Don Shula is a legendary professional football coach. Some years ago, I negotiated a contract for a first-round National Football League draft choice with Shula, and I've been closely following his career since.
He holds the NFL record for most career wins, 347 over 32 seasons. He led the Miami Dolphins to two Super Bowl victories, including the one that capped the only perfect season in NFL history.
How did he do it? By not dwelling on the past. Shula had a "24-hour rule," a policy of looking forward to the next challenge instead of dwelling on the previous victory or failure. The coach allowed himself, his coaching staff and his players a maximum of 24 hours to celebrate a victory or brood over a defeat. During those 24 hours, Shula encouraged them to feel their emotions of success or failure as deeply as they could.
But the next day, it was time to put it all behind them and start concentrating their energy on preparing for their next game. His philosophy was that if you keep your failures and victories in perspective, you'll do better in the long run.
What a difference a day makes! I absolutely agree with Shula's philosophy. Let me explain why.
Let's start with a colossal failure. How often have you been tempted to throw in the towel after losing a big sale or watching a million-dollar deal fall through, only to have your luck turn a day or two later?
Every morning brings new potential, but if you dwell on the misfortunes of the day before, you tend to overlook tremendous opportunities. Instead of seeing the possibilities for success, you hesitate, concentrating on the dark clouds rather than the silver lining.
Next step in the downer process is the vibes you send out to your customers. Your usual enthusiasm is seriously compromised because you are waiting for rejection. And that's exactly what you'll deserve.
Snap out of it! You've had plenty of success before. This episode was just a bump in the road. Don't turn it into a detour.
Buck Rogers, former vice president of marketing at IBM and author of "Getting the Best Out of Yourself and Others," has this advice to stay motivated: "To be successful, you have to believe you can change the conditions in your life. You have to get out of the back seat of someone else's car and get behind your own steering wheel. You can't wish away the things in your life that make you unhappy and you can't daydream your hopes into reality. Make things happen."
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the spectacular victory -- the referral that turned into your biggest account, the employee of the month award, the amazing idea that turned your company around. Do you think now is a good time to coast or to rest on your laurels?
Absolutely not! Celebrate with your co-workers, go home and take the night off, and then come back to work in the morning ready to do an even better job the next day. You are on a roll. Don't waste the momentum.
Your bragging rights expire after 24 hours. It's fine if others want to congratulate you. Be gracious, thank them and get back to work. A great accomplishment shouldn't be the end of the road, just the starting point for the next grand destination. Success breeds success.
My friend Zig Ziglar says he is often challenged by people who want to know what motivation is. He relates a great example: "There are those who say that when someone goes to a motivational session they get all charged up, but a week later they're back where they were before they attended the session. In short, motivation isn't permanent, right?"
"Of course motivation isn't permanent. But then, neither is bathing; but it is something you should do on a regular basis."
Make that "regular basis" every 24 hours. The 24-hour rule allows you to look at each new day as a blank slate. Take along lessons from the past. You can learn as much -- or more -- from failure as from success. But don't live in the past. Build on what you know so that you don't repeat mistakes. Resolve to learn something new every day. Because every 24 hours, you have the opportunity to have the best day of your life.
Mackay's Moral: If you live in the past, you won't have much of a future.