I think it might be.
You might not agree but I feel that the next few minutes could have a profound effect upon your life.
Why are you successful sometimes and not at others? Why do you have periods when you are you happy with your lot and at other times not? Why do you feel like everything is on track and at other times you feel your life is off the rails?
Welcome to the world of personal drivers.
If your drivers are being met you will be more successful and happier because your internal needs are being satisfied. It’s about what you need as a person but at a very deep level – it’s not about the next pay rise or holiday abroad or 10 minute mile.
So what use are they in the real world?
When you need to make a decision simply assess which of the available options best feeds your drivers and then choose that one. It’s more likely to be the right choice for you.
We enjoy doing those things that meet our drivers so we do them longer, harder and better leading to even more success.
When things aren’t going well for you or you just feel a bit cheesed off with your lot check which are of your drivers are not being fed and it will give you some idea of how to fix your situation.
Here’s the bad news though: that’s pretty much all I can give you because it’s not my field. However, I do have a couple of suggestions which should help you to at least begin discovering your drivers. Before that though here are mine (he said laying himself bare before his readers).
These caused me to like squash more than water polo; become obsessed with programming (won a nationwide prize for it!); take up bricklaying as a hobby but preferred using recycled bricks; built a successful recruitment business in the 90′s but failed to do the same again in the naughties and finally to end up as a business development consultant.
- I need to be in a place of discovery: I like new things: challenges; people; places and experiences. I can’t stand the status quo for any length of time.
- I need to be on a journey: I like it when I know where I’ve been, where I am now and where I’m going. I need to be on a mission; a man-with-a-plan.
- I need to make things that work: building something that, when it’s complete, actually does something really hits the spot for me.
- I need to renovate and improve: I like to take something that doesn’t work very well and reinvigorate it so that it does.
- I need recognition and to be valued: I’m not proud of this but I need external validation such as being paid for what I do, having my achievements recognised and affirmation that I am good at what I do. I see this a weakness in myself.
- I need to be good at what I do: If I can’t be good, or better yet great, at something I’m not interested in doing it.
- I need to leave a legacy: it’s like “Mike Ames was here”. Leaving my mark on whatever I am involved with.
Underpinning these drivers is my Foundation driver that has to be in place all the time: -
- I need familiarity and security: I absolutely have to have my back to the wall. Mrs Ames says that’s why we’re still married after 30 years when my drivers would suggest that I should have been a flighty piece. I think she’s right.
So all I can offer you is chapter 5 on needs, passions and talents in Stephen Covey’s otherwise less than inspiring book The 8th Habit of Highly Effective People. Not worth buying it for that though – borrow a copy if you can.
Alternatively, you could make a list of everything that you were successful at and enjoyed (the two usually go hand-in-hand) and another that you were terrible at and hated. Start from your earliest recollections (our drivers don’t really change) and come to the present time.
Then look for common needs being met/ignored in each list; it takes time (about 9 months in my case) but you will find them. Then you can test them out by taking situations and seeing whether your drivers were being met or not. Keep reiterating this cycle of observation and testing and eventually you will arrive at an accurate definition of what drives you. Well worth the investment of time and effort if you ask me.
Find your drivers and it will change how you make decisions and ultimately how happy and successful you’ll be.
So was it the most important post I’ve ever published I wonder?
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Earlier in the year I wrote a post explaining why being great wasn’t really all it was cracked up to be (here it is). But some people; a small number of people actually, really want to be great and are prepared to do what it takes to realise their dreams.
This post is for them.
Over the years I must have read hundreds of “how I became successful” books from Robert Townsend’s excellent book Up the Organisation in the late 1970′s through Thriving on Chaos, Good to Great and Seth Godin’s masterpiece Outliers. Added to that I am also an avid reader of biographies.
So what you have here are the top 5 things that most of those people seem to be able to do all presented in bite-sized portions.
1 – Sweep away the barriers – believe anything is possible.
At the beginning of 1954 some 100,000 after modern man evolved nobody had run a mile within 4 minutes. Roger Bannister changed all that and by the end of the year so had another 4 runners. Why? Because once the mental barrier had been removed people began to believe and with belief comes achievement.
We clutter our lives with all sorts of self-imposed barriers that only serve to hold us back. Sweep these aside and REALLY believe that you can do anything you set your mind to and your world will change forever.
2 – Become obsessed with quality.
I looked up the definition of the word “obsession” and here it is: “a persistent idea or impulse that continually forces its way into consciousness”. Say what you like but consistent high quality always differentiates and the greats have never settled for anything less.
