Luck has nothing to do with it. Every once in a while you’ll get that helping hand, but anyone who says that they are lucky have usually made the right steps to get there. Like the old German proverb says, “The main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing.” Focus is the key to unlocking any luck that is to be found in your life. Over the course of my life a lot of things have seemed to happen for me. It’s not because I’m luckier than anyone else—I’m just a big believer in the magic of focus.
When I was younger, I worked at First Investors Corporation selling mutual funds. Every morning a group of the company’s salesmen and women went across the street for some coffee. This outing took up most of the morning and left just enough time after to check messages, before heading out again for lunch. It was an event that happened every day, and was an honor to be invited to go–so when invited, I went.
One day I stayed behind to finish up some work. As I completed it in time to catch the coffee crew, I saw our number one sales guy in his office. I leaned in to invite him to the gathering and he responded “Why would I go there? They aren’t going to buy any mutual funds from me.” Wham! His response resonated like a ton of bricks. I was wasting my prime sales time drinking coffee and accomplishing zero work. How was I going to do anything great in my life if I didn’t learn how to focus my energy towards the things that matter?
Tune Out Distractions
In today’s society we live under the misconception that we must become the world’s greatest multitasker in order to become successful. I believe this to not be the case. Now, don’t misinterpret this as completely rejecting the concept of multitasking—just that the most successful multitaskers have incredible focus. We just have to be efficient with how we focus. With technology embedded in every aspect in our life, it becomes easy to have our attention quickly diverted elsewhere and thus loosing focus of the primary goal.
Focus on Your Strengths
Focus is your emotional currency. Spend it on the thoughts and feelings that enrich your life instead of on those that drain your energy, and reinforce a negative mindset. By focusing on the positive aspects on your life, it will allow you to get past anything and appreciate those around you. When you allow the negative in your life infiltrate your positive, you will begin to diminish the strength of that positive energy. Positive energy is something you can never have too much of.
Act on Your Priorities
Too often, we wait until our lives are in crisis before we begin to make adjustments to our priorities. How many times have you skipped going to a dear friend’s birthday, or a family function to do something that when it comes down to it, has no real substance or meaning to your life. Waiting to make a change in how you prioritize your life, and the people in it, will only end up haunting you in the future. You must start now.
Take the time to think about the things you can’t live without. Reflect on what activities draw you in and which you cancel plans for. Are they in line with what you value most? Life is too short to waste precious time on things that you can get to later. Be flexible with your priorities. As time goes on, you’ll need to bend a little—adjust accordingly. Just don’t bend to the point that you break away from your priorities. Focus on what matters most.
The world is made up of ordinary people who do extraordinary things every day. Let it sink in for a second—let it swish around in your head. When I recite this mantra, people have the tendency to let it go in one ear and out the other .Don’t–embrace it. The second you let it marinate, you will be hit with that “Ah Ha!” life changing moment that will catalyst your inner potential into reality.
Many years ago, I was reading a book by Glenn Clark called The Man Who Tapped the Secrets of the Universe. The primary message behind it was that mediocrity was filled by the people who were less aware of their potential. Some people may seem to “have it” more than others, but strictly because they mastered their new found awareness. I sat there for a moment before I realized, “I had genius within me and it was my job to uncover it.”
Think Outside the Box
Like many photographers and artists insist, the true genius behind their work is by taking something ordinary and looking at it in an unordinary way. The same thing goes for scientists and entrepreneurs. We classify people as genius, but it is not just based off of their IQ—it’s their ability to take an ordinary concept and looking at it from another angle.
The genius between Einstein and his ground breaking formula was not a product based purely on his IQ. He took his knowledge and applied it to visualize various approaches to every problem. It only takes one formula to change science forever, but he found it by formulating his theories in as many different ways possible. Einstein was able to recognize the extraordinary possibility that lay behind something ordinary.
Turn on Your “Possibility Radar”
Sometimes people find themselves focusing on something so much, they lose sight of their surrounding opportunities. Not only do they end up missing these opportunities, they tarnish their peace of mind and good health in the process. I am all about putting life into perspective; the same thing goes when tapping your innovation outlet. Step back, and open your mind to all other possible routes. People get so set in their ways that they begin to thwart their inner genius, and end up knocking their head against a wall and say it can’t be done.
You have to think, once upon a time a particular task may have been deemed impossible. Jump a few years ahead and the once impossible task has become obsolete. Once you turn on your possibility radar, anything is possible. A near impossible mountain to climb eventually turns into a sub-par course to intermediate climbers. It’s all how you look at it.
