Mackay: Go the extra mile to find success

A man walking down a narrow, twisting road spotted a guru meditating on the grass.

“Excuse me, master,” he called. “Is this the road to success?”

The old man nodded silently and pointed a finger in the direction the traveler was headed. He thanked the guru and hurried on his way. An hour later the man returned, bleeding and exhausted.

“Hey!” he shouted to the guru. “You told me that was the road to success! I walked that way, and right away, I fell into a ditch so deep it took me almost an hour to climb out! What’s the matter with you?”

The guru stared at him, and then after 10 long seconds opened his lips to speak: “That is indeed the road to success. It lies just beyond the ditch.”

The road to success is not without potholes. That’s the problem with many of us. We quit before we find success. We let challenges beat us rather than rising to the occasion. We see only the difficulties in front of us, but not the opportunities that can grow from them.

My own formula for success includes:

• Dogged determination.

• Focus and the ability to finish.

• Daring to dream.

• Owning and learning from mistakes.

• Looking at problems as opportunities.

• Staying positive.

When Dale Carnegie was asked on a radio program to tell in three sentences the most important lesson he had ever learned, he said: “The biggest lesson I have ever learned is the stupendous importance of what we think. If I knew what you think, I would know what you are, for your thoughts make you what you are. By changing our thoughts, we change our lives.”

In other words, the will to succeed very often determines our success.

Another important part of success is just getting out of bed. Benjamin Franklin pointed out that early to bed and early to rise can make you healthy, wealthy and wise. Unfortunately, the “early to rise” part is a problem for many people.

But if you want to get a good start on the day, you can’t sleep your life away. I’ve found that if you establish a routine and get up at roughly the same time every day, your body wakes itself up. Give yourself a reason to get up. Pick something you’re passionate about to work on first. You’ll find it easier to get out of bed when you have something exciting to look forward to. And you will most likely find it easier to achieve if you love what you do.

Being good at your job is only part of the recipe for success at work. You must also incorporate these key ingredients:

Positive attitude. Managers and co-workers alike appreciate the support of someone with an upbeat outlook. Don’t hide your enthusiasm for your job and the organization you work for. Look for opportunities that arise from problems. Challenges help you grow.

Integrity. Be honest with people. When you don’t have an answer, say so. Admit your mistakes (and concentrate on not repeating them). Keep your promises, and meet your deadlines. All this demonstrates your respect for other people and proves your reliability.

Willingness to try. Stretch out of your comfort zone. Volunteer for new tasks and extra responsibility. Take risks — be realistic about what you can and can’t do, of course, but don’t back away from a challenge because of the possibility of failure. Ask the right questions so you understand the situation. Never be afraid of asking a “dumb” question. Be more concerned about having to claim ignorance after the fact.

Cooperation. Be a team player. Help your colleagues with their priorities. Share information instead of hoarding it. Know what your manager wants, and support him or her to the best of your abilities. Offer your support when people need it. When your team is successful, you are successful.

A wise man was counseling a young graduate who was preparing to start a new life. He said, “Remember there are three bones, and you will never have any trouble.”

“How will three bones keep me out of trouble?” asked the student.

The elder explained: “There is a wishbone, a jawbone and a backbone. The wishbone keeps you going after things. The jawbone helps you find out how to go after them if you are in doubt, and the backbone keeps you at it until you get there.”

Mackay’s Moral: Success is sweet, but its secret is sweat.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.

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