The Secret to Success? Don’t be yourself – Part 1

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How many times has this happened?  A boy is trying to get a girl he likes to notice him.  He goes to his sister or mother for advice – thinking that he can talk to her and figure out exactly what he needs to do.

He wants to know the usual: What do I say? What do I do? How do I get her to like me back?

Invariably, the answer comes back as some version of, “Just be yourself, and if she doesn’t like you for who you are, then you don’t want her anyway.”  Right.

Now the poor kid is more confused than before.  “Himself” is the only person he knows how to be, and he’s been doing that already this whole time.  Being himself clearly, clearly hasn’t been working on the girl.

This advice, while heartfelt and well-intended, missed a very important point.  Sometimes, just being yourself isn’t good enough. You need to be your best self.

It’s why we wear a suit to a job interview instead of a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops.  It’s why we get a haircut, take care to pick out an outfit, and take our date to some nice restaurant that we normally wouldn’t go within 10 miles of.

It’s because we know the power of impressions and we want to make a good one the first time around.  In these situations, we’re still the same person, but we put our best foot forward.  We don’t just be ourselves: we become our best selves.  That’s the difference.

Everyone wants to know the secret to success.  Those who have attained it say that it really isn’t all that complicated. It boils down to being your best self in a few key ways: One of them is Execution.

Successful people have mastered the process of executing to get where they want to be. In other words, they’ve learned how to get things done.

I’ll break this down into three areas: Initiative, Goals, and Grit.

Initiative
Very few people succeed overnight, and in many cases it only seems like someone has done so because we missed the whole story and skipped to the end of the movie.  We didn’t see how hard they worked, how many nights they went sleepless, and how much they sacrificed in pursuit of their dreams.

Had we been witness to their countless small victories, their ultimate success would have seemed less sudden and more inevitable.

The tasks we must complete to move forward on the road to success can vary.  Sometimes they aren’t very complicated or difficult.  Sometimes they’re inconvenient or time-consuming.  Sometimes they’re easy.

The one thing that all these tasks have in common is that they don’t do themselves.  If you don’t take the initiative and do these things, they don’t get done and you don’t succeed.  Period.

Trait: Successful people proactively do things that they know will move them forward.

Goals
Successful people know exactly what they want.  Many of us say that we know what we want, but very few have taken the time to really think through the details.

For example: Many people say they want to lose weight.  That’s great!  So how many pounds do you want to lose?  How will you lose it?  When are you going to start?  How will you keep it off?

Here’s another: “I want to be financially stable.”  Amen to that. How many dollars will it take for you to be stable?  What assets will you use to park your wealth?  How much debt will you tolerate?  How are you going to get this money in the first place?

A goal must be two things: Measurable and time-bound.  If you can’t examine your situation and know this second whether or not your goal is complete, it’s not a goal.  Moreover, if you know what you want but don’t know when you’ll get around to going after it, then you might as well not  even bother.

Trait: Successful people know exactly what they want and set deadlines to go get it.

Grit
Have you ever met someone that talks about what they want to do, maybe even starts a thing or two, but always gives up because it was too hard?  This is a classic example of a person that lacks grit.

Show me someone that has earned their way in the world, and I’ll show you someone with grit.  Grit is what separates the men from the boys – the characteristic by which a person keeps persisting in the face of difficulty, challenge, and adversity.   Grit is how hard-won success is won.

This reminds me of a favorite passage of mine in The Greatest Salesman in the World, by Og Mandino:

I will try, and try, and try again. Each obstacle I will consider as a mere detour to my goal and a challenge to my profession. I will persist and develop my skills as the mariner develops his, by learning to ride out the wrath of each storm.  I will persist until I succeed.

Trait: Successful people aren’t deterred by challenges.  They are people with grit and persist until they succeed.

So, if you want to be successful, Lesson 1 is to execute like a successful person.  Remember to take initiative, set goals, and grit your way through challenges.

More to come on this series later.


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