions, if you have even a handful of people in your life that matter to you and you matter to them, well then you are one of the most successful people ever to live. 


At least according to me.

It’s Not About You

Before you were a leader you were primarily responsible for your own success. Once you accepted the mantle of leadership you became responsible for the success of the people you lead as well. 

 

Sadly, too many people in leadership positions never make that transition. That’s one reason they never become Authentic Leaders. They remain in competition with their people for recognition and credit for a job well done. The burden of responsibility for the success of others is too much for them to bear. 

 

That burden however is willingly and sacrificially accepted by Authentic Leaders. They accept the responsibility of investing a part of themselves in another person’s success. They celebrate the success of their people even more than their own. 

 

They demonstrate that willingness by showing their people that they care about them. They see time helping their people as an investment and not an expense. They are available to their people to assist them and offer advice whenever and wherever it is needed. 

 

Authentic Leaders know that their success as a leader will be judged on the accomplishments of the people they lead. They know that their leadership is not about them, it is all about their people. 

 

An Authentic Leader’s focus must be on the people they lead. 70% to 80% of their time should be invested in people development. That development can take on many forms. But there should be very little human interaction where people development isn’t at least a secondary goal. 

 

The glory for an Authentic Leader comes not from their own success but from helping others achieve more than they dared dream was possible. True leaders build others leaders. They encourage, inspire and instigate success in their people. 


If you’re a leader who is measuring your success based only on your personal accomplishments then you are basing it on all the wrong things. Unless of course your accomplishments include a solid history of helping other people achieve their own level of greatness. 

 

 

 

Are You Prepared to Succeed?

In any endeavor preparation is a key to success. That’s not exactly a profound statement because everybody knows that. But knowing that isn’t the challenge. Doing it is.

 

Preparation is the difference between being proactive and reactive. It is the difference between a stress inducing task and an anxiety free accomplishment. Preparation saves time and energy. Preparing for your day allows you to anticipate potential problems and have at least a limited plan for dealing with them. 

 

Preparation is possibly the greatest confidence booster ever. When you invest some time in preparing, for a meeting, an interview, a sales call or a difficult conversation you speak more authoritatively. It appears as if you actually know what you’re doing and what you’re talking about. Imagine that. 

 

Most people who don’t prepare claim that they don’t have the time. Well if time is a concern for you then that’s the very reason you should be investing a bit of it in preparation. An hour of preparation will often shave two off the project or task.

 

Here’s one idea for you, it’s something I do every morning. 

 

If you were to look at my calendar you would see the same appointment every day, every single day. It’s from 5:00am to 5:30am. The appointment says “Planning and Solitude.” Every day!

 

It’s often the most important 30 minutes of my day. I invest those 30 minutes preparing to have a successful day. There are no interruptions and no distractions. It makes no difference what part of the world I’m in or what else may be happening. I and I alone control those 30 minutes. If that seems selfish then you should know that it is those 30 minutes that help me help others. 

 

Those 30 minutes chart my course for the day. Yes, unanticipated events may throw me off course temporarily but after I’ve dealt with those I have a course to get back on. Without preparation I wouldn’t. 


If all it takes is one disruption to send your day out of control then I highly recommend you steal 30 minutes for yourself early in the day. Use them to prepare yourself for success.

Excuses Steal Your Potential

I can’t think of even a single benefit of excuse making. People who make excuses make very little of anything else. Excuses, as much as anything, limit a person’s opportunity to reach their full potential.

 

Excuses are rationalizations we make to ourselves about people, events, and circumstances. They are invented reasons we create to defend our behavior, to postpone taking action or simply as a means of avoiding responsibility.

 

Excuses are a temporarily effective method of placing the blame for an internal problem on an external condition. I say temporarily because sooner or later the excuse maker realizes whatever excuse they made was really a lie they told themselves….and likely lots of other people. 

 

Fear is the biggest driver of habitual excuse making. Fear of failure, fear of change, fear of responsibility, fear of making mistakes, fear of looking foolish, and for some people, fear of success. 

