Believe you can succeed

believeIf you don’t believe you can, you will look for evidence that you aren’t. If you do believe you can, you will look for opportunities so you will.

Read on for the stories of three people who faced significant challenges in life but believed they could succeed – and did.

Theodore Roosevelt

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”

From an early age Theodore Roosevelt suffered from severe bronchial asthma that would wake him in the night panicking as he gasped for breath. These attacks lasted well into his childhood and along with other illnesses left him thin and small for his age. At the encouragement of his father he began the process of exercising and weight lifting to transform himself into a muscular man unafraid of any challenge.

Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States. His political career took him from a New York State Assemblyman, to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy to the Governor of New York to the Vice Presidency before becoming the 26th President.

Gail Devers

“Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.”

Gail Devers was diagnosed with Graves’ disease early in her running career. The treatment caused her feet to swell and form blisters to the point where she could no longer walk and had to be carried or crawl. Her doctor considered amputating her feet. She was determined to run again and after the treatment ended she returned to training.

Gail Devers went on to win three Olympic Gold Medals in running. She also won fifteen other gold and silver medals in world running championships.

Marie Curie

“Life is not easy, for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”

Marie Curie’s family lost their property and fortunes in late 1800’s political struggles in Poland. The left her and her siblings without the financial wherewithal to pursue higher education without significant effort. After working as a governess and tutor for five years to pay for her sister’s education, Curie was able to attend the University of Paris and obtain her degree in Physics by studying during the day and tutoring at night often eating nothing more than buttered bread and tea due to a lack of finances.

Marie Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and the only person to win twice in multiple sciences – both Physics and Chemistry.

Vision – Strategy – Implementation

vision strategy implementationGreat success is only accomplished when we first establish a picture of what success looks like when we are done. Vision is the “what” of success that is described to get buy in.

A great vision can only be fulfilled if you have a plan to reach it. Strategy is the “how” of success that is designed to be executed.

Describing success through a vision, and designing a plan to reach it through a strategy brings nothing unless you actually do what you designed, to achieve what you described. Implementation is the “who” and “when” of success.

In a recent speech, Alan Mulally, the former CEO of Boeing and Ford said, “The thing I’ve found over the years…is the absolute importance of three universal principles: a compelling vision, a comprehensive strategy, and a relentless implementation process to deliver that strategy and vision,”

Describe it – Vision

Success doesn’t happen overnight. As we move through the days, weeks, and months of activity we all need something to remind us why we are doing what we do. Vision is a motivator. When we hit the wall it gives us strength to keep going. Vision is a beacon. When the path we are on is blocked it provides direction to get back on track.

“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed, the vision pulls you.”- Steve Jobs

Design it – Strategy

You know where you are and you described where you want to go. Now you need to decide how you are going to get there. Projects are complicated and require many steps in the right order to succeed. Strategy is an organizer. When we need to put the puzzle pieces together, it shows us how they all fit. Strategy is a balancer. When we have multiple priorities, it provides guidance on which to choose.

“Without strategy, execution is aimless.” – Morris Chang, the founding Chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, known as the father of Taiwan’s chip industry.

Do it – Implementation

The difference between what you are and what you want to be is what you do. No lumberjack ever talked a tree into falling down. Implementation is an energizer. The first step is always the hardest but once started the next steps come easier. Implementation is a celebrator. Once you have made some steps forward you can look back and see how far you have come.

“Organizations are successful because of good implementation, not good business plans.” – Guy Kawasaki, Silicon Valley marketing executive and bestselling author.

Seating Chart Leadership

classroom seating chartIn school classes each teacher has a seating chart. These are first set up alphabetically to help the teacher learn each student’s name. As the year progresses, students may move to seats that better suit their particular needs. Some students do their best in the front of the room as they see the board better, others move closer to their friends because they learn best in social settings. No matter the system used to place students on the seating chart, it is all done to help them achieve the best possible outcome.

Successfully leading a team also requires a seating chart. Like the school classroom example, this seating chart needs to adapt over time to help your team achieve success. In his book Good to Great Jim Collins talks about great companies as a bus. The bus drivers are the leaders and their main job is to get the right people in the right seats on the bus so they can arrive at the right destination.