If you want to be great make absolute quality a daily obsession with the small things as well as the big.
3 – Give yourself time to improve.
I’m in the improvement business and let me tell you people do not give themselves enough time to change. Olympic athletes don’t win gold medals without practising, great golfers spend a lot of time with their coaches on the range and you won’t get fit and lose weight without finding the time to look after yourself and work out.
You can’t improve without investing some time and the more you invest the better you’ll get. Full in-boxes, blocked-out calendars, needy staff and the inability to say “no” when you should all conspire against us but if this sounds like your life then I’m afraid your chances of becoming great are as slim as my son’s wallet when we go do the pub.
I suggest 20 minutes a day to learn or experiment (both are necessary for change) – add that up and it comes out to about 10 days a year all invested in making you better. Now that’s time well spent!
4 – Fail, fail and fail again.
You need to experiment to improve. fact!
You will fail sometimes when you experiment. Fact!
Therefore if you want to improve you have to be prepared to fail, learn from the experience, decide what to do differently and then try it all over again.
Persistence is omnipotent!
5 – Feed yourself with greatness.
Should you reinvent the wheel every time you wanted to go for a drive? I think not.
Should you work out the best way to deliver a presentation from scratch? Nope.
So should you really spend time working out how to do something when somebody else has almost certainly done it already and written a book about it? Of course you shouldn’t but people do.
These days there are plenty of ways to absorb data but until we can have an implant into our brains like in the Matrix (I would start with learning how to play the piano or any kind of dance) we have to do it ourselves. Here are my top four sources of information: -
- Blogs – there are millions of them. You can find them through Google or better yet, by following the right people on Twitter and they’re concise enough to be read and absorbed quickly. Fast food learning right there dear readers.
- Books – still my favourite because of the range and depth of material covered and the fact that the author can take their time conveying their message. Of course you do have to find the time to read it…….
- People – every thing you need to know is known by the people you know and the people who they know. Go out of your way to mix with the right people and soak up what they know and what they can do. Most people are flattered to be asked too.
- Videos – with YouTube and TED.com stuffed with fascinating, informative and extremely easy to watch video content you are never short of something to watch. Check out my top 10 TED video’s here.
What next then?
- Decide if you really want to be great – how much are you prepared to sacrifice?
- Print off this blog post and stick it to your fridge door.
- Do what it says.
I was watching a dozy late summer wasp trying to escape the house the other day. His tactic was simple: keep flying at the window until magically it would give way and he would once more taste the fresh, clean Birmingham air.
He must have been at it half an hour before I got up, opened the window and shooed him out into the garden.
The thing is persistence on it’s own isn’t enough. Einstein said that his definition of madness was doing the same thing over and over in the same way and expecting a different outcome each time. I’m guessing that the wasp hadn’t read much Einstein over the years.
But, you know I think we can all be like that wasp from time to time: keep on doing the same old thing the same old way and being surprised and maddened in equal measures when it doesn’t work out the way we want.
If that’s you (and it really is all of us from time to time) STOP. Stand back and reconsider your options: what are you trying to achieve; what’s working; what isn’t and what can you do differently.
Oh and one last thing. The wasp didn’t ask for any help (he might have done but my Wasp is a bit rusty these days) but when I intervened he achieved his objective. We’re different because we can talk. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – sometimes others can see and do what we cannot.
Well done Europe and commiserations to the USA who came very close to nailing it. Great golf but what can we learn from it that would be useful in business?
Well the first thing to say is that everybody on both teams were great golfers; that’s a gimme. Each player has enormous talent and ability but more than that they are used to delivering under pressure and in the spotlight. Pretty similar to life in the second decade of the 21st century really: everybody is pretty good. The recession has cleared out most of the poor performers so quality is no longer the edge it used to be.
So what was it that made the European team raise their game and win? I think it came down to 3 things.
Jose Maria Olazabal provided truly great leadership: support, discipline, belief all in abundance. After the win he said to his team “All men die, but not all men live. And you have made me feel alive again this week”.
As Rory McIlroy put it “He has made us cry in the team room this week, some of us have broken down into tears with some of his speeches”. Even after the game was won Olazabal was urging on Francesco Molinari to win his match.
Never underestimate the power of inspired leadership.
Passion for the Cause
The late Seve Ballesteros became the cause for this European Ryder cup team. Olazabal had partnered him on numerous Ryder Cup teams in the past and had a special bond that went beyond their shared homeland. But Seve was so well liked and respected he became the cause that everybody rallied around.
