You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. —Mark Twain
If you want to create powerful results in sales and business, it’s not enough to be efficient; you must be effective. And you do this by focusing on the right things. The vast majority of poor performance that I see in sales and business professionals does not stem from lack of ability, skill, or training. It is the direct result of people’s tendency to focus on the wrong things.
Many of us go through life just “thinking” on autopilot. We are operating out of our subconscious programming in the way we drive home from work without consciously thinking about where we are going. In this section, we will begin to turn that inclination around by “thinking about what we are thinking about.” As you begin to understand how powerful your thoughts are in relation to your sales and business success, you’ll appreciate how important it is to spend a little time thinking about the things you think about.
As the great philosopher Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Our job in this section of the book is to examine what’s currently in your box—and whether it should stay or go. Much of what’s in there has been there since childhood, so once you become an adult, it’s your choice to hoard all the contents and wallow in it or clear out the junk and organize what remains.
Step 1 in the Upside of the FEAR process is getting focused on the right things—specifically, on what you want to achieve in your sales and business career. This process requires that you identify your ultimate destination, determine a few simple steps that will get you there, and recognize any limiting beliefs that may undermine your ability to get there. We also need to ensure that we are focusing on the right things in sales and business.
To truly create a prosperity mindset that’s capable of generating powerful sales and business results, we must think about what we think about—and we must make sure we are thinking about the right things.
This process will take you beyond your sales and business career goals and help you identify what you want in the larger scope of life. Expanding our scope like this is necessary, because our motivation to succeed in business often comes from more deeply held desires pertaining to our life as a whole—that is, to provide for our families or help others through the work that we do.
In this chapter you will consider:
The information you unearth as you work through the first four of these areas will form the basis for creating your prosperity plan. The fifth component is designed to help you identify deeply held limiting beliefs that may be undermining your success in life. Once you identify these, you will be able to create new thoughts and beliefs that counteract their negative, limiting effects on your life.
Don’t worry about organizing the information as you undergo this process, because the next step involves putting it all together in a cohesive prosperity plan. The point of this section is simply to let your imagination flow. This phase is about creativity. It’s about dreaming big.
Keep the following in mind as you contemplate the life and business of your dreams: You don’t have to be practical. Remember, we have an imagination for a reason, so let it run wild. We weren’t given the ability to dream amazing dreams only so we could be tormented by visions of things we can never have. We must elevate our expectations through the use of creative thought, and imagining a better life is the first step in achieving this vision.
When I think back to the first time I outlined my prosperity plan—while sitting in my cell—I am surprised by the audacity of my dreams. I think about the nature and circumstances of my life and contrast that with the dreams I began to imagine. If I had stuck with reasonable and practical expectations, I likely would have dreamed only of finding a job and staying out of jail. But I wanted more than that—a lot more. I wanted to accomplish huge things in my life. I wanted more than mediocrity. I wanted to create an exceptional life.
Contrast what I wanted and wrote down with where I actually was in my life at that time:
Remember, your results in life will never exceed your expectations, and your expectations will never exceed your imagination. That’s precisely why you must allow yourself to dream big. Don’t limit yourself with being reasonable or practical. As the late Dr. Stephen R. Covey famously advised, we don’t have to live out of our pasts. We can live out of our imaginations.
As you work through the first step of this process, you are going to begin putting new things in your box that you can later pull out. Your thoughts are the contents of your box. As you put the life and business of your dreams in your box, you will also examine the negative, limiting beliefs that may already be in there.
Take a sheet of paper and start making notes as we work through this. Don’t try to complete it in a hurry. After you read a section, stop and think about what you would like to accomplish and make notes. Again, we will organize your notes in the next step.
We will begin this discussion by talking about what you want in life. Although these might not be the most important things we discuss, I find that most people can quickly identify these things, so it’s a good place to begin outlining your prosperity plan.
The most important thing here is to be as specific and precise as possible about each area of your life. As you contemplate each area, jot down whatever comes to mind.
Think, for instance, about your income and discern exactly what level of financial security you want. How much do you want to earn annually or over the course of your career? Think about how you will quantify this figure. What does financial success look like in your mind?
Maybe it’s a certain amount of wealth at retirement age. Maybe you define it in terms of ensuring a college education for your children or moving into a certain type of home. The bottom line is that you must define financial success according to how it feels and looks to you—including as many specific details as possible.
Take some time to let your mind explore the possibilities. The key is to allow your creativity to take over and let your imagination flow freely. And again, be precise. If you define financial success by your financial condition at retirement, choose a specific age and amount of wealth for retirement. If you define success by being able to provide a college education for your children, figure out exactly how much money you’d need for this; you might even try to picture them at a particular school. If your goal is to own a certain type of house, envision your dream home’s details and characteristics.
I remember reading the Sunday newspaper a year or so ago and coming across an ad for an exotic sports car—the one that had been my dream car when I was kid. I cut out the picture of the car, held it up, and declared, “This is my next car!” I then put the picture on our refrigerator.
