The famous political economist and author, Lester Thurow points out that a competitive world has two possibilities for you. “You can lose or if you want to win you can change.” Once you develop a plan and put it into action, you’re not finished, your success lies within the journey. As you begin to walk towards success, you will come across obstacles and showstoppers that can impede your progress. This is expected, don’t be deterred.
In my book, “Enemy in the Bush”, I talk about success as a progressive (steady) realization of a worthy idea or goal. The key word is progressive, meaning (continuous, daily, growth) towards goal attainment. It starts out with planning, determination, and consistent daily efforts toward your destination, and along the way, success is realized. Along the way, mistakes will happen, errors will be made, and setbacks will occur on your path. However, remember that failures are milestones on the success journey. “Each time you plan risk, fail, reevaluate, and adjust, you have another opportunity to begin again, only better than the last time.”
I heard a story about Thomas Edison. While he and his assistant were looking at his laboratory burned to the ground, he said, “Thank goodness all our mistakes were burned up; now we can start again fresh.” This reminds me of a quote from Les Brown, “when life knocks you down, try to land on your back. Because if you can look up, you can get up.”
Give up on the notion of ever arriving at success unscathed or untouchable, “success is always an uphill battle.”-John Maxwell
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The basic principle of success is constant growth and achievement of your next goal. It is done through dedication, commitment, perseverance, and hard work. What it also requires from you is a conducive environment where it can flourish.
Such an environment can be produced when you surround yourself with like-minded, successful individuals. These are people who share your vision for success, and who believe in your goals as much as you do. The quality of the people you surround yourself with will continue to have a major influence on the trajectory of your life. This is one of the most important lessons I have learned, and one that has signified to me the importance of good company. I learned through Jim Rohn, that we become the combined average of the five people we hang around the most. He would continue this thought by saying, “you can tell the quality of health, attitude, and income of this person by looking at the people around them.”
The individuals in our lives serve as a catalyst: they can either help us reach ever-higher heights in our lives or become blocks that prevent success. I have been lucky in being surrounded by individuals who shared my values and goals, from family to teachers and mentors. The roles they have played at critical junctures of my life have helped me determine who I am, and the direction my life has taken.
The book of Matthew states “Do not give dogs what is sacred, do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” This is a simple lesson in surrounding yourself with people who understand and share your values and goals, rather than those who would trample them.
There are a great many examples to be found from all around us of the power of surrounding yourself with the right people. Henry Ford, from the moment of first acquiring his wealth, to exponentially expanding it, kept himself in the company of such individuals as Thomas Edison and John Burroughs, men who shared his ideals and compassion. He tried to associate himself with great men, who possessed the knowledge base, intelligence, and creative thoughts that ultimately helped him on his way to immense success.
This is an approach we all must adopt if we wish to be truly on the path of continuous success. You must become highly selective of the people you allow in your inner circle. Do not feel bad about the people that are excluded, so defined your inner circle of friends and mentors you can call on. At the same time, make sure you are around people who are successful, who themselves are already where you want to be.
Now go one step further. Examine your inner circle and ensure these are the people who give you confidence. Make sure they enhance your creative and decision-making abilities and give you the strength and ability to face any challenges that come your way in the pursuit of your goal.
Ecclesiastes 10:10 says, “If the ax is dull and its edges unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success.”
Setting out to accomplish any goal without the necessary skills or tools is like trying to chop wood with a dull ax. You must overcompensate your efforts by applying more strength and muscle to accomplish the task, requiring additional time and energy. The duller the ax, the stronger the effort and the less efficiency involved.
Developing your leadership skills is critical at every level within any workplace or organization. Why? Because these aptitudes contribute to a healthy and effective workplace culture. In fact, 83% of organizations state the importance of cultivating leadership at all levels within the workplace hierarchy.
Yet, many also express their leaders are simply not ready to helm the organization. Despite the widespread availability of comprehensive leadership books and programs, people often lack the skills needed to lead an organization at any level.
