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The Inconvenient Truth of Success

by Ouida on March 15, 2008

I was having a conversation with a new member of my organization the other day. He is in management training and hates it. He got started in my business because he wants out and saw an opportunity for himself. I wanted him to work on his vision statement so that we could meet and map out a business plan to turn that vision into reality.

He asked, “Can I make a million dollars in 2 years with this business.” I, frankly, told him no, but he could replace his present income in 2 years or less, get out of the job he hates, and free up enough time to go on to make a million dollars.

Monday was his “day off” so he didn’t want to meet on his day off. The first stumbling block. He was treating a potentially wealth-generating business like a job with benefits complete with time off.

To quote Jim Rohn on jobs and business: “I work fulltime on my job and part time on my fortune!” He then goes on to say “profits are better than wages. With wages you can make a living, with profits you can make a fortune!”

It only stands to reason: If your daily work does not place you on the path to success, however you define it, then your time away from work must be devoted to the task of success if you are ever going to achieve it.

We all have goals and dreams, but if we peak under the covers of many of those goals and dreams, we have attached so many conditions to achieving them, that we make our goals and dreams little more than wishes.

I will be a millionaire (as long as it doesn’t interfere with nights out with the friends or the new episodes of Survivor and as long as I don’t have to change my financial habits). I’ll get that advanced degree (as long as I don’t have to change my schedule or take out student loans.) I’ll set up that savings account (when I have money left over). I’ll get in shape (as soon as I can find the time.)

All of these conditions underscore the truth of life…so few people achieve high levels of success because success is simply inconvenient. Earl Nightingale defined success as “the progressive realization of a worthy ideal” and therein lies the rub.

Progressive means to consistently move forward. What of life’s circumstances does not have the power to halt forward progress? The illness of a family member or pet, an unexpected life event, like job loss, death disability, fire or flood. A school play, the superbowl, doing the dishes, the plumber, the TV repair man, final exams…the list goes on.

Any circumstance that has the power to halt forward progress can also become the impetus for forward progress. A dear friend of mine continued to build her organization while her child was in the hospital with a cancer diagnosis. My friend moved to the town where her child lay in specialty care and continued to build her organization. Her child is in remission and my friend has created a six-figure residual income.

Harry Chapin embodied the fear I often hear expressed in his song… “Cats in the Cradle” The story of the man who loses the thing most precocious to him, time with his family, in the pursuit of his work. What I hear most often is…I won’t do this if this takes me away from my family…I spend so little time with them as it is. But that is often the point. We spend so little time with those we love no matter what we do. More often than not, we are living the “Cat’s in the Cradle” without ever doing a thing to change our circumstances.

Which brings us back to the Inconvenient Truth about Success. In order to achieve it, progress toward it must be continuous. In order to achieve it that progress must continue through those “precious moments” away from work.

The successful person has the following characteristics

1) A vision that is rooted in the future. Understanding that success is inconvenient, the successful person is always attached to a vision that pulls him or her forward.

2) A desire to find the shortest path forward. The successful person is more likely to partner with other like-minded people. People who may have needed skill sets to keep progress forward.

3) A sense of justice and fair play. The successful person always knows that success demands her price of admission and is eager to pay it.

4) A hunger for new skills. The successful person understands that new knowledge and new skills lay on the path forward.

5) A love of the game. The successful person understands that they are playing a game and as such he or she seeks to define the rules, learn the strategies and develop a team.

The desire for success is a seductive force in our society. More air and media time is devoted to information about success than perhaps any other subject, yet, the inconvenience of it is never discussed. Leaving people to look instead for the elusive new formula for success whenever they hit a stumbling block. There are signposts along the path for those who understand success’s Inconvenient Truth. The trick is to walk the path and keep your toes pointed forward.

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Well it finally happened…you have gone into business for yourself. Did you get tired of losing a third or more of your employment wages to the IRS? Did you wake up to the reality that you could do “it” better than your boss? Did you develop a better product that will change people’s lives? Did you decide you wanted the freedom of making and profiting from your own decisions? Did you decide you simply wanted to leave your mark upon the world?

Whatever motivated you to do it, you set foot on the first brick of the road that will become a lifelong journey. Many people equate the entrepreneurial journey as a journey from slavery to freedom.

What will happen to you on that journey?

Just as “Moses, Business and the 80/20 Rule” discussed how the Book of Numbers illustrates the Prieto Principle; The book of Numbers 13 and 14 also illustrates the entrepreneur’s journey. Yes, the story is over 5000 years old; yet, in speaking with entrepreneurs today its principles apply and are as fresh as if the story was written yesterday.

Let’s look at the summary of events that brings us to the book of Numbers. The Nation of Israel, laboring under the burden of slavery in Egypt cried out for freedom. They were freed in the most miraculous of ways: 10 plagues were visited upon the Nation of Egypt and when the Israelites were freed they were led, on dry ground, through the Red Sea. A pillar of cloud accompanied them by day and a pillar of fire by night. Their sandals never wore out and they ate manna from heaven.

Yet, when it came time to secure their freedom and take the land promised to them, they were not ready.

After an arduous journey through the desert, the Israelites arrived at the borders of the Promised Land. Finding it already occupied, Moses sent an exploration party, a representative from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, to explore the land and bring back a report. Two brought a positive report and recommended taking possession of the land. Ten of the party members brought a negative report: the land flowed with milk and honey but the current occupants were powerful and their cities were large. They recommended retreat.

