Over the years, I have really made it a science to constantly search for, analyze, and understand what things fuel and create success for people. Obviously, I am highly interested in being “successful”, but aren’t we all! I have a firm belief that success comes from thoughts and actions that are chosen, much more so than luck. Luck always helps, but my years of research, extensive reading, and a lot of interaction with highly successful people in many different venues (business, sports, politics, hobbies, etc…) tell me that thoughts, choices, decisions, action, etc… are what drive the bulk of success for people.
So if you are with me on that, one layer deeper or more advanced than that is: that “Action”, more than “thought”, drives success. In other words, you can ‘think’ success/ideas/strategies all you want, but nothing happens without action. And then taking that concept another layer deeper, my conclusion is there is a *single most important moment* or point in each overall cycle of thought-and-action towards success that is the most critical point where success blossoms or is severely hindered. This most critical single point is, effectively, the ‘hardest part’ of success in my opinion. I think of “success” as the state you are in that is a result of many of these thought-and-action cycles running simultaneously, constantly being [cycles] completed while new cycles are started and completed over and over. If you can learn to master the skill of moving through this single most critical point in the thought-and-action cycle/process, you will most definitely have a massive amount of success in whatever endeavors you are pursuing, and most certainly have significantly more success than you are having now.
The Single Most Critical Point
Make no mistake, this single most critical point is hard to do and master. If it was not hard, there would be many more extremely highly successful people in this world. But even though it is hard or tough, it does not mean that it is complex. In fact, it is so simple, it seems almost impossible that it could be that most critical point in these thought-and-action cycles that lead to success. But after years and years of study and paying attention to the science of success, I am fully convinced that this simple, but critical single point is the key that unlocks and increases success. I will get to what it is first by identifying what it is NOT.
The Thought-and-Action Cycle
The cycle (if it is triggered or started at all) always starts out with idea in your mind. The idea may come to you out of the blue, or you may work proactively towards generating ideas. Either way, this step in the cycle is “easy”. Everyone has great ideas, and anyone can brainstorm and apply creativity systems (see my Whitepaper Reference Guide I have written on Creativity Systems) to develop ideas. The next step in the Thought-and-Action cycle is the “Decision”. Deciding on something is harder than developing the idea, but it is still relatively easy. Some people do really struggle with making decisions, but by and large making decisions is not what reduces or prevents success. As you were probably thinking, the “Action” is the hardest part of the cycle —- but I break down Action into multiple categories, because it is only 1 portion of “Action” that is that most critical point or element that prevents or unlocks greater success.
Can you Guess What that Is?
Quite simply, it is the very “First Action” of the entire Action spectrum. What I have concluded through all my research, personal experience, and interaction with other successful people is that taking the initial or first action is not only the hardest part of the Thought-And-Action cycle, it is also the most Critical and Impactful part of the Thought-And-Action cycle that leads to results and success.
The subsequent actions required and implemented after the “first action” are much much easier for a variety of reasons. Visually, it is like that ‘first’ action is at the very tip top of the mountain being climbed, and after that first action is taken, executed, and completed, the next actions that follow are ‘down hill’ from there and significantly easier.
Why Is the First Action so difficult?
In one word, my conclusion of why taking the first action after a decision is made is so difficult is: FEAR.
Fear of the unknown. Fear of Ridicule. Fear of failing. Fear of Embarrassment. Fear of disappointment.
Fear is such a powerful intangible feeling, it literally stops most people, even very successful people, in their tracks from taking a first action. Fear is a very powerful force, and if you can overcome it in order to take that first action or a quicker first action after a decision is made (after an idea was created or identified), the subsequent required actions will happen easier, flow better, and results are created more often and in greater amounts.
I am sure you have had plenty of ideas that you thought of, and potentially even decided were good ideas that you should pursue. But then you did not pursue them. No first action taken. We all have dozens of these situations every week. If you reflect on why no first tangible action step was taken on these decided upon ideas, I suspect that 95%+ of the time it was due to some type of Fear. And if you don’t take the first action, you can never get to the second, third, fourth, etc.. *easier* action steps.
How to Conquer the thing that prevents that first hardest action step
If Fear of something is the reason the first action step is not being taken most of the time, then it would make sense that we need to overcome or conquer that Fear element that is in the way of the first action. We all have our various ways of dealing with Fear, because we all have fears of this or that. Most of the time, it is avoiding the thing that causes your fear altogether. If it is a fear of heights, you can pretty effectively avoid situations that induce this fear. But, when we are talking about the Thought-and-Action cycle to produce results on various ideas, you cannot avoid Fear, because you will not implement that first most critical action step.
I believe the best way to overcome or conquer fear is, ironically enough, to simply take an action. The antidote to Fear is to “move” or “move forward”. So that creates a bit of a circular equation or Catch22 at face value. If the first action is being blocked by Fear, then how can I take a first action to conquer fear? The answer is to chunk down the first action into a smaller first action. Make that first action so innocuous, so small or insignificant, that there is no Fear. But, move forward with an action. Move. Start. This process is extraordinarily effective. Heck, you could get someone else to do the first action for you —- and your first action is simply to get them to do it! And if you can get that first critical action taken, the next following actions become much easier. If the first action is to jump into the pool, and you have a lot of fear about that, then how about sticking just your hand in the pool? or just your finger?
This seems so ridiculously simple that it would not make a significant difference, but the reality is that this is HUGE. We tend to discount or not realize how big of an impact “just getting started” has on Success. But the reality is that ‘getting started a lot’ pretty much equals Success. So many times nothing ever gets started when ideas or created and decisions are made.