These considerations bring me back to my military days. I initially did so well when tasked with an assignment to turn around inadequate conditions and boost morale amongst soldiers by helping them acquire new skills and abilities. Eventually accomplishing this goal, I was overjoyed to see the soldiers so proud of themselves. I went on to believe my next assignment would offer a chance to relax and relieve the pressures of my last one: only to find that I was embarking on a new challenge even more demanding than the last. With each new rank and level of responsibility came an even greater test. It was during these times that I realized the Army wanted me to excel and develop my skills at a higher echelon: with my superiors not only expecting elevated levels of proficiency and competency but also encouraging continuous learning and the application of related skills to accomplish any given mission. Hence, the Army was seemingly more interested in my leadership development than my ability to learn new tasks I’d only go on to forget months later.
There’s a difference between learning new skills and developing them as a leader within an organization—as new learning adds new skills to the toolbox that are further honed and utilized for their intended purpose. In essence, this helps leaders solve diverse problems facing any organization. Development inspires leaders to take on all challenges presented with the right mindset and a passion to train others to resolve problems, as well. This is even more true in the diverse and fast-paced world we live in today.
As leaders in the workplace (or even as parents in our homes), we need to sharpen our tools so they are ready to tackle any given challenge and ultimately summon the best return and reward for our efforts. With respect to leadership, this means developing related skills to influence those around you. As a parent, improving leadership aptitudes can bring everyone closer as a family and result in more congenial conditions at home.
To quote John Maxwell, “You can’t give what you don’t have.” As a leader, if you lack the skills needed to successfully execute this role, sharpen your ax through education, training, and professional development. Likewise, as a parent, sharpen your ax by developing effective communication strategies with your family members, improving your listening skills, and serving as a role model for those you love.
At some point, a person feels the need to evolve, to enter a new dimension of life. Perhaps, to advance a skill, a new career, or develop their relationships with others. This requires growth to happen. But for growth to happen, the person’s environment must change.
We all know how growth happens in plants. It starts with a seed that must be implanted into fertile soil full of nutrients to form roots. It also needs sunlight, air, and water, which, through the process of photosynthesis, helps the growing seed produce its own food source. In the right conditions, the seed begins to grow into a plant, and that plant grows to its full potential. If one of these elements are absent, the seed may never take root or achieve full growth. If you plant a seed in an environment where one of these elements is absent, growth is inhibited, and the seed’s full potential is never realized. The seed remains dormant.
That principle works the same in your life and mine. For growth to happen, your environment must be conducive to growth. It must have the right nutrients to stimulate growth. If you want to change your current situation or circumstances, you must change your present environment. To quote, John Maxwell, “Growth is the only guarantee that tomorrow is going to get better.”
In my two decades in the military. The stage was already set for growth opportunities, even though, I did not know at the time. Every new assignment I went to, something was always wrong. Logistical processes were not in place, customers were unhappy for not getting their supplies on time. And the morale of the troops was down which, compounded the unhappy-customers problem. Sometimes I complained to my peers that I always got the most challenging assignments. It was then that I recognized another of John’s principles: you must get out of your comfort zone to grow. When I finished the assignment, the logistical processes were far better than the previous ones, the morale within my area of responsibility was extremely high, and my customers were giving my operation rave reviews.
At first, I didn’t understand why I got the hard and challenging jobs. Later, I realized that the military, gave me the growth environment needed to recognize and grow to my potential. As the saying goes, with each promotion comes more responsibility. I must have impressed my senior officers because they expected my performance to be top level. My performance in my military career led me to exponential growth, higher compensation, and bonuses.
What does a growth environment look like for you?
Remember, in order for a seed to grow, it needs the right soil, sunlight, air and water.
Is your present environment helping you, and not holding you back? Assess where you are right now!
Are you in a place where others are ahead of you, or are you the go-to person? Are you the smartest one in the room? Then what and who is pouring into you? You are not getting the necessary nutrients for growth. If you are pouring everything you have into others, who is pouring into you?
Are you challenged on a constant basis, if not find the right environment to grow in.
Lastly, leaders must create a growth environment within their organization or areas of influence. Used these tips to build an organization with growth potential.
Set the bar high on proficiency, efficiency, and innovation.
