Danger. Danger.

This is the end of the line for most folks. This is where the cart goes off the track.

Despite the most heartfelt resolutions, despite whatever the best intentions might have been, most folks give up on their New Year’s promises to themselves… right about now.

Not because they didn’t mean what they said.

Not because they didn’t want to change… because they did.

Not because they don’t have dreams for a better life… because they do.

But because life gets in the way.

I know. I was a single dad for a dozen years raising three young boys. I would get up (too late) in the morning, run around getting dressed, getting the kids up, finding the lost socks, and the lost homework, making the lunches, packing the lunches, unpacking and re-packing the back-packs, running the kids to school, tearing off to my office, arriving (too) late to gather up my files, speeding off to court, tying my tie in the rearview mirror and balancing the coffee in my lap (and spilling it), getting the call from daycare to come back because the kid had a 103º fever or head lice or both, scheduling parent-teacher meetings in between client calls, rushing off to soccer practice, making dinner, mitigating the fights, helping with the homework, returning emails and phone calls, and falling into bed exhausted and depleted… only to wake up the next day and do it all over again.

I know.

But change can happen. (I know this too.) What you really, really want in your heart matters. Your hopes and dreams and aspirations matter. They are the call of your Spirit, the Divine within you, to live your best life; to share those gifts that are yours and yours alone to share with the world in the most perfect way possible.

And it’s not too late. (It’s never too late.) Yes, January may be over. But the canvas of this New Year still awaits you.

Here’s what’s true: All you need to do is apply a very basic success principle, one of the easiest of all success principles. Take tiny, tiny steps.

  • At just 1 pound a week, you’ll still lose more than 40 pounds this year
  • At just 1 page a day, you’ll have well over 300 pages for your book
  • At just 1 watercolor a week, you could mount an entire show
  • One job application a day is 30 in a month
  • One extra sales conversation every single day might double your sales

Take that tiny step today. Just for today. And then do it again. And again the next day.  Small steps magnified by time leading to magnificent results.

But today, just think about this day. And take just one tiny step forward.

Remember, races are run one stride at a time; businesses built one product at a time, one customer at a time, one sale at a time; mountains are climbed one step at a time; novels written one sentence at a time; symphonies written one measure at a time; and cathedrals built over generations one stone at a time. editorial

Go back to the beginning of the year, and remember why it was that you wanted to set out on your path. Reclaim that grand vision of that perfect life that is yours.

In every moment of danger, there is also opportunity.

Opportunity still waits for you.

It’s Your Job

Sweet to look at. But sullen and churlish.

“Theeese is not my jhob. Does theeese look like my jhob?” she snarled with her thick Russian accent.

I had been two days in the Hermitage, that grandest of all museums in St. Petersburg. Now nearly blind and disoriented, I had made the mistake of (politely) asking the woman behind the concession stand for directions.

She turned her attention back to ‘concession stand work;’ giving directions to tourists was clearly not her jhob.

I recalled that moment from Russia, with love, the other day when I called my ophthalmologist’s office to ask whether a particular test was going to be covered by my medical insurance.

Confronted with the question, the receptionist/nurse at first feigned confusion; then frustration; then disdain.

“You’ll have to call your insurance company,” she sniped. That is not my job!

As if she had never, ever been asked an insurance question before in her entire life.

When I probed just a little bit further, she abruptly stated that she would ‘remove me from the schedule.’ And hung up.

(Of course, it has crossed my mind to send my ophthalmologist a copy of this blog.)

If we are going to survive… and thrive in business (and in life), that approach is unsustainable.

Everything must be our job.

Southwest Airlines seeks to delight its customers.

As does Zappos.

Did you know that the #1 core value of Tony Hsieh, founder of that billion-dollar shoe and clothing empire, and best-selling author of Delivering Happiness, is to deliver WOW to his customers through service? Its 10 hour 29 minute customer service call is legend. The company’s history is replete with examples of its employees going far beyond the call of ‘duty.’

Standing on a rainy street in Talkeetna, Alaska, with 350 pounds of dirty climbing gear, we could find no taxi. My wife ran across the road to use the phone to call. The woman behind the register at the diner handed my wife the keys to her own car to use to shuttle our gear from the curb to the train station a mile down the road. Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 7.35.34 PM

Not because it was her job. But because she cared.

Paradoxically, in this Internet age more than ever, connection matters. Relationship matters.

Service matters.

And every single one of us is called to serve; to show up in the world with a servant’s heart.

It is our job.

FMU

We were walking along the trail, in the rain, as I remember it, carrying on an erudite conversation.

We had been a week on Kilimanjaro, now filled with vast – and half-vast – ideas.

Bob articulated a principle that I found absolutely fascinating… and compelling.

“Where did you learn that?” I asked.

“I made it up,” Bob said.

Further on down the trail, he shared another idea, novel and exciting. “Where did you hear that one?” I asked.

He laughed. “I made that up too!”

Much later, thoroughly exhausted, well fed, and more than a bit lubricated by local brew, we sat around the dinner table talking expansively into the evening.

Plots and plans for the future; strategies and ideas.

Bob shared a concept that I thought was so cool.

“Where did you discover that?” I asked.

He threw his head back – and roared: “I just fucking made it up.”

We quickly branded around a new ‘educational institution:’ FMU.

