“Everyone has talent, but ability takes hard work.” Michael Jordan
What’s your idea of making it big? Do you envy how superstars are portrayed in the media: living in a fabulous mansion, washing down caviar with champagne before surf and turf, golfing/schmoozing/partying with the rich and famous every day, having their image up on billboards promoting some product? That’s what it’s all about.
Or so you think.
This image of success is a media-created fantasy. It’s not the daily regimen of high achievers – far from it. If you read stories of those who have sustained success, note how hard they work. But they find a way to make their work a game, and they love playing it. Many of their day-to-day activities would seem trivial to most of us. Yet because they love their craft, top athletes, Hollywood stars and business moguls are willing to habitually do everything it takes to win.
Since I’m a Chicago sports fan, Michael Jordan (featured prominently in the documentary The Last Dance on ESPN) is my favorite example of “non-glamorous success.” During the championship years of the Bulls in the 1990s, Jordan played professional basketball at an unmatched level.
Whose life was more interesting during that period – yours, or his?
Your immediate answer might be his. But if you dig a little deeper you’d find that during each basketball season, MJ was either playing in basketball games (which he dominated), practicing basketball (he was a notoriously tough practice player), working out (he was among the first to hire his own personal fitness trainer to work out with every morning), or traveling to another city to play basketball, practice basketball or work out – pretty exciting, huh? You might protest, “But what about all those cool commercials he was in? Wheaties, Gatorade, Nike, “It’s da shoes!'” My answer: Have you ever been on a photo shoot? It takes hours to set up a single shot, then often dozens of retakes of the same scene to get it right. Ain’t much glamour in that…
Are you willing to handle what I call “the boredom of success” – doing mundane things over and over again until you realize your goals? Or are you a “drama King/Queen?” Do you tend to create situations in your life that would make a good screenplay?
See if any of these scenes are familiar:
· Bad relationships – You always pick people who are “wrong” for you. Rather than smooth sailing, you and your partners seem to be on an emotional roller coaster ride. Makes for great highs and lows, but draws you away from staying focused.
· Poor health – You take a lot of sick days, and spend a lot of time talking about your latest malady – the treatment, the pills, the pain. Everybody wants to share their great-grandma’s home remedy with you.
· Angry confrontations with bosses, peers or reports – You know you’re right, dammit! You just wish other people wouldn’t be so dumb. You’re typecast as a hothead, one who just can’t seem to get along.
· Always being the “fall guy/girl” – Seems like whenever something hits the fan you’re always smack dab in front of the blades. You have a flair for disaster and take a hit like a pro. You get high ratings in the sympathy poll.
· Just missing out on promotions – Everybody else seems to be moving up, getting ahead, making more money – you somehow get left behind. “Poor me-itis” is always a great role to draw attention.
Notice I used the word “create” for the situations above – you may think these things “just sorta happen” to you. In fact you attract them by virtue of an unconscious need to stir up turmoil – you’re afraid your life would be boring without it. I call this “Irresponsibility 101” – but if you enjoy this kind of drama, it’s okay with me. (In the past I was nominated for Academy Awards in several of the above categories …)
To stop that movie, here are some of the qualities that allow winners to do the things that might seem ho-hum to you:
· Mission/purpose– Successful people are already champions in their own minds. Their sense of mission and purpose drives their every action. They see the end result so clearly each day that no task is too trivial to get there.
· Confidence/faith – They believe they have or can develop the skills necessary to first get to the top, then stay there.
· Routine as interesting – They make each effort of every day, however small, as all part of being a champ. They never shirk on the practice field – every sit up, every lift, every free throw is part of their “habit of success.” In your world that may mean getting up early to read your industry journals, networking with business associates at breakfast, responding to every call within 2 hours or volunteering for extra duty after hours. In my world, coaching my clients is endlessly interesting – I am challenged every day to come up with the right approach for each of them to fulfill their goals. This process sometimes takes months but each step holds my attention.
· Commitment to “be there” – Comedian Woody Allen had a great quote: “80% of success is just showing up.” Jordan in his prime virtually never missed a practice session, let alone a game. What NBA fan can forget his unbelievable performance against the Utah Jazz in game 5 of the 1997 finals where he led the Bulls to victory by scoring a game high 37 points despite being stricken with food poisoning? Not to compare myself to MJ, but since I began coaching full time in November of 1992 I have never taken a sick day. (What would I do at home – feel sorry for myself while watching the soaps and Jeopardy??? I’d rather talk to my clients …)
· Persistence – And they keep on keepin’ on. They know that the game of success is a marathon, not a sprint. In the words of Calvin Coolidge, “Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
This is subject you might not want to face. The day-to-day habits you’ll need to succeed are not particularly glamorous – they’re mostly work. If you can turn that work into play, you’ll defeat the boredom of success.