Again, it is a simple concept, but it is hard to put into practice without “practice”. I encourage you to pay more attention to the ideas you have and the decisions you make —- and look at that point of the most critical ‘first action’. If it is stalled or not happening, Fear is likely to blame. Chunk that first action down to the point that the fear threshold is so low that you can “move forward” and get started with ease. Then watch your overall results and success shoot up.
Be Your Best,
Todd D. Gifford
Virtually all humans are creatures of habit. We all lead tremendously predictable lives on a daily basis, with that occasional jolt of excitement or unknown emergency. But this is not a bad thing — this simply is a balance of a couple of our basic ‘human needs’: the balance of security/predictability with unpredictability/excitement. Predictable and unpredictable. We need both. Just think about life with only one or the other! 100% predictability in life and life would be …. boring. But 100% constant unpredictability, and what would happen? You would probably fizzle out and melt down into dust (at a very early age), literally. Constant chaos.
But something that I have identified that is absolutely critical to have as a constant on a daily basis in order to be as fulfilled and happy and successful as possible (regardless of how much security vs. unpredictability you have in your life), is: Inspiration.
Here is the dictionary definition of Inspiration: “The excitement of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity“
Whether you are a super regimented person, following a very well-scripted day, every day, with nearly zero surprises in life, OR you are a thrill seeker waking up every day not knowing if you are going to jump out of a plane skydiving, taking an alternative driving route to work every day — or anything in between, Inspiration is a key “fuel” driving happiness and success.
A Critical Fuel…Source
If inspiration is a fuel, then the source of that inspiration is worth spending time thinking about. The reason is that having a “systematic” source of inspiration is a tremendous advantage for those as compared to people who get inspired, but in a random, by-chance way. If we agree that inspiration is a critical fuel, you are well-served at spending time identifying what things really inspire you the most. Write those down and don’t lose that list!! THEN, think about what the source of those inspirational things is or what has to happen in order for those inspiring activities to happen. What creates or causes that inspiring information/content?
The Process of Creating Systematic Inspiration
Example: let’s say that you determine that collecting stamps inspires you. Then, it would be interesting to know how often you are actually engaged in that activity. 3 or 4 times per month? First observation might be: I should put myself into that activity much more than 3-4 times a month. How about 2x per week or more? Then, you identify what has to happen in order to be engaged in stamp collecting 2x or more per week. Write that information down, because it is right here in this process where you are identifying important barriers that must be overcome to create systematic and constant inspiration. In our stamp collecting example, you might determine that the main time you engage in this activity is on Saturdays. Why only Saturdays? Maybe because that is when ‘most’ people engage in stamp collecting.
You get the picture here, and this is obviously a make-believe example, but the reality is that we all have important sources of inspiration that we are underutilizing, not fully aware of how powerful they are, and not fully tapping into.
Multiple Systematic Inspiration Sources
Not only is it important to identify the best sources of your inspiration, but it is also to ensure you have multiple ‘systematic’ sources of inspiration to tap into… 4 to 6 go-to guaranteed sources of inspiration is best. Why? Well, even those inspiring activities can get boring (too repetitive and predictable). Being able to cycle among 4-6+ different sources of inspiration creates a freshness and unpredictability that you must balance with predictability.
For me personally, some sources of inspiration are: I love classic/old cars, reading non-fiction books on business or success, exercise and fitness training, writing, spending time with my wife and girls, volunteering, and home repair/upgrading. I have more, but that is seven very important inspiring activities. So, I look at how often am I engaging in these activities. Anything less than 3-4 times per week — I would want to take a hard look at why? Then, I determine how can I make these sources of inspiration happen more frequently, “automatically” or “systematically”? The ultimate situation is where you have a bunch of these inspiring activities happening frequently daily, almost without having to even think about them. They just happen.
The Biggest Hurdle
I know the biggest hurdle for most people is: “I can’t do many of my most inspiring activities very often because I have to work at my job.” If this is you, then you have to get more creative about how you can fit these inspiring activities into your schedule. This ‘I can’t’ thought process is a huge roadblock to installing more frequent systematic inspiration. If you work 8-10 hours a day and sleep 6-7 hours a day, that still leaves 7-10 hours for installing more and more frequent inspiring activity.
Most of us have ‘dead’ time that we have built into our regimented daily agenda. Try to locate these hidden time-wasting portions of your day and convert them into inspiring activity. TV can be inspiring, but it may be sucking up a bunch of time and is not in your Top 10 most inspiring activities. Procrastination can suck up a lot of time – filling time with ‘busy mindless work’. A great technique is to combine two inspiring activities into the same time slot. For example, exercise inspires me and classic cars inspire me. To best utilize time and leverage inspiration, I read classic car magazines while I exercise. Or I read or listen to non-fiction success books while I exercise. Same can be done during lunch time. Maybe listening to a certain type of music inspires you, and reading fiction books inspires you —- these could both be done at the same time over a lunch hour, even while you eat (if eating inspires you, then that is 3 inspiring activities at the same time)!
The key is to determine what your greatest sources of inspiration are and get those installed into your daily regiment and have them happen automatically. Try it and I think you will see a big ‘boost’ in your enthusiasm and happiness and success.
Be Your Best,
Todd D. Gifford
I know what you are thinking —- oh boy, just what we need, another weight loss book! Not long ago, I wrote and published a book about Weight Loss, called “Shopping For Calories Lifestyle Weight Loss Method – The Easiest, Most Effective and Sustainable Way to Lose Weight and Achieve Your Target Size”.
