I have to confess that I knew nothing about Michele Ferrero until I read of his passing. Which is not surprising. As The Economist noted in his obituary, this Italian businessman from the Piedmont gave only one interview in his entire life. It was to Italy’s La Stampa and he did so wearing sunglasses, to shield his weak eyes a well as to recede into the background.
When you are faced with a huge problem, sometimes a short-term solution might be the best option.
Case in point is Dr. Mark Schlissel, president of the University of Michigan, asking James Hackett to be interim athletic director after the resignation of David Brandon the previous AD. Brandon had been a lighting rod for criticism about the failure of the football program on the field and the negative publicity for the program off the field.
Let’s cut right to the chase; stop focusing on being efficient – it’s a waste of time. Nobody other than perhaps you really cares how efficient you are, but everyone cares how effective you are. Not only do they care how effective you are, but they also care about the effectiveness of those whom you lead. It’s important to remember leadership is a people business, and people are messy. Leadership has little to do with how neat and tidy things are, but everything to do with how successful you are at scaling effectiveness.
Efficient vs. Effective – there is sometimes a very big difference between the two. So much so, that I’ve really come to cringe every time I hear the word efficiency. It’s not really that there’s anything wrong with becoming more efficient, but far too many executives major in the minors when it comes to efficiency. Stop focusing on optics over outcomes. Don’t worry about how you look, worry about the results you produce.
Let me ask you a question – Have you become so efficient that you’ve rendered yourself ineffective? At an organizational level, have you focused so much on process improvements and incremental gains that you’ve failed to engage people, and seek opportunities to be disruptive? Are you efficient or effective, or do you know?
I really don’t have a problem with increasing efficiency so long as the tail doesn’t start wagging the dog. If you’re a baseball player who has beautifully efficient swing mechanics, but you can’t hit the ball – who cares? If efficiency starts diluting productivity rather than increasing it, something is woefully amiss. This is more than an issue of semantics – it’s become a systemic problem with many individuals and organizations. Here’s the thing – process in and of itself was never engineered to be the outcome, it was designed to support the creation of the right outcomes.
If you’re not tracking with me yet, ask yourself the following questions: Do you send an email when you should make a phone call, or worse, do you hide behind the phone when you should be face-to-face? Even worse yet – the leader who sends a message by proxy when it should have been delivered personally. Do your sophisticated screening processes do such a great job of filtering they blind you to new opportunities and critical information? If your desk is so clean you don’t have anything to work on then you might be focusing on the wrong thing – it might be time to make a bit of a mess (see Leadership Is About Breaking Things).
What I want you to recognize is sometimes the least efficient thing can lead to the most productive outcome. A great example of this would be carving out time in your already too busy schedule to mentor someone in your organization. Clearly this endeavor will take time, and may not yield immediate results, but the payoff organizationally, relationally, culturally, and in terms of future contribution can be huge.
As I’ve said many times before, things don’t always have to boil down to either/or types of decisions – not everything must end-up on the altar of sacrificial decisioning. With the proper perspective and focus it is quite possible to be both efficient and effective. Efficient process can enable effective resource utilization. The two concepts can co-exist so long as the focus remains on the proper thing – results. Smart leaders don’t just focus on moving the needle, they focus on moving the right needles, at the right times, and for the right reasons.
Bottom line – check your motivations. When you ever so efficiently cross something off your to-do list has it moved you farther away from, or closer to, putting points on the board? Better yet, are the items on your to-do list even the right items to begin with? Lastly, I’ll leave you with this reminder – leadership is not about how many emails, memos and transmittals are sent under your signature – it’s about relationships, service, and engagement.
In my most recent column on Forbes I briefly discussed the value of white space as it relates to “span of control” but felt the topic deserved a deeper dive. Here’s something you might not want to hear, but you should definitely take to heart – If you’re having difficulty ordering your world, it’s nobody’s fault but yours. I don’t care how busy you are, but I do care about what you accomplish – the former doesn’t always lead to the latter. Busy leaders are a dime a dozen, but highly productive leaders are not so common. One of the easiest things for leaders to do is to bite off more than they can chew.
