* Would you like to give your life and business a shot in the arm i.e. more energy?
* Would you like to see more of your longer term goals come to fruition faster?
* Have you spent too much time only running in place rather than moving forward with intention?
If you aim high, you will probably shoot further. Aiming for an extraordinary business or life will probably yield more results and even resolve some of your current issues. In this article, I show the steps to creating an extraordinary business without compromising on your current needs and shorter term goals.
In other words, how can you have the delights of a longer term vision (fulfilling your highest dreams) whilst dealing with short term needs.
I also talk more about the formation of habits in the brain – using the latest in brain science research.
Creating Your Extraordinary Business and Life
The word passion comes from the life of Jesus Christ from Old French. It means to suffer or to endure. In the Cahaya
coaching programs, we say passion means to suffer or to endure some pain (preferably in the short term) for something that is worth suffering or enduring for e.g. bringing up a child with Down’s Syndrome e.g. creating a masterpiece in literature or art e.g. running a business that you know will create immense value for your community.
. Becoming Extraordinary – Selecting areas to focus on and what not to focus on
Mike* scratched his head and looked at me. He had a successful business for 20 years but he was feeling burnt out physically, mentally and financially. He was considering selling the business and taking a nice cushy job in Silicon Valley. “But Sunil… what should I be passionate about: I am so passionate about so many things?”
Mike is not alone in this question. I get asked the same question in a dozen forms about every week in my guest lectures, panels or consultations.
My suggestion to people is two fold
a. In the long term focus on what you, your team or company can be extraordinary at i.e. better than anybody else.
b. In the short term, while you are developing the longer term determinations, focus on what brings in cash-flow and workability for you and your team
Selecting what you can be extraordinary at can take time; but it is time worth spending. This is not necessarily a linear way of thinking; it is a process that may require a dialogue with an objective listener who will not pooh-pooh your ideas or thinking and will not get caught up in unrealistic, untruthful or unworkable ideas.
. Convert your business into an Outcome Producing Engine
One criterion for selecting an area to be extraordinary, is whether the area selected to focus your business on will produce measurable outcomes (e.g. desired income, satisfaction, a specific and measurable difference in the world or community) and if these measurable outcomes are worth the ‘suffering’ and ‘enduring’ that your passion will enable yourself to go through.
Mike looked at me and a light shone in his eyes. I paused and then asked “What do you see Mike?”. He responded with a slow, thoughtful voice – a voice that was familiar in my experience as a mentor – a voice of someone who just saw a truth.
“I have been a fool. I have been focusing on things that are either based on me having to prove something or out of trying to outdo the competition. Both of these strategies allowed my company to only merely survive year to year in the last 20 years.. but not become successful in an extraordinary way. You know what I mean?”
I nodded. “Surviving is important… but surviving only for a long time can lead to burn out – a lack of challenge … and no real growth”
He looked at me curiously. “No real growth – what do you mean?”
I felt a lot of compassion for Mike. His question was almost identical to the question I asked 20 years ago of my business mentor at that time.
“When you only survive year after year, your skill level is left at that – i.e. surviving year after year. You become habituated to do that year after year. You practice that to the point of mastery – you become a master of surviving year after year. Your comfort level is stuck at surviving year after year. No growth in that right?”
He nodded listening in his keen manner – his eyes clearly focused on me and yet breathing easily but steadily.
I continued. “Your job as the leader of your business is to increase the challenge beyond just surviving year after year. But you don’t want to do that increase of challenge too fast. Pace yourself. Take some time to identify some options, weigh the options and then focus. That is.. keep your current strategies that bring the cash-flow coming in – but spend a couple of hours a week on developing the new strategy and plan that will take you out of the current rut.”
He looked at me thoughtfully.
“That will require some changes in my habits”
“Yes” I answered and then I corrected him. “For your brain, it is easier to create new habits than to try to change old ones. Keep the old habit of surviving for now. But create a new habit of ‘Re-Strategizing and Planning for the longer term’”
. A New Relationship with Discipline
“So that is what you mean by discipline or having a new relationship with discipline?”
I nodded. “You will need to create a new schedule – don’t try to change everything overnight. Start with some small changes – add a time block on your calendar every week for the next 6 months on having discussions on how to re-strategize the company e.g. areas to focus on in terms of marketing, service delivery etc. A new habits results in discipline. Your discipline is reflected in the kinds of habits you follow.”
. Inner Determination
Really successful CEOs and business owners have an extraordinary sense of inner determination. You can refer to Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs and many, many other examples. You don’t have to have their personalities (whatever judgements good or bad you may have about them). You want to distill what works in their determination. They focus on what is inherently important for them in their values and in their approach to the long term objectives – the IPhone, billions of dollars of valuations and their innovations did not come overnight. Warren Buffett always talks about rolling his snowball – “the important thing is to find wet snow and a really long hill.”
But this inner determination must be nurtured if you feel you don’t quite possess it. Again this is a function of creating new habits and practices.
The development of these habits and practices are part and parcel of what builds up to consistent breakthrough performance and not short term fixes.
. Commit Carefully
There is a sacredness that you want to bring to your commitments. A commitment requires energy. Your energy and your attention is finite – it takes a lot of energy to focus and bring self control to the game. In fact every time you focus or bring self control, your glucose level will drop.
The trouble with most people who stay at the level of survival is that they do not commit carefully. They fritter away their time, energy and money on projects that do not necessarily put money and satisfaction back into their pockets.
There is an air of desperation for some people in selecting what they focus on. Many times it is the need to get money in quickly. Many times it is the need to prove something or to avoid embarrassment – all very human and normal, but not extraordinary.
. Structures and Systems
If you commit to something, be sure to have a set of systems and structures that support this new commitment e.g. schedules, regular meetings with clear outcomes and agendas etc.
Otherwise, you are relying on your human memory or luck – both of which may be very unreliable.
MIke looked clearly at me. “I understand what you mean about the need for accountability. I used to think that it sounded too regimented or too rigid”
I nodded and he continued. “I see it now as a necessity to ensure that I keep up the new habits.”
I paused before interjecting. “Yes.. and the prime reason for accountability is not to just ensure your success at adopting these new habits. The prime reason for accountability is the following
a. Ensure that you stay true to your passion
b. Ensure that you are building up to short term, medium term and long term outcomes
c. Ensure that you build habits of inner determination and focus
d. Ensure that you pick your commitments wisely AND
e. Ensure that the systems you use are working for you
Mike did not say “Wow…” which is what he normally says when he sees something new.
He just sat quietly to think and I let him do so.
He finally spoke. “I know what I need to do. There is one area where I feel that I am passionate and that we have our biggest traction. It is uncanny that we are having this conversation – I suspected that I need to focus on this area and it seems to make sense – we have traction in this one area. Every time block I spend on focusing in this one area gives me tremendous returns monetarily and in terms of satisfaction. It is scary to make the decision to focus on only one area though: My fear is that I may lose a lot of business?”
I nodded back. “I agree that we don’t want to make hasty moves. Let’s be clear before we act. Lets take a look at the numbers in terms of resources and time devoted to each market and see if we can alleviate your fears and concerns: how do you feel about that?”
This is a typical conversation that I have had consistently now for the last 20 years. It is normal for us business owners to see the opportunity for growth but not have the means to analyze the data – as there is plenty involved – your psychology, the complexity of the numbers, the exceptions to the trends, etc.
But all great outcomes in history began with a dialogue – a simple dialogue about what was inherently important and where the focus should be. It is time for us as business owners and professionals to do the same.