“In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.” – Robert Heinlein
Why, I often wonder, do so many of us simply allow our dreams to evaporate like the morning mist? We dream of making something great out of our lives and then find it easier to settle for anything but greatness. We even inwardly chide ourselves for being so foolish to have had such lofty dreams in the first place. “Whatever was I thinking when I thought I could have done x…?” is something we might have told ourselves more than once. But why should we abandon our dreams so easily and settle for second best?
The answer lies in our passion and determination to succeed in making our dreams reality when things go wrong. And something always seems to go wrong. We may find that the amount of sacrifice we need to put in to make our dreams real is far more than we had bargained for. Maybe it takes too much time, or money, or mental effort or any one of a thousand other things. When this happens we just tend to quietly abandon those dreams and tell ourselves that it was never really meant to be.
Then we can all too easily lose our lives to mundane daily trivia which we willingly allow to consume our entire lives. We slavishly follow the fortunes of fictional characters on TV and then tell ourselves we don’t have any time to do anything about improving our own lives. We find fault in family members, work colleagues and friends and could debate their shortcomings for hours, while never giving our own shortcomings a second thought.
Now compare this to the person with a set of clearly-defined goals. We may often describe people like this as “driven” or “obsessed” because it seems that they allow nothing to ever get in their way. They don’t allow their dreams to fade away, but instead they put every ounce of effort into making them real. For these people when something goes wrong then this spurs them on to redouble their efforts to succeed. They make new goals to deal with the problem and they don’t stop making new goals until they have achieved the success they desire.
Make your life count for something. Don’t let life’s problems steal it away from you.
“It’s not what happens to you that determines how far you will go in life; it is how you handle what happens to you.” – Zig Ziglar
The night is dark and the seas are rough. A huge storm is raging and fierce waves crash against the rocks with explosive force. A piece of driftwood is picked up by the waves and splinters into a thousand pieces as it smashes into the rocks.. But amid all this chaos is a beacon of calm. A slender white lighthouse stands tall and strong amid the destructive power of wind and waves and beams out its warning signals to passing ships to remain clear of the rocks all around it. Once the storm passes all is calm and serene as the waves gently lap at the rocks below the lighthouse and there is no evidence of the frightening destructive power of the night before.
In life you want to be the lighthouse in the storm. You want to be the person who remains strong and steady even as chaos and confusion rages all around you. You can cope with the situation because you know your own inner strength and you can dig deep from within your mental resources to cope with all that life throws at you. And, just like the lighthouse, once the storm passes, nobody would ever know from looking at you that anything bad or frightening had ever happened.
We all have many storms to deal with in life but it is how we deal with them that is important. It does not matter to the storm whether we stand strong like the lighthouse or whether we panic and crumble when the going gets tough. But it matters to us and it matters to those close to us who rely on us for protection and leadership in bad times as well as good.
Standing up to adversity makes us stronger and, even if we feel frightened on the inside, the steely determination that has got us through life so far will get us through the storm and allow us to be a shining example to those who follow us. Become the lighthouse.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
There is something very comforting about the fact that excellence can become a habit in our lives. Sadly most people never even strive for excellence in anything they achieve and even those that do are content to experience the occasional moment of high achievement.
We all have certain skills that serve to set us apart from others around us and we should consider it our duty in life to make the most of our own particular skill set. If we have the ability to be excellent at something then we owe it to ourselves and to those around us to ensure that we excel at this, not just occasionally but all the time.
Repetition is the key to ensuring that excellence becomes a habit in our lives. Having the mental attitude that we always want to do things today a little better than we did them yesterday will keep us on the right track. Because of this we must take the time and effort to schedule success into our lives. It may seem a strange concept to “schedule success” but that is exactly what we need to do.
If we are content to be an employee then we can come into work on Monday morning with no ideas on how to make the most of the week ahead and we can just let our boss set the agenda for us. But as entrepreneurs and masters of our own destiny then we set our own agendas. By the time we start work on Monday morning we must already have a plan of action to propel us through the week ahead and other plans for the next month, the next quarter and beyond.
We must write down our goals, print them out and keep them where we can see them every day as reminders of where we want to be. Make excellence a habit as we drive our businesses forward in the direction we want to go and have a clear series of written goals to guide us.
If we set ourselves a series of challenging (but achievable) targets then we can make it a habit to constantly meet and exceed those targets as we strive ever upwards. We are what we repeatedly do so we might as well repeatedly strive for excellence rather than to repeatedly settle for second best.
“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The process of learning is a life-long experience because things around us are constantly growing and evolving. This is why we need to constantly learn new skills and new ways of doing things to keep up with our changing environment. If we suddenly stop learning and sit back, content, with the attitude that we no longer need to learn any more than we are setting ourselves up for a big fall.
I like to picture our lives as having a series of walls we must climb to see what awaits us on the other side and as we learn new things we get to climb over another wall to see what new experiences await us on the other side. That way we can never feel tempted to sit back and say “that’s it, I think I know everything now” because we know there is a wall right in front us with things to be discovered right on the other side.
