Three Steps to Becoming More Successful (Post #1)

Have you ever felt frustrated, unable to achieve the success you want?

Almost everyone has.

Today, I am going to show you why that happens… and what you can do to turn things around… using only your ordinary skills.

Conceptually, achieving anything involves three steps.

  1. Deciding what you want to achieve.
  2. “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” -Lewis Carroll

  3. Putting a high enough priority on it to get you to take action and to keep doing so until you achieve it.
  4. “Action expresses priorities.” - Mahatma Gandhi

  5. Resolving any roadblocks in the way, roadblocks that would otherwise stop you.
  6. “If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”
    - Michael Jordan

Just reflect on anything you have achieved in your life and check this three-step process out.

Let’s take a very simple example. I like to cook dinner for company so here are the three steps involved in achieving a rousing successes in that area.

  1. After asking my guests what they like that’s in my repertoire, I decide on the menu.
  2. Imagining the look of disappointment on their faces if they show up and I haven’t got things ready gives me enough of a shove to get me out of my chair and into the kitchen.
  3. I know that if I’m missing ingredients, I either won’t get started or I’ll have problems in the midst of cooking. So I check to ensure I have everything on hand, doing so in enough time that my wife can pick up anything missing on her way home.

I know that if I don’t give myself enough time, things will get unpleasantly hectic and I may burn myself in the process of rushing around so I work out a timeline, adding 10 minutes “slack time” and set my iPhone to remind me 5 minutes before the start.

So far, when following that procedure, I have a 100% success rate in achieving rousing dinner guest successes with lots of very positive feedback.

I hope you get the point.

Let’s check that out. If you get involved by actually doing what I describe, the rest of what I have to say will be a lot more meaningful for you.

So right now, print this entire document. Then take up a pen or pencil and record your own three steps that you have followed in achieving something that you consider pretty ordinary – such as driving from your home to a destination you have chosen.

To make it easier, you’ll find a simple form below, designed to guide you through the process.

Please pause right now and do this task. It’s for your benefit. Please don’t read on until you have done so.

Success Form 1

  1. What did you decide to achieve? Write 2 or 3 sentences describing that.
  2.  

  3. In what way did you prioritize this?
  4.  

  5. What were the potential roadblocks and how did you resolve them? Write 1 sentence describing each roadblock and 1 or 2 describing how
    you resolved them. (Continue on the back if you need more room.)
  6.  

  7. Your successful result.
  8.  

Just to give you a reference point for how to use the form, here is how I used it with respect to my recent successful drive from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara

Success Form 1

  1. What did you decide to achieve? Write 2 or 3 sentences describing that.

    In reviewing my calendar, I realized that I had a series of medical appointments in Santa Barbara last Friday. So I mapped my first priority – the medical appointments – i.e., where I had to go, when – and then added in my second priority, running errands – getting a haircut, having my eyeglass frames adjusted, dropping a backup tape drive in my safe box at the bank and picking up a new backup hard drive at Costco.

  2. In what way did you prioritize that?
  3. I already had a pretty high priority on going since one of those appointments was a follow-up to some heart surgery. But my priority on leaving with enough time shot way up when I realized that I’d have to leave at about 8:30 AM, the time when the normallyreally tough LA traffic would be at its worst. Reflecting on how LA traffic stresses me when I feel a need to rush pushed that priority a lot higher. So now I was really primed to leave on time.

  4. What were the potential roadblocks and how did you resolve them? Write 1 sentence describing each roadblock and 1 or 2 describing how you resolved them. (Continue on the back if you need more room.)
  5. I’ve already described one potential roadblock, the traffic – not only the LA morning traffic jam but one in Ventura and another in Santa Barbara. I resolved that one by leaving in what I knew from experience was sufficient time.

     The second potential roadblock was not allocating enough time for each appointment so I called to check the time required for each medical appointment, telling them I couldn’t stay beyond the ending time they gave me. Then I reflected on several instances of having performed each of the errands and wrote my best estimate of the time required for each and then finalized my schedule for the day accordingly.

     The third potential roadblock was that if I had to stop for gas, it would throw my schedule off. So I checked the gas level in my car and found that I had plenty.

