Action is the real measure of success. Napoleon Hill
Will Rogers once said, “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
When it comes to creating wealth, happiness, and peace of mind in life and business, the rubber pretty much meets the road with action—because the only way to achieve your dreams in these arenas is to take consistent action toward them.
And that’s the key: consistent action. It’s not the scope, size, or drama of the action you take to achieve your dreams. Making a single grand gesture one time (usually) will not do you much good. Doing lots of little, helpful things regularly is what’s going to make the difference.
As famed entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said, “Success is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” The single biggest cause of getting mediocre results is sales and business professionals’ failure to do the small things repeatedly. We often become far too concerned with “elephant hunting”—searching for that one big kill—when success really requires brilliant execution of the small, seemingly insignificant activities in sales and business.
So don’t get hung up on the amount or degree of actions you take as you evaluate what’s necessary to reach your dream; get hung up on the consistency of the action. This is the quintessential example of how taking “baby steps” will get you where you want to go.
Earlier I referred to the ancient truth that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” It’s not about the first step, or the tenth step. Wealth, happiness, and peace of mind are about the single next step.
The key is to ensure that you are moving in a consistent direction toward your dreams today. There is no need to worry about which steps you’ll take tomorrow or next week. If you don’t take the first step, there will be no next step. The challenge, of course, is mustering up the self-discipline to take each next step on a consistent basis. Jim Rohn also said, “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” To get where you want to go from wherever you are, you must do the little things brilliantly—and consistently.
This is where things get a little tricky for us humans. If we could consistently do the things we know we should be doing, we would already be enjoying amazing lives of wealth and prosperity. (And chances are, you wouldn’t be reading this book right now.)
If only we could just do the little things we know we should do. If we could just make six new cold calls every day, we could earn that six-figure salary—and life would be awesome!
After my father died in 1996, one of the items I put on my personal prosperity plan was to be an “awesome father to my son.” But given my circumstances at the time—living behind bars—what actions could I take that would be consistent with being an awesome father to him?
I knew I couldn’t do anything big. But fortunately for me, becoming an awesome father wasn’t about doing something grand; it was about doing something consistently—even if that something seemed small and insignificant at the time.
So I decided to do the one thing I could do from my prison cell: write my son letters. And that’s what I did. Over the next seven years, I wrote hundreds of letters to my son.
These letters didn’t seem like much to a small boy who wasn’t even old enough to read. He had another “daddy” in his life who was doing “big” things, like going camping or ice skating or visiting amusement parks. Compared with activities like that, writing letters seemed insignificant. But that turned out to be enough—as long as I kept at it.
My sole focus upon my release was to find my son and be the father he deserved. When I got out, I learned that Hunter’s mother was in prison and that he was living with his aunt, who had always been a very positive and supporting influence in his life. Shortly after my release, I contacted her and eventually convinced her that I was a different man than the punk who had abandoned that little boy seven years earlier. Eventually she agreed that Hunter should be with me. My son grew up to become an amazing young man, and the relationship between the two of us grew stronger over the years.
Hunter understandably struggled with anger and abandonment issues for several years; however, he ultimately blossomed beyond the limitations I had created for him over his first 10 years. I know deep in my heart that the connection we maintained through those “little” letters was the basis on which we eventually formed a deep and loving relationship.
In my first book, I recounted a story where Hunter returned home from a visit with his mother’s family. He had spent some time with his great grandmother, Nana, when he was 15 or 16 years old. He had been with me for many years by that time, and things were going well. Nana had seen to it that Hunter received the letters I had written him during the years I was incarcerated. However, when he returned home from that trip as a teenager, he had some letters Nana had discovered in her garage that he never received. These were letters I had written him 10 and 12 years earlier.
I described the day he came home with those letters:
Last summer as I worked in our yard, Hunter walked toward me with a stack of letters. “Look, Dad,” he said. “Look at these letters you wrote when I was a kid.” I stood with my son, now nearly a man, in the front yard of our mountain home on that glorious summer day, and read the letters with him. I thought back to twelve years earlier when I had written them in a dark lonely place, and I knew during that moment with Hunter that my life was fulfilled. The hard work and determination had paid off. It was all worth it.
Together we read the words I had written so many years before.
You are truly an Angel Boy and you embody all that is hope, Joy, Love, Goodness, and Pure. There is no man on this planet more proud of his son than I am of you. I realize that I have made mistakes, and I am so sorry that I am separated from you, but one day I will be with you again, and NEVER again will I do anything that will result in my being apart from you.