Give employees challenging work, nothing beneath them. And if they do not know how to do it, train them the right way first, then expect them to maintain the standard.
Cultivate an affirming atmosphere. Nurture and nourish your people for growth.
Model growth in front of them. Lead from the front, not the rear. I always say: “The most valuable gift I can give to others is a good example.” There is nothing more confusing than a person who gives good advice but sets a bad example. To quote (again) John Maxwell: “A pint of example is worth a gallon of advice.”
Remember, growth is the only guarantee that tomorrow will get better. If you don’t know whether your present environment is a growth environment, do an assessment and make changes.
The bottom line is that a growth environment aids in growth. It doesn’t hold you back.
Lastly, if you are a leader, you are responsible for helping others grow and creating an atmosphere of growth. Grow leaders, don’t just tell them what to do.
I set a lot of goals for my life. Many of them I have hit the bull’s eye. Others I have fell short of the objective, and we have certain milestones or targets that we need to hit along the way in order to realize the goal. When you hit the target or goal, you feel good or ecstatic.
Earl Nightingale said it the best—that success is the realization
of a worthy ideal.
But the problem with goal setting is our tendency not to see
what’s next on our journey. Some would say, “Derrick, I have reached the peak
of this mountain that I set for myself.” Sadly, many lose the drive, no stamina
or no desire, and they stop at that point. It’s like you accomplished a small
success, and then you rest on that small
success. You never move forward or beyond.
When you think about a growth conscious person, they
continue beyond that goal and take on a different mindset. In fact, they want
growth. You will continue growth, and you will hit all your goals when you look
back on your journey five or ten years later.
Man, that is a great feeling to move on to greater heights.
You keep climbing the ladder until you reach heaven, and then you can stop. This
reminds me of the song from the TV show, The
Jeffersons, which is a part of my story, “We’re moving on up to the east side.”
I remember in the early days when I was in my 20s. I had just started a family
and had a new job, which was 20 miles away from home. I needed transportation,
and I didn’t have a lot of money. Neither my mother nor my siblings had the
money to lend me to buy a decent vehicle. I saw an ad in the local newspaper
that a private owner had a 1970 Plymouth that was once a taxicab for sale. The
private owner removed the decals and the taxi cab signs. But it still had the
painted colors of the local taxicab company.
On occasion I would get flagged down on the street by people wanting cab service. Many times I would stop to the anticipating customer and explain that my vehicle was privately owned, and they would have to call the local taxi cab company. Some would get really upset at me. This vehicle was always in the repair shop. Finally, I got tired of folks flagging me down and shoveling out wasted money for a beat-up vehicle, so I brought another used car, a Chevrolet Vega, which had an aluminum engine block. That car lasted a few months. The engine block cracked, and blue smoke traced my path down the local streets. I kept working through my trouble vehicles for three years when I bought a new Caravan off the showroom floor. That was a good feeling. However, I was in the military and serving my country and paying big monthly payments. Suze Orman taught me the lesson to stop using finance companies. But that took growth and hitting goal after goal after goal. During this time, I developed a growth plan for my life and started getting mentors in my life. Each mentor taught me growth principles that helped facilitate growth and maturity in my life. Looking back over my present journey, I see the growth, and the pain of growth. You may say that was great and proud of you. But I just don’t have the energy, knowledge, money, or time to plan for other growth challenges.
John Maxwell said, “now is the best time to start anything.”
Ask yourself, if not now WHEN? Growth is intentional, not accidental.
The real process of growth begins with your thoughts. Those
thoughts become words, and the words become actions! James Allen, author of As a Man Thinketh, says, “You cannot
travel within and stand still without.” Think about it. All life, except
mankind, grows to its full potential. It’s only mankind that circumvents the
process. For example, how tall will a tree grow? A tree doesn’t decide to stop
growing. It continues growing all its life.
So, I challenge you not to stop or do away with goal setting
but go above and beyond goal setting and latch on to the growth mindset.
I love personal growth and development. And I think you will, too, once you start seeing a difference by applying what I have shared with you in this blog.