“By the time you’re eighty years old you’ve learned everything. You only have to remember it.” George Burns
I get asked lots of questions in my seminars, but perhaps the most frequently asked question is about success. People want to know the “secrets” of success. That’s why I spent years putting together my two-day program called “The Journey To The Extraordinary.” I wanted to give people those “secrets.”
But let me clarify something. On the one hand, there are no “secrets.” They’re out there, ready for you to use … if you’re willing to dig for them.
I was willing. In fact, I spent more than 30 years digging through the research to discover those “secrets.” And I found that there are 12 of them, which I call the “Roadmap to Success.”
Unfortunately, I also found out that those 12 “secrets” remained “secrets” for most people. Some people didn’t know how to find them. And other people didn’t know how to apply them. That’s a shame. That’s why I created a free Guided Tour of “The Journey To The Extraordinary.”
However, if you were to press me, if you wanted me to boil down all the success secrets and research into one word, you might be surprised at the word I would use. And let me warn you, it’s a dirty word to most people.
Dr. Charles Garfield, a professor at the University of California’s medical school and head of the Peak Performance Center, hints at that word. See if you can deduce it from his comment. He says, “You have the power to change your habits of mind and acquire certain skills. And if you CHOOSE to do so, you can improve your performance, your productivity and the quality of your whole life.”
What’s the key word in Garfield’s comment” It’s “CHOOSE.” He wraps up the secrets of success in that one “nice” word.
My one word is somewhat similar — but it’s a much dirtier word. And most people hate to hear this word. It’s RESPONSIBILITY. If you’re going to be successful at anything, you’ve got to take RESPONSIBILITY!
Now you might think, “Duh! Everybody knows that.” NO THEY DON’T. Most people are better at making excuses than they are at taking responsibility.
As playwright Harry Earnshaw said, “The streets of the city of failure are paved with alibis — some of which are absolutely perfect.” Does that ever sound like you?
Dr. Orrison Swett Marden even compared people and their excuses to lobsters on a rock. He said, “A lobster, when left high and dry among the rocks, has not instinct and energy enough to work his way back to the sea, but waits for the sea to come to him. If it does not come, he remains where he is and dies, although the slightest effort would enable him to reach the waves, which are perhaps within a yard of him. The world is full of human lobsters: Men stranded on the rocks of indecision and procrastination, who instead of putting forth their own energies, are waiting for some grand billow of good fortune to set them afloat.”
If you want greater success in your job, if you want stronger relationships, a healthier body, or a better financial condition, it all boils down to taking MORE responsibility. Relationships don’t magically improve; bodies don’t automatically get healthier, and financial problems don’t suddenly disappear. They’re the result of the EXTRA responsibility you exerted.
You see … RESPONSIBILITY = CONTROL. The more responsibility you take, the more control you have over your career, your finances, your relationships, time, lifestyle, kids, and everything else.
“Ironically,” says marketing guru Dan Kennedy, “as much as we desire greater control, we are the ones who give it all away.” Every time we say, “It’s the location of our business … It’s the season … It’s the competition … It’s the economy … It’s the supervisor who has it in for me … It’s the way I was brought up … It’s my partner, co-worker, spouse, etc. … It’s the _______,” we push away a small weight of responsibility, but we give up an equal-sized amount of control.
Oh sure, blaming someone or something for your problems might make you feel better … temporarily. After all, it takes the weight off your back. But the price you pay for blaming, for shrugging off responsibility, for giving up control is a life of mediocrity or failure.
If you can grasp this truth, you will understand the answer to the age-old question: “Why does one person prosper while another suffers in the same situation?” It all goes back to RESPONSIBILITY.
Dan Kennedy offers two contrasting examples. He writes: “I happen to know two people very well who are very much alike. They own two almost identical businesses. Their businesses are in neighboring, very similar towns. My observation is that they are equally skilled in the technical and administrative aspects of their business.”
“One, Peter E., has struggled for about seven years just to stay in business. He has gained very little, if any, financial ground during those years. His life is a day-to-day struggle for survival.”
“The other fellow, Robert L., started six years ago. His business has grown by 10% to as much as 30% each year, every year. He is now getting ready to turn it into a fortune through franchising.”
“When I talk with Peter E., I hear a lengthy discourse on all the outside influences that negatively affect his business. The economy, taxes, banks that won’t give small business a fair shake, competition from huge corporations, and his list goes on and on and on. Every time I talk with Peter, I hear the same list. A broken record playing over and over again.”
“I acknowledge, by the way, that these factors do exist. I am frustrated by some of them myself. But the issue is not the existence of these factors. The issue is how much control Peter lets them have over his business. Every time Peter recites his list, he shuffles off responsibility for his situation, and that temporarily helps him feel better. But with the responsibility goes the control.”
“When I talk with Robert, these matters only occasionally come up. Instead, he talks excitedly about the innovative strategies he has discovered and developed to keep his business growing regardless of external influences. He exhibits healthy curiosity and quizzes me about strategies I’ve seen or discovered recently that might work for him. ‘How does that client of yours in x-business deal with this y-problem?’ He wants to know. Often, he’ll say something like, ‘I really screwed up on this situation. Let me tell you about the base I missed and what I’m doing about it.’ Robert accepts all the responsibility for his success or failure, his errors and his achievements, and because he does, he retains control.”
Again, it comes back to you. How are you living your life? Are you more like Peter, stuck in a rut, going nowhere, trying to survive, but ready to give a dozen excuses for your problems? Or are you more like Robert, acknowledging the obstacles in life but taking responsibility to find a way through?
Action: List five areas of your personal and professional lives where you want to see improvement.
Then list any excuses you are making or reasons you are giving for not seeing improvement in those areas.
Finally, list one thing you CAN and WILL do to make an improvement in each