How to take knowledge to action
“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
Leonardo Da Vinci
In my last post I wrote about the importance of reading and illustrated the fact that dedication to life-long learning is a major habit shared by the ultra-successful. I also wrote about the fact that the overwhelming majority of successful people dedicate significant time and resources to self-improvement and learning. If you missed the post you can find it HERE.
Even though there is no arguing the fact that a lifelong dedication to learning is critical to long terms success there are habits that are even more important to attaining a high degree of prosperity. Today’s post is about one of those.
While MOST self-made successful people are dedicated to learning, I firmly believe that ALL self-made people are dedicated to doing. They have mastered the art of taking knowledge to action. Knowledge is nice, but nothing happens without activity. As Leo said successful people don’t sit back and wait for things to happen, they go out and happen to things.
As men and women seeking success on the far side of fifty it is easy to look back on our lives and wish we could have done more. I hear it from my coaching clients all the time; I wish I had looked after my health, I wish I had started a business, I wish I had better relationships and I wish I had started saving my money earlier.
It is easy to look upon our past with regret, but regret serves no useful purpose. The only thing we can do about past failures is to learn from them. I won’t go deeply into it right now, but rest assured that another common thread among the ultra-successful is a knack for getting over failures and reaching the success on the other side.
It doesn’t matter what you have or have not done to this point in your life. What truly matters is what you do from this point forward.
In order to help you pursue success on the far side of fifty below are my;
Top 10 ways to take knowledge to action;
1.) Focus on becoming productive rather than busy.
Many people get stuck at this point, there are so many things they could do in life they don’t take action on anything, or they tackle something inconsequential like mowing their lawn or cleaning their garage.
As the saying goes “most people major in doing minor things”.
As a manager within a large corporation I observed that the many workers, including those is leadership positions spent the majority of their time being busy rather than productive, Every email was read and properly filed, meetings were attended, notes were taken but there was little done that had real world impact.
I see and coach many people who literally work themselves to exhaustion only to find that at the end of the day they get nothing of significance done and they feel no sense of accomplishment.
The feeling of sadness and apathy that can come after a long hard day of struggle and stress often stems from the fact that most people work terribly hard, but don’t get a feeling of accomplishment despite all of their effort. In other words they accomplish lots of stuff but they do little of real value.
But life doesn’t have to be so hard. If you have several important items to do but can’t find decide which one is clearly the “most” important thing to do just pick one. Spending too much time thinking is just another form of