Authors: Robin Sharma
Before 1954, it was believed that no runner could ever break the four-minute mile barrier. But after Roger Bannister broke it, many more replicated his feat—within weeks. Why? Because he showed people what was possible. They got a new reference point. And then armed with that belief, people did the impossible.
four-minute mile? What bill of goods have you sold yourself as to what’s impossible? What false assumptions are you making in terms of what you cannot have, do and be? Your thinking creates your reality. Your beliefs truly become
self-fulfilling prophecies (because your beliefs drive your actions—and you will never act in a way that is misaligned with your thinking; the size of your life reflects the size of your thinking). If you think something cannot occur in your life, then there’s no way you will take the action required to make that goal a reality. Your “impossibility thinking” manifests itself. Your perceived limitations become the chains that keep you from the greatness you were meant to be. And you are
much better than that. Celebrated neurosurgeon Ben Carson expressed it so well when he said: “There is no such thing as an average human being; if you have a normal brain, you are superior.”
If you think something cannot occur in your life, then there’s no way you will take the action required to make that goal a reality. Your “impossibility thinking” manifests itself.
How big do you dream? How fast do you move? How relentlessly do you innovate? I think of Apple on the subject of innovation and their devotion to offering the world “insanely great” products. I just bought my daughter an iPod. She was extraordinarily persistent in her asking—smart kid. Such an array of iPods to select from: the Shuffle, the incredibly sleek Nano, the U2 version of the iPod. Rather than resting on its laurels with the massive success of this product, Apple just keeps innovating, reaching for something even better.
I did a speech for the Young Presidents’ Organization the other night. Talked about leadership and how the best get better. Shared how companies can achieve stunning success by making a few simple changes and course corrections. One young entrepreneur came up to me for a chat. I asked him for the best idea he’s learned for winning. “Always be pushing the envelope,” he replied.
Sure being a leader (at work or at home or in your community) is a lonely act. The very definition of being a leader means you are out in front—with no one else. Taking the road less traveled. Taking responsibility for results in a world that loves to blame and deny responsibility. Seeing possibilities that
no one else has yet dreamed of. Challenging the way things are. If you were in the herd, thinking and behaving like everyone else, then you wouldn’t be a leader—you’d be a follower. And that’s no fun.
Remember, every great leader (or visionary or brave thinker) was initially
laughed at. Now they are revered.
So push the envelope. Refuse to accept anything remotely close to mediocrity. Let go of the chains that have bound you to the ordinary. And definitely leave the crowd. The only place you’ll reach if you follow the crowd is the exit. Stand for your best. Commit to excellence. Become massively innovative and wear your passion on your sleeve. They might call you different or weird or even crazy. But please remember, every great leader (or visionary or brave thinker) was initially laughed at. Now they are revered.
I’m 41 years old. So I’m at half-time. Assuming I live until I’m 80 (and that’s a big assumption because I’ve learned that the only thing you can expect in life is the unexpected), I’m half way home—half way through the adventure I call my life. I’ve become more philosophical these days. I’m less willing to waste my time. Less willing to listen to negative people. Less willing to miss an opportunity to be loving, champion another human being, get closer to my dreams, or have some genuine fun. I’ve also started reading obituaries.
When I read of the lives others have lived, I’m offered clues on what’s most important in life. Obituaries of lives well lived actually share consistent themes, I’ve discovered. Family. Friendships. Contribution to community. The need to take calculated risks. Kindness through small, simple acts. And love. I’ve yet to read an obituary that says, “he died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his lawyer, his stockbroker and his accountant.” No, the great ones all speak of being close to loved ones and of the impact the deceased had on the world around them.
To lead a beautiful life, I suggest that you need to ask the kinds of questions that will provoke you to think deeply and connect with what matters most. One of the dominant traits of so many of the extraordinary people I’ve worked with as a success coach is the discipline of being more reflective than most of us. So ask profound questions. Good questions lead to excellent answers and greater clarity. And greater clarity is the DNA of authentic success and personal greatness.
I’ve yet to read an obituary that says, “he died peacefully in his
sleep surrounded by his lawyer, his stockbroker and his accountant.”
Here are five big questions that I hope will cause you to go deep and become more philosophical about what truly counts in your life. Most people don’t discover how to live until it’s time to die. But by then it’s too late. Ask yourself these five questions today. Write your answers in your journal. Talk about them. Think about them. Imagine that today is the last day of your life and you are lying on your deathbed. Then ask yourself:
Did I dream richly?
Did I live fully?
Did I learn to let go?
Did I love well?
Did I tread lightly on the earth and leave it better than I found it?
My hope is that the answers you arrive at will help you live with more authenticity, passion and joy. Clarity really does precede success. You can’t hit a target you can’t even see. And we’re really not here that long, when you think about it. We’ll all be dust before you know it. So live your potential now. The Chinese say it so well: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. But the second best time is today.”
Here’s an idea that just might transform your entire career (and your life): Being a leader (and in my mind, every single one of us has an obligation to show leadership daily—regardless of title or position) isn’t about being liked. It’s about doing what’s right. So many leaders are afraid of conflict—they have a deep-seated need to be popular and cherished. They hate ruffling feathers and making waves. They are insecure and not so comfortable living in their own skin. But great leaders are different. They fearlessly make tough calls. They speak their truth. They run their own race, making the right decisions and worrying little about public opinion. They are courage in action.
I speak and write a lot about being caring and respectful of people. Treat your people well and they’ll treat your customers well. That’s a no-brainer. Help people get to their goals and they’ll happily help you get to yours. I’ll take that value to my grave. See the best in people and be the most compassionate person you know. But being kind doesn’t mean being weak.
