Sunday, April 3, 2011

Nobody Wins Without a Loser

On the path to success, you will sometimes confront situations in which you must directly compete with someone and your victory will create bitterness. Even more frequently, your success will cause others to compare themselves to you and to react with jealousy at your ability.

Take comfort in the knowledge that it is not a personal attack on you but instead a sincere but unpleasant form of flattery.

Your Work and Home Lives Must Fit Together

Even if 99.9 percent of the parts of your car are in perfect shape, a defective .1 percent that includes a flat tire or a dead battery means your car can’t be used.

Much of your life can be healthy and satisfying, but if an important part of it is not working well, you will not feel fulfilled.

Successful living is not a matter of success in the workplace or success at home; it is the product of their combination.

Remember the Difference Between You and Everybody Else

Turn on the evening news, and you’ll see another day’s catalog of
terror and trauma. Read the business page, and you’ll see which local company is downsizing. Our big-picture perspective can be shaped, or misshaped, by attention-grabbing events.

The news doesn’t cover people who had a particularly good day and return home to their happy families. The news doesn’t cover the continued existence of a healthy company.

Don’t let the negative picture of the world cloud your perspective.

Whet Your Appetite for Success

Appetite is an instinctive human regulatory device. We do not have to do anything to create it; it is already there. We were born with some level of appetite necessary to keep us alive.

Motivation for achievement is also an instinctive human regulatory device. We do not have to do anything to create it; it is already there. We were born with some level of motivation necessary to keep us alive.

Because appetite and motivation are instinctive, they predate our knowledge of their existence. But that doesn’t mean we are powerless to change them. We already know how to regulate appetite: drink two big glasses of water before a meal, and you will reduce your appetite for food.

In the same way, we can kill or whet our appetite for success. If you spend your time worrying and impatiently awaiting an easy life, you will reduce your motivation for success. If, on the other hand, you  pursue activities you really care about, your motivation will increase.

Cultivate your instincts in the direction you want them to lead you, and your growing motivation will make the pursuit of success easier.

You Don’t Have to Get Straight A’s Anymore

We all remember our first performance evaluation. Report cards. We carried them home and presented them to our parents, yearning for their approval.

From a very early age we were taught the significance of outcomes. Whether it was getting a dollar for every A, being given a smile or  kind word, or avoiding being grounded, we discovered the report card mattered and we needed to be good at what we did.

We still carry this formative lesson of contingent approval with us. We still seek success to win approval, some of us from parents or spouses, others from colleagues and supervisors.

But just as having to get good grades to please your parents did not instill a love of reading, having to succeed to attain the approval of someone else will not make you enjoy the process.

To succeed, not just in the outcome but in the process, you need to invest the effort for yourself, not to win approval from others.

Life Is Not a Zero-Sum Game

Deciding how to spend money without going into debt is a zerosum process. If you want to spend more on housing, you will have to spend less on your car. Every additional expenditure has to be matched with an equal reduction in spending.

Some people view their lives in much the same way. If they want a career, they have to sacrifice family time. If they want a family life, they have to sacrifice their career.

But this equation is incomplete and misleading. Your time is not literally an accounting of minutes, like your budget is an accounting of dollars. Your time is a measure of commitment, concern, and efficiency, not just quantity.

You can do more when you use your time better. Take out a few frivolous time killers and work harder at using time well, and you can add to both sides of your life’s equation.

You Will Give Up Faster if You’re Not in Control

Some people give up the moment an obstacle is placed in front of them. Some people doggedly continue to pursue a goal even after years of frustration and failure.

What is the main difference between these people? It’s not ability or even patience. It is actually their sense of control.

Those who feel they are not responsible for choosing their goals and pursuing them tend to believe that results are arbitrary. To them, it doesn’t matter how hard you try or how talented you are, being  successful is like winning the lottery; it’s all a matter of luck. With this attitude, it hardly makes sense to work hard or be dedicated to a dream or goal.

Those who persevere, conversely, recognize that they are ultimately responsible, not just for pursuing their goals, but for setting them. When you are in control, what you do matters, and giving up will  not seem very attractive.

