The Past Is A Library, Not A Roadmap

The past is a library from which to draw information, but it’s not a road-map for living tomorrow.

You want to be mature? Grown up? And wildly successful? Then author Brian Tracy says, “The starting point of maturity is the realization that ‘No one is coming to the rescue.’ Everything you are or ever will be is entirely up to you.”

Ouch! That hurts … if you’re used to blaming society, the government, your company, spouse, kids and everyone else for all your problems in life.

The truth is … all of your decisions and indecision, and all of your actions and inaction, up to this point, have added up to create the life you’re living at this very minute. If you want things to be different in the future, you’ll have to make things different in the present. You’ll have to take complete charge of yourself and your life and make things change, because they won’t change by themselves.

The process is called self-management. It’s all about putting your hands on the steering wheel of your life and taking yourself in the direction YOU want to go. And EVERY successful man or woman has … at one time or another … made a firm decision about where he or she wanted to go and then took deliberate steps to get there.

It’s what the first day of my “Journey to the Extraordinary” experience is all about. As Lyndon Jones, the President of Lyndon Jones Construction, wrote, “I have used the skills learned at the Journey to not only achieve SO MUCH MORE than I thought was possible personally and professionally but also to pull myself out of the depths of hell. Thank you.”

To get you started on the path of successful self-management, I recommend these steps.

1. See yourself as a “bundle of resources.”

Most people do just the opposite. They define themselves in terms of the work they do. And when asked to describe themselves, they say such things as “I’m a salesperson … I’m a plumber … I’m a manager … or … I’m a housewife.” Or they say, “I work over there in Company ABC doing XYZ work.”

There’s a big problem with that approach. You tend to become what you think about; so the more you describe yourself by what you do, the more you think of yourself that way. And should you ever lose your job, you’re in for a mighty tough time, because you not only lose your financial security, you lose your identity.

Successful, self-managed people see themselves and describe themselves quite differently. They see themselves as a “bundle of resources.” They’ve undergone a wide variety of positive and negative experiences, all of which taught them something.

They’ve got a remarkable education, coming from formal schooling and every job they’ve ever had. They’ve got a host of skills they picked up from hard work, discipline, and practice. And they’ve got all the abilities they were born with, which makes it easy for them to accomplish certain tasks.

When you consider your “bundle of resources,” you’re probably capable of excelling at dozens if not hundreds of jobs. The federal government has identified more than 22,000 different job categories. I know you can handle many of them very well. So if you’re going to be a successful, self-managed person, beware of psychologist Abraham Maslow’s warning. He wrote, “The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short.” The average person tends to settle for far less than he’s capable of and then wonders why he’s so dissatisfied and frustrated with his life.

Again, start seeing yourself as a “bundle of resources” instead of being limited to a job title or a bag of ailments. That’s why I find it both sad and amusing when I see lists such as this one: SIGNS OF OLDER AGE.

OLD is when your sweetie says, “Lets go upstairs and make love,” and you answer, “Pick one. I can’t do both.”

OLD is when your friend compliments you on your new alligator shoes and you’re barefoot.

OLD is when a sexy gal or guy catches your fancy and your pacemaker opens the garage door.

OLD is when you don’t care where your spouse goes, just as long as you don’t have to go along.

OLD is when you are cautioned to slow down by the doctor instead of by the police.

OLD is when “getting a little action” means you don’t need to take any fiber today.

OLD is when “getting lucky” means you find your car in the parking lot.

OLD is when an “all-nighter” means not getting up to go to the bathroom.

You are more than your job, your title, your role, or your ailments. You are a “bundle of resources.”

2. Accept the fact you are self-employed.

You work for yourself. It doesn’t matter who signs your paycheck, and it doesn’t matter if you work for one company or a variety of companies over the course of your life time. Successful, self-managed people see themselves as self-employed. As Tracy puts it, “You are the president of your own personal services corporation. You go into the marketplace and sell your services to the highest bidder, but you always work for yourself.”

Unfortunately, most people see themselves as “worker bees” instead of “company-owning employers.” So it’s no wonder they end up unhappy and underachieving. They see themselves as helpless and dependent, always looking for someone else to provide them with work to do and the money to live on. And as nasty as it sounds, these “workers” start to think of themselves as cattle being herded into the barn every day from 9 to 5 to be milked and then sent back to the pasture to graze and prepare for the next day’s milking.

By contrast, when you accept complete responsibility for your life and begin to see yourself as self-employed, you automatically move into the top 3% of employed men and women. You’re in charge of your working destiny. You’re not a passive passenger or an idle dreamer. And like all successful self-managed, self-employed people, you MAKE certain things happen rather than WAIT for things to happen.

3. Focus on your key assets.

And one thing you MAKE happen when you have a “self-employed mentality” is focus on your assets. Like any great company, you need to focus on those things that will bring you the greatest return on your investment of time and energy.

To do that, ask yourself a few questions. Of all the things that you’ve been hired to do, what one or two things are more important than anything else? What can you — and only you — do that, if done extremely well, will make a real difference to your company?

If you don’t take time on to focus on these questions, you’ll find yourself spreading your efforts across a wide variety of tasks rather than getting the really important things done. Instead, as a successful self-managed individual, you need to put off doing all the things of a lower priority so that you can work on the one or two things that make all the difference.

It’s like when you have a headache. You focus on doing the most important things. You simply do what it says on the aspirin bottle: “Take two aspirin” and “Keep away from children.”

4. Focus on quality improvement.

As you well know, one of buzz words in business for the last 20 years has been “quality” … quality in the work you do and quality in the products and services you deliver. That being the case, if you’re a self-managed, self-employed individual moving up in the world, you need to stop and think periodically about what you are doing to improve your quality.

Famous football coach Vince Lombardi said it very well. He said, “The quality of a person’s life will be determined by the depth of his commitment to excellence, no matter what the chosen field.”

You see … your job is to become very good at what you do, to become valuable, and then to become indispensable. Your job is to join the top 20% of people in your field, and then the top 10%, and then the top 5%. Quality work is the key to high earnings, recognition, prestige, and the esteem of those around you.

So what are you doing to improve your quality? Do you go out and take courses and attend seminars that will make you a better person and a more effective professional … even if you have to pay for it yourself? Successful, self-managed people always do. Or do you sit back and whine, saying, “No, I don’t do that because my company won’t pay for it.”

Do you read books that will help you grow in your job, in your career, and in your family … even if you have to buy the books yourself … and even if you’re busy? Successful, self-managed people always do. Or do you rationalize your lack of dedicated, focused growth time by saying, “I’ve got too much on my plate. I’m just too busy to read all that stuff.”

Do you listen to educational and motivational recordings while driving in the car or commuting on the bus to work? Research says if you did that every day, you would earn the equivalent of another college degree in a fairly short period of time. Successful, self-managed people always do. Or do you weasel out and say, “Hey man, that driving/commuting time is the time for me to chill out with the news, weather, sports, and a few cool tunes?”

If you want to be a successful, self-managed person, follow the advice of one old man who said, “Get good; get better; be the best.”

Action:  Take an inventory of your “bundle of resources.” List all the things you have going for you and how you want to best “sell” your resources out in the world.