This week, I noticed a change in how I was updating friends on my progress. After listing my accomplishments I qualified them by saying things like “Nothing is certain until the ink is dry.” This is true but saying it changes my focus from steps gained to the steps to go. What an energy drainer. Why do we do things like this to ourselves?
Dan Sullivan discussed this phenomenon in his book The Gap. He said that people who measure their achievements against the ideal “will always come up short. You will always feel deficient. (Contrarily) when we measure our achievements by where we have come from, we always have a sense of progress. There is an overall experience of increasing capability and confidence. With each new success, there is a heightened sense of optimism because the future has always turned out to be better than the past.”
Claude Bristol, in his book The Magic of Believing, shared a similar insight. He said, “Our thoughts determine our carriage, our facial expressions, our conversation, for what we are outwardly comes as a result of what we think habitually. Whatever you fix your thoughts upon or steadily focus your imagination upon, that is what you attract.” Yikes! By qualifying my achievements, I have been sapping the energy I need to earn new ones.
This is unacceptable and I am stopping it now. From now on I am going to celebrate little wins. Did I mention that recently I had a promising conversation with a publisher?
It feels like I have joined a public speaking boot camp. This week’s workout was at a high school where I spoke with 100 students and teachers over two sessions. The topic was my life’s timeline and the lessons learned along the way. For fifteen and sixteen year olds, this had the potential of being boring, or worse, sleep inducing, so I added lots of excitement: a costume change, candy rewards (Kraft/Cadbury brands of course), high-kicks, and brutally honest stories (and the emotions behind them). It was a lot of fun and they seemed engaged by the good and bad decisions I made.
It felt strange sharing my life with an audience. Although I prefer the present over the past, I had forgotten some of the experiences that have made me who I am. My lessons learned are:
– Believe in yourself – no one can do it for you
– Decide what you want in life and go for it
– Be good at something, anything – “The more I practice the
luckier I get”
– Keep your options open – be open to new things
– The more you do the more opportunities you find
– Be referable – that’s how you get ahead
– First impressions count
– Be positive
– you don’t accomplish much when you are
– If something isn’t working, try a different approach
– Ask for help
(and give it too)
– Don’t burn bridges
– What goes around comes around
Like most public speaking talks, you learn from your audience
and I am still thinking of the students’ and teachers’ thoughtful
questions. Now, how do I write a thank you note to 100
In the late 90s, I was influenced by the writings of Dan Sullivan, the founder of The Strategic Coach program, a process for helping entrepreneurs grow. His perspectives helped me manage my career and life. One of his core processes is called The Entrepreneurial Time System where time is divided into three types of days: “free days” (off-limits days to rejuvenate), “buffer days” (preparation days), and “focus days” (performing days).
Although I couldn’t organize my time in this way, I did benefit from the thinking behind it. In particular, Dan believes that you create breakthrough ideas during a series of consecutive “free days” where you completely remove yourself from work (including emails or reading business journals). Mark, my friend and fellow Sullivan fan, and I would ask each other about our breakthrough idea after each vacation. They were usually good ones.
I thought of Dan this week when my family went skiing at Whistler. On day 3, my breakthrough idea came to me about half way up the mountain. I realized that my greatest achievements are ahead of me.This is true of most people but declaring it verbally and in writing creates the mindset necessary to make it real. Questions like “What are better achievements?” and “What would have to be true to achieve them?” have started forming the steps to reach them. My book is my next step.
As we left Whistler Village for the last time, a sign in front of the The North Face store captured the gist of my breakthrough: Never stop exploring (to become your best).