Over the next few months, I would look at the picture on the refrigerator and slowly started to think, “Wow! Wouldn’t that be something? Imagine having the car I fantasized about as a kid!”
Eventually I added the car to my prosperity plan. Less than a year later, I owned that exact car. Not one similar to it, but the exact model car I had cut out of the paper and put on the fridge. Because I was dreaming big and being specific—and giving myself a daily reminder of my goal—I was able to achieve it.
If your dream is to improve your sales performance and grow your business, consider what success will look like in your career. Is it defined by market share or achieving certain levels of revenue or profitability? Maybe you define it by opening a certain number of branches or serving a certain number of clients. Or maybe success in your business means achieving a specific level of customer satisfaction.
Jot down whatever measurement comes to mind; there is no right or wrong way to define success. The so-called right answer is the one that feels right to you. The key is simply to have some unit of measurement, since this will be useful in helping you get there—and knowing when you’ve arrived.
And don’t assume that conventional units of business performance are the best option. The best way for you to measure success is the one that’s significant to you—and about which you can get passionate and excited.
For example, when I started a company in my living room in 2004, I defined success as being the leader in our market, holding the number one market share position. I decided that I would know we were successful when we were pulling more installation permits that any of our competitors. Over the first four years of our business, we pulled more than twice as many permits than our nearest competitor.
I had a specific target that I got excited and passionate about. This target drove and motivated me to keep pressing forward during challenging times.
The key to success is having a plan and taking consistent action toward that plan. Defining your dreams in a manner that creates excitement, enthusiasm, and passion will work in conjunction with other strategies in this book to get you where you want to be. The more meaningful the dream is to you, the better.
The process you are working through is designed to get you to figure out what you need to do on a regular basis. Your job right now is to stay focused on how you want the outcome to look. There will be plenty of time later on to figure out the steps you’ll need to take to get there.
Continue working through what you want in life and business. Write down whatever comes to mind, whatever it is—one word, a complete sentence, or even a partial thought. We’ll organize these thoughts and words in the next step.
It is crucial that you ferret out the details about what you really and truly want as you contemplate these goals. By going beyond the surface, you may find that your goals are not exactly what you thought they were.
For example, I was once speaking at a live event where I asked audience members to step up to the microphone and outline what they wanted in life and business. A gentleman came forward and stated that he wanted to continue learning through his retirement and document his decades of learning in a book to teach others what he had learned over the course of his life.
“So you want to write a book?” I asked.
“Yes,” he responded.
I continued, “Why do you want to write a book?”
“Because there is so much I have learned, and I want to pass that on to future generations.”
“So what you really want is to leave a legacy?”
He thought for a moment and said, “Yeah. What I really want is to leave a legacy.”
“That’s different than writing a book, right?” I inquired. “A book is just one vehicle you could use to leave a legacy.”
“I guess so. I never thought about it like that,” he concluded.
This interaction illustrates our need to closely examine what we really want in life and business—because sometimes, what we think we want is actually a vehicle to get what we really want.
The point is this: Think about what you really want in life and make sure what you think you want is not actually a vehicle to get what you really want.
Again, you will be far more inspired to reach your dreams by identifying what really motivates you. If you think you want money—and you discover that what you really want is security for your family—you will undermine your own success by focusing on money.
Take some time now and reflect on what you want—and remember, there’s no need to hurry. Get out a sheet of paper, sit back and relax, and get crystal clear on what you want. Once you figure out the specifics, we’ll start the process of loading it all into your box.
The next phase of the focus step is to identify what you want to become in life and business, which requires that you go a little deeper than you did in identifying what you want. This goes to the heart of what kind of person you want to be, both personally and professionally. It’s also about identifying the principles that will be at the core of defining your life and business.
Dr. Covey brilliantly distinguishes the difference between values and principles in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by explaining it in the following way: Principles are universal truths. They go deeper than values. Criminals share common values, whereas principles are universally accepted by everyone as good and decent.
Identifying what you want to become requires that you clarify the principles that will govern your life and career. You can then put those in your box and condition your subconscious accordingly. Eventually, you will pull them out in the form of daily choices, which ultimately define your quality of life and career.
I had a long row to hoe when I went through the process of outlining what kind of person I wanted to become. I was, after all, a career criminal. Nevertheless I followed the advice outlined in Covey’s book to get a clear picture of what I wanted to become.
Consider the following exercise as a way to help you figure this out. Imagine yourself attending the funeral of someone who is beloved by all who know him. As you enter the room, you see the faces of his grieving friends and loved ones. You approach the casket to pay your final respects, and you are startled to see it is you lying in state. This is your funeral.
Think about what you would want each of your friends, family members, and business associates to say as you look around the room. This will give you a very good idea of what is really important to you. And once you figure this out, you’ll have a clear guide to govern your actions.
When I first completed this exercise, first outlined by Dr. Covey, I imagined what I would want my son to say at my funeral. Because of my homeless and impoverished state, I assumed my number one priority was making money. However, I realized as I considered what I wanted my son to say that it wasn’t really important that he acknowledge my financial condition at the end of the line. Instead, I envisioned him saying something like “Although my dad was a real knucklehead for the first half of his life, when the light went on, he promised me that he would never leave me or lie to me again. And he kept those promises until the day he died.”
