Part 3 of The Laws and Secrets of Success
Sometimes shyness is in fact an over-concern with self, insecurity and fear of rejection. Successful people understand that rejection is part of life, and that they are strong enough to survive it and grow from it. They do not set themselves up to fail, but they realize that failure is a part of life, and if they’re smart about how they approach people and don’t get in over their heads but do push themselves, then they will grow as they go along.
As one matures one naturally becomes more interested in other people. There is a whole big world out there full of interesting things and
people, and those who have progressed largely into discovery mode are eager to engage with it. That does not mean that one becomes a pleasure seeker or a social butterfly, there is a balance to all things, but one does need to put oneself out there if one is to learn about other people.
Respect and Appreciation Successful individuals have increasingly learned how to respect and appreciate others apart from how they can satisfy one’s immediate needs (i.e. beyond serving as objects to be manipulated) and despite the differences that they may have with us. It is true that “birds of a feather flock together” but this tends to be primarily for underlying essential values, maturity levels, and core interest, etc. A highly mature person is not likely to want to be with someone is largely a clone of themselves, they generally have more confidence than that and would find such an experience rather boring. If everything is the same, where is the opportunity to learn something new?
And as has been said, if two people think exactly the same, then one of them is unnecessary.
Relationship means “relating” to the individual as they are. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have preferences, and it doesn’t mean we have to be overly permissive in regard to all behaviors, but it does mean we are generally comfortable with others emanating from the fact that we are comfortable with ourselves. Brian Tracy, in his well-known success and sales training, mentions that the most successful salespeople are those who can get along with the most different types of people. You’ve probably seen this type of person, who can get along with almost anyone. Tracy indicates that such individuals do not look to make mountains out of molehills, instead they overlook things which are not important in favor of the relationship. They like people and this comes through.
I believe that it is probably not that difficult for such individuals. Yes, part of being successful is learning how to be nice to people you don’t like that much, that can actually be a significant part of success, but most people are pretty sophisticated and can tell if you are just pretending to like them or really like them. Those who really like different types of people have the clear and decided edge.
Just as the ant has herculean abilities but so do all ants, the successful individual appreciates and respects others for the individual gifts, talents and qualities that each brings to the table. This is our real strength, and what leads to success.
Conclusion We each have incredible skills and abilities, but, of course, and herein lies the rub for those who would be seeking to dominate, so do others. Sometimes as we grow up we become locked into our own ego biases such that we place a premium on what we think and are able to do, at the expense of recognizing the abilities of other people. We’re well acquainted with ourselves, and it can be sometimes just so difficult to get out of ourselves and realize and accept that plenty of other people can do a variety of things just as well as we can (and sometimes better) and have their own unique sets of skills and qualities, which may be different than ours. We develop personalities and identify and internalize experiences as we go through our earlier years that can heavily influence us. We can have the need to be right or isolate ourselves from others different than us. The successful are those who come to learn how to meet others on their own terms in addition to ours, and do so openly and sincerely.
Success Area 6 – Show, Don’t Tell
I learned this one from elite VC Brad Feld. Anyone can say they are going to do great things, or that they are doing great things. But, of course, as they say, talk is cheap. And actions do speak louder than words.
The Discipline to Do Not all action is productive but productive action is productive. So I should probably rename that title “The Discipline to Do Well”. I think of the successful people I know and they are always doing things. Quality things.
I know for myself too often in life I’ve wasted time critiquing others, blaming others etc. All of that gets one nowhere.
As they say, it is difficult to be in the arena. And by contrast, it is easy to be on the sidelines “throwing stones”.
The maturity of doing well is that it takes us outside of ourselves into the world, and into creating value in the world. In Chapter 4 we discussed the move from domination to discovery. Discovery is the act of doing, of interacting with our world to create value.
It can be a creative work of value, such as a book or a concert. It can be an interpersonal work of value, such as a group activity or a relationship building one.
Doing things takes effort. Creating things takes a lot of effort. Creating quality things takes, perhaps, the most effort.
The discipline to do is the discipline to fight the law of entropy and the dark matter of the universe that would, symbolically, slow us down and make us want to quit.
We’ve all been there.
“It’s too hard.”
“I’m not getting anywhere.”
“I want to quit.”
We live in a world where quitting is easy – at least in the short term. The path of least resistance feels good. Why should we swim upstream when water flows downhill? Working seems kind of silly when you think about it from that perspective.
But the problem is that things do not happen by themselves. There is such a thing as grace, but to manifest rewards and success in this world we have to work them out in the world.
We have to birth them.
We are those bees in space I discussed earlier those bees in space, who died when they did not have the proper air resistance. Work is our air resistance. Work is our muscles in the world by which our experiences take hold and shape us. When we do things we are creating value in the world and for others. And at the same time we are making ourselves stronger.
The world would break down, and quickly so, if we just talked about things rather than doing them. How would you feel if you went to the grocery store and the manager responded to you when you asked him why there was no food on the shelves, “We’ll be getting in a great supply next week” or “I hear our other stores are stocked.”