Here are three ways leaders can use the seating chart to help their team achieve the best possible outcomes:

Help your team align to their talents

The best performing teams recognize the diverse talents of each individual, make sure they are in the right seats, and fit them together to achieve a common purpose. According to Gallup, “The best opportunity for people to grow and develop is to identify the ways in which they most naturally think, feel, and behave, and then build on those talents to create strengths.”

People want to be personally successful and on a successful team. Unless we all operate in our strength zone, we will be less successful than we could be. Aligning people with their talents is a sure way to give them the best shot at being all the can be.

Help your team aspire to be great

Being in the right seat and excelling in the right seat are two different things. People may be naturally gifted with talent, but it takes work to become great. Reaching greatness requires diligently practicing to hone your strengths. Inspirational author H. Jackson Brown, Jr. says it this way, “Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.”

There are many self-motivated people who may challenge themselves each day, but sometimes it is easier for others to see what we can become. The leader’s role here is to challenge your team to succeed today beyond yesterday and tomorrow beyond today. Ralph Waldo Emerson put it like this, “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”

Help your team help others

Achieving personal greatness by being in the right seat and becoming your personal best is a great accomplishment worth celebrating and emulating. The ultimate in success is never just our own personal achievements. The real accomplishment is always in helping others learn from our actions and succeed even beyond our results.

For those driven to success, the steps from personal to team success and from team success to other’s success are mere extensions of the same desire to be the best. Those who want to be the best will be searching for the next step. Zig Ziglar highlights this search when he says, “There is a certain amount of dissatisfaction that goes with knowing that your time, talent and abilities are not being properly used.”

Your role as the leader is to now change the seating chart once again so that the best individuals can become the best leaders.   As Ronald Reagan said, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets people to do the greatest things.”

All in good timing

timing is everythingKnowing what you want to do is important, but understanding the right timing of when to do what you want to do matters if you want to be successful.

Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue Magazine shared her thoughts on timing, “It’s always about timing. If it’s too soon, no one understands. If it’s too late, everyone’s forgotten.”

When the timing is right, success flows easily. Well known baseball player and manager for the NY Yankees, Yogi Berra, use to say, “You don’t have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got the timing, it’ll go.”

Here are some thoughts on the timing of success:

Somethings you should do now.

Take short steps that build a lasting foundation on your way to long-term success. Don’t just go for short-term success alone.

Apolo Ohno, an American Short Track Speed Skater, became the youngest U.S. national champion in 1997 and was the reigning champion from 2001–2009, winning the title a total of 12 times. He is an eight time Olympic medal winner, and a twenty-one time World Championship medal winner.

Ohno discussed the competing desires to win and the steps you must take to be a winner, “We all naturally want to become successful…we also want to take shortcuts. And it’s easy to do so, but you can never take away the effort of hard work and discipline and sacrifice.”

Somethings you should do later

Sometimes you have to wait for the world to catch up to your ideas. Is your team, company, or industry ready for your revolutionary new process? If not, maybe you should invest more time in laying the groundwork of acceptance before you launch.

Joshua Chamberlain was best known for his heroism as a Union General at Gettysburg in the Civil War. He went on to be a professor of languages, speaking ten fluently, and the Governor of Maine – successful in his endeavors. One lessor known fact was his investments in Florida real estate in the late 1880’s. At the time, railroads were being built to bring tourists to the state, but not to the area he and other investors chose, Ocala. After several years they secured a railroad stop nearby, but the development didn’t generate successful returns until the mid-1900’s, many years after Chamberlain exited the investment.

Scott Adams of Dilbert Cartoon fame, put his thoughts on timing this way, “Your best work involves timing. If someone wrote the best hip hop song of all time in the Middle Ages, he had bad timing.”

Somethings you should never do

Never give up your dreams. A person’s dreams are the vision of what they can become.

Lyman Frank Baum is best known for his hugely successful book and the subsequent movie The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Raised in a wealthy family, Baum was known as a day-dreamer. After failing as the owner of a theatre due to a fire, he moved to South Dakota where he opened a general store that ended in bankruptcy. Baum then started a newspaper which also went out of business.

It was not until he moved to the Chicago area and published his first children’s book that he found the success that he had dreamed of. In 1900 Baum published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz which became the 1939 movie classic. Many remember the line penned by Baum from the famous song sung by Judy Garland, “Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”

Leaders Lead First

EM Kelly lets goGreat leaders like to come in first – they want to win. Not just for their personal benefit, but for their company, team and each employee.