That exercise clarified for me what kind of father I wanted to become. Once I put being that father into my box, I had a clear standard of what should govern my priorities.
Think about what kind of legacy you will—and want to—leave as you work through this exercise. What will people say about you when you are gone? What would you want them to say? What kind of business owner or manager do you want them to remember you as? What kind of sales professional?
Get clear about what you want to become. Later we’ll put that in the box with the things you want—and those will eventually be what you’ll pull out of the box.
Next, begin identifying what you want to contribute in your career. A true sales professional has the opportunity to solve problems for others and improve the quality of others’ lives and businesses. As Leo Tolstoy said, “Service is the true meaning of life”—something I have increasingly found to be true. The more I experience in life, the more I understand that our success and significance in business is ultimately in direct proportion to the size of the contribution we make.
I have made the commitment to reach out and inspire those who are struggling with the same problems I struggled with. I am also motivated by my responsibility to help others improve their sales careers and businesses.
So find your contribution. Consider whom you will help when you achieve your financial, personal, and professional dreams. Who else will benefit besides you? How will you respond when you are called upon?
Committing to use your prosperity to help others will provide with you a passion and calling beyond the scope of your sales career. It will help you see yourself in the larger perspective and find significance in your prosperity beyond your immediate family and community.
Because of my background and story, I receive many requests from jails, prisons, and other institutions to speak. I consider it my duty to accept these invitations whenever possible, and my staff knows that these requests receive priority, even though these institutions have no budget for a speaker.
Recently I went in to speak at a prison where I served time as a young man 25 years ago. Before I spoke to the “fellas,” the warden had me escorted to the very cell house where I was housed in 1988. As I stood in the cell house, memories of the hopelessness I felt came over me in waves. We walked up the stairs and down the tier lined with cells and vacant stares.
When we approached the very cell in which I had lived, an officer signaled to the control center to open the door. When it opened, I stepped in and the door closed behind me. It was a visceral reaction. I struggled to control my nerves as I thought about how much my life had changed.
As I struggled with the emotions that overwhelmed me, I spoke to two groups of men, who, like me 25 years earlier, were searching for a way out. One of the men in the group remembered me from when he and I served time together many years ago. He approached me and said, “You always said you were going to do amazing things, and now you have.” As we embraced, he began to weep and whispered, “If you can do it, so can I.”
That day served as a potent reminder of how far I have come and how my journey can inspire others to change. Whether you realize it or not, eventually your journey will give others hope and confidence.
I was recently invited to speak to a group of female inmates who were involved with a wonderful program called “The 7 Habits on the Inside,” an adaptation of Dr. Covey’s landmark work for inmates in correctional institutions.
My schedule the week of the speech was insane: On Monday morning, I did two hours of live training on Prosperity TV. On Tuesday I flew to Austin, Texas, for a one-day sales training event with the legendary Tom Hopkins. That night I flew to Washington, DC, then on to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. From the airport in Harrisburg, I drove to my hotel, arriving at midnight. The next morning, I spoke to a group of business owners and sales professionals. As soon as I finished there, I drove to Philadelphia, where I spoke for several hours that evening.
I flew back to Denver on Thursday morning and arrived at the airport at about 9:00 AM. I then drove 1.5 hours to my office and spent an hour with my staff. After that, I drove up to my home in the mountains—about 20 miles west of the city. I rested for about an hour at home, then got ready to travel to the women’s prison about 1.5 hours south.
When I pulled into the prison parking lot at 5:00 PM, I was so tired I could barely see straight. As I entered the facility and waited in the prison visiting room for the guards to bring the women in, I seriously wondered if I had overextended myself. However, any hint of doubt disappeared the moment I began speaking. I knew immediately that I was in the exact place I was supposed to be. The look of hope and excitement on the women’s faces was inspiring. They were committed to changing the course of their lives and were passionate about implementing The 7 Habits principles.
The point is that we all have an obligation to serve others, and sometimes we must put the needs of others before our own desires. On that evening, I wanted more than anything to just go home and crash. But I did what I had promised to do and helped countless individuals—including myself—by doing so.
As you grow and prosper in your life and business, the opportunities to expand your “circle of influence” will certainly grow. I remember thinking when I first read about the circle of influence in The 7 Habits that I had maybe a one in a million chance to go from the isolation of my prison cell to influencing others to do or be something good. Yet nowadays, I hear regularly from individuals and organizations about how their lives and businesses have prospered as a result of my service and work.
You are much closer to having a significant impact on others’ lives than you may think. Take time to focus on the contribution you will make in the world once you achieve your aspirations. Ask yourself, how will I leave my mark? What will be my legacy?
Put it in the box, and one day you’ll look up to see you’ve pulled it out and made a profound difference in other people’s lives.
