• Have you noticed that some people have an unusual ability to get others to do what they want them to do?
• Have you noticed that things consistently turn out better for some people than for others?
• Have you noticed that some people seldom end up with the short end of the stick while others frequently come up short?
• Have you noticed that some people regularly follow through with whatever they undertake while others often falter or end up just quitting?
• Have you noticed that, for some people, their influence bubble expands over time, while for other people, their influence bubble stays small or may even contract over time?
Although you have likely already answered, “Yes,” to all five questions, let’s set some qualifications or conditions to make sure we are making an apples to apples comparison. Instead of thinking about everyone compared to everyone, let’s limit ourselves to what we can call childhood reference groups. Think about you and your childhood reference group as I reframe the five questions.
Limiting yourself to people who grew up at about the same time and in a similar place as you and who experienced about the same social, educational, and economic circumstances as you, let’s revisit the five questions.
• Do you know people from your childhood reference group, people like you who are better than others at getting people to do what they want them to do?
• Do you know people like you for whom things consistently turn out better than they do for others?
• Do you know people like you who seldom end up with the short end of the stick while others frequently come up short?
• Do you know people like you who consistently follow through with whatever they undertake while others often falter or end up just quitting?
• Do you know people like you who’s influence bubble expands over time, while for others, their influence bubbles stay small or may even contract over time?
I have gone to some length to eliminate excuses and rationalizations. We all know people like us who have done better than we have relative to one or more of the five questions. Of course each of us was disadvantaged relative to some people not in our childhood reference group and advantaged relative to others. Some of us had a significant boost up from day one while others of us experienced a significant push down. The issue is not so much how well we have done compared to everyone else but rather how well we have done relative to people like us.
Let’s take another step. Keeping in mind when and where you started your life journey and the circumstances you experienced growing up, how completely are you fulfilling your potential? I have again reframed the five questions for your consideration.
• Are your persuasive strategies and skills serving you well?
Your ability to get people to do what you want them to do is an important element of your personal growth. Here I am not talking about power, force or control. Rather I am talking about your ability to persuade. It’s a matter of how you relate to and interact with others. They do not do what you want them to do because they have to do it or because they have no better alternative. They do what you want them to do because they want to do it. They believe going along with you is their best choice. They trust you and have confidence in your judgment.
• Are your successes continuing to accumulate over time?
This can be a tricky question for some. We tend to think about success as if it were an event or achievable condition we may or may not have. We have or don’t have success.
Actually success is not one condition or status. Rather it is an accumulation of smaller wins. We win some and lose some. Success is the net when wins and losses are tallied.
Perhaps more important is that success is not a product of only one area or life dimension. For example, we may have accumulated many financial wins with fewer losses, with an impressive fiscal net. We also may have accumulated many interpersonal or emotional losses with few wins. When we look across the full range of our potentials, the net may be negative. Conversely, we might be very successful socially or emotionally but failing economically. The point is that success should be pursued and measured across the board. I am reminded of something my mother said about a person in our small town, “He may be rich but is a miserable excuse for a human being.”
• Are your self–serving strategies and skills serving you well over time?
First let’s be clear about this. Being self–serving is not the same as being selfish. Selfish people always prioritize their needs and interests over the needs and interests of everyone else. Alternatively, self–serving people balance their needs and interests with those of others, doing what they reasonably can to make sure that they are not supporting the needs and interests of others to their personal and sustained detriment. Again quoting my mother, “If you don’t take care of yourself, there will eventually be none of you left to take care of anyone, including you.” Each of us has needs, problems and vulnerabilities that require our personal and ongoing attention. In the short term, we can neglect ourselves to the advantage of others; but if we don’t pay attention, over time, our well being and capacity to support anyone else will be depleted. May I quote my mother again?
“If you don’t take care of yourself, sooner or later you won’t be able to do any good for anyone, including you.”
• Are you persistent and consistently following through with whatever you undertake?
Not quoting my mother this time, an old proverb says that good deeds always trump good intentions. Even so, life is not so simple. We all know that we should finish what we start and no one likes a quitter; but there is a caveat. If we actually follow through with everything we undertake, we will likely end up succeeding at much less than we hoped.
Here’s the issue. There are many quite valid reasons why following through with something we start is not a good idea and may be a very bad idea. It may take more time or other resources than we expected. It may take skills that we discover we do not have. We may figure out that following through gets an outcome that we do not want or that is quite negative. We may realize that there is a better way to get the outcome we want. The point is that there are sometimes good reasons to pull the plug or shift away from what we are doing.
Then what is the point? It is this. Our cumulative success depends on what we have done, not on what we are doing or plan to do. Our cumulative success depends on what we finish and not on what we start. Our cumulative success depends on consistent and persistent follow–through, keeping in mind that follow–through includes all areas of our lives.
Further, follow–through is another one of those net activities. When we consider all that we have undertaken and then sort our output into intentionally discontinued and successfully completed, the balance should tilt heavily toward the successfully completed side of the ledger, with as little as possible ending up in the did not finish or just didn’t get back to it bucket.
• Is your influence bubble continuing to grow and expand?
What is your influence bubble? Simply put, it is the extent to which others look to you for advice, guidance, modeling of how people like you should be and behave, and what it means to be a successful human being. In short, it’s your brand, how you are known to others combined with how much they value knowing you and want to emulate aspects of your success.
How do you grow and expand your influence bubble? It is simple but far from easy.
* Work on increasing your ability to get others to do what you want them to do.
* Focus on those areas where you are most likely to get things to consistently turn out better for you than they do for others.
* Take care not to end up with the short end of the stick whenever you reasonably can avoid it.
* Regularly follow through with whatever you undertake, taking care not to falter or end up just quitting or not getting back to what you know is important.
* Understand and value your personal brand.
If my mother can have one more turn, “It’s one thing to worry about what people say to your face. The real thing to worry about is what they say and think about you when you aren’t there.” Just remember that your brand matters, every time, with everyone.
Now you know so there you go.