It is important to take a look over the wall because it is our curiosity about the world around us and our desire to discover new things which drives us on and keeps us mentally alert. It also helps keep us humble because there is nothing more arrogant in suddenly declaring one day: “I know it all now.”
Even if we have successfully grasped every opportunity which has come our way and built up a successful business for ourselves we cannot risk never seeking to go beyond what we have already mastered because standing still is not an option. If the world around us is constantly growing and evolving then by standing still we are actually moving backwards. Successful businesses stay successful because they adapt and innovate. These owners are always mastering new skills to keep one step ahead of the opposition. All it takes is for one of your competitors to be hungrier for success than you are and they will grow and prosper while you remain trapped behind a brick wall which you cannot even see over.
Moving beyond what we have already mastered is a life-long commitment which keeps us mentally alert and ready to face the new challenges which are presented to us each and every day.
“Look for the opportunities in the difficulties, not the difficulties in the opportunities.” – Victor Fiorelli
Many of us may pass up perfectly good opportunities which come our way because we wrongly think of them as being too complicated or too difficult for us. We give them little more than a passing nod before waving them off for the next person to discover. We can recognize when we do this because we tell ourselves things like: “I could never possibly do that,” or “I would love to do this but unfortunately I am not nearly clever enough.”
If this has happened to you then you have been focusing upon the difficulties in the opportunities and not the opportunities in the difficulties. If your primary focus is on how difficult something is then there is a huge temptation to give up without a fight. Switching your focus to the opportunity won’t make the problem any less real but it could have a massive impact on how you deal with that problem.
Now instead of telling yourself you can’t overcome the difficulty you are prepared to use all your mental skills and cunning to conquer the challenge at hand so that the opportunity you desire does not slip out of your grasp. You know that success is just over the next hill and all you have to do is get there, so now you redouble your efforts to defeat all that is standing between you and success.
Maybe there is one big difficulty you have to overcome or perhaps a series of smaller ones, but you can embrace the challenge as you relish the mental thrill of getting to your goal in life. Again the problems and difficulties are exactly the same as before but now a far tougher and far more focused you is the person dealing with them.
Nothing is more empowering than when you overcome adversity to take your prize and now that you have figured out how to do so you become a leader in your community. Now people want to hear your story. They want to learn how you were able to do what they failed at and how you turned your life around when they had to accept defeat.
Be the person who turns the piece of coal into a diamond and be prepared to reap the rewards you now so richly deserve. You have earned your success; now help others to follow in your footsteps.
“Computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps only weigh 1 1/2 tons.” -Popular Mechanics, 1949
It seems almost impossible to believe now, but when that quote was written in 1949 the author really was trying to imagine a time when a computer might be as advanced as he described. Imagine if you were to be transported back in time and you could meet the author as he wrote that article for Popular Mechanics. It would be even better if you could bring along one of today’s smart phones, an iPad or some similar electronic tablet. However even if all that were possible you would immediately run into problems.
How would you explain things like high-speed broadband, Wi-Fi, Twitter feeds, wireless hotspots and USB devices to someone who had no idea what any of that was? You might as well be speaking in a foreign language and the devices you brought with you could have been the work of alien technology to someone from 1949. And as intelligent and forward-looking as we are today how impossible it is for us to know what technology will have in store in another 60 years.
But let us leave technology to one side for now and look to our own lives. What improvements do you have planned for your own future? And more importantly what are you doing today to ensure that your improved future actually happens? If you don’t give your own life some defined purpose and structure then you are not planning for your future at all. You are letting other people make plans now for what your life will be like ten or 20 years down the road.
Technology has only moved on at such a fast pace because ultimately people have wanted it to happen and poured vast resources into making it happen. Now sadly there are no vast resources being targeted at planning for your future – how your life shapes up is left entirely in your own hands. The decisions you make today can have a profound effect on the life you will live tomorrow. Maybe you are disappointed with the life you have now because of poor decisions you made in the past but that is no reason to keep storing up problems for the future. It is never too late to get back on track and to make changes which will pay dividends in years to come. Start investing in your future today.
“People are like sticks of dynamite. The power is on the inside, but nothing happens until the fuse gets lit.” – Mac Anderson
Nobody can live your life for you and neither should you let anyone attempt to do so. Sometimes we follow career paths we have little or no interest in just to please our demanding parents but this just leads to unhappiness and a deep sense of disappointment. Your life is your own and you owe it to yourself to pursue your dreams and to live your passion. Some people might see that as selfish but it is nothing of the sort. When you are true to yourself you can let your passion shine through in everything that you do and this will inspire others to follow their passions too. Live the life somebody else wants you to live and you will inspire nobody.
In order to unleash this dynamite-like power from within you have to allow yourself to follow your passion and your burning desire in life. Live this passion to the full and once the fuse is lit then there is no holding you back. It does not matter whether you have a mainstream passion or have one that is obscure or off the wall. If it gets you excited than you can be sure it will get others excited too and because there are others like you then there is money to be made and you are ideally placed to make money from it.
