The quality of a person’s life will be determined by the depth of their commitment to excellence, no matter what their chosen field.
– Vince Lombardi
The starting point of great accomplishment is for you to break loose from the mental bonds that hold you back. Dreaming big dreams and setting big goals provide the starting point of thinking, seeing, and feeling yourself to be capable of achieving far more than you ever have before.
How you think and feel about yourself is largely determined by how effective you feel you are in the important things you do, especially in your work or career. It is not possible for you to feel happy and confident as a person if you are not competent and capable in the areas of your life that are central to your personal identity.
One of the most powerful ways for you to change your thinking about yourself is for you to commit to excellence. It is to make the decision, right now, to be the best, to join the top 10 percent in your field, no matter how long it takes. The very act of thinking of yourself as potentially excellent at what you do actually changes your mind-set and improves your personality. It makes you happier and raises your self-esteem.You like and respect yourself more, just by deciding to be the best.
The market pays superior rewards only for superior performance.It pays average rewards for average performance, and below-average rewards, unemployment, and bankruptcy for below-average performance. Today, the race is on in every area.Your competitors are more capable and determined than they have ever been before, and will grow even more so next year, and the year after, and for the rest of your career. You have to run faster just to stay in the same place.
- THE GOOD OLD DAYS
At one time, you had to be excellent to rise to the top of your field or market. Today, however, excellence is taken for granted. Today, you have to be excellent just to get into the market in the first place.Then you have to constantly improve, getting better and better, week by week and month by month, if you want to keep up with the competition.
In every field, the top 20 percent of companies make 80 percent of the profits in that business or industry. The top 20 percent of salespeople make 80 percent of the sales and 80 percent of the income. The top 20 percent in every field enjoy most of the great rewards of money, pride, satisfaction, and reputation that go along with being the best at what they do. Your job is to join them, as quickly as possible.
- THE CONTROL VALVE ON PERFORMANCE
Perhaps the most important quality of high-achieving men and women is that of ambition. They see themselves, think about themselves, and conduct themselves every day as though they were among the elite in their fields. They set high goals for themselves and continually work to exceed those goals. For them quotas are minimums, not maximums. They look upon the accomplishments of everyone else as challenges to themselves to be even better. And so must you.
The core of your personality is your level of self-esteem.Your selfesteem is a measure of how much you value yourself, and how much you think of yourself as an important and worthwhile person. Your self-esteem is the power source of your personality. It determines your levels of energy, enthusiasm, motivation, inspiration, and drive.The more you like and respect yourself, the better you do at everything you attempt. And the better you do, the more you like and respect yourself. Self-esteem and personal excellence reinforce each other.
- THE BETTER YOU DO
Self-esteem and self-efficacy are flip sides of the same coin of personality. You can genuinely like and respect yourself only when you know, deep in your heart, that you are really good at what you do. A sense of personal mastery is absolutely essential to the healthy human personality. Every single thing that you do in an excellent fashion boosts your self-esteem and makes you feel better about yourself. It makes you feel even more confident of performing at even higher levels.
Achieving your full potential requires high levels of courage and confidence. Great success requires a continual willingness to move out of your comfort zone, and to break the bonds of learned helplessness that hold most people back.
The higher your self-esteem, the more powerful, positive, and determined you will become. The more you like yourself, the more willing you will be to take chances, to step out in faith, and to persist longer than anyone else. The better you become in your chosen field, the stronger and more confident you will become in every other part of your life as well.
- THE ABSOLUTE PREREQUISITE
The fact is that it is impossible for you to be truly happy or successful until you know in your heart that you are very, very good at what you do. For this reason alone, you must resolve to overcome any obstacle, pay any price, and go any distance to achieve this level of excellence.You must set a goal to be among the top 10 percent of performers in your field, and then do whatever it takes to get there.
Fortunately, getting to the top is easier than you think. The great majority of people seldom think about personal excellence. And if the thought crosses their minds, they quickly dismiss it and go back to average performance. Most of the people around you are content to do their jobs, for better or for worse, and then go out with their friends, or go home and watch television. However, when you begin to make those extra efforts that enable you to excel, you will find that, like a runner going into a sprint, you soon move ahead of the pack of the average performers.
- DEVELOP THE WINNING EDGE
One of the most important of all success principles is the ”winning edge” concept. This concept explains success and failure, and has been demonstrated over and over. This principle says: Small differences in ability can lead to enormous differences in results. It seems that the top people in every field are usually just a little bit better than the average in the critical things that they do. But consistency in being a little bit better in your key skill areas eventually adds up to an enormous difference in results.
In fact, all you need is to be about 3 percent better in each of the key result areas of your job to develop the winning edge. This edge enables you to move to the front in the race of life. Once you get a little ahead, you can then maintain and increase this gap by continuous self-improvement.You can continue to get better and better with learning and practice.With this strategy, you will soon emerge in the top 10 percent, or even the top 5 percent, of people in your field.