There is an important reason I wrote this book. Very simply, I figured out a systematic, sustainable way to lose a desired amount of weight…enjoyably…and stay at that weight…enjoyably. Here are the key words: Systematic and Enjoyably and Sustainable. The reason I wanted to write the book was that I was very passionate about what I had discovered and I wanted to document it for other people to benefit from (and have a good reminder and reference in case I ever got off track). Thankfully, I have never gotten off track from my target weight in the years since achieving my target weight and size, which was 30 pounds below my then current weight. And, I weigh in every single day and log my weight every single day — so there is no wiggle room for fudging! That right there is a good proof testimonial for my book.
But after I completed and published the book, as I was re-reading it, I discovered that the book is not just a weight loss book, but it is also a ‘business book’ and a ‘life improvement book’ and ‘personal success book’ as well. And this is what prompts me to write this article — to share some of the fundamental principles that are extremely important to achieving any goal or any type of success. They apply to weight loss, sports, hobbies, achieving any desired goal or reaching any type of level of success. And they work.
To be clear, I am not trying to sell books — *I give away the books for Free* to people I know, clients, people I meet, friends of friends, etc…. Later in my article I will tell you how to get a free copy of the book if you have interest. You can purchase it on Amazon too in paperback or Kindle format, but you can get one for free from DEE/me.
One of my bucket list items for many years was to become a published author. I had no idea that my first published book would be on Weight Loss of all things. I have at least 5 other books I am interested in writing and slowly building the chapter content for those — but the Weight Loss book idea kind of grabbed me by the neck and ‘forced’ me to get it done first. I have always heard from other authors that “you really know when a book is trying to come out of you”, and I found this to be the case. It was a situation where I simply had to write it to get it out of my head and heart and onto paper.
The Teacher Learns More Than The Student
A key philosophy that I strive to embrace daily that I have picked up from a number of very successful people that I interact with is: “the teacher always learns more than the student”. In other words, there is an interesting irony about teaching —- you learn more than the students you are teaching! So, I felt that if I could document what I had discovered about a systematic and sustainable (and enjoyable) weight loss lifestyle system, effectively teaching it to others, I would ultimately benefit from it by learning even more. And….that is what happened. As I wrote the book, it forced me to dig deeper on many aspects of what I was writing about, which resulted in me learning more about ‘why’ what I was doing was working so well. It was sort of like Root Cause analysis in the business setting. By doing that, it created a better book, created better teaching, but it also created the opportunity for me to learn more.
And through this added learning and root cause investigation is where the ‘magic’ within the Shopping For Calories Weight Loss Lifestyle was found and documented. Additionally, the book can be read from a different perspective to also be a self-improvement book, even a business book.
One of the most important, but unlikely for a weight loss book, chapters of the book is on the concept of “Mastery” and how to apply it to weight loss. I discovered that weight loss is not a project or even a goal. Weight loss is a process, which, if you want it to be, is an ongoing (sustainable) process in order to maintain your target weight indefinitely. This is big. Very little success in life comes as a result of a project. Life successes are largely the result of processes or systems that are put into place, either consciously or unconsciously. And a significant aspect of any process is mastering that process. Becoming a master is much easier than you think, but also much different than you think. I won’t give away the secret here — read the book!
Everybody has heard of the 80/20 rule (Pareto Principle), but few really apply it to its maximum potential in their life. Most relegate the 80/20 rule to a phenomena that happens with “data” analysis. While I was engaged in my weight loss crusade, I was also studying the 80/20 rule in significant depth to learn more about how to proactively ‘apply’ it and leverage it. It was a major lightbulb going on moment when something I had figured out via trial and error and an intuitive hunch that made a HUGE difference in *enjoyable* weight loss and was totally a result of applying the 80/20 rule within my lifestyle. Arguably it is this aspect of my Shopping for Calories Weight Loss Lifestyle Method that has the biggest single impact on Sustainability due to making the process enjoyable vs. requiring will power or other “tricks” or gadgetry. Everyone can apply the 80/20 rule the way I did and custom tailor it to their individual lifestyle. The thing this really taught me is that once you understand how to apply the 80/20 rule to one thing, you want to look hard at everywhere you can possibly leverage this concept in your life and at work. You will enjoy and benefit from this chapter in the book all by itself.
Writing and publishing the book was extremely satisfying once it was finished. I have re-read it myself a number of times, and still pick up something new each time a read it (and I wrote it!). That just goes to show another important principle: everything you read is interpreted based on where you are in your life at time you read it. Reading the same thing again at a different point in life will extract different gems of wisdom.
If you would like a free copy of the book, just send an email to MyFeedback@DEE-inc.com, use a Subject of “Shopping for Calories Book”, and provide your contact information. I hope you enjoy it, benefit from it, and certainly share any thoughts you have.
Be Your Best,
Todd D. Gifford
I think pretty much everyone agrees that your Time is your most precious asset, and how you use that time is a critical factor to achieving overall success and happiness, as you define it. But one factor that I have learned, and feel is somewhat over-looked as another critical factor of success, and arguably in the top 3 factors generating massive success —- is energy. I am talking about your body’s energy.
Have you ever allocated a chunk of time to complete a project whether it be a home improvement project or a business project — and found that the factor that keeps it from getting done is not the “time”, but your body’s energy?
2 Types of Energy
Energy breaks down into 2 key components: Mental and Physical. Each of these, in my opinion, is about equal in terms of their impact on your overall body energy that is required to complete important tasks and projects. And the tasks do not have to be ‘physical’ in nature to still require 50% physical energy and 50% mental energy in order to complete them in the allotted time.
Exceptional success requires a lot of implementation and action. Some of this is more physical and less mental, and some of it is more mental than physical. But all implementation is both physical and mental. Nothing happens by just thinking about it!!!
The Bigger Factor: Energy or Time?
