Ever feel like a guinea pig on a tread mill? No matter how fast you run you never go anywhere? Turn up the heat, run faster, work harder, sweat more and you are still in the same place. Frustrating isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be so much more preferable to be rich and famous like R. A. Dickey (MLB Golden Glove winner in 2011) or J. K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter series)? You bet! They have it made!
Would you be surprised to know that R. A. Dickey spent 15+ years off and on between the minors and the big show, rattling around and going no where? Encountered depression and personal demons telling him he wasn’t good enough? That he took the path of last resort, throwing knuckleballs, because he was at the end of the line? Or how about J. K. Rowling? Today, named the most influential woman in Britain she had an undesirable childhood, suffered clinical depression and lived on state aid. Only after she was successful in getting Harry Potter published, well, as you know, the rest is history.
These two people are very public examples of going from the basement to the penthouse. It is likely you and/or your business is far from the basement. You are probably nicely ensconced on the first or second floor. What would it take for you to get to the penthouse? Let’s apply a few lessons learned from Dickey and Rowland (and observed in clients).
1. Listen. We are guided by our own ideas baked through years of experience. We are in our comfort zones doing what we know how to do. But what if that isn’t working? We have to listen. We have to listen to the results and be open to what they tell us. If it is not working, trying harder may not fix it. It may be time to adjust your perceptions, your focus, your skills or even your market to figure out what WILL work. Sometimes I think the hardest part is saying, “I am no longer sure” and being open to the feedback of those who you are trying to serve.
2. Commit. It sounds so simple. So why aren’t we all the physical specimens we set our sites to become every New Years Day? Our intentions don’t last. Like everything else we have to be willing to put considerable effort into it. You may know that 212 degrees is the temperature required to boil water. It doesn’t happen at 211 degrees. Sometimes the commitment takes considerable effort–maybe even more than we are willing to give. How much ARE you willing to give? R. A. Dickey stayed in professional ball long past what many might have because it was his dream and he wasn’t ready to give it up. With the help of his wife, they managed to take care of their family of 6–barely. J.K. Rowling was on state aid and in her words, “as poor as you can get without being homeless.” How important is to you and what are you willing to do?
3. Change. The biggest commitment you may need to make is to do something differently. R. A. Dickey learned how to throw a knuckle ball because his fast ball wasn’t going to work. Do you have any idea how long it takes to throw a knuckle ball–physically and mentally? Neither did I until I read Dickey’s book,Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball (which is a great read). How about J. K Rowling? She had to focus on the perfect story inside her instead of writing on a commissioned basis for other publications and go on welfare to do it. If we are to achieve greatness, it is likely we won’t do so from where we stand today. The vision may require us to do something entirely different or modify how we think. In working with our clients, we usually start at the point of truth, not experience or perceptions which become outdated. If you are strong enough to be willing to embrace real change, then you have a shot at the penthouse.
4. Breakthrough. If you are going to all of this effort, dare to think really big. R.A. Dickey just wanted to be in the majors but then he won the Golden Glove. J. K. Rowling wanted to get the story out that was in her head and became the “Most Influential Woman in Britain”, named so by leading magazine editors. If we are going to give something supreme effort, why stop short of spectacular? Why settle for good when you can breakthrough to great? Too many companies get excited about being 10% bigger–what about 2x? One of my clients, in the cyber security business, WILL grow by unimaginable numbers in the next few years. They have the vision, the passion, the skills and the ear of a great strategic partner. They are thinking BIG. To some extent we limit ourselves by thinking modestly instead of thinking breakthrough; of thinking about changing the world– or at least our niche in it. Challenge yourself to take your goals and 10x them. It will cause you to dramatically rethink what is possible and ignite passion enough to rocket you to the penthouse!
By listening to your passion and your audience, by committing to accepting nothing less that the very best you or your organization can achieve, by changing what you do and/or how you do it, and by setting your sights high—you CAN achieve great things. The only thing in your way is the “comfort zone”.