Fact: bright, talented executives with a bias to action will often take on more than they should. These leaders don’t understand the value of white space. The reality is maximizing results and creating a certainty of execution is all about focus, focus and more focus. Here’s the thing – it’s difficult to focus in the middle of chaos. One of the hardest things for leaders to do is to learn to create white space. The best leaders are those who understand the most productive things often happen during intentional periods of isolation used for self-reflection, introspection, and the rigor of critical thought.
While the mind of a leader may be most comfortable being oriented toward the future, he/she can only act in the here and now. The knowledge and skills required to master any endeavor only happens when we focus on what we’re currently doing. This is the definition of presence, and it is only when we operate in the present that real creativity, growth and innovation occur. The problem with being present is many leaders confuse this with having to do everything themselves. Have you ever interacted with somone who deals with silence by jumping in and filling the conversational void? This same thing occurs with executives who attempt to fill every open slot on the calendar with activity – this is a huge mistake.
All good leaders have matured to understand they can be fully engaged and present and yet still be alone. Smart leaders don’t fill their calenders with useless activities, they strategically plan for white space allowing them to focus on highest and best use endeavors. Leading doesn’t always mean doing. In fact, most often times it means pulling back and creating white space so that others can do. This is true leadership that scales.
Is your rubber-band stretched so tight it’s about to snap? Efficiency and productivity are not found working at or even near capacity. Rather entering the productivity zone is found working at about 60% to 70% of capacity. Operating in excess of that threshold will cause increased stress, lack of attention to detail and errant decisioning. The old “what if I only had ‘x’ number of hours to work in a week, what would I focus on?” exercise is a good one. In fact, if you’re reading this text, just stop right now and benchmark your activity against your reflective thoughts – Is what you’re doing, in alignment with your true priorities, or have you been sucked down into the weeds?
It is important for executives to learn to apply focused leverage to a limited number of highest and best use activities rather than to continually shift gears between multiple initiatives. Resist the temptation to just advance a broad number of disparate initiatives, and alternatively focus your efforts on the completion of a few high impact objectives. The simple reality is that if you continue to add new responsibilities to an already full plate, all of your obligations will suffer as a result. Face current challenges head-on by keeping your head down and applying focused leverage to the task at hand. Leaders who operate without margins usually hit the wall they are most desperate to avoid.
Have you noticed how some leaders are frenzied, stressed, and always playing from behind, while others are eerily clam and always appear to be a few steps ahead? It’s been my experience that leaders who fall into the latter category make great use of their thought life, while those in the former category seem to forgo their alone time in lieu of being busy. Savvy leaders crave white space whereas unseasoned leaders feel uncomfortable with open time.
One thing that can be a difficult lesson to learn is that not all engagement is necessary or productive. Leadership and engagement go hand-in-hand, but only when engagement happens by design rather than by default. Don’t get me wrong, good things can happen with spontaneous engagement, but if you’re engaging with others without intent and purpose, it likely serves as a distraction for all parties. Don’t interfere with your team just because you don’t understand how to use your time wisely. If you do, you’ll become an annoyance known for not respecting others – this is not leadership.
I have found the best leaders are harder on themselves than anyone else could ever be. In fact, so much so, that the best leaders constantly self-assess and are relentless in challenging themselves. They relish their solitude because it gives them the ability to be alone with their thoughts, to challenge their logic, to refine their theories, and to test the boundaries of their intellect. It’s during these quiet moments that leaders willing to be honest with themselves will examine their own flaws and frailties. They are forever in search of new ways of dealing with old problems.
Perhaps the most powerful thing about creating white space is that it presents opportunities for others to step-in and raise the level of their contributions. When leaders step back and resist the temptation to do everything themselves their organization is strengthened. When leaders become comfortable being without always doing collaboration flourishes and productivity is enhanced. Whether white space makes you more productive on an individual basis, or you leverage the white space create operational depth and scale, you’re better off with white spice than without it.
What would you do if you didn’t need to work? Golf, travel, volunteer, spend time with family and friends, teach, go into politics – the list of options are virtually endless. A friend of mine called me today, told me the sale of his business had closed, and then informed me he had enough money to never need to work again. He told me he was calling to ask what I would do if I didn’t have to work again. I was impressed with his logical pursuit of advice and counsel, but wasn’t at all surprised that he was searching for a bit of direction. While many entrepreneurs tirelessly seek their exit by disposition, few have spent a great deal of time planning what life after work looks like. In today’s post I’ll ask a few questions and share a few thoughts with the goal of causing you to think about what defines you.