Leadership Is Contagious

True leadership strengthens the followers. It is a process of teaching, setting an example, and empowering others.

If you seek to lead, your ability will ultimately be measured in the successes of those around you.

Think About Who You Ought to Be

If you could snap your fingers and change anything about yourself and your life, what would you change?

Did you ask for riches and fame? Or did you ask for industriousness, caring, and honesty?

The more you direct yourself toward a fantasy life, the less satisfied you will be with who you are and the more frustrated you will become as you fail to attain the fantasy. The more you direct  yourself toward a better, more fulfilling life, the more you can actually lead a better, more fulfilling life.

You’ll Get What You’re Afraid Of

When we spend time worrying about things that could go wrong, we’re not spending time trying to improve. Which means that  worrying about things going wrong increases the chances that they will go wrong.

Accepting that sometimes we will succeed and sometimes fail frees us to pursue achievements and to spend time thinking about what we can do instead of what we can’t.

Take Off Your Blinders

Perspective is a powerful force. From a young age we are taught to hold certain expectations, and those expectations influence how we see the world.

Stereotypes inculcated in you when you were a child may be affecting how you evaluate other people and even how you evaluate yourself.

Nobody rationally chooses to limit their aspirations, deny themselves opportunities, and misjudge other people’s talents based on a set of stereotypes. But that is just what we do without even thinking about it because stereotypes alter our view of the world.

Listening Is More Than Not Talking

We think about what we have to say, how much to say, and how best to say it. We invest so much in talking that we sometimes treat the time when we’re not talking as a rest break.

Instead, active listening, investing ourselves in what others are saying, is the only way we can learn from others and adapt what we have to say to correspond to the other person’s perspective.

Make Change Count

We are all tempted by change. Whether it’s a change in procedure or a change in jobs, we are hit with a wave of enthusiasm as we focus on the potentially positive results.

All talented people want to make changes in their lives and in the world around them. If you believe you are talented, you begin with the notion that you can do things better, and therefore you should.

But it makes no more sense to rush into making every change you can than it does to run away from every change possible.

Boredom Is the Enemy

Boredom will eat away at your persistence and resolve. No one can do the same job, requiring the same tasks, with perpetual interest and enthusiasm.

When evaluating a job opportunity, don’t just worry about the salary and workload; investigate how much variety there is in the tasks you’ll perform.

Exercise and Eat Right

You’re focused. You use your time well so that you can accomplish as much as possible. Because you’re busy, you don’t have time to exercise, and you grab some fast food because it’s quicker.

That makes about as much sense as trying to save time by never buying gasoline, then having to walk to work when the car dies.

Healthy habits increase our energy and improve both our  performance and our satisfaction on the job. It may take more time, but in the end, preserving your own health makes possible  everything else you want to do.

Embrace Work; It May Have to Last Forever

We live in a culture that cherishes the dream of early success followed by early retirement. We read of a retirement utopia awaiting those who can afford it.

In truth, most retirees base their identity on their career and yearn for the activity and responsibility their work life provided.

Learn from Losses

The setbacks you experience are wonderful opportunities to learn. Not only can you learn, in a critical sense, what you might have done wrong, but you also can come to understand what has led you to make the choices you’ve made.

Are you pursuing the goal you truly want? Are you pursuing a goal whose steps you are suited for? Practice gaining something every time things don’t go your way.

Role Models Are Not One Size Fits All

We often see stories of inspiring people and wonderful successes. Some of us put their pictures on our walls or clip notable quotes from them. But what does that do for us if the inspiring person has done things we will never or could never do?

For many of us, the choice of a role model invites comparison, and if our abilities and outcomes do not measure up, the role model serves not as an inspiration but as a source of frustration and defeat.

Choose as your role model someone who has accomplished something you can accomplish and something you want to  accomplish. There is tremendous value in using co-workers or family members whom you admire rather than famous athletes, leaders, or historical figures, who have experienced great successes but whose experience has less in common with yours.

You Need to Know More Than Just How Talented You Are

You need confidence to succeed. You’ve seen that, you’ve read that, you know it. But your self-esteem must be built on a foundation of self-respect.

