Thursday, June 18, 2009

Will I Be Successful or Be Of Value?

"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” Albert Einstein.

This quote was in a tweet from Tony Robbins today. It rings particularly true for me.

My family was never one of means. Neither of my parents made a lot of money. In fact, we didn't have much money at all. But we were always provided for. Nevertheless, many folks would say he was not "successful". He had a failed business, in a second marriage, had fought alcohol and cigarette addiction. Not the textbook example of a "successful" man.

When my dad passed away a few years ago, I was honored to give the eulogy. It was a very difficult time for all of us, as you can imagine. I was seated on the front row in the church, along with the rest of my family. When the time came, I stood up, walked to the lectern, and turned to face the congregation. And what I saw almost took my breath away. There, in front of me, were all of our family members. But there were many, many more faces I didn't recognize. Row upon row of people I had never met, had no connection with. And they were there to honor my dad.

I had chosen to build my dad's eulogy around memories we all had of my dad. Funny stories, touching stories, all describing the kind of person my dad was. And all the while, I saw heads nodding, people smiling at the memories the stories elicited. Later, as we headed in the procession from the church to the cemetery for the interment ceremony, I looked in my rearview mirror. We had crossed a freeway overpass about a mile prior, and all I could see was cars in the procession from the overpass to my car. A long line of cars headed to my dad's final resting place.

At the reception afterward, I had dozens of people come up to me to say, "Hey, let me tell you a story about your dad", and every one of them was a warm, funny, telling story about the kind of person he was. And all had a common thread - they all told how my dad touched this person's life.

My dad was not "successful" in the financial sense. But he was of value - great value. He touched so many lives because he wasn't wrapped up in the money, the possessions, the material. He card about people. Was he a pain in the ass? Occasionally. But it came from a place of love, of caring. As I said in the eulogy, if you were in need, he was the kind of man that would give you the shirt off his back, and the back to go with it. His value to those around him was evident in the mass of people who came to pay their respects - and to make sure that I heard about how he had touched their lives.

This is where the rubber of the Einstein quote hits the road. It doesn't matter how much you amass in wealth, in possessions. It doesn't matter what kind of a "name" you make for yourself. What matters is whether you added value to the life of another. How have you served your fellow man? How have you touched the life of your friends, your loved ones? And how have you touched the lives of those who aren't family or friends.

And in the end, this makes the title of this post a moot point. Because if you do make yourself of value, if you do enrich the lives of those around you and make the world a better place, even just a little, then you are a success. I only hope I can meet the standards my dad set.

I love you Pops.

Monday, June 1, 2009

3 Ways To Start Change Successfully

Changing your life can be incredibly rewarding. It can also be one of the most difficult things you can do.

Most of us start with good intentions - to lose weight, to stop smoking, to get ourselves organized. And we go out with the true desire to make the changes necessary. So much desire, that we often take on too much, or we see the obstacles ahead of us, and start losing our sense of motivation.

In the last few days, I've talked with a number of friends who are feeling they can't get past the first hurdle. They want to make changes, but can't seem to get over the hump to get started.

Here's three tips to get you past those hurdles, and on your way to succeeding!

Tip #1 - Small Changes, Big Effects


Start small.

Don’t try to make all these huge changes, and change your entire life at once. It’s too hard, and overwhelming. You can’t do everything at once — you can only do one thing at a time.

So pick one thing to change — something easy. Don’t pick the most difficult thing — just the easiest. Something you can focus on for the next couple of weeks.

This is phenomenal advice. But I would expand on it further. Don't just start small - start REALLY small. Pick something that you know you can achieve without much effort in a short period of time. You'll get a feeling of accomplishment that will help you get to the next milestone.

Tip #2 - Little Pieces

This tip goes hand in hand with Tip #1. When you have a big goal to achieve, it helps greatly to break up the task into its component pieces. For example, if you're trying to quit smoking two packs a day, it's pretty difficult to make that change in one fell swoop. Instead, break it up using the idea from Tip #1. Today, leave one cigarette in the pack. Tomorrow, leave two. It's a small goal. But when you start to add them up, you achieve the ultimate goal of reducing your smoking to zero.

Weight loss is much the same way. Instead of saying "I need to lose 30 pounds", think to yourself that you need to lose two. That's it. And when you hit that two pound mark, you set a new mark of two pounds more.

By breaking the big task up into smaller components, you increase the chance of success and the odds that you'll continue.

Tip #3 - Celebrate Your Successes

We're all pretty good at beating ourselves up when we fail. What we aren't as good at is celebrating the wins. When you achieve one of your goals, hit one of your targets, regardless of how small or large - celebrate. Go to a show, have a nice dinner, do what makes you happy. And celebrate, for tomorrow, you set a new achievable goal.

But what if you don't make it there? That's OK too. Look at why you didn't make it. Did you aim too high? Did you have to rely on others to achieve? Instead of beating yourself up, look at the reason you didn't get there, and make corrections. Then try again!

Bonus Tip - How Bad Do You Want It?

The real key to success in change is to have a strong motivation. But where many folks falter is that they try to change for someone else. Noble? Yes. But it will likely be unsustainable. For true change to occur, you have to want it, and want it more than the comfort zone of not changing. I recently watched a video of a lecture by Randy Pausch where he makes the point that obstacles aren't in your way to stop you from achieving. They're there to find out how bad you want something. If you really want something, you'll do what it takes to get there. When you think about making changes, know the "why" of the change. If the "why" is strong enough, the "how" will take care of itself.