- KEY RESULT AREAS
Success in any job requires a minimum level of performance in one or more tasks or functions. These are the key result areas (KRAs) of the position. Key results areas are the tasks that you absolutely, positively have to do well to be successful in your overall job, whatever it is. As it happens, there are seldom more than five to seven key result areas in any job, position, company, or area of responsibility. Your job is to identify the KRAs of your job and then make a plan to improve in each one.
The reason they are called ”key result areas” is because they are the essential skills necessary for you to do your job completely and well. A weakness in any one of them can hold you back from excellent performance in your overall job.You are successful because of your strength in certain key result areas, but your weakest key result area determines the degree of effectiveness with which you will be able to use all the others.Your weakest key skill area largely determines your income.
- IDENTIFY YOUR KEY SKILLS
Each job or desired result can be defined in terms of the key skills necessary to achieve it. For example, there are seven key result areas in selling. A weakness in any one of them can hold you back from selling as much as you can. They are: (1) prospecting; (2) establishing trust and rapport; (3) identifying the customer’s problem or need; (4) presenting your product or service as the ideal solution to the problem; (5) answering objections and concerns; (6) getting agreement to proceed; and (7) obtaining resales and referrals. If you perform well in all seven of these areas, you will soon be at the top of your field. If you are poor in any area, your performance in that area will determine your income.
In management, there are also seven key result areas. They are: (1) planning; (2) organizing; (3) selecting the right people; (4) delegating; (5) supervising; (6) measuring; and (7) reporting, both upward and downward. If you are excellent at every key skill except for one, that one weakness alone will hold you back in your career as a manager.
There are critical success factors in almost every area of life. For example, there are four critical success factors that determine your physical health. They are: (1) proper diet; (2) proper weight; (3) proper exercise; and (4) proper rest. Almost all of your health problems can be traced back to a problem or deficiency in one of these four areas.
The starting point of personal excellence is for you to identify the key result areas of your job. Define them clearly and write them down. Make a list of the tasks, in order, that you must perform to get the results expected of you in your job. Evaluate your current performance in each of these key result areas.Where are you strong? Where are you weak? Be honest.
- SET STANDARDS OF PERFORMANCE
If you want to lose weight, the first thing you do is weigh yourself. If you want to improve in any area, you first measure how well you are doing in that area today, and then use that as a baseline for improvement.
Once you have determined the results that you absolutely, positively have to get to perform at your best in a particular aspect area of your life or work, you then give yourself a score of 1 to 10 in each key result area, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest. You must be at a 7 level or above in each area to do your overall job in an excellent fashion. Wherever you are scoring 7 or below, you must set a goal to improve in that area.
Always start your program of personal improvement where you can get the greatest result the fastest.This will invariably be in the key result area where you are the weakest. Identify your lowest-scoring KRA and then make a plan to improve in this skill area as quickly as possible. Simultaneously, you develop a plan to gradually improve in each other area where you are weak.
Every step you take toward improving yourself in one of your key result areas will improve your results in your job. The better you get at your job, the more you will like and respect yourself. The more you like and respect yourself, the better you will feel, and the more energy and enthusiasm you will have.You will soon become unstoppable.
- PERSONAL STRATEGIC PLANNING
In the business world of the twentieth century, it was generally agreed that corporations should conduct strategic planning on a regular basis. Individuals, though, were encouraged to set personal goals. In the twenty-first century, however, the situation is different. Today, each individual, just like a company, must engage in a regular process of personal strategic planning.
In personal strategic planning, you view yourself as a business organization. With this perspective, you make more detailed, longrange plans for your goals and activities in every part of your life.
Today, you must spend far more time thinking about your future than ever before.You must invest more energy and effort analyzing and planning the steps you need to take to translate your future dreams into present realities.You must manage yourself better than ever before.You have to take complete control over everything that happens to you.
- AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION
Sometimes I ask my audiences, ”How many people here are selfemployed?” Usually, about 10 to 15 percent of the audience will raise their hands. I then stop the seminar and ask them again, ”How many people here are really self-employed?” And then I wait.
It doesn’t take them very long. People look at each other and then back at me and then at each other again. Soon, one hand after another begins to go up. Eventually, everyone has his or her hands raised. Everyone realizes that they are all self-employed.
The biggest mistake that you can make is to think that you ever work for anyone else but yourself. The fact is that you are always selfemployed, from the time you take your first job until the time you retire. No matter who signs your paycheck, you are working for yourself. You are the president of an entrepreneurial personal services company with one employee – yourself. In the long run, as a result of the things that you do or fail to do, you determine how much you earn. If you want an increase in pay, you can go to the nearest mirror and negotiate with your ”boss.”
- YOU DETERMINE YOUR OWN INCOME
People sometimes argue with me about this. They say that the pay structures in their business or industry are determined by factors over which they have no control. But then I point out to them that it was they who decided to go to work in that business or industry. And it is they who decide to stay there.They are in charge.They are on their own payroll.
