Insights For Success

Strategy, Innovation, Leadership and Security

The steps to achieving greatness

Motivation, Team buildingEdward KiledjianComment

Regardless of your chosen field of expertise, you most likely want to be great at it. When coaching individuals, I am often asked “What takes someone from average to good to great?”.  Putting aside your field-specific characteristics, there are some immutable laws of success that I want to share with you.

The first golden rule comes from Stephen Covey’s book “7 habits of highly effective people” and is “start with the end in mind”. Regardless of how YOU define great, spend some time to think about it. Get specific. Close your eyes and imagine how it feels to be great  and what you are doing when you are great.

The devil is in the details
When was the last time your GPS failed you? Did you ever get lost using it because of the GPS? Most likely the answer is a resounding NO! When you are planning a road trip from Point A to Point B, you plug the information into your trusty GPS and it plots a very specific turn by turn route. After all, we expect nothing less from our GPS. The reason it works every time is because if plots a specific set of actions (turns) that are designed to get you to your destination. The same can be used in your quest for greatness. When setting a goal for greatness, define exactly what that means. Define all of the parameters.

Don’t just say, “I want to lose weight”.  Say “I want to lose 20 lbs in 30 days following the slow carb diet and exercising for at least 30 minutes, 4 times a week.”  Which of these has a greater chance of success?

Time management
Most people manage their time without a specific framework. The last loudest request gets their priority. This is more common than you think. 80% of people I work with do not have a formal time management strategy and this is deadly to your success.

How do you know you are spending your time wisely when you don’t know everything you have on your plate? How do you prioritize the activities that generate the biggest bang for the buck (the 80/20 rule)? Spend the time to learn a time management framework and implement it for every aspect of your life (work and personal). Years ago, I started learning the Getting Things Done methodology thaught by David Allen and have customized it for myself.

The next time you forget to make that important phone call, send that important email or exercise, ask yourself if you really were too busy. Was there something else that should have been skipped?

Life gives each of us plenty of opportunities to rise above the crowd and shine if we are equipped to see it and act upon it.

Honest introspection
Very early in my career, a boss explained to me the importance of periodic, planned and honest introspection. Think about how quickly life passes by. Set a defined schedule to conduct  honest self-assessment.

Every 6 months, I take a weekend and conduct this very valuable activity. I write down my assessment and use it as a baseline for my next self-assessment. Am I where I thought I would be by now? If not, why? Where did I deviate and how can I get back on course? Also knowing where I am today, I can determine where I should be at the next assessment?

Generally my planning horizons are 6 months, 12 months, 24 months, 5 years and 10 years.

Enthusiastic realism
The old adage holds true “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Introspection is critical but I want to spend some time here talking about the adjective I used, “honest”. When evaluating yourself or planning your future, be enthusiastically realist.  IT is important to run after the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal – from the book “Building Your Company's Vision”) but always be realistic.

“ A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as a unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.”  —Collins and Porras, 1996

It is a stretch, something achievable but just beyond your current reach. Belief in yourself is critical to success. Ensure all of your planned goals are achievable with the right commitment of time, effort, desire and money.

Remember that the BHAG is a stretch
Some people unconsciously set goals that prove their abilities. Remember that the purpose of your goals should be to exceed your current potential and doing so requires constant improvement. Always set your next goal a little higher than your current skill set (physical, mental, knowledge, etc).

When I attended an Anthony Robbins seminar many years ago, he had the firewalk experience at the end of the first day. They basically layed down red hot coals and you were expected to walk over them, without getting burned. Impossible you say, and so I believed until the end of the first day. Once you push yourself to do it and realize you achieve something you thought was not possible, it triggers a whole new set of thinking. I know that my thoughts can limit my abilities or unlock them. I understand the power of belief and how it can cause self limitation.

Find your own way to break free from your self-imposed limiting beliefs. A friend of mine was afraid of heights so after careful planning and work, we went skydiving. Sure he was terrified the minute he made the decision to jump (which he made, it was not forced) but the unbelievable feeling of freedom that followed was worth it. Face your demons and push yourself to conquer them.

Like a broken record, let me restate that which you have heard a thousand times. Perseverance and patience pay off. We have become a society that demands instant gratification and that is simply not how life works. Most of the time, you will not immediately benefit from your hard work and determination. When you graduated from university, you weren’t immediately given a senior manager job right out of the gate. It took time and hard work. Most likely it took many years. But eventually you were richly rewarded for your hard work.

When you drive a motor vehicle, you are likely calm, confident and in control. But think back to the first time you got in a car, how was the experience? Was your control of the speed smooth? What about turning or merging with fast oncoming traffic. You kept at it until you “got good”.

The law of attraction
I am not going to ask you to believe in some esoteric superpower that grants your every wish. I am asking you however to focus on what you will do rather than what you won’t. Your brain has an amazing ability to make things happen and will make happen what you think about. If you constantly think about “not getting into an accident”, you will likely find yourself in one then tell yourself “you knew it was going to happen”.

When planning to lose weight, I don’t constantly think about “not eating a doughnut” but rather on what I will do next to lose the weight (eat the right food, exercise, etc). I would be lying if I said I don’t think about doughnuts but when the thought comes up, I acknowledge it (don’t blame yourself), I write it down on a list of things to consider eating on my next cheat day and I move on to the positive.

Don’t beat yourself for having a “bad” thought. Acknowledge it, handle it calmly and then tell yourself it’s time to move on to a positive goal-enhancing thought.

Implementing all of the above takes time. Give yourself the permission to embark on YOUR journey of greatness and remember that the longest trip starts with the first step. Plan your goals, learn the skills and achieve what you were meant to achieve.