The world we live in is the world we choose to live in, whether consciously or unconsciously. If we choose bliss, that's what we get. If we choose misery, we get that, too. As we learned in the last article, belief is the foundation of excellence. Our beliefs are specific, consistent organisational approaches to perception. They're the fundamental choices we make about how to perceive our lives and thus how to live them. They're how we turn on or turn off our brain. So the first step toward excellence is to find the beliefs that guide us toward the outcomes we want.
The path to success consists of knowing your outcome, taking action, knowing what results you're getting, and having the flexibility to change until you're successful. The same is true of beliefs. You have to find the beliefs that support your outcome - the beliefs that get you where you want to go. If your beliefs don't do that, you have to throw them out and try something new.
People are sometimes put off when I talk about "lies" of success. Who wants to live by lies? But all I mean is that we don't know how the world really is. We don't know if the line is concave or convex. We don't know if our beliefs are true or false. What we can know, though, is if they work - if they support us, if they make our lives richer, if they make us better people, if they help us and help others.
The word "lies" is used in this article as a consistent reminder that we do not know for certain exactly how things are. Once we know the line is concave, for example, we are no longer free to see it as convex. The word "lie" does not mean "to be deceitful or dishonest" but, rather, is a useful way to remind us that no matter how much we believe in a concept, we should be open to other possibilities and continuous learning. I suggest you look at these seven beliefs and decide whether they're useful for you. I've found them time and again in successful people. To model excellence, we have to start with the belief systems of excellence.
Remember the story of W. Mitchell? What was the central belief that helped him overcome adversity? He decided to take what happened to him and make it work for him in whatever way he could. In the same way, all successful people have the uncanny ability to focus on what is possible in a situation, what positive results could come from it. No matter how much negative feedback they get from their environment, they think in terms of possibilities. They think that everything happens for a reason, and it serves them. They believe that every adversity contains the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.
I can guarantee you that people who produce outstanding results think this way. Think about it in your own life. There are an infinite number of ways to react to any situation. Let's say your business fails to get a contract you had counted on, one that you were certain you deserved. Some of us would be hurt and frustrated. We might sit home and mope or go out and get drunk. Some of us would be mad. We might blame the company that awarded the contract, figuring they were a bunch of ignorant individuals. Or we might blame our own people for ruining a sure thing.
All of that might allow us to let off some steam, but it doesn't help us. It doesn't bring us any closer to our desired outcome. It takes a lot of discipline to be able to retrace your steps, learn painful lessons, mend fences, and take a good look at new possibilities. But that's the only way to get a positive outcome from what seems like a negative result. Take a moment to think again about your beliefs. Do you generally expect things to work out well or to work out poorly? Do you expect your best efforts to be successful, or do you expect them to be thwarted? Do you see the potential in a situation, or do you see the roadblocks? Many people tend to focus on the negative more than the positive. The first step toward changing that is to recognise it. Belief in limits creates limited people. The key is to let go of those limitations and operate from a higher set of resources. The leaders in our culture are the people who see the possibilities, who can go into a desert and see a garden. Impossible? What happened in Israel? If you have a strong belief in possibility, it's likely you'll achieve it.
This is almost a corollary belief to number one, and it's equally important on its own. Most people in our culture have been programmed to fear this thing called failure. Yet, all of us can think of times when we wanted one thing and got another. We've all flunked a test, suffered through a frustrating romance that didn't work out, put together a business plan only to see everything go awry. I've used the words "outcome" and "results" throughout this book because that's what successful people see. They don't see failure. They don't believe in it. It doesn't compute. People always succeed in getting sort of results. The super successes of our culture aren't people who do not fail, but simply people who know that if they try something and it doesn't give them what they want, they've had a learning experience. They use what they've learned and simply try something else. They take some new actions and produce some new results. Think about it. What is the one asset, the one benefit you have today over yesterday? The answer, of course, is experience. People who fear failure make internal representations of what might not work in advance. This is what keeps them from taking the very action that could ensure the accomplishment of their desires. Are you afraid of failure? Well, how do you feel about learning? You can learn from every human experience and can thereby always succeed in anything you do.
