We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit. – Aristotle
I read somewhere that only about 10 percent of people who start a book actually finish it. So if you have made it this far—congratulations! That’s a pretty good sign that you really want success and are willing to do the work necessary.
If we hopped out of bed every morning, reviewed our business and personal goals for 15 minutes, ate a healthy breakfast, ran 3 miles, executed our responsibilities perfectly in our sales career, and made the projected number of cold calls every single day, life would be perfect. We would be perfect. We would be Stepford People.
But we aren’t perfect—that’s just not real life. Real life is a lot more complicated.
We all know what we should do all the time. Human nature, however, is somewhat fickle. And despite our best efforts, our actions don’t always align perfectly with what we know we should do.
Nothing you have read in this book is going to make an ounce of difference unless you actually do something with the information. You have to figure out a way to implement what you’ve learned throughout these pages.
The implementation step is by far the most important step in your life and business—there is nothing I can write that will take the place of action on your part. There is, indeed, a lot to do, but a million words on the subject will not magically result in the doing. No amount of saying or reading is going to replace the value in the simple act of doing. There is no substitute for taking action.
Remember: The most successful people in life and business don’t know anything the rest of us don’t know. They are just doing things many others don’t do.
Emerson wrote that “our actions speak so loudly others can’t hear what we say.” All I can say to that is “Amen.”
Success in life and business is based on probabilities, not absolutes. There are no guarantees. Our best shot for success rests on our ability to do the little things in life, as often as we can, that will improve our chances for success.
Developing and reviewing your prosperity plan on a daily basis are two of the things that will dramatically improve your probabilities for success.
This is a reflection of the consistency principle, in that our “private affirmations dictate our future actions.” In other words, it only makes sense that if we tell ourselves repeatedly that we are going to do something, we are more likely to do it. And even though “more likely” is an issue of probability, probability is all we have.
Common sense dictates that if you map out a specific plan for your life and business (prosperity plan) and keep it in the forefront of your consciousness by reviewing it every day (quiet-time ritual), you will be more likely to do those things than if you had not mapped them out and reviewed a plan. This daily review is like a “bumper” in a bowling alley—keeping those things prominent in your thinking and stopping you from hitting the gutter. And you know that if you take any action that is incongruent with your plan, you are more likely to feel cognitive dissonance and either correct—or at least not repeat—the action the next day.
At some point, you are likely to start acting in a manner congruent with your plan or stop reviewing the plan on a daily basis—since telling yourself one thing every morning and doing something very different over the course of your day will make you crazy.
But if you eventually begin doing the things you are telling yourself to do every day, you are very likely to achieve the result you desired when you initially wrote out the plan.
It’s not rocket science.
Emerson said, “Mapping out a course of action and following it to an end takes courage.” Many people have dreams of success and prosperity, but very few actually have the courage to map out the plan and follow it to the end. Reviewing it regularly will increase the probability that you will succeed, so be fearless. Be courageous.
The real challenge to implementing your plan is taking the time to conduct your quiet-time ritual every day. Once you cross that hurdle, you will become infinitely more likely to defy the conundrum of human nature and do the things you know you should do to create wealth, happiness, and peace of mind. Your quiet-time ritual will strengthen your willpower and assist you throughout the course of your day to act in a manner consistent with what you want in life and business.
Unfortunately, there is nothing that will help you make the quiet-time ritual a routine part of your life except actually forcing yourself to do it. This will require a fierce determination to succeed—and the discipline to do it. Whether that requires you to awaken 15 minutes earlier, do it over your lunch break, or stay up 15 minutes later at night, you will have to force yourself in the initial stages.
You’ve probably heard somewhere that it takes about 21–28 days for an action to become a habit. That means if you can force yourself to get through the first three weeks of doing your quiet-time ritual, you will be dramatically more likely to continue doing it thereafter.
Perhaps that’s why Emerson said, “Mapping out a plan and following it to an end requires courage.” If it were easy, sissies would do it.
The really good news is that it will become easier and more natural to do your quiet-time ritual over time. In fact, after a few days of doing it, you will likely find that it is the most amazing part of your day. You will find that this time brings a new sense of optimism and excitement into your life. As difficult as it may be to get started, it will be equally difficult to stop as you encounter the new hope and optimism about your life and business that will emanate from your 15-minute quiet-time ritual.
Two things can be especially helpful as you begin making your quiet-time ritual a habit: belief and understanding.