At this point in the focus step, you should have a pretty good idea of what you want, what you want to become, and what you want to contribute in your life and business.
If you have not taken the time to be really specific about all of these things, I strongly recommend you take the time to do that now. Even if you’re one of those folks who tends to read books and skip over the exercises, consider whether or not you will create the results you want if you are unwilling to take consistent action with respect to the fundamentals of creating your prosperity plan.
It simply isn’t enough to give these things cursory consideration and then move on. Take some time to get clear about them. Jot down some notes and ideas, even if it’s just a word or two to describe what you want, what you want to become, and what you want to contribute.
You’ll need this information to craft your prosperity plan, which you will implement on a consistent basis to create the life and business of your dreams.
Once you have identified what you want in life and business, it’s time to identify what you need to do to get there. This is a critical step in the process of creating an exceptional life and business—and it is also the step at which many of us fall short. Figuring out what we want is a fairly straightforward process. Getting it done is much more difficult, and it’s where the rubber meets the road.
We will discuss how to consistently do these things in the next step; our purpose here is to identify which things we should do. It’s about pinpointing priorities and deciding which actions will create the biggest impact.
There is an axiom that “Winners do what losers are not willing to do.” It’s not that losers don’t want the same things winners want; it’s that losers are not willing to take action and follow through in the same way that winners are.
If you have struggled with taking consistent action to get what you want in life, both personally and professionally—in other words, if you have struggled with the doing—it’s probably due to one or both of the following reasons.
Reason 1 for these shortcomings is that “the confused mind says no.” This refers to our tendency to do nothing when we become overwhelmed with too much to do.
Most of us have lists right now in our home or office with a gazillion things that we need to do or that need to happen before we move forward with an idea or project. Unfortunately, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with this seemingly endless list of to dos, which usually causes us to become paralyzed and do nothing.
You’ve probably heard of the Pareto principle or the so-called 80/20 rule. This says that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts. It’s a very useful tool to simplify our to-do lists and make progress toward our goals and aspirations. The key is to focus your efforts on the activities that produce the most significant results. I refer to these as leveraged actions—simple acts that produce extraordinary results that are the key to generating powerful outcomes in life and business. We will discuss which actions to take a little later in this chapter.
People also tend to wait until everything is perfect before they take action. But waiting for everything to be just right before taking the plunge on a project will likely leave you waiting for a long, long time. Circumstances are rarely ever perfect. Creating an exceptional life and business requires taking action in the face of adversity, not in its absence.
That being said, it is critical during this process to simplify things so that we’re focusing on just one or two actions that will move us closer to our desired outcome. There will be plenty of time to take care of other details; the key at the beginning is to get going and create momentum as quickly as possible.
When I decided to open my first business in 2004—a residential heating and air-conditioning company—I honed in on hundreds of things that I needed to do before we could cut the ceremonious grand opening ribbon. The business needed a location, trucks, inventory, and office equipment. I had to recruit, hire, and train office staffers, service technicians, and installation experts. I needed to set up an accounting department, obtain the appropriate licensing, and get liability, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance. I needed a marketing plan, a sales system, and countless operations’ processes. There were literally hundreds, if not thousands, of things to do—so many, in fact, that it was easy to get lost in the confusion of what to do next. It was a small company that didn’t have the luxury of a large staff to perform the myriad of tasks.
So instead of getting buried in minutiae, I decided to discern which leveraged activities that would generate the most immediate and powerful results. Relying on the basic business philosophy of IBM founder Thomas Watson Sr. that “Nothing happens until something gets sold,” I decided to focus my attention on selling something. But before I could sell anything, I needed a sales lead.
Without an office, an employee, or a service truck, I took out a full-page ad for our new company in our Sunday newspaper announcing “our lowest prices ever!” (Since I hadn’t been in business the day before, that was a completely honest claim.) At the bottom of the ad, I put the words “Call NOW! Operators standing by 24 hours a day—7 days a week.”
I was the operator, the phone number was a cell phone, and I was definitely “standing by” in the living room, waiting for calls.
I set 16 sales leads on that Sunday and never looked back. Within 60 months the company had sold, serviced, and installed more than $20 million of residential heating and air-conditioning services and products. If I had waited until everything was set up and ready to go, I’d still be waiting.
To be successful, you have to take action—sooner rather than later. It doesn’t have to be the perfect action; it just needs to be action. And the key to success is being able to decide which actions to take, since you usually a have quite a few to choose from. In fact, you frequently have too many choices. This, as we know, can be a real problem, since as we learned, the confused mind says “no!” That’s when nothing happens, nothing changes, and dreams remain confined to the imagination. Without action, we don’t create anything—ever.
With that discussion as a backdrop, let’s figure out what specific steps you need to take to create what you want, what you want to become, and what you want to contribute in life and business.
Take each item you jotted down during the focus step so far and write down just one or two things that, if done on a consistent basis, would likely result in your desired outcome. Don’t worry about identifying everything that you could or should do, just note one or two actions that will generate immediate and powerful results.
Remember: Keep it simple! The lion’s share of your results will come from just a handful of your actions.
