Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Crystal-clear Focus on the Future

“The faster I got, the smoother the ride. Suddenly the Mach needle began to fluctuate. It went up to .965 Mach––then tipped right off the scale. After all the anxiety, after all the anticipation, breaking the sound barrier, the unknown, was just a poke through Jell-O, a perfectly paved speedway, because the real barrier wasn’t in the sky but in our knowledge and experience of supersonic flight.”

––From pilot Chuck Yeager’s autobiography, Yeager

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”

––Thomas Edison

Here’s a very important thing I learned from my mentor, Jim Newton: No-limits people focus with the intensity of a laser beam on what’s still possible. Once they commit themselves to a goal––and to the ongoing development of their own talents and abilities––they don’t spend a whole lot of time looking back and wondering how things might have turned out. They make their own luck. They don’t get sidetracked worrying about what’s gone wrong in the past; they study what works, identify exactly what doesn’t and then move forward.

No-limits people, in other words, learn to focus instinctively on what will still be. Most other people, by contrast, have taught themselves to focus instinctively on what might have been.

Look around you, and you’ll find that most people are content simply to get through the day. They focus on “bad luck” or “ rotten breaks” and look for excuses not to perform at peak levels. Of course, they usually find those excuses. If there were any honesty in the world, the majority of people would plan their days in daily planners that would have a long list of “opportunities to give in today” and perhaps one line devoted to a possible success!

The way people think about the day ahead––“It’ll never work! We’re doomed!” or “God never gives me more than I can handle. I know I can learn from whatever I encounter today”––has a profound impact on the amount we achieve. If we ask merely to get through the day, that’s what we’ll achieve! If we focus on “what might have been,” we never give ourselves the opportunity to become excited about “what will be!”

Immediate Action: Think of someone you know or have worked with whose habits and attitudes remind you of those of the “might-have-been” thinker. Now think of someone you know or have worked with whose example is closer to that of the “will-still-be” thinker. Whose life is more exciting? Whose rewards are more inspiring? Whose company do you enjoy more?

Point to Ponder Before You Go On: No-limits people fall into my category of “Accelerationist,” because they ACCELERATE! Here’s what I mean by that:

A––Awareness. They’re aware of the current situation and the goals they’ve set.

C––Commitment. They’re committed to developing their strengths.

C––Celebrate. They celebrate goals and achievement on a daily basis.

E––Education. They view this as a neverending process.

L––Laughter. They know how to laugh, and they do it often! (Laughter gets rid of negative stress.)

E––Energize. Their energy rubs off on others.

R––Responsibility. They encourage team accountability and are willing to stand behind their own


A––Aim. They keep raising it.

T––Time. They take time for themselves and for their family.

E––Evaluate. They regularly evaluate what’s happened and why. In other words, they learn from

themselves, as well as others.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Three Driving Forces

Restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress.”

Thomas Edison

What drives no limits people? That’s what I wanted Jim Newton, author of Uncommon Friends to reveal. He didn’t disappoint me.

I met him thirty years ago when he was in his late seventies. During his early twenties his circle of friends was Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Alexis Carrel and Charles Lindberg.

This group has been called the men who invented the 20th Century. During the hundreds of hours he was with them, he took notes, actually five or six boxes full of them. This treasure trove became the basis for Jim’s book, “Uncommon Friends.”

Of my many conversations with Jim one is a standout. I learned one of the biggest lessons in my life. I said, “Did these great high achievers have any common driving forces?”

Three interlocking and self-supporting forces, he explained, motivate these high achievers. First of all, no-limits people are inspired by an unshakable sense of purpose. This sense of purpose supports and reinforces (and is supported and reinforced by in turn) two more driving forces. The no-limits person has an unquenchable spirit of adventure and a desire for continued personal growth. These people know they don’t know it all. (Anyone who does think he or she knows it all is in what we used to call “the graveyard spiral” in the flying business.)

As I say, these three motivations don’t operate in a vacuum. Although the sense of purpose (which is sometimes described as a “sense of mission”) initiates the cycle, it connects with each of the other two motivations, and is constantly strengthened by them. Take a look at the diagram, which I developed after a discussion with Jim. It makes the process a little easier to understand.

The cycle starts in the middle—the no-limits person has developed an incredibly strong sense of “what needs to happen and why.” This is the awareness and planning stage, the part of the cycle where goals are developed. Without a firm sense of purpose, without a mission, without a strong goal orientation, there is no such thing as a barrier-breaker.