I LOVE YOU and that will NEVER change.
With a smile, Hunter turned with the letters and walked away, knowing his father had always loved him.
While Hunter had received hundreds of the letters I had sent, somehow this stack of letters did not reach him until 12 years later. Ironically, it didn’t even matter that he didn’t get them years earlier. In fact, I believe the impact on him was even deeper because he received them as a young adult.
Time will expose or promote all of us. Eventually our actions—for better or for worse—will be revealed. Success depends on taking the right actions on a consistent basis, even if the results aren’t created until years later. The bottom line is that you simply cannot do the right things and accidentally create the wrong results. Eventually, the results will reflect the actions.
I believe my relationship with my son—as well as the foundation on which he is building a successful life—is the result of The Power of Consistency.
All it took was a seemingly insignificant letter written to him on a consistent basis. Those small steps repeated over and over again generated powerful results. Today Hunter is in second year of college, and we have an amazing relationship, just like the one I used to imagine alone in my prison cell. He has reached the age where there is less parenting and more friendship. As he grew up and learned that he could count on his father, he gained the security and confidence to seek out his own journey. He is a remarkable young man with a very powerful story of his own. He saw and experienced things no child ever should, yet he transcended the struggle I created for him over the first 10 years of his life. Something tells me that one day he will have a significant impact on the lives of kids who are facing very difficult circumstances the way he did as a child.
You may have fallen short taking consistent action in the past, but here is a little news flash for you, my friend: You can still do the things you need to do, regularly and habitually, to create the life and business of your dreams. You just need a little help finding the strength to do the little things brilliantly and consistently.
Every single person knows what it’s like to commit to doing something we know we need to do only to fall short after a short period of success. We just have a hard time sticking with it, right?
You get all excited about starting some new routine that you know will improve your life and business. And you know that “this is the time and now is the place.” But somehow, within a few days, you go from making six cold calls to making one.
What happened? Where did all your determination go? How did your willpower and self-discipline fail you?
It’s actually pretty simple to answer these questions—if you understand a little quirk about willpower.
Believe it or not, willpower is actually an exhaustible resource that loses strength over the short term. The more you use it, the weaker it becomes—and the less you can rely on it.
In their landmark bestseller, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, authors Chip and Dan Heath describe a study that demonstrates how self-discipline weakens over time.
In a nutshell, the study outlines the impact using willpower now has on our future ability to draw on the same willpower. In the study, college students were asked to stay in a room with chocolate chip cookies and radishes. One group was allowed to eat the cookies but had to resist the radishes, and the other group was allowed to eat the radishes but had to resist the cookies.
Obviously, the group that had to resist the cookies had to exercise more willpower than the group who had to resist the radishes. Amazingly, the group that used this resolve to resist the cookies displayed significantly less willpower when asked to rely on it in a second exercise immediately following the cookie exercise.
Although the Heaths’ book provides a much more detailed and thorough explanation of what it takes to change, the bottom line is fairly straightforward: Your willpower will grow weaker as you use it over the short term.
Of course, you didn’t need a study conducted on college kids to know this. You likely discovered it on January 3, after you fell off the wagon from whatever New Year’s resolution you made.
That’s why success in life and business is not about the big commitments you make on New Year’s Day; it’s about the small commitments you keep every day of January, February, and every month after. You cannot rely on willpower and self-discipline alone to help you take the consistent actions you need, because they will fail you in critical moments of temptation. You need something to strengthen and support these actions—something to keep you going during those moments of weakness.
You need something to get you to make that sixth cold call every day—to change you at a fundamental level so that doing the right things on a consistent basis is not a constant battle.
What you need is to have your subconscious mind programmed to do what you need to do automatically. You need these actions to become second nature, just like your drive home from work. And you will get this from the strength of character and conviction that flows from your quiet-time ritual. You need to place new, second-nature actions into your box and be able to remove them at critical moments on your journey to wealth and success. You must develop a new approach deep within your subconscious mind that will keep you on track on a consistent basis—a guidepost that ensures your actions are consistent with what you want, what you want to become, and what you want to contribute in life and business.
You will get all that—and more—by investing 15 minutes a day into your quiet-time ritual.