Over the years, I have found that energy seems to be a bigger factor than time itself in implementation, but I read and hear a tiny fraction about “energy”. How many books have you heard about or read on “Energy Management” vs. Time Management??
The reality, based on my own personal experience over many years in addition to reading about many other successful people, as well as talking with many successful people in business, sport, politics, etc… is that the “when” to implement in your body’s daily optimum energy zones is as or more important than the time allocation to implement. The simple reason is that your ability and speed to implement can be 5X-10X+ more effective when you are at peak energy (mental and physical) than when you are not. Science and plenty of studies have proven this fact. And it is not difficult to do your own test to prove this to yourself if you are not sure about it. It is simply amazing how much more productive you are in this peak energy zone than you are during any other time of day.
We all pretty much know what part of the day when we feel the best. For some, like me, it is early morning until about 11 am when I feel at my peak energy level, both mental and physical. After 11 am, I think my graph of energy would be declining slowly until about 5 pm, and then with only some exceptions when I may get a ‘2nd wind’, really drops off. For others, mid-day may be their peak energy zone. And I know a lot of people who really reach their energy max zone from about 4 pm – midnight.
How to Harness and Manage Energy
If energy really is as important as time to success, then it stands to reason that we should spend as much time “managing” our energy as we do managing our time.
I think the first step to effectively managing your energy is recognizing and documenting when your peak energy zones are during the day. Becoming acutely aware that you might have only 3 hours during the day that truly are your maximum mental and physical energy period allows you to create leverage and maximize results in and around that 3 hours. That max energy zone should be guarded with great care, as a most precious asset, such that you are not wasting those precious few hours with stuff that could be done when your energy is not at peak level. You want to build a fortress wall around your peak energy zone of time so you, and you only, are in complete control of it — at all costs. It seems pretty obvious to do this, but even when you are attuned to this concept, your natural habits and other things will easily distract you from implementing this basic, but critical, strategy. Let me know cite an example. Many (most) of us check email first thing in the morning. But what if your peak energy zone is first thing in the morning? I have never heard of anyone achieving tremendous success tell me that checking their email was in the top 10 reasons why they were successful. So, it would be wise to replace this activity with something that is much more important and requires greater mental and physical energy. Then, do things like email when your energy is not in your peak zone. Don’t mistake tasks and projects that are mostly ‘thinking’ oriented to not require “energy”. Complex and highly mental activities require just as much body energy as “physical” tasks. It took me a very long time to learn this fact.
The second key strategy of managing your energy asset is to put fuel into that peak energy zone and make it greater, either by creating more energy in that zone, or lengthening the zone of peak energy. This will seem pretty obvious again, but most people don’t do these things, or do them consistently. Exercise has been scientifically proven to increase energy, and this would be both mental and physical energy. My experience supports this. When you do your exercise can potentially impact your peak zone of energy. And, not ironically, exercise requires energy to help create the energy — so it is wise to put your consistent exercise segment inside of or ahead of your peak energy zone. This is a big mistake that many people make with their exercise — they try to do it when they are very low on energy. Not fun, and not sustainable. The other thing about exercise is that it is a big fuel source for creative thinking — so the exercise zone of time itself can be extremely productive with respect to achieving success in its own right.
Third for me in terms of managing my energy asset to its potential is getting good consistent sleep. Body energy is like a circular equation, where creating good energy allows for lots of mental and physical action, and lots of mental/physical action makes it easier to sleep. Good consistent sleep creates good energy, and the circle/cycle continues. Not allowing time for good sleep seems to create a negative circular equation.
Mental and Physical Energy are Co-Dependent and Integrated
I used to think of mental and physical energy as 2 separate things, one independent of the other. So, I might say to myself, I will do that more ‘physical’ task when I have a lot of energy, and then do the more mental thing when I am more ‘physically’ tired. But I have found, as I am sure you have found, mental energy goes hand-in-hand with physical energy. Your brain and your body are integrally connected and working together, feeding off each other, and max energy requires both to be fresh. Being fresh mentally but somewhat drained physically, tends to reduce your total mental capability. And,vice-versa, I don’t think you are nearly as sharp when your brain is rested, but your body is somewhat fatigued – the only exception to this is ‘during’ the early-mid stage of exercise.
No question that you can still perform at high levels when you have only one of the two types of energy fresh, but ‘maximum’ or peak energy zones have both mental and physical energy at their highest. If you are looking to unlock more productivity, achieve more in less time, and be happier doing it — try focusing on managing, harnessing, and leveraging your second (or maybe even first) biggest asset: your Energy!
Be Your Best,
Todd D. Gifford – President
I recently was listening to an interview of a very successful business person who was asked what one of their most important learnings was that they live and work by. They said that it is “you get what you tolerate”. I had not heard this phrase before and was intrigued by it. And when I learned more and thought more about what it truly means, I agree that is a critical thought process on the way to success and something to put into the daily reminder process.
Here is what the general concept is saying: if you tolerate lateness or mediocre or half-done in your life or your work from yourself or others around you, that is what you will get for the most part. People and things usually adjust to your threshold of tolerance. And then over time, it becomes your ‘normal’. Another angle on this is the conditions you are willing to tolerate on the way to success. Obviously pretty much all successful people are hard workers. Super successful people are really hard workers. Hard working also means smart working, but in general, through all the reading I have done, ‘ultra’ successful people (in business, in sports, in education, in the arts, etc…) work really really hard, and ‘tolerate’ some very difficult working conditions and hours. Take Olympic athletes — yes, these people are very talented — but if you were to watch them over time as to what they ‘tolerate’ on a daily basis for their living and training regiment, for years and years, it is no wonder they are so successful.