I can clearly remember beginning the process of reviewing my plan daily as I sat alone in a cold, gray prison cell. I considered whether or not it was worth the effort, and whether I truly believed it would make a difference in my life. As I was reflecting on this, I thought about something. Either my mind’s ability to imagine amazing visions and dream astounding things serves a purpose—like everything else in my body—or it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, then it is the one function of my body that serves no purpose. That would mean that it was there only to frustrate me with visions of things I could never have—to torment me with dreams I’ll never achieve.
I honestly don’t think that’s how it is. I believe we have the ability to see wonderful, amazing things in our mind’s eye because that is the first step on our journey to creating them. As Dr. Stephen R. Covey said: “All things are created twice,” first in our mind, and again in our physical lives—that is, once in the box and once outside the box.
If you can believe that your quiet-time ritual serves a purpose, then it’s much easier to get started on it. Once you understand the connection between your thoughts, emotions, actions, and results—and realize the important role that this time with yourself plays in that process—you will be more likely to make the adjustments necessary to take this decisive action. Once you take that decisive action, you will see dramatic changes in your attitude, actions, and results.
I think it is also useful to understand why it takes a few weeks for a new action to become a habit. If you understand the neurological process that is taking place over this course of making something a habit, you will be more likely to follow through with your attempts.
I first read about an amazing study that illustrates why it takes several weeks to form a habit in John Assaraf’s best-selling book, The Answer. Assaraf details a NASA study whereby astronauts were fitted with lenses that inverted their vision 180 degrees. After approximately 25 days, one of the astronauts reported that his vision had automatically corrected itself and reinverted his sight 180 degrees. All of the astronauts in the study reported the same phenomenon within a few days. When the astronauts removed the lenses, their vision was again inverted 180 degrees.
The scientist discovered that after 25 to 30 days, the subjects’ brains actually created new neural pathways to adjust for the inverted vision. A subsequent study also reported that researchers found that when the lenses were removed for 24 hours halfway through the study, subjects were essentially put back to square one. In other words, they had to start the 25 to 30 days from scratch.
The implication of this study is that the brain will adjust to make this new activity the “new normal” after performing an action for 25 to 30 days. This is why it is so critical to discipline yourself to do your quiet-time ritual for a few weeks so it seems routine—and why skipping even one day will require you to start from scratch. You need to perform the new action for 25 to 30 consecutive days in order to make the change permanent and habitual.
Change is difficult; there’s no denying it. And human beings’ tendency to resist it is legendary. We’ve all had the desire to change something, but after an initial push, things often revert to the path of least resistance.
Keeping the faith in your quiet-time ritual and putting in consistent effort—and understanding why it takes a little time to condition your brain for change—may help you break the gravitational pull of your old routine and ways of doing things.
It’s also a good idea to place your prosperity plan in locations where you’re sure to see it every day. Put it on your bathroom mirror so you see it first thing in the morning. Tape it to your coffee maker. Program it as a daily reminder on your smart phone. Stick it to your cell wall with toothpaste. Just put it somewhere so you can’t miss it.
The constant reminder of its presence may influence you to take a few minutes to review it. But even that action of taking the time will require action to do it. In other words—there’s no substitute for taking action.
The need for consistent implementation was the driving force behind ProsperityTV, which is a live, weekly interactive coaching show we stream on the Internet. When I first began training others to improve their sales and business performances, I often became frustrated by the lack of execution and implementation. Clients would be bouncing off the walls with energy and enthusiasm about taking their sales performance to new levels. But not even a month later, they’d be right back where they started. I created ProsperityTV to be the bridge between desire and action. It’s the missing link in many sales programs. It’s the answer to the conundrum of human nature.
Getting excited about new ideas and new ways of selling is a crucial preliminary step to changing your sales results. Ultimately, however, this initial excitement will fade. Before you know it, people are shelving all the new ideas in favor of what’s comfortable, even if that means settling for mediocre sales results.
I knew I needed to do something to help clients move from this initial enthusiasm to actually implementing and generating sustainable improvements in sales performance. So I began hosting weekly live Internet shows to help motivate and focus clients every week. As we improved the shows, we began to see a corresponding long-term improvement in sales performance.
Today, we have a state-of-the-art studio and broadcast technology to connect with our clients weekly. We began doing the shows on Mondays with the intent of getting the week off to a positive start. We have added a call-in feature that allows me to take calls and answer questions on the air, as well as conduct live role-plays of particular sales scenarios or objections.