  6. Your successful result.
  7.  I arrived at my first appointment 18 minutes early and accomplished everything I’d scheduled, successfully with no stress.

     Now, Let’s Look at Something You Found More Challenging

This time, I’d like you to pick something relatively simple that you tried to accomplish but didn’t achieve. Describe the experience on Success Form 1.

To give you an idea of what I’m after, I’ll describe one of my cooking failures.

Success Form 1

  1. What did you decide to achieve? Write 2 or 3 sentences describing that.
  2.  My wife Gloria and I have a wonderful life and have shared some great meals. I remembered one of them at the restaurant in the Neue Gallery (New York City) and decided to copy their Hungarian Goulash with fresh Spaetzle that I had really enjoyed and Gloria,
    tasting mine, said was good.

  3. In what way did you prioritize that?
  4. Recalling the great taste of the dish set my mouth to watering. So just thinking about that set a pretty high priority on the project.

  5. What were the potential roadblocks and how did you resolve them? Write 1 sentence describing each roadblock and 1 or 2 describing how you resolved them. (Continue on the back
    if you need more room.)
  6. Gloria doesn’t like anything containing much of any hot spice and all recipes for Goulash include a good deal of paprika, which certainly falls into her range of sensitivity. So, since I didn’t have the restaurant’s recipe, I made up my own after reviewing a bunch of others and used the least paprika specified by any of them.

     Spaetzle is great if properly prepared and seasoned. But most that I’ve tasted isn’t so hot and certainly wouldn’t make Gloria happy. So I asked my daughter Lisa (who also likes to cook) if she had any good ideas. And happily, she had gotten the recipe for Spaetzle from the chef of the restaurant at the Neue Gallery. She solved my problem by giving me this.

  7. Your Successful Result
  8. The Spaetzle was great but Gloria turned thumbs down on my Goulash because it had too much Paprika for her.

Why We Fail to Achieve the Success We Want

In the context of the exercise we just performed, the answer is pretty simple:

We fail to adequately perform one of the three steps.

In other words, we didn’t:

  • Specify a precise enough target.
  • Or we didn’t pump up the priority enough.
  • Or, most typically, we didn’t adequately resolve the potential roadblocks.

The next step is to analyze why we didn’t achieve what we set out to accomplish. I’ll continue with my example of flopping when I fixed a Goulash dinner.

To make this easier, I have added another section to Success Form 1.

 5. Why Successful or Unsuccessful and the Fix

I failed to resolve the potential roadblock concerning Gloria’s sensitivity to paprika.

 Now, I realize that I could have made a sample batch of Goulash without paprika and had Gloria sample it as I added paprika in steps.

 And that’s what I’ll do in the future until I have the recipe just right.

Now It’s Your Turn

Using the Form below, describe your unsuccessful attempt and then analyze each of the three steps to determine where you dropped the ball. Then, describe how to fix that problem the next time you do the same thing or something similar.

Success Form 1

  1. What did you decide to achieve? Write 2 or 3 sentences describing that.
  2.  

  3. In what way did you prioritize that?
  4.  

  5. What were the potential roadblocks and how did you resolve them? Write 1 sentence describing each roadblock and 1 or 2 describing how you resolved them. (Continue on the back if you need more room.)
  6.  

  7. Your Successful or Unsuccessful Result
  8.  

  9. Why Successful or Unsuccessful and the Fix

Just to be sure I got my point across, here is a second example of failing to achieve something I desired.

Success Form 1

  1. What did you decide to achieve? Write 2 or 3 sentences describing that.
  2. I enjoy fine wines and have about 30 cases of them downstairs, all rated 90 points or higher on a 1 to 100 scale. However, my greatest wine selection challenge is my wife Gloria who has a very sensitive sense of taste and a narrow tolerance for acceptable-to-her wines. So far, I haven’t found a California red that she likes.

    So what I wanted to achieve was to find a California red wine that Gloria likes.

  3. In what way did you prioritize that?
  4.  My desire to please Gloria, to see the big smile on her face when she likes a wine, was great motivation
    and when I compared that with my failures with California reds, my motivation jumped a few levels.
    This time I was determined to succeed.

