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Procrastination. Distractions. Paralyzing deadlines. Missed workouts. You know what needs to be done. You know what you want to do. But you don’t do it. What stops you?
I am in a fortunate position to spend a good deal of time visiting high-performing business people. I’m obsessed with discovering the difference between those who achieve their goals and realize their dreams — and those who give up along the way.
Often, people refer me to books they’ve read that have had a powerful impact on them. My latest favorite is by Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art.”
In it, Pressman says: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the two lies resistance.” He suggests that every powerful, creative impulse is met by an equally powerful resistance. It isn’t unique to you. It isn’t a matter of diving into every childhood memory to find out why you're “blocked” or self-sabotaging. Resistance just is; it will insert itself into every dream or goal or intention you set.
Dear reader, here’s the best of what I’ve recently gleaned from my podcasts, phone calls and interviews with high achievers who are living — by their definition — their best lives. (I left the names out because I wanted to lay out what resonated with me, not their direct quotes.)
“Cleanliness is next to godliness.” — Benjamin Franklin
Almost to a one, super-successful business owners have clean shops and tidy offices. Once upon a time, I heard Lance Secretan, author and leadership expert, speak. He suggested that your personal space should be impeccable because it’s where you do your highest work. It’s a spiritual center!
Another mentor told me, “If Warren Buffet (insert dignitary of your choice) came to visit, would you be proud to welcome him to your office? Is this the best you can do?” It hit me hard; I have been keenly aware of my office since.
You can’t do your best work in a disorganized space. And top-notch people who come to apply to work for you will be repelled by clutter, disorder and dirt. However humble the space you work in is, make sure it is spit-spot clean, power-washed, painted and everything is in its place. This simple task successfully completed usually propels you and your team to tackle more complicated projects. Just sayin’.
“Small ego, big mission,” motto of U.S. Women’s Soccer Team
These days, we are intrigued by the flashy, charismatic founder who personally guides a company from the first sales to multibillions; Elon Musk, for example. However, I’ve discovered that most successful entrepreneurs are humble team players. If the vision is clear, if the mission is compelling, those in leadership are willing to sacrifice their egos, even their positions, if it’s in the best interests of the company.
Also, there is a fine line between cult and culture. Cult leaders employ critical-thought-blocking communications: “The leader has spoken. No need to question why.” Culture is created when individuals are free and clear to create, innovate and expand beyond the capabilities of the current leaders. A sound culture has a fluid organizational chart.
Several of the entrepreneurs I’ve visited with shared this: they realized they were holding their companies back in their C-suite positions. So, they mixed it up. Sometimes it meant bringing someone in from the outside and stepping into different supporting roles. Often it meant letting a protege take the reins.
And sometimes, it meant letting go of someone who had grown with the company. In several cases, it was someone who was responsible for a big leap in growth early on. But then, the team member failed to keep pace. Or their ego got in the way.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — Lao Tzu
I used to hate the word discipline. Now, I love it. Successful people get up, dress up and show up to work every day. They use calendars to make sure they don’t miss appointments with colleagues and family members. They are reliable. Every step of the way, they battle resistance with routines and accountability hacks.
Another slim, uber-practical book is “The Five-Second Rule” by Mel Robbins. I love Mel and her entertaining Instagram posts, too. Essentially, when you are facing resistance, state your intention and countdown to begin. “I’m getting out of bed in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1,” then get out of bed. It works, and it works great with kids and team members.
Another common discipline is a formal approach to project management. Delegation isn’t abdication. It’s taking the time to map out the who, what, why, by when, and how much money of a project and leaving team members free to fill in the hows. Consider exploring “Traction” by Gino Wickman or “Full Focus” by Michael Hyatt.
I and so many others can attest that when you show up and put in the work, you will be met with serendipitous help — from the left or right or up above — when you least expect it. The muses will show up. The angels will appear. The wormhole develops. Everyone I have visited with about their personal success lays the credit at the feet of someone or something else. Count on it.
“Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased.” — Maya Angelou
I’ve talked to a dozen folks recently who sold their companies for lots of money. Every one of them took a couple of weeks off, bought something big, and went right back to work.
There are only so many quiet walks on the beach a creative and productive person can take. The motivation comes from understanding you have more to give, and you can do it better and faster this time. It comes from doing something specific to you, your interests or calling. Not because it measures up to other great works but because it is what only you can do.
“Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.” — Steven Pressfield
For me, ultimately, it’s about the story. I want to tell stories worthy of being passed on. I’m delighted by humankind and our preposterous, miraculous lives. I’m touched, often delighted, by an unlikely kindness or a simple solution to a seemingly insurmountable challenge.
And more than anything, I love to laugh. To catch the eye of a stranger when we both witness the same absurd moment. To be walking the dog and it turns into a slapstick adventure. When my husband brilliantly captures an awkward situation with just a few words. Oh, I love when laughter bubbles up like seltzer. I love the feel of laughter, the sound of it, more than anything else.
“Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution — these can lift at a colossal humbug — push it a little — weaken it a little, century by century, but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” — Mark Twain
I noted on my calendar the day to write this column. I avoided the task. Then, I counted: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 — and here we are. I felt the solid resistance of the blank page and considered what I might conjure that would be of service to you. One keystroke at a time, I offer these thoughts. I hope they encourage you as they did me.