I believe active participation in the ongoing training and coaching is a critical component to sales success. Sometime a professional sales career can be daunting. Occasionally, we are distracted from our primary focus by the ins and outs of life. Sometime we get our teeth kicked in. And helping your navigate the challenges is what ProsperityTV on Monday mornings is all about. It’s my responsibility to get you focused and excited about your career—and to help keep you on track. You can learn about this weekly coaching at www.WeldonLong.com.
There will be times on your journey to wealth and success when you feel overwhelmed, or even as though you can’t consistently implement a new way of thinking. You may feel like it just isn’t worth the effort.
But ask yourself one simple question during these moments of doubt and uncertainty: “How badly do I want it?” Do you want it just a little bit, willing to do the work if it’s not too much of a pain in the ass? Or do you want it more that you’ve ever wanted anything in your life, and you are going to do whatever you have to do to reach your dreams? That’s how bad you have to want it.
In January 2003, at 39 years of age, I walked out of the penitentiary for the last time. I was released to a halfway house in Colorado Springs with nothing but a “box” full of wealth and success. I knew it was going to be a lot of work to start building a life from scratch with no job or work history and a record of 13 years behind the walls. I knew there would be no red carpet or celebration for me. It was up to me to take what I had learned and begin the process of building my new life.
My grandmother passed away just before my release, and she left me a few thousand dollars. I took that money and paid off my tuition to Southern California University for Professional Studies, where I had been taking classes for many years. By the time I walked out of the joint, I had earned a BS in law and a Management MBA. I had also spent years studying and mastering the sales process.
After paying off my tuition and receiving my degrees, I had enough money left over for a couple of suits and a pass to ride the transit line. My desire to get a job was strong. Through seven years of writing letters, I had maintained a relationship with my 10-year-old son, and a job would make it possible for me to get a place to live with my little boy.
So with a couple of jail house degrees, two suits, a bus pass, no work history or experience, and a felony record that spanned 15 years, I walked out the front door of the halfway house to build my fortune.
By all outward appearances, I must have looked silly—a wayward convict walking to the bus stop wearing an ill-fitted suit and holding an empty briefcase. But my mind was not empty at all. I had spent seven years filling it with homes and wealth, a relationship with my son, and a life of honor and integrity. I was convinced that if I took actions consistent with the contents of my box that eventually that life would come out.
I began looking for work. Each day I would walk into offices all over town with my elevator pitch: “Hi, I’m Weldon Long. I just need one opportunity. One shot. Give me a chance, and I’ll sell more of whatever you sell than anyone ever has. I’ll never cheat or lie. I’ll never complain about the economy or the leads. I just need a chance.”
My prospective employer would hear that and say, “Well, we need more attitudes like that around here. Tell me more!”
Then I would have to say, “Well, there is a little more to the story. I spent 13 years in prison and right now I live in a halfway house . . .” And that’s when I would lose them.
“We appreciate you stopping in, but we aren’t hiring right now,” they would say.
“But you had an ad in the paper,” I would plead.
“Oh yeah, but we filled that spot. Best of luck, pal.”
These interactions went on for the next four months. It was winter in Colorado, so I’d often step off the bus into a foot of snow and walk down a cold sidewalk to my next prospect. I’d walk in, dust the snow off myself, and give them my speech. Yet over and over again, my prospects’ initial enthusiasm about my willingness and positive attitude was quickly dampened when they learned about my record.
Unfazed, I stayed focused and reminded myself daily that the world owed me nothing. I would ask myself every single day, “How badly do I want it?” I knew that the answer was, “Really badly.” I also knew that going back to my past was out of the question. Somewhere out there was a 10-year-old boy who deserved a father. But before I could fully be that father, I needed a place to live—and before I could get a place to live, I needed a job!
Giving up was not even remotely an option. I was undaunted by the literally hundreds of times I heard the word “no.”
Then one day in April 2003, after four months of rejection, I walked into a financial services company that was looking for salespeople. I walked into the manager’s office, sized him up and hit him with my best shot: “Hi, I’m Weldon Long. I just need one opportunity. One shot. Give me a chance, and I’ll sell more of whatever you sell than anyone ever has. I’ll never cheat or lie. I’ll never complain about the economy or the leads. I just need a chance.”
And like they always did, he said, “Well, we need more attitudes like that around here. Tell me more!”
“Well, there is a little more to the story. I spent 13 years in prison and right now I live in a halfway house . . .”
Only this time when I finished my story, the man said, “You know what? I think you are a changed man. I don’t think you are the person your record says you are.”
I thought I was hearing things! “Wha?” I stammered. “What did you just say?”
“I said I think you are a changed man. Let’s talk a little more.”