  5. What were the potential roadblocks and how did you resolve them? Write 1 sentence describing each roadblock and 1 or 2 describing how you resolved them.
    (Continue on the back if you need more room.)
  6. Gloria particularly likes French Burgundies (rounded reds and elegant whites) and one gold medal Argentinean Malbec (red) made by a French winemaker but no California reds. So I mentally compared the reds she likes with the California styles and concluded that she doesn’t like much oak nor unbalanced tannins, both characteristic of my experience of most California reds.

     So I added, “balanced tannins and a light touch of oak” to roundedness in what I was looking for.

  7. Your Successful or Unsuccessful Result
  8.  I buy my wines through a website called WineAcess.com that has terrific wines at very good prices. They send a daily offer with an extensive description of each wine and each day I reviewed it, looking for a rounded California red with balanced tannins and a light touch of oak… and found one I thought would be perfect.

     I liked it so much on paper, I ordered a case of this 92 point Syrah (2009 Stolpman Vineyards Syrah Estate Grown). I tried it and really liked it. But when I gave Gloria a glass to taste, her reaction was underwhelming. She later admitted that she really didn’t like it even though it fully met what I thought were “her specifications.”

     Of course, it wasn’t a complete failure because I rate it a 9+ (on my 1 to 10 scale), as did my guests but,
    in terms of my intent of finding a California red that Gloria likes, I struck out.

  9. Why Successful or Unsuccessful and the Fix
  10.  My process for resolving the potential roadblock of Gloria’s pickiness was defective. I should have had her sample a series of wines that I thought she would like and interviewed her to get a better fix on “her specifications.”

     Now, I remember that she had the same immediate dislike of another great Syrah, a varietal that I particularly like.

     So I need to do some more research, documenting her reaction to each wine and why and comparing WineAccess’ description with that. Doing that, I should pretty quickly identify the key words that WineAccess uses that describes a California red that Gloria would like.

    Ratcheting Things Up One Level

    Now to tune our three step approach to a new level, here are some ways to more effectively achieve, using only your normal skills.

    1. You can sharply increase the precision and specificity of what you want to achieve – I’ll call it your Target – by writing it out on a piece of paper. In translating from your intuitive sense of what you want to achieve to a written description, you have to convert that sense into words – a process of translation that, in itself
      makes things much more precise.
    2. “Reduce your plan to writing… The moment you complete this, you will have definitely given concrete form to the intangible desire.” – Napoleon Hill

    3. You already know how to sharply increase the priority of your Target. You probably learned it in school when you were memorizing lines for a play, memorizing a poem or studying for an exam where you had to give a specific answer. The key is repetition. You repeated the memorization process until you
      gave the right response when cued.
    4. In the case of your written description of what you want to achieve – your Target, reading it – or, better, writing it out repeatedly – will both add to its precision (as you edit it, if you do) and increase its priority until it is high enough for you to take action – because only action produces results.

      “Without actions, the world would still be an idea.” – Georges Doriot

      Remember the last time you tried to achieve something similar. Did you run into any roadblocks? If so, list them. Then work out tactics for resolving or avoiding them and record what you worked out. Next review the roadblock and how you have worked out to deal with it. Does your gut feeling tell you you’re on the right track or not. If not, continue developing tactics until you find ones that will intuitively work.

      “For every failure, there’s an alternative course of action. You just have to find it. When you come to a roadblock, take a
      detour.” – Mary Kay Ash

    What I’ve discussed today involves only simple modifications of the way that you already do things.

    These modifications can significantly increase your success rate in doing moderately difficult things if you go through this five-step process before you act.

    In my subsequent posts, I will ratchet things up to a higher level. So stay tuned.

    Again, here’s the Success Form 1 for your use in doing that, in setting yourself up for success.

    http://stuartlichtman.com/successblog/files/success_form1.pdf

    What We Just Covered

    I explained the steps involved in Successfully Achieving and how you frustrate yourself when you fail to effectively perform any of them. I then described a simple modification of what you normally do that should meaningfully improve your Success rate.

    In my next Post, I am going to tell you what you need to do to take your Successfulness to a significantly higher level.

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