Understanding Success – Part One

Successful people get it. They simply understand some things that less successful people seem to have a hard time grasping. The things they understand are the “it’s” of success. 

This is the initial post of a who knows how long series on those “it’s.” They will be short posts, each just long enough to give you time to focus on one “it” of success until the next post arrives. The series will be at least a few posts, maybe as many as six. 

First and foremost successful people understand the role that attitude plays in their success. They awake each day with the same choice to make as everyone else in the world and the choice they make is to have a positive attitude. It’s not that less successful people choose a negative attitude, they simply make no choice at all and allow the nattering nabobs of negativism to choose their attitude for them. 

If you want success and happiness in your life (by the way, each of our definitions of success may vary but I personally believe that if you’re not happy then you’re not successful) then begin each day by making the choice of a positive attitude. No matter what else is going on in your life it’s your attitude that is the one choice that no one can ever take from you.

Never doubt for a moment this absolute fact of success: Your attitude is a choice and it’s yours and yours alone to make.

By the way, just a thought here: if you’re a leader who desires to have a positive impact on your people then you should know that it’s pretty tough to have a positive impact on others unless you first have a positive impact on yourself.

Focus on your attitude.

 

Did Curiosity Kill the Cat?

As the saying goes… curiosity killed the cat. I don’t actually think that’s true. The cat might be dead but I’d say it was more likely bad planning than curiosity that did the kitty in.

I’d say that because one of the most common characteristics of successful people is curiosity. Their need to know how something works, their need to understand why it works that way, and their need to know if there is a better way for it to work pushes them to try new things. 

Successful people are seldom willing to merely accept the status quo. 

They take risks. Not wild risks but well thought out, well measured and well considered risks. Their curiosity, or need to know, drives them to expose the “as is” to the possibilities of the “could be.” They know that without a doubt good enough never really is good enough. 

Successful people develop a plan that allows them to minimize the downside of risk taking. They understand the potential for failure and they are willing to accept that risk. What they won’t accept is the failure that comes from not trying, or the failure that comes from a lack of curiosity. 

Successful people know that never taking a risk is the riskiest move they can make. 

When you ask a truly successful person “why do you do it that way?” you will never hear, “because we have always done it that way.”  They know exactly why they do what they do and why something is done a certain way because their curiosity has motivated them to learn.

I’d bet a bunch a money that if curiosity really did kill the cat that the cat thought learning something new was worth the risk and hey, at least the cat died knowing. 😊

So what about you? Are you the type of cat that needs to know? Will you allow curiosity to fuel your success? 

I, and you, need to know….

 

The Three W’s

Some people want stuff. Some people wish for stuff. Successful people work for stuff. 

I remember when the Mall of America was being built. It was a huge shopping mall that opened to much fanfare. I, in my infinite wisdom gave it a year. I was sure it was going to be a white elephant, destined to one day be bulldozed into oblivion. 

It’s undergoing a major addition as I write this, 23 years after it first opened. Pretty soon I’m going to have to admit that my prediction may not happen at all. 

The Mall of America now attracts more visitors each year than all the Disney theme parks from around the world… combined. I guess it’s doing okay.

I remember something, or more accurately, someone else from the time the mall was getting ready to open. His name was Bob, he was a pretty good sales person. He wasn’t flashy or especially polished but he was one of the hardest working sales professionals I’ve ever met, even to this very day.

Well Bob worked for a food service company and his goal was to sell his services to one or more of the many restaurants that would reside on the fourth floor of the mall. Most of the restaurants were national chains not based in Minnesota and he faced huge challenges just figuring out who the buyers were.

He met one road block after another. This guy said to talk to that guy, that guy said to talk to someone else. I’m certain most salespeople would have simply stopped trying.

But Bob kept working. He discovered that his biggest challenge was that one of the major restaurants was to be run by a management company out of California. So he pursued the buyer for the management company.

He found him and through a relatively brief conversation discovered he was the first salesperson who had gotten through to him. He also discovered something else….the management company was actually going to manage most of the fourth floor restaurants.  

Bob had struck gold…he sold ALL the accounts at once. It was a huge success and it was a huge sale.

As Bob shared the effort required to find all the people and put the deal together he kept repeating how lucky he was. Lucky to find the management company, lucky to find the buyer, lucky to be the first salesperson to get in. Yes, Bob was one lucky guy. Of course, his “luck” was completely created by his hard work. 

Bob demonstrated that the harder you work the luckier you get. Bob focused on the third W! 

You can want stuff you’ll never have, you can wish for stuff that the “lucky people” have or you can work for both and have what you earn. 

It is a life choice…I didn’t say it was an easy choice but it is a choice. In most cases those who would say the ability to work is not a choice have already made theirs.

The Destructive Nature of Can’t

I remember reading one time that failure comes in can’ts and success comes in cans. That’s kind of clever but it’s also true. People with a predisposition of “I can’t” will have a much harder time finding success than those who have a predisposition of ”I can.”

Can’t is a limiting word. Can is a limitless word.

Less successful people focus on what they can’t do while the most successful people are focusing on what they can do. 

Can and can’t are just two words, little words at that, but which one you allow to dominate your vocabulary will go a long way towards determining your level of success. 

Make certain before you say that you can’t do something that you don’t really mean “I won’t.” Sadly, “I can’t” is an all too easy excuse for not making the effort required to succeed. Successful people have made a habit of doing the things that less successful people simply don’t like to do. Successful people don’t really like doing them either but they know their success depends on it so they do them anyway.

It’s pretty tough to just think your way into success but it’s very easy to think your way out of it…just think can’t. Once you decide you can, then and only then will you begin working on the “how” to succeed. 

When we decide that we can’t then we have no reason to try and failing to try is the straightest line to true failure. Never let that little “t” keep you from the future that you deserve if only you’re willing to try. 

You can… and now you know you can!

 

The Difference Between If and How

imageThe attitude of less successful people says “if” I can succeed. The attitude of highly successful people says “how” will I succeed. They know they will succeed at whatever they do, the only question is how.

When your mindset is one of “if” you allow the possibility of failure to enter your life. When you allow the possibility of failure into your life you could possibly talk yourself into not even trying.

There may not be a way to absolutely guarantee success but there is most certainly a way to guarantee failure… and that is not trying in the first place. When you decide the effort to try is too great to bother you have just accepted failure. You may have to swallow hard the first time you do it but no worries… failure not only gets easier, it becomes a habit.

The mindset of “if” causes lots of self-discussion. Discussions about “if” I try how much work will it be. “If” I try will I might look foolish if I fall short. That discussion can quickly become one of “why bother” because it’s so much work and I’m more likely to fail than not.

With a mindset of “how” the self-discussions are much more focused…. the “if” is not considered, the discussions are all focused on the strategies and tactics required to succeed.

The “how” mindset accepts 100% responsibility for the success or failure of whatever it is they are working on.

The “if” mindset prepares the excuses in advance. The “how” mindset simply prepares to succeed. The “if” mindset says I’ll do everything I can and if things work out I’ll be fine. The “how” mindset says I’ll do everything that needs to be done so if things don’t work out I’ll still be just fine.

If you think having to do everything is unfair then consider this:

50% – 50% partnerships do not work. You may think that if do your part and “they” do theirs everything will work out. But when was the last time anything great was accomplished with a 50% effort. Success happens for those people who give a 100% effort every single time. They don’t leave any part of their success up to chance and they certainly don’t leave it up to anyone else.

The most successful people have a mindset of “how.”

What’s your mindset today?

Unconventional Wisdom

Why do you do it like that? Because it’s always been done that way? Because that’s how “they” do it. Maybe it’s because conventional wisdom says that’s they way to do it. Conventional wisdom seldom leads to breakout success. Unconventional wisdom often does.

Things change! Pretty much everything changes!

Here’s a fun story that shows why we should always be thinking “why.” 

It’s Easter morning as a little girl watches her mom preparing the ham to go into the oven. The mom cuts a bit of ham off of each end before placing it it the pan for baking. The little girl asks her mom why she cut some ham from each end and the mother answers, “I’m not really sure why we do that dear, I do it because my mom always did it. Why do you go in the other room and ask Grandma.” 

So the little girl skips on into the family room and asks the same question to Grandma. Her answer is surprisingly similar, she says, “well I’m not really sure why, I always did it because that’s the way my mom always did it. Why don’t you go into the other room and ask great-grandma why she did it.” 

Off goes the little girl into the living room to ask the same question to her great-grandma. Her great-grandma answers, “well dear, I’m not sure why your grandma or mother cut a piece off of each end of the ham, I did it simply because I never had a pan big enough to put the whole ham in.” 

That’s just how it happens when we allow “we’ve always done it that way” to be part of how we do things. Anything! 

We’ve always done it that way is the absolute worst reason for doing anything a certain way.

Annual or repeating events are the most dangerous and most likely to become “habit” events. Never do an annual event without re-thinking every part of the event. Why do we do it? What must be better? What must be different? Should we do the event at all? 

Relentlessly re-think. Why? Why? Why?

Improvement requires some sort of change, even if it’s only doing the same thing better. We’ve always done it that way is not the way to improve anything. 

Even when you’re satisfied that something is “good enough” you must challenge your thinking. The most successful people know that good enough never is. “Good enough” is accepting mediocrity and once you accept mediocrity then excellence becomes out of reach. 

Stop thinking we do it this way or we do it that way and start asking why. Why? Why? Why not do it some other way? 

Be honest with your answers. If you don’t know why then find out. Accepting what is without determining what could be is just being lazy. 

Don’t be lazy and you just might become a success! 

The Limiting Nature of Goals

I am a big believer in the power of effective goal setting. I’m an even bigger believer in the power of effective goal achieving.

Research has shown that people with true goals and a specific plan for how to achieve their goals are far more likely to achieve success in life, however it is that they define success. They just “do” better in most every area of their lives.

Just to be clear, dreams are great but they are not the same as goals. Goals are written out, with a plan and a timeline for achieving them. If you’re going to write out your goals and NOT make a specific plan for how to achieve them…. well, there’s really no reason to write them out, they are more of a dream than a goal.

Goals, as helpful as they are however do not guarantee success. They can actually even limit our success. Within the past two weeks I’ve had a couple of high performing salespeople tell me they were way ahead of their plan. They were going to make their year “easy.”

They would be able to coast thorough their selling season and still make their year. The heart of their selling season hadn’t actually started yet and they were thinking coast mode already. That’s not good.

Maybe their goals were set too low in the first place, maybe they happened upon an expected sales windfall, maybe they just worked their butt off early in their year. But how they got so far ahead of their plan is irrelevant, their goal has become a limiter of their success.

Sometimes when we reach a goal we give ourselves the mistaken idea that we are somehow done, complete, finished, mission accomplished.

I’m all for taking a breath and relaxing a bit upon the achievement of a hard earned goal. But don’t just quit, don’t stop working, don’t stop improving. Set some new goals.

Your goals, true goals anyway, should be alive, they should grow and change with the circumstances of your life. My long-range goals are different than they were just a couple of years ago and even short-term goals should be adjusted if your situation warrants it.

Goals are intended to push us forward, to inspire and encourage us. Never let an achieved goal prevent you from achieving even more. Successful people continue trying to be even more successful, they continue to challenge themselves with ever more difficult goals.

The achievement of one goal should be the first step in the setting of another. Keep goals in front of you and and you’ll keep your success there too!