Nelson Mandela was a prisoner at Robben Island for 18 years. In 1982, he was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison. Despite the terrible conditions that he lived in at Robben Island, change was not easy. He writes, “I have always found change difficult, and leaving Robben Island, however grim it had been at times, was no exception.” Change is difficult for all of us at times. We get comfortable with where we are in life. We get used to the idea of our current situation. But complacency robs us of our fullest potential. It tells us that we are fine. Complacency says, “You could make more money and be more successful, but it is probably not worth the stress.” And so, we maintain our current situation. Looking back on the past year, where have you grown complacent? What would have been different had you pushed ahead for change?
Nelson Mandela believed education could make anyone succeed. “It is through education that… a child of farmworkers can become the president of a great nation.” Want to know how to succeed? Seek out every opportunity to improve your self. Dedicate yourself to a lifetime of growth and personal learning. Your success is driven in part by everyday opportunities to learn. So, never shun the opportunity to learn something new. You never know when a new skill will open a door to a new possibility. Or maybe open a door to the opportunity to learn even more. Just look at how successful people spend their time reading and learning in subjects far beyond their field. Fortunately for us today, learning opportunities abound. Take an online class, listen to a podcast. Seek out the opportunity to learn something new today. You never know where your knowledge will take you tomorrow.
Everyone suffers a little from know-it-all syndrome. While most of us relish in giving advice, few of us wish to receive advice. And when we do, how many of us actually heed the instruction of someone who has learned by experience? Look at the lives of the ultra-successful. Many are quite willing to share their experiences. And most show gratefulness to their mentors. They credit their success to the advice they received from those who preceded them. If the ultra-successful can acknowledge the instruction they received, then why are the rest of us so stubbornly determined to succeed by our own efforts? Most businesses fail within the first five years. If you are struggling with your business, seek out the advice of someone who has successfully run a business. And if you are fortunate enough to have a mentor, take time today to thank them for their influence.
There is always room for improvement. However, not everyone believes that. But in order to continue to succeed, in order to continue to lead, in order to continue to contribute to the effectiveness of the organization, the leader must continue to invest in themselves. This is not the time to rest. Yes, you have worked hard to reach this place in life. But it is not a destination. The biggest issue with leaders reaching the pinnacle of their career is the thought that they have arrived. Instead, you must work hard every day to continue to grow. There is always something else to learn. Always be willing to invest time every day to self-improvement, no matter where you are in your career. Read a good book, watch a good podcast, attend seminars. However you best learn, invest the time. Because when you stop learning, your career is done.
Great leaders develop the people around them. They assess everyone, looking for individuals who have the possibility of developing into the future leaders of the organization. Because great leaders understand a simple principle. The future of the organization lies with the people of the organization. So, great leaders focus their daily activities on mentoring and developing more great leaders. Without this ongoing leadership development, the organization will never thrive beyond the current generation of leaders. Great leaders know that they do not have all of the answers. And when a team member has an answer, great leaders give them credit. They understand that part of leadership development is recognizing the efforts of their team. They empower people to press on, knowing mistakes will occur. Most importantly, great leaders celebrate the success of everyone on the team. Put your people first. Invest your time in them so they can succeed.
Climbing the corporate ladder. Many new to the workforce envision this. And why not? Shouldn’t everyone show interest in their career development? Yes. But focusing entirely on your career will not ensure your success. Yes, you will get promotions and raises. But at some point, you will reach a situation where you are expected to lead others. If you do not understand how to lead, you will have reached your career limit. John Maxwell defines leadership as influence. It is hard to influence others if you do not build relationships with others. And it is next to impossible to build relationships with others if your primary concern is your own personal advancement. Whatever your position, focus on those around you. Show others that you want to work with them. That you want to help them. That you show interest in their development. Build relationships and grow your influence.
When reading this passage, I remembered the window and the mirror from Good to Great. Some leaders look through the window and see others to blame. Other leaders look in the mirror and only see themselves to blame. Which leaders at the most respected and get the best results? The ones who are looking in the mirror when something goes wrong. Whatever is wrong in your company, whatever is wrong in your relationships, whatever is wrong in your life is on you. No one else can keep you from making your dreams a reality. No one else can stand in your way. No one else can determine your future. You are the problem. But you are also the solution. You can become a better person. You can accept responsibility for what is wrong. You can grow. Because only you can choose who you are going to be in life.
Adversity is a part of life. Failure is a part of life. Doubters and haters are a part of life. And if you focus on these things, you will look back one day with disappointment at the life that you have led. Instead, be positive. Find the good in all things. Surround yourself with positive, like-minded people. Open your heart to them. Love them. Share your purpose with them. Find their strengths and give them the opportunity to share their strengths with others. Above all, keep your eye on the road. You know where you are headed. Never lose focus on the vision that you have created for your life. Sure, there will be setbacks. And yes, you may not achieve all of your goals. Just keep your bus moving, fueled with positive energy. Make a difference in your life and the lives of those around you.
In The Energy Bus, Gordon discusses how powerful your heart really is. According to his book, your heart’s electromagnetic field is much more powerful than your brain’s. In fact, your heart’s electromagnetic field can be detected up to 10 feet away. So, positive energy truly radiates from within. It is how others can tell if you are being real or fake. They can feel it. So how do you open your heart? By being true to yourself and to others. In our journey, we all reach obstacles. These obstacles present an opportunity to grow or to stop growing. By choosing to overcome the obstacles in our path, our hearts grow. We become truer to ourselves. And we grow to become the people we were created to be. We have confidence. We have a natural energy. And through our example, we inspire others to become better.
We all struggle with negative thoughts, negative feelings, and negative actions. I cannot think of one single person who is 100% positive energy, 100% of the time. But I can think of scores of people who allow negativity to dominate their life. People who complain. People who only see the worst in every situation. And you will, too, if you allow negativity in your life. Instead, make an effort every day to think positively. Find the good in every situation. Because whatever situation you find yourself in, there is always a silver lining. There is always something to be thankful for. That something may not be immediately obvious. But it is there. Find it. Be positive.
The life that you are living is the cumulative result of the choices you have made. No, you do not have control over the events that occur around you. But whatever happens, you have the power to choose how to proceed. Unfortunately, many do not believe they have this power. Instead, they give up, becoming a passive participant in their own life. To succeed, you must create the life that you want to have. No one else can do this for you. You may not have made the best choices in the past. But that does not mean you must continue to make bad choices in the future. Only you can change the direction of your life. So, forget about the past and forgive yourself for getting you where you are today. And start today living the life that you want to life.
Take some time out of each day to read something of substance. I’m not talking about a blog post or an article on your favorite news website. Read a book. Reading has always been how great men and women of the past improved themselves throughout their lifetimes. What Benjamin Franklin lacked in formal education, he more than made up for with reading and discussing what he read with his companions. Reading gives you the opportunity to connect with the great thinkers of the past and present. Reading allows you to dedicate yourself to a lifetime of learning and self-improvement. So, what are you going to start reading today?
Each of us were born with certain abilities. Either we choose to develop and improve our abilities, or we choose to ignore them. By choosing to develop ourselves and our natural abilities, we begin a process of personal growth. This growth is necessary for each of us to try to reach our full potential. Only by making the choice today to improve ourselves can we ever hope to reach our personal goals tomorrow.