Success takes a lot of things. Hard and smart work. Dedication. Discipline. Consistency. Persistence. Endurance. The ability to seize opportunity when it presents itself. I could keep going and make a list for pages all the things that go into creating success, and at some point, it takes a little bit of luck too.
But there is one thing that underpins it all. This one thing is what determines your success and it is a skill that you develop and get better and better at.
The skill? Making Decisions.
Everything is a choice, it is a decision. It is a choice to work hard and smart, dedicate yourself, stay disciplined, seize opportunity, etc. In many ways, our lives are the sum of the decisions, the choices, we make.
Every day we have to make a multitude of decisions and those decisions impact all areas of our lives and success.
Knowing this, do you think it would be important to get better at making decisions. Of course it would. But know this, it is a lifelong work. Getting better in this area of our lives never ends, so it is a lifelong commitment.
Where do you begin? Well, the first step I have already given you. It is awareness. Awareness to the fact that you can become better at decision making. And awareness is the catalyst to change.
Now that you are aware, here are 3 strategies you can take to start making better decisions in your life.
Separate Emotion from Logic
One of the first steps you must learn to do is separate emotion from logic. Most people make decisions purely on emotion and feeling. Well, I have news for you, feelings are not facts or truth. They are, however, very powerful drivers of our actions and impulses. You must learn to recognize emotions and stop in the moment to analyze the truth and fact of a situation as best as you can. Use logic to think through the decision and possible outcomes and be prepared to work through which outcome presents itself.
Decide and Then Correct if Needed
It's important to separate emotion and logic and think through decisions, but don't let that process paralyze you. In the end, you need to make the decision based on the best information and strategic thinking that you can - but you must make the decision. And remember, not deciding is a decision unto itself. No matter what decision you make, there will be outcomes and you will potentially need to make course corrections. Be prepared for this and don't shy away from it. Make the correction and move forward.
Don't Dwell on Things
Once you have made a decision, there will be outcomes. Many times, they will not be what you expected and even negative. Don't dwell on these outcomes or let them have a prolonged effect on you. You should take time to deal with them, but your must move forward. Harma Hartouni, a Misfit guest, who runs a massive, billion dollar real estate empire gave some great wisdom in this area. He says to "Have a 5 Minute Funeral." Take 5 mins or maybe a little longer to go through your emotional reaction to a decision, deal with it, and then put it behind you. That doesn't mean that you don't have empathy or understanding for the ramifications of the decision - especially with others involved. You must. But you almost move on from it and move forward.
Understanding how important decisions are to your life and success is the start. If you can put the 3 strategies above into practice, it will help you work on this skill and get better at it in your life and help you tremendously.
As we go through life and business, we will have relationships with a lot of people. Some will be lasting, some will be short lived. You will find that your inner circle - those you interact with consistently is fairly small, but incredible important to your life.
You have probably heard that "You are the sum of the 5 people you hang out with most." While I think there is validity to this point, I also think that you have a choice as well. You don't have to do or live the life of those around you. You can choose what makes sense for you to utilize from those close to you and what not to. But, there is no doubt those closest to you influence you.
Over the years, I have found that you really need 5 types of people in your life to help you be your best. Here they are.
The companion is the one you spend the most time with. The person that is always there for you and you for them. For most, this would be their significant other. If you don't have a significant other, it is the person you count on most and that most counts on you. For me, it is my wife, Jenn. She is the most amazing, caring, and brave individual I know. The fact that she married me is a testament to this. I am as flawed as anyone, but my flaws are not easy to live with. I am always going, non-stop, sometimes going to excess in areas of my life. I am persistent and driven to a point where it can really wear on people. I am a little bit of a control freak in certain areas of life. I am not afraid to speak my mind even if it makes people uncomfortable. This is just to name a few. It takes a strong, but different type of person to balance that out and help me to get perspective in certain areas. Jenn does that and more. I would not have made the strides I've had in my life without her help, understanding, love, and tough love.