Jim Rohn, one of my favorite success coaches says – “if you see an ultra successful person and wonder why they are so successful, just spend a day with them and you will clearly see why they are so successful. They do A LOT of things in that one day.” This is another variation on ‘they get what they tolerate’. They tolerate massive, tireless, non-stop action and implementation. Again, it is not so much about naturally gifted talent, but more about the ability to tolerate a regiment of consistent daily action that many are just not willing to do.
Another word that can interchange with ‘tolerate’ is ‘expect’. But I like this ‘tolerate’ variation because it really speaks to the challenge of a regimented consistent daily action and implementation. It speaks to the concept of repeated “practice” on the way to Mastery of any given thing — that old reference that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master whatever it is that you want to become a master at.
Deciding what your Tolerance ‘to Tolerance’ Really is
But there is also another subtle aspect of success by applying the ‘getting what you tolerate’ concept. That is mentally drawing lines in the sand was to what you decide that you will tolerate and not tolerate, and applying that to your personality and personal routine. This is difficult, because making decisions that you will simply not tolerate ________________ any longer will potentially upset or frustrate or offend some people. You don’t even have to be mean or nasty about it, but deciding that you will not tolerate certain behavior, certain results, certain actions, or certain talk can be very difficult for people around you to deal with. And this is one road block that can block many from reaching ultra success. They simply “cannot tolerate ‘not tolerating’ ”. In other words, setting extremely high expectations for yourself and others around you, and enforcing those expectations, can be extremely ‘untolerable’ for many people. It is not always very enjoyable to enforce tolerances, and can be downright uncomfortable and tough. It can result in less “friends”, which simply may not be something people are willing to tolerate.
Ultimately, everyone chooses what they are willing to tolerate, but most do this without thinking about how their tolerances may directly affect their success and path in life. In general, the more challenging action and activity and implementation regiment (of productive behavior) you are willing to tolerate and execute, the more successful you will become. Properly focused and consistent tolerance for regimented practice leads to mastery. Mastery generally leads to success and happiness. Take some time to think about what you are tolerating and not tolerating in your life, and what adjusting those tolerances might do for you.
Be Your Best,
Todd D. Gifford
I recently had the good fortune of meeting and speaking with someone that I watch on TV nearly every week – Wayne Carini, of “Chasing Classic Cars” on the Velocity Channel. I love classic cars, and always have been extremely passionate about being around and studying classic cars of all types.
Chasing Classic Cars is based on the concept that ‘it is all about the chase’. Wayne is a long-time classic car and collector car dealer in Portland, Connecticut, who has had the TV show for a number of years. It is probably one of the most popular, if not the most popular classic car shows on television. As he has done in his business for many years, Wayne finds classic cars, buys them, and sells them. It is typical for Carini to work hard to find or discover a particular car, buy it, and say ‘this one is a keeper and I have always wanted one of these’, implying that he will hang on to it for a long time. But, ultimately he is in the business to make money and usually sells the car in the same episode or several episodes later.
In the process, it would appear that the greatest thrill of buying incredibly rare, unique, and special collector cars is after they are purchased and owning them and enjoying the cars. But the reality is that the real ‘juice’ or thrill is in the process of chasing them. The process of discovering that a particular highly sought after or rare car exists, and the pursuit of the possibility of owning this rare car — the chase — this is best part of it all. Shortly after the purchase that ultimate great feeling starts to diminish. You can see this happen in the show.
And really, this is a metaphor for just about everything in life. It is a constant irony — what you think is the thing that makes you happiest generally is not really the thing that makes you happiest. It usually turns out it is the ‘experience before achieving the thing that you thought was the thing that would make you happy’ that is the true joy and happiness producer. This seems to apply to just about everything in my life and, as I speak with others, just about everything in their life to.
Take someone who likes to bake. In theory, the result of the process of baking (the cake, the cookies, etc…) would seemingly be the thing that makes them happy. But it is the baking process that really makes them happy. How about pursuing a certification or degree of some type? If you asked most people at the beginning of this pursuit what will make them happiest, they would say “to earn my certification or receive my degree”. But speak to them once they have achieved that goal and they will tell you, 98 times out of 100, “I enjoyed and was happiest in the process of earning and achieving it compared to now actually having the degree/certification I was seeking.“ I reflect on my own experiences of seeking to achieve something specific. For example, completing a half Iron Man Triathlon event was something I wanted to do. I felt that once I had completed that goal, I would be very happy. However, now that I have completed that goal, when I assess how I feel now vs. how I felt during the process of training for that event —- it’s no comparison that my happiness factor was higher/highest during the preparation and training up to and before completing that goal.
Does This Make Sense?
No….and Yes. On the one hand, we are very goal-oriented, and we are conditioned and coached to set goals and work to achieve them. I have to say that I am very much this way, and I am a big proponent of setting and writing down goals, both short term and long term. The most successful people I interact
with are very goal-oriented as well. It would appear that attaining or accomplishing goals creates significant satisfaction and happiness. And I believe it does. I think setting your sights on goals and going after them to attain them is very important. Targeting something you want, deciding to pursue it, and achieving it set a very good course to follow in life. But the moment we have achieved that targeted outcome, or fairly shortly after, happiness and satisfaction quickly drops or declines. This phenomena points to the “chase” as the most important aspect of how we feel over the long term. The point or moment of achievement only lasts minutes, maybe hours, and rarely for days — whereas the process of chasing that dream or goal or targeted outcome may last many days, months, even years — and for some pursuits, an entire lifetime.
How Many Simultaneous ‘Chases’ is Enough?
