Yesterday, I gave a speech at Hofstra University in NY on what it takes to be successful. I reflected back on my days as a student, eager to enter the world of business and the question I kept asking myself was this: How am I different today than I was 30 years ago? The answer was surprisingly clear. My values are the same. My strengths & passions are pretty much the same. What is different, and what shapes the way I live my life today, are the choices I have made. Here is a summary of my speech on the seven things I have learned about choices:
- Success is a matter of choice: Be more intentional and deliberate about making good choices. This single word will be the most important word in defining who you will become beginning now If you can master the ability to make good choices consistently, you will master the first secret to leading a successful life.
- Chose to be you, believe in your self and be the best you can be: Having the courage and confidence to be you and choosing to be the best you can be is yours to decide. Always remember that you can be outstanding at something, anything you want - the choice is yours.
- Chose to be purposeful - Have a vision, a purpose, and specific goals: Successful people think in terms of goals. And, they're committed to making them happen. Your vision will help determine your direction and your direction, your destination. It will help guide your choices and decisions day in and day out. So, what is your vision, your purpose, your goals? Take time to think this through. They can change over time - but living with some level of purpose and goals will help you make the right choices for your life.
- Chose to work hard, with passion and a gritty attitude. Success often looks easy to those watching but it's all the hard work underneath that tip of the iceberg that leads to success and it starts with Grit. Grit is the willingness to commit to challenging goals and to persist in the face of obstacles. It is the commitment to practice, hard work and the sheer hours and years it takes to master the necessary skills and knowledge so that you eventually become incredibly good at whatever you chose to do. PEOPLE with a gritty attitude overcome setbacks because they believe that improvement is always possible and they are willing to change their ways and try something different and work harder (and smarter) again and again.
- Be willing to step out of your comfort zone into your courage zone. Being willing to step out of your comfort zone and into unfamiliar territory steepens your learning curve. It stretches you. It further sharpens your skills and builds your confidence and your expertise. You see, when you work at closing the gap between what you know you can do and what you strive to achieve - magic happens…and that new skill can often become the differentiating factor in your experience base and in your career.
- Chose to lead with the utmost honesty and integrity. Doing what is right, rather than what is easy and being a role model in everything you do is a critical quality of enduring leaders. You don't have to look far to see the failure of leadership all over the world. Always remember - the right choice is often the most difficult. Your reputation and the reputation of the institution you represent (whether its your family, your university or the company you work for) is everything. It is the one thing that will follow you everywhere you go and one must never forget, the world is small and chances are you will be found out.
- Finally, chose your team, as if casting for a play: It's important to remember that in our journey of life, success is not just about work achievement but also about who you surround yourself with. You see who is around you, whom you work for and what you believe, can make your choice to be successful either easy or very difficult. So pick your friends and co-workers as if you were casting for a Broadway hit. Surround yourself with the people who make you a better person, an ethical person, a better friend and family member and importantly, a better leader.