Most of us have, deep at the center of our hearts, some things we would like to accomplish. But few of us dare to start on the journey. We sit around blaming our circumstances on others and making excuses for our shortsightedness, then we go to our graves with unfulfilled dreams.
Underneath it all, the real reason we don’t get the promotion, succeed in the business, or raise a happy, self-confident family is that we fail to prepare. We leave it to chance, hoping somehow things will turn out all right. We float on the ocean of life until we run aground and wreck ourselves.
No Excuses: It’s Up To You!
In 1983, I left Haiti with a Haitian Theater company to perform in Montreal, Canada. After a few appearances, I escaped from the troupe. Because the immigration department in Canada had no pity on immigrants, I faced the threat of going back to Haiti, and, believe me, that was not an option for me.
Instead I paid a truck driver to smuggle me into the United States.
I remember how I had to wedge myself underneath the tractor-trailer, between the rear tires, in a push-up position. I was covered with dust, smoke and ashes. I had cramps in my legs, and I was shaking. I wanted to give up. But when I remembered my family and my friends back in Haiti who were counting on me for help, I had to hold on.
I finally made it to what I call the Promised Land — America. The truck driver literally dumped me in Brooklyn, New York. I was excited on one hand and confused on the other. It was as if I were swimming in a sea of change, and I had just two choices: Swim, or die.
My only possessions consisted of one pair of pants, two shirts, and five dollars. In addition to that, I was unable to speak English. The only thing I knew for sure was that life was never going to be the same again!
I share my story with you to impress one thing upon you: No matter where you start in life, you can become a leader the moment you realize that if it’s going to be, it’s up to you.
Five Ways to Prepare Yourself for Success
1) Become an Avid Reader
“Good leaders are good readers” —Jim Rohn
Abraham Lincoln once said that if he were given eight hours to chop down a tree, he would spend six hours sharpening his ax and two hours chopping down the tree. That is one of the true characteristics of a leader. We all should take time to sharpen our axes — by reading!
Believe it or not, the average American reads just one book a year. What that means to you and me is that if we only read one book a month in our field, we will be twelve years ahead of the average person!
The late Earl Nightingale, in his book, The Strangest Secret, said that if we read for two hours every day on any subject, in five years, we would become national experts on that particular subject. And in ten years, we would have the equivalent of a Ph.D! To me, reading quality books is the ultimate joy in life.
It rekindles my hope and takes me to new heights. It rejuvenates me and gives me a boost. We can no longer make excuses about not having time to read. Today we can even buy most books on tape, thereby turning our cars into a university on wheels while commuting to and from work!
On the road to success, we must gather a lot of information through quality reading.
2) Network with Successful People
In America, there is an association for continuing education in every line of business. If we want to meet the movers and shakers directly, we have to become joiners. It’s amazing how accessible the “big dogs” are when we attend the networking events.
It’s like being a small fish in a big pond. It allows us to bypass the gatekeepers — the assistants — and go straight to the decision-makers.
The best way to find out which associations you can join is to go to the library and ask for the Encyclopedia of Associations. Another great way to network is to join the local Chamber of Commerce. First, however, you must learn how to network and build strong referral systems.
There are many books on the subject. One of them is by Harvey Mackay: Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.
3) Find a Mentor
Every great athlete, celebrity, and business executive can point to a mentor — a coach. They each had people who helped them to get where they are. One of the best methods of preparation is to find a mentor — a person who has been there, done that, and has gotten the T-shirt — to guide you along the way.
Whether you want to move up in your company or establish a solid business of your own, a mentor can make a significant difference. And you don’t necessarily have to have just one mentor; you can have many. This may sound simple, but it is powerful!
No matter what line of business you are in, you need a coach — someone you talk with about your failures and successes, someone who can advise you. How do you find a mentor? Just ASK!
People normally love to talk about their successes and how they accomplished them. They are eager to help us if we courteously ask them. For many years I failed to put into practice the old advice in the Bible: “Ask and ye shall receive.” Don’t let that happen to you — ASK!
4) Attend Continuing Education Classes
Our minds are like leaky buckets; what we know is constantly dripping out. I read a story about a man who was working for a company for about twenty years. It seems like they always passed over him for promotions. Ironically, he had trained new hires who would eventually become his boss! One day he confronted the president of the company about the situation.
He told his boss that he was being treated unfairly, especially since he had had twenty years of experience with the company. The president sat the man down and told him, “No! You only have one year of experience repeated for twenty years.”
How long have you been in your line of business? Are you getting new knowledge, or are you applying old knowledge? If we are going to thrive and survive in these turbulent times, we must expand our minds.
And one of the best ways of expanding is to attend adult learning classes at the local colleges, universities, and technical schools. They are very affordable, and they also have flexible schedules. There are no excuses: IT’S UP TO YOU!
5) Find Time for a Quiet Reflection
The great philosophers, thinkers, scientists, and business gurus always find quiet time to be alone — to ponder, recharge, and flood their minds with images of their future goals. We should never be so busy chasing a dream that we are no longer able to visualize it in our minds.
There are times when the burdens are heavy, but this is when we need to enter our inner world and examine our lives. Socrates once said to his students, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Quiet reflection is a time to get to know the invisible power that sustains our lives. Starting today, take a few moments every day to reflect.
A Final Note for you.
I would love to meet you personally to find out what you are doing to prepare yourself for success. The old adage says that the road to success is always under construction. It is the same for our self-improvement. If you are not constantly adding new tools to your toolbox, you will always be where you are today.
I urge you to read, find a mentor, network with other leaders, and find time for a quiet reflection.
I wish you incredible success!