Such encouraging words from Nelson Mandela. He continues, “Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps just for a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.” While these words were written more than 20 years ago, they still ring true today. Most importantly, these words should give hope to our society. Hope that one day, we can all learn to love a little more and hate a little less.
Are you waiting for the perfect time to make your move? Perhaps you are considering starting a new business. Maybe you want to expand your current business into a new market or launch a new product. Or maybe you desire to find a better job. Whatever it is, the timing will never be perfect. Stop waiting. Don’t procrastinate another day. Take some time and decide whether you should make a change or not. If the answer is yes, then make your plans and set a definite timeline for completion. No, you should not quit your job today. But start doing the things you need to do so you can quit your job tomorrow, next week, or next month. Still having trouble committing? Be careful asking others their opinions. Instead, seek out a mentor or coach to help you work through the issue to make the best decision for you.
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 has told fibs, half-truths, and white lies. Especially when we were younger, when experience had not had the opportunity to teach us the dangers of omitting the truth. And fear took over our better judgment. Now that we are adults, we should shed these childhood habits and embrace the whole truth as the only way to deal with others. Because the only way to be successful is to treat everyone you meet with respect. And respect dictates that you are truthful with others. In contrast, falsehood represents a contempt for others. It shows that others cannot be bothered with, do not deserve, or cannot be trusted with the entire truth. Long lasting, deep relationships are never built on falsehood. So, the next time life confronts you with the temptation to skirt the truth, remember that only the truth will lead you to a lifetime of success.
When you are confronted with the complexities of life, it is important to seek out the advice of experts. And the more successful you become, the more you will need to rely on these experts to make your most important decisions. Some of these experts may become team members for your organization, giving your company valuable skills beyond what you are able to provide. Others will remain outside of your organization, giving you valuable personal advice for navigating the many issues that come from living a successful life. Whether you need an estate plan, year-end tax planning, or a personal financial plan, it is important to build your personal team of experts to help you make the best decisions for your life. No one can be an expert in all fields. So, do not try to be one. Surround yourself with great people, and great things will occur.
Being a business owner is hard. It’s like the old maxim. You avoid mistakes through your experience. You gain experience by making mistakes. By owning a business, you are guaranteeing yourself a fair number of mistakes. Embrace it. If you have never owned a business, you can never understand the struggle. So, if you are considering starting a business, be careful what you wish for. There is no experience quite like borrowing money to make this week’s payroll. Sometimes you will wonder why you bothered starting your company at all. Building a business is a struggle. You struggle to build something out of nothing. To impart some of your vision on the world. And to try and make the world a better place. As you struggle, strive to build a company where great people come together to make great things happen. You struggle, but you can also win.
If you stay in business long enough, you will experience negative events completely out of your control. Life happens. When it does, your company’s ability to survive will depend on the health of your company. Good companies can weather storms. Bad companies do not. You can measure your company by the attitude and work ethic of your employees. People like working for good companies. People want to enjoy their work and feel like their work will make a difference for the company. And people want to know that they will be rewarded for the difference they make for their company. Ben Horowitz writes, “Being a good company is an end in itself.” And yet, there are so many small businesses that fail because they are not built to be good companies. Would your employees say that you have a good company? If not, start building a good company today.
Starting a company is not easy. There are times of enormous stress. Times when you wonder if it is really worth doing. Times when you are just ready to quit and walk away. But walking away will cost your people their jobs. Walking away will cost your investors their funds. Walking away will cost you your reputation. So you keep going. And you keep losing sleep. It is hard to understand the stress of owning a business. Yes, you may have the next great idea. But reading books on leadership and business organization will never prepare you for having to fire people because of a bad decision. Or bad timing. There is no secret formula for success. Sometimes, things just do not go as planned. Life happens. Seek out a mentor. Find someone who started a business and succeeded. Lean on their advice. Because sometimes you will need it.
Who will replace you? The answer to that question is the ultimate gift any leader can provide. No matter where they are in life. No matter how old or young. No matter how long they have been with the organization. Real leaders must have a succession plan in place for their organizations. Obviously, the longer you are with an organization, the better you will be able to train up a leader to replace you. Ideally, you will go out on top and pass the baton to a fully developed leader. This situation should be seamless. But you must plan for the worst. Because sometimes, succession is unplanned. Life happens. Unexpected events occur. As the organization’s leader, you must plan for the unexpected. If you do not have a succession plan in place that can be implemented tomorrow, you have work to do. Don’t wait another day. Start planning today.
There are plenty of businesses in the world whose ultimate goal is to win at any cost. Whether the company is interacting with its employees, its customers, or its competition, some have an insatiable need to come out on top. What these business owners fail to realize is they are jeopardizing their long-term success for a short-term win. In the long run, your business must build loyalty with its employees and customers. You build loyalty by being consistently fair with everyone you encounter. No, treating your competition fairly will not make them loyal to you. But your employees and your customers are watching. And their loyalty is vital to your long-term success. So, don’t wait until the end of your life to realize that you should have treated people better. Be a person of integrity. Win at business while you win at life. And have no regrets.
Live long enough, and eventually, you will consider your legacy. Sam Walton will always be remembered as the founder of Wal-Mart. Yes, there are many good things that he was able to accomplish with his wealth. But Wal-Mart will always be first in everyone’s mind. Sam Walton worked hard all his life. And at the end of his life, when he was suffering from cancer, he naturally looked back and wondered. Did he make the best decisions in his life? His conclusion, as recorded in Made in America, was yes, he made the best decisions. He would not change a thing. Which is wonderful. A life without regrets is a life well lived. What about you? Will you look back at your life and think that you did the best you could? What regrets will you have? Don’t wait until it is too late to make a change.
Sam Walton was passionate about retail. His passion drove him to create a great company and to achieve unimaginable personal success during his lifetime. No matter where he was working at the time, whether it was for J.C. Penney, as a Ben Franklin franchisee, or as the founder of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton always strived to be the best. Because when you are passionate about your work, you want to be the best. No one can deny the success that Sam Walton achieved. And I do not think anyone can say that Sam Walton’s success was a result of personal circumstances or a lucky break. Sam Walton was just simply a constant competitor driven by a great passion for what he was doing. You may not reach such financial heights by following your passion. But one thing is certain, you will certainly not be successful unless you follow your passion.
Like it or not, work is one of the few things that gives life meaning. You cannot possibly expect your life to have much meaning unless you are doing something that you love and care about. And if you are doing something that you love and care about, how can you aspire to just be good? If all you want is to be good enough, then you are not doing the work that you need to do. You need to be doing something that you have the possibility of becoming great at. And if your work is simply not a possibility, then you need to become involved with something that you are passionate about. Something that you can help to make great. So why are you going to spend your working years – the best years of your life – doing something that you do not love?
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.
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.