If you are not happy with any part of your work, it is up to you to change it. Benjamin Disraeli said, ”Never complain and never explain.” If there is a part of your work or personal life that you don’t like, don’t waste your time complaining about it. Instead, take action. As Shakespeare’s Hamlet expresses it, ”take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.”
Seeing yourself as the president of your own personal services corporation requires that you accept total responsibility for everything you are, and everything you ever will be. This is an enormous thought for many people. It is both scary and exhilarating.
Just imagine! You are where you are and what you are because you have decided to be there. Everything you accomplish, for the rest of your life, will be largely determined by the actions that you take, or fail to take.You are responsible.You are in charge.You are in control.You are your own boss. And there are no limits except the limits that you allow the outside world to place on yourself and on your thinking.
- THE AIM OF STRATEGY
When you begin thinking of yourself as a personal services corporation, you separate yourself from all those people who think they work for someone else. When you take charge of your career, you begin thinking in terms of personal strategic planning, just like a large business.You begin making plans for the long term.
The parallels between corporate planning and personal planning are very similar. The purpose of strategic planning in a business is to achieve the highest return on equity (ROE) invested in the business. All strategic plans and tactics are aimed at reorganizing the resources and activities of the company in such a way that it achieves a higher rate of financial return on its resources than it was achieving before.
In its simplest terms, strategic planning is aimed at increasing the ratio of outputs to inputs. All of the management practices popular today, such as restructuring, reorganizing, reengineering, and reinventing, are aimed at improving the functioning of the organization so that it earns more money. They are aimed at increasing outputs and rates of return on equity.
- INCREASING YOUR RETURN ON ENERGY
If return on financial capital is called return on equity, your personal ROE is your return on energy. Personal strategic planning is focused on organizing and reorganizing your life, restructuring and reengineering your activities, to increase the quality and quantity of rewards you get from the investment of the hours and days of your life in what you do.
Let us say, for example, that you have decided that you want to double your income in the next three to five years. This is a reasonable goal that many people around you are already achieving. It is not that difficult to achieve. Simply put, to double your income, you merely have to double the value of your output relative to your input. You have to double the value of your contribution.
Financial results come as the result of performing a function or producing valuable goods and services that someone is willing to pay for. If you want to increase the amount you get out, you have to make a plan to increase the amount you put in.
- YOUR AREA OF EXCELLENCE
What is the critical factor that determines the success or failure of any company? It is its competitive advantage, or ”area of excellence.” Every company comes into being and survives because it has a unique capacity to offer the market something that is better in some way than anything being offered by its competitors. It stays in business as long as it continues to satisfy its customers in a particular area better than anyone else.
The competitive advantage or unique selling proposition of a company determines its rate of growth, its level of sales, its profitability, and its very survival. Companies without a competitive advantage soon disappear from the marketplace, to be replaced by other companies with clear, unmistakable, competitive advantages that customers can and will pay for.
You are no different. As the president of a company of one, you, too, must develop and maintain meaningful competitive advantage. You must develop an area of uniqueness.You must be absolutely excellent in the work that you do so that you can rise to the top of your field.Your choices and decisions about what your competitive advantage is, and will be, are the critical determinants of your financial success in your life and career.
- SUCCEEDING THE HARD WAY
Some years ago, a friend of mine went to work for a stock brokerage firm. The recruiting and training program was highly technical and the sales training was virtually nonexistent. When he finally got his brokerage license, he was given the yellow pages and told to begin ”dialing for dollars,” phoning anybody he could get on the other end of the line and pitching them on his products. He soon learned that this was one of the hardest ways in the world to crack the professional sales field and make a living.
One day he had a sudden insight that changed his career, and eventually made him one of the top financial advisers in the country. He realized that his entire career, and everything that happened to him – his family lifestyle, his bank account, and his future— would be determined by how good he was on the telephone. So he made a decision to become absolutely outstanding at using the telephone as a prospecting and selling tool.
He read every book he could find on effective telephone techniques. He took every course and studied every piece of information on the subject. He became so good at using the telephone that he could recognize 19 different kinds of hesitancy in the voice of the person he was calling. He developed appropriate responses to each one so that he could reassure his prospects and clients that what he was recommending was the right thing for them.
Today, he earns more than five million dollars per year buying and selling investments for his clients over the phone on straight commission. Fully 99 percent of his business is done by telephone and now by computer, e-mail, and fax. He seldom meets his clients personally. But on the phone, he is a master communicator. He definitely and specifically identified and developed a competitive advantage that he used to move to the top of his field.What could it be for you?
- BECOME A DO-IT-TO-YOURSELF PROJECT
Here is an exercise: Complete this sentence: ”If I could ______ really well, I could make all the money I wanted.”Your job is to fill in the blank.
