Growing up we idolize athletes, super heroes, actors etc. Whether we realize it or not, those people’s actions have a life-long finger print on our lives. For parents this can be a nightmare if they find their child idolizing the villains or say a hockey player caught for cheating in his sport, or and actor using their fame negatively. As we mature, we can only hope that we keep the positive attributes closer to heart than the negative. Having a mentor is truly one of the most important things to have in life.
Choosing My Board of Directors
When I was 28, I founded my first company and my lawyer insisted that I appoint a board of directors to give my young company guidance and direction as it matured. As I sat back to evaluate positive influencers in my life that I could go to for guidance, I found myself coming up short. Sure, there are the obvious parental mentors, or business affiliates—but at my young age I needed a board that could give me perspective and want for nothing but for me to succeed.
I looked around and picked up a book of portraits taken by famous photographer, Yousuf Karsh. Flipping through, I immediately had the idea to cut out the photos of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Ernest Hemingway, and Gandhi. I framed these four portraits and hung them next to my desk. As my business face challenges, I would ask each one of them what they would do about a particular issue. Each one had their role in guiding me: JFK was my business advisor; MLK my arbiter on what was right and wrong; Gandhi my spiritual guide; and Hemingway—well, he gave me permission to have a little fun. Whenever I felt a little unsure of what to do next—I held a board meeting with my mentors.
Choosing Your Mentors
It doesn’t matter whether your mentors are alive, a friend, or even real. The fact is that this person must be able to contribute a positive unselfish outlook on what it is you are seeking help. Once I had chosen my mentors for their obvious attributes, I did further research on career and life decisions they had made. I felt as if I knew them and was seeking help from a friend.
As I said, MLK is my arbitrator of right and wrong. When morally conflicted he would be there to help guide me. Though, the right choice wasn’t always the easiest, it would be in the best interest of me or my company. He selflessly guides me as a mentor should (granted he is no longer living). As Dan Rather once said, “the dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth’.” Sometime we have to hear what we try to ignore.Though sometimes unpleasant, our mentors are there to help. It is vital that your mentor or mentors truly want to see you succeed. It is sad to say, but there are people out there who will befriend you and offer you advice with ulterior motives. Mark Twain advised, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions…” A mentor needs to be someone you trust wholly. They need to inspire you.
Success to everyone looks different. The power of a mentor can ignite your success above and beyond, whether in business or in life. I believe that the support, encouragement and love of the people in your life are absolutely vital to success in the nth degree.
Are you one of those people–one of those people with great vision and drive, but no direction to go in? We’ve all been there. At one point or another, we have sat in the driver’s seat of life, with fuel in the tank but no real destination to drive. Goal setting gives you direction. Our dreams are made up of a stepping ladder with goals along the way. Whether long term or short term, goals provide a destination in the horizon–goal setting is the alchemy that turns your dreams into reality.
I set goals for everything–every single solitary aspect of my life. My personal definition of success is achievement of any goal a person sets in his or her life, from flying a kite to becoming a CEO. You may be thinking to yourself that you’ve set out to fulfill your life-long aspirations each day, but haven’t really gotten anywhere. People hit these perpetual road blocks everyday, and it usually generates from not clearly articulating your goals.
I want to share with you my method of writing goals, motivating myself and focusing on my energies. It is called RUMBA–yes, like the dance. To really RUMBA, your goals must be realistic, understandable, meaningful and measureable, believable and agreeable. Only with these steps are goals really attained.
This first step seems so obvious, yet so many of us are guilty of being misguided by it. When setting your goals, you must be realistic about them. Many times we find ourselves setting a huge goal, when realistically we should break it down into smaller more attainable goals. By tackling one small goal at a time, it will appear less daunting, and more likely to happen. With each step comes a sense of accomplishment as you get closer to your ultimate dream.
Be specific. When you are ambiguous about your target, it leaves a lot of room for grey. For instance, saying that you will save money for a trip isn’t as clear as saying you will set aside $400 a month for the next twelve months to reach your goal. Don’t leave yourself even the slightest opportunity to justify your way into any frivolous spending that will derail the path leading to your goal.
Meaningful and Measurable:
You should always set out to accomplish what is important to you–not because someone else wants you to. If you don’t value your goal, you have no business chasing after it. Accomplishment comes from attaining something that improves your life and is meaningful to you. It always helps to set deadlines for your self improvements. If you plan to lose twenty pounds, break the weight loss into weekly or monthly goals. After all, what gets measured gets done.
If you set a goal without the belief that you can reach it, you never will. Without any self conviction, comes no success. It is like a smoker who says they will quit, but deep down doesn’t believe that they can. Without the inner belief, the smoker will never triumph over their addiction.
Going in at it alone is always more difficult than if you have a support system. Share your goals with others. Involving your loved ones as stakeholders in your success will make them appreciate your goal and encourage you to attain it. When selecting your support system, it is crucial to make sure that they are agreeing to support you with no ulterior “motives” that they truly want to see you succeed. Their support will motivate you and will hold you accountable for your actions along your path to personal success.
Learning to RUMBA has bestowed clarity to my goals, providing a translucent path to my destinations in life–I am no longer a wary traveler with no direction. Once you set these goals, and align them with your values, you can get what you want out of life, instead of having to experience want from life.
The world is made up of ordinary people who do extraordinary things everyday. I have lived an extraordinary life. I realized I had genius within me and it was up to me to uncover it, not wait for other people to find it. This inner genius can be described by a word that I like to refer to as “Greatification”–or the process of becoming great by following the five foundations and living in alignment with them. Through values, focus, visualization, inspiration and reflection, you too can build your path to greatification–living a more successful and harmonious life.
Values- Foundation One
Your initial step forward takes place when you take the time to make a list of your values. For instance, my values are health, happiness, freedom and integrity. All of my daily decisions are aligned with my values, and if not, I chose not to entertain that option. Giving your time to what you value frees you from hours of indecision and worry, and brings you clarity of mind and purpose.
Focus- Foundation Two
The ability to direct your focus to what is really important to you gives a whole new perspective on your own life and what you chose to fill it with. Aligning your goals with your values may change them and make them more lucid, allowing you to become more efficient with where you direct your time. You can weed out the distractions that prevent you from achieving your dreams with an “I can” attitude. The people with winning attitudes don’t focus on what they don’t have or what they can’t do. They concentrate on what they have and what they can do.
Visualization- Foundation Three
One of life’s greatest gifts comes when we realize we have the power to make our own choices and therefore direct our lives. Visualize where you want to take your life. Where do you see yourself in your future? Visualize short term destinations and long term destinations. Having a destination in your future and your values in check can help maintain your path to greatification.
Inspiration- Foundation Four
Usually we are our own worst enemy. The concept of having the world at our fingertips can be daunting and frankly quite frightening. Finding the inspiration to overcome your fear of the unknown can be tough. Look for it wherever you can; whether it is your favorite writer, politician, teacher, or even your family. Harness that inspiration, breathe it in, and jump.
Reflection- Foundation Five
At the end of the day, don’t forget to reflect on what you have learned through your experiences, celebrate your accomplishments and appreciate those who have helped along the way. We should all be so fortunate as to have such strong champions of our potential. I encourage you to pursue your potential. At best you’ll succeed. At worst, you’ll have stories to tell.
What are your values? Do you strive to live your life in line with those values? What do you do to motivate or inspire yourself? Do you take time to reflect on where you’ve been to help determine where you’re going?