I want to begin today’s post with an excerpt from my book “Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual:“
“By the time you reach the CEO level you should be striving to move beyond success and towards significance. You need to use your network, your wealth, your experience and intellect, as well as your passion to create a legacy that transcends your title. Having the advantage of hindsight, I can say with great certainty that who you are a a person is infinitely more important than the job you hold. There are few things in life as thought provoking as witnessing what by all outward appearances seems to be a successful executive, but as you begin to peel back the layers of their carefully crafted veneer you quickly come to realize they are little more than an empty, bitter, and frustrated person. They work their entire career chasing some illusive form of fulfillment only to fade into the sunset with nothing more than an empty lifetime of regrets as their reward.”
While my friend is the farthest thing from the illustration provided in the aforementioned quote, I have seen far too many people fall into this category. My hope in authoring this piece is to have you adjust your thinking when it comes to the definition of success. My clients usually tend to be successful individuals prior to finding me. My goal is to simply help them leverage their success into significance over the course of our dealings. The sad reality is that far too many people either confuse success with significance, or they are so focused on success that they are actually blind to the meaning of significance.
Just take a look around and you’ll see that most people use their knowledge, resources, and experience to acquire things in an attempt to satisfy their personal desires, which in their minds constitutes success. Contrast this with the people that use their knowledge, resources, and experience to serve and benefit others, which by my standards constitutes significance.
Sure, for those “who get it” success and significance are one in the same, but for most professionals success begins and ends with the achievement of a certain list of personal goals with little regard to the impact on others. These people confuse success with significance, and regardless of their wealth and professional accomplishments, they fail to accomplish the true greatness that only comes through making significant contributions to something other than one’s self. I don’t care how your resume reads, what your net worth is, or what your W-2 shows – what’s important is your underlying motivation as evidenced by what you do with what you have.
I am always impressed by those who choose a life of service over personal glory, or those who understand how to leverage their personal success into significance. While most of my clients have acquired significant material possessions, they just don’t live their lives according to a “he or she who has the most toys wins” philosophy. They don’t give because their accountant told them to, or solely for estate planning purposes, they give to make a difference. They don’t throw trivial contributions to a variety of charities to see their name appear on donor’s lists, they make substantial contributions (usually with little if any self-promotion). It all boils down to motivation – are you only pursuing fun, fame, fortune, and recognition, or are you seeking to serve and benefit others with what you have?
It is my opinion that when you start to define your personal success by the value you add to the lives of others you have arrived as a mature human being who possesses true influence and has become a person of significance. My challenge to you is this – set the chinning bar very high for yourself by reevaluating your goals and objectives to ensure you are on a path towards significance. Don’t allow yourself to become blinded by your success, rather leverage your success in an attempt to make a lasting and significant legacy for which you and your family can be proud.
So, what would you do if you never had to work again? What defines you? C ‘mon you know you’ve thought about it – share your thoughts in the comments below…
For the last post of the year I decided to update a piece I published earlier this year – I also consider it to be the most important work I authored this year…it applies to all of us. Over the years I’ve come to believe that there is only one sure fire litmus test for measuring leadership success, and to the chagrin of many reading this post, it has little to do with what happens on the job. Today’s post might push a few buttons and test the boundaries of your comfort zone, but if you stick with me, I promise you’ll be glad you did. I’m going to peel back the layers on your personal brand, question your priorities, and quite possibly put a big dent in your carefully crafted professional facade. We’re going to get very personal today – How’s your family life?
If the opening paragraph caused you to wince, then the text that follows is written just for you. If the next sentence seems a little preachy, it’s meant to be. The true test of any leader is not measured by what’s accomplished in their professional life, but rather by what’s accomplished at home. If you’re a well oiled machine at work, but your family is falling apart at the seams – who cares? Let me be blunt – you won’t earn anyone’s respect, at least not the respect of anyone who matters if your concern for career success overshadows your concern for the well-being of your family. If you’re struggling with the family balance thing my advice is simple: don’t attempt to balance your family – make them your priority.