What one skill, if you developed and did it consistently in an excellent fashion, would have the greatest positive impact on your income? If you could wave a magic wand and be absolutely outstanding in any one part of your work, which part of your work would you choose? Whatever your answer, this is the key result area that you need to begin work on right away.
All lasting success in your business or career will come as a result of your doing something extremely well, something that others value and are willing to pay for. And anything that anyone else can do in an excellent fashion, you can learn to do as well. Remember, everyone in the top 10 percent started in the bottom 10 percent.
Everyone who is doing well today was once doing poorly. All of the people at the top of your field were at one time in some other field altogether.The way to get to the front of the buffet line of life, where all the good things are to be found, is simple. First, get in line. Make a decision to join the top 10 percent, no matter how long it takes. Second, stay in line. Once you start moving toward personal excellence, keep learning and practicing until you get there.
Here’s the good news. The buffet line of life is moving! It never closes. It is open 24 hours per day. Everyone who gets in line and stays in line eventually gets to the front. Nothing can stop you from getting into the top 10 percent except yourself.You are responsible.
- CLARIFY YOUR COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
One of the first questions you ask of yourself is, ”What is my competitive advantage?”What are you absolutely excellent at doing? What is it that you do better than almost anyone else in your business? What unique set of skills do you have that accounts for most of your success to date? Where are you really good?
Your second question is, ”Looking at the trends in my industry, what will my competitive advantage be in three to five years?” If things continue on the way they are and you could project yourself three to five years into the future and look around, what will you need to be doing in an excellent fashion at that time?
Many people have trouble answering both of these questions. They are not sure what their competitive advantage is today, and as a result they have no idea what their competitive advantage will be in the future. If you are in this situation, you are in great danger of underachieving and even failing in your career.
- YOUR POTENTIAL COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
Here is the next question: ”What should your competitive advantage be?” If you could be absolutely outstanding in any one area, what should it be? If you’re not sure, go and ask your boss or your co-workers. Ask them, ”If I was really, really good in any one skill, what one skill would have the greatest positive impact on my results?”
You usually know the answer to this question as soon as you ask it. If you are in doubt about the one skill that could help you the most, ask for advice and input from others.The people around you, especially your boss, can usually tell you quite quickly the answer to this question.
Once you have the answer, you set the development of that skill as your new goal or target to aim at.You change your thinking in a very positive way in that area, and you begin to imagine that you have the ability to be absolutely outstanding in that one area.You write it down, set a deadline, make a plan, and go to work on improving yourself in that area. In no time at all, you will begin to develop the winning edge in your job that will enable you to move ahead of the crowd.
- FIRE THE STAFF
Some companies today are taking their people through an exercise that can be quite traumatic to their employees. They call everyone together, and then they fire the entire staff.They announce that they are going to be rehiring someone for each job, and that each person can reapply for their job as though they were outside contractors presenting a proposal.
This proposal for their jobs would include a description of what they intend to do, how they intend to do it, how much they would charge for their work, and how much the company would gain or save by paying them the salaries they are requesting for what they are proposing to do.
As you can imagine, many employees are completely baffled when they are confronted with this exercise. The very idea of thinking through their current jobs and describing them in the form of a business proposal, along with a justification for why they should be paid the amount that they are asking, is an overwhelming task. Most people have never thought about their jobs in this way before.
Finally, the boss adds one more detail. He tells them that they will each be competing against other people who will also be submitting proposals for the same jobs. Whoever offers the company the best deal or price will get the position.
- DETERMINE EXACTLY WHAT YOU DO
If you were put into this position and you had to write out a proposal for your job, starting with the most important and valuable things that you do for your company, how would you explain yourself? How would you sell yourself to your current employer? How would make a case for the kind of money you want to earn?
What are your core competencies? What special talents and abilities do you have that make you valuable and set you apart from others? What should your core competencies be, or what could they be in the future? What is it that you do in such an excellent fashion that you are worth the kind of money that you want to earn? Your answers to these questions are essential to your success in your career.
- HOW GOOD ARE YOU?
There is a simple way to determine how good you are at what you do: Are you in great demand? If you are very good, people are continually trying to hire you away from your current employment. You receive regular job offers. If you are self-employed, you have more business than you can handle.You get a steady flow of recommendations and referrals from satisfied customers.
When you are in demand, you have complete job security.You know that if something happened to your current job, you could walk across the street and get another job tomorrow. You never worry about the ups or downs in the economy because you always have far more opportunities than you can handle in a 24-hour day.
When you reach this point, you will know that you are one of the very best in your field.You will feel terrific about yourself.You will have complete control over your future.
- DO WHAT YOU LOVE TO DO
You may be wondering how you go about determining your area of excellence, if you don’t already have one. If you are already very good at what you do, you should know that with change taking place so rapidly in your field, within a few years you will probably find yourself in another job, doing something different, with a different area of excellence.Whatever got you to where you are today is not enough to keep you there.