Here is what happened next from Numbers 14 NIV: “‘That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” 10 But the whole assembly talked about stoning them.

20 The LORD replied…21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, 22 not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times- 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. 25 Since the Amalekites and Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn back tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea. [a]” 26 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: 27 29 In this wilderness your bodies will fall-every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me.

30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31 As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. 32 But you-your bodies will fall in this wilderness. 33 Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness. 34 For forty years-one year for each of the forty days you explored the land 36 So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it- 37 these men who were responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the LORD. 38 Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived.'”

What lessons can we learn from this?

1) Many people want freedom but few attain it. The reason for this can be summed up into one word: Uncertainty. The road to freedom requires that one learn to live with uncertainty. From our story, the 40-day journey across the desert from Egypt to the Promised Land was fraught with uncertainty. Uncertainty about the proper direction, the existence of God, the source of food; The inability of the Israelites to deal with that uncertainty led to needless delays and strife. When they finally did reach the promised land, their uncertainty of success caused them to retreat. Uncertainty, that bugaboo of progress. Will stop men in their tracks.

2) The person who makes the decision to journey forward is not the person who will complete the journey. The passage clearly says that Caleb had a different spirit than the majority of the congregation. He and Joshua were the only 2 of their generation who would enter the Promised Land. Developing that different spirit is the subject of the third and final article in this series: The Path to Developing A Different Spirit.

3) There is a certain death required to enter the Promised Land. That death may not be a physical death, but it is a death of old ideas, behaviors and beliefs. The message is quite clear here that unless that death occurs, there will be no entry into the Promised Land.

4) The road to freedom may be paved but it is not trouble free. The Israelites found the Promised Land occupied and realized that they would have to fight to attain what they had cried out for. The road to freedom demands that one be prepared to fight. Without that preparation slavery may appear preferable to freedom.

5) Following and remembering the signs are key. Every entrepreneur will remember moments of synchronicity when it seemed as though all was right with the world. The right contacts were made at the right time business boomed and then something happened. The savvy entrepreneur will remember what lay before as an indicator of what lies ahead. But most will not.

The journey of the entrepreneur is a journey of the spirit and the journey is exacting and uncompromising; yet it need not be a surprise. History as now as always provides clear signposts for the adventurer willing to set foot on the path to freedom.

Like most people I went to school to get an education and learn a profession. When I graduated and began working, I realized something was very wrong. The path that I thought would lead me to freedom was instead leading me into quicksand. I got out of the quicksand when I joined the Free Agent Nation.

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Moses Business and the 80/20 Rule

by Ouida on March 14, 2008

What is the 80/20 Rule?

More formally the 80/20 rule is also known as the Pareto Principle. To Quote Wikipedia: “The Pareto principle… known as the 80-20 rule, the law of the vital few…Business management thinker Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of income in Italy went to 20% of the population.”

We hear the 80/20 rule as it is applied to business and sales. Twenty percent of your employees produce 80% of a companies problems, 80% percent of your corporate sales are produced by 20% of your sales force and in network marketing, 80% of your profits may come from 20% of your distributors. We hear of it as it relates to wealth and wealth accumulation: 80% of the money is controlled by 20% of the people.

Joseph Duran was born in 1904 and he credited this principle to an economist who lived in the 1800’s. Is the Pareto Principle an abstract economics principle or is it a model of human behavior?

Going back an estimated 5000 years we see a beautiful example of the 80/20 rule in the Old Testament: Numbers 13 and 14. After an arduous journey through the desert, the Israelites arrived at the borders of the promised-land. Finding it already occupied, Moses sent an exploration party, a representative from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, to explore the land and bring back a report. Ten of the party members brought a negative report: the land flowed with milk and honey but the current occupants were powerful and their cities were large. They recommended retreat. Two brought a positive report and recommended taking possession of the land. Seventeen percent of the exploring party were in agreement with taking the land and 83% were opposed to taking the land. Two disparate courses of action though they were all members of the same exploration party and saw the same things. A curious thing happened, the 80% then went to the whole of the Israelites and caused them to abandon heart and not take the promised land. The Israelites were not able to take the promised land until the 80% and were gone.

There are 5 lessons here that can be applied to business

1) New Ideas will be Opposed: Business innovation and success are governed by vision. Yet in any corporate structure, the 80/20 rule describes human behavior: 80% of people will oppose a new idea concept or vision and 20% will support it.

2) The majority will seek to garner support for their opinion usually among those people who do not have all the facts, in this case the people who did not have direct experience with the promised land, and disrupt positive moves of the corporate body.

3) Facts alone will not persuade. All members of the exploration party went to the promised land. They all received the same facts, yet 10 of them did one thing with the facts they received and 2 did another. What they each did with the facts they received was colored by their vision and purpose.

4) Movement in any business is governed by vision; in order to move in a given direction, a company may have to shed the part of its work force that does not tap into the overall corporate vision. If 20% of the people at any given time catch the vision, the other 80% will find themselves vulnerable. I explore this concept further in my companion article, “Moses, Death and the Entrepreneur’s Journey”

5) Change is inevitable and necessary for growth in any organizational structure. In this story, the Israelites could only possess the land when the 80% who lacked vision had been replaced.

Using this model of human behavior and the lessons it teaches can allow any business owner, whether a free agent or the owner of a traditional business, to focus on the few strategies and the few key individuals that can bring a business success rather than attempt to persuade the majority of the rightness of a course of action.

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