Think About Your Legacy:
Create a legacy that transcends your career. Having the advantage of the hindsight my gray hair affords me, I can say with great certainty that who you are as a person is infinitely more important than the title you hold at work. There are few things in life as thought provoking as witnessing what by all outward appearances seems to be a successful executive, but as you begin to peel back the layers of their carefully crafted veneer, you quickly come to realize that they are little more than an empty, bitter, and frustrated person. They work their entire career chasing some illusive form of fulfillment only to fade into the sunset with nothing more than an empty lifetime of regrets as their reward.
I’ve simply lived too long to buy into the myth that success in the workplace will create happiness at home. While it makes for a nice sound bite to console those with a guilty conscience, IT IS A LIE. If your business is growing, but your spouse is crying and your children are neglected, it’s time to do a reality check on your priorities. If your secretary respects you, but your spouse doesn’t you have serious issues that need your immediate attention. If you would rather spend time with your online “friends” than with your children, it’s time to pull the ripcord on your internet connection.
Here’s the cold hard truth…if you cheat your family to invest into your career, you and your loved ones will pay a very heavy price. It is simply wrong to value your workplace commitments over your family commitments – moreover it’s not necessary. If your focus is on your family, your career won’t suffer, it will flourish. Get this wrong and not only will your family suffer, but so will you as you someday mourn the loss of what could have been, but cannot be recovered.
If you really want to get to know me, don’t waste time reading my bio or scrutinizing my professional successes and failures, get to know my wife and my children. My best work, the work that I’m most proud of, is the relationship I have with the love of my life whom I’ve been married to for almost three decades, and with my two grown children who now consistently teach me more about life than I taught them. While I’ve had more career success than I probably deserve, I’m just as flawed as anyone reading this post. What I can tell you is that I’ve always made my family a priority. I don’t regret a single second of time I’ve invested in my family, but I’ve lost track of all the regrets I have over time squandered on the job.
You see, everyone creates a legacy – the question is will it be one worth leaving? While a legacy is classically defined as something of significant and/or lasting value that survives its creator, the best legacy is one that can be lived before it is left behind.
The bottom line is this:
If you’re a superstar at work, but a slacker at home you’re not succeeding at anything other than being a disingenuous, ego-centric charlatan. If this describes you, you’re not a leader you are a poser. As a very wise person once said (my wife), “don’t waste your time investing in those who won’t be crying at your funeral.”
Whether you agree or disagree with what I’ve espoused above, I’d love to hear your comments below…
As one year draws to a close and another begins, I can think of no better time to dust off an old post and ask you to ponder the difference between success and significance. Some would say that any discussion along this topic line is nothing more than a semantical debate. However, it is my opinion that those who hold this view truly don’t understand the difference between the two, and are simply attempting to blur lines in order to feel better about themselves. Harsh? Perhaps, but I’ll let you be the judge. In today’s post I’ll attempt to clearly lay out the differences between success and significance, and why you’ll be better off setting your sites on the latter and not the former…
I believe “success” can be a very dangerous thing in a vacuum…You see, success is in the eye of the beholder, whereas significance is a view of you that is held by others. Complicating matters further, I believe few successful people actually make the transition to significance, but every person of significance is successful. I want to frame my thoughts on the topic of significance by beginning with an excerpt from my book “Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual“:
“By the time you reach the CEO level you should be striving to move beyond success and towards significance. You need to use your network, your fiscal resources, your experience and intellect, as well as your passion to create a legacy that transcends your title…If it seems trite to be asking you to ponder if you are in fact leaving things better than you found them, then I would suggest that you reconsider your values and your vision. As a CEO you have the ability to influence positive changes, and to make contributions well beyond those who have not been afforded the same opportunities, and it would be nothing short of tragic for you not to clearly understand this. While it is never too late to begin thinking about finishing well, the simple truth of the matter is that the longer you wait to begin thinking on a significant level, the less significant your legacy will be.”
Let me ask you to spend a few minutes and mull over the following questions:
- Do you understand the difference between success and significance?
- Did the attainment of your 2010 goals lead you closer to success or significance?
- Is the pursuit of success or significance driving your quest in 2011?
- When people describe you do they talk about what you have achieved for yourself or what you’ve accomplished for the benefit of others?