Let’s work with an example or two.
Suppose you jotted down that your sales and business career goal is to earn an annual income of $200,000.
Stop and consider where you are in relation to that dream at this point in your life. What are the first steps you need to take to make that dream a reality? Are you at a point in your life where you already have a career and only need to grow your business to get there? Or are you at a stage where the first thing you need to do is learn the process of selling?
Because everyone is at a different stage professionally, what you need to do to reach your dreams depends on where you are right now. A successful salesperson may need only to increase his number of cold calls to reach a $200,000 income, whereas someone else may need to start by learning the basics.
Since my journey to creating wealth and prosperity began in a prison cell, I had a very long way to go. However, the key was not the length of my journey, but, instead, where I started. Your journey will begin at a different point than everyone else’s; the key is identifying the first one or two steps you need to take to get started. As the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Where you begin the journey to reach your dreams is far more relevant than how far you need to go.
Your first step to achieving an exceptional sales and business career is far more important than your next step—because there is no next step until you take that first one. Therefore, this is where you need to focus your energy and action.
Beneath each item you listed, write the most important one or two things you should do.
If the goal is a $200,000 income, jot down what you need to do based on where you are in relation to that dream. It might look something like this:
What I want: a $200,000 annual income
What I need to do: study sales books and master the art of sales
What I want: a $200,000 annual income
What I need to do: get more referrals, improve closing skills, and consistently serve my clients with passion and purpose
What you need to do depends on where you are in relation to the dream. Again, don’t worry at this point about how far you may have to go to reach your dreams. Think only about where you have to start. That’s all that matters right now.
It’s important to break these to-do steps down into specific and simple actions as you identify each one.
For example, what specific things do you need to do to earn $200,000 in sales income? Break it down into the number of calls you need to hit your target. Let’s say your average commission on each sale is $500, and your average closing ratio is 25 percent. That means you need 400 sales at $500 each to earn $200,000. If your closing ratio is 25 percent, you’ll need to make 1,600 sales calls to net 400 sales. If you break down the 1,600 calls over approximately 250 working days a year, you’ll need to make about 6 calls per day.
Because you’ve specified exactly what you need to do, you can easily see that you need to make six calls per day. With this new, specific information, your list might look like this:
What I want: a $200,000 annual income
What I need to do: make six calls per day, every day, and improve closing skills
The more specific you are, the less overwhelmed you will feel. As we move through this process, you will see how being specific in the action step will make it easier to implement your plan. If the person in the preceding scenario consistently made the six calls required per day, what are the odds she would eventually reach her income goals? Pretty good! You simply can’t do the right sales activities and accidentally create the wrong sales results. Again, the solution lies in the consistency with which she makes the six calls per day. We’ll be talking a lot about how to take consistent action in later chapters, but for right now just remember: Keep it simple. Keep it focused.
As I mentioned earlier, the process of creating your personal prosperity plan can—and should—involve a lot more than income and sales and business goals. In fact, success in other areas of your life will enhance the enjoyment you get from your sales and business success. Let’s take a brief look at how you can incorporate other important issues and use this process in a variety of areas of your life and business.
Suppose you want to lose 30 pounds. You’ll likely need to do a lot to complete this goal, won’t you? You will need to research how to create a healthy diet, purchase and prepare the foods, and discipline yourself to eat only those foods. You should also visit your doctor and find an exercise program to help you increase aerobic capacity, build muscle, and burn calories.
Or you could just start with walking a mile a day and stop eating dessert every day. Might that be a less complicated place to start?
Of course, it would—and like the example before, what you need to do depends on where you are in relation to health and nutrition goals. It’s different for each person. The key is identifying what one or two things would produce immediate and powerful results.
It might look like this:
What I want: to lose 30 pounds
What I need to do: walk 1 mile three days a week and stop eating sweets
What can help you even more is doing the math to see the kind of effect this will have.
Walking 1 mile a day will burn about 100 calories (depending on someone’s weight and the terrain), and skipping one dessert a day would eliminate another 300 calories (sometimes more!). Eliminating and/or burning 400 calories per day would equal losing 1 pound of fat every 9 days, since 3,500 calories is equal to 1 pound of fat. At that rate, you would lose the 30 pounds in 9 months. And there you have it!
Now ask yourself this question: What are the odds you would lose the 30 pounds if you consistently consumed 400 fewer calories per day than you burned? Pretty much 100 percent, because there’s science behind it and because you’re doing the right things to create these results. The only possible way you couldn’t lose the weight would be not consistently consuming fewer calories (unless of course there is some other underlying medical condition or illness).
Once you complete your prosperity plan, you will learn how to implement these powerful little steps that can change everything in your life and business.
You’re probably getting the picture now—keep it straightforward. The key is focusing on one or two simple things you should do to make your dream a reality.
Simply take each thing that you want in life and business and beneath each one write down one or two things (not everything) you need to do to get there. Again, we will organize this information into your prosperity plan in the next step, where you will also learn how to take consistent action on your plan. Right now, just stay focused on gathering the list of things you want in life and business.
