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End of Year Thoughts on How to be Successful

Focus on a Movie Screen

Another year is in the books. How was it? Did you achieve what you wanted? If not, what are you doing about it going into next year? Try improving your focus, prioritization, and perseverance. Those are three keys to success you can implement immediately.

2017 has been a great year for me and my firm. I’m hoping the same holds true for you. If not, we’ll cover that in a few paragraphs.

This year was another record year of growth for our firm. We added clients, courses, and instructors. We went to interesting places and worked with wonderful people. Our results followed suit.

But it wasn’t luck. Not by a long shot.

How does this happen? How does an organization continue to grow and thrive?

Focus. Prioritization. Perseverance. That’s it.

Focus

People ask me all the time “What have you been up to?” My response is “Nothing new. Just more of the same.”

Oh Mike… how boring.

Not boring. Focused. We know what we’re great at. We know where we compete (and where we don’t want to). That means we say “no” to a lot of things. New courses that aren’t core to our business? No. New industries where our courses don’t fit? No. New delivery models with dramatically different operational requirements? No again.

Focus is hard. It means walking away from cool new opportunities that could prove to be lucrative. The key is remembering that a great core business can be even more lucrative and at worst, can suffer if you let too many distractions take you away from what you’re great at.

I’m not saying we haven’t grown and changed over the years. We have. But we’ve always had a singular focus on what we do and what we’re great at. That serves as a guidepost to stay on a path we’ve found to be successful.

Prioritization

You simply don’t have the time or energy to get everything done. You don’t. I’ve had two heart attacks trying to prove that I could do everything. I couldn’t. I’m not conducting that test again.

The only way to manage through the myriad of tasks you have to perform is brutal prioritization.

It doesn’t have to get done today. Or tomorrow for that matter. In some cases, it never has to get done.

Remember your focus (the point above). Start your prioritization list there. Draw a line on the list below which you won’t dedicate any effort until things above the line are complete.

It’s unnerving to let a task sit undone. I know. Get used to it. Once you learn to ignore low value work and appreciate the opportunity cost of doing it instead of taking care of yourself or working on bigger priorities, you’ll get a lot more comfortable with ignoring that low value work.

Perseverance

One of the greatest gifts West Point gave me was resilience. The ability to wake up, say “well, today is gonna suck” and make it through the suck then go to bed knowing “gee, tomorrow is gonna suck too.” The ability to persevere through protracted periods of daily obstacles is an invaluable skill to possess.

You’ve had your challenges, too. I’m sure of it. What helps you overcome the next challenge you face? How are you making yourself stronger every day to deal with the inevitable challenges that are ahead of you?

Perseverance is a mindset. It’s the ability to step back from a crisis and put it in perspective. For me, there are a few key techniques I’ve adopted over the years to help me persevere through difficult times:

– When upset or overwhelmed by something, pause, step back, and compare it to a massive challenge you’ve overcome in the past. Once you have a point of comparison, the present stressor becomes much less intimidating and easier to handle.

– Find time for reflection. Whether it’s meditation, exercise, or just quiet time in the car (shut the radio and get off the phone), those times of reflection enable you to put stressors in perspective. They help you clear your mind of the distractions. For me, 30 minutes on the elliptical machine or a 30 minute car ride in silence can be very clarifying.

So what about 2018?

Did you not achieve what you wanted in 2017? Did you have a great 2017 but want to have an even better 2018?

What are you going to do about it? How will you focus on the most important tasks? How will you prioritize your work more effectively? How will you build your ability to persevere through challenges?

These skills are disciplines. They can be learned. They require practice. The payoff is immeasurable.

I’d like to thank all of you for being readers. Many of you were much more than that and had an active hand in our success. I thank you profusely. I hope you’ve found our work helpful in your endeavors too.

Here’s to an amazing 2018!

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

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