How to Get Ahead in 3 Easy Steps

3 Steps to Getting AheadA CEO of a manufacturing corporation was explaining his new policy to the employees. He said, “We’re going to become more and more automated. Now I know many of you will be concerned that our new robots will be taking your jobs.

I want to assure you we are taking steps to guarantee that all of you will remain on the payroll. According to the plan we are developing, you will receive a full week’s pay but will be required to work just one day each week. We are designating Wednesday as your workday. You will only have to come in on Wednesday.

From the back of the room, one worker asked, “Will we have to come in EVERY Wednesday?

Of course, that’s not a true story, but it could be. It seems like so many people want to get ahead without having to work for it. They want fairy-tale results without hard-working input.

That’s not reality. As Harold Geneen, the former chairman of ITT said, “It is an immutable law in business that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises — but only performance is reality.”  In other words, talk is cheap; the only thing that really counts is action.

That being the case, let me tell you what actions you have to take … or how you can get ahead in just three easy steps.


1.  Make a commitment.

People ask me if it takes a lot of time to get ahead in their personal lives or professional careers.  I say, “No. It takes commitment.  You can’t be like the Kamikaze pilot who flew 188 missions. He was busy, but he wasn’t committed.

The great explorer Captain Cook knew that more than 200 years ago when he named his ships “Resolution,” “Endeavor,” and “Discovery.”  He knew that all success starts with commitment.

The comedian George Burns commented on the critical importance of commitment as well.  He said,

“When you think you’re right, stick to your guns, no matter how much opposition you have to put up with. As Gracie said on one of our shows, ‘They all laughed at Joan of Arc, but she didn’t cave in. She went right ahead and built it’.”

Just be careful.  Don’t confuse a decision with a commitment.

It’s like the four frogs sitting on a log.  One decides to jump.  How many are left?

Most people say “three.” The answer is “four.” Just because one decides to jump doesn’t mean he actually does it.

For example, you may have decided to lose some weight, start exercising, or be assertive, but you may not be doing very much to accomplish those goals.  Decision does not automatically translate into action, but real deep-down, gut-honest commitment does.

The first step in getting ahead is making a commitment.  (Indeed, if you want to master all the steps in getting ahead personally and professionally, you should book my new program on “Up Your Attitude: The Secrets That Turn Potential into Performance” for one of your upcoming meetings.)


2.  Act as though you work for YOU, Incorporated.

Stop thinking that you work for someone else. The bare naked truth is you work for you … your future, your survival, your needs, your desires, your dreams, your family, and a whole host of other things YOU want.   And the more fully you grasp this truth, the quicker you will get ahead.

For example, when you know you work for YOU, Incorporated, you will do several things that will help you get ahead.  You would ELIMINATE ENTITLEMENT THINKING.  You no longer think, “I’ve been working so hard lately that I have a right to call in sick tomorrow.”  You would know that such dishonest behavior would not help YOU, Incorporated get ahead.

Even though you may technically work for someone else, when you act as though you work for YOU, Incorporated, you would also ACT AS IF IT’S YOUR BUSINESS. You would seek better, more efficient ways to do things. And you would look for things that would result in long-term savings or long-term profits for your business.

You would also DO MORE THAN ENOUGH. You would take on new duties, work a few extra hours, and wouldn’t have to be asked.  Whereas losers do just enough to get by, winners do more than enough—and so will you, if you really want to get ahead.

You would DETERMINE WHAT SKILLS YOUR COMPANY NEEDS AND ACQUIRE THOSE SKILLS. Most employees wait until the company sends them to training. Not so if you work for YOU, Incorporated.  You go out there and attend seminars even if you’re not sent and even if you have to pay for it yourself.  After all, you’re investing in the future of your company … YOU.  And this strategy alone will put you ahead of almost everyone else in the organization.

Finally, you would SHOW A LITTLE GRATITUDE. Pat yourself on the back once in a while for the effort and progress you’re making.  And give your “technical” employer some positive feedback as well. When all is said and done, new opportunities come to appreciative people more often than complaining people.


3. Keep on keeping on.

The Los Angeles Times surveyed 120 top performers in business, sports, politics, entertainment, and academia. The one characteristic all these producers had in common is that they persistently worked to reach the top.  They kept on going.

Two of my former students, Scott Anderson and Chip Kudrle, who went on to form the Diamond Performance Group, found that 92 percent of salespeople give up after the fourth “no.” However, 60 percent of customers say “no” four times before they say “yes.” That means the majority of the sales go to the few salespeople who are persistent enough to hang in there.

To get ahead, steps 1 and 2 are critical, but this third step to keep on keeping on is what brings it all together.


Final Thought:   There are many secrets of success, but none of them work, unless you do.

Click here to learn more about Dr. Zimmerman’s program “Up Your Attitude!”