Category Archives: Improvement process

The Story of Success

The Beginning
1: Know thyself.
2: Try everything.
3: What is your vision?
4: Confront your fears.
5: Start!

The Journey
6: You will stumble!
7: Try again.
8: Find your path.
9: Remember your vision.
10: Enjoy the scenery.

The Process
11: Make it a habit.
12: Find a partner.
13: Track your effort.
14: Never give up!

The Destination
15: Reach for understanding.
16: Mentor others.
17: There is no end.

The paradox of control

We own our own lives. Every action, thought, choice, decision, or path we take is of our own doing. At the same time, each of us is subject to the ever- present challenges and forces external to our own existence.

So is there a meritocracy? Or is there simply luck? The simple truth is that both are true. If you are faster you will win the race. If you are taller, you will win the rebound. Or will you? As much as height improves your chances of being a basketball success, a quick review will turn up dozens of height- challenged basketball successes. Similar efforts can generate lists of business successes who started out dirt poor, literary giants with poor education, and other heroes who had no business succeeding.

So what is the point of this? The clear take-away from this paradox is this: we can choose to improve our circumstances no matter what the situation. And that is the greatest truth. We cannot possibly dictate the circumstances that created our existence, but we can absolutely dictate our respond to those circumstances. Instead of glowering at the unfair past that dumped us where we now stand, we can turn to face the future and make it our own.

Walt Disney’s father discouraged his cartooning and drawing. Disney’s first business partner stole his first cartoon character, and poached every one of his employees except Ub Iwwerks, his first hire. Despite these challenges, he persevered, kept moving forward, and made his life his own. Beethoven went deaf. But instead of choosing another career, he stuck with music and composition, and wrote nearly 100 more compositions before he died. Michael Jordan was kicked off of his high school basketball team because he wasn’t good enough. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, he used the frustration of denial to motivate his practice.

Everyone has valid excuses to fail. But the paradox of success is recognizing those reasons, and either addressing them, solving them, or simply ignoring them. Our lot is miserably unfair. Forgive the past. It cannot be changed. Face the future; it flows towards you now.

Overall happiness – part of success?

Although my primary focus is in motivating success, the following article discusses how to achieve happiness – clearly part of a successful life! One could define success as simply being happy with life, a strong point could be made that generally happy people are actually more successful at any given task. So, how to be happy? Once again, we see some decent advice coming from real research and not new age baloney.

The article (link) discusses methods to improve one’s long term happiness by reviewing, before bed, each day’s “happy moments” and the reasons for the happy feeling.

 “As a motivational speaker and executive coach, Caroline Adams Miller knows a few things about using mental exercises to achieve goals. But last year, one exercise she was asked to try took her by surprise.

Every night, she was to think of three good things that happened that day and analyze why they occurred. That was supposed to increase her overall happiness. Miller was assigned the task as homework in a master’s degree program. But as a chronic worrier, she knew she could use the kind of boost the exercise was supposed to deliver.

She got it.

“The quality of my dreams has changed, I never have trouble falling asleep and I do feel happier,” she said.

Results may vary, as they say in the weight-loss ads. But that exercise is one of several that have shown preliminary promise in recent research into how people can make themselves happier — not just for a day or two, but long-term. It’s part of a larger body of work that challenges a long-standing skepticism about whether that’s even possible.

The article then discusses the work of Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania (whose work led to the “think of three happy things” idea) and psychologist Ed Diener of the University of Illinois. These researchers believe that emotions such as happiness are malleable, and thus improvable, with the proper tools, and they are working to discover these tools.

I have long believed that an individual’s emotional state and mental resiliency are huge factors in determining their success and general course in life and it is delightful seeing these researchers working towards an understanding of these important life factors.

How can you drive your potential to improve?

You can drive your potential to improve by understanding your goals and motivation for improvement.


You must understand your goals, your real “know thyself” goals, to understand your destination for success. In other words, you must understand your destination if you are going to make any progress on getting there. This is the “what” of what you are doing.

At the same time you must also understand your true “know thyself” motivation for success. This is the “why” of why anything is done. Our motivation might be internal or external, physical or emotional, altruistic or pride… no judgment on the driver but failure to recognize and acknowledge your own specific motivation(s) will limit your ability to harness this motivation to achieve your success.

Summary and/or Implications
You must understand your goals and motivation in oder to select the best tools to drive your success. Goals are the what, and motivation is the why.

Moving at the speed of change

The below graphic describes two key variables (focus of influence and speed of feedback) important to identifying which techniques are most useful to achieve success.

Focus of Influence
You can improve what you can change. If you are shooting free throws in basketball, you can change your stance, your strength, your movements, but you cannot change the ball size, the height of the basket, or the distance you must stand from the rim. In other words, all improvements in your free-throw percentage result from purely internal changes. Conversely, car salesmen market to the public, have no control over the quality of their product and can improve sales only by improving the quality of their interactions with potential clients.

Rate of feedback
Your ability to change is also dependent on the rate of receiving feedback on the success of your current methods. The quicker you receive feedback, the quicker you can modify your methods. Your golfing instructor stands watching and quickly suggests changes to your grip, your swing, that you can then immediately try to implement. Conversely, it may take weeks to shows results from a reputable weight loss program, and take from months to years to get useful feedback about book sales or career choices.

Coming up next, an overview of the recomended success techniques for these four main categories of situations.