Small Steps to Success

One of the primary reasons more people don’t succeed is that they try too hard. Well, not really too hard, they actually try to succeed too fast. The desire for quick success causes the passion for success to flame out even quicker. 

We hear about so many overnight successes that we all want to be one. What we don’t hear is how many nights of hard work, perseverance, and dedication it took before that big night arrived. Oftentimes it’s many years of nights. 

I don’t think I’ve met anyone who wasn’t willing to work hard for success. I have however met many people who were not willing to work very long for success. By very long I mean more than a day or two. Yes, literally a day or two. I’ll bet someone has statistics on how many people join a fitness club and only go one time. The last numbers I saw it was something like 70% of the people make it to the club less than three times total. The good news for the clubs is that the direct payments from bank accounts for the memberships continue on much longer. 

Dieting is another great example. Millions of people are on a diet this very day. More than half of them will quit by tomorrow. No worries though because millions more will begin again the next day. Dieting is a huge business because most people on a diet don’t actually make the effort required to succeed. They want to buy weight loss. What they can’t buy is the opportunity to actually lose weight. 

Succeeding at anything takes effort. Often very little effort. Yes, you read that right, very little effort.

Here’s what I mean by that.

In 1981 Jan Carlzon was appointed CEO of Scandinavian Airlines System. The company was facing huge challenges and had just lost $17 million dollars. They were one of the lowest rated airlines in Europe. 

By 1982 they were one of the highest rated airlines in the world and made a profit of $82 million dollars. In 1983 they were named Airline of the Year by an industry trade association. 

People wanted to know how Mr. Carlzon accomplished this amazing turn around. Clearly he had made huge changes within the company. But Jan Carlzon surprised people by telling them he didn’t make any big changes. Instead of trying to find one or two things were he could make a big change he looked for 100’s of areas where he, and his people, could make small changes. No one in the organization felt as if they were being asked to make sweeping changes that required Super Hero efforts. They only had to make a small change. 

There is a Chinese Proverb that says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So it is with all success. 

If you want to be more fit don’t try to do 1000 sit ups. Do one more today than you did yesterday. If you want to lose 20 pounds don’t try to lose 20 pounds. Lose 1 pound 20 times. Even if it takes 20 weeks or 40 weeks eventually you’ll wake up one morning and get on the scale discovering that “overnight” you lost your 20 pounds. 

Success doesn’t require super human effort, it requires consistent human effort. Few people would describe their journey to success as one that includes leaps and bounds. Most would describe a journey of trips and stumbles. Most would say their success was built on lots of little things done over a substantial period of time. 

Successful people make progress and they know that even a tiny bit of progress each day will eventually get them where they want to be. Do you know that too?

On a another subject…I’m trying something new on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than the million or so people who regularly follow me on Twitter. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can perhaps help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and how I can be of even more help.

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?

Where to Find Success

I wrote a post a few years back that I titled “The True Secret to Success” or something close to that. It got lots of views but I suspect many people didn’t read to the end. They quickly discovered that there really is no secret to success. 

 

For as long as there have been people, people have searched for that “secret” to success. They look for shortcuts and the easy way. The reality is that if they put as much effort into working for success as they did trying to “luck” into it they would have had success long ago. 

 

The only place to find success is in hard work and honest effort. Anyone who tells you that you can succeed without thinking, without planning and without working will also try to sell you ocean front property in Montana. (They might also ask for your vote but that’s another story) 

     

If you’re thinking you don’t have what it takes to succeed then think again. If you have enough desire and discipline you can be or do almost anything you want.

     

Actual research now shows that the lack of natural talent is irrelevant to great success. Even when you are talking about people like Tiger Woods and Warren Buffett natural talent takes a back seat to hard work and practice. Not just any hard work and practice but painful and demanding practice and hard work. Hard work again and again. Practice and more practice, over and over again. 

 

Yes, talent helps but hard work always beats talent when the talented person doesn’t work. 

     

We need to understand that talent doesn’t mean intelligence, motivation or personality traits. It’s an innate ability to do some specific activity especially well. British-based researchers Michael J. Howe, Jane W. Davidson and John A. Sluboda conclude in an extensive study, “The evidence we have surveyed … does not support the notion that excelling is a consequence of possessing innate gifts.”

     

You can make yourself into almost anything you want and you can even make yourself great.

     

One thing all the “greats” have in common is that no matter how “great” they are, they never stop trying to get better. They strive to grow each day and they never substitute good enough for great.

     

If you’re like most people, including me, and you can’t readily identify your innate gifts don’t worry about it. Get to work and you’ll soon pass up those people who were resting on their “gifts” while you were busy making the effort required to succeed.