We spent a few minutes talking about sales and business development. I remember him saying something about how success in sales is about having a positive mindset and being able to handle rejection.
“Yeah,” I thought to myself. “I got this.”
After a few minutes, he walked out of the office to talk to someone else about me. While he was out of the office, I looked around and couldn’t contain my excitement. Finally, I was going to have my chance to get a place, get my kid, and build my life. I paced the office and looked out over the parking lot. I imagined one of those cars was mine. (I had been riding the bus for four months in the cold and snow!)
After a few minutes the man came back in. “Hey, don’t start thinking this office is yours yet,” he joked.
I chuckled and said, “Aw, I’d be easy to work for.”
He took out a pen and paper and started writing out the chronology of my criminal record as I recounted the dates and convictions. Once we finished, he left the room again. His excitement was contagious. I was so happy I thought I was going to explode!
After a few more minutes, he walked back into the office. Instantly I could see the disappointment on his face.
I looked him dead in the eye and said, “Don’t say it! Do not say the word ‘no’ to me. Whatever comes out of your mouth next, do not let it be ‘no.’”
“Weldon, if it was up to me, it would be ‘yes,’ but it’s not up to me. With your record, there is just no way HR will hire you.”
He sat down behind his desk, and I sat down across from him. I knew it wasn’t his fault. I believed him. As I sat in the chair across from him, I began to feel a little overwhelmed. I wondered if I had been fooling myself all those years sitting in a cell and pretending I was something other than a pathetic loser.
We sat there quietly for a few moments. Then he looked at me and said the words that pierced me like an arrow. “What are you going to do?” he asked. It was the pity in his voice that brought me to my feet.
“What am I going to do? I am going to get a job and get a place to live and get my kid. Have you not heard a word I’ve said?” I was beginning to sound a little hysterical, but I couldn’t help myself.
“Listen, if you’ve got a job, I want it. If you’ve got an opportunity, I need it. If you’ve got a chance, I’ll take it. But do not give me your pity. I have been through far worse than this, pal. Do I have a job—yes or no?”
He could only stand there and shake his head.
I left his office without another word, rode the elevator downstairs, and walked out into a chilly Colorado evening. It was about 4:45 PM, and the sun had already settled behind Pikes Peak, immediately dropping the temperature into the 40s.
As I walked about a half-mile back to the bus stop, my mind began to panic. “Why did he feel sorry for me? What does he know that I don’t know? Have I been deluding myself into thinking I could change my life by changing my thinking? Maybe the whole thing was a preposterous idea.”
For the first time in years, I was scared shitless.
As I approached the concrete bus bench, I watched the cars stopped at the intersection. I could see the people in their warm cars, talking on the phone to friends and loved ones or listening to the radio. I looked off to the west at the homes nestled along the mountains. I could see the dim lights through the windows as dusk settled in. I imagined families behind those windows having dinner together or doing homework with the kids.
“Will I ever have that?” I wondered. “Or is that just a pipe dream conjured up by some hopeless convict to help him get through years behind bars?”
Suddenly I looked at my watch and realized it was well after 5 PM. The bus was late!
Now, anyone who takes a bus knows that being a few minutes late is not a big deal in the real world. However, I didn’t live in the real world; I lived in a world under the authority of the Colorado Department of Corrections. And in that world, I had a 6 PM curfew for job hunting—and getting back late guaranteed a trip to the county jail and the possibility of a new felony for “escape.” It was a very serious offense, with potentially disastrous consequences. Not getting a job would be the least of my problems.
By about 5:20 PM, full-scale desperation had set in. No one was ever going to see beyond my criminal history. The bus was late, and I was going to miss my curfew and get a trip to county jail or maybe worse. I wanted to cry right there at the bus stop. The pressure was becoming too much. The disappointment was too overwhelming.
Finally, the bus pulled up at 5:30. I jumped on and snapped at the driver, “Where the hell you been, man?”
“I’ve been working, driving this bus. Where you been?” he responded.
“I’ve been sitting on this bus bench freezing my ass off for 30 minutes. You’re late!”
“I’m not late, buddy. I’m right on time,” he said as he handed me the bus schedule.
I looked at it and realized he was right. I had misread the schedule. This bus ran at the bottom of the hour.
Feeling overwhelmed and beaten, I sat down and stared out the window. I knew it was going to be close to 6 PM by the time I got back to the halfway house. Maybe I would be on time; maybe I would be late. By that point, I almost didn’t care.