So the goal’s established and a plan is in place. Then the no-limits person launches that plan and embarks on the adventure of actually achieving the goal. Of course, there are challenges and temporary setbacks along the way; problem solving is part of the adventure. This is the second phase of the process, and it’s very exciting.

Even after the goal is achieved, the no-limits person is motivated—this time, to prepare for the challenges of the future. That third element, the desire for continued personal growth, is a commitment not to “rest on laurels” or “stick with the formula” because it’s always worked before. No-limits people are about positive change, positive growth, and forward movement. For them, the cycle is not complete until there’s evidence of renewal and new understanding.

All three motivations support and reinforce one another. All three are essential forces for the development of a no-limits life.

These are the driving forces that no-limits people use to put their lives into “afterburner” mode, to use Air Force terminology. With practice, you can use these forces to change your life, too!

Immediate Action: Review the three forces that drive no-limits achievers. Jot them down on a separate sheet of paper.

Point to Ponder Before You Go On: No-limits people are those who commit to pushing themselves outside of the comfort zone, those who know what they want and are willing to commit fully to the adventure of achieving their goals, and those who are willing to say, as my friend Jim Rohn says, “In order to do more, I’ve got to be more

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Get Unstuck

May I recommend you go back to the previous Blog and take a look at the two illustrations there. They are the basis for the content of this Blog.

“Short-term comfort for long-term trouble is not the trade you’re looking for. The easy way is not the easy way.”
—Richard Bach, author

If you’re having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, it’s because you have no new goals. Every day has become a repeat of the day before. “What’s your goal today?” “I’m gonna go in and repeat yesterday.” “How was yesterday?” “Not too good.” “Then why do it?” “Well, it’s my job.” Wrong! It’s your habit in doing your job.

We develop a habit in the way we do the job—then we get bored with the habit and blame our boredom on the job! There’s still a lot of adventure and excitement to be realized in your job—if you’re willing to work to get better and better at it.

When people quit getting better at what they do, when they stop attaching themselves to constructive goals, it’s because there’s something inside them that’s misleading them into the feeling that they can’t get better, no matter what they do, or that they know it all. So they stop taking aim at things. Habit has made them complacent and lazy, a little too self-assured and cocky, like that fighter pilot who forgets to “check his six.”

When you’re going around in that familiar circle, you’re just making a living. When you finally manage that right-hand turn, you

could be making a life, with a real sense of enjoyment in what you do—not only something to live on, but something to live for.

I believe that every perceived limitation can be traced to a decision not to make that right-hand turn into growth and greatness. In this book, we’ll be looking at the best ways to help you manage that turn, day in and day out—and make the right decision at the crossroads.

Immediate Action: Think of the last time you had the opportunity to grow, to stretch yourself, to broaden your abilities—and you took it. Maybe you took a class in a subject you loved, or went “into the zone” to develop a new approach for a problem at work. How did it feel to expand your horizons? Did it leave you feeling more energized, better equipped, and with higher morale to deal with the challenges of life?

Point to Ponder Before You Go On: Will Rogers may have put it best: “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

Thursday, March 31, 2011

No More Repeated Yesterdays

"Choose the road that demands the most from you."

Danny Cox

Charlie’s story from my last blog brings me back to one of the most important lessons I learned during that time of my life. Here it is. Everyday we stand at what some people call the "crossroads of life" but its not really a square cross in the road but a Y in the road. One of the roads leads to sameness and boredom and the other to growth, development and enthusiasm.

So each day ask yourself this question, “Am I doing the best at my job, or am I doing it the way I’ve always done it?” When you know the answer to that question, then you know where that road leads. More often than not, it leads right back to where you were the day before. Instead of taking that tricky right turn, the one that leads to new growth, you find yourself going around in a very familiar circle.

I call that “repeating yesterday.” (We’ll be examining that idea in more depth in a later blog.) This “repeating yesterday” formula is a phenomenon that’s true of companies as well as people—in fact, it would make a pretty good logo for some organizations. These are the companies that I refer to as “Plunging into the future with their eyes affixed to the rear view mirror—they are tradition-centered and unhampered by progress.” They don’t get worked up about new goals; a fair number of them have no goals whatsoever.

Immediate Action: Make photocopies of this “repeating yesterday” diagram, and place them in strategic locations in your home, your office, and on the dashboard of your car to remind yourself of which way you want to go.