 

Excuse making leads directly to a lack of growth. It leads to living in a very small comfort zone and it is a leading cause of a negative attitude in the excuse maker. People who hesitate to make decisions seldom delay in making an excuse. 

 

Nothing good comes from making excuses. 

 

If you want to stop making excuses then focus on what can go right rather than what may go wrong. Don’t compare your current situation with a past situation that had a negative outcome. 

 

Don’t focus on problems. Focus on solutions and opportunities to learn and improve. 

 

If you want to put a stop to your excuse making then surround yourself with as many positive people as possible. Share with them your goal of making fewer excuses and ask them for help. Ask them to remind you of your goal whenever they hear what sounds like an excuse coming from you. 

 

Finally, make the decision to control your attitude. Every day you have the opportunity to choose either a positive attitude or a negative one. It’s likely your most important choice of the day. 

 

Successful people don’t make excuses. They take responsibility for their decisions and actions and they learn from their mistakes. 


Always remember, if you’re making excuses you almost certainly are not making much of anything else. 

 

 

Actually, Winners Do Quit

I saw one of those motivational posters the other day that said “Winners Never Quit.” I’ve heard that for years. I‘ve seen similar posters forever. The premise of the posters seems to be that if you quit you’re a loser. 

 

Funny thing is, it’s not true. Winners actually quit all the time. 

 

In fact, I’d submit that the fastest way to lose is to never quit. Not quitting is one of the biggest mistakes that less successful consistently make. They may try news things but they never completely quit the old things that hold them back.

 

The most successful people know that much of their success in the coming year will come from what they quit doing. They know that in many cases they will need to quit something old in order to try something new.

 

If you don’t believe that then invest one day, just one day, to exam your actions.  After every time you do something stop for a few seconds and ask yourself if that “thing” you just did got you closer to a goal or not. Ask yourself if that “thing” you just did was productive or whether it was just something you have always done. Ask yourself exactly why you did it. 

 

If you’re like me, and most other people, you won’t be able to say with any level of specificity why you do many of the things you do. You’ll be able to explain the big things you do but likely not many of the little things that chew up most of the minutes in your day. 

 

Not being able to explain why you do what you do is what kills your productivity. Doing things simply because you have always done them destroys the discipline you need to reach your potential. 

 

I guarantee, no matter how successful you are, that there is something you frequently do that if you quit you would be more successful. There is likely something in your life that needs to change in order for you to be more successful. If that’s the case then you should know that nothing will change in your life until you quit doing something that you do everyday. 

 

Here’s an idea…quit reading motivational posters that say winners never quit. Start looking hard at all the things you do that pay zero dividends to you. Then win by quitting those things. When you quit unproductive activities you have to opportunity to start new more productive ones. 


You see, winners do quit but only so they can begin anew! 

There is No Requirement to Plan

So much has been written about planning. Trainers, speakers, coaches, motivational types, they all write and speak about the importance of planning. Especially this time of year. 

 

They will tell you that you must have a plan for 2019. They will use all the standard cliches about failing to plan is planning to fail…you’ve heard it all before. That’s ridiculous, nobody would intentionally plan to fail. 

 

The truth is that you don’t need to plan to fail, it kind of happens all by itself. There is no special effort required. If fact, the less effort the better. Giving a half-hearted effort with no plan only delays the inevitable failure. So just sit back and watch it happen….to you. 

 

Don’t let people bully you into making a plan that you have no intention of following. I can hardly think of a bigger waste of time. Step up and be honest about it. Let them know straight away that you have no intention of putting forth the effort required to implement any plan. 

 

Most people will leave you alone after that. They leave you alone because their plan does not include helping others. Well, truth be told it’s far more likely that they don’t have a plan either. 

 

It’s actually a rather small number of people who have a real plan. Now by “real plan” I mean something written out. It includes an honest assessment of their current situation and a realistic look at their desired outcome. 