Here is one of the most important parts of changing your thinking. Successful people do what they love to do. They do their jobs for the art and joy of it.They would do what they are doing even if they weren’t being paid for it. Ask yourself this question: ”What would I choose to work at if I was financially independent and could do anything I wanted?”
How would you change your life if you won a million dollars? The great majority of people, if they won a million dollars, would immediately quit their current jobs. If you would quit your current job if you won a million dollars, this is a danger signal. It means that you are in great danger of wasting your career and wasting your life.
- DETERMINE WHAT YOU ENJOY DOING
Self-made millionaires almost invariably say that their secret of success was that they found out what they enjoyed doing, and they did it with their whole heart. Most successful people feel that they don’t really work at all. Some of them say, ”I haven’t worked a day in my life.” Their work and their play are intermingled. They don’t know where one begins and the other ends. When they are not at work, they think about it and talk about it. And when they are at work, they lose themselves in it.
There are more than 22,000 official job categories in the United States alone. Among these 22,000 categories, there are subcategories that bring the number to easily 100,000 different jobs that you could be doing. And most of the jobs that people will be doing in the twenty-first century have not even been invented yet.
Of the many thousands of jobs that exist, there are numerous jobs at which you could work and earn an excellent living.Your goal must be to select the ideal job for you, the one that gives you the greatest joy, satisfaction, and rewards, and then channel all of your energies into becoming absolutely excellent in that one area.
- SUCCESS LEAVES TRACKS
The starting point of identifying your special talents and unique abilities is for you to think back into your past.What sorts of activities have given you your greatest results and rewards?
When you were in school, what subjects interested you the most? What subjects did you get the best grades in? You will always be best at doing something that fascinates you, that holds your attention, that captures your interest, and that you are naturally attracted toward.
One of the tests for whether something is right for you is your desire to learn more about it.You will enjoy reading about it, talking about it, and learning about it. Not only that, but you will naturally admire the people who are the most successful in the field for which you are ideally suited.
- GO BACK TO YOUR CHILDHOOD
One way to determine your future is to examine your past. Look back to what you most enjoyed doing when you were between the ages of 7 and 14 years old. At that time, you were completely free to pursue any subject that attracted you.What did you most enjoy doing? If you don’t remember, go and ask one of your parents. They will usually remember how you spent your time when you were younger.
A participant in one of my seminars told me that this principle applied to him exactly. When he was between the ages of 7 and 14, he loved to build model airplanes. He spent many hours, long into the night, building more and more complex models. Soon, he was building model planes with small engines and entering them in contests. As he grew older, he built larger planes, remote-controlled, and flew them in competitions around the country.
When he finished high school, he attended university and earned a degree in aeronautical engineering. He now owns three companies. In one company, he designs small aircraft. In a second company he leases and charters aircraft, and he owns a third company that does aircraft maintenance. He told me that he was worth several million dollars and he felt that he had never done a day’s work in his life. He was still doing what he most enjoyed doing when he was a young man. And he was only 35 years old.
- YOUR FEELING OF IMPORTANCE
Dale Carnegie once wrote, ”Tell me what gives a person his greatest feeling of importance and I will tell you his entire philosophy of life.”What gives you your greatest feeling of importance? What gives you a heightened sense of self-esteem when you do it successfully? What do you most enjoy doing, so much so that you are drawn back to it continuously?
Napoleon Hill once said that one of the great secrets of success is to decide what it is that you most enjoy doing, and then find a way to earn a good living at it. Most people get it backward. They do what they feel they have to do so that they can finally acquire the time and money necessary to do what they really want to do.Your goal should be to reverse this order.You should do what you really enjoy doing from the very beginning. In this way, you will get better and better doing more and more of the things that give you your greatest feeling of importance.
- FACE THE FACTS
One of the most important parts of changing your thinking is the development of the quality of courage. I will discuss this subject in greater detail later, in Chapter 12. For the moment, in terms of doing what you love to do, you need courage to face the fact that, right now, you might not be in the right job, place, or relationship for you.You may be on the wrong path.
Most people back into their jobs and their careers, and even their relationships, like backing up their car and hitting something, and then getting out to see what it was. They do not have clear goals, so they accept whatever happens to them. They take the job that is offered to them at the time they are starting work or making the transition from one job to another. They do the work that is assigned to them. They allow their boss to determine their career path.
Their entire work lives soon become organized around the expectations of the people who sign their paychecks. If they are not careful, years will go by and they will completely lose sight of the child in them who started off in life with hopes and dreams, entering a world of untapped possibilities and potentialities.
- BE TRUE TO YOURSELF
Joseph Campbell, the late professor of mythology, told a story on the Bill Moyers Special television show some years ago. It took place in a small local restaurant that he patronized with his wife. One day another couple, along with their young son, came in and sat down for dinner at a nearby table. Halfway through the meal, the boy spoke up and said that he didn’t like his dinner, and he wasn’t going to eat it.The father became extremely angry and insisted that he eat it whether he liked it or not.