Tap Into Your Potential
As a child, we believe that we will rule the world. Be the next person to walk on the moon, become the world’s greatest athlete, or discover a cure for cancer. When we’re young and developing, we are encouraged to believe in ourselves and imagine anything for our future. As we get older, our parents begin to pull us down to reality. Though they mean the best, they are really pulling us into their reality, not ours. We have the potential to make ourselves whatever we want to be.
One of the greatest things in life is rediscovering your talents. It is an amazing process that is a bit like searching for long-lost treasure you buried as a child. When you find it, you’ll remember how good it felt, and how right. You can’t wait to feel like a genius before you set off on a journey to a more fulfilling life. The time to believe in yourself is now.
Stop. Back up. Reevaluate. That’s what I did the day I had the scary realization that I was a workaholic with no real awareness of what my priorities were in life. We all love the security that money brings us, but money is the one thing that you can always gain again. You will never have the opportunity to regain lost time with loved ones, or your health, and the happiness that comes from those purities in life. The day that I realized that health, happiness, freedom and integrity were going to be the core values that I based the rest of my life and decisions around, was the day that I truly saw clarity in my future.
Since that very day that those values were written down, they have been instilled in everything that I do. Yes, my success is a product of those values, but I attained it the way I saw fit. If a deal questioned my integrity, I turned away until approached with the respect that everyone deserves. If my health began to suffer due to my work, I made sure to find balance that allowed me to integrate my workout into my work. But one of the values that I look forward to living most is my freedom—freedom to do what I want in life, both in business and in my personal life.
One thing you need to know about me is: I love my Harley. I love riding on the open road, the wind in my face, and nothing but the horizon in front of me. It is the ultimate sense of freedom. It allows me to appreciate and reflect the past days, weeks, and years of my life—the good and the bad, the happy and the sad. It is the ultimate cleanse of the spirit. To visit this mental sanctuary, each year I have a commitment to ride a minimum of 2,000 miles on my Harley. This year we totaled over 2,800 miles. Traveling from Phoenix to Vancouver, BC we had the opportunity to ride through places such as Steamboat Springs, Jackson Hole, Sun Valley and Moses Lake—all beautiful in their own. To say the ride was awesome just doesn’t shed the appropriate praise that it deserves.
No matter how many pictures you take along the way—though you may capture a mere glimpse of the scene—a picture will never do justice in articulating the freedom, the health, the closeness within, and the feeling of just being totally alive that I experience when taking that journey on my Harley. The inspiration is so empowering that I will catch myself singing song lyrics at the top of my lungs, happy to be miles from anyone—as so are they for being out of earshot of my voice.
Freedom is my bliss.
Looking back, do you ever think about what your life would be like if you had gone the other direction? Those defining moments are the by-product of our decisions we made based on our moral fiber and values at that point in life. Whether we had to learn from those choices or embrace the benefits from them, looking back, it makes you wonder if you would do it all the same, or wish you had had the courage to go the other way.
With the current status of the economy, people have been doing a lot of reflecting—”I wish I would’ve opted out of that deal”; “thank god I sold it when I did.” The past few years have really tested the backbone of society. As Martin Luther King once said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” It’s how we pull ourselves together in these uncomfortable situations that show our true colors as humans.
As far back as I can remember, my decisions have been based off of what I value and believe to be the right choice for me. Even as a young man in the Army, I was confronted with a situation where I could have become an accomplice in a cash heist from a gas station, while giving a friend a ride home on our leave. The second I realized the situation, my whole career flashed before my eyes. So, I told him to take the money and get out of the car—and there I left him on the side of the road to face his poor decision. Sometimes people find themselves in bad situations because they don’t think they have the courage to walk the other direction. Sometimes you don’t realize you’re stuck at a crossroad until it’s too late. It’s when you find yourself at the edge that you have to decide whether you’re just going to jump or pick yourself up and take an active part in changing your situation.
For me, this happened when I was faced when my fortune of $150 million plummeted to negative $70 million, and my business partner declared bankruptcy. One moment I was flying high and the next I was blindsided with the after math of choices I had made, and the onset of a bad real estate market. At this point I had two options: 1. I could have posted up at the nearest bar and drink my sorrows away, or 2. Do something about it. So I went for a run.
It was at that moment I chose to stop and evaluate, clear my head and make sound decisions on how I was going to get myself back on my feet. I never did file for bankruptcy, and I was able to pay all of my debt back. Now, I have learned from that experience and become a stronger person in the process. We all have the ability to turn our luck around. You don’t want to look back and regret not changing the direction of your life when you had the chance. The decision is yours.
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?