How many chases going on is enough? This is an interesting question to think about. If it is ‘all about the chase’ and it appears to be largely that, then wouldn’t we want to have as many chases going on at any given time as we can? I think the basic answer is YES. And this comes back to goal-setting in my opinion. I believe it is a smart idea to set a lot of goals for yourself, big and small, short term and long term, and be doing this almost constantly. Identify goals or targets for yourself, no matter how small or insignificant they might be, writing them down whenever possible. These become ‘chases’ and some chases may last just minutes, some hours, days, weeks, months, or even years.
Does Achieving a Goal Do Anything?
If the conclusion is that it is all about the chase, and not the achievement itself, what is the value of actually achieving the goal or outcome? I think it is extremely important to reach milestones or end points with respect to goals, even though there will tend to be a letdown feeling afterword. The process of closing out a goal achieved (or even partially achieved) is critical to make room for and stimulate new chases to be created, and significant growth occurs. Find a lot of things to ‘chase after’ and really enjoy the ride of your life!
Be Your Best,
Todd D. Gifford
I read a book recently that I thought was very inspiring and included many things that could be put to use by anyone. Easy and quick read because the chapters/topics are all about 1-2 pages. The book is called “Up Thoughts for Down Times—Encouraging Words For Getting Through Life” by Les Brown. The title of the book caught my attention because at this time of year, and particularly with some of the recent tragic events in the news, it is easy to get a little ‘down’. I like to think about the difference or impact that I made during the past 12 months, 24 months, so far in my life?. What all did I accomplish? Did I make other peoples’ lives better? Did I make a difference? What can or should I do different in the next year?
All in all, Les Brown talks about 106 ‘up’ thoughts and topics in the book. I will pick out just a handful of my favorites to share with you. If you like what you see here, pick up the book.
A Positive Start
Much of the time, the biggest hurdle in reaching any type of a goal or target is just getting started in the right direction. This applies to the start of our day, and we all have a very special opportunity to reset and begin fresh each morning. This is the perfect time to concentrate on positive thoughts and focus on your goals, both work and personal. Are you constantly distracted in the morning by negative news stories or negative thoughts? Consider making changes to keep your attention squarely on positive thoughts. Whatever you think about long enough and intently enough with eventually become a reality for you in your life.
Getting It Done
They say there are 3 types of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those that ask what the heck happened. Which one are you? It is easy to watch or ask what happened, but challenging to make things happen. Making things happen, trying, and taking action puts you more in control of life and makes life more interesting and exciting. Sure you will fail some times with more swings of the bat, but that is just learning to apply to future swings of the bat.
Brave Questions, Brave Answers
The best times in life come when brave questions are asked and answered. And the most critical questions are those that you ask yourself. When was the last time you asked yourself a brave question and provided a brave answer? To live life to the fullest, you must be able to ask and answer the tough questions — to yourself and those around you. Here is a brave question to ask: “What do I really want out of life?” and “Do I think I have what it takes to get it?”. Do you sometimes avoid asking the brave questions because the answer may be difficult to handle? It takes a courageous person to be truthful in those defining moments. You have to be fearless and accepting of whatever the truth is. The reward for doing this is big!
Take Care of Yourself
When was the last time you did something just for yourself. Not something major, but just a walk in the park or a little shopping excursion for something fun for yourself. Does this sound selfish? I always think about what they say when you are about to take off in an airplane: “first put on your oxygen mask, and then assist your child with theirs”. We need to remember in order for us to take care of others, we must first take the very best possible care of ourselves. Taking care of yourself does not mean you have to turn your back to others. In fact, when you take the time to lift yourself, the result is extremely positive for others around you. I see this first hand in my family. My wife and girls are happiest when I am happy and healthy. Time with them is higher quality when I have taken the time and effort to invest in myself. Do something each day to take care of yourself.
Travel in Good Company
Misery loves company, but so does success. Be aware of the company you keep. There is an old saying “even if you have an ocean of pure milk, it can be turned into poison with just a few grams of sour curds.” Just like what you think about intently long enough comes true, you also ‘become’ who you spend time around. Work hard at spending time around positive and successful (your definition of success) people, read about successful people, and watch programs about people with qualities you admire. Those qualities will transfer to you.
Be Your Best,
Todd D. Gifford
We all have deeply embedded command systems, installed very long ago, in childhood, early in our careers, etc.. — that will, if we don’t notice (and we don’t notice most of the time) drive us. It is basically like cruise control on a car. You can take it off of ‘cruise control’ and manage the speed by your conscious thought. But if you leave it on, once set at a given speed, say 65 MPH, it will zip you right through a 30 MPH school zone or worse, right off a cliff! It won’t adjust to anything coming.
One of my embedded cruise control responses is saying “Yes” and being available to people asking for help. My natural state feels like I am spitting into the wind should I not be accessible and available for any person that needs help to be able to get help from me. Guilty about not leaping and responding to every “need”, like a fireman and the Dalmatian dog respond to every alarm. It feels bad deciding that a certain person’s need is not worth my time right now. That is my “stuff” and if I am not careful, it is on and driving me down the road. You probably have different “stuff” and we all have this kind of stuff that is “on”, cruise control set, and driving behavior that may be very unproductive.
Anyway, even today, as I write this article, I have to consciously say ‘no’ to things/needs coming at me that will make me unproductive, not help produce success, and in some cases actually be counter-productive to the rest of my day. It is this way for all of us. But is it something that you are consciously aware of or think about? In other words, if I don’t have my “command system” ON that counter acts and filters my natural habit of saying yes to needs coming at me, I become massively unproductive.
What’s My Anti-Cruise Control System?