Follow the same process as you work through what you want to become and what you want to contribute in life and business. List each item and then write down one or two things you should do to make it a reality.
One of the most important items on my list was becoming a more active, dependable father to my son, a better father than I had ever been before. There didn’t seem to be much I could do, given my confinement, but I knew the key was doing something. I knew I had to take some sort of action that was consistent with being the father I wanted to be.
So beneath what I wanted to become, I wrote the one thing I could do:
What I want to become: an awesome father to my son
What I need to do: maintain a connection to him through weekly letters
The letters weren’t much, but again, it was all I could do. And they had a powerful impact on my relationship with my son over the long term.
It’s not about how big or grand the action is; it’s about doing it consistently. I wasn’t always able to visit or even talk on the phone with my son, but I did what I could do consistently. Once you figure out what you want to become, list one or two things that will assist you in getting there.
Keep in mind that our lives and careers are not defined by the big moments of recognition everyone sees. They are defined by the little moments of action or inaction nobody sees. In other words, winning a sales award one time that everyone sees will not have as much impact as consistently doing the little things (like consistently making six calls per day) that only you see.
Complete the same exercise with respect to what you want to contribute. You will find that you will be able to contribute even more as you move closer to the things you want and want to become.
Acquiring wealth and prosperity for the sake of wealth and prosperity will not deliver much satisfaction over time. However, if you can use this wealth and prosperity to make a contribution to others, you’ll have the foundation for sustaining your enthusiasm and momentum.
What I want to contribute: help others who are struggling to create productive lives
What I need to do: create a stable, prosperous life for myself and create the resources necessary to help others
Completing this exercise will provide you with a detailed list of the things that will make life wonderful for you. You will have a clear picture of what your dreams will look like. Beneath each item, you will have one or two things written down that will move you closer to your dream.
Combining the items from our examples, the list might look something like this:
What I want: a $200,000 annual income
What I need to do: make six calls per day—every day—and improve closing skills
What I want: to lose 30 pounds
What I need to do: walk 1 mile a day and stop eating dessert
What I want to become: an awesome father to my son
What I need to do: maintain a connection to him through weekly letters
What I want to contribute: help others who are struggling create productive lives
What I need to do: create a stable, prosperous life for myself and create the necessary resources to help others
This is, of course, just a sample of a partial list. You can have as many items as you want on this list. Be creative. Use your imagination. Remember, you have it for a reason and a purpose: to give you a place to start your journey to wealth, happiness, and peace of mind. And this journey begins with a single step.
Now that you have a clear vision of your exceptional life and business—as well as a list of things you need to do to get there—the next step is to organize that information into your prosperity plan.
However, before we move on to that step, you must do one more thing: understand any limiting beliefs you have that may undermine potential success.
Limiting beliefs are the biggest obstacle between you and an exceptional life and business. There is no bigger threat to unimaginable wealth, happiness, and prosperity than the accumulation of restrictive beliefs that live in your box. Therefore, if you are going to reach your true potential in life and business, you must figure out what these are and start working on getting them out.
The biggest challenge to discovering and addressing your limiting beliefs is the fact that, by their very nature, they are difficult to recognize. The reason they’re so limiting is because they’re so subtle and hard to detect. They are camouflaged into the very fabric of your thought processes and way of life. After all, if you could discern them easily, it wouldn’t be as hard to identify and discard them. But limiting beliefs work covertly and over time to convince you that they aren’t the problem—you are. They will brilliantly disguise themselves as accurate thinking, and they are so well disguised because they have been hiding in plain sight for many years, often since the beginning. Even before you intentionally developed your basic beliefs about life and business, these restrictive thoughts took root in your mind’s fabric—and they began to fester.
These assumptions found their way into your box at a very early age. Any time something good happened to you, they were there to keep you in check and to keep the party from getting out of control. If you ever began to feel a little too confident that you could accomplish anything you wanted, they were there to bring you back to reality.
They are seeds of doubt and uncertainty, voices telling you to be realistic. They whisper warnings that the economy and cheap competitors will make your sales success impossible. They are the expectations for your life and business that someone else imposed on you.
Limiting beliefs can come from anywhere—your family, community, and others—and develop at any time. People didn’t put them there to be malicious; rather, they were placed there to protect you, to make sure you aren’t disappointed by expecting too much out of life. They are there to ensure you aren’t hurt by unreasonable expectations the way others were hurt. They are there to keep you grounded.
These beliefs are the limitations that others who have accepted mediocrity unwittingly placed on you; they aren’t yours. They belong to people who have surrendered, who have resigned themselves to their reality that exceptional goals are unreasonable.
And because they belong to others, you have the right to return them. You deserve to create your own expectations. You have the power to defy conventions.
But to do all of this, you must first find these beliefs and outwit them, despite their uncanny ability to prove to you that they aren’t even there.
As you grew up, those around you deposited limiting beliefs into your box. You accepted them as truth and your reticular activating system (RAS) began the process of collecting information that reinforced what you learned. Eventually, that belief system became your only truth.