This period of time is the well from which you will draw the strength you need to make the right decisions consistently. It’s the cornerstone on which you will create the life and business of your dreams; it’s what will keep you strong and unshakable on your journey. Your quiet-time ritual will program the life of your dreams at a core level so that you can develop the deep emotional commitment that never allows you to forget what you need to do. It will keep you on track on a subconscious level, no matter how distracted your conscious mind becomes. Your quiet-time ritual will strengthen and support your willpower and self-discipline.
As I stated in Chapter 5, the purpose of your quiet-time ritual is to program new thoughts and beliefs into your box that you will remove in moments of uncertainty and weakness. Eventually, your life will be a perfect reflection of the prosperity plan you placed in the box during your quiet-time rituals.
This time will also serve as a powerful daily guide for keeping you on track. As your subconscious mind is programmed to work toward your dreams by taking the consistent steps outlined in your prosperity plan, you will create a new level of personal accountability to yourself.
Stop for a moment and review your prosperity plan. Is there any doubt that if you performed your consistency actions every day that eventually you would reach your consistency outcomes? No, because we know that you simply can’t do the right things and accidentally create the wrong results. Your quiet-time ritual’s job is to ensure that you perform your consistency actions daily, thereby effectively guaranteeing a new level of success in your sales and business career.
For example, suppose your prosperity plan includes earning a six-figure income, and you have outlined in your consistency actions, “I make six new cold calls per day.” You’ve already figured out, based on your sales model and performance, that six new calls per day will result in fairly reliable sales results, which will result in you achieving your desired income goals.
Now imagine you spend 15 minutes during your quiet-time ritual reviewing your personal prosperity plan and repeating your “I make six new cold calls per day” consistency action. You allow yourself to experience the emotions of what that six-figure income is going to mean to your family and your future. You allow yourself to feel as though it’s already happened.
Now imagine that it’s 4:00 PM that afternoon and you’ve made only four new cold calls.
What do you suppose is going to happen? Most likely you will feel like crawling out of your skin or feel like a fish out of water. You may hear alarm bells sounding in your head.
Compare that with the feeling you would have had after making four new cold calls if you had not programmed six new cold calls into your box. Without the quiet-time ritual, you likely would have been perfectly content to accept a four-call performance from yourself. It’s the added pressure of those two additional calls that have led you to significantly raise your expectations for yourself. And, as you’re aware, your expectations set the limits on your results. Raise your expectations, and the results will soon follow.
Because you have so deeply programmed yourself to take this action—and allowed yourself to experience the emotions of what will happen as a result of doing so—you aren’t likely to let yourself off the hook after making only four calls.
This is why failing to make six calls will create internal conflict. You are not going to be able to ignore the fact that you didn’t make the six calls. Your quiet-time ritual will have created a new standard of expectations for yourself, and if you don’t rise to your new expectations, you won’t be able to reconcile your expectations with your actions.
If you hadn’t set this goal for yourself, you wouldn’t experience any internal conflict when failing to do what you said you would. Since you never created the dream and allowed yourself to experience what it will feel like when you earn that six-figure income, you will effortlessly let yourself off the hook. Your results will never surpass your expectations—and you will remain comfortably in mediocrity.
This higher level of achievement and personal accountability is a reflection of the consistency principle that “private declarations dictate future actions.” The bottom line is this: You are far more likely to do something if you have told yourself you are going to do it. If you don’t bother making this kind of promise to yourself, there is nothing to which you must hold yourself accountable. And this lack of internal pressure allows you to let yourself off the hook.
You already know that your results are pretty much certain if you do the things you know you should do. If you do the right things, you can create only the right things. The only question is: Are you going to do them?
The consistency principle that “private declarations dictate future actions” capitalizes on a reality of human nature called cognitive dissonance. This is the anxiety or discomfort we feel when we hold conflicting ideas and beliefs. Therefore, if you tell yourself that you are going to do certain things during your quiet-time ritual and you believe that you will generate success by doing those things, you will experience cognitive dissonance if you fail to take actions that are consistent with your private declarations.
This may be a new level of personal accountability for you, but it is the kind of accountability that will drive you to new levels of sales and business success. By outlining your new life and business in your prosperity plan—and programming it into your box during your quiet-time ritual—you will leverage cognitive dissonance and drive yourself to unparalleled levels of personal accountability and success.