The friend is someone besides your companion that you can let your guard down with. Someone you can can count on and even embarrass yourself in front of and still know they will be there for you. They are someone who is not afraid to have tough conversations or call you out, but also back you up and help you. You can count on them and know that through it all, they know who you are and you know who they are. It's rare to have a lot of these people in your life. It is usually just a handful over the years. Someone that I put into this category is my next door neighbor, Eugene. He is a wonderful person and good friend. He is one of the few people that I will actually let my guard down with and be more open about things personally. Our conversations, especially over a bottle of wine, can go in all directions and cover many topics. We certainly don't agree on everything and sometimes get a little heated, but no matter what, at the end of an evening, we part ways as friends and respect each other. Everyone should have a friend like Eugene.
The listener is someone who can be a friend or even a companion - but let's face it, if your companion is a significant other, they have to listen. The listener is the person you know you can go to when you just need someone to hear you out. You know they will not pass judgement on you and will not try to convince you one or another, they will just listen, and then help talk things out if you want to do so. These people are critical in life, not just as a sounding board, but for your sanity. My business partner of almost 20 years, Erik, is the listener in my life. And in some ways, I am his. He is also a great friend. Erik has a way about him that helps put you at ease and helps you in times of need. He listens, is thoughtful, asks the right questions, and doesn't push unless I need him to. He seems to have a good sense for when it makes sense to do so. A listener must be someone who truly, genuinely cares and is rare to find.
The wise is someone who is experienced in life, has gained tremendous wisdom, and is willing to offer that wisdom to you when you need it. They are a guide for you to come back to as you go through life and help you when you stray off your path or feel lost. They also help you find and confirm the right ways to go. They are a mentor. My parents have certainly been wise ones in my life and are always willing to give of themselves for their children, grandchildren, and friends. Another wise person I have been fortunate to know is John. John is the former CEO of a Fortune 500 and very successful person in all areas of his life. He has tremendous wisdom and I can always count on him for help if I need it. The wise are few and far between and not easy to find. And this makes sense because it takes time and experience to acquire wisdom. As a side note, the Bible, especially Proverbs is great place to get wisdom on your own.
The challenger is someone who does just that. Challenges you. They push you. They challenge your boundaries. The help you think bigger. They take you out of your comfort zone. They ultimately elevate you. I have been fortunate to be the challenger for some and help them in their lives. It is a very important duty. I have had a number of challengers in my life from great coaches, business mentors, and teachers. Right now, one of my challengers is my daughter, Hannah. She challenges me in all the ways an 8 year old challenges a parent. But more importantly, she challenges me in becoming a better father and man in my life. As I said above, I have many flaws, and am far from perfect and it seems children are some of the best challengers to expose those things and make you confront them. And based on the current status, I still have a lot of work to do. But, I know each day I can get better and must strive to. Oh, I will falter, no doubt, but I am up for the challenge and love that it is coming from the incredible daughter that I love so much.
Everyone would be lucky to have all 5 of these types of people in their lives, and if you look around, you probably do. The next step is to engage them and maximize the impact they can have in your life.
There is a lot that comes at us in life and business. We seem to have problems and things impacting us from all angles. Many times, we ALLOW these things to affect us and we waste a lot of time and energy on them without getting a resolution. We spend our precious thoughts and time worrying about these things.
There is a principle from a wise Stoic that gave a great approach to living a good life. His name was Epictetus. Born a slave in 55 AD, he was granted freedom due to his superior intellect and became a mentor to noblemen and emperors. His most important work was in The Discourses which influenced many leaders to come, including Marcus Aurelius. He boiled things down to a fundamental rule and truth which says, "There are certain things you can control and certain things you can’t control, and you must know the difference."
A lot of people have written about this over the years and expanded greatly on it and Epictetus' writings. Years ago, I was introduce to his principles and the 3 C's. I cannot take credit for the 3C's although I did adapt them and change them a little over the years. Here are my 3C's to handling the problems of life and living better.
Think about those for a second and how true they are. I love the simplicity of them.
There are things we can control in our lives and things we cannot. Why waste time on things you have no control over? Focus on what you can control and do it well.