Sometimes you put limiting beliefs in the box yourself. Something happened, and your psyche misinterpreted the information. That misinterpretation then formed the basis of an inaccurate belief, which your RAS noticed and reinforced while filtering out the information that challenged the belief.
The RAS wants desperately to prove you right 100 percent of the time—for better or for worse. The ultimate impact on your life doesn’t matter—only reinforcing what you thought and being right matters.
Once limiting beliefs become your truth, your RAS spends the rest of your life meeting that expectation. You will only find more of what you expect to find, and your results will never exceed your expectations.
That’s why it’s absolutely critical to examine your box for malignant limiting beliefs and address them. It’s often impossible to completely remove them, so the best option is to inundate and overwhelm them with a powerful new belief system that will eventually take root as the old thoughts grow weak and die off.
The bottom line is this: You don’t have to think everything you believe, and you don’t have to believe everything you think. You can control what goes into and through your mind. You can become the captain of your thoughts.
Let’s take a look at some common limiting beliefs that live in our thoughts as well as some specific examples that demonstrate their cunning, subtle nature.
Several years ago, I noticed some tendencies I had when it came to my diet: I usually filled my plate with large portions and would eat every speck of food in front of me. The belief that triggered these actions was buried deep down and influenced my behavior very subtly. In fact, I didn’t even realize the behavior was dysfunctional. That’s the nature of limiting beliefs: They are such a part of us that we often can’t even see how out of whack they are.
Eventually I came to see that this attitude toward eating was causing problems in my life. The older I got, the more difficult it became for me to keep my weight down.
As I looked within and sought to discover the source of this tendency, I remembered how safe and secure I felt when my mother cooked for our family when I was a kid. There was something about the warmth and security of knowing my mother was cooking in the kitchen. As I thought back over this, I realized I was experiencing similar emotions as an adult when I had a lot of food on my plate.
Deep down, I had made an emotional connection between large amounts of food on my plate and feeling a sense of comfort, something that was still driving my behavior 30 years later.
As I thought about my portion sizes, I asked myself why I tended to eat everything on my plate, even after I was no longer hungry. I recalled that I was allowed to get up from the dinner table when I was a kid only after I “cleaned my plate.” In fact, if I didn’t clean my plate, not only was I not leaving the table, but I was informed that innocent children in Africa were going to starve to death and it would be my fault!
That’s a pretty heavy burden for a seven-year-old. Here I was, 30 years later, scarfing down every bite of food because of thoughts and beliefs that had been placed my box when I was a kid. That’s how powerful our thoughts and beliefs are. They find their way into our boxes and drive our behavior many years later.
Another limiting belief that had worked its way into my box and had a destructive impact on my life was my father’s unfavorable opinions of wealthy individuals. I remember my dad calling all rich people “crooks” when I was a kid (something I mentioned in an earlier chapter). My father had a deeply held belief (that his own father had no doubt put into his box) that successful people became wealthy by cutting corners and taking advantage of others.
I honestly don’t think it ever occurred to my father that honest, hardworking people create businesses to earn a fair profit and serve others’ needs. If someone had money, they had screwed someone else. It was as simple as that.
As a result, I remember being very suspicious of people with successful companies as a kid. And the more successful they were, the more suspicious I was of them. I remember a family seafood restaurant we frequented when I was a teenager. The food was great and I always enjoyed eating there or getting a po’boy to go. The family seemed to have a great product and obviously did very well with their restaurant.
But my dad always used to say, “You know, son. Those guys are mafia.”
That was my dad—always skeptical of others’ successes.
As this stuff went in my box, I developed the same belief that “rich people were crooks.” It comes as no surprise to me looking back over my life that I didn’t grasp the significant moral and legal problems with breaking laws to acquire money. After all, “rich people are crooks.” If I had to become a crook to get money too, then so be it.
Obviously, my father was not responsible for my choice to live a criminal lifestyle; that accountability belongs entirely to me. I do believe, however, that we all need to be careful about what we put into others’ boxes, especially children’s boxes.
Sometimes we put things in the box ourselves as adults, which are just as powerful as the things other people put in there when we are kids. One time at a live event, I was working with audience members to help them identify limiting beliefs that were undermining what each of them was trying to accomplish in their lives and businesses.
In the very front row was an attractive woman in her 40s who looked like she had it all together. I couldn’t help but wonder what she was there to figure out. She finally began to participate with the group during the afternoon sessions. Her story illustrates how limiting beliefs, even completely irrational ones, can come to control our lives. As I recall, the conversation went something like this:
“Wally, I am trying to figure out why I struggle to finish things. I start something, make a little progress, and then give up. I just can’t seem to finish things.”
“Well that’s interesting,” I said. “You give the appearance of having your act totally together.” (Sometimes we all do a great job of making others think we’ve got it all together when that is anything but the case!)
“Well,” she continued, “I may not look like it on the outside, but I struggle with my confidence because I can’t seem to finish things.”
