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A Vital Key to Success

By Dr. Alan Zimmerman

"It is easy to sit up and take notice. What is difficult is getting up and taking action." --Al Batt, author
Over the years, I've been asked thousands of questions by thousands of people in my speaking and reading audiences. And one of the most frequently asked questions is, "What does it take to be successful ... really successful?"

Of course, it would take an entire book or more to answer that question thoroughly and completely. But my answer would always include the word ... INITIATIVE ... which has an emotional as well as a behavioral side.

On the emotional side, successful people have a burning desire to succeed. They have ambition, drive, pride, and enthusiasm. They want to accomplish something. And on the behavioral side, they have the commitment to accomplish something. They're willing to work hard and go the extra mile. They'll do whatever it takes to get the job done because they have self-discipline.

INITIATIVE is such a key component of success that I would wager to say you'll never be successful without it. So how do you get it and keep it? To get you started, there are 2 things you can do right now...

1. Do more than you're told to do ... and ... do more than is expected
As I say in my "Journey to the Extraordinary" experience, "The person who only does what he is told to do will never be asked to do great things."

Dan learned that the hard way. You see ... Dan and Jim started work at Starling Imports on the same day, doing the same job as sales reps. They were both considered honest, hard-working employees, but within a year, Jim was promoted to an executive position while Dan was passed over.

Dan felt unappreciated by the company and soon became so resentful of Jim's success that he drafted a letter of resignation and gave it to his boss.

"Dan, this is a surprise to me," said the boss.

"Well, I was pretty surprised at the recent round of promotions," snapped Dan.

"I see," said the boss thoughtfully. "But I don't think you understand why. Tell you what: before I sign off on this, do me a favor and go across the street to the farmer's market. Find out if anyone is selling oranges."

"Uh, well ... okay," said Dan as he started off on what he considered to be a strange errand. Minutes later, he returned and reported, "Yes, there are oranges for sale at the market today."

Then the boss called Jim to the office and asked the same favor. About 15 minutes passed before Jim came back to the office and reported, "There is only one vendor with oranges today. His name is Gus. He sells Florida oranges at $5 for a 3-pound bag or a 5-pounder for $8. They're tree-ripened and sweet. And he'll give you a volume discount for any order over 50 pounds. Was there anything else you needed?"

"No. Thanks," said the boss as Jim walked away. He turned to Dan and said, "Did you still want to give me this resignation?"

"No," Dan blushed with embarrassment. "I understand your decision now and I think I can be more like Jim. Do you think he'd teach me how?"

There's a great lesson in this story. Don't miss it. And apply it to your job and your life. That's why I tell people, "Always do more than you get paid for." And that's why Elbert Hubbard noted many decades ago, "Folks who never do any more than they get paid for never get paid for any more than they do." It's the first reason INITIATIVE is so critical. And then ...

2. Discipline yourself to keep on keeping on
You see, the road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places. But there's always a problem with those parking places. As 20th century economist and financier Josiah Stamp put it, "It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities." In other words, you pay a price for not keeping on or letting your INITIATIVE take a break.

The great Polish concert pianist knew that. He noted, "If I miss one day's practice, I notice. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days, the audience knows it."

And Pat Summit, America's Winningest NCAA Coach advises, "Discipline yourself so no one else has to." Amen!!! I like that advice. If everyone followed it, we could eliminate the need for several layers of bureaucracy in almost every public and private organization in existence.

So discipline yourself. And then "Celebrate what you've accomplished, but raise the bar a little higher each time you succeed," as Mia Hamm recommends in her book, "Go for the Goal."

In good times, it's easy to think, "Why bother?" And in bad times, it's easy to think, "What's the use?" But I'm here to tell you that both ways of thinking will get in your way. The only way to success starts with INITIATIVE. Take Carrie Smyrnios's advice, a resident of Athens, Greece. Carrie tells me, "If you want to go places, you must either get behind and push or go in front and pull. If you stand by the side, you won't go anywhere."

Find two things you can do at work in the next week that is more than is expected, and then do them. Make it a GREAT week!

Best-selling author and Hall of Fame professional speaker, Dr. Alan Zimmerman has transformed more than a million people into better managers and leaders in the office and in the marketplace. For even more tips on how to build relationships with employees and customers that last a lifetime go to and get his free e-book that's filled with his most popular articles.
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