All of us will suffer blows to our self-esteem when we fail. Regardless of how strong our beliefs are, negative outcomes will shake us.

That is why you must realize not just how capable you are, but who you are. When events undermine your self-esteem, you must have faith in yourself that is unquestionable, undeniable. This faith in your integrity and your humanity will survive any attack based on a failure or even a series of failures. It will give you something to start from as you rebuild your self-esteem.

Success Is Formula, Not Fantasy

Watch a movie or a TV show, and see what makes people successful and happy. It’s usually some almost magical quality or event.

In real life, the main difference between people who achieve and people who do not isn’t as exciting or mysterious, but it is as important. It is simply conscientiousness. People who approach things with order, common sense, consistency, and persistence will ultimately succeed.

Lessons Can’t Threaten

Try to teach someone who doesn’t work with computers how much a computer might make their job easier. The most common reaction you find is stark reluctance. Why would anyone be against earning something that might make their job easier? Often it is because they fear that something that makes their job easier might one day take over their job.

Teaching is like asking someone to go on a trip. Just as no one is going to take you up on an invitation to travel on a trip from which they would never return, people will be reluctant to participate in learning about their own obsolescence.

When you try to teach anyone something new, you have to make it clear from the outset that the destination is someplace we’d all like to go.

Efficiency in Everything

Every organization suffers some waste. We’ve all heard stories of the federal government purchasing thousand-dollar hammers and hundred-dollar nails.

Sometimes we laugh at these matters, but ultimately they are very important to us. Nothing kills our initiative as quickly as the feeling that what we do doesn’t matter. An organization that wastes important resources, like the efforts of its workers, is an organization
that will waste your motivation.

Notice Patterns

What is the great common denominator of intellectual accomplishment? In math, science, economics, history, or any subject, the answer is the same: great thinkers notice patterns.

They see patterns no one else has thought of, patterns no one else has paid any attention to. Thinkers notice what goes along with what, and they consider the meaning behind those patterns.

Take time to consider patterns in your world that you’ve never thought about before.

It Starts and Ends with You

We live in a world where massive international corporations can grow bigger than a country. Yet many yearn for the freedom and personal responsibility of running their own operation. Given the number of different places the average person will work, the lifetime commitment of company to employee is a thing of the past.

Even if you never step out on your own, however, you will be making highly significant decisions about where you want to work and what you want to do. Accept personal responsibility for these decisions, and prepare yourself for the potential opportunities of the future.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

When there are only so many hours in the day, and so much to do, the loser often ends up being sleep.

But sleep is a crucial factor in your ability to function. It is food for your brain.

You can sacrifice sleep to gain extra time, but ultimately you are sacrificing your ability to use your time with purpose and efficiency.

The Past Is Not the Future

It’s tempting to simplify things. The game is rigged. Some people have all the advantages, and they succeed. Some people have all the disadvantages, and they fail.

It is also, however, terribly misleading.

Your success is far more dependent on your behavior now than it is based upon where you grew up, where you went to school, or whether your path so far has been easy or difficult.

Opportunity lies ahead; it is a matter of whether or not you choose to pursue it.

Play the Odds

There is an element of chance in everything.

Every aspect of your education and career has been affected by quirks of fate. Great jobs are found or ignored depending on who read the classifieds that day. New opportunities are glimpsed or missed depending on who is paying attention.

Still, you have to embrace the uncertainty of outcomes and realize that chance can play for you or against you on any given day. But the more you try, the greater your opportunity to benefit from a lucky outcome.

Remember the Task, Forget the Rankings

How would you react if everyone in your office was being taught a new procedure and you felt completely lost about how it worked?

Most people say they would hide their ignorance from their coworkers. This means that for most people, not letting anyone know they need help becomes more important than finding out what
they need to know.

What is your true priority? Is it to cleverly trick your colleagues into believing you know everything? Or is it to learn what you need to know to do your job well?

Volunteer to Feel Better

You’re busy. You don’t feel there’s much more you can do at work or at home. But you want to do more, and feel better doing it. Take an hour this week and volunteer.

Yes, give your time away.

