The end of the year is traditionally a time when we look forward toward the future. A time to relax, spend time with our families and loved ones, and a time to re-energize ourselves for another year.
Many of us want to be successful, so we set goals. Objectives. Targets.
I used to do the same. Still do. But this holiday season, I’ll be doing something else as well.
You see, this year, I discovered a simple truth.
Too much can kill you.
If we want to be truly successful, we need to let go of things – not find more things to do. True success is built as much around letting go, weeding out and cutting down as it is around setting goals for ourselves.
A year ago, my friend Anthony Iannarino wrote a post entitled “The 7 Things You Must Leave Behind To Get Ahead”.
Following his example, here are seven destructive habits that many of us engage in (hey, I’m no saint either), that we should all collectively let go of.
#1. Chase after bad deals
Many of us spend way too much time chasing deals that aren’t a great fit. Maybe they’re deals that we know we can’t win (but we try anyway). Maybe they’re clients we know will be a headache to work with (but we try anyway). Maybe they’re deals that, even if we win them, won’t matter all that much (but we try anyway).
Do yourself a favor: stop chasing those deals. Identify them early on, be honest with yourself, and cut them out of your pipeline.
These deals are like a cancer: not only do they poison your body, but they inhibit healthy cells from growing in their place.
If there’s one thing I urge you to do in 2016, it’s this: stop chasing bad business. According to my experience, this alone can help you free up 30% or more of your pipeline, and increase your win rate by 20% or more.
#2. Engage in mindless activity
We all have habits – some of these are good, but many don’t contribute all that much to our results. Yet, we keep doing them simply because … they are habits.
You know what I’m talking about. It’s the things that make us feel good, like we’ve accomplished something, but ultimately don’t add anything in terms of our performance or achievement.
Things like cold calling (1% ROI). Having meetings with unqualified prospects. Sending proposals to buyers who have no intention of buying from us. Spending excessive amounts of time researching prospects on social media.
If you want to be successful, the next step to take is this one: stop engaging in “busywork” that looks good on a dashboard, but ultimately doesn’t get you anywhere.
#3. Shoot first, ask “why” later
I have intellectual ADHD (or what buddhists call “monkey mind”). I love new ideas, and unless I’m very, very careful, I’ll find myself in implementation mode faster than you can spell “b-u-s-y”.
As a result of that, I sometimes find myself committing to things too soon, and without really thinking things through. Meaning I waste a lot of time on things that I shouldn’t be engaging in in the first place.
Maybe I’ll hear about this really cool new idea on a webinar, and find myself implementing it the very next day. Maybe I’ll wake up with this really exciting new project in mind, only to spend a few days with it, and have it go nowhere.
“There are many things we could do, but only a few we should do.”
Before you decide what to take on, do yourself a favour and “ask why”. Then, sleep on it. Then, “ask why” again. If it’s still a good idea, and it fits with your overall goals (see #6), then go for it.
#4. Confuse activity with results
When I came out of corporate and started my own business, the most important lesson I learned was this: the world doesn’t care how many hours you’ve spent. The world only cares about your results.
Output. Revenue. Increases. Results.
Those are the things that matter – not the amount of activity you’ve put in. Once you’ve left the safety of cubicle nation, no one cares about how hard you work – and neither should you.
Don’t be a fool – forget about “working hard”. If you want to be successful, work smart instead.
Focus on getting results, not on getting things done.
#5. Make decisions based on “hope”, not data
Just because you want something, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. And just because it’s on a corporate presentation somewhere, doesn’t make it a good idea either.
On a daily basis, I see many decisions made on hope – completely ignoring the data. “We should”. “We have to”. “We can’t afford not to.”
Unfortunately, many RFPs are not worth your time (unless you have a distinct advantage). Many clients are happy to speak with you, but have no intention of buying from you. And many things you could be doing end up slowly sucking away your time without giving you anything in return.
If you want to save your time, sanity and if you’re truly interested in achieving results, do yourself a favour.
First, set goals. Then, identify metrics. Finally, measure everything you do against those. And relentlessly weed out what’s not working.
#6. Ignore the “big picture”
Many of us lead our lives like there’s no tomorrow. We’re always focused on today (don’t take that literally – “today” can mean this week, this month, this quarter).
But what about next year ? What about five years from now ? What about twenty years from now ?
An extraordinary life is made up of a series of extraordinary days. But it doesn’t happen by accident.
“People who know what they want, get what they want.”
Many of us set goals for the next year. But what is that anyway ? An arbitrary number (365) set by global convention.
Do yourself a favour, and – as Stephen Covey said – start with the end in mind. Think further out. Where do you want to be in five years ? 10 ? 20 ?
And ask yourself: is what you’re currently doing the very best way to make that happen?
#7. Play it safe
You can’t go to the moon on a bicycle.
Yet, many of us expect that they will be able to achieve success beyond their wildest dreams by playing it safe, and taking small steps.
Extraordinary success (however you choose to define that) requires sacrifice. It requires taking risk. It requires getting bloody knees, and getting beat up from time to time.
If you want to go to the moon, you need to be willing to take risk. If you want to be successful, stop playing small. Stop playing it safe.
Instead, create a big, bold vision for your life, and commit to it.
The myth of success is that it requires massive action. It doesn’t.
Massive action can be the fastest way to nowhere.
True success is built as much on knowing what not to do, what to drop and what to let go of as it is on taking action.
Deep down, you know I’m right. You know there’s (at least) one thing you should stop doing right now. One thing you should let go of. One thing you should cut from your never-ending to do list.
What’s that thing ? What do you commit to dropping, in order to be successful beyond measure ?
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