Winners Conquer Doubt
Instead of accepting the myths and doubts, winners challenge them. They don’t meekly accept that they don’t have a chance. They don’t let themselves be bullied into not trying. They dig in and find out for themselves if what they’re being told is true. They find out if the obstacles they’re facing are big enough to make trying a waste of time. Usually they find out that lots of people facing the same obstacles win anyway.
Take a look at what it is you believe about success and try to figure out who planted those ideas. Were those people winners? Did they achieve what they wanted in life? If not, should you trust that what they’ve told you about winning is true?
Conquering doubt means finding your own answers to the questions you have about how to succeed and then developing faith that you’ll find a way to make it happen.
What Do You Want and How Bad Do You Want It?
In his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big (Portfolio, 2013), Scott Adams of Dilbert fame writes that in the beginning, he had absolutely no interest in becoming a cartoonist. He was, however, interested in being his own boss and making good money. He tried many businesses, but none of them took off. When the cartooning idea appeared, he followed his curiosity and checked it out. Eventually, what he discovered was his life’s work. It became his passion.
Some of us are driven by a passion for a certain kind of work. For others it may be a passion for a particular industry, like the entertainment or music industry or professional sports or health care or police work. Others, like Scott Adams, are driven by the results the work provides—the lifestyle or the income. They want the freedom of running their own business or they want maximum income potential. And others want to make a contribution to their community or a cause.
You have at least some idea about what you want your life to be—the level of success you hope for, the income you’ll need, the hobbies you would like to pursue, the work you enjoy most. These are your starting points.
Just don’t limit yourself when you’re trying to discover how far to go with them.
Plan, but Don’t Overplan
The biggest danger of spending too much time in the think box of any project is that you might lose your initial enthusiasm for doing the thing. When it comes to most of our ideas, our enthusiasm has a shelf life. We won’t be inspired to go for it forever. If you can’t decide what you’re going to do with your energy and drive, it will peter out. Doubt will grow and overwhelm you.
While losers are overdoing their thinking and planning, winners have moved on and are overdoing their activity and learning.
Plan enough to be convinced that it can work. Then jump in.
Start with a Bang
The best form of confidence is the confidence that comes from achievement.
This is why you overdo it at the start. Momentum delivers massive mental and emotional gains. By making a strong effort early, while your initial enthusiasm is high, you get to your first successes faster and prove to yourself that what you thought and hoped was possible is actually possible. You can finish the project. You can make it happen. When you put yourself out there and get consistent positive feedback, you find the strength and courage to keep going.
Early successes create a sense of confidence winners didn’t have when they started. As you get deeper into the project and you start running into unexpected challenges, you’ll have a stronger backbone to stand up and face them. Every success under your belt makes you a little stronger, a little more confident, a little more prepared. Did Michael Jordan hit every last-second shot? Of course not! In fact in playoff games, he only made 50 percent of them (that’s still amazing). But winners focus more on their wins than their losses.
The Law of Averages and the Law of High Numbers
When you’re doing big things, you can’t measure what it will take long-term to win based on what it takes in the beginning. You’ve got to break gravity.
Think about how hard it is to get yourself to start going to the gym. You have to pick a gym, sign up, give them a big check, ask yourself if it’s worth it, buy some new sneakers, go the first time, stay with it the first week, get through those awkward feelings of not know what to do, get a pattern going . . . You have to expend a lot of energy before it starts to feel natural! And that’s why so few people keep at it.
Consider how hard it is to launch a new project. Planning, building the team, figuring out how the team will communicate, acquiring the necessary resources, trying early ideas, regrouping when those ideas don’t work out, getting everybody ahead on the learning curve. There’s a reason we have an entire profession—project management, which even has a certifying body—devoted to this work. There’s a phrase in business: the project graveyard. It captures the hundreds or thousands of projects that die an early death in companies every year. The number-one reason they fail? The same reason most new businesses fail: not enough effort or resources were devoted to making them successful. They tried to do it with the bare minimum, or maybe a bit more than that, when they should have been overdoing it. And when they didn’t make good progress, they abandoned it altogether.
Use Facts for Guidance and Emotion for Fuel
90 percent of most things go smoothly. 10 percent will go haywire, no matter what you do to prevent it. Half of that, or 5 percent, is yours to deal with.
