Success is harder than it’s ever been and actually easier than it’s ever been.
I’m not sure I’ve met a person who doesn’t want to succeed. We might want to succeed at different things but whatever your standard of success may be, you’re desperate to achieve it.
And yet many of us live with a gnawing ache of feeling unfulfilled… angst just below our carefully crafted exterior that torments us with fear of not succeeding. This is compounded by social media’s wonderful ability (insert sarcasm) to point out the success of every other human. It’s for this reason that I think success may be more difficult to achieve than ever before. We cannot focus on our own priorities and purpose because we’re distracted by everyone else’s.
As a result, we give up on our goals before they’ve ever had a chance.
The reality is that the path to success is not marked with glitter and unicorns. It’s not a delightful display of flashy and fun. Real success emerges from patient and persistent focus. It’s the hard work behind the scenes every day. It’s in the obscure and unseen. The secrets of success are not glamorous. They are relentless.
In the work I do with organizations, I find this to be consistently true. Eager to grow, make a difference, impact their community, launch a new program or product, every team that I have the privilege of working with wrestles with how to actually achieve the outcome they hope for. Many have tried numerous times and failed. Others are plateaued and can’t break through a challenging barrier. Some experience momentary success only to find themselves back in a familiar frustrating cycle just shy of the breakthrough they long for.
In every case, after a few days of thorough evaluation and strategic discussions I lead them back to a simple phrase and two key ingredients that I’m convinced lead to long-term success.
You have to create a plan and then most importantly, you have to work the plan.
Strategic planning consultants are a dime a dozen. In a recent conversation with a prospective client, he shared with great pain the volumes of strategic planning binders that line the shelves of his office—nearly one for every year of their organization’s history! They can’t in good conscience consider any of them a success because the same issues continue to plague their organization.
It’s the “work the plan” part of the equation where things unravel. We are energized and excited by the new ideas and hopeful opportunities that emerge during strategic planning. That’s the glitter and unicorns stuff. It’s what happens next that makes all the difference and this is where I see leaders misstep time and time again. Working the plan means work. It means focus and requires discipline.
If you want to see your team and your organization build momentum for the long haul, you have to focus on these two simple but essential steps:
1. Be Clear
2. Be Consistent
Sounds remarkably boring, doesn’t it? And that’s why it’s so essential. This is not the fodder for great Instagram posts.
This is the slow, slogging work that leads to extraordinary results.
When I say “Be Clear,” I mean to be simple and be focused. For example, when I decided that I wanted to develop my writing skills, I committed to writing a short blog post five days a week focused on leadership. My goal was clear, simple, and focused. I needed to write regularly on one topic.
Additionally, I committed to “Be Consistent.” I developed routine and discipline to meet my clear goal of writing five days a week. I carved out time in my morning routine to write regularly and I was disciplined to do it even when I was scrambling for something to say.
This clear and consistent approach ultimately led to book deals and to being respected as an authority on the subject of leadership. Most of those early blog posts were horrible, but I would have never developed my ideas and grown as an author without that clear and consistent commitment.
For most of our work, success is just on the other side of clear and consistent commitment to the simple steps of our plans. I don’t believe in magic formulas. Occasionally we may stumble onto something that has extraordinary momentum but this is by far the exception. Steady commitment to a driving purpose is where great joy, fulfillment, and success is found.
Glitter is messy anyway.
For more articles by Jenni, check out Being a Successful Leader Starts With You and Stuck in a Bad Work Culture? 6 Ways to Make it Better.
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