For those things we cannot control, we can recognize them and their impact or potential impact on us, and cope with them. Not dwell on them. Simply cope with the fact they exist and there is nothing we can do about them and move on to the things we can control and impact.
Lastly, concentrate on what counts and matters. We cannot be distracted or derailed by the things we cannot control or have no sway over. Instead, we must ask ourselves what really matters and what makes the most difference that is in our control and concentrate out efforts there.
If you follow the 3C's, you will find that you will have less stress, be more productive, and ultimately live a better life. Start putting them into action today!
Last week, my long-time business partner, Erik Mueller, celebrated 25 years as an entrepreneur. I have been fortunate to have partnered with him for over 15 of those years. During that time, I have seen him grow tremendously into a great leader and CEO. I think we have learned a lot from each other along our journey and Erik shared some of his best thoughts from his 25 year entrepreneur career last week. Here is what he shared.
25 Years later, and I am working from HOME again… WTF?
As you all know, I have a strange sense of humor.
My letter of resignation to WorldTravel Partners (Now BCD Travel), had my final day of work as March 31st and my first day of being an Entrepreneur was April Fool’s Day, 1996.
It was a few weeks before they were really sure I had quit.
It feels like yesterday, but I definitely have some scars to prove it’s been a long, hard and rewarding journey.
I lived in fear for many years as I grew as a leader. I wanted to make sure everyone was happy all of the time, I sacrificed everything for the customers and staff. My relationships with my wife and child were tested continuously through the first 10 years as I poured everything into growing a business from scratch.
Knowing what I know now, would I go back and do things differently? NO.
Everything I did, right or wrong, put me where I am today, and I couldn’t be happier.
Did I learn some valuable lessons? Heck YES!
There are 5 critical things I learned and got right as I evolved over the past 25 years and I would like to share these things.
#1) Ask For Help
So many people have lifted me up along the way. I would not be where I am today without the help of others.
#2) Put others first
I worked for clients for free, I asked a lot of questions, I sacrificed my salary, I dropped everything when someone needed my help, I worked for days on end to meet a deadline, I paid others before I paid myself (breaking the cardinal rule) and made sure the customers and employees always knew I heard them and would do whatever it took to meet their expectations.
#3) Happy Employees = Happy Customers (Everyone Wins)
“The customer is always right” is a myth and a dangerous attitude to have.
Having happy employees means being a leader and saying NO to customers and opportunities some times. The customer wants what is best for the customer, but that is not always the same as what is best for the company as a whole. Good employees sense what is right and wrong and when their input and advice is ignored, it creates a toxic environment and this reflects in their work and interactions with the clients.
#4) Hire well
Continuing the theme of Happy Employees, a few years ago, we were struggling as a business with very high growth and we were hiring anyone we could find to fill a seat for a number of years.
Eventually, we decided to make Trish our full-time HR person and invested in consultants to teach us world-class interviewing, hiring and onboarding skills. This changed our business overnight for the better. Most companies our size don’t have dedicated HR, but I think it’s probably the most important role for any company of any size.
We found that bad players brought everyone down, and killed culture and respect in the organization. We now take our time to find the perfect fit of skills, personality and desire.
#5) Don’t Freak Out
Bad things are going to happen. Things are going to get worse. Someone’s going to get pissed off.
Nothing makes a situation worse than losing your cool. You can’t think when you are freaked out.
We’ve always joked that our #1 RULE is don’t freak out and our #2 rule is don’t freak out… and these two rules have served us well though the Dot Com bubble burst, 911 tragedy, the financial crisis/recession and Covid-19.
The next 25?
I don’t think I could be any more pleased than I am right now.
Are we growing as fast as I would like? NO, are we doing everything I want to do? NO.
I am proud of what “I” built? What makes really proud is that “I” didn’t build it, I just started it. This team, my friends, my family built this company and continue to make it great.
That’s probably the most important lesson I have learned.
Thank you ALL for your time and commitment to each other and the customers we serve. You make me a better, happier person.
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