By creating and programming your prosperity plan deep into your subconscious during your quiet-time ritual, you will create a powerful new ally for your willpower and self-control. You will strengthen your personal resolve to do what you need to do to get what you want to get.
This is how a high-school dropout, broke, homeless, and thrice convicted loser, can walk out of the penitentiary to a homeless shelter and create $20 million in sales in 60 months—and then earn a spot on Inc. magazine’s list of fastest-growing privately held companies in America. I simply created a prosperity plan, got deeply emotionally committed to that plan over seven years of quiet-time rituals.
The Power of Consistency relies on the human tendency to work to eliminate cognitive dissonance, in this case by taking the actions programmed during quiet-time rituals. Sadly, however, there is another way we humans can eliminate the anxiety of holding conflicting ideas and beliefs: by eliminating the expectations from our prosperity plan or abandoning the quiet-time ritual altogether. In other words, if we never create the expectation that we are going to do something, there will be no dissonance when we fail to do it. We let ourselves off the hook by never raising our expectations.
Suppose you have created your prosperity plan and programmed the consistency action into your subconscious mind that you will make six new calls per day. You go out on day 1 and make only one new call. The cognitive dissonance drives you to the verge of insanity! What happens next?
On day 2, you do your quiet-time ritual again and head out to work. After letting yourself settle for one call the day before and feeling terrible about it, your new level of personal accountability drives you to make the six calls. You do it again the next day, and the next.
The next thing you know, you are making six calls per day, and—like any new habit—it becomes easier after 25 to 30 days. Soon, not making the six calls is the exception. You are making the six calls consistently. What is the impact on your income? What result will you have created?
As long as you include making the six calls per day in your quiet-time ritual, you will find the internal strength to follow through. Once you regularly engage in the consistency actions, the consistency outcome is fairly predictable. Cognitive dissonance drives the new behavior, which drives the new results, and next thing you know you are a top income producer.
But suppose you took the easy way out and got rid of the cognitive dissonance by eliminating the quiet-time ritual on day 2 instead of making the six calls. You eradicate the anxiety in both cases—but with two very different long-term outcomes with respect to your business and income.
Creating your prosperity plan and programming it into your subconscious will force you to eliminate any cognitive dissonance by doing one of two things:
1. You will eventually begin taking consistent actions and creating better results.
2. You will completely abandon your quiet-time ritual.
You simply cannot have it both ways. Push will come to shove at some point.
Ask yourself how long you could review your dreams (and the things you need to do to reach them) each morning, and then fail to follow through during the course of your day. If you’re like most people, then your answer is “probably not very long.” Eventually, you would either have to quit dreaming or start acting in harmony with your prosperity plan. Human nature guarantees that you will eventually eliminate cognitive dissonance one way or another.
Failing to achieve your dreams in life and business would be regrettable, but lying to yourself would be far worse. If you create a prosperity plan and review it daily during your quiet-time ritual.
At some point in life and business, we either have to give up and make excuses for failure and mediocrity, or we have to strive harder and hold ourselves accountable. Once you accept that better results are guaranteed by doing better things, the only reason for failure is a personal decision to fail.
That may sound harsh, but it’s true. Failing to meet your goals is simply a result of not doing the right things on a consistent basis. If failure was the result of external forces—a weak economy, bad leads, cheap competitors, or a stupid boss—then everyone in a similar situation would have similar results. And that’s just not the reality. There are successful sales and business professionals working right alongside losers. The only difference between the two is in what they think and what they do.
If you think and do the right things, wealth and success are simply a matter of when, not if. Nothing will hold you back or get in your way. You will create a new and better financial future for yourself and your family—because you simply cannot think and do the right things and accidentally create the wrong results. The universe doesn’t work that way.
Programming what you want and what you need to do to achieve it in your quiet-time ritual will keep you on track no matter how distracted you become with life’s daily tasks and disruptions.
You have the talents, skills, and ability to create the sales and business results you desire. Now you have the know-how as well. If you don’t follow through, you have no one to blame but yourself.
I’d like to share one more brief example of how your prosperity plan and quiet-time ritual can keep you moving consistently toward your dreams.
Suppose your consistency outcome is “I weigh 180 pounds” and your consistency actions are “I eat only healthy and nutritional food” and “I exercise 30 minutes per day.” Now imagine reviewing this each day and allowing yourself to visualize and experience what it’s going to feel like when you have created the dream.