The boy refused and said to his father, ”But I don’t want to eat it!”
At this, the father blew up and shouted, ”You don’t want to? What does that have to do with anything? I never did anything I wanted to do in my whole life!”
Campbell went on to point out that many people are in that same situation. Many people feel that they have lived their whole lives doing things that other people wanted them to do because they never had the courage to do just what they wanted.
Campbell then said that the key to success and happiness in life was to ”follow your bliss.” It was to do what you most loved to do. It was to look over the landscape of your life and determine those activities that you enjoyed doing more than anything else, the things that you would do if you had no limitations, and then to build your life around those activities.
- BE PREPARED TO WALK AWAY
Many of the happiest men and women in our society today are those who, at a certain point, got up and walked away from a situation that they finally realized was not making them happy or fulfilled. They had the courage to decide that they were going to do what they loved to do, rather than what they felt they had to do. They looked deep within themselves and honestly assessed their own natural talents and abilities. This often changed their whole lives.
- LISTEN TO OTHERS
Some years ago, I began thinking in earnest about what it was that I really wanted to do. My current job was coming to an end, and the prospects for the future, because of the economy, were not very encouraging. Meanwhile, although I had a very good idea of what I wanted to do, I wasn’t sure.
At this point, I suddenly asked a friend of mine what he thought I would be good at doing. He replied, without a moment’s hesitation, ”You’d be excellent at teaching and giving seminars.”
That turned out to be exactly what I had been thinking, but I was nervous about directing my whole career into a completely unknown field. My friend’s comment made me realize that often the people around you can see clearly what you should be doing, even if you can’t see it yourself.
If you are at all unsure about your area of natural talent and ability, ask someone who knows you well what he or she thinks your ideal line of work would be. The people who know you and care about you will often give you ideas and insights that change your whole life. Often these insights will reveal to you your heart’s desire.
- YOUR HEART’S DESIRE
Your heart’s desire is that one special thing that you were put on this earth to do. No one else can do it in the same way that you can. It is something that may have been calling to you for many years, like the sound of distant music. It is something that has interested you and attracted you since you were young.
Perhaps you have never told anyone about it. Perhaps, deep in your heart, you were afraid of the enormous changes you would have to make to pursue your heart’s desire. But the fact is that you will never be truly happy or satisfied until you let yourself go and throw your whole heart into whatever it is.
Eric Butterworth wrote in his book Discover the Power within You (Harper & Row, 1968), ”You are not what you are; you are what you can be.”
Imagine! You are not what you are, but rather, you are what you can be when you discover and develop your natural talents and abilities to the full.
- BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
One of the marks of personal leadership is that you see yourself as you really are.You are completely honest.You recognize and accept that you are completely responsible, the president of your own personal services corporation.You accept that excellent rewards come only from excellent performance in your chosen field. You view yourself strategically, as if you were looking at someone else. You plan every part of your life, knowing that no one is going to do it for you. Especially, you establish your own program for personal and professional improvement to assure that you become one of the very best people in your field.
- THINK AND PLAN STRATEGICALLY
There are several concepts in personal strategic planning that can improve your results and change your life. As in everything, these are ways of thinking that lead to ways of acting more effectively.
- DRAW A LINE
The first concept is what I call ”zero-based thinking.” Call a timeout in your life and work. Draw a line under all your current activities. Now, imagine that you are starting over. Ask yourself, ”Is there anything in my life that, knowing what I now know, I would not get into or start up again today if I had it to do over?”
This is one of the most important questions you will ever ask and answer.You can apply it on a ”go forward” basis to each part of your life. Often the biggest problem in personal strategic planning is your attempting to make something work that you wouldn’t even get into in the first place if you had to do it over again.
Often when I consult with companies, they ask me for advice on how to increase sales of a particular product or service. I always ask them, ”Knowing what you now know, would you introduce this product or service again today if you had it to do over?”
They often tell me that, knowing what they now know, they would never have brought it out in the first place. My advice to them is always the same: ”Kill it.” One of the smartest things a company can do with a part of the business that is not working, and which has no future, is to discontinue it as quickly as possible. This applies to products, services, processes, methods of sale or advertising, investments, or any other area of activity that consumes time, money, or emotional energy.
- HOLD YOUR OWN FEET TO THE FIRE
If there is anything in your life or your work that you wouldn’t get into today, knowing what you now know, it is an excellent candidate for creative abandonment, for being discontinued altogether.
Is there any relationship in your life – personal or business – that, knowing what you now know, you wouldn’t get into today if you had it to do over? If there is, your next question is, ”How do I get out of this relationship, and how fast?”
Think about your business and your career. Is there anything in your work life that you wouldn’t get into again today, knowing what you now know? Is there any business process, procedure, activity, or expense that you wouldn’t start again today if you had it to do over?