When I stepped off the bus a couple of blocks from the halfway house, I started running as fast as I could, again looking like a madman running down the street in my four-month-old suit, carrying an empty briefcase.
I walked in the office and yelled over several guys waiting to check in, “Hey! Hey! Weldon Long here. Can somebody clock me in back there?”
I saw one of the halfway house staff look at me and grab my file. He stamped the time on my sheet and handed it back for me to sign. It read 5:58 PM. Whew. I had nothing but time.
I walked out of the office and down to my room, which I shared with six or eight other convicts. I sat on my bed, and my head fell into my hands. I started thinking about the guy who felt sorry for me an hour earlier. I started thinking about my life behind bars and how absurd it was to think I was going to walk out of the joint at nearly 40 years of age and build some imaginary dream-life.
Then I heard the words I had said to myself a thousand times before. “How badly do you want it, Mr. Long? Do you want it just a little bit, or do you want it more than you have ever wanted anything in your life?” I knew I wanted it badly and that the desperation I felt that day was just more fuel for the fire. It would strengthen me and reinforce my resolve to create something new and better for me and my son.
So I stood up. I stopped whining and feeling sorry for myself. I remembered something else I had said a million times: Stay focused. Never surrender. Success is closer than you think.
The next morning I got up, got dressed, hopped on the bus and made my first call. “Hi, I’m Weldon Long. I just need one opportunity. One shot. Give me a chance, and I’ll sell more of whatever you sell than anyone ever has. I’ll never cheat or lie. I’ll never complain about the economy or the leads. I just need a chance.”
April turned into May and May into June. I had been at this for six months and I was determined to find a job.
And then finally it happened. In June 2003, six months out of the joint, I walked into a small heating and air-conditioning company that was looking for a salesperson.
“Can you sell air conditioners?” the owner asked. I didn’t know the first thing about air conditioners, but my desperation concealed my ignorance. “Of course I can sell them!”
Eventually I had to tell the owner the whole sordid story of my life. After I finished he said to me, “You know I am just not sure about you. You seem like a nice guy. But this record is pretty bad.” He told me to call him in a few days.
And I did call him. In fact, I called him several times a day over the next two weeks. Finally, he said to me, “Dude, you are making me crazy!”
“Give me a job,” I said, “And I’ll be that persistent with customers.”
He paused for a moment and said, “Okay. One chance, but that’s it.”
I started selling for him a few days later, and in my first month as a heating and air-conditioning salesman I sold $149,000 worth of air conditioners—one kitchen table at a time.
I worked that job for about a year and eventually decided to open my own company. Within five years of opening my own company I had grown sales to $20 million and earned a spot on Inc. magazine’s list of fastest growing companies in America. I didn’t know anything about the heating and air-conditioning industry, but I knew how to sell. And, after all, nothing happens until something gets sold—right? Not bad for a three-time loser and high-school dropout. Not bad at all.
I got a place to live and my little boy got the father he deserved. As I write these words, I am on Maui with my son, Hunter, and his girlfriend, Matti. He just finished his first year of college, and he is planning for his future. Over the past few years, I have had the privilege of meeting and speaking with some of the same men whose books lighted the path for me, including the late Dr. Stephen R. Covey, Mark Victor Hansen, and the incomparable builder of sales champions, Tom Hopkins. I have had the honor of developing customized sales and prosperity mindset training programs for some of America’s greatest companies.
Henry David Thoreau once said, “If we advance confidently in the directions of our own dreams and endeavor to live the life we have imagined, we will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”
I suppose in many ways my success has been “unexpected,” but in my mind, it was not. I saw it, and I put it in my box. Over the years, through a million choices, attitudes, and beliefs, I pulled this new life out my box. After all, you just can’t put a life of wealth, happiness, and prosperity in the box and accidentally create something else.
The universe doesn’t work that way.
As I said in the beginning, this book is not meant to be the definitive word on sales or positive thinking or anything else for that matter. There are people a lot smarter than me for that. This is simply the story of one man’s experience. These are merely the lessons I have learned and how they have affected my life and business.
I am an average guy living an extraordinary life as a result of learning and implementing these simple ideas. I am riding the wave, but I understand full well I didn’t create the ocean. The Power of Consistency changed everything in my life and business.
However, I do know this: To succeed in life and business, you need to be more than smart and ambitious. It requires more than understanding human nature and the sales process.
It takes consistency.
Success in life and business requires understanding that if you change your thoughts, you will change your emotions. If you change your emotions, you will change your actions. And if you change your actions, you will change your results.
After all, it’s not rocket science.