Olazabal said ”Seve will always be present with this team” a sentiment added to by Sergio Garcia who said “We did believe, there’s no doubt that we’ve been inspired by Seve, through our captain.” Again Rory McIlroy summed it up “knowing that Seve’s looking down on us, it’s just been one of the most incredible days that I’ve ever had on the golf course.”
Wanting to win is natural in all sports people but having a shared cause that everyone has a passion for lifted their performance to a different level and one that the Americans were unable to match.
Having a shared passion for a single cause that sits above the obvious prize makes all the difference in the world.
There may have been momentary doubts; there must have been. To be faced with 12 matches and the opposition only has to win 4 of them would seem an impossible task especially when faced by a talented and pumped up USA team but they always hung on to the belief “we can win”.
Justin Rose said after his amazing win over Phil Mickelson “Jose told us to believe and we really wanted to, we really did.”. Belief helps you to pick yourself up when you have fallen and can steer you through the narrowest of gaps to pass the finishing line first. In short, belief promotes persistence – which will surely conquer all that lies before it.
Following one of Olazabal’s dressing room talks and even though they were 4 points adrift Ian Poulter said ”We weren’t four points down. We felt like we were all square. We just knew we had a chance. And do you know this is history right here.”
If you believe in yourself you really can achieve miracles.
So what can we take away from all this?
In business we can’t just rely on being better than the next firm we must look within ourselves and ask these questions: do we really have a cause not just a target and are we all passionate about it? Do we believe in ourselves and those around us and finally do our leaders support, believe and inspire us to achieve the seemingly impossible.
So, with the week in front of us about to unfold how do our organisations match up to the European Ryder Cup Team of 2012?
Richard St. John is a success analyst who spends his time researching, speaking on and writing about success. These 8 secrets stemmed from a question a schoolgirl asked him on an aeroplane for which he had no clear answer.
This simple question inspired a 7 year journey of discovery that embraced over 500 interviews of successful people like Rupert Murdoch, Bill Gates, Frank Gehry and Norman Jewison across business, the sciences and the arts.
- do it for love not for money.
- if you do it for love the money will follow.
- passions are the first thing you thing of in the morning and the last thing you think of at night.
2. Work hard
- the harder you work the more you will achieve
- success rarely comes without hard work; lucky winners are few and far between.
3. Be good at what you do
- work long and hard to be good at something
- practice; practice; practice
- when it comes down to it if you aren’t good at what you do you can’t be a success and sustain it
- concentrate all your efforts into one or two goals.
- without focus your resources will be too thinly stretched to achieve real success.
5. Push yourself
- physically and mentally push yourself to your limits
- push through shyness and self-doubt
- make it a privilege to serve people
- serve other people something they will find of value
- think more about the needs of your stakeholders than of your own needs
7. Have ideas
- you must find the time to think
- seek inspiration from whatever and whomsoever you can: books; TED; mentors; gurus
- listen; observe; be curious; ask questions; problem solve; make connections.
- persist through failure
- persist through CRAP: Criticism; Rejection; Assholes; Pressure
I happen to think that these simple, yet powerful, ideas are both accurate and inspirational. Also since they are Mr St. John’s and not mine I feel justified in asking you to Tweet this out and pass onto others who are searching for their way forward.
- They might say no.
- Will they think I’m being too forward if I ask?
- I’ll embarrass myself.
- It’s all going so well I don’t want to spoil it all by asking for the business.
- I don’t want to make them cross with me.
- They’ll ask me (they probably won’t)
The fear of rejection stops us from achieving all that we are capable of and those people who don’t have it fly higher and faster than those that do. If you’re one of the unlucky ones you must do whatever it takes to overcome it.
Here are a few thoughts: -
- What actual harm will come to me if somebody else says “no”? (clue: none)
- You can ask too early and you can ask too late but trust your instincts; when it feels right just pop the question.
- You are in complete control of how you feel. You can only be embarrassed if you allow it. Deal with it.
- If it’s right then the answer will be “yes”; if it isn’t then “no” is probably the best outcome all round.
- Statistically a “no” just moves you closer to the next “yes”.
If you fear rejection you will avoid situations where you could be rejected but of course, these are also the situations where progress happens, deals are won and gains are made.
Over to you then…….
So here they are; my top 10 TED videos and the reasons why you should check them out. Just on the off-chance that you don’t know what TED is it’s like YouTube for grown ups where the contributors are invited to contribute. Video clips tend to be less than 20 minutes and covering an eclectic mix of subjects – at home we often watch TED instead of the TV!
