Everyone wants to be successful in life. For some, it is achieving status or accolades at work. For others, it is reaching a weight loss goal to increase longevity and health. Well, I’m going to tell you in one sentence how to achieve success. First, I’ll tell you what it isn’t. The key to success isn’t hard work, birthright, or education. To be a success you simply have to form the habit of doing things that others don’t like to do. It’s that simple and it’s that hard. I learned this great truth from reading Albert E.N. Gray’s classic, The New Common Denominator of Success.
It’s tough to deal with problems, tougher to take action, and toughest to make decisions that stand firm on your principles. It’s difficult to be disciplined in your personal life when you’d just rather take the path of least resistance.
Throughout my career I’ve entered several organizations of various sizes and assembled a team to help me “turn them around”. In essence, I revamped the existing leadership, grew the revenue, and made the customer a raving fan. How did I do this? I did it by doing the things that the previous people in charge did not want to do. I addressed parochialism, unprofessionalism, and the damaging “us versus them” mentality. I shared information, held people accountable, and worked with the customer on a shared strategic vision.
What did that get me? Lawsuits, grievances, a target on my back from the 10% that were seeking to drag the organization down, and rebuff from superiors to just not rock the boat while they relished in the rising profit margins, higher cost savings, and increased business.
What did it also get me? Credibility, tenacity, strength, character, the respect of the people that you want the respect from because they know you’ll fight the fight and do the right thing. A reputation of looking out for the safety, upward mobility, and mentoring of the 90% of the workforce that is honest and wants to succeed.
Would I do anything different? No, I actually could not nor would I want too. Early on I had developed deep within me the habit of doing the things others didn’t like or want to do. It’s so easy just to kick the can down the road, but when you make doing what others don’t like to do a true habit, you make it a priority and an actual part of you. How do you develop this habit? There are several ways. The first is reading. Read everything from every great leader, manager, or life changer that you can get your hands on. If it is an autobiography, all the better because you can walk in the shoes of greatness and see all that they had to endure. Second, surround yourself with people that can mentor and coach you.
It gives me joy when I am faced with the negatives of working towards success to discover via a mentor, coach, or book, the fact that someone I admire had walked through the exact same fire as me! There is a great comfort and even more encouragement in that. For example, many people ascending the leadership ladder are often confronted with tough decision making issues. And since the buck stops with them, the stakes are highest. It’s at times like this that I would pull out a little book I kept in my top drawer on General Patton filled with his thoughts on making decisions. And if Patton could make life and death battle decisions with confidence, I figured I could make my operational decisions as best I could!