Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!
Throughout my teens I was often reminded that I would never reach my dreams unless I continued improving in every aspect of my being. There was no room to regress into know-it-all mode or into some sort of arrogance that I already had everything it took to succeed. The truth was that as a teenager I wasn’t even close—even though I was tall and could jump high. I still had a lot to learn before I could become the professional basketball player I wanted to be. And I definitely had a lot to learn to become the husband and father I wanted to be. Even today, after 23 years of marriage and with two kids of my own, I am still learning how to be a better husband and dad. And that’s the key.
Remaining teachable means that you never really “arrive” in any important aspect of your life. While you can certainly reach a point where you are highly skilled and highly confident in your ability to produce great results, the moment you think you have everything you need is the moment you begin to falter.
Life is so unpredictable because we can never control every force around us. Our environment is constantly changing. Just when you think you have a grip on your future, something shifts. Maybe a parent gets sick, or maybe you sustain a severe injury and can no longer play your sport. Or maybe you didn’t receive the scholarship for which you worked so hard, and you’re going to have to find a job to pay for college.
Or like a businessman named Erik Wahl (1), maybe a recession forces you to rethink your dream in another career. Erik co-owned a successful business for nearly ten years, only to have it crumble after the 2000 recession. With a wife and three kids under the age of four, and very little money in the bank, he didn’t have the luxury of spending six months relaxing on the beach and hoping the next step came to him.
On a whim he went to an art supply store and picked up some paints, a few brushes and a couple of canvases. At the very least, he thought that painting would give him an outlet that would help reduce his stress. He’d always had an interest in art but he had no training whatsoever. In fact, the last time he had tried to paint something, his elementary teacher insisted that art was not his thing. But something inside him was still fascinated with painting.
Over the next few days, Erik’s little stress-reducer started to become something much bigger. He found himself spending more and more time painting and studying new techniques and the history of the medium. He was soon hooked on art, and he poured all his energies into becoming a great artist.
Do you know what he’s doing today, 12 years later? He’s not running a business. He’s a highly sought-after graffiti artist who can paint a perfect likeness of a well known face in about three minutes, upside down, before a live audience.
Do you know who his audiences are? Businesses, like the one he used to own, that are looking for ways to become more creative. If you were to ask Erik today if he wishes he had his old career back, he’d laugh. He knows that the unexpected path he followed ultimately led him to his dream job. But he would have never discovered it had he not remained teachable and continued to learn.
Britain’s great Prime Minister Winston Churchill explained it best when he said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” If you want to reach your dreams and sustain them for the rest of your life, the only thing you should know for sure is that you will never know everything you need to know. There will always be more opportunity for growth, sometimes where you least expect it, sometimes where you’ve been looking all along.
Be teachable. And stay that way.
(1) Erik Wahl, Unthink. Crown Business, 2013.
One of my biggest challenges growing up was learning to own the life I’d been given. That may sound like a no-brainer to those of you that have heard my story. After all, I had no choice in all the experiences of those early years. But the truth is that everybody experiences things they didn’t choose.
Many people spend the rest of their lives protesting and rebelling against the injustices of their past. They fill their minds with a long list of excuses for not chasing their dreams.
Others choose to own their lives and rise above their circumstances regardless of what happened.
One of the keys to bouncing back from adversity is accepting responsibility for your future, in thick and thin. That doesn’t mean you remain where you are. And it doesn’t mean you downplay negative circumstances or act like you enjoyed every moment you’ve been alive. What it does mean is that you reach a point where you admit, “Nobody but me can make something of my life.” It’s ultimately an admission that you have no excuses for not giving your all to be successful.
I know because I’ve been there. There were so many days that I had every excuse to strive for nothing but survival. I could make a compelling argument that life was out to get me. Yet, instead of finding excuses for not succeeding I realized that I had to find a way around them and do whatever it took to be successful.
We all have reasons – some of them very legitimate reasons – to stop pursuing our dreams. I must have had a couple thousand before I reached middle school. You might too. But you can’t let your reasons for quitting dictate what you do. Instead of spending time wallowing in your past, you have to spend your time finding a way to a brighter future.
In the end, excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure. It’s OK to acknowledge they are there, but to be successful and achieve your dreams you have to learn to not pick them up. People who succeed do what they say they’re going to do. People who fail make excuses for falling short.
Excuses are a sign of weakness, and they pave the road to failure. Excellence is a sign of strength, and it paves the road to success.
Drop the excuses and embrace excellence at every turn.
Most people want to get more of their lives. They talk about reaching their dreams, but often times simply don’t know how to make them happen.
I’ve had the opportunity to be around many successful people, and have watched first hand how they moved from having a dream to actually achieving their dreams. I’m a big believer that anyone can learn what they need to do differently to achieve your dreams.
Here are six of my observations and the things you will want to begin doing immediately, if you aren’t already.
1. They know what they want.
This one is obvious, but if you don’t have a clear goal, dream or desire in mind, how will you know when you’ve gotten where you wanted to be? Successful people have clear goals and a clear vision for how to get there.
Achievers often have really big goals, but they’re also realistic and have a solid plan for how to get where they want to go. They dream big but also have big plans.
2. They focus on their goals.
Once they know what they want, they are tenacious and focused on continual progress toward their goals. They don’t run over people or deliberately hurt people to get what they want, but they do stay focused on the end goal in all their interactions and daily tasks. Achievers have clear minds and clear goals and are consistent in making progress toward those goals.
3. They don’t procrastinate.
Some of the things we have to do to meet our goals or achieve our dreams are not very fun, but successful people are able to focus on what needs to get done and do it even when it’s unpleasant. They have a plan and they can follow it for as long as it takes without giving up.
4. They create their own opportunities.
Successful people know that nothing good comes without hard work. They understand that things aren’t going to be handed to them without hard work on their part, and they are willing to put in that work to get what they want.
5. They are passionate.
It’s very helpful when reaching for a big goal to not just get excited by it, but to truly be passionate about it. Achievers often talk about how much fun they are having, or say that they would do what they do even if they weren’t getting paid (and in the beginning, they probably weren’t). That’s the kind of passion you need to achieve your biggest goals.
6. They never quit.
Achievers are tenacious, sticking to their plans and goals as long as they need to in order to get where they want to be. If they didn’t stick with it, they wouldn’t achieve anything and neither will you.