Read on if you want to be educated, inspired or just plain entertained. Beware though: TED can lead to addiction issues!!!!!!!
1. Steve Jobs – Stanford Address -
The inimitable Mr Jobs is speaking at a Stanford University graduation ceremony. He recounts three different parts of his life each offering at least one important message but beyond that these episodes provide a fascinating insight into what made the great man tick. Seriously it nearly moves me to tears every time I watch it.
2. Simon Sinek – why do people buy from you -
Sinek recounts some real-life examples (again one of them being Apple) of how people buy what you believe above all else. If you have to persuade people or sell to them as part of your job this brief clip WILL make a difference. I changed the way I present what I do after I watched it.
3. Sir Ken Robinson – Killing creativity -
I’ve seen Sir Ken speak live and he never fails to entertain, educate and perhaps most importantly make you contemplate. Here he is talking about creativity especially in kids but you can relate to what he says no matter what you do or how old you are. Particularly relevant if you have kids at school I might add.
4. Derek Sivers – Starting a movement -
Sivers narrates a video clip of somebody who starts an extraordinary movement at a pop festival, of all places, and then draws lessons that anybody who wants to be a wow on the internet will want to learn. Want to grow a community? Well check this out. Also it really is fascinating to watch the community form before your eyes.
5. Malcom Gladwell on Spaghetti Sauce -
Ever wondered why some people prefer one product over another? Could this help you to promote your offering to better effect? I think so and the way Gladwell achieves it is by recounting how the perfect spaghetti sauce was developed; or not as the case may be.
6. Sheena Iyengar – How to make choices easier -
When I watched this clip for the first time I was struck by the simplicity of Iyengar’s argument: put some effort into the way you build features and choices into your offerings and the way you present them to your clients. Love it!
7. Niall Ferguson – the 6 killer apps of prosperity -
You may have seen the TV programme but either way this is a great talk which explores a) why the west was so successful in growing powerful and rich nations even though it started later than the east and b) why the east is now overtaking the west. Very thought-provoking and ingeniously presented by using the modern concept of Apps but for nations.
8. Nigel Marsh – how to make work-life balance work -
One of the biggest challenges we face in the modern world is getting balance in our lives: how much time for work; how much for our friends and families and how much special time do we need for ourselves? A relatively easy question to answer you’d think but if you can’t seem to get there (you’re definitely not alone if you can’t) then try this talk by Nigel Marsh for size.
9. Paul Gilding – the Earth is Full -
I don’t want to get into the whole green debate but wherever you stand on the subject this talk will certainly make you think. Gilding avoids the easy targets of lonely polar bears, shrinking icecaps and unusual weather patterns and comes from an angle that even made me sit up and think. If you watch it do so with an open mind – the logic behind his arguments is sound and irrefutable.
10. Cat vs Washing machine -
OK so this isn’t a TED video; I’ve watched it a hundred times and it makes me laugh every single time so go on, cheer yourself up and watch the cat who’s left his iPhone in his jeans which are now in his washing machine. One of many TRANSLATION vids by Chris Cohen.
So there you have it; my very favourite TED videos but I’m sure you’ve got loads others so please add your favourites as comments so others can share.
Vive le TED!!!
These words propagate the status quo, suppress change and create a whole world of “can’t do” so should be avoided whenever possible.
- If I could just get that job/lose weight/pass that exam/win that client my life would be so much better.
- If I can find some time I am going to get on top of my Inbox and keep it that way.
- If you want me to do that I will have to have this, that and the other in place first.
- When I get time that’s the next thing I’m going to do
- When I have read up on social media I will join LinkedIn and get connected.
- When you’re as old as me you don’t need to follow the rules.
- I hear what you’re saying BUT that does not apply to me.
- That is a great idea BUT……
- I can see what you’re suggesting is right for most places BUT it just won’t work here.
When you feel the need to use any of these cop-out words think again: is what you’re saying true or could it be down to the threat of losing control, laziness, fear of change or just because it wasn’t your idea in the first place. Instead why not try a different answer like “how could we”, “why don’t we” or “what if we did this”.
Answers are everything. It’s better work towards them than stand in the way of their discovery.
Actually these days being great at what you do isn’t an option in the same way that a steering wheel isn’t an option on a car; its sort of essential to make the car work properly. The problem is that whilst we all know this it’s an “I’m Spartacus” moment where the real message is lost in all the other noise (if you’re not sure what I’m talking about check this out
So let’s just reflect for a moment on what being great really means. Great politicians such as Winston Churchill; great sports people such as Serena Williams or great innovators such as the late, and very, great Steve Jobs all have a few key elements of their personality that are the same.