My personal system of combatting ‘cruise control’ is a very deliberate ‘designing of my day and documenting it’ and making that my focus all day. Pretty simple and straightforward, but the real magic trick is living by it, sticking to it as much as possible, and documenting accountability and results of it. Basically, if I am not consciously and actively in control of at least 80-85% of my day’s minutes (what I am working on is what I designed and documented that I am working on today before the day begun), then I must be on cruise control (aka ‘out of control’). I design my day using a blank Journal page, where I very simply write down what critical relatively small group of things must I get done today, despite everything else that might come at me (and it will come at you/me). My Calendar is full of hundreds of “tasks” and “to-do’s” and “appointments” and “meetings” — but my journal page list of what I must get done today does not “care” about all that. It only cares about the small handful of items that I feel are most critically important for “today”. Tomorrow it starts all over.
Within this Anti-Cruise Control system are “rules” that I have developed for myself to combat likely attacks on my time preventing from being successful. It is very similar to designing a driving route that never goes by a Dunkin Donuts if you must not eat donuts for one of many reasons. Driving by Dunkin Donuts, in this case, is basically allowing your cruise control to take over — and you will be eating donuts despite not wanting to! You have to have rules in place to avoid that magnetic pull of the donuts.
Some of my rules are:
- Just because someone is asking for my help, does not mean that they have to have my help or even need my help.
- It takes about 15 minutes “setup time” to really fully engage in any project on my list, so if I respond to a request for help, I just wasted 30 minutes of valuable time (the first 15 minutes I spent engaging in an important task/project, and then 15 more minutes re-engaging).
- Create defined blocks of time during non-productive times of the day to devote to “needs for help” that are coming at me (this includes looking at email).
- Have most of my time marked and understood as “Unless there is a Fire or Visible Blood, Please Do Not Disturb Me”
These rules sound a little harsh and cold, but the cold hard truth is that if I/you don’t employ some conscious disciplined rules like these, your cruise control is taking you down the road and you will be tremendously unproductive and not reach truly great success. When you do follow your anti-cruise control system well, those days feel and are tremendously productive.
It is extremely useful to know and understand what your cruise control habits and tendencies are. It allows you to build anti-cruise control rules and systems. When I am told by my command system “Todd, you have to say No”, I am reminded of Pogo’s “We have met the enemy, and they is us.”
Be Your Best,
Todd D. Gifford
I heard someone say “proble-tunity” the other day, and I instantly wrote it down as a great word that I needed to think about and share with others. Proble-tunity is an absolutely jewel of a word.
The reason I love the word is that I cannot remind myself enough that problems do equal opportunities. And in one single word, it describes a complete success mindset principle. It is a cliché yes, but the reason it is a cliché is because it’s true virtually 100% of the time. But it is easy to forget about this principle, as most people do — or they simply don’t see things this way.
I feel that just having a fundamental “proble-tunity” mindset creates breakthrough success at many different levels.
Problem = Opportunity = Problem-Solving = Massive Value
First, the proble-tunity mindset is extremely effective when dealing with other people in your business and personal life. Everyone has problems occurring every day, and really almost hourly. If it is not a small problem, it’s a big problem. Think about it. How many days go as planned or desired? How many projects going ultra smoothly with no hiccups or problems? How often are unforeseen curve balls being thrown at people? Really, the “normal” course for just about everything is problematic in some way or potentially many ways. So, if you are [actively] looking for proble-tunities with other people, it is a fantastic way to add or create value. Taking other people’s problems and solving them (the bigger the better, but sometimes small nagging ones are extremely meaningful too), is a very valuable skill. And I do use the word skill here because I do feel strongly that problem-solving is a skill that does require practice and effort to become a master at it.
Second, having a proble-tunity mindset when looking at your own problems can be tremendously valuable and fuel success. Another way someone might describe this mindset is being “optimistic”, but I feel that having a proble-tunity mindset is fundamentally different than just having blind optimism. To me, there is pessimistic, there is optimistic, and there is proble-tunity mindset.
Opening the Proble-tunity Black Box
Rather than just think “every problem is an opportunity” (blind optimism), when you are confronted with a problem, really step back and think about why this problem is a “problem”. Without getting too down in the weeds technical, I like to take a page out of the Quality Systems and Six Sigma handbook when looking at a problem and do a quick 5-Why analysis of the problem (ask yourself “why” up to 5 times). Most of us have probably been involved in Quality Corrective Action resolution at some point, where you use a 5-Why process to determine true root cause of a failure or error.
This 5-Why approach is super effective when you are looking at a problem you are facing to get at the root of the matter AND most times for me, presents an obvious solution that either resolves the problem — or better yet, actually takes the problem and turns it into something BETTER than what I had before. This is where the magic of Proble-tunity comes into play.
The Magic of Proble-tunity
Using the 5-Why approach (and I rarely, if ever, get past 3 “Why is that?” questions before I find a clear solution or great idea), you open the black box of a problem and discover aspects of your situation that you likely never thought about before. In other words, new doors open as a result of the problem ‘road block’, and if you go through those doors, new [better] ideas emerge as a result.
As I many times have noted, discovered, and said over my last 20 years with DEE, some of our greatest implemented new processes/systems have come as a result of an error that was made. Now, this is a bit of a paradox situation —- you don’t want to have or create errors or failures fundamentally, but if making an error generates an incredible new idea as a result, how truly valuable was that error or problem?
The Proble-tunity System
The true KEY is that when that error, failure, or problem happens, you personally have to have the proble-tunity mindset, and more importantly a disciplined system/process in place as a result of that mindset, to analyze the problem (5-Why or other means) and achieve breakthrough solutions/ideas that truly transform problems into proble-tunities.
This all sounds like a corporate Quality System mumbo jumbo, but the fact is that individually applying this proble-tunity mindset and some basic problem-solving and root cause finding process to problems that come up for yourself and others can generate massive value. And creating massive value means success. And who does not like success.