Finally, think about your investments, not only of money, but also of time or emotion. Is there any part of your life that is dragging you down, causing you tension or stress, that you wouldn’t get into again today if you were starting over? Sometimes, the fastest way to change your thinking and your life is simply to question everything you are doing today that is making you unhappy. If it is not working, abandon it and do something else.
- YOUR MOST VALUABLE ASSET
Your most valuable asset is your time. It is also your scarcest resource. You have a limited amount of time, and once it is gone, it is gone forever. Time is essential to accomplishment. Time is perishable. You cannot get more of it, no matter what you do. It can be said that the quality of your life is determined by the way you spend this precious resource.
Results and rewards, however you define them for yourself, are everything.Your ability to achieve the health, happiness, and prosperity you desire is the measure of your effectiveness as a human being.Your job is to use your minutes and hours more effectively to assure that you are achieving the greatest quantity and quality of the things you want in exchange for the time you invest.
- TRADING YOUR TIME
Everything in life is a trade of some kind. Overall, you trade your time for the results and rewards you want.You can tell what kind of a trader you are by looking around you and evaluating your current situation. Are you satisfied with the results of your trades in life so far?
Some people trade their time for $25,000 per year. Some people trade the same amount of time for $250,000 per year, even though they may be of similar age and intelligence, and have similar educations and backgrounds. But one of them earns 10 times what the other earns! Why is this?
In the simplest of terms, the one earning more thinks and acts differently from the one earning less. One person is a better ”trader” than the other. One person has better information, continually upgrades his skills, starts earlier, works harder, and stays later. A good trader quickly develops the winning edge, and begins to pull ahead of the pack. Soon, he is working and earning at a far higher level than the people he started out with. This must be your goal as well.
- YOUR TIME IS LIMITED
You cannot save time.You can only spend it differently. Every part of your life today shows the results of how you have spent your time in the past. If you want to have a different future, you have to spend your time differently in the present.You have to change your thinking about yourself and how you use your time to get the things you want in life.
Time, in a way, is like money. It can be either spent or invested. If you spend time or money, it is gone forever.You can never get it back. But it you invest your time or money wisely, you will get a greater return in the future. Personal strategic planning and thinking give you the tools to ensure that you achieve the highest return on time invested (ROTI). Put another way, it enables you to get the highest ”return on life.”
Everything you do that requires your time represents a choice. The choice is to use your time wisely or not. However you choose, the time will be gone forever. If you spend your time on one activity, you will no longer have that same quantity of time available to spend or invest in another activity.Your choices about how you use your time largely determine the quality of your life, both today and in the future.
You must be extremely jealous of your time. You must be adamant about not spending your time on activities of low value. You must downsize, outsource, and eliminate all activities that no longer represent the highest and best use of your time if you want to get the highest return on energy in your life and career. Zero-based thinking will help you to make better choices. It is a key thinking
- THE PARETO PRINCIPLE
Another important strategic planning concept is the 80/20 Rule, the ”Pareto Principle,” which Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto wrote about in 1895 in Switzerland. This rule says that 80 percent of your results will come from 20 percent of your activities. If you make a list of 10 tasks that you have to do in the coming day, two of those items will be worth more than the other eight items put together.
But the 20 percent of activities that account for most of the value in your work are invariably the most difficult and challenging tasks. The 80 percent of activities that account for only 20 percent of your results are usually fun and easy. Being human, you have a natural tendency to do the easy things, even though they are not particularly valuable or important. To get the most done and the greatest results from every minute invested, you must resist the temptation to clear up small things first.You must discipline yourself to keep your energies focused on the one or two things that you can do that are more important and valuable than anything else.
- MARKETING YOURSELF STRATEGICALLY
As the president of your own personal services corporation, you must consider the four strategic variables in marketing yourself and your services.Your effectiveness in each of these four areas will determine your income and your future. They are: (1) specialization; (2) differentiation; (3) segmentation; and (4) concentration.
These four activities are central to every business and to the success of every product or service offered by any business anywhere. All business growth and profitability are the result of performing well in each of these areas. Problems with sales and profitability are the result of a weakness in one or more of these areas. Each of them applies to you and your career, as well.
- SPECIALIZE IN YOUR FIELD
Specialization means that you decide exactly what it is that you are going to do, and do well, in your field. Successful people in every field specialize rather than generalize. They focus their time and talents rather than trying to do too many things. They work to develop a reputation for being very, very good in a specific area. They don’t try to be all things to all people or jacksof- all-trades.
A successful business may specialize in a particular type of customer or in a specific market. It may specialize in a particular product or service for that type of customer. A successful salesperson will specialize in selling a particular product or service to a particular type of customer. A successful person in any field will spend more and more time doing fewer and fewer things that are of higher and higher value in a specific area.
What is your area of specialization today? What will it be in the future? What should it be if you want to move to the top of your field? What could it be if you were to stand back and imagine that you have no limitations, and that you could be excellent at any skill, or in any market, that you desired?