Being a good human doesn’t mean that you don’t need to be strong and courageous when required by the circumstances. Not once have I ever suggested that. Extraordinary leadership is a balance between being tender yet tough, compassionate yet courageous, part saint and part warrior, friendly yet firm. (By the way, to help you get to world class professionally and personally, I’ve recorded an idea-rich and exceptionally practical audio program called “Extraordinary Leadership” which contains my best ideas on the topic. As my gift to you, you can download the presentation for free at robinsharma.com).
All that the best leaders really care about is being fair, doing what’s right and getting results. And that brings me to my gentle suggestion to you: Do the right thing rather than doing the popular thing. The best thing to do is generally the hardest thing to do. Please remember that. Make the tough decisions. Speak with candor. Let underperformers know when they are underperforming. Tell your superstars how much you love them. Just be real.
Being a leader isn’t about being liked. It’s about doing what’s right.
When you lead from a position of truth, justice, fairness and excellence, you’ll have your critics. Who cares? I’ve never seen a critic show up at a deathbed. My friend Dan Sheehan, who runs a great company called WinPlus out of Los Angeles that we’ve done leadership development work with, once shared this with me: “Great people build monuments from the stones that their critics throw at them.” Nice point. Smart guy. If I had listened to all my critics, I’d still be an unhappy lawyer locked to a desk. Thank God I didn’t.
Being an “evangelist” has negative connotations in the world we reside in. But an evangelist, by definition, is simply someone who spreads good news. It’s someone who gets stuck on a big idea or a passionate cause and then walks out into his day and spreads the message like a virus. It’s someone who gets so engaged in doing something important that it’s all he thinks about, dreams about, talks about. It’s a human being who understands—at a cellular level—what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. meant when he said: “If you have not discovered something you are willing to die for, then you are not fit to live.” This troubled and uncertain world of ours needs more evangelists: human beings doing great things, blessing lives by their actions, making a difference.
Where did most people’s passion for greatness go? Each of us had it as kids. We wanted to be superheroes, astronauts, poets and painters. We wanted to change the world, stand on mountaintops and eat lots of ice cream. Then, as we aged, life began to do its work on us. Fearful people snickered at our dreams. Disappointments began to show up. Life began to hurt us and we began to buy into the propaganda that says we should not think too big, reach too high and love too much. Breaks my heart to think about it. But that’s exactly what happens.
You are meant to shine. I believe that fiercely. You are here to find that cause, that main aim, that vital destiny that will move you at the most visceral level and get you up at the crack of dawn with fire in your belly. You are meant to find something that your life will stand for that will consume you, something so beautiful and meaningful that you’d be willing to take a bullet for it. It might mean developing people at work and helping them live their highest potential. It might mean being an innovator who adds outrageous value to your clients and brings cool products to the world. Your cause might involve elevating communities or helping people in need. I recently read about a lawyer who said he was so passionate about being of service to a group of victims he was representing that he wouldn’t give up until there was blood coming out of his eyes. Extreme? Maybe. An evangelist? Definitely.
You are here to find that cause,
that main aim, that vital destiny that will move you at the most visceral level and get you up at the crack of dawn with fire in your belly.
I’m an evangelist. Talk to anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that my oxygen is helping human beings lead without title and getting organizations to world-class. Sure I have my down times and hard days—find me someone who doesn’t. But mostly you’ll find me full of enthusiasm, high energy and delight at spreading my message. Am I more special than you? Absolutely not. I’ve just found my Cause.
I don’t know what your life’s Most Important To Do is. That’s for you to figure out (through some deep reflection, introspection and soul-searching; doing that within a journal is a wise idea). But I do know this: When you find the mission that your life will be dedicated to, you’ll wake up each day with that fire in your belly I mentioned. You won’t want to sleep. You’ll be willing to move mountains to make it happen. You’ll find that sense of internal fulfillment that may now be missing from your life. And you’ll preach that message to anyone who’ll listen. You’ll become an evangelist.
I just want to help you shine. All I really care about is doing my part to help you get to your greatness. To help you reach your best at work. To help you find happiness at home. To help you make your mark. What’s my payoff? Well, when I help you live your finest life, I get to feel significant. I get to feel that I’m making a difference in the world. That I matter. That I’m not walking the planet in vain. That’s where so much of my happiness comes from. Truly.
So here’s what I thought about in the shower this morning: What are my best practices? In other words, what are the best things that I do to stay at my very best—on game and in potential? Here’s what I came up with:
Up at 5 a.m. five times a week with naps on the weekends.
A 60-minute “holy hour” once I’m up, for self-development and personal reflection.
five big-time workouts a week.
A 90-minute massage every seven days.
A world-class diet. (But I eat one to two desserts every week—life isn’t meant to be too strict; and if I ever see “flourless chocolate cake”
on a menu, I order it.)
A period of journaling most days. Journaling builds self-awareness. I also use my journal to write daily goals, plan and record what I’m grateful for, and capture and process new ideas along with lessons learned.
A period of reading each day (from
Harvard Business Review
Travel and Leisure
and good books).
Affirmations or what I call Success Statements throughout the day—especially in the shower. These keep my thoughts locked on what’s most important—and thoughts are the ancestors of actions. Right thinking drives right action.
A weekly planning session. I also review my goals here. Usually I do it Sunday morning.
At least one conversation with an interesting person each week to keep my passion high and to surround myself with big ideas. A single conversation can change your life. In an issue of
management consultant Jim Collins revealed that one idea, shared in 30 seconds by a mentor, transformed him.