“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” – Pele
Let’s face it, as human beings; we love shortcuts. We love the idea that there is some quick and easy way we can achieve success. We think that one simple trick, like getting up an hour early or reading a specific book will allow us to bypass all the hard work we should do to accomplish our goals. But deep down, we know that’s not true and that it is going to take a lot of hard work. But does that mean there aren’t systems we can follow, methods we can apply to help us achieve success? Not at all. In fact, these systems are exactly what propels us forward.
Being truly successful means that you have to put in time, effort, and work. It’s that simple. What most people find difficult, however, is forcing themselves to do the work. And that’s because they don’t have a plan. They don’t have a clear way to get the job done that makes sense to them and, as a result, their efforts are erratic and random. They haven’t identified the exact steps they should take to reach their goal. It’s no wonder they fail.
Obviously, simply spending your time wishing, hoping, dreaming, and imagining your way to success is not an effective strategy. You need to start moving and keep moving forward. You need simple, concrete ways to get yourself to do the work over and over again. You need tangible, specific methods to follow as you advance towards your goals until you have established a system for success that works for you.
When success eludes you
Bad habits, sloppy methods, and a disorganized approach make it impossible to reach your goals. There is a big benefit in paying attention to people who have made it big and who have turned their lives into one enormous success story. Every single one of them says the same thing: they achieved their success by consistently applying a system that works for them. They are just like us in that they’ve had lots of failures. The difference is when the successful find something that works, they stay with it and keep repeating and refining the process.
Successful people may call it habits, processes or even superstitions, but it all comes down to applying precise, detailed systems that are followed exactly and in the same way every time. They do what they have already proven to themselves works and gets results. Their step-by-step approach is what separates them from the unsuccessful. Why? Because it can be hard to figure out how to do things the right way and stick to the plan. Life becomes so busy, that we never stop, pause, and take time to figure out the best and most efficient way to accomplish what we need to do, and then evaluate and remember the methods we applied. We labor under the illusion that we have to force ourselves through the tasks in front of us — even though there may be a better way.
What we don’t realize is, often, the way we approach and complete a task at first is actually the difficult way of doing things. We don’t immediately identify the most efficient way to accomplish the same work, and in the end, this prevents us from performing at our absolute best, and from accomplishing our goals. Always look for ways to improve. That’s when you experiment and tinker. This allows you to figure out the best methods to complete a job and do great work.
Bill Walsh and the winning formula
Bill Walsh was a football coach who won 14 NFL championship titles while heading up the San Francisco 49ers and the Stanford Cardinal football team. During his career, he developed some incredibly detailed, organized systems for consistent winning and passed these on to his assistant coaches, many of whom currently dominate the NFL.
Eventually, Walsh would write a book called Finding the Winning Edge, which is now out of print, but which details his principles, his approach and how he made such success happen. When Walsh spoke about finding that winning edge, one thing kept coming up: it all came down to precision — being detailed and precise in everything he did to beat the competition. His exacting actions paid off in three Super Bowl championships and a book that is highly sought after today, even though it’s out of print.
The reason his systems worked and continue to work so well is that Walsh had a habit of being precise, doing everything the right way, thinking it through and leaving as little margin for error as possible. This dedication to precision paid off over and over, and it illustrates something fundamental about achieving success — if you want to be successful, you need to be in the habit of doing things the right way.
In the same way that a winning coach like Bill Walsh has a game plan, you need to work out a game plan for yourself. Identify an approach that is going to work for you. To be successful, you’ll need to approach every day, week, month and year with a personalized game plan for success. Without a game plan, you’re going to flounder; you might get some momentum going, but you’ll lose it. You’ll grow frustrated because you’re trying bits and pieces of what you heard someone else does, without understanding how to get the fundamentals down that will make you, personally, successful.
Precision in approach makes the difference between high achievers and everyone else. Narrow your focus, make the target smaller, and this will make the misses smaller. Achieving success requires a specific vision and precise steps to complete tasks. An ambiguous plan or workflow does not lead to accomplishing what you want. Let’s say you want to host a workshop. That’s something a bit vague, so nail down the details. What do you want the workshop to be about, what is the agenda, who are the speakers and what order should they speak in for maximum effect? What is the min thing you want the workshop to accomplish and how can you measure whether it was successful or not? The more details you identify and nail down, the more successful workshop will be. This is why winners win. They have a specific vision of how the plan will unfold, and they carefully plan the details and follow through. They don’t leave these things to the last minute. They take care of them before they become a problem.
Finding your systems
It requires an understanding of self, and identifying how to coach yourself based upon your approach to life, in a way that leads to success. It’s about making things as easy as possible for yourself while still accomplishing your goals and responsibilities. It’s the Patriot’s head coach Nick Saban eating the same thing for lunch every day, so he doesn’t have to think about it — he needs that fuel for his body, but doesn’t want to waste time and energy figuring out what to eat. It’s Steve Jobs wearing the same outfit every day because trying to work out what to wear wasted time and mental energy. The more little things you can automate and make as simple for yourself as possible, the more mental energy you have available to deal with the important stuff.
