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Monday Motivation

Seven steps toward greatness

For some years now, I've been a subscriber to Nightingale-Conant's excellent "Insight" series. Insight is a collection of clips from Nightingale's various audio programs, with an occasional additional feature thrown in.

This month, Insight celebrated its 20th anniversary. Two hundred and forty issues have been mailed to subscribers. I've got a hundred or so of those.

With this month's issue, Nightingale mailed a copy of its original issue. In the audio features on that issue, I listened to an interesting story.

Last week, if you recall, we read a quotation from Abraham Lincoln. This story is also about Lincoln -- and I think it has some bearing on our lives.

The speaker told of an instance where Lincoln and a friend were leaving church on Sunday. Lincoln's friend mentioned what a good sermon the minister had given.

"I just can't agree," Mr. Lincoln said.

"But why?" said the friend.

"It's very simple," said Lincoln. "He didn't ask us to do anything great."

The story could very well be apocryphal, but the observation is clear and remarkable.

Whether you're a leader, a follower, or a wanderer, we can always set ourselves on the path to greatness. Lincoln knew all about that path -- he followed it most of the days of his life. His remark to his friend showed that he felt each person, particularly people in positions of leadership, must demand greatness from himself and his followers.

After all, who would demand mediocrity?

I can hear it now:

"All right," a leader would say. "We've gotten just about as lukewarm as we want -- whatever you do, don't strive even a little bit more -- if you push us over the top into excellence, there'll be hell to pay."

Sounds stupid, and it is. Continued progression in this world demand a striving toward becoming someone better than we currently are -- and yet altogether too many of us settle for far less than the greatness we can one day achieve.

Most of us didn't set out to be mediocre -- but time, trials, mixups, stress, money demands, family needs, and other requirements seem to sap our strength.

Doing things excellently rarely takes longer than doing a slipshod job, and doing great things takes just a bit of a push beyond mere excellence. It's that extra bit of greatness that makes all the difference in the world -- and in our lives.

When we commit ourselves to becoming great people -- and leading great companies, we commit ourselves to becoming the best we are capable of -- and in doing so, sharing our passion for greatness with other people.

So, in keeping with our push along the path for greatness, here are 7 simple steps to take each of us further down that path.

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1. Have enthusiasm -- be a fire setter.

Enthusiasm is so essential -- and sometimes it's something that has to be developed. Each of us is enthusiastic about something -- even if it's Friday afternoon. We need to become enthusiastic about our path to greatness, or it's almost certain that we won't reach our goal.

Enthusiasm is something that can be compared to a fire. As a fire starts to burn, it may be only a few flames -- but with enough time and fuel, a fire begins to burn hotter and hotter, kindling other flames as it grows.

Although I'm not trying to minimize the great damage they caused, like the forest fires that have been plaguing us here in the Western United States over the last few years, a small spark can kindle a great blaze. In some cases, a single match, carelessly thrown out of a car window, caused a vast wildfire.

Our quest for greatness can inspire and inflame an organization -- it can make an organization's enthusiasm flare up, just as the wildfires did.

A couple of weeks ago, I read an interesting book called "And Dignity for All." The title doesn't really do the book justice, even though it adequately conveys the general message of the book. The book tells of the re-creation of parts of Caterpillar, a U.S.-based manufacturer of heavy machinery. More than just that, it's the chronicle of how just a few people reformed long-held ideas, and turned a company toward a better path to greatness.

Just as in this excellent book, we all can create enthusiasm in our organizations, and in ourselves.

A technique shared by many motivational experts is the "fake it until you make it" technique. In this technique, a person acts as if he/she already has a particular skill, ability, or positive attitude. The real thing follows easily.

If you're having a bit of a problem getting started on the enthusiasm bandwagon, just act as if you're enthused. You'll soon get caught up in it.


2. Expect great things, and you'll get them.

It's an old adage, but it's true -- when you expect greatness, you're likely to get it. Whether it be from yourself, your co-workers, your family, or your followers, when you expect the best, you're more likely to gain it.

Conversely, the opposite is also true -- if you expect junk, you're likely to get it.

Once you've become inflamed with enthusiasm, decide that only greatness will be good enough. Sure, your organization may take some time to get there -- or you may take time yourself -- but commit to do whatever it takes in order to get the great results you seek.

Great things come from great people, who are striving to accomplish great undertakings.


3. Don't settle for less than greatness.

Sounds like a bit of a replay of number two -- but it needs mentioning by itself. When you allow yourself to settle for "second best," you are doing yourself, and your organization, a great disservice. Years ago, a commercial had this tag line: "My tastes are simple. I only settle for the very best." Take this commercial line into your own approach to life. Expect the best from yourself -- and don't let yourself settle for less.


4. Encourage greatness in others.

There's an old description of the difference between a leader and a dictator. A dictator tells people where to go -- and punishes them if they don't get there. A leader shows people where to go -- and leads them there herself.

Don't only use mere words to encourage your organization and yourself to strive for greatness. Include training to give them (and you) the skills necessary to attain the best. Adjust your thinking to bring them onboard your "greatness bandwagon." Lead them, teach them, guide them -- and do the same for yourself.


5. Move steadily.

This one item is the step that most people have the most problem with -- keeping going. It's usually easy for an organization to take their group to a "management retreat," where the latest in "team-building games" and "motivational moments" are shared -- but at best, most of these retreats provide a "six-month blip." After the initial excitement wears off, most people just stop moving.

Your key, whether it be in yourself or in your organization, is to encourage continual movement and growth. Usually, all it takes is a bit of a push when movement seems to slow down -- but as a leader, you've got to keep yourself aware of those slowdowns.


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6. Evaluate progress.

An old friend of mine used to say "If something isn't measured, it doesn't happen." It sounds like the old "tree falls in the forest" argument, but it's more true than we may think. If there's no measurement of how an organization or an individual is moving and changing, it's likely there will be very little movement or change.

Don't be onerous about it -- but evaluate how well your organization or yourself is adapting to your path toward greatness.


7. Adjust, adapt, and repeat.

It's a never-ending quest -- when we become great, we need to become greater. Our newer heights show us greater ones to achieve.

Adjust your approach to account for obstacles that may need to be surmounted. Adapt to those challenges, and also adapt to the things your quest has taught you.

Repeat your quest for greatness -- and keep on striving to become greater, each and every day.


Have confidence in your ability to reach greatness and move your organization toward greater heights.

Copyright, 2003, by Daryl R. Gibson and WeekdayWisdom.com. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for the non-commercial use of this document as long as it retains this copyright and all lines and images remain intact. This does not allow the compilation and marketing of this material, whether for commercial or non-commercial use. Join us at http://www.WeekdayWisdom.com.

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