Authors: Robin Sharma
Michael Jordan was a basketball genius. Was his spectacular success on the court purely the result of natural gifts? Absolutely not. He took what nature gave him and ran the formula: Focus plus daily improvement plus time equals genius. He didn’t try to be good at five different sports. He didn’t scatter his focus. He just got devoted to being brilliant at basketball. And he was.
Thomas Edison registered a stunning 1093 patents over his lifetime and invented the light bulb as well as the phonograph. (A schoolteacher labelled him a slow learner when he was a kid; he didn’t listen. Kudos.) He didn’t try to be a great merchant and a great poet and a great musician. He focused
on his inventions. He improved daily. And he let time work its magic. Genius came knocking.
Makes me think of a story about Pablo Picasso. One day a woman spotted him in the market and pulled out a piece of paper. “Mr. Picasso,” she said excitedly, “I’m a big fan. Please, could you do a little drawing for me?” Picasso happily complied and quickly etched out a piece of art for her on the paper provided. He smiled as he handed it back to her, and said, “That will be a million dollars.” “But Mr. Picasso,” the flustered woman replied, “it only took you 30 seconds to do this little masterpiece.” “My good woman,” Picasso laughed, “it took me 30 years to do that masterpiece in 30 seconds.”
Focus plus daily improvement
plus time equals genius. Understand that formula deeply and your life will never be the same.
Know what you can excel at—your genius. Discover your talents and then work like crazy to polish them. One of the most important of all personal leadership skills is self-awareness. Know what you are really great at. Reflect on those abilities that others admire in you. Think about those capabilities that just come easily to you—and that flow effortlessly from you. You might be a fantastic communicator or have a way with people. You might possess an extraordinary ability to execute
and get things done. Perhaps your special talent lies in innovation and creativity and seeing what everyone else sees but thinking a different thought. Find your genius points and then develop them. Focus plus daily improvement plus time. Start today and in three to five years people will be writing about you. Calling you a genius. Celebrating your magnificence. And don’t worry—I’ll be one of them.
My mom is a very wise woman. As a kid, I loved to talk (still do). In school, I always did well academically but my report cards never failed to note my passion for vigorously exercising my vocal chords on a near-constant basis. One day Mom sat me down and said: “Robin, you were given two ears and one mouth for a reason: to listen twice as much as you speak.” Brilliant point (still working on it though).
Listening intently to someone is one of the best ways I know of to honor that person and forge a deep human connection. When you listen to someone—not just with your mind but with every fiber of your being—it sends them a message: “I value what you have to say, and I’m humble enough to listen to your words.” So few of us are really good at listening. I’ll sit down next to someone on an airplane, at the start of a six-hour flight, and they’ll still be talking by the time we land—without having even asked me my name or where I’m from or what I do or the books I’ve read. Tells me not only that they lack what scientists call “sensory acuity” (an ability to pay attention to the
cues around them) but that they were probably not given much listening as kids. Most people’s idea of listening is waiting until the other person has finished speaking before answering. And the sad fact is that while one person is talking, most of us are rehearsing our replies.
Listening intently to someone is one of the best ways I know of to honor that person and forge a deep human connection.
New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer has a line that I love: “Never talk when you can nod.” Your effectiveness as a businessperson, as a family member and as a human being will absolutely soar if you get this one right. Listen twice as much as you speak. Become a world-class listener. Get wildly interested in what others have to say to you. And just watch how people respond. They’ll fall in love with you. Quickly.
I’m standing in line at a Starbucks. The Dave Matthews Band is playing in the background. The smell of coffee fills the air. The espresso machines blast away. People are reading, relaxing and talking. The vibe is good. I feel happy here. Feels like home. If you’re in business, one of the most important things I suggest that you consider is the idea that people don’t buy with their heads so much as with their hearts. The competition in today’s marketplace is not for customers’ money. Not at all. The only real competition is for their emotions. Touch the hearts of the people you serve and they’ll be back for more. Engage their emotions and they’ll become your raving fans. Miss this insight and you just might lose your business.
Sure I could spend less on a cup of java. Sure there’s a coffee shop closer to where I work. But I love the way going into a Starbucks makes me feel. Relaxed. Happy. Good. And each of us craves good feelings as we live out our days. In so many ways, adults are nothing more than children in grown-up bodies—and children are all about feeling good. On this point about
emotions driving customer behavior, Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, writes, in his superb book
Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands:
“In my 35 years in business I have always trusted my emotions. I have always believed that by touching emotion you get the best people to work with you, the best clients to inspire you, the best partners and most devoted customers.” Roberts then quotes neurologist Donald Calne: “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.” A breathtakingly important point. Human beings move when their emotions are moved.
Human beings move when their emotions are moved.
How does carrying an iPod around make you feel? How does shopping at a hip shop make you feel? How does walking into your favorite restaurant and being greeted like Diddy or Madonna or Bill Clinton make you feel? You get my point. People go where they are made to feel cared for, special and good. People buy from a place of emotional engagement. Seems so obvious. Yet most businesses don’t get it.