It’s also about giving yourself the luxury of thinking about how to do things a better way, instead of just following the accepted way of doing things. Think about kicking field goals in football for a minute. For decades, everyone kicked their field goals straight on. The only way to get ahead in the game was to kick harder and harder, and the human body can only kick so hard. At some point, someone paid attention to how soccer players kicked their goals. They kicked them at an angle that created much more efficient momentum. When the football players started kicking field goals the same way, approaching the ball at a 45 degree angle rather than straight on, they found their leg not only developed more force but hey could also kick more accurately. Pretty soon everyone copied this new way of kicking field goals and longer distances became common.
The best thing about having systems in place is that you can trust them. Once you have figured out the best, most efficient way of doing things and made these methods your habit, you’re going to be able to let those things happen automatically and get on with the business of building your success. So how do you go about working out systems for yourself?
7 Steps to a Winning System
The good news is, while it may be slow and challenging at first to develop good habits and systems, once they become habitual, you’ll be doing these things quickly and automatically. When doing things the right way starts coming naturally to you, you won’t need to think about it, which means you’ll be free to focus on finding more time-saving systems to add to your repertoire.
Step1: Understand your process
Before you can go about fixing your processes, you need to understand how you operate. Spend some time getting to know yourself. Write down, in detail, how you’re currently doing things, the good, the bad and the ugly. Let’s say you want to start waking up an hour earlier. How do you get yourself up in the morning? Hit the snooze button five times? Do you go to bed super late the night before? Whatever it is, write it down, and be honest with yourself!
Step 2: Evaluate your process
If you’re staying up reading until 1 a.m., that could mean not enough sleep, and trouble getting up. So what’s working and what isn’t? Some elements of your process might be great, so keep those. Some will detract from what you’re trying to accomplish, so eliminate those, or change them so they’re more effective and efficient. Be brutally honest with yourself about what’s working, what isn’t, and what needs to change. Again, write things down. It forces you to be specific and gives you the opportunity to think about what’s happening to you so you can identify what you need to improve.
Step 3: Study what other people do
Whether it’s someone you admire, a mentor, or someone famously successful who you look up to, find out how they do things. There’s nothing wrong with using what’s already out there; if you can use part of someone else’s system to good effect, go for it. Tweak what you need to, adopt what works for you, and incorporate it into your system.
Step 4: Anticipate problems
We all like to avoid thinking about what could go wrong. Nobody likes to admit that things could fall apart, but it’s a critical step in the process of creating systems that lead to success. When we prepare for the worst, we can prevent it from happening, so work through scenarios and put systems in place to avoid problems. This way, if an unforeseen crisis hits, you can focus on it, instead of putting out small, avoidable, fires all the time.
Step 5: Account for yourself
How do you spend your morning before beginning your workday? Is it efficient and productive? Is it helping you get to where you want to be? Your systems shouldn’t just account for what you do behind your desk; they should take into account everything you do, from when and how you spend your leisure time, too what you do for self-improvement.
Step 6: Adjust as needed
You’re probably not going to get the system perfect on the first try – if you do, let me know how you managed that! Be honest and open enough with yourself to recognize and admit where your process breaks down, and learn how to tinker and experiment with them until you build systems for success that work.
Step 7: Pick 3 areas to work on
Don’t stress yourself by trying to change too many things at once. There are hundreds of articles, books, blogs, and podcasts available that will give you lists of new habits to form, and all of these have value, but not all are right for you. Even if they were, there’s no way to do them all at once. That’s why I want to encourage you to begin by writing down three specific areas you’d like to improve in that you can start working on today. Write down exactly the improvement you want to get and start to put together your own system for making this happen.
Systems = Success
Once you have your winning systems in place, you’re going to notice a lot of things changing. You’ll have eliminated where you were wasting time on useless or frivolous tasks. You won’t need to think about every single step of your process because it will have become a habit. You can just apply it and keep moving forward, which will leave you more time and energy to work on your business or career. And the best part? You can apply these same lessons to your personal life as well. You’ll have more quality free time available, and you won’t be worn out from pushing yourself to the limit all the time on tasks that can be automated.
The beauty of this, is, you aren’t just copying someone else, even if you take inspiration from them. You’re doing something that works for you, which means you’re going to be much more committed to it You’re developing your own, personal magic bullet for success, and when you stick with it, you are going to achieve your goals.
I’d like to hear what your thoughts are on this. Talk to me about the systems you have worked out for your success — where they’ve worked, where they’ve failed, and how you like to go about it.