Of course these are exceptional people so can these same traits be applied in our more ordinary lives?
I think so especially these three key characteristics: -
- Perfectionist - never stop until it’s what your client asked for or even better.
- Innovator – today’s new is tomorrow’s old but what are you working on for the day after?
- Benefactor - the ABCD factor; above and beyond the call of duty.
Strive for Perfection
When you’re rushed “good enough” sometimes has to do. I know this and so does everybody else but your client doesn’t care; they only see the final outcome of your efforts and if it’s not what they asked for they will not be best pleased. Perception is everything here so the key is to understand what your client actually wants – asking lots of questions is a good start followed by reflecting back your understanding for confirmation.
When you know what they want and before you start to deliver it take a moment to think what “better than that” looks like because this is your actual target. Your goal is simple then: deliver the “better than that” option and make it perfect.
Innovate to Propagate
Isn’t it amazing how fast the world moves these days. Until the Internet revolution free stuff before you’d even bought anything was usually pretty lame. Then somebody cottoned on to the fact that if you give away really valuable stuff it draws people into you and begins to form a business relationship. Now if you don’t offer freebies people think there’s something wrong with you and hastily press onto the next site.
Now, has it happens I’m not entirely in favour of free stuff: “no cost” often equates to “no value” in many people’s minds but the point is yesterday’s innovative idea rapidly becomes the norm.
So greatness encompasses a deep-seated desire to come up with something new, exciting and useful in your particular discipline. Size, as I tell everybody who will listen, isn’t everything. What matters is that it is new and raises an inquisitive eye-brow in your clients.
Let the people you serve know you love them
Above and beyond the call of duty; going the extra mile; climbing the last peak – the list of clichés goes on but the truth is whilst perfection is making your offering great doing unexpected and perhaps quite lateral things will make you even more noticeable.
Sending a written thank you card or remembering a piece of specific information like a birthday or special interest and then acting upon it shows you care. In other words you actually demonstrate to (not just tell) the people you serve that they matter to you and you see them as more than just a meal ticket.
And so to conclude….
The whole point here is that whilst you could get away with being OK or even good at what you do in the past in the new world exploding around us this just isn’t going to be good enough. Steering wheels aren’t optional extras and neither is being truly great at what you do any more.
“You’re simply the best, better than all the rest, better than anyone, anyone I’ve ever met” warbled Tina Turner a long time ago. But, had she been singing about businesses she would have been leading us all up the wrong path.
Think about it. This obsession we have to be the best at whatever we do is just not possible because it implies that the rules are the same and so are the ways we measure “best” like runners competing in the 100m sprint. Whilst the rules and the measurement are the same for all competitors (start at the same time and first through the tape is the best) in business this is just not the case.
Let’s explore this a little further. I asked my son who his favourite actor was and his response was no real surprise “do you mean comedy or action dad?” in other words “best” depended upon context. Added to that when I asked my daughter the same question she provided a different list of names to my son. Personal preference can also affect “best” just as much as context.
So supposing you wanted to be the best window cleaner in the land. To some people this would mean the cheapest, others it would be the most thorough whilst another set might be looking for those added extras like washing down the paintwork at the same time you clean the glass. Each group of customers would measure your performance according to what was important to them.
Now here’s the dangerous part: trying to be the best at whatever you do is almost certainly likely to be based upon what you think rather than what your clients think. This means there is a very strong possibility that your version of “best” may not be their version. Result: unhappy clients and a disappointed you. In business the only thing that matters is what your clients think.
So what can you do? Well the really successful organisations do three things: -
- They have a very clear idea of who their target market are. Whilst they recognise they can’t satisfy everyone they don’t care as long as this group has their needs met or, better still, surpassed.
- They focus all their energy on finding out what the needs and preferences of these people are and they shape their offering and the way they deliver it to entirely meet those needs.
- They are constantly reassessing what their market needs and how well they are satisfying them – complacency is a stealthy killer.
Well there you have it dear reader. Trying to be the best for too wider group of people will almost certainly result in you providing an average service to all of them. Why not focus upon a smaller and more defined target group; take some time to understand what they want and how they want it delivered to them (the best according to them) and then continually strive to deliver. Greatness beckons I think.
As it turns out Tina Turner has done that for her audience for many years with enduring success and long may she continue to do so.