- SET YOURSELF APART
The second strategic variable in your business or career is differentiation. This is the key factor that determines the success of most sales, marketing, and business growth. This is the primary determinant of success in your career.
Differentiation is defined as the way that you separate yourself from everyone else in your field who is offering something similar. Your area of differentiation is, in reality, your area of excellence, your area of uniqueness, your unique selling proposition. It is what gives you a competitive advantage over others in your industry.
- THE KEY QUESTION
Imagine if a very important prospective customer were to ask you, ”What is it about your product or service that is different, better, and superior to any other similar product or service offered by any other company in today’s market?” How would you answer? If you had to explain how and why your product or service is superior to that of your competitors, what would you say?
Many salespeople, and even business owners, are not sure about the answer to this question. But you must be absolutely clear about your competitive advantage if you want to make more sales in an increasingly competitive market.
As an individual, doing personal strategic planning for your own career, you must ask this question of yourself.What unique skills do you have that make you superior to anyone else offering to do the same job that you are doing? What skills would it be useful for you to have? If you are not currently excellent in your field, what steps do you need to take, beginning immediately, to get yourself to the point where you stand out from everyone else?
>>Identify Your Ideal Customers
The third strategic area in business is that of segmentation. This requires that you divide your markets and customers into segments. You do this by identifying those customers who can most benefit from your area of specialization and your competitive advantage within that area.
In segmentation, you identify your ideal customers.Who are they? Where are they? What do they have in common? What are their ages, incomes, education levels, backgrounds, positions, experiences, and so on? Today, more and more marketing is focused on niches and microniches. Sales and marketing are increasingly personal and individual, aimed at tightly defined groups of prospective customers with special qualities and characteristics.Who are your ideal customers?
- CONCENTRATE YOUR ENERGIES
The fourth strategic variable, perhaps the most important of all in sales and marketing, is the principle of concentration. This is your ability to focus all of your energies and resources on those specific customers or markets where you have the greatest chance of success in the shortest period of time.
Your ability to concentrate single-mindedly on your highestvalue opportunities will do more to increase your return on energy than any other factor. Concentration is a key success principle in every field.
- SUCCESS VERSUS FAILURE
Dun & Bradstreet has been tracking the results of successful and unsuccessful businesses for more than 50 years. Not long ago, it put all of its research on failed businesses into a computer. The data showed that businesses fail because of ”low sales.” Businesses succeed because of ”high sales.” Everything else is commentary.
As the president of your own company, engaged in personal strategic planning for your career, your job is to ensure the highest level of sales of your personal services that you can possibly achieve. This requires that you specialize, differentiate, segment, and concentrate. As the president of your own life and career, you must become absolutely excellent at doing one or two things that the market will pay the most for.You must then become continually better in those one or two areas.
- YOU ARE EXTRAORDINARY
The fact is that you are extraordinary.You are born with unique talents and abilities that make you completely different from all other human beings who have ever existed. The odds of there being two people just like you are more than 50 billion to one. In fact, it will never happen.
There is no one who has the unique and remarkable combination of experiences, ideas, thoughts, feelings, education, and imagination that you do.You have within you, right now, the ability to be, have, or do virtually anything you can imagine.You are very much like Michelangelo’s block of marble, just lying there.You are like an incredible masterpiece just waiting to emerge.
Great success and happiness come when you identify your natural abilities, and then concentrate on developing along the lines of your inborn talents. It is almost as though you are engineered for success in a specific way, and if you can find the area for which you were specifically designed, you will achieve more in a few years than most people achieve in a lifetime.
- LEAVE NOTHING TO CHANCE
You leave nothing to chance.You don’t hope for miracles or wish for a lucky break.You recognize that if it’s to be, it’s up to you.p
Since you know you are going to have to spend the rest of your life working at something, you decide in advance that you will do what you love to do.You will become everything you are capable of becoming by developing your unique talents and abilities, wherever they lead.You will work only at something you enjoy, with people you enjoy, doing work that makes a difference in the world.
You set high standards for yourself. You think positively and constructively about your career and your future. You recognize that anything that anyone else has done you can do as well. Once you have decided what it is you want to do, you throw your whole heart into doing it
- What is it that you really love to do? What activity gives you your greatest feeling of importance?
- If you could be absolutely excellent at any one task or skill, what would it be? Set it as a goal and begin work on that skill immediately.
- What are the key result areas of your job? On a scale of 1 to 10, how good are you in each area?
- What one skill, if you developed and utilized it in an excellent fashion, would have the greatest positive impact on your life?
- What is your area of excellence, your unique selling proposition, and the very best thing you do in your work?
- If you could do only one thing all day long, what one task or activity would contribute the greatest value to your company and to your work?
- Identify your heart’s desire, the one thing that you were put on this earth to do. If you could accomplish one great thing in your lifetime, what would it be?