I began to ask her about her experiences as a young girl as it related to finishing things. That’s a natural place to start, because as I mentioned earlier, so much of what we think and believe stems from what was put in our boxes when we were kids. However, we couldn’t identify anything she learned as a kid that would seem to create this limiting adult behavior.
Then she began to talk about her relationship with her mother after she was grown. She shared with everyone how she and her mother argued as she went through her teenage years. As with many parents and teenagers, tempers flared and their relationship eventually soured.
In fact, this woman had moved out of her mother’s house by the time she was in her late teens, and their relationship continued to deteriorate over the next several years. She and her mother went from arguing to not speaking at all. You could see the pain and regret in this woman’s face as she thought back over her relationship with her mother.
Several years after she moved out, she realized how important her relationship with her mother was. So after years of estrangement, she reached out to her mother and rekindled their relationship. Living in different states, they initially spoke only on the phone. But after a short time, this woman decided to drive across the country to reunite with her mother face to face. Tragically, however, her mother passed away just before they could see each other.
This woman shared her heartbreaking story as she stood in the front row of a room full of strangers. The room fell silent when she finished. Everyone could feel her loss and regret.
Immediately I saw the limiting belief that had found its way into her thoughts as a result of her experience, and I asked her, “Do you see any connection between your inability to finish things today and what you may perceive as your failure to ‘finish things’ with your mother?”
Obviously, this woman was not responsible for her mother’s passing. However, we have to remember that our emotions and actions are based on what we think is true, not necessarily what actually is true.
At first she didn’t see the connection. But as we discussed it further, she eventually came to accept the possibility that she had developed an irrational belief that she could not allow herself to finish things today because she could not finish the most important thing in her life: her reunion with her mother.
She was held back by a sense of guilt. How dare she finish something today when she couldn’t finish things with her mother.
These are all powerful examples of how limiting beliefs don’t have to—and often do not—make sense. Rich people aren’t really crooks. Kids in Africa won’t really die as a direct result of what I eat or don’t eat. This woman wasn’t really responsible for what happened to her mother. But these assumptions hinder our ability to create exceptional lives and businesses, not because they are true, but because we believe they are.
Sometimes these limiting beliefs are based on our underlying opinions of sales professionals and the sales process. If you are in sales until a “real” job comes along, you will likely struggle and be only mediocre in your sales career. But if you embrace your sales career as an opportunity to serve others with pride and professionalism, you will likely see better income and sales results.
Identifying limiting beliefs that you picked up as an adult or a child is critical to getting your mind right and creating wealth, happiness, and peace of mind. Once you figure out what these beliefs are, you can then create empowering beliefs to counteract them. This is what we will do in the next step.
But first we must identify the limiting beliefs. Think about the areas in your life where you seek improvement, as well as what you’ve learned about those things over your lifetime. How are your limiting beliefs undermining what you are trying to accomplish as an adult in your life and business?
Again, these beliefs are difficult to find by their very nature. They are so woven into the fabric of your basic philosophy that you don’t see them. It takes work—and a harsh dose of honesty—to find them, as well as a willingness to examine everything you think you know.
Look at the areas where you want to improve yet continue to struggle over and over again. It’s a good bet that you have some junk in your trunk and have developed a limiting belief around that thing you want.
It can also be useful to ask others for their opinion about what you believe. Request that they give a completely honest opinion about a certain belief you hold dear—and be prepared to hear things that may challenge you. Your RAS will go on high alert. Be careful as well to closely examine beliefs held by others who come from the same background as you, since they’re likely to have the same junk in their trunk that you do.
Whether you look internally or seek feedback from others in your life, you must examine the thoughts and beliefs that you keep proving correct. They might be wrong or holding you back. They might be undermining everything you are trying to accomplish as an adult.
You don’t have to allow yourself to be hindered by others’ beliefs. And this isn’t about blaming anyone. It’s certainly not about getting therapy with your parents or settling old scores. It’s about identifying things that you believe, that may be holding you back, and revamping the way you see these things.
You don’t have any limits except the limits you think you have—and you have to dig deep to discover these. And when you do, you have to take some time to consider these issues. Don’t gloss over them. What did you learn about money when you were a kid? What have you learned as an adult about business? What did you learn about sales? Most important, what have you learned about what is possible for you?
Did someone or some situation place limits on you? It’s up to you to identify and get rid of these limitations. You can change all of it. It doesn’t have to limit your life today.
You should now have a pretty thorough list of what you want, what you want to become, what you want to contribute, what you need to do, and what limiting beliefs may be undermining your success in life and business. The next step is to start organizing this information into your prosperity plan. You will assemble this and then review it during your daily quiet-time ritual.
You will revisit what you want, what you want to become, and what you want to contribute. You will determine what one or two things you must do on a consistent basis to create an exceptional life and sales career. And you will create new beliefs and thoughts to challenge the limiting beliefs you’ve developed in your past. You will know what a perfect life and business look like for you—and you will know how to get there.
The next step in the FEAR process is to create and get deeply emotionally committed to your prosperity plan.