My hope in authoring this post is to have you adjust your thinking when it comes to the definition of success. My clients usually tend to be successful individuals prior to finding me. My goal is to simply help them leverage their success into becoming significant individuals over the course of our dealings. The sad reality is that far too many people either confuse success with significance, or they are so focused on success that they are actually blind to the meaning of significance. The simple truth of the matter is that with the proper focus you can have your cake and eat it too.
Just take a look around and you’ll see that most people use their knowledge, resources, and experience to acquire things in an attempt to satisfy their personal desires, which in their minds constitutes success. Contrast this with the people that use their knowledge, resources, and experience to serve and benefit others, which by my standards constitutes significance. Just as success must be defined before it can be achieved, so must significance. While both require sacrifice, success comes at a great price and is often based upon the compromise of values. Significance on the other hand is driven by personal values and is a gift that cannot be purchased.
Let me use an example which contrasts a politician (often successful and rarely significant) with a statesman (usually both)…it has been said that a politician is concerned with winning the election and a statesman is concerned about future generations. The politician makes promises and is motivated by pride, ego, notoriety and personal success. The statesman keeps commitments, is motivated by service above and beyond self, and by making a lasting difference. The typical politician spews tired rhetoric while lining their pockets, and has little hope for becoming significant. The true statesman is a breath of fresh air whose only pursuit is to make a positive difference in the lives of others. The politician in pursuit of his/her goal will live in infamy or insignificance. By contrast, the statesman in pursuit of the best interests of others will become both successful and significant.
Sure, for those “who get it” success and significance are one in the same, but for most professionals success begins and ends with the achievement of a certain list of personal goals with little regard to the impact on others. These people confuse success with significance, and regardless of their wealth and professional accomplishments, they won’t accomplish the true greatness that only comes through making significant contributions to something other than one’s self. I don’t care how your resume reads, what your net worth is, or what your W-2 shows…what I care about is your motivation, and what you do with what you have.
Let me be clear that I have nothing against those that have acquired material success, just those that have acquired their success at either the expense of others, or without regard for others. I have little respect for those who live large and give a buck ninety eight to charity at the end of the year just to feel better about themselves. By contrast I am always impressed by those who choose a life of service over personal glory, or those who understand how to leverage their personal success into significance.
While most of my clients have acquired significant material possessions, they just don’t live their lives according to a “he or she who has the most toys wins” philosophy. They don’t give because their accountant told them to, or for estate planning purposes, they give to make a difference. They don’t throw trivial contributions to a variety of charities to see their name appear on donor’s lists, they make substantial contributions (usually with little if any self-promotion). It all boils down to motivation…are you solely seeking to have fun, fame, fortune, and recognition, or are you seeking to serve and benefit others with what you have?
It is my opinion that when you start to define your personal success by the value you add to the lives of others you have arrived as a mature human being who possesses true influence and has become a person of significance. My challenge to you is this…set the chinning bar very high for yourself by reevaluating your goals and objectives to insure that you are on a path towards significance. Don’t allow yourself to become blinded by your success, rather leverage your success in an attempt to make a lasting and significant legacy for which you and your family can be proud.
“Finding The Zone” is a concept that most athletes are familiar with, but what about CEOs? We’ve all heard the sportscaster refer to an athlete as being in “the zone,” and so my question is this: “How do you find your performance zone as a CEO?” or better yet, “How do you find and remain in the leadership zone?” What respectable chief executive wouldn’t want to function at their best more often than they currently do? Wouldn’t it be a marvelous thing to be able to place yourself in the zone when needed? In today’s post I’ll provide some tips for CEOs to help them be successful in Finding the zone…
We’ve all no doubt had our individual moments in the zone. That said, I don’t know too many chief executives that wouldn’t like to find a formula that would allow them to replicate on demand their highest level of achievement, and the almost euphoric feeling associated with peak performance. While all of us have experienced the zone, some of us clearly spend more time there than others…
In fact, if you examine peak performers you’ll find that whether they’re athletes, scholars, executives, soldiers, politicians etc. they all spend more time in the zone than their counterparts who comprise the masses. They seem to have the ability to reach down and call upon something special when the steaks are at the highest. Reflect back upon your personal history and you’ll find these peak performers to have been your team captains, class presidents, mentors, and other people of influence. People who know how to frequently find the zone tend to be leaders that inspire confidence and engender credibility through their decisions and their actions.
