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July 2004
Success Harmony Newsletter


Watching success is amazing. So is watching lack of success. The reason is that, often, the difference between the actions two people take may be minimal and yet the result can mean success on one hand and complete failure on the other. When there is a sense of flow, success feels almost too easy. It seems that we work harder when we fail than when we succeed.

Huh? Wouldn't you think that we would harder for success? Recently, I heard Pat Parelli, a highly successful horse trainer, say that success is much like working with a combination lock. When we have the right numbers, and we use those numbers in the correct sequence, the lock unlocks easily and with zero effort. Anything else but the right combination results in frustration. Say the correct combination consists of six numbers: 1,2,3,4,5,6. Even if we get close (as in 1,1,3,4,5,6) or if we get the sequence just a bit off (as in 2,1,3,4,5,6) or if we miss one number (as in 1,2,3,4,6) or even add an extra number along the way (as in 1,1,2,3,4,5,6), the combination will simply not open. Yes, we can pry it open with a crowbar and destroy the lock for the future.

Success in any area seems to work in a similar way. There are things that need to be done and there are things that should be avoided. There is a more effective and less effective sequence of events. When we get it "just right", success is right there. When we are off, we think we somehow lack the formula. The adjustment may be right there in front of us and we may miss it because it's too simple. Try balancing a long beam in your hand. When you get it, it feels light and easy. When you are even just an inch away from the center of gravity, the beam is unbalanced and you have to work extremely hard at trying to keep it up in the air. Chances are that it will fall out of your hand despite your hard work, although you were close.

How do you get the right combination for the area you are trying to achieve success in? First, learn from the masters, and then test departures from their formula. You can also test for the right formula yourself but you can expect a few more bumps along the way. Sometimes, you are in a new area and you have no choice but be the first - remember, Edison had no lightbulb model and the Wrights Brothers had nobody other than birds to learn from! If you are embarking on something that has been done before, go and study what the successful ones have done. I guarantee that, as you study their lives and steps, you will see patterns over and over again. Follow those patterns.

Say you want to open a franchise. Study McDonalds. You may not enjoy their greasy burgers but they do have a brilliant business formula. Don't just study the obvious like the number of burgers they do per hour or that they hire students at low wages. Study how they go about selecting their locations and how they decide what goes into their play centers. Also, study the times when they were not doing as well as other times - what were they doing or not doing differently from the times when they were at their peak? You will find that, although markets definitely have an effect, the brilliant businesses have a way of finding a formula to work within the existing market.

Say you want a better relationship with your spouse. Look around you. Who has a great relationship with their spouse? Ask if you could interview them. If there is nobody around you to ask, go to your local library and take out a few books on relationships. Or book a time with a professional. Then, implement the suggestions you hear.

Say you want to save more money. You've been saying it for years but nothing has changed. Find someone who has succeeded financially from a similar position that you are in, then study and implement what they have done. You may find that a few simple tips like "put $25 per week in a separate savings account through an automatic withdrawal plan" or "go without Starbucks coffee one day a week" may make the difference between too much end at the end of the money and the savings you've been hoping for.

When studying success formulas, you may wonder if there is room for creativity. You know, doing it "your own way". I am a big individualist and can relate to this concern. Yes, there is lots of room for our own way. BUT... In martial arts, nobody becomes a master without studying with a master for a number of years first. While studying under their master, the student is not allowed to make any modifications to their master's formula. Yes, repeating the same move over and over again (think "Wax on, wax off" in the Karate Kid movie) is extremely boring but it develops the student's muscles, timing, discipline and balance between force and relaxation. Once the student graduates from their master's teachings, they can modify to their heart's content and produce new styles. It is extremely unlikely the student would have produced an effective new style without having gone through the "tried and true" formulas first. In our lives and business, this is very similar. Only when we know the rules intimately, are we much more effective at breaking them.

Is there an area of your life where you would like to be more effective? Pick your role models and study. Final notes? Always pick only the role models who are at the top or those who are studying from those at the top. The ones in the middle might not quite have figured out their combination lock yet and it's harder to unlearn bad habits than to never have had them to begin with. Pick only the role models who have achieved their success in a way that you respect or can easily modify to a way that you would respect. For example, if you like Donald Trump's financial success but don't like that he's a self-grandizing buffoon, don't study Donald Trump but choose someone like Warren Buffett. Why? "The Donald" is successful partially because of his "I'm bigger than life" attitude, not despite of it. If you tried his method without his attitude, it would be less likely to work for you. Maybe Warren Buffett's understated methods may be more right for who you are and the type of success you want.

Happy unlocking, sunshine and smiles,


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