That’s all well and good, you think to yourself, except that I am hungry now, and your other stores are half an hour or further away.
That’s when you lose to your competitors.
You’ve heard the expression, it doesn’t take wishbone to succeed, it takes backbone.
Successful people live in the world of action. It is said that action is the dominant mover in the Universe. It is also said that success favors the bold. Sometimes the bold are simply those who consistently take the greater actions. Of course
don’t confuse bold with crazy. We have to act to succeed, but act intelligently.
Entitlement versus Work This isn’t a political book, and will not attempt to take a political stance, but one relevant issue here is the notion of entitlement versus work. I tend towards being a soft-hearted person. I would like to see everyone get everything just,
well, just because (“hey, you’re a nice guy, here’s $100,000). But I’ve seen, and I’m sure that you have too, that the world doesn’t work that way.
George Mitchell, a famous person in my state, said something to the effect of “None of us are entitled to success. But we each deserve the opportunity to succeed.” I love that.
You have to be like someone in order to recognize and appreciate their strengths, and while I feel that I still have a long way to go (as
Nike famously says, “there is no finish line”), I can look at more successful people now and recognize in them the personal sacrifices they are making to serve others and to keep their own egos in check in the process.
I have heard a lot of successful people say the same thing. Work hard and be nice. This can be difficult to do in tandem. When we start to work really hard, we can start to feel entitled, I’ve done my part now it’s time to take. We can think that we are more talented tha others, or stronger. When we’re nice we may think that this substitutes for working hard. That people will just love us for our personalities, and give us what we want or need.
No, to be successful we need to do both. We need to work hard and we need to do it with a servant mentality, a sense of true humility rather than arrogance or entitlement.
This is the wisdom of success.
Although work, by definition, is not always fun (I like to say that if work was always fun, you wouldn’t have to pay people to do it) it is a blessing. Work allows us to get outside of ourselves, outside of our own limited wants and needs and be of service to others. When we start to provide service we can provide blessings to others. When we love others the blessing returns to us. And when they love us, then we are additionally blessed.
It is said that opportunity is often missed because it comes disguised as hard work.
When we do things “for” another person we are not always helping them. If a person has earned a reward, then they will probably appreciate it. But if they haven’t, then they probably won’t. Human nature in many respects is often weak. We want what we want, but we don’t want to do what is required – put in the work – to receive it. We are, too often, instead, jealous and envious of other people.
People will not be able to trust us if we cannot consistently demonstrate the ability to work hard. It is essential to success.
Mindset of Doing We should work smart, but if we want to be successful we should also make up our minds that we are going to work hard as well. Consistently hard. Sometimes we get so into being “efficient” and “less is more” that we’ve defeated ourselves, truly, before we’ve even begun.
Lazy people are unsuccessful. They look for shortcuts. Or get rich schemes. Such people may believe that they are as likely to win the lottery as anyone, and that you thus “have to be in it to win it”. Technically this is true. Your odds are the same.
But your odds are very very small of winning the big prize. Somebody does win, of course, but many many people lose.
Get rich schemes, as I call them, have an allure to those who do not want to work hard for success. They’re smarter than that, they believe.
I used to believe I was smarter than other people, but life has often (and easily) disabused me of that notion. In the previous chapter, “The Strength of the Ant”, we saw, as with the ant, human beings have herculean abilities. But this is species wide, not limited to just you or me as one individual. The quicker we learn this lesson, the quicker we learn to not try to outsmart others, which invariably generally leads to simply outsmarting ourselves.
Conclusion Talk is cheap. Lazy people think that they can “work smart” and avoid working hard. Working smart is critical to success. A lot of people in low wage jobs are working very hard but are not getting ahead. But, in addition to working smart, you also have to put in the hard, hard work. Not hard work by struggle, although effort is required. Hard work by discipline. And by love. And by maturity.
When you’re ready to pay your dues in the world, the universe opens up. You feel clean. You feel worthy.
And you draw your success.
Success Area 7–The Confidence of No
Successful people are not afraid to say No.
Even under intense pressure.
I say “the confidence of No” because it takes a great deal of confidence and self-esteem to be able to say No when others are saying Yes.
Let’s start at the beginning. Successful people say Yes quite a bit. They say Yes because they understand that one must pay one’s dues in order to be successful, and that it is only by helping enough other people, as we saw from the famous Zig Ziglar quote, that one will also be successful in getting what one wants.
So, Yes is a big part of success. Successful people say Yes even when they don’t want to say Yes sometimes, when they know that it is good for them (kind of like eating your broccoli and other vegetables if you don’t like them). Successful people understand that it isn’t about doing what you like, it’s about doing what needs to be done to create success.
So, the confidence to say No is not about taking the easy way out or being selfish. Quite the contrary. Again, the successful are saying Yes a lot of the time. The confidence to say No relates to the ability of successful people to stick to their guns to say No, even under pressure, when they understand that this is instrumental to their success.