In thinking about “the zone,” as important as finding it is, learning to stay in the zone is perhaps even more critical. So, is there really any single formula that will allow a person to find and stay in the zone? Probably not…the main reason I answer in the negative is that everyone’s definition of success or peak performance will be unique to their personal needs or situation, which makes a one size fits all formula rather difficult to apply. The above caveat being noted, if you apply the rigor of the following disciplines to your personal situation, I believe you’ll not only find the zone, but you’ll be able to stay in the zone more often than you otherwise would:
- Knowledge: Rarely will you find a peak performer who doesn’t either possess superior knowledge and/or understand how to access and leverage the knowledge of others. Gain a superior knowledge of your subject matter, and create strong relationships and alliances with other subject matter experts such that you have a competitive edge. It is extremely difficult to find the zone when everyone around you has better access to information and more knowledge than you do. Never stop learning…when you think you’ve learned everything you need to know look-out for the brick wall ahead as it will hurt when you crash into it…
- Become a Great Communicator: Nothing will help you find the zone faster than becoming an excellent communicator. While knowing what to say, when to say it and who to say it to is important, knowing how to say it is even more important. Oddly enough knowing when not to say something is perhaps the greatest evidence that you understand the art of communication. Long story short, become a master of communications in both written and oral form and you will stand out from the crowd.
- Authenticity: I was listening to a panel discussion last week in which two different members of the panel articulated similar positions about being your authentic self. One member simply said: “Be yourself as everyone else is already taken” and the other member chimed-in by saying: “Nobody can be as good at being you as you can…you have the market cornered on you.” By being true to your core values, understanding who you are, and knowing what makes you tick you will already be ahead of most of your peers.
- Passion: Authentic people are not only very real and transparent in their dealings, they are also extremely passionate about what they do. Passion often translates into a very strong purpose which in turn presents the passionate individual with clarity, energy and a relentless edge that others do not possess. Passionate people don’t quit…in fact they just plain refuse to lose. If you’re not passionate about what you do it is highly unlikely that you’ll ever find the zone much less stay in the zone.
- Prioritize and Focus: There is an old saying which states that “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” If you allow yourself to be distracted your efforts will be less than your best, and your results will be diluted. Your authenticity and your passion will make your priorities clear. It is much easier for the passionate to focus on the right things, for the right reasons, and at the right times. It is difficult to find a passionate person who is not extremely focused.
- Breakout of comfort zones: If you think about comfort zones as danger zones you’ll be less likely to be derailed by apathy & complacency. Peak performers are rarely satisfied with the status quo…They are the change agents and innovators who turn the unthinkable and unattainable into reality. Mario Andretti once said that “if everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” If you want to find the zone more often be disruptive, challenge everything, fly in the face of conventional thinking, and push the envelope. Greatness is never found in the comfort of mediocrity.
- Who You Know Matters: Build a strong, diverse and loyal network. Much has been written of late about ROR (Return on Relationships) and all of it in my opinion is true. In today’s complex global economy, long gone are the days of the person who stands alone. Your true strength resides in your ability leverage your network to bring influence to bear on critical issues when needed. If you are not constantly building and improving your network you are making a huge mistake.
If you focus on the points listed above your chances of both finding and staying in the zone will increase measurably. As always, feel free to share any thoughts or tips about increasing performance by commenting below…
Today’s message is not likely to please the politically correct, nor will it mollycoddle the timid. I’m not going to address competing or playing nicely, rather I’m going to deal very bluntly with the topic of winning. Want to succeed? It’s easier than you might think…just don’t quit. Strip away the excuses, rationalizations, and justifications, and the only thing standing between you and the attainment of your objectives is what you see staring back at you when you look in the mirror each morning. In today’s post I’ll examine the benefits of playing to win…
How quickly time passes…in only a matter of a few weeks we’ll close out the first 3 months of 2010. So I have a few questions for you: Are you on pace to meet your objectives? Will you be carrying positive momentum into Q2, or will you be playing catch-up from the get go? If you think Q1 passed quickly, it won’t be long before you’re feeling the same way about Q2. Did you just show up the last few months, or did you play to win?
