Mount Everest North Face as seen from the path to the base camp, Tibet. Español: Cara norte del Monte Everest vista desde el sendero que lleva al campo base en el Tibet (China). Français : Face nord du Mont Everest vue du chemin menant au camp de base. Tibet. Italiano: Faccia Nord del monte Everest vista dal sentiero che porta al campo base in Tibet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“Success is knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your maximum potential, and sowing seeds that benefit others.”
– John C. Maxwell
S – Strategies don’t always work
There is no way for us to tell what the future holds. Some people make a living out of making bold predictions, but the truth is no one can be on target all the time. Therefore, concentrate on the present. I remember my Internal Medicine professor and mentor, Dr. Aristeo Eslava, telling his students this: First year students must become second year, second year must become third year, third year students must move on to clerkship, clerks must graduate to internship, and interns must take the board exams and pass. Don’t focus too far into the future. Focus on the tasks today and let tomorrow’s worries be tomorrow’s worries.
Another reason for not planning too far out is because today’s world is changing fast. Ten years ago, mobile technology was just about mobile phones and texting. Today, we can form social networks using our phones or tablet computers. The development has implications on marketing (you no longer have to spend too much on TV ads to introduce a product or service), medicine (non-physicians can now have access to medical information without going to a medical clinic), and education (a student can quickly check out your sources from the internet while delivering a lecture). We all have to make quick adjustments, depending on what happens to our environment.
The key strategy, however is to follow your interests. Select a career which will motivate you to excel for the rest of your life, instead of making a choice based on the promise of high income or prestige. Ask yourself what you find meaningful and enjoyable, and stick to it no matter how the tide turns. Who knows, you may discover a hidden talent that distinguishes you as a cut above the rest.
(If you need help on how to form a strategy for success, John C. Maxwell’s book, “Your Road Map to Success”, may be of help.)
U – Unselfishness is key
Success is about providing value to others, not just for yourself. Most successful people improve their own lives by improving other people’s lives. As Zig Ziglar likes to say, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
Stop focusing on yourself and start focusing on others. The great entrepreneurs know this, constantly churning out products and services that solve other people’s problems. Bill gates gave us the Windows operating system, Steve Jobs created the iPad and iPhone, and Mark Zuckerberg keeps us all connected through Facebook. They found ways to address our problems and desires, and it made them successful. If you are a physician, instead of thinking of ways to get more patients and referrals, find ways to become more accessible and accommodating to your patients. If you are a businessman, instead of looking for ways to monopolize the market, try to help the less fortunate people who really need your product service. Wealth and happiness comes to those who lose themselves in the service of others.
(If you need help on the unselfishness aspect, read chapter 14 of Zig Ziglar’s book “Better than Good”.)
C – Core competence is the focus
Back when I was in high school and college, I found myself studying things which I felt were useless. In an effort to make all students learn all that there is to learn, professors try to smother students with an overload of information, and hope students retain this information. The result: students fail to develop their strengths, but they learn to cover their weaknesses in order to pass.
Instead of working on your weaknesses, discover what your talents and skills are and focus on them. The best way to excel is to use your time in honing your strengths. What do you do consistently well? What gives you energy? What sorts of activities seem natural for you? Successful people capitalize on what they are good at.
However, you can only do this once you have already proven your competence as a generalist. Show diligence and discipline first in simple things, and eventually, people will trust you with more challenging assignments that maximize your abilities. If you are a physician with a goal to become the best neurosurgeon in the world, be a good general physician first who does an adequate history and physical examination. It is best to master the basics first, then to move on to more specialized functions later on.
(If you need help on being more focused on your career, read “The Power of Focus” by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Les Heswitt.)
C – Continuous craving for greatness is required
Do you really want to be rich? Is being a professional basketball player your ultimate dream? Is it your desire to conquer Mount Everest? These cravings and desires need lots of motivation to be realized, but most likely, the motivation must come from within. According to Daniel Pink, autonomy, mastery, and purpose are needed in order to stay hungry. Autonomy means that one is given the leeway to pursue the means to complete one’s work. Mastery is about desire, and this desire can be fueled by working on something that is challenging. Purpose means having a deeper meaning for doing something – and it often involves doing it for others.
Bill Gates wanted the personal computer to be maximized and utilized by everyone so they could be more productive, and it has made him rich. Michael Jordan wanted to increase basketball’s popularity worldwide, and it was this thought that made him play exceptional basketball, because he wanted to become a global ambassador for the sport. Romy Garduce wanted to become the first Filipino to conquer Mount Everest, and he did it at a time when the country was craving for success in whatever field due to the country’s recent disasters and calamities. Craving for something intrinsically is ultimately the best way to succeed.
(If you want to know the keys to motivation, get your hands on Daniel Pink’s “Drive”.)
E – Endurance is a must
You might be able to name someone with lots of talent. These talented individuals may not achieve greatness because they have no desire to invest time to practice and get better. When there are obstacles, they easily give up. Talented people get upstaged by people with less talent but with more determination.
According to Irving Berlin, “Talent is only a starting point…you need to keep working on that talent.” The choices one makes will create the difference between average and excellence. Do things not to get an external reward like cash, praise, or a promotion – do things because you love doing it. The more intrinsically motivated you are, the more likely you are to persist in times of trouble.
(Perseverance is needed to sustain talent. Read on it from chapter 7 of John C. Maxwell’s “Talent is Never Enough“.)
S- Slip-ups are bumps, not road blocks
Too many people spend their time avoiding mistakes. They are so concerned about being told that they are wrong. In the medical profession, for instance, the focus is often to avoid failure for fear of ridicule. But most successful people make mistakes, because they are trying to move out of their comfort zones. Each time they fail, they get better and move closer to excellence.
In today’s world, it is extremely risky not to take risks. We need to do things that no one else has done in order to set us apart from the crowd. Think of what could have happened if Michael Jordan passed on those game-winning shots, the Wright brothers packed their bags when their flying instrument did not get off the ground, or if John Pemberton never accidentally blended carbonated water instead of plain water to his syrup concoction to make Coca-cola.
(There is no better way to learn how to turn mistakes into learning opportunities than John C. Maxwell’s “Failing Forward”)
S – Stamp your signature in your final sentence
What do you like people to remember you for? Think about your sentence and use it to navigate your life. Make a difference.
Manny Pacquiao is probably the best boxer in history. He has riches beyond his wildest dreams, and is on his way up in his political career. Yet today, he has realized his limitations, and he does not just want to be remembered as a boxer and politician. He is now into studying the Bible, because he says he wants to plant seeds in heaven this time, which will last for eternity.
Manny is right. When you have everything, you tend to go back to that One True Thing – satisfying your Creator. It does not matter how much you earn, but more importantly, it is essential to know how much you learn, and how you are able to translate that learning to benefit your fellowmen. The Lord has provided us a “leakage” as to what he will ask us during the “Final Exam” when we reach the end of our days (See Matthew 25:31-40).
(The book “Halftime” by Bob Buford is a great read on how to move from success to significance.)