If you observe the most productive and most successful people on the planet, you’ll notice three very important similarities in how they achieve results. It doesn’t matter if the person is an entrepreneur, doctor, lawyer, politician, religious leader, actor, teacher or any of a million different occupations. Those operating at the top 1-5% of their chosen field or profession have these three traits in common:
First, they are intentional.
You’ve heard me say, “Nothing really great ever happens by accident.” Warren Buffett, Bob Iger when he led Disney, Tim Cook at Apple, Michael Jordan, Judd Apatow, Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook – these high achievers are intentional with their time, attention and energy.
Towards the end of last year, I was fortunate enough to have dinner with a gentleman who sold his business for $1.7 billion. I asked him how he did this, when others in his field typically grow to $6 or 7 million, exactly the size of the business when it purchased it 20 years ago. His answers didn’t surprise me. He said, “You really only have three tools at your disposal in growing a business: time, energy and money. Two of the three can be replenished. Only one cannot. Never forget this powerful truth.”
In order to be intentional with growing your business, strengthening your relationships, maintaining or improving your health and living to your God-given potential, you must understand and accept this reality: you have a lot to accomplish and time is limited.If the average person watches nearly 38 hours of television per week, reads less than one book per year, is overweight and not living to their God-given potential in terms of health, wealth and happiness – you must do the opposite. You must be intentional with every muscle movement and you must get moving.
According to a health-tracking device designed in Finland, Americans lost a total of 138 million hours of sleep on election night.
The guy who cuts my hair was one of them. This week I asked him, with a grin, “Was it worth it?” His quick answer was “No!” He was exhausted and, at that time, we still didn’t know the winner.
Famous writer and essayist, Adam Gopnik, observes the growth and changes in some relatives at his family reunions each decade. Those transitioning from their 20s and 30s into their 40s who finally report they’ve given up smoking pot or drinking. He says they give a vague reason like, “I guess I’ve just grown out of it.” Gopnik disagrees. “No” he says, “you’ve learned something – that the inebriation isn’t worth the time.”
Everything worth doing in this world takes time. It’s amazing how much of it we waste on things that bring us no closer to our goals and often push us farther away. It’s harsh but true: 80-90% of the setbacks in our lives are self-sabotage and a waste of precious time.
We know we need to fire the dreadful employee who slow walks our plans but we’re afraid to climb the mountain of hiring and training a new employee, so we settle for what we have and our goals look even more distant until, often, we settle for mediocre growth. You’ve heard me say, “Mediocre growth is hardly different from not dying.” There are simply too many distractions, increased regulation and destruction of margin inside your business to settle for mediocre growth. Like being intoxicated, it’s not worth the time.
Second, the most successful, productive, healthy, wealthy and happy people on the planet hold themselves accountable.
They say what they are going to do and they do it. Sounds easy, but in practice this can be quite difficult.
How often do you review your weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual goals? Are they written down? Do you strategize each month and quarter, tracking your productivity? Do you hold up the mirror each month, in other words, and closely examine what’s working and what is not?
On a recent Burleson Box interview with Professor Jan-Benedict Steenkamp, I reviewed with him the Grit Index in the back of his book. I told him my score and was brutally honest where I need to improve. He smiled because the only way these self-assessments work is if you are completely and brutally honest with yourself. Writing down your goals and then measuring your results is one important way to do this.
I can tell immediately if a doctor is being honest with him or herself when I ask, “How many new patients did you see last month?” Like Lebron James can tell you, step-by-step, each play of the game he just finished, the top 1% can tell you exactly how many new patients they saw last month, and what percent growth that was over the same month last year, etc. etc. Why? Because they take it seriously and they measure. Doctors who can’t tell me their key performance indicators are fooling themselves. They aren’t measuring because they don’t want to know how weak their numbers were last month. It’s a referendum on their effort and performance. You can hate me for pointing this out, but that does not make it untrue.
If you only saw 38 new patients last month but you think you deserve 100, there’s a lot of due diligence in bridging the gap and it starts by owning up to the fact that you’re only at 38, you’re not happy about it and you want to do something about it, dammit. Listen. I’m not casting stones. I started one patient my first month in business. I started zero the second month. Last Friday, I saw more new patients in one day than 95% of orthodontists seen in an entire month. I’m not bragging. I’m reporting facts. I’ve learned a thing or two in the last 15 years and it all centers around how I approach and deal with the time I’ve been given.
Understand also that most days I give myself a two or a three out of ten. I have personal friends with net worths and charitable foundations that are 100X bigger than mine. It’s why I sought them out as friends. I have a lot of work to do. Watching how they manage their time is inspiring to me. To summarize this second principle, they know their numbers better than me. They have their goals written down. Each day, week, month, quarter and year, the goals are in writing. They don’t always hit them but they come a heck of a lot closer than those who never take the time to write them down.
Remember, my goals aren’t right or wrong, compared to your goals. They are simply my goals. I write them down and I track my progress. Your business, health, wealth, spiritual and mental fitness are no different. You must measure and track your progress, not to some “ideal” that doesn’t exist, but to your stated goals, with respect to the congruent actions required in order to achieve your objectives. After you’ve written them down, share them with someone you trust. Ask them to keep you accountable. Check in each month or two and share your progress.
Third, the most successful and productive people have a positive vision of the future and live abundantly and generously; attracting opportunities, people, resources, tools and ideas to them, as if by magic force.
One neat side effect of writing down and tracking your goals, something I’ve done for years, is that you can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude in your life; for your relationships, for your business, employees, customers and patients; for your life and the opportunity to chase down big goals, to be a good steward, to live up to the life God intended for you.
Some of the world’s most talented individuals and visionaries kept journals and planned out their days, weeks, months and years. Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci, Marcus Aurelius, Darwin, Churchill, Beethoven, etc. etc. They all kept journals. They all protected their time for quiet reflection.
As you wrap up 2020 and get ready for the new year, my hope is that you will take time each day to reflect and ask what three things you’ve learned. If it was a productivity day, write down how much you produced and collected. If you have a big meeting or project tomorrow, write it down tonight before you go to bed, and in the process you’ll find yourself living a more abundant life, a more generous life, a more productive life of meaning and joy.
To that end, The 2021 Annual Planner is now available for pre-order. It helps you accomplish everything I’ve described in this week’s first article.
If you take your time, energy and money seriously and track the metrics and performance indicators I’ve designed for you to measure, you will grow into the leader, parent, spouse and business owner you need to be 12 months from now. And you’ll wake up one day with far more wealth than you could have ever imagined. Ask me how I know.