Do You Know the “Needs” of Your Business?

I used to work for a guy who when it came time to allocate resources would always ask the same question… is that a “need to do” or a “nice to do?” 

 

It didn’t make any difference if the resource being allocated was time, people, money or a combination of the three the question was usually the same. It always made me stop and think. 

 

What I discovered was that for any business or organization relatively few things are a “need to do.” There are some activities that are vital for success. Things like investing in future products, excelling at what should be your core competencies, preparing the organization’s next generation of leaders, and building long-term meaningful customer relationships based on trust are a few of the key “need to do” items.

 

If you’re wondering what some of the “nice to do” things might be let me sum it up like this…if it is not “need to do” then it is “nice to do.” Most things businesses and organizations do are nice to do. They may not have a long-term impact but they “seem” productive and oh by the way, they are usually easier to do than the “need to do” things.

 

I have no problem with anyone doing the “nice to do” things that can sometimes be described as “the little extra” that customers love. I have no problem so long as the “nice” things aren’t done at the expense of or instead of the “need” things. 

 

For instance, let’s say you run a car wash and a “nice” to do is giving every customer a free air freshener as they enter the car wash. The customers seem to appreciate the air fresheners but they do not appreciate the fact that their cars are returned to them dirty. 

 

If you’re running a car WASH then getting the car clean would seem to me to be a core competency. Air fresheners are nice but I can’t imagine a car wash customer that wouldn’t trade that for a clean car. 

 

Every time you make a decision to take action in your business or organization you should ask yourself is this a “need to do” or a “nice to do?” I cannot imagine a single “nice” that would ever take precedence over a “need.” At least not if you intend to be successful.

 

Of course you also must be honest with yourself about what the “needs” really are. I’ve been known to convince myself that a “nice” was a “need” simply because I wanted to do it. 


I try to think of it like this: nothing can be nice until the needs are taken care of. Adding up all the “nice” you could possibly do will not outweigh a single “need.” That’s why it’s so important that you know the true “needs” of your organization. 

A Settled Life

It is a sad reality that more people have “settled” for the life they have than have chosen the life they want. 

 

People “settle” for less than they could have in many areas of their life. They settle on a unrewarding and unchallenging job. They settle on being paid less than they deserve for doing that job they don’t love. They settle on friends that hold them back. Sometimes they even settle on a life partner that doesn’t truly care about them. 

 

I have heard all the reasons, or actually excuses, for why that happens. Once in a great while I’ve even used those excuses myself. Fortunately I’ve resisted using those excuses far more often than I’ve taken the easy way and settled. 

 

Here’s the difference between settling and busting through the easy way to earn what you actually deserve… the uncertainty and discomfort of breaking through eventually ends, the never ending tinge of sadness that comes with knowing that you’ve settled doesn’t. It’s like you’re haunted by the ghost known as “what if.” 

 

I’m all for a compromise now and then but using your hopes and dreams to build that compromise is like building your home in quicksand. Sooner or later you’ll come to regret that kind of compromise and it’s far more likely to be sooner.

 

Refusing to settle is hard work. That’s why I so often recommend having a coach or a mentor who cares enough to hold you accountable for achieving your goals. Good mentors will not allow you to settle. 

 

You must have goals before you can be accountable to achieve them. The most successful people take the goal setting process very seriously. They set goals that mesh with their core values then they develop an actionable plan to achieve them. Highly successful people rarely settle for less than they believe they deserve. 

 

Goalless people won’t like this but it’s the lack of clear goals that makes it so easy to settle. Since they have no particular destination in mind they “rest” at the first convenient place that comes along. Before they even realize it, they have settled. 

 

The good news is they don’t have to stay settled. 

 

If you find yourself living a settled life then get a coach or a mentor. Find someone who cares enough about you to disrupt your settled life. Allow them to make you a little more uncomfortable than you think you can stand. 


You may hate it at first but that will pass. You’ll eventually be grateful that your motivation to achieve greater success was dislodged from under your settled life. 

When Goals Matter – Part Two

I should probably warn you right up front that the process of setting truly achievable goals is serious work. It requires some heavy thinking and a substantial commitment of time. If you’re not at a point in your life where you want to have a measure of control over every aspect of it then maybe this post isn’t for you.

 

If however you want to be the driver of your life then read on, I’m talking to you.

 

A solid goal-setting process begins with the investment of some serious time considering what is important in your life. That might sound easy but here’s the deal, what is important in your life isn’t what you say it is, it is what you show it is.