Volunteering of course aids our community, but it also opens us up to a greater appreciation of our own lives, which enhances our motivation to do what we do the best that we can.

Negotiate with Confidence, or Don’t

You will face many negotiations in your life, whether for a pay raise or the terms of a car purchase. What determines whether a negotiation is successful?

Skill enters in. So does relative bargaining position. But ultimately, when negotiations are prolonged, your willingness to continue is based on your level of self-confidence. No matter what your other advantages might be, you will end negotiations faster if you lack confidence, which means you’ll settle for a less advantageous resolution.

Remember Who You Are and Where You Are

A big organization, by definition, must ask its people to put their own individuality aside and work as a group. There is little room for some of the aspects of your life that are most central to you, be they religious beliefs or cultural traditions.

The ability to put these things aside at the workplace is an asset to your organization because your beliefs and traditions no doubt would conflict with those of others, until nothing could be accomplished other than arguing over decorations and the relative superiority of ethnic foods.

Nevertheless, putting these things aside in the workplace does not mean putting them aside in your life. To feel we have succeeded in life, we cannot conclude we have given up the things that really matter to us. Otherwise, what have we really accomplished?

Those who express satisfaction with their accomplishments know that they can never toss aside the beliefs, customs, and values that they hold dear. They just display them on their own time.

Use Your Own Self-Interest

What is the difference between people who willingly take work home with them on the weekends and people who scoff at the idea?

What is the difference between people who work hard all day and people who do as little work as they can possibly get away with? What is the difference between people who sign up for night school classes and those who can’t imagine going back to school?

What is the difference between the most driven and the laziest person? Self-interest.

We all do what we do because of self-interest; we think it’s the best thing for us. Those who work hard do so because they believe there is a reward awaiting them that not only justifies their efforts but also demands their dedication. Those who do not expend themselves do so because they cannot see the long-term benefit of work outweighing the short-term benefit of laziness.

Remind yourself of the value of the things you want, and the costs to you in effort will not feel as great.

Where You Stand Depends on Where You Look

Are you doing well? Average? Below average? We know the  answer. It’s obvious, isn’t it?

But how do you know the answer? Where does your response come from?

These judgments, in truth, are entirely relative. Feelings of success are based on our position relative to those who have accomplished less. Feelings of failure are based on our position relative to those who have accomplished more.

Your feelings are as dependent on your frame of reference as they are on anything you’ve done.

Speak Slowly

We have a lot to say and only a short time in which to say it. The natural tendency is to try to pack in as much as we can.

But communication is not about the number of things we say, it’s about the number of things that are understood. Good speakers master a practice that is simple but powerful: they speak more slowly than others.

Self-Motivation Works Once

Declare something, say all the motivational speakers.

What do you want? Declare that you shall have it. Want to be in better shape? Declare that you shall be. Want to get a better job? Declare that you shall have one.

We are comforted, energized, enthused by these declarations. Our mood, self-image, and self-esteem improve.

Unfortunately, the effects are temporary and diminishing. When the outcome doesn’t happen, we feel bad. And when we make our next declaration, it will be harder to work up even temporary enthusiasm as we recall the effects of our last failed plan.

Success comes not from self-motivating tricks and declarations of desired outcomes but from a steady, informed effort at progress.

Get Experience Any Way You Can

Take the first chance you have to get into the field of your dreams.

Even if the job itself is not what you want, you will get a better idea of what that line of work entails, and you will begin to prepare yourself for the job you ultimately desire. Or you might find out it’s not the right job for you and that your future plans need to be adjusted.

Do Things in Order

If you were making a sandwich, you would do it in order. First a slice of bread, then the fillings and seasonings, then the other slice.

It wouldn’t make sense to change the order. Even if you really likedmustard, you wouldn’t put it on the plate first.

When we are pursuing our goals, however, we see the steps we want to take and sometimes try to skip the steps that are less exciting. But stepping out of order is ultimately frustrating and futile.

Take your goals one at a time, and appreciate the process as you move forward. Otherwise you won’t.

Winners Are Made, Not Born

The great successes of our time are just extraordinary people on whom fate smiled, aren’t they?