That 10 percent of a project or the steps toward a goal that go badly can consume all our energy and focus. But only half of any problem is either your fault or within your control. The other half is usually somebody else’s responsibility or out of everyone’s control. So why get upset about it? Perspective can save you a lot of unnecessary grief and keep you from making things worse than they are. You don’t want to be the person who takes every molehill-sized problem and turns it into a mountain by overreacting.
Focus on the small percentage of the problems in your work or your projects that are within your control, do what you can to remedy them, and move on!
Winning Is a Series of Adjustments
Serial winners rely on small adjustments to reduce the natural human resistance to change. We all resist change, so don’t try to deny it. There are very few people in the world who feel comfortable with change, especially big change. And sometimes we feel stuck because we’re resisting the big change we need to make. Unfortunately the longer we delay, the farther off course or off pace we get, and the bigger adjustment it takes to get us back on track or up to speed. One of the best ways to avoid the need for an overwhelming adjustment is to make smaller changes when we can and when we should.
Small changes also keep you from developing ruts. At work, if your goal is to head up a group or a team, maybe you regularly volunteer for different task forces, ask for a new responsibility or two, or spend some time researching solutions to some of the problems that the team might face. Make small adjustments that help you grow into the opportunity you want.
Almost Finished Gets You Almost Nothing
in business, you can’t get paid if you can’t produce. Whether you’re running your own business or working for somebody else, the people who progress in their careers, who build strong businesses, and who make more money are the people who produce better results. And that means finishing the job, time after time!
Business is a competition, and when you’re competing, you must produce. You must put numbers on the board. The numbers are your credentials—proof of your abilities and worth to a team or organization. We don’t get paid to talk about producing, to make plans for producing, to prepare to produce, or to train others on how to produce. The biggest rewards, in career advancement and money, go to the people who actually produce.
Winners make themselves rare and valuable by what they accomplish, and that will never change.
Mental Toughness and the Last 2 Percent
Getting to 98 percent means that you’ve achieved a series of smaller wins already. You don’t get that far without doing a lot of things right. And that’s great. You’re developing a pattern of winning. But past successes can sabotage you if you’re not careful! You start to believe that the win is guaranteed. This is how great teams lose. This is how even successful people suddenly lose.
When you’re in the last 2 percent, it doesn’t matter what you’ve already accomplished. The only thing that matters is whether or not you finish.
You have to keep your head down and push forward until the game is over, until you’ve reached 100 percent. You have to fight the feeling of entitlement. You have to put a stop to thoughts like “I deserve this” or “Look at how hard I’ve worked to get here.” It doesn’t matter how smart, how prepared, or how talented you are. The end will be bitterly hard if you expect it to get easier. As tennis great Björn Borg once said, “Fight until the last ball. My list of matches shows that I have turned a great many so-called irretrievable defeats into victories.”
Luck = Ability × Effort, Talent × Fight
People get “lucky” because they make it possible for “luck” to find them. They aren’t at home on the couch, waiting for something great to happen. No. They have gone out into the world, committed to a goal, and have worked extremely hard for a long time to achieve it. They don’t give up and they don’t give in. It’s that unnoticed hard work and perseverance that positioned them to capitalize on the good fortune that came their way.
Luck is like catching a wave while surfing. You can’t surf without the wave, but you can’t take advantage of the wave until you
- get a board,
- get in the ocean at the right time of day,
- paddle out into position (which takes an incredible amount of work),
- keep your eye out for the right kind of incoming swells,
- choose a wave and start paddling like crazy to build your own momentum before the wave just washes over your head, and
- move into position as the wave crests and then dive in and ride it as far as you can and as long as you can.
At the end of a successful day of surfing, you might look around and tell everyone, “I was lucky. There were some great waves today.” Right on! But you still had to be prepared to take advantage of them. That’s how luck works.
Yes, lucky breaks do come along. Fairly often, in fact. A situation suddenly shifts and, behold, a life-changing opportunity or solution is revealed! You might call these breaks because winners keep applying pressure until the walls between them and their goals break down into rubble. They attack the situation every way they know how, until something finally gives or they find the weak spot. Voilà—a lucky break! It’s not the final crumbling of the wall that really matters, though. The hard work of breaking it down is what prepares the winner to take that opportunity as far as it can go—toward bigger things.
Winner’s win not because of lucky breaks. Lucky breaks take them the last 1 percent of the distance to the finish line. Winners win because they keep pushing and fighting until they do.