Think of all the times you have seen someone who clearly loves their job – the sort of person who looks forward to Monday mornings and always seems to have a spring in their step and enthusiasm in their voice. Well that person could be you. There is no law to say you must settle for a job that you hate, which keeps you with just enough money to pay the bills and robs you of so much of your time, yet many of us settle for such a job as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
Don’t let that be you and don’t sit around waiting for someone else to come along and light your internal fuse because that rarely ever happens. Find your inner spark, light your own fuse and see how your passion propels you forward…and carries others along in your wake.
“Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I’ll show you someone who has overcome adversity.” – Lou Holtz
There is a very good reason why most people never come anywhere close to getting the success they think they deserve from life…they simply don’t want it enough. Nearly everyone wants success but few are actually willing to put in the hard effort required to get it. You have to crave success, you have to battle hard to get it and you have to overcome every obstacle and road-block which comes between you and the success you desire.
I don’t know what great achievement it is that you desire but I do know that you will have to battle against great obstacles to get it. Some of the obstacles will be small and easily conquered while others may seem utterly insurmountable…at least at first. Everyone who has achieved something big in their lives has battled adversity…absolutely everyone and you are no different.
The easy option is to throw in the towel when the going gets tough and let self pity take over as you seek to blame others for your lack of progress. You may look towards someone who has achieved what you want to do and blame them for your woes. How many times have you heard this pitiful cry of the underachiever: “Well it is alright for you because you are good with numbers/were born with a silver spoon in your mouth /have the right contacts etc…I don’t have any of the resources you have…I didn’t stand a chance…I was doomed to failure from the very start.”
Nonsense. Utter nonsense. You doom yourself to failure by not wanting success badly enough to blast the obstacles out of your path as you march on-wards towards your goal with steely determination. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you are the only person in the world who has had to battle adversity – believe that and you doom yourself.
Keep your eye on the prize and embrace the obstacles which block your path. Embrace them in the sure and certain knowledge that your success lies on the other side. You just have to navigate a path to the other side. Ask anyone who has gone before you and they will tell you of the hardships they have had to face down. Now make a determined effort to face down your own hardships and never again blame anyone else for your lack of success.
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Maybe it goes without saying but whenever you decide to do something you always have to start somewhere. The problem is that many of us either never get started or begin working on important stuff far too late because we have been holding back while waiting for the perfect moment. We keep waiting for the perfect moment even when, deep down, we know there is no such thing as a perfect moment to do anything.
Very often we are just making excuses not to act rather than waiting for the ideal time to act. We may tell ourselves something like: “I will start the project when I have raised a little more money, done a little more research, talked it over with my friends, set up my website etc.” Or we may take the more negative approach and say something like: “Yes of course I want to get started on this project but now just isn’t the right time to do so.” Either way the job never gets done and yet another golden opportunity has passed us by.
Perfect does not exist. There are no perfect circumstances and there is no ideal world but there is where you are now and what you have got right now. That is where you must start your journey; from where you are and with what you have at your disposal. By all means have huge ambitions but start small and let what you are working on evolve naturally over time. Maybe you see yourself at the head of your own multi-national corporation. It could certainly happen but if it does then that is something you would build up to over a considerable number of years. It would almost certainly start out with you putting plans in action to offer your goods or services to one customer.
Comparing yourself unfavorably to others will also not help get the job done. “Well it is alright for Tom because he has a rich uncle, university degree, family to support him while I have only got…” We can all make excuses for not doing things but they don’t change a single thing about your personal circumstances. Look, you are where you are so that is your starting point. It will throw up its own set of unique challenges along the way but you are resourceful enough to deal with life’s challenges, so deal with them.
“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” – Mark Twain
Far too many people seem to think that the world owes them a living and that they should prosper from the efforts of others. Thinking like this allows you to absolve yourself of personal responsibility when things go wrong in your life because you can always put the blame at somebody else’s door. However the truth is that you actually reap what you sow and this reminds me of the Parable of the Sower from the Bible.
In this parable Jesus tells us of a sower who scattered his seeds erratically – on a path, on rocky ground, amongst thorns and on good earth. The seeds which fell on the path were eaten by birds; those which landed on rocky ground produced crops which withered away in the sunlight because the plants could not take root; the seeds which grew among thorns yielded no fruit because the thorns choked the plants but those which landed in fertile soil produced a bountiful crop.
The actions you take in life are similar to the seeds which were scattered. Some actions just won’t work out and will produce no results for you at all, others look like they will produce results but come to nothing because they were not thought through fully and, therefore, could not take root. For some actions maybe you relied too much on other people, or on the wrong people and they strangled the life out of them.
Yes it is disappointing and frustrating when things don’t work out and your actions fail to bear the fruit you wanted. You may be tempted to give in but this is exactly the wrong thing to do. The right thing to do is to keep sowing and to redouble your efforts because by keeping going you will eventually sow your seeds in good, fertile soil and your efforts will be rewarded in abundance.
The more you can focus and take the time to take the right actions to reach your goals then the more of your seeds will fall on the fertile soil. Don’t overly rely on others to help you achieve your goals and never, ever, fall into the trap of thinking the world owes you a living. It doesn’t owe you anything at all.