This an edited excerpt from The No Excuse Guide to Success, by Jim Smith Jr., is reprinted with permission of the publisher, Career Press, Pompton Plains, N.J. All rights reserved. Copyright 2012.
1. Stop being defensive when you’re held accountable for your poor choices.
The next time your boss or manager confronts you with a mistake or poor choice you’ve made, don’t start with a denial and put up an impenetrable defensive wall. If you keep doing this, you’ll soon start to believe your excuses. Take time to focus on why you resort to this tactic. Embrace feedback. Consider it a gift. Learn from your choices and move on.
2. Stop becoming irritable and angry when you don’t get your way.
I know people with a 0-to-60 temper that’s faster than an Indianapolis 500 race car. You can see it in their eyes as all their energy and body language coalesce around the disappointment of not getting their way. I’m going to keep it real here: Grow up! Stop being selfish and self-centred. The world doesn’t revolve around you! There are always two sides to every situation. Lean into your discomfort. Seek alternatives. Grow and learn from the no’s. Winners are always looking for ways to grow, not just get through adversity.
3. Stop looking for what’s wrong with the other person.
Come on. You can do it. Tilt the mirror your way. Even the late entertainer Michael Jackson has some advice for you here in the famous 1987 song Man in the Mirror: “I’m looking at the man in the mirror; I’m asking him to change his ways.” Until you accept the possibility that you may be wrong, you will be stuck permanently blaming others. Mike Jones, my mentor, hit the sweet spot when he explained to me that we all have maps created through our upbringing and experiences. Unfortunately, we get in trouble when we think our map should be standardized across all humanity.
4. Stop being a victim.
As a recovered victim, I know firsthand how easy it is to fall into this trap. Being a victim is easier than being responsible. You feel as though everyone is against you. It’s never your fault. At a subconscious level, you begin to believe that you wear a bull’s-eye target on your back and the world is constantly target practising. Change the script. Change your approach. Change your mindset. Move from victim to victor!
5. Stop thinking negatively (and masking it by saying you’re just keeping it real).
Negativity abounds in our society. I’m amazed by the number of people in my life, both professionally and personally, who routinely think and respond in negative terms. Simply put, you are what you think, say, and do. What you focus on becomes your focus. It’s not a hard concept to understand, but it’s exceptionally hard to put into practice.
6. Start saying “I got this!” when the going gets tough.
The best athletes thrive when the pressure is the greatest. Professional athletes thrive on the exhilaration found on the other side of tough challenges – a 90-yard drive toward the end-zone in the last 59 seconds of the game or a Hail Mary shot across the length of the basketball court that swooshes through the net as the buzzer sounds. Do these incredible scenarios always happen? Of course not, but the possibility of any other possibility playing out never crosses the mind of a seasoned athlete. From beginning to end, these athletes take responsibility for the final outcome. They have an “accountability mindset.” Remember: Winners work to create the outcomes they want. Whiners just complain about the final score and pass the blame to someone else.
7. Start asking for specific, clear feedback for improvement.
Feedback and coaching have played a significant role in my life. I live for and welcome them. It’s absolutely true that seeing yourself as others see you is nearly impossible. Humans are not built for this sort of self-examination. Of course I’m not suggesting taking all feedback as the gospel truth. Not everyone has your best interests at heart. No surprise there. The trick is to use your titans, mentors, and “true” friends to give you both praise (what you do well) and polish (what you should consider doing differently).
8. Start listening without judging.
Do you listen to understand, or do you listen to criticize or find fault? Do you find yourself anxiously waiting for the other person to pause for a half-second so you can launch in with your own comments or pursue your own agenda? It’s a good thing we’re not given pop quizzes at the end of these one-sided conversations. One of the reasons people don’t remember the feedback or instructions they’re given is because their focus is to find fault with what the other person is saying. Or perhaps the person getting feedback is actively determining whether or not he should listen based on what he believes to be true. How often have you said, during a conversation, “That’s not what I said”? We jump to judge! Stop being defensive. Stop right-fighting. You should ask the person you’re having a conversation with whether or not she feels you’re actively listening. Put down your judge’s gavel and give new information a chance.
9. Start focusing on the possibility and not the problem.
Mike Jones, my mentor and empowerment expert, coined the acronym FOTO (focus on the outcome). We tend to focus on the distractions, the circumstances, the barriers, and the hurdles, and we give those factors way too much power and time. What you believe to be true generally turns out to be your reality. It really is standard “pop” psychology, but nothing could be more dead-on accurate. If you believe you can start your own company and take your idea or talents to new levels, then you’ve taken the most important step. Belief must come before the how to make it happen. Whine Club members spend most of their time focusing on what might go wrong. You should focus on what you know will go right.
10. Start following through on your promises. Period.
This final point requires some bullet points for emphasis:
- STOP trying. START doing.
- Keep everyone in the loop. Communicate.
- Just say “no” if you don’t really believe your own promise.
- Know that any financial promise not fulfilled is always a bad idea.
- Base your follow-up promise on what you have control over.