What do you suppose will happen if you find yourself eating delicious chocolate cake for lunch? Alarm bells will be blasting in your skull, and you’ll feel incredibly disappointed in yourself. Ah, the power of cognitive dissonance.
If you continue the quiet-time ritual, your actions will eventually get in line with the dream. The only way they won’t is if you quit your quiet-time ritual. Even if your actions aren’t consistent with the dream initially, they will eventually get in alignment.
I have found out for myself, time and again, that programming your subconscious mind can—and will—move you closer to your dreams.
When I created my first prosperity plan after my father died in 1996, one of the things I wanted desperately to become was “a man of character, honor, and integrity.” I reviewed my plan during my quiet-time ritual over the next several years and thought about what I needed to do to become that kind of man. I would allow myself to experience what it would feel like to be a man of character, honor, and integrity.
Obviously, I was a million miles away from being that person then. I was someone who had spent his entire adult life lying, cheating, and stealing. I was the antithesis of a man of character, honor, and integrity.
Nevertheless, I was determined to create a new reality for myself and achieve the dream of being trustworthy. So each day I would review my plan and ensure I was taking actions that were consistent with the dream. In prison, those actions were to stop playing the prison games. I could hardly tell myself “I am a man of honor, character, and integrity” each morning and then go out and smoke pot and drink “hooch” on the yard. It also meant that if I borrowed coffee or toothpaste until payday, I had to pay my debts as soon as possible without excuses. (By the way, paying debts in prison doubles as health insurance, because not paying them can be very bad for your health!)
Six years later, push came to shove, and I had to make a decision about whether or not I was going to act in a manner consistent with my dream. It was 2002—six years after my father died and just one year before I was released—when the time came to see what I was really all about.
One morning as I talked on the telephone, the cell house cop walked past me and suddenly collapsed to the cellblock floor. I quickly hung up the phone and rushed to join the crowd of convicts assembling around him as he suffered some type of seizure.
As I stood watching him convulse, he suddenly went completely still. Within seconds his face was grayish blue. It was obvious there was no oxygen going to his brain.
As I watched him die, I heard a voice in my head: “I am a man of character, honor, and integrity,” something I had been telling myself every morning for six years. Suddenly cognitive dissonance kicked in as I watched this man struggle to maintain his tenuous grasp on life—and I knew I had to do something.
I was surprised by the internal voice—and I was suddenly aware that I had a choice. I was at a crossroads. I could either take actions consistent with being a man of character, honor, and integrity, or I could tuck my tail between my legs and return to my cell and scratch that dream off my list. I couldn’t have it both ways;
And I wasn’t about to scratch the dream off my list. I was moving ahead with my life, in a direction consistent with my dreams.
As I recounted in The Upside of Fear, I then took action consistent with my dream of becoming a better man and began what could only remotely be called CPR. Eventually I was assisted by a lieutenant who knew CPR and successfully revived officer Mark McClure.
I received a letter from the warden thanking me for my actions two weeks later. He said in his letter that I had demonstrated that I was a man of “good character.”
Character. One of the exact words I had written on my prosperity plan many years earlier.
The lesson is simple: Outline the life and business of your dreams in your prosperity plan and program the dreams into your subconscious mind through your daily quiet-time ritual. Following these steps will program your consistency outcomes and consistency actions into your box, thereby giving you the strength and determination to take the actions necessary to make the dream a reality.
When push comes to shove, you will find yourself taking the actions you know you need to take. Once that happens, the results are certain because you can’t do one thing and accidentally create something else. You will have solved the conundrum of human nature. You will know what you need to do to create wealth, happiness, and peace of mind—and you will do it.
One of the most remarkable things about the quiet-time ritual is you will find over time that it becomes less of a struggle to take actions consistent with your dreams. You will feel your emotional state changing as you begin feeling as though the parts of your prosperity plan are already a reality. You will approach each day with passion, purpose, and confidence.
When you start thinking like a success, you start feeling like a success. When you start feeling like a success, you start acting like a success. When you start acting like a success, you start creating successful results. And the next thing you know, you are living your dreams.
You will find that you make the right decisions on a more consistent basis as you follow this process. These choices will simply come more naturally, with less effort. As you change your thoughts and program your dreams into your subconscious, you will find your emotional state changes, making it easier to take the consistent actions toward your dreams.
It’s all one big self-fulfilling prophecy. It isn’t rocket science. It’s just the way the universe works.