Three-Ingredient Success Cocktail
Updated: Apr 7, 2020
In life and business, discipline matters. Just as you’re likely to find in personal situations, the discipline and self-motivation to do the work required each and every day to achieve objectives is often the ingredient that's missing when you see a company fall short. But it's not the magic bullet. In fact, let's call it one of three magic bullets everyone needs for success, regardless of their endeavor. It's crucial, so we'll definitely come back to it. But right now, let's look at the other two. The first seems obvious, but you might be surprised to learn just how many companies don't put the time or effort into it right at the outset. Years ago, I was frustrated in my attempts to learn to play chess. I knew how to move the pieces, but the bigger strategy eluded me. Then I stumbled across Bobby Fischer's book on the topic, which took a very different approach. In it, Fischer taught the game almost backward. Where everyone else showed the game from the opening move, Fischer started from checkmate. He showed the reader what it looked like to win. All of a sudden, I knew what I was working toward. In your personal life or as a company, you have to know what winning looks like to you. You must define the win. Unless you know that, you're working in vain for some nebulous idea of a victory that may or may not put you where you actually want to be. Not just "Hit my second quarter numbers." Get serious! Dig deeper. Where do you want your growth? What kinds of clients will put you strategically where you want to be going into Q3 and Q4? Are you hunting or farming? The clearer your picture of what the win looks like, the better. It's like getting your feet in the starter blocks ahead of a race and locking your eyes on the finish line. The next magic bullet is one I have heard a lot of people discount, and for the life of me, I'll never understand why. I call it your tribe. It's the culture of success and support you cultivate, and the circle of family, friends, and associates with whom you surround yourself. Plenty of smart, successful people have said things like "You are the average of the five people you associate with most." Let me tell you, they're all right. It extends into your company as well. If you're not already working in a culture that supports and strives for the same kind of success you're aiming to create, you need to start building it (or seek life elsewhere). Elite military units like the Army's Special Forces and the Navy's SEAL teams don't start by training candidates to that elite standard. First comes something called "Selection." That word is no accident. They're selecting those who already possess the warrior mindset and the personal qualities that make a successful specwarrior. Anyone who doesn't fit the culture, who isn't already predisposed to the kind of winning they expect, washes out. Your personal and business circle should be the same. Even the most compassionate, humanitarian-focused organization needs to develop and ruthlessly protect their own culture of success. Without it, you're running that race while dragging an anchor behind you. Now let's get back to discipline. You have a picture out there in front of you of what winning looks like, and a team around you that's all focused and working toward the same thing with the kind of enthusiasm and effectiveness that comes from really believing in where you're going together. You still have to do two things consistently in order to make winning a habit. 1. You have to do the right things, consistently. 2. You have to do things right, consistently. Sometimes, and by sometimes, I mean almost always, it means humbling yourself and learning new ways to do what you do. It means expanding the repertoire of ways at your disposal to effectively handle a challenge. It means a willingness to constantly refine your daily practices, to seek and adopt those habits that make success inevitable. The best performers, habitual winners, are hungry not only for the win, but for becoming better. Far too many people find an answer to a problem and stop learning. They have "the answer." Why keep looking? Obviously, it's because there are other answers out there to that same problem, and there are better ways of doing things, even if incrementally so. Let me prove it to you. You've no doubt seen the puzzle in which matchsticks are arranged to form the equation 6 + 4 = 4, and the goal is to move just one match to make the equation true. There's a solid chance you even know the solution. But what about the other solution? Or the third? Fourth? Fifth? Every time I put that puzzle in front of someone, they quickly solve the problem and fight the urge to look smug at how easy it was. Most of the time, they've seen it before and have "the answer." Why look for more answers? It often surprises them to know that you can make that puzzle work by changing it to 5 + 4 = 9, 0 + 4 = 4, 8 - 4 = 4, 6 + h = 4 (with "h" being -2), and even E + 4 ≠ 4. The point is, there are a lot of different ways to solve that problem, but most people stop educating themselves once they hit the point that their answer is "good enough." Don’t think you’re guilty of it? Let me ask you – how fast can you type? My guess is, it’s probably the same speed you achieved shortly after you began typing consistently. That means in all the years of doing it – with all that experience and “practice,” you’re still right where you were years ago. Why? Doesn’t years of experience make you better? Not by itself, it doesn’t. Again, most people find an answer that works and they mistake it for “the answer” when in fact it’s only “an answer.” Remember, your current “best” is not your potential best, and focused, correct effort will cause improvement. Your goal should never be to do things the best you can. It should be to refine your daily practices to the point you're doing them the best they can be done. Knowing what the win looks like, surrounding yourself with a tribe that's determined to make that journey, and constantly refining your daily practices to incorporate new answers to old challenges will always put you in a good place. Even if the changes are small, over time, they'll make a huge difference. All sailors know the 1 in 60 rule. It states that a 1-degree azimuth change will create a 1-Mile course change over 60 miles of distance. That means if you set sail from London to New York with just a single degree of error, you’d end up far closer to Philadelphia than your target destination. For our purposes here, it also means that if you can refine your own habits and daily practices just 1 degree, over time, you can find yourself a long way from that same old unsatisfactory result. That tiny, 1-degree course correction today will, over time, change your destination dramatically.