(Pictured: Our grand nephew, William, whose persistence, perspective and personality – not to mention his unbridled enthusiasm – will definitely help him succeed in life.)
There are three things you need to master in order to succeed in business. To make them easier to remember, we can call them the Three P’s: Persistence, Perspective, and Personality. These characteristics will help you succeed in life, as well.
Let’s jump right in.
If you give up, you will not succeed. This is ridiculously obvious, but it has to be said. And it’s a decision you make, when you start your business. It’s the most important decision, because if you decide that you will never give up, that means you will always find a way.
Here’s another tip, though: Persistence is not the same as stubbornness. You need to be persistent about finding a way, not stubborn about sticking to a particular way. It’s really, really important that you don’t ever get wedded to a particular person, process, product, or system.
The person you hired, who had been doing a fantastic job, might suddenly start flipping out or losing ground or turning negative or . . . whatever. Stuff happens, and people can change. People can even change overnight. So you hire people carefully, and give them everything they need to succeed, but you also keep a part of your brain on alert. And if something starts to go wrong, don’t wait to say something. Bring it up, kindly but forthrightly. I could write a whole book on this subject, but that’s enough for now. The phrase “trust, but verify,” is a good one to remember.
The process you’re using now might work today, but it also might fail tomorrow. Conditions change; the process itself might have a weakness that you only just noticed; you may suddenly realize there’s a better way. So again, even though it’s working now, you have to keep an eye on it.
The product or service that you’re offering may be selling well today, but not tomorrow. This is one of the reasons running a business is so fascinating. It’s never boring. The way customers buy doesn’t change a whole lot from generation to generation (except when highly disruptive technologies – like the web – come along), but what customers buy can literally change overnight. The item that was in style and popular five months ago can be old and tired now. The product that everyone was buying can be pushed aside within a few weeks, when a better, highly marketed product comes along. You can’t rest on your laurels, ever. You have to be willing to change your product or service to more perfectly meet customer needs and desires.
The systems you’re using this week – especially in this age of software-driven businesses – might not serve your needs as well as another could, a week from now. There is no such thing as a perfect system; just the act of using it every day will uncover “gotchas” and deficiencies that you will have to work around, and if the problem becomes too much of a roadblock, you’ll have to replace the system.
Of course, it doesn’t help that software itself changes, thanks to updates and “new and improved versions,” which can literally ruin a perfectly good system overnight. That feature or function that you were relying on so completely might disappear, thanks to programmers who don’t understand how or why people use their programs. I’ve had that happen to me many times, to the point where I have come to expect it and am constantly on the lookout for replacements to whatever we’re using.
Back to persistence. We make our own success; that’s yet another reality that isn’t taught much in schools.
Success comes from doing the right thing the right way, over and over. And you can’t do it over and over if you give up. In order to succeed in business – and in life – you can’t ever give up.
When you decide you are going to persist, no matter what, setbacks become less and less important over time.
Sure, you admit that there’s a problem, but that problem has no power over you.
You just face it, ask yourself what you should do next, and you set out to do it.
You don’t waste a single moment freaking out. It’s a total waste of time and energy, and will only keep you from solving the problem. Plus, it makes the problem bigger in your mind, which only makes things worse. And, the truth is, there is always a solution.
What I just said about how you see a problem is an example of healthy perspective. How we see life determines how well we succeed at living. If we see life as a burden we must carry, we will be forever stooped over and discouraged and beaten down, until we die. That’s no way to live. That, in fact, is a life wasted.
If we think everyone is out to get us, or that we never have any luck, or that we are somehow less lovable or important than others, we won’t be striding confidently into every situation. Instead, we will be handicapped by our own attitude before we even start. We will be mentally and spiritually going into the fight with both hands tied behind our backs.
Make no mistake: Life is filled with struggles. But it’s also filled with incredible, breathtaking joy; deep moments of satisfaction for a job well done; laughter and love. Because we are born with free will, and regardless of the circumstances we’re born into, we get to decide how we are going to view life, the good and the bad.
You can struggle with this concept your whole life, or realize it when you get old, which is, again, no way to live. Or, you can decide that you’re going to look positively on life from this point forward, one single moment at a time.
Did your computer just crash? OK, that’s too bad. Have you been backing up your work online or onto another drive, every hour? Do you have a backup computer that you can turn to and go right back to work? Have you been saving a portion of every check that comes in, so that when your computer crashes, you have enough money to buy a new one or get the old one fixed?
What does all this have to do with perspective? If you accept that life has its struggles, and that bad stuff happens, you will make sure you always have a way out of those common struggles. Computers crash, we all know it. So that’s a good opportunity for you to face that fact and take action. Things happen that will require spending money, we all know that, too. Yet another opportunity to put a little bit aside, every time some comes in, so that when Something Big Happens, you can pay for it without much sacrifice and keep moving ahead.
Of course, if you do these common-sense things, your own perspective will be happier and lighter, because you will know that you are not going to be in real trouble when these things do happen. My husband and I used to joke about the “wolf at the door,” and I can tell you that it’s a really good feeling when you have saved enough where the wolf isn’t at the door; in fact, he’s miles away bothering someone else.
So far, we’ve talked about perspective as a decision, where you decide that you are not going to fail, and that you’re going to be positive. And we’ve talked about it as a plan, where you take action ahead of time, so that when something bad happens, you’re prepared and it doesn’t hurt you as much.
The last part of perspective is twofold; you take a wider view, and then you decide what to do next.
People who take a narrow view of things are always less happy than those who take a wider view. A narrow view focuses on one thing – yourself, someone else, or some thing:
- “This always happens to me!”
- “How could he do that, the &*()^!”
- “These things always break!”
A wider view, with the “what next” aspect added in, would be more like this:
- “OK, this has happened twice now. There’s a pattern here, and if I figure out what it is, I can keep it from happening again.”
- “Seems like this person is determined to behave this way. What can I do to make sure it doesn’t affect me going forward?”
- “This thing has broken more than once. What should I be using instead, or how can I avoid using this type of thing going forward?”
Taking a wider view, and focusing on the solution instead of obsessing about the problem, will not only make you more effective, it will make you more valuable to others.
People who buy things from other people look for this kind of effectiveness. When they see it, they love it. They want it. They will look for ways to do business with you, even if what you’re selling isn’t exactly what they set out to buy.
I can’t stress enough how much of a difference this will make in your financial life, whether you own your own business or work for someone else.
Once you have decided you won’t ever give up, and your perspective is wide-ranging and focusing on your future actions, it’s time to carry them out. This is where personality comes in.
Can you change your personality? Absolutely. Why would you? Because there are ways to get things done that work better than other ways.
I’m not talking about manipulation or deception. On the contrary, I’m talking about being honest with yourself and others, but being courteous and caring as you do so.
Recently we ordered a washing machine from Home Depot to replace one that was so old it was about to beat itself to death while it was spinning. The company we bought it from was supposed to deliver it 4 days later, in a certain time window. We got a call the night before from an recorded voice, confirming the delivery arrangements, and saying someone would call when they were 30 minutes away.
The time came and went. No call, no washing machine. I called Home Depot, and talked to a customer service person, who kept me on hold for more than an hour while checking with the delivery company.
I was then promised another delivery date. Same thing happened. In fact, the same thing happened 5 or 6 times (I lost count) over a 4-week period. Finally I wrote an email to the CEO of Home Depot, copying others, and within a few days I had a washing machine. (One lesson: Don’t hesitate to escalate.)
I tell you this story to point something out. At no time during that whole process – talking to a number of customer service agents – did I get mad at the customer service agents, or even the “executive escalation manager” in corporate headquarters who helped me finally get a machine. It wasn’t their fault, after all – the process was broken, not the people – and each one of them was always polite. Because I was nice to them, they went out of their way to try to help.
We come into the world and either add to it or subtract from it. If we are surly and rude and mean, always demanding our “rights,” no one will help us gladly. If, on the other hand, we are always pleasant and kind, almost everyone we encounter will do everything they can to help.
Your personality – how you interact with others – is completely in your control. I don’t care what you’ve been through; I don’t care where you come from; I don’t care about your race, religion, age, gender, sexual preference, financial status, or even your health.
Every time you are in a situation where you will interact with another person, you have a choice. You can be nice, or not.
Being nice means that when you look back on your life, you will be able to smile and know that you did your best, and that you made the world a better place just because of how you treated others. That alone is a major accomplishment.
As I said at the beginning of this article, being successful in business is directly related to being successful in life. We spend the bulk of our time working; so if this part of your life is successful, it will affect the other parts of your life as well. If you are persistent, have a good perspective, and are pleasant during your working hours, you will be more inclined to be that way with your family and friends.