Mackay: Get ahead of your dreams to get ahead in business

I am constantly asked the question, “What does it take to get ahead?” Sure, you have to work hard, but there are a lot of other factors.

Investor’s Business Daily identified 10 traits for turning your dreams into reality. Here they are with my take on each, plus a few bonus thoughts:

A positive attitude. I have never met a successful pessimist. It is absolutely essential that you have a positive mental attitude in every aspect of life. If you think you’ll fail, chances are good that you will. If you believe you’ll succeed, you’re halfway home.

A definitive goal. Winners set goals. Losers make excuses. A goal is a dream with a deadline that is measurable, identifiable, obtainable, specific and in writing. Goals give you more than a reason to get up in the morning; they are an incentive to keep you going all day. Achieving goals produces significant accomplishments.

A courageous spirit. Courage is what sets you apart from the crowd. Courage is ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Courage is bravery, valor, standing up to danger, guts and nerves all rolled into one. So what does courage have to do with running a business? Plenty. We all face situations that require us to reach down deep within ourselves to do what is right and brave and occasionally difficult. Courage can involve making decisions that are unpopular or time-consuming or even expensive.

An inquisitive mind. I’m a big believer in lifelong learning. You don’t go to school once for a lifetime; you are in school all of your life. Pursue learning in all its forms: reading books; returning to school; attending seminars and training classes; and listening to those who are wiser and more experienced.

A strong heart. What makes a champion? Is it attitude, confidence, courage, desire, discipline, endurance, perseverance, self-discipline or visualization? Yes. It’s probably a little bit of all these characteristics, but it’s also a lot of heart. In addition, it takes a strong heart to be a successful businessperson. Use your head, to be sure, but don’t ignore what your heart is telling you.

An analytical brain. Do your homework; get the facts. Learn to analyze details. Often the best ideas stem from little seeds everyone else overlooked.

A focused eye. How many times have you heard an athlete talk about focus? It’s a topic I also hear about frequently in business. The most common complaints? Too many projects spinning at one time. Too many interruptions. Too many e-mails. Too many things to do. Too little time. Stay focused as best you can, and don’t let things happen to you — not when you can make things happen.

A fearless approach. Innovate. Be different. Those who are content to follow the crowd never get the chance to stand out. If you believe in what you are doing, your confidence will win over skeptics. Confidence doesn’t come naturally to most people. The good news is that you can develop confidence, just like any muscle or character trait, if you’re willing to work hard.

A disciplined tongue. He or she who burns bridges better be a very good swimmer. You must learn the art of communicating effectively with others. Clear communications prevent miscommunications. When you say what you mean, mean what you say and you keep your word, you foster trust.

A clear conscience. Always act like your mother is watching. Don’t forget those rules you learned in kindergarten: Play nice. Be dependable. Tell the truth. If you can’t get to the top by being true to yourself and straight with everyone around you, your success will be hollow — and probably short-lived.

Dreams can come true. These traits, coupled with hard work and perseverance, will keep your dreams from becoming just wishful thinking.

Mackay’s Moral: You can’t get ahead if you don’t get started.

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

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