 

For instance, you might say that losing weight and maintaining a good physical condition is an important goal for you. But if I followed you around for a week would I be able to “see” that in you. I’d have my doubts if I followed you up to the snack counter at the movies for your third popcorn refill. 

 

It’s so much easier to say what’s important than it is to show what’s important. Other people see what is truly important in your life, often before you do. Before you set a single goal you need to understand that it’s your actions that really reflect what’s important in your life. So don’t “think” about what’s important in your life, “watch” yourself and “see” what’s actually important in your life. Better yet, ask your mentor or a close friend what they think is important in your life. That could be a huge eye-opener for you.

 

Once you understand what is important in your life then you’re almost ready to set some true goals.

 

I say almost because there is one other absolutely vital step in the goal setting process that most people completely overlook.

 

Before you can set a true goal you MUST set one or more “stop goals.” These are the things you’ll stop doing in order to start doing something else. Achieving most goals means doing something that you’re not currently doing. That means you’ll take on something new, something which requires some sort of time investment. 

 

Most people set this goal without any consideration of where the time will come from. Unless you’re one of the rare people who sits around wondering how you can burn a few more hours before bedtime, you’re day (and night) is already too busy. Setting a goal which requires more time without the time to achieve it is merely setting a fools goal. 

 

If you have no time to invest in achieving a goal then the goal will not be achieved. Period.

 

One of the biggest, if not the biggest mistake people make in goal setting is not starting by setting stop goals. 

 

So, in my next post we’ll start the goal setting process by discussing stopping those time consuming, low return activities that all of us do without even thinking about them. They are often mindless little things but that doesn’t mean they aren’t incredibly expensive in terms of the time it takes to do them.


Until then start noticing how you use your time and ask yourself what you’re doing that really pays no return. If you could stop doing it without anyone, including yourself, really noticing then maybe you should just stop doing it. Think about it! 

When Goals Matter

So, I’m on the tee box of a fairly long par four hole on a world renowned golf course. I hit a perfect drive, long by my standards and my ball rolls to a spot in the middle of the fairway. It leaves me with an easy shot to the green except that the green is well above me at the top of a sizable incline. I can’t actually see the putting surface but my golf map shows me the size and shape of the green so I decide to go at the middle of the green. I figure that’s my best chance at a par on this challenging hole. 

 

Well my shot felt perfect and I was certain when I reached the top of the hill I would find my ball at least near the center of the green. As I approached the top with great anticipation I saw my ball almost perfectly placed in the absolute center of the green. Another perfect shot!

 

In that same instant I looked for the hole to see how long my putt would be. I looked and looked but to my amazement I simply couldn’t find the hole. My playing partners couldn’t find it either. We couldn’t find it because there was no hole. I was crushed, the rarity of two consecutive good shots was for naught. I couldn’t finish the hole because there was no hole. Whatever happened the rest of the round no longer mattered either, I could not reach my goal of making par on this difficult hole.

 

With the goal gone I quickly lost interest in the remainder of the round. 

 

Or at least I would have if that had actually happened. (The part about the green not having a hole isn’t the only made up part of the story, the part about the two great shots in a row is even more unbelievable, at least for me) 

 

Imagine running a race with no finish line… how far are you willing to run knowing there really isn’t a finish? 

 

Imagine paying big money for front row seats to an NBA Basketball game and once you reach your high priced seats you see that there are no baskets. The players will just be running up and down the floor dribbling and passing the ball but never actually taking a shot. I mean why take a shot when there is nothing to shoot at?

 

You wouldn’t pay money to watch that because there is no outcome….the players work just as hard, it just leads to nothing. I’m betting they would be bored almost as quickly as you.

 

As unlikely as those scenarios may seem the fact is that a majority of people go through their lives playing basketball ball without a basket and they run a race with no finish line. You see, a majority of people, actually a vast majority, have no formal goals in their lives. They have nothing to shoot for, there is no finish line to cross. 

 

As a result they lose interest in whatever it is they are doing pretty quickly. They go through the motions of life without really living. They can tell you what’s important to them but you’ll seldom see it in what they do with their time. 

 

Most people spend on average 40 hours planning a vacation of a week or longer yet invest virtually no time planning the rest of their lives. Goals are the plan for the rest of your life. 

 

If you truly want success, long-term lasting success as defined by you and you alone, then goals matter. 

 

The most successful people in every walk of life have goals and a written plan to achieve them. In my next post we will look at where and how you may want to set goals, real goals, achievable goals, for yourself. 

 

Goals will guide you towards greater success and fulfillment in your life so be sure to catch part two of this post just a few days from now!