I’m a big fan of the Die Hard movies, and the one thing you have to admire about the main character, detective John McClain (played by Bruce Willis), is that regardless of the obstacles he encounters, he just won’t quit. Granted, the aforementioned example of determination against all odds comes from a fictional character, but the fact of the matter is that successful people play to win. They don’t indulge themselves in half-hearted attempts destined for failure, rather they choose to focus all their efforts and energies on accomplishing their mission.
My first football coach used to say: “Don’t even bother showing up if you’re not going to play to win…” Mind you I tend to be a bit competitive, but even so, that phrase has stuck with me my entire life. I don’t often bother with taking on an endeavor unless I plan to accomplish the task at hand, and that means not quitting until I meet the objective. It is that “refuse to lose” and “never say die” attitude that I picked-up on the playing field, and had further reinforced during my time in the military that provides me with a competitive advantage.
I have found that dedication, determination, attention to detail, commitment, and focus are the traits that have been most valuable to me throughout the years, and are therefore the strengths that I tend to play to. The good news is this…if you examine the aforementioned traits you’ll quickly see that I possess no special skill, and I have no secret tricks up my sleeve. Rather the things that have allowed me to serve my clients well, are things that anyone can harness and leverage if they possess one thing…the desire to do so.
I could certainly paint a more complex picture of what it takes to be successful by citing esoteric management theories, but the truth of the matter is that I just don’t quit until I get the job done. I don’t spend my time complaining about the challenges and obstacles, rather I spend my time solving problems and creating solutions. If my objective is to get to the other side of the wall, I don’t really care if I go over the wall, under the wall, around the wall or through the wall…I just care that I get to the other side. While I might spend a bit of time evaluating the most efficient strategy for getting to the other side of said wall, it will ultimately be my focus on the tactical execution of conquering the challenge that will determine my success. A bias toward action is always a better path than falling prey to analysis paralysis.
I once played an entire half of a football game with a broken ankle, early on in my first entrepreneurial venture I found myself at a critical nexus and chose to liquidate personal assets to meet payroll, I’ve gone as many as 4 days in a row without sleeping to stay the course and solve a critical issue, I’ve led teams to achieve things that others said couldn’t be accomplished, I’ve kept my family a priority being happily married for more than 25 years and having raised two wonderful children, and the list could go on…My point in describing these actions is not to pat myself on the back for anyone could have done these things, but the reality is that most people don’t. They choose to accept defeat…they don’t play to win…They aren’t willing to do what it takes to be successful…They quit.
Quitting is a temptation that all of us are consistently confronted with. The reason that so many people become a casualty of giving up, is because they can. Put simply, quitting is one of the easiest things to do in life. If you take your eye off the ball, even if only momentarily, that’s all it takes for most people to throw in the towel is a tinge of anger, humiliation, panic, rejection, stress, frustration, hurt, pain, jealousy, sorrow or anguish. Look back on your live, or the lives of others, and you’ll find numerous instances of people who took the easy way out and just quit.
Upon further examination, you’ll also find that the people who have succeeded in life are those people who displayed the grit and fortitude to stay the course. They are the ones who possess the desire and will to overcome whatever challenges and barriers that happen to be placed in their path.
My message to you as we enter Q2 is simply this: Play to win…Don’t compromise your values, define your vision, refine your mission, architect your strategy, identify your objectives, set your goals, implement your tactics and engage in willful, purposeful action. Stay focused and do not quit until you’ve met your objectives…
The response to the Michael Jordan piece I posted earlier today was overwhelming. Most of the e-mails I received asked for more inspirational videos to be mixed-in amongst the more traditional posts. In that vein, I thought I’d offer the above video on famous failures as a follow-up piece for your weekend enjoyment.
Michael Jordan “Failure” Nike Commercial
In a previous post entitled “Don’t Quit” I espoused the benefits of staying the course and not giving up. In today’s post I wanted to share a short video with you in support of the concept that it is acutally those who have the fortitude to work through failure that often have the most noteworthy success. While this video is just a Nike commercial it nonetheless proves that when you look behind the public face of success you will most often find quiet determination, persistence, and a refuse to lose attitude…