The Hidden Gem
To me, the true hidden gem in all of this proble-tunity stuff is identifying better ideas than what existed before the problem happened, not the ‘solving’ of the problem itself. The solving of a problem is fine and good (that is making the problem go away, sort of going back to normal). But the real gold nugget within the proble-tunity mindset is innovating a better, superior result because of attacking and focusing on a problem in a concerted way — and that happens because there was a problem in the first place!
I talked about the process of really analyzing a problem’s cause as a key part of the Proble-tunity mindset. The other key ingredient is applying creativity to the solution or innovation side of this process. Some of us struggle with that creative or brainstorming process, and I have written a White Paper specifically on the Creativity “Process/System” that can be used (like a checklist) to turn ‘non-creative’ people into highly creative innovators. Creativity is a practiced process more so than a born-with gift. If you would like a copy of this Creativity Process Reference Guide Report, just send an email to MyFeedback@DEE-inc.com, use a Subject of “Creativity Process Reference Guide”, and provide your Contact/Title/Company information.
Be Your Best,
Todd D. Gifford
In Formula One Racing (basically the “Indy 500” type race cars, which is absolutely huge in Europe and worldwide), the fastest racing on the planet, reactions in fractions of fractions of a second make the difference between winning, losing, and potentially dying vs. staying alive. I picked up on something in Formula One Racing, and specifically, from one very successful Race Driver in that sport, that I think is a ‘golden nugget’ and applies to business and pretty much success at anything undertaken.
I watched an interview recently with Lewis Hamilton, a 3-time World Champion in Formula One racing, who drives multi-million dollar race cars and wins races all over the world. Hamilton is the youngest World Champion in Formula One history, achieving this status at age 23.
When he was talking about ‘what makes him so successful?’, besides the things I expected him to say in answering this question: massive passion, starting racing at a very young age, supportive parents, etc… I heard him mention an additional factor that was subtle, but I think incredibly profound and important.
What I heard Hamilton say is that he went from being very good to great as a race car driver when he was taught the most important lesson of all in race car driving by his father: the importance and value of braking later and harder when going into turns. When I think of race car driving, I naturally think of pressing harder on the gas pedal, acceleration, achieving highest speed, etc… for what wins races. Braking and slowing down better does not seem like a super important element — but I am not a race car driver!
Hamilton was taught by his father, who had to self-teach himself about racing while Lewis was young in the sport, that ‘the best race drivers brake “here” in this turn’ — “you, Lewis, want to brake much later, and harder, in the turn here”.
When Lewis Hamilton started mastering the process of braking later and harder in the turns than all the other drivers, he began to dominate racing. He still attributes this element or process/skill to his dominance today.
How ‘Braking Later’ Can Impact You
On the surface this braking later and harder in the turn thing would appear to have no relevance whatsoever to anything except for racing. But…I thought about what this breakthrough of braking later and harder meant in racing, and if this concept can be adapted to business or personal life success. And…I think there is a golden nugget lesson.
What braking later and harder means in Formula One Racing is that Lewis Hamilton was testing and then mastering taking a calculated risk in an area of the sport that may not have been exploited or understood to be as impactful as it really is or can be. Lewis’s dad studied racing and determined that one common denominator of the best and fastest drivers was that they braked later and harder in the turns than other drivers. He then theorized that if Lewis could brake even later and harder than those best drivers were, then he would be even faster than them. Hamilton tested and practiced this process over and over, pushing the point of braking later and later in the turns. Even though braking later and harder is “risky”, which is why drivers do not naturally do this beyond their comfort zone, by “testing” taking this calculated risk Hamilton could then reduce the risk by practicing and mastering this very specific skill.
The way that I adapt this concept to business or personal life success is this:
If you take the time to analyze your life or business/job aspects that are important to you, there should be trends or themes or aspects/elements that you may not have previously dug into or pushed or focused on. When those are identified, it is very valuable to test/experiment taking a different approach(s) on those areas to see what happens. Even though the tested approach may be “risky” in your mind, you can test in a small way that highly limits your risk while you are seeing what the impact is of your new approach. In Lewis Hamilton’s racing example, when he was testing braking later and later and later in the turns, I am certain there were no other cars on the track and no walls to run into! In this way, the testing could be done while minimizing the risk. When the testing results in a breakthrough finding, then that new process can be focused on and practiced, and mastered. By practicing and mastering what appears to be a risky process for everyone else, you can reduce the risk dramatically if you are a “master” at it.
I think another big key here is that just simply watching what everyone else does and “copying” them does not produce huge success in business or in life. Copying what you see as success can produce “good” results, but I think the gold nugget lesson is that to drive extraordinary results, you have to look at good and great examples, find critical-to-success potential areas of focus, and then test alternative approaches or processes to find breakthrough opportunities.
Hard, But Worth It
All this is easier said than done. First, you have to take the time to step back from what you are doing to think and analyze the bigger picture in order to find the critical areas of potential focus. Most of us are moving and doing what we are doing such that stepping back and analyzing the big picture may seem like it is unproductive or a waste of valuable time. And then testing a risky process or alternative approach — well, riskiness creates fear in many cases, and fear can stop us from trying a new or different approach. In nearly all cases, the fear we have is simply our fantasy of a potential bad experience that appears real, but is not.
Taking time to identify critical areas to test alternative approaches, and then testing those in a way that minimizes risk, has the potential to unlock breakthroughs in many aspects of life. Finding and then practicing the successful alternative (and usually unconventional) approaches can be career- and life changing.
Be Your Best,
Todd D. Gifford