As one example, we saw earlier how successful people do not engage when provoked by those less successful than themselves. Less successful people are easily provoked and respond with anger or counter-verbal attack when they feel that they have been slighted. Successful people
have the self-control to ignore provocation to which they feel they do not need to be drawn into. They know that the momentary feeling of annoyance or even anger will pass and that if they play into this drama then it will distract them from their success activities and hence lessen their success.
Some people believe that it is important to put other’s needs before their own, while others believe that if you don’t care of yourself first you won’t be any good for anyone else.
Kind of like in the airplanes when you take a flight and the airline attendants say in the preflight instructions that in the case of an
accident in which the oxygen mask is needed put the oxygen mask first on yourself before attempting to assist others.Certainly, to be successful in life we need to learn to be able to say Yes and to say No. What feels like the proper balance in this dimension to one person may not feel at all comfortable for another.
And some are much more comfortable closer to one end of the scale.
Saying Yes Because You Can’t Say No What does it mean to say Yes? Saying yes can have many positive and adaptive elements. It means that one is engaged in life. It means that one cares, or at least is interested, in helping others. It means that one understands that one must sow the seeds of success through one’s helpful actions.
But at what point does Yes become a detriment, or might it?
Yes might become a detriment to your success when you’re giving away more of yourself than you can afford, such as when you’re generous to a fault. There can be many examples or aspects of this.
We think of this in terms of not being able to say No to others, but we also need to consider that it may also involve not being able to say No to oneself, For example, perhaps a person is heavy, or obese, because they eat too much (and exercise too little). Or the person is eating the wrong kinds of foods. Or is sexually promiscuous or not highly discerning in who one selects as one’s intimate partner. Saying Yes in such circumstances results in short term pleasure, which you can define as success if you want to or if that is what you believe in, but is leading to longer term difficulties.
Successful people understand that short-term pleasures sometimes, perhaps often, need to be sacrificed to reach long term goals. Successful people have high levels of self-discipline and delay of gratification. As a result they say Yes by saying No to themselves.
Some people can’t say No to their baser emotions in their interpersonal relationships. They can’t say no to anger. Or they can’t say no to jealousy. Or bitterness, etc. You get the idea. Saying Yes to negative emotions is also saying Yes to toxic relationships.
Successful people are generally pretty nice.
They understand that others have long memories, and that, as is famously said, that people may not always remember what you said or what you did (although they probably will if it was good or bad enough from their perspective) but they will always remember the way that you made them feel. Successful people are liked because they play well with others. They are respected because they are kind. The law of reciprocity is a strong one. While it is fashionable sometimes to believe, as they say, that “no good deed goes unpunished”, and this may well be true if the individual is in fact weak rather than kind, it is more true that we like those who like us (and
demonstrate this by treating us well). In fact, it is relatively difficult for most people to dislike those who like us, or to be intentionally cruel or unkind to those who, from a position of strength of character or true caring, have been kind with us.
Some people can’t say No to themselves in their finances. They have, as is said, champagne taste on a beer budget. Some people, perhaps those with lower self-esteem, can’t feel good about themselves unless they have luxury items. These are the types of people who will work weeks or months for a designer item, or take vacations which they can’t afford, because they “deserve it”. We talked earlier about
entitlement. Those who cannot say No to themselves in the area of finances may not ask themselves, as successful people do, “Can I afford it?”. No, instead they ask themselves, “Do I want it?”, or “Do I deserve it?”.
People with self-esteem issues may buy it because they don’t like how they feel about themselves when they do not have it. Just as food can serve as a compensation or substitute for love or happiness, so items can be plugged into the same role. I’m depressed, so I’ll go shopping, that will make me feel better (I’ve heard that referred to as “shopping therapy”) etc.
There may be an element of truth to “when you look good you feel good” (or “clothes make the man or woman”) but you see plenty of successful people who are not dressed to the nines or driving around in fancy cars. Successful individuals generally feel comfortable with money and will buy the things they need, but many are thrifty. In fact research has demonstrated that thrift is one of the hallmarks of many wealthy individuals and contributors towards wealth.
Probably many or most of us want nice things (some, by contrast, have convinced themselves that they don’t deserve it, or it goes against their values of being not materialist, etc.) but successful people have learned to mediate their purchases by denying themselves when they feel they cannot truly afford the item and/or it does not translate into bringing them closer to their long term goals.
There is an important difference between success and the appearance of success. Those who are less successful may be more into the “appearance” or “trappings” of success. They are “keeping up with the Joneses” and want others to know that they have “made it”. We’ve all seen those with the toys they cannot afford, whether it be the fancy house, the fancy car or smaller items meant to demonstrate status and success.
Living beyond one’s means.
Being successful is difficult (if it was easy, everyone would be doing it and you’d likely have no need or interest in this book) and rather than doing the actions that lead to real success some would rather just give the impression that they are successful even when they are not.