Stop Trying to Get it Right
I take a deep breath and walk up to the podium and shake the conference moderator’s hand as the room full of accomplished leaders and decision makers, politely applaud at my introduction. I turn on my lapel microphone as I prepare to address the crowd. My eyes lock with a man’s eyes, probably twenty years my senior, as he leans forward in anticipation of my message. I break eye contact with him and glance out into the crowd gathered in the hotel conference room to hear me speak for an hour on the topic of “influence”. I’m not nervous, I’m excited and full of confidence, because I’m prepared to deliver a powerful message based on my life’s journey and a healthy foundation of mistakes I’ve made along the way.
I used to think influence was about being the smartest guy in the room, about having all the answers. I used to cringe when I got something wrong, especially in front of my peers. I worked hard to learn my chosen craft and would over prepare for meetings and presentations. I would get frustrated when my hard work failed to bear fruit in my life.
Intellectually I knew that failure was an integral part of success. I read all the books, attended lectures, and listened to business and motivational CDs in my car, but emotionally, I tried to lead a life devoid of failure and mistakes which led me to follow a risk averse path that stunted my growth and closed me off from opportunity.
The truth is, the most influential and impactful people in this world rarely get it right. Steve Jobs was a mess personally, yet he transformed the personal computing world, the music industry, and ushered in the smart phone revolution. John F. Kennedy boosted a nation on his young shoulders and gave us a reason to believe that we could be a better country, yet he lived a personal life full of deceit and lies. Abraham Lincoln was a professional failure on his path to his presidency. He lost more elections than he won, yet he was the central figure in abolishing slavery, the most heinous footnote in our country’s young history. I could list thousands of highly successful men and women that failed more than they succeeded, but are regarded as huge successes in their particular fields or professions. So what makes those people any different than us?
I believe there are four clear answers to that question that remain a constant among most highly successful people:
1. Focus – They focus on the few and disregard the many and work towards simplicity. When I study any person of success and evaluate their vital behaviors during their pinnacle of success, I found that they displayed an intense focus on the task at hand. They do not lead a balanced life for a period of time while they focus all their energy on a few, but powerful projects that could make a dent in the universe. Steve Jobs famously said, “That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”
2. Mindset – They are counter culture. John F. Kennedy was a young handsome man that brought life and energy to the presidency during a tumultuous time in our history. Although change was coming, there was still plenty of tradition in the political and social arenas. President elect, Kennedy, ruffled feathers and thumbed his nose at the traditionalist when he took his oath of office outdoors while not wearing a traditional hat that was expected when you were outdoors in a business suit. His critics criticized his attitude and lack of respect to the nation’s highest office, but Kennedy, with that small act of defiance signaled to the world and to his country that he represented change and a new era, and a new era is exactly what he delivered.
3. Association – They surround themselves with good people. No one and I mean NO ONE achieves anything of greatness on their own. Greatness is only achieved by a group of dedicated and talented people that are unified with one major goal in mind. Steve Jobs was the face of Apple, but his success came on the back of hundreds of talented and creative geniuses that united behind his vision and made his dreams a reality.
4. Passion – All men and women of influence lead with passion. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke with passion as he led our country through the civil rights movement. His passion for a better future for black American was contagious that spread like wildfire through our country. His passion ultimately proved to be the spark our people needed to exact lasting change for equality in America.
In the end, we are all human and failure is a part of the human condition that we all wish we could avoid, but take heart and know that as you fail and fail miserably, you are in good company! Every time you get something wrong, just smile and realize that you are one step closer to eventually getting it right and possibly changing the world in the process. What have you failed at lately? Does it matter? Just keep moving and you will get there!