Here’s my bold statement for today: Business is in so many ways about love. Think about it. Success comes by treating your customers with love. Acclaim comes by doing your job with love. Market leadership comes with selling your wares with love. If your customers only like you, you are vulnerable to losing them when a competitor with a cheaper product or a more economical service comes along. Why? Because you’ve failed to emotionally
connect with them. But when your customers love you—because you’ve touched their hearts by the way that you occur in their lives—you become part of their extended family. You’re now a part of their community. They become loyal. They tell the rest of the family about you. And they’ll take good care of you should times get tough.
So I’ll keep going to Starbucks. I love the place. And if you ever want to find me, I’ll be the guy tucked away in the quiet corner, sipping on a grande soy latte with a smile on my face and joy in my heart—feeling the love.
Every time you say yes to something that is unimportant, you are saying no to something that is important. “Yes men” and “yes women” never create anything great. There’s huge value in getting good at saying no.
Say no to the friend who wants to meet over coffee to gossip. Say no to the co-worker who wants to spread his negativity and cynicism. Say no to the relative who laughs at your dreams and makes you doubt yourself. Say no to the social obligations that drain time from your life’s work.
Every time you say yes to something that is unimportant, you say no to something that is important.
You can’t be all things to all people. The best among us get that. Know your priorities. Know your goals. Know what needs to get done over the coming weeks, months and years for you to feel that you played your best game as a human being. And
then say no to everything else. Sure some people around you might not be happy. But would you rather live your life according to the approval of others or aligned with your truth and your dreams?
Powerful thought: Great achievement often happens when our backs are up against the wall. Pressure can actually enhance your performance. Your power most fully exerts itself when the heat is on. Who you truly are surfaces only when you place yourself in a position of discomfort and you begin to feel like you’re out on the skinny branch. Challenge serves beautifully to introduce you to your best—and most brilliant—self. Please stop and think about that idea for a second or two. Easy times don’t make you better. They make you slower and more complacent and sleepy. Staying in the safety zone—and coasting through life—never made anyone bigger. Sure it’s very human to take the path of least resistance. And I’d agree it’s pretty normal to want to avoid putting stress on yourself by intensely challenging yourself to shine. But greatness never came to anyone normal. (Mahatma Gandhi, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, Andy Grove and Thomas Edison definitely marched to a different drumbeat—thank God).
I’ve never forgotten the story of the famed explorer Hernando Cortés. He landed on the shores of Veracruz, Mexico, in 1519. Wanted his army to conquer the land for Spain. Faced an uphill battle: an aggressive enemy, brutal disease and scarce
resources. As they marched inland to do battle, Cortés ordered one of his lieutenants back to the beach with a single instruction: “Burn our boats.” My kind of guy.
Challenge serves beautifully to introduce you to your best—and most brilliant—self.
How fully would you show up each day—at work and in life—if retreat just wasn’t an option? How high would you reach, how greatly would you dare, how hard would you work and how loud would you live if you knew “your boats were burning,” that failure just wasn’t a possibility? Diamonds get formed through intense pressure. And remarkable human beings get formed by living from a frame of reference that tells them they just have to win.
One of the training programs that we offer companies to help them get to world class in their marketspace is called
Grow The Leader.
Organizations all around the world including NASA and pharmaceutical giant Wyeth are using our unique process to increase employee engagement, enhance culture, dramatically boost performance and produce superior business results.
Grow The Leader
is based on a simple yet powerful concept: The ultimate competitive advantage of your enterprise comes down to a single imperative—your ability to grow and develop leaders faster than your competition. The more quickly you can get every single person in the company demonstrating leadership behavior—regardless of their position—the more quickly you will lead the field. Your race is to grow leaders fast and develop a “culture of leadership” before your competition does.
A leadership culture is one where everyone thinks like an owner, like a CEO or managing director. It’s one where
is entrepreneurial and proactive. This means they focus on getting to solutions rather than on the problems. This means they do whatever it takes to keep customers happy. This means they worry about sales and do their part to reduce costs. This means they take personal responsibility for achieving results that move
the business forward (whether they run the mailroom or sit in a boardroom). This means they shape culture, stay positive and lead by example. We’ve helped our clients create leadership cultures and the results have been nothing short of remarkable.
The ultimate competitive advantage of your enterprise comes down to a single imperative—your ability to grow and develop leaders faster than your competition.
I pray that I’ve been clear: I’m not saying everyone needs to do the job of a CEO or managing director. Showing leadership doesn’t mean every employee will run the organization. That would lead to chaos. Businesses do need someone to set the vision and then lead the team to it. All I’m suggesting is that all the people on your team need to know their role and then show up fully in that role—like a leader would. And when they do—when they think, feel and act like leaders—good things will happen. And soon, your organization will get to great.
The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once observed: “Most people take the limits of their vision to be the limits of the world. A few do not. Join them.” Profound point. The life that you see this very moment isn’t necessarily the life of your future. You might be viewing things through the eyes of your fears, limitations and false assumptions. Once you clean up the stained glass window you see the world through, guess what? A whole new set of possibilities appears. Remember, we see the world not as it is but as we are. That idea changed my life, over a decade ago, when I was an unhappy lawyer searching for a better way to live.