No, in reality, they’re not. Successful people get where they are by following a strategic plan. They learn what it takes to get ahead.We understand that to build a house it takes a plan, a blueprint,but we sometimes forget that to build a successful life, it also takes a blueprint.

The Best Defense Is to Listen

Nobody likes to be criticized. And to some extent, everyone displays
some measure of defensiveness, the impulse to reject any and all criticisms by denying their validity or undermining the messenger.

Unfortunately, defensiveness does not serve you. It encouragesyou to ignore potentially useful feedback, which inhibits your ability to improve.

Know that you are capable, and show it. But do not fight criticism merely because you can.

Anticipate Irrationality

We understand the nature of a problem, and we carefully contemplate an ideal solution. Everyone should see how great an idea it is, and there should be no opposition.

Unfortunately, we often assume everyone is rational all of the time. A good idea will be supported because it is a good idea. Experience eventually teaches us that those around us will make irrational decisions, often born in fears that have no realistic basis. Be prepared to sell your ideas not only in response to legitimate questions but also to ill-conceived fears others might express.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Write Down the Directions

If you were taking a complicated route out of town, you would write down the directions.

But if you were considering the future path of your life, your goals, and what you needed to do to achieve them, you probably wouldn’t write any of it down. Think of it—the most significant journey of your life, and you probably won’t put a word of the directions on paper.

Writing down your plans, goals, and ideas makes them more real for you. Every step you take to define what you want and what you need to do to get it increases the chances that you will actually pursue these goals and someday achieve them.

People who regularly keep a journal, or some kind of written record pertaining to their aspirations, are 32 percent more likely to feel like they are making progress in their lives.

Seek Input from Your Opposites

There are starters and finishers. There are big-picture people and detail people. Some are great at conceiving plans but lose interest in following through on them, while others are tenacious in seeing a project through but ill suited to dreaming up the next idea.

You benefit when you involve people in your projects who have traits and perspective that are the opposite of yours.

Change Is Possible, Not Easy

Commercials on TV tell you all the time that you can change yourself. In thirty seconds, the commercial actors can get smarter, thinner, prettier, richer. But this fantasy world only sets us up for a fall.

We hear about the possibilities for wonderful changes people can make in their lives, and we want to duplicate those results. When we try and are not quickly rewarded, we actually wind up feeling worse than we did before we started.

The problem is, of course, that change is possible, but it does not come immediately. Nobody wants to sell us on a program for change that will take years because of course no one would buy it. But it does take years to accomplish the most important changes.

When you entered the first grade, you didn’t expect to learn a second language, algebra, and the history of the War of 1812 all in the first week. You began an education that took more than a decade and provided you with incredible positive change. Positive change in your life will not be finished today, but it can start today.

Don’t Keep Fighting Your First Battle

People absorb a tremendous amount of information and learn significant lessons from their earliest experiences. We begin our careers as almost empty notebooks, and as we progress our mind fills with notations and observations. The first pages of our mental notebook are filled with our first experiences.

The potential for difficulty arises, however, as we try to apply those early lessons to situations in which they are not relevant. Take note of experience, but realize there are situations where your experiences no longer apply.

Research on financial managers finds that 95 percent display a particular commitment to sectors in which they experienced their first success. Ultimately, this tendency leads to missed buying opportunities in other segments of the market and unrealistic enthusiasm for their chosen sector.

It’s Never Just One Thing

When we think of attaining success, we often think of achieving a specific goal. Whether it’s landing a new account, getting a promotion, or being offered a certain salary, we think that with just one more achievement we will feel successful.

But people do not change their assessments of themselves following an achievement. People react to the larger picture.

When you land the account or get the promotion or a raise, the same nagging concerns that led you to think you desperately needed one more achievement will undermine the value you place on that achievement.

Ultimate success neither comes with nor rides on your next achievement. Feelings of success come with the whole of your efforts, your beliefs, your experiences, your life. Success is based on
the total package, not the ribbon on the package.

An event may be crucial in the short term, but researchers find that people’s enduring self-concept—their view of who they are and what they are capable of—is not tied to any single positive or negative event. Instead, a self-concept is composed of a combination of beliefs and feelings based on long-term experiences both at home and at work.