For great leaders to win, they do need to be first and most importantly they need to lead first.

Here are a few areas where great leaders always lead first:

Descend from the Ivory Tower

We frequently hear about famous people making personal visits with their fans. After those visits, someone invariably says, “They were so down to earth.” Why is that a compliment? Because the fans feel connected to their favorite singer, sports star, or actor when they see them acting like a regular person.

This is the same with leaders. People expect leaders to lead from the top of the mountain, but understand the impact at the bottom of the mountain. They want to feel connected to the person who plays a large part in their chances for success. People don’t want to hear “Go,” as E.M. Kelly said, people want to hear the leader say “Let’s Go!”

Leaders lead first by taking the initiative to invest time being with their teams.

Demonstrate what is right

Steve Jobs once said, “A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not.”  Your team is watching and listening to everything you do – make it count.

If there is a fast approaching deadline and the team needs to work some extra hours to finish – great leaders will be there with them. If there is new process put in place that each employee needs to follow – great leaders follow it.

Don’t just tell people what you want them to do, show them. As Henry David Thoreau said,  “People will believe what they see. Let them see it.”

Leaders lead first by taking the initiative to lead by example.

Delegate implementation

A leader sets vision, goals, and timelines and lets employees decide how to achieve. No one wants to be told what to do every step of the way. Remember, if you always tell your employees how to do everything, you will have to always tell them how to do everything.

President Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executives are the ones who have sense enough to pick good people to do what they want done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

Leaders lead first by taking the initiative to let their team take the initiative.

What is the measure of a leader?

measure of a leaderThe only true measure of a leader is in the followers.

John Maxwell once asked, “If you’re all alone as a leader, are you really leading?” He went on to say, “If you think you are leading and no one is following, you are only taking a walk.”

With all due respect to social media (I use it myself), but the measure of a leader is not just in the number of followers; it is in the success of followers.

Why do followers follow leaders? In the short run it could just be the latest fad – everyone else is…or it could be that they are looking for something big. In the long run, if you see a leader with committed followers it’s because they are successfully fulfilling these three needs of every follower:

Strategy – Opportunity – Priority

Strategy. Everyone wants to be a success in their life. Each of us wants personal success along with all that we are involved in to be successful. We want the team to win, and we want to be a winning part of that team. The first measure of a leader is their ability to devise a strategy for that to happen for every member of the team.

According to Tom Rath, author of six NYT and WSJ bestsellers on the role of human behavior in business, health, and well-being, “Followers need to see how things will get better and what that future might look like.”

Opportunity. Each person is gifted with abilities unique to them. The key to individual and team success is to use the abilities of each person. The second measure of a leader is how well they connect their followers to opportunities that use their strengths.

Sochiro Honda, the founder of Honda Motors, talked about a Japanese proverb that says, “Raise the sail with your stronger hand,” and explained that it meant, “You must go after the opportunities that arise in life that you are best equipped to do.”

Priority. There are always more ideas and projects than any team can accomplish in limited time with limited resources – and do them well. Prioritization is a requirement of winning people and teams. The third measure of a leader is do they give their followers permission to not do some things so they can do great things.

Bestselling author and expert on high performance human achievement, Denis Waitley, says this about prioritizing, “Don’t be a time manager, be a priority manager. Cut your major goals into bite-sized pieces. Each small priority or requirement on the way to the ultimate goal becomes a mini goal in itself.”

Successful communication requires a relationship

communication and relationshipCombining communication with a relationship requires preparation. Mark Twain said, “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”

There are three questions you must answer to prepare for successful communication:

Who are you communicating with? If you don’t have a relationship, then communication is about building one. If you do have a relationship then communication is about building upon it.

“When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.” – Stephen Covey

Why are you communicating?  Never communicate without a purpose. Sharing, teaching, learning, entertaining – all good reasons to communicate. Each one comes with an expectation of an action being taken which builds upon the relationship.

“The two words information and communication are often used interchangeable, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” – Sydney J. Harris

How are you communicating?  Communicating in a relationship is a dialogue not a monologue. Success is not in the giving, but in the receiving. Put yourself in the seat of the audience (one person, or many people) and communicate in the way they need to hear so they understand.