And why not? All great original ideas spring forth from the emptiness of the Infinite Universe. (Indeed, all of creation.) Sure, we’re informed by a body of knowledge that has gone before us, influenced by our surroundings and impacted by culture. But it is from the limitlessness of our imaginations that wonder arises; magic from the recesses of our minds. Think Morse code, micro-chips, cell phones and robotics, not to mention space travel, light bulbs, the Sistine Chapel and the David.

It’s all made up! Every bit of it.

Including who we think (and say) we are.

Our identities. We make those up too.

But then – so often – we forget.

And get stuck; hung up on ‘something’ that we perceive to be permanent, ‘something’ someone told us once: good, bad, achiever, loser, gifted, child of an alcoholic, learning disabled. Or perhaps later, ‘hung’ on a job that became who we thought we were: teacher, lawyer, manager, mechanic, artist, entertainer.

We forget that we made them up to start with… and that, at any time, we get to change them.

We always get to change them.

That to change, to evolve, IS the path to success; the way to prosperity, freedom and fulfillment.

And that failure to change is death.

Mahatma Gandhi suggested: Be the change, become the change you seek.

We make up who we are. Why not make up something good?

And if you’re ever looking for that post-graduate degree, don’t forget good ol’ FMU.

Be A Pig

So maybe you’ve made some New Year’s resolutions. Or set some goals.

AND, you’ve decided: This year is going to be different. This year, you’re not going to quit. This year, you’re going to keep going. This year you’re going to follow through.

You’ve decided that you’re NOT going to let another year slide by!

You’ve actually written down your goals. You’ve wired in some new disciplines; you’ve established some new practices. Maybe you’ve even put in place some systems of support.

That’s awesome. Good on you!

But before you get all puffed up about your efforts, let me ask you a critical question: WHY are you doing what you say you want to be doing? Why have you made those resolutions? Why have you set the goals you’ve set?

Your ‘WHY’ is a critical component in determining whether you will be successful in the year ahead. Without a clear exciting purpose, without a compelling ‘why,’ you WILL fail.

You see, we are only motivated by two forces: pain; and pleasure. And for most of us, we need at least a modicum of pain (or a kick in the you know what) to move us out of our comfort zones… even if they are not terribly comfortable. A certain level of misery is necessary to move us out of a bad relationship or out of a job with a terrible boss or out of a financial situation that’s just not working.

But to sustain forward progress, we need to have a clear vision; we need to be able to see something compelling and promising, something alluring and exciting, just beyond the horizon. We need that ‘pull’ in order to overcome the resistance, surmount the odds and go the distance.

And our ‘whys’ need to be ours; and ours alone.

Do you know your ‘WHY?’ If you don’t, STOP right now. Take some time; get clear.

And then, when you really know your ‘why,’ it is essential to ask yourself this question: Are you truly committed to your goals? Or are you just interested?

There’s an old military adage that if you want to ‘take’ the island, you’ve got to burn the boats. You need to cut off all means of retreat.

If you’re really going to succeed, you’ve got to be ‘all in.’ You must have the mindset that you will go the distance, no matter what.

This is the rocket fuel of goal setting and goal achievement: Being all in, completely invested, cutting all means of escape back to your old bad self. To really succeed, you must have the level of commitment that says: “I will do whatever I need to do to get there. No matter what.” bacon-and-eggs

There’s that old story about the relative contributions of the pig and the chicken to a breakfast of bacon and eggs. The chicken is ‘interested.’ The pig committed.

So are you committed to your outcomes this year? Or just merely interested?

Be the pig. Go all in.

The Secret to Tripping Out

Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement. -W. Clement Stone

Imagine, if you will, that you’re about to embark on a long trip. Maybe it’s a drive across the country; maybe it’s a tour of the grand capitols of Western Europe; maybe it a sabbatic leave in the South Pacific.

Now, imagine imagining that trip; imagining that destination; picturing yourself walking down the cobblestone streets, climbing the Eiffel Tower, taking long strolls down those beautiful white sandy beaches.

Where did it begin?

Maybe you saw it in the travel section of the Sunday paper. Maybe you saw an ad in the window of a travel agency. Maybe it popped up on Facebook. But somewhere you saw an image, a description, a picture. Maybe it was just in your mind!

And you imagined yourself… there.

Then maybe you Googled a bit; popped onto Trip Advisor; or maybe you ran out to the bookstore for a Fodor’s or Lonely Planet Guide.

You got out some maps; went to the AAA; began to lay out the route.

If it’s a drive, you plotted your course, planned your stops, booked your overnights. You know where you’re going and what you want to see.

The car’s been tuned, the oil changed, the radiator checked.

On your GPS, you’ve locked in your waypoints. Your destination certain.

You’re good to go.

If you’re flying or cruising, you’ve bought the ticket. (It’s non-refundable.) You know where you’re landing; you know your ports of call. You’ve booked the hotels and reserved the excursions.

You know those little restaurants you want to visit, the museums you want to see, those sites and vistas you cannot miss.

You’ve got the clothes, the suntan lotion, the cameras, the cash, the credit cards, the traveler’s checks, the passport.

You’ve got it all laid out. It’s crystal clear. Treasure2

You can’t wait.

Because, you can see yourself, so clearly… right there.

Now, imagine, if you will, that you’re about to embark on a long trip.

It’s called 2014.

Where will your imagination take you? And what exactly do you need to do to get there?