Point to Ponder Before You Go On: A love of tradition for its own sake is what I call “nostalgic paralysis”—and it’s a sure-fire recipe for stagnation, inefficiency and burnout.".

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Satisfied Need Doesn’t Motivate

“We feel the thing we ought to be beating beneath the thing we are.”
—Phillips Brooks, American minister

When I talk about my record-breaking office, I’m often asked, “Where did you find those great salespeople? Did you raid the competition and get their top people? How did you get people who were all cut from the same piece of cloth?” Well, I didn’t and they weren’t. My salespeople came from every walk of life. That was a great office, and I could tell you some very interesting stories about an entire cross section of people. But I’m just going to pick one. Let’s call him Charlie. (That’s not his real name.)

Charlie was the most frustrating human being I ever had working for me. If you’re a manager, you probably know somebody just like him. I saw potential in him that he refused to see himself because of his self-imposed barriers. This guy made $4,000 a month, month in and month out. I don’t even know how he got by on that amount. It was absolutely eerie how close he could get to $4,000 each and every month. It was like an obsession. If he got close to $4,000 and there were just a few days left in the month, he was a basket case. He was actually petrified that someone would walk in and say, “I’m buying from you today,” and that would put him over the $4,000.

One month I said to myself, “Charlie doesn’t know this yet, but he’s going to go through that barrier, or I’m going to die trying to get him over it.” I did everything but move in with him. For a solid month, he could not move in that office without my being right behind him. When he went to the men’s room, I stood guard at the door! I Big Brothered that son of a gun to death!

That month he made close to $8,000—he doubled his productivity—all thanks to my Big Brothering. But mark the sequel: The next month, without me behind him, Charlie made—you guessed it—nothing. Zero. And the next month? $2,000—he had no problem with that.

So I brought him in to my office and sat him down. He was one of those people who have “poor me” written all over their faces and in their voices. I bet with that voice of his he could have cracked a Styrofoam cup. Anyway, after I had pointed out what he was doing, he said, “But Danny, you don’t understand.”

“What don’t I understand?” I asked him.

“Well, I’ve never had any more money in the bank than what my father had in the bank when I was growing up.” As ridiculous as that sounds, that was his excuse. He made absolutely sure that he based his earnings solely on what his father used to have when he was young. He controlled his income. If he’d been on salary, he’d have probably controlled it with his expenses. This, then, was his reason for keeping his self-imposed barrier in what could have been a permanent position.

I looked at him and I said, “So that’s the role model you’re setting for your own children, is it? So someday they’ll be able to sit in an office like this and then tell their manager, ‘We’ve never had any more money in the bank than our father had in the bank. It’s always been that way in our family.’”

Well, Charlie came up out of that chair in a hurry and headed for my desk, as if I’d not only stepped on sacred ground, I had stomped on it. Or that’s the way it seemed. I thought “Cox, here’s one you’ve pushed too far. He’s going to be across that desk doing horrible things to your face in just a moment.” There he stood at my desk, inches
away from me, shaking. But instead of hitting me, he said, “My gosh! That’s what I’m doing, isn’t it?”

“Sure you are,” I said, relieved.

Then he said, “I’m setting a daily example for my kids to see, one of no further growth from their father. My own kids think this is as good as I’ll ever be at what I’ve chosen to do with my life. Well, why should they feel any different? I’ve never given them any reason to.”

He paused a moment, then went on, “They deserve a better example than the one they see at the end of a day when I come home from work, disgusted with myself, carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, and telling them they’d better get better at what they’re doing. From this point forward,” Charlie said, “I refuse to continue to repeat what I know doesn’t work.”

That’s an important lesson to learn. When we get into a bad habit, we often don’t see what’s happening to us and what’s not working. But we can defeat that by taking a good, long look at ourselves, and then make changes to break the bad habits—starting today! And that’s exactly what Charlie did.

Immediate Action: Ask yourself, “What am I doing now that isn’t working? How could I change it?” How do you know whether what you’re doing works or not? We probably already know instinctively; the question is, when do we decide that the price we’re paying now is too high?

Charlie walked out of my office that day a changed man. Why? Because he had something to prove. The pain of realizing he was affecting his children’s life for the worse was too much—he decided it was time to establish a new routine. He vowed to inspire his family. Whom are you inspiring by the way you do your job? (And notice I said “inspiring,” not “impressing.”)

Point to Ponder Before You Go On: For “things” to change for the better, you’ve got to change for the better...just as Charlie did.