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” – Tony Robbins

Are you really ready for a change?

change machineIt has been said that people are only ready to accept the need for change when the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of changing. Robert Brault opined, “We want the life we have now, only happier,” but alas, it doesn’t work that way.

When change comes, and it comes to everyone, we all react. There is a Chinese Proverb that separates our reaction into two extremes, “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.”

I think we make change harder than it has to be. George Carlin had the right idea when he joked, “I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed.”

Now it’s not that easy, but there are steps you can take if you are really ready for a change:

Identify what you need to change.

I had a doctor who once told me that my headache was not due to a deficiency in ibuprofen. The headache was the symptom, the cause was the way I was exercising…that is what needed to be changed.

If you are really ready for a change, don’t settle for symptoms. Dig in and get to the root cause and change that.

“Do not let circumstances control you. You change your circumstances.” – Jackie Chan

Identify what you need to do to change.

The only thing we can control is ourselves, our actions, and our reactions. Any type of action that is taken in an effort to change anything must therefore involve you.

Focus your efforts of change on yourself and being the best you, you can be.

“I think the most productive thing to do during times of change is to be your best self, not the best version of someone else.” – Seth Godin

Identify what you will do after you change.

Congratulations! You are new and improved. Your life is better, you see things more clearly, and your outlook is positive. Now that you have changed, what’s next?

Change can’t be just about you. Take advantage of what you have learned, and what you can now do and help others with your newly developed talents.

“The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” – Peter Drucker

Do you deserve success?

success climbYes you deserve success. Not only do you deserve success, you need to be successful.

Andy Andrews is a wonderful author and a gifted speaker. I attended one talk where he spoke about people in the world that will be able to one day help his young sons in some way. He didn’t know who they were, or when or how they would help, but was sure that their paths would cross. In order for his sons to be all they could be, he needed these people to be all they could be.

In his book, The Butterfly Effect, Andy says it like this, “Everything you do matters. Every move you make, every action you take matters. Not just to you, or your family, or your business or hometown. Everything you do matters to all of us forever…There are generations yet unborn, whose very lives will be shifted and shaped by the moves you make and the actions you take.”

So for those of you who doubt whether you deserve success, here are three steps you can take to get you back on that path of success that we all need you to be on:

Define success differently

Too often we define success as our personal achievement – how much more we got this time. True, fulfilling, success is not you getting more, it is you helping others get more. When your definition of success shifts to be this outward focus, it is easier to believe you deserve success.

“Success is finding satisfaction in giving a little more than you take.” – Christopher Reeve

Define your past differently

Your past mistakes are only failures if you fail to learn from them. When finding a way to positively deal with mistakes Napoleon Hill advised, “Ask yourself: What did I learn from this experience that I can put to good use next time?”  If you view your past in this light, you will not get discouraged and continue to believe you deserve success.

Long time Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger said, “The past is a great place and I don’t want to erase it or to regret it, but I don’t want to be its prisoner either.”

Define your future differently

The best thing you can do to be a success is work to be the best you, you can be, and surround yourself with others who are the best they, they can be. Together you can accomplish great things. If you focus your future on simply being everything you were made to be, you will believe you deserve success.

“Success is…knowing you did your best to become the person you are capable of becoming.”- John Wooden

Want to make an impact? Shift your focus.

focus to impactThe human eye has an amazing ability to shift its focus from far in the distance to right in front of us in an instant. Touch screens use “Pinch to Zoom” to shift the focus of a picture, document, or webpage in and out using two fingers.

Whether we focus on the eye or touch screens, the ability to shift your focus is paramount to having an impact on anything.

Repeat these three steps continuously to have successful impact:


Start with a distant focus

In leadership we often talk about setting a vision. Vision is where you paint the picture of success that allows you to build the plan to achieve it.

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”­ – Vincent Van Gogh

Zoom in to a near focus

If you want to impact the world, start with impacting your company. If you want to impact your company, start with impacting your team. If you want to impact your team, start with impacting one individual.

“I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.” – Walt Disney

 Expand back to the distant focus

Once we get involved in the day to day plans it’s easy to forget why we are doing what we do. The road to success is often long and winding. Unless you expand your focus once in a while you won’t know if you are still on track.

“Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal.” – Mario Andretti


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