Mark Twain once said, "There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist." He's right. People who believe in failure are almost guaranteed a mediocre existence. Failure is something that is just not perceived by people who achieve greatness. They don't dwell on it. They don't attach negative emotions to something that doesn't work. Belief in failure is a way of poisoning the mind. When we store negative emotions, we affect our physiology, our thinking process, and our state. One of the greatest limitations for most people is their fear of failure. Dr. Robert Schuller, who teaches the concept of possibility thinking, asks a great question: "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?" Think about it. How would you answer that? If you really believed you could fail, you might take a whole new set of actions and produce powerful new desirable results. Wouldn't you be better off trying them? Isn't that the only way to grow? So I suggest you start realising right now that there's no such thing as failure. There are only results. You always produce a result. If it's not the one you desire, you can just change your actions and you'll produce new results and commit yourself to learning from every experience.
Belief # 3: Whatever happens, take responsibility.
Another attribute great leaders and achievers have in common is that they operate from the belief that they create their world. The phrase you'll hear time and again is, "I am responsible. I'll take care of it." It's not coincidental you hear the same viewpoint over and over. Achievers tend to believe that no matter what happens, whether it's good or bad, they created it. If they didn't cause it by their physical actions, maybe they did by the level and tenor of their thoughts. Now, I don't know if this is true. No scientist can prove that our thoughts create our reality. But it's a useful lie. It's an empowering belief. That's why I choose to believe in it. I believe that we generate our experiences in life - either by behaviour or by thought - and that we can learn from all of them.
If you don't believe that you're creating your world, whether it be your success or your failures, then you're at the mercy of circumstances. Things just happen to you. You're an object, not a subject. Let me tell you, if I had that belief, I'd check out now and look for another culture, another world, another planet. Why be here if you're just the product of random outside forces? Taking responsibility is in my opinion one of the best measures of a person's power and maturity. It's also an example of beliefs supporting other beliefs, of the synergistic capabilities of a coherent system of beliefs. If you don't believe in failure, if you know you'll achieve your outcome, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking responsibility. If you're in control, you'll succeed.
Many successful people live by another useful belief. They don't believe they have to know everything about something in order to use it. They know how to use what's essential without feeling a need to get bogged down in every detail of it. If you study people who are in power, you'll find they have a working knowledge about a lot of things but often have little mastery of each and 'every' detail of their enterprise.
Individuals of excellence - that is, people who produce outstanding results - almost universally have a tremendous sense of respect and appreciation for people. They have a sense of team, a sense of common purpose and unity. The companies that succeeded were the ones that treated people with respect and with dignity, the companies that viewed their employees as partners, not as tools. We have to constantly remain alert, readjust our behaviour, and re-calibrate our actions to make sure we're going where we want to go. To say you treat people with respect and to do it are not the same thing. Those who succeed are the most effective in saying to others, "How can we do this better?" "How can we fix this?" "How can we produce greater results?" They know that one man alone, no matter how brilliant, will find it very difficult to match the collaborative talents of an effective team.
Do you know any person who has achieved massive success by doing what he hates? I don't. One of the keys to success is making a successful marriage between what you do and what you love. Pablo Picasso once said, "When I work, I relax; doing nothing or entertaining visitors makes me tired."
Maybe we don't paint as well as Picasso, but we can all do our best to find work that invigorates and excites us. And we can bring to whatever we do at work many of the aspects of what we do at play. Mark Twain said, "The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation." That's what successful people seem to do.
Researchers are finding surprising things about some workaholics. There are some people who seem maniacally focused on work because they love it. It challenges them, it excites them, it makes their life richer. These people tend to look at work the way most of us look at play. They see it as a way to stretch themselves, to learn new things, to explore new avenues. I'm not suggesting you should choose to orient your world around your work. But I am suggesting that you will enrich your world and enrich your work if you bring to it the same curiosity and vitality you bring to your play.
Individuals who succeed have a belief in the power of commitment. If there's a single belief that seems almost inseparable from success, it's that there's no great success without great commitment. If you look at successful people in any field, you'll find they're not necessarily the best and the brightest, the fastest and the strongest. You'll find they're the ones with the most commitment. The great Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova once said, "To follow, without halt, one aim: there's the secret of success." It's just your outcome, model what works, take action, develop the sensory acuity to know what you're getting, and keep refining it until you get what you want. Commitment is an important component of success in any field. Yet the bottom line is are you willing to pay the price? I like to use the term W.I.T. - Whatever It Takes. Successful people are willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. That, as much as anything else, is what separates them from the pack.