Thursday, February 7, 2013

Is Your Ladder of Success on the Wrong Wall?

photo credit: throgers via photopin cc

In "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," Stephen Covey described those who work hard climbing the ladder of success only to find themselves years later standing atop the wrong wall. How does this happen and what can you do to solve the problem?

Chasing Money

Many wind up in this undesirable place because they spend their days chasing money, hopping from one big thing to the next. In a recent forum discussion, one of the participants said he has no interest in "serving" or "offering value to the market place." He claims he is into entrepreneurship solely for the money. "I build lists to monetize them," he proclaimed. I doubt he has "monetized" much of anything.

If this is how you approach entrepreneurship, then good luck because the riches do not come easy or quick. This is the type of attitude that causes people to jump from one thing to the next without ever giving an idea enough time to take hold and "tip."

Finding and climbing the right wall requires tapping into something greater than the desire for money, fame or notoriety. The days will be long with the outcome often unpredictable. The desire for money is not enough to remain on the roller coaster.

Chasing the Joneses

So, your neighbor bought a new car. Not one to be out done, you decide to get one too. Whether cars, fancy vacations, home improvements or the latest gadget, people make a sport of keeping up with friends and neighbors.

By contrast, a good friend of mine brags about how little he spends on clothing, cars and electronics. The thrift store is his favorite place for shopping, and he has as much as $100,000 cash on hand in the bank.

Over almost 20 years, he built a real estate business and retired early from his job. Everyone he worked with had the same opportunity, but they squandered years of time and earnings keeping up appearances.

What is his secret? He loves rental properties and taking care of his tenants. One day after purchasing a fancy, stainless steel refrigerator for one of his apartments, he turned to me and said, "See how well I take care of my tenants? This is why everyone wants to rent from me."

Changing Walls

Once a person realizes they are standing on the wrong wall, they have but three choices.

1. Stay put and / or keep going - This is the most common choice. They soldier hoping things will get better. It seldom does.

2. Make a hard pivot - Chuck it all and follow your passions. This approach is risky, scary and hard on those closest to us. Few people have the courage to make such a move, which is understandable considering the amount of obligations piled up while chasing down the Joneses.

3. A gradual pivot - This is the safer choice and easy enough for almost anyone. A gradual pivot is when you decide to get off the wall within a certain timeframe, be it a year or 2 or 3. The first step is deciding where you want to be by that time, and then laying the groundwork to get there.

Start with the end in mind as Covey put it, and get to work on reaching your destination.

Stop taking on new clients for that business you want out of but maintain good service for your existing customers. Take college courses part time to get your degree in philosophy as a first step to becoming a professor. Make friends with those in the industry you want access to. Start your dream business on the side and take your time building a loyal clientele. The choice is yours.

Despite the relative ease of this approach, most would rather die on the other wall than risk judgment and ridicule from "friends." Misery still loves company. So, who do you keep company with?

Godspeed and I look forward to seeing you in The Players Lounge.

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