 

Within their real plan are short range, medium, and long range goals. Their plan has a budget within it. It’s a two part budget, one part details the money they are will to invest to achieve their desired outcome but more importantly it details the time they are willing to invest in order to succeed. 

 

The best plans also include things they will STOP doing so they have the time to invest in more productive activities. Of course it’s not a real plan if it doesn’t include implementation steps, start dates and completion dates. The plan does NOT include words like tomorrow or someday because people who make real plans know those “dates” can’t be found on a calendar. 

 

You can spot people with real plans because they are typically the people who people without plans complain about. People without plans are jealous of people with plans because they tend to have more of the stuff that the people without plans want. 

 

If that’s confusing to you don’t worry about it, I’ve been confused by it for years. 

 

It’s never too late to develop a real plan. If you’re one of those people who are tempted to once and for all develop a real plan for success in 2019 I have a warning for you. Once you invest the time to develop a REAL plan for 2019 it will continuously pull at your “lazy strings” until they are completely unraveled. 

 

Before you know it all the comfortable excuses you used in the past to explain away your “bad luck” or “unfortunate circumstances” will be forgotten. You won’t accept circumstances created by someone else, you’ll make your own. 

 

You will find yourself accomplishing more than you thought possible. You’ll use your old excuses as fuel to motivate you. You won’t stop until you’ve achieved the goals you built into your real plan. 

 

 Or…you could just do what you’ve always done. There is absolutely no requirement that you have a plan for success. You can just wander through life the way some people do. Like pretty much everything in life it’s a choice. 


YOUR choice!


What Are You Working On?

“If you believe in what you are doing, then let nothing hold you up in your work. Much of the best work of the world has been done against seeming impossibilities. The thing is to get the work done.” Dale Carnegie

 

When you think of self-help authors in the last 100 years, Dale Carnegie’s name will come to most people’s minds. His influence went beyond those who read his books, and is still being felt today – over sixty years after his death.

   

This particular quote from him speaks to the importance of pushing forward when the odds against your success seem insurmountable.

 

The key part of the quote is the beginning…. “If you believe in what you are doing.” For most people pushing past obstacles is only possible when they are certain what they do matters. When you believe what you’re doing is important and makes a difference you will find a way to get the work done.

 

I think most people, well hopefully not most but too many for sure, never stop long enough to ask themselves if what they are doing is important. They never stop long enough to consider if and how their work matters. They don’t wonder if they stopped doing what they are doing if they and their work would be missed by anyone.

 

Sadly, the quality of their work and their level of success is reflected in their lack of interest in doing something exceptionally well or in doing something that makes a difference in the world.

 

I completely understand that circumstances very often dictate what a person does for a living. I get that many times people simply take a job for the money because they have families to support and bills to pay. In my younger days I too had jobs where I was more interested in putting in my time than in putting in real effort. 

 

But your job or career is not your entire life. If you’re in a place where you can’t make a difference for your organization that doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference in the world. Find someplace outside of your job or career where you can do something that matters to you….and others. Something that you can believe in. Something that will leave a part of you behind when you’re gone. 

 

Here are some questions to consider as you look for that meaningful work. Hopefully you will find it right where you are. 

  • Do I believe in my work?
  • If not, what work can I believe in?
  • What work is most important for me to do today?
  • What, or who, distracts me or keeps me from doing the work that is most important to me and my future?
  • What unimportant things should I stop doing in order to invest my time on the important things that can make a difference?

When you have concrete answers to those questions take these action steps to get and keep yourself moving forward.

  • Remind yourself of the importance of your work as you begin each day, and at any time you feel distracted or feel like stopping.
  • Recognize the power of momentum, and get going.
  • Read this quote from Dale Carnegie often to help you stay focused on your key goals and to keep you focused on doing the work required.

Don’t waste time lamenting that your “day job” is less fulfilling than you would like. There are enough hours remaining in the day to “work” on something that does matter to you. 

 

Know what you want to achieve, realize it can happen IF you’re willing to work for it and then get started.  You’ll never finish what you never begin. Why not begin today?