There Is Plenty of Time

Whatever our dreams are, we practically hear a clock ticking. Our family, our friends, even the media all make us wonder when we are finally going to be “there” and why we aren’t there yet.

But there are no age restrictions on success. It takes as long as it takes, and when you reach it, you won’t reject success because you’re not the right age for it.

Age is unrelated to people’s commitment to their job and their level of job performance.

Resist the Urge to Be Average

Everywhere around you are average people. They entice you into being more like them by offering their acceptance and by leading you to believe that everyone else is already more like them than like you.

But the “average person sales pitch” leaves out that you will be sacrificing your goals, individuality, and unique ideas and that you will lead a life determined more by the preferences of the group than by you.

Psychologists have observed that bad habits can spread through an office like a contagious disease. Employees tend to mirror the bad behaviors of their co-workers, with factors as diverse as low morale, poor working habits,  and theft from the employer all rising based on the negative behavior of peers.

You Can’t Force Yourself to Like Broccoli

Certain jobs require a distinct personality. There is little point in pursuing a job in communications if you are not an extroverted person who loves to interact with people. If your soul bursts with passionate creativity, you are not likely to be content with a job in accounting .

Personalities are like shoe sizes. They are not subject to our choice or preference, but they can be occasionally fudged—with uncomfortable consequences.

It is neither an accomplishment nor a fault to acknowledge that some people can speak before large audiences and be exhilarated by the experience while others would be petrified. Some people can study an equation for years and be fascinated by it, and others would long for human interaction and variety.

Realize who you are—what your true personality is—and choose a future that fits it.

Even as people experience different phases of their lives, including career and family changes, their underlying personality remains constant after about age sixteen.

Take Small Victories

Pursuing your goals is much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. While you ultimately seek the final outcome, you still have to work piece by piece.

Since you will spend most of your time trying to make progress, you must enjoy what you are doing in order to finish. Take joy from the process, and use the small successes to fuel your continued efforts.

Life satisfaction is 22 percent more likely for those with a steady stream of minor accomplishments than those who express interest only in major accomplishments.

Creativity Comes from Within

Everyone wants to think of something new—solve a problem no one else can solve, offer a valuable idea no else has conceived of. And every business wants to encourage its employees to have the next great idea.

So when a business offers its employees a bonus for creative ideas, a flood of great, original thoughts should come pouring in. Right?

We think that creativity, like any other task, can be bought and sold. But creativity is not the same as hard work and effort; it requires genuine inspiration. It is the product of a mind thoroughly intrigued by a question, a situation, a possibility.

Thus, creativity comes not in exchange for money or rewards but when we focus our attention on something because we want to.

Experiments offering money in exchange for creative solutions to problems find that monetary rewards are unrelated to the capacity of people to offer original ideas.

Instead, creativity is most frequently the product of genuine interest in the problem and a belief that creativity will be personally appreciated by superiors.

It’s Not How Hard You Try

Work hard and you will be rewarded. It sounds simple. But remember what it was like studying for a test? Some kids studied forever and did poorly. Some studied hardly at all and made great grades.

You can spend incredible effort inefficiently and gain nothing. Or, you can spend modest efforts efficiently and be rewarded. The purpose of what you do is to make progress, not just to expend yourself.

Effort is the single most overrated trait in producing success. People rank it as the best predictor of success when in reality it is one of the least significant factors. Effort, by itself, is a terrible predictor of outcomes because inefficient effort is a tremendous source of discouragement, leaving people to conclude that they can never succeed since even expending maximum effort has not produced results.

Competence Starts with Feeling Competent

How good are you at what you do? Do you have tests or periodic evaluations or some other means to measure your performance? Surely, there is an objective way to demonstrate whether you are good at what you do and whether you should consider yourself a success.

Actually, people who do not think they are good at what they do—who do not think they are capable of success or leadership— do not change their opinion even when they are presented with indicators of success. Instead, their self-doubts overrule evidence to the contrary.

Don’t wait for your next evaluation to improve your judgment of yourself, because feelings are not dependent on facts—and feelings of competence actually start with the feelings and then produce the competence.