The closer you get to winning, the closer you are to losing. The closer you get to the end of the race, the less opportunity you have to make a difference. The final spurt rests on your prior forethought, planning and preparation.
When the moment comes, the time for thinking is gone. Reaction and instinct are all. The vacuum left by lack of preparation is quickly filled by angst and uncertain bravado (those who know they don’t know) or unbridled arrogance (those who don’t know that they don’t know). In the latter case, blind persistence can work out. Some are lucky for a while, supported by fortuitous circumstances.
In the long-term, there is no substitute for appropriate forethought – thinking about the task in advance, planning – anticipating the likely progression of events, and preparation – practising what one will have to do, in advance.
Everyone knows the truth in this. Everyone smirks when someone utters those time-honoured phrases, “failure to plan is planning to fail”, “proper planning prevents poor performance”, and “planning is the only shortcut to success”, yet we continue to wing it whenever we run into a little time pressure.
Behind the façade of outrageously good results, or spontaneous elevation to stardom, or overnight success, is the hard slog of forethought, planning, and preparation.
At this point, some of you are thinking of the examples that disprove the idea - that all success is the result of hard work. If you have the worldwide pond to observe, if you Google success, I’m sure you can find some genuine examples where people have achieved great things without an appropriate investment of effort. After all, someone has to win the lottery, every week. It could be you, but don’t turn off the alarm clock just yet. The vast majority of people will die without ever winning a major prize from a game of chance.
Paying the price
A large and successful Company had ceased to be successful. Profitability had ebbed away and shareholders were beginning to sell up. The share price was falling rapidly. Try as they did, the directors could not understand the problem. Managers made many excuses for the falling sales and spiralling costs. They promised that results would soon return to normal but things continued to get worse.
The directors called in all manner of experts for advice and none could solve the problem. Soon the directors would have to start cutting costs by slashing budgets and making people redundant. The spectre of a downward spiral loomed.
When yet another consultant approached the managing director, he was unimpressed by her lack of credentials and track record. He almost dismissed her out of hand. She claimed that she could tell him how to fix the problem, just as all the others had. For some reason he let her stay and explain. In response to his invitation, she said that he must first agree the fee.
He was amused. She asked for £250,000.
“What will you do for £250,000?” he said.
“Tell you how to fix the problem.” she replied.
“How can you possibly justify £250,000 for a half hour consultation?” he exclaimed.
She explained, “it has taken me all of my life to come by this knowledge.”
There are a few gems of advice that are repeated, over and over. Anyone can use them to increase their chances of achieving something fulfilling, outstanding, astonishing, or original. You will have heard or read of these principles before. You may have rediscovered them yourself and taught them to others. Still I think they bear repeating. These are the secrets of exercising free will.
1. Have a definite purpose
If there is such a thing as free will, it exists within our ability to focus on a particular desired outcome and our willingness to sacrifice, perhaps sacrifice everything else, in pursuit of it’s attainment. Without a definite overriding purpose, that raises our passion whenever we think of it, we are lost amongst a myriad of distractions.
2. Make a plan then keep reviewing it, updating it, and connecting it with reality
Reasons for not doing something that you want to accomplish include not knowing how to do it; thinking it is too big to tackle right now; feeling it might be unpleasant, and wanting to do it perfectly. Forethought, planning, and preparation diminish all of these obstacles. If you don’t know how to do it, break it up into a series of simpler tasks. If it’s too big, break it up into a series of smaller projects. Don’t try to eat the whole Elephant at once. If you feel it might be unpleasant, break it up into small doses. If you want to do it perfectly, the same advice applies. Complex and lengthy tasks become light steps if you break them up. As Lao Tzu said, ’a journey of a thousand miles, begins beneath ones feet’.
3. Regularly push yourself beyond your comfort zone
We cannot become something we are not worthy of being. Those who sustain financial independence have developed the necessary abilities. Those who attract the resources necessary to achieve great things have learnt how to do so. Those who have fashioned themselves into the kind of person who makes things happen, make things happen. Luck has nothing to do with it, unless you want to wait for that lottery win.
4. Minimise the drudgery
If you are pursuing a definite purpose that you are passionate about, most preparation is fun. Some things are difficult to fit in. Other things may involve a long slog doing something that requires mental and physical toughness. Once again, apply the three diamond edged tools – forethought, planning, and preparation to maximise efficiency and minimise the impact of dreary tasks. As Voltaire wrote, “No problem can stand the assault of sustained thinking”.
Achieving a sales target is a definite purpose. It is also, usually, a problem to solve. Organisations that operate in a competitive environment must continually improve, if only to maintain the status quo. Sales targets always go up. There is usually a gap between what will happen naturally and what a sales person must achieve. Working harder only offers a limited return, often offset against quality of life. The difference between failure and success is thinking. Forethought, planning and preparation are the tools of the thinker and the means of exercising free will. First, there has to be a dream, then a plan, and then the will to pursue it to the end.