Keeping It Real

We reserve the right to get smarter.

Today’s “Tip” is one of the slogans used at Tastefully Simple, a company that is recognized as one of the best companies in the country. And what a powerful slogan it is.

At Tastefully Simple they preach “The HOW of Realness.” In other words, they expect people to be humble enough … and honest enough … to admit their mistakes. That’s HOW they all get smarter and better.

So let’s talk about what “smart” people and “smart” organizations do to ensure greater and greater levels of success.

=> 1. Smart People Legitimize Mistakes.

Smart people say, “Mistakes will happen. It’s the natural byproduct of trying to move ahead.”

That doesn’t mean that they go out into the world — purposely trying to screw up. That would be insane. But they abide by the wisdom of Robert Goizeuta, the former CEO of Coca Cola. He said, “You stumble only if you’re moving.”

When you make a mistake, when you stumble, simply tell yourself that it’s okay … because you’re going to learn from your mistake. So give yourself credit for trying to move ahead.

=> 2. Smart People Refuse To Blame.

By contrast, stupid people make excuses for their mistakes. They whine, “That’s just the way I am … I just couldn’t help it … or … If it weren’t for so and so, I would have…” And every time they make an excuse, they fail to get any smarter. They miss the lesson that comes with their mistake.

Along similar lines, stupid companies seem to have a slogan that reads, “We reserve the right to blame others when we don’t get the results we’d like.” They might as well say, “We reserve the right to stay stupid.” Blaming keeps them stuck in a rut, going nowhere fast.

Smart people and smart organizations refuse to cop out. They refuse to say those kinds of things. They know it would be a waste of energy on a fruitless endeavor.

So get smart. When you make mistake, look for the learning in your mistake (sound familiar?), and move on to point three.

=> 3. Smart People Keep On Moving.

That’s what Naomi Judd recommends. In her book, “Naomi’s Breakthrough Guide,” “A dead end is just a good place to turn around.”

That’s also what Keith Wise did. As a “Tuesday Tip” subscriber, he wrote to me about an unexpected tragedy that took place in his business life. In his words, “I was fired from a job of 27 years because of some stupid things I said.”

Keith e-mailed me, asking for help. He later wrote back, saying, “You responded so positively that I knew I had to go out and try again. I always wanted to be an elementary teacher, and you encouraged me to go after it. Well here I am, more than a year later, and I will be student teaching in a few weeks as I near my 50th birthday. Thank you for believing in me when I had doubts of believing in myself.”

In reality, I found it easy to believe in Keith because I immediately saw him as one of the “smart” ones. Instead of whining about the mistake he had made, he kept on moving.

Can the same thing be said about you? I hope so.

In my program called “TAKING CHARGE: Motivating Yourself To Achieve More Than Ever,” I tell a story about the importance of moving … and to keep on moving … if you want great success in your life. (By the way, my “TAKING CHARGE” program is a GREAT program that always gets rave reviews.

Back to my story. There was a young man who left his village determined to find his way in life. After traveling many miles, he came to a fork in the road where he encountered the elderly sage of a neighboring village. “Tell me old man, which road leads to success?”

The old man didn’t say a word, but pointed down one of the roads. The young man took heed and eagerly headed down the road. But no sooner had he departed, he returned bruised and somewhat weary.

“Maybe I misunderstood you, sir,” said the young man. “I am seeking SUCCESS.”

The old man nodded his head and pointed down the same road as before.

Again, the young man set off on his journey only to return, this time more battered than before. “I asked the way to SUCCESS, you old fool! But that road is full of steep hills and jagged rocks that are impossible to climb. Look, I’m all bruised up and scarred. You don’t know the path to success.”

But the wise old man just sat there and continued to nod his head and point toward the road. “Success IS that way,” he said. “It’s just BEYOND the hills, and the bruises and the pain.” You’ve just got to keep on moving.

=> 4. Smart People Overcome Obstacles.

Before I begin speaking at a meeting, I will often play a Power Point presentation that features some of the “secrets” of success. And one of those “secrets” has to do with the fact that smart people overcome obstacles.

One of my slides says, “I’ve learned … that heroes are the people who do what has to be done … when it needs to be done … regardless of the consequences.” And another slide says, “I’ve learned … that maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you’ve had … and what you’ve learned from them … and less to do with how many birthdays you’ve celebrated.”

In my humble opinion, no one is more successful in life than the person who overcomes adversity. The greater the difficulty that is overcome, the greater the success.

One of my heroes said about the same thing. As a child I remember reading the autobiography of Booker T. Washington, and I remember a great line in his book, “Up From Slavery.” Washington said, “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.”

Washington knew that failure was not the falling down but the staying down. In fact, I’ve got a whole chapter on that topic in my book “PIVOT: How One Turn In Attitude Can Lead To Success.” I tell you exactly what you have to do to maintain a great attitude when failure comes your way.

And finally …

=> 5. Smart People Learn From Their Successes And Failures.

It’s one of the trademarks of really “smart” people and “smart” organizations. They learn.

By contrast, stupid people don’t bother to learn, or they refuse to learn. They keep making the same mistakes over and over again. It’s why some people marry three alcoholics in a row, and it’s why other people keep on having financial difficulties.

Similarly, stupid companies waste their money on new advertising campaigns but never train their people to implement what’s being advertised. I remember one client that brought me in to “fix” their customer service problems because they couldn’t figure out why things weren’t working.

When I examined the situation, I saw their wonderful, creative, brilliant advertising campaign that touted their “new customer first” program. They promised a “friendlier attitude” on the part of all their employees, and they promised “seamless customer service” that would delight even the most discriminating customer.

There was only one problem. The company never spent a nickel “training” their people to deliver this new and improved customer service. I think the bosses were simply hoping their employees would see the commercials on TV and “get” the idea of what they were supposed to do. Duh!!!

In the words of Jim Carrey, that was just plain “Dumb and Dumber.” Or possibly funny. As someone quipped, “Funny, I don’t remember being absent minded.”

You’ve got to learn from your successes. When you do succeed, analyze your success. What did you do right? And then visualize yourself as repeating your success over and over until your mind accepts that behavior as fact. When it does, success in that area will tend to become a habit.

Likewise, you’ve got to learn from your failures. Tim Conner says in his book, “That’s Life,” smart “people use their failures as assignments in the classroom of life. They see these setbacks as requirements to learn how to do it better, faster, slower, sooner, later… whatever.”

“Smart” people and “smart” organizations realize that the path through life is a never-ending journey of lessons. As Conner would say, “You don’t always get to choose the lessons, but you CAN choose the learning.”

Action:  What are the 3 biggest things you’ve learned from your successes? Your failures? And what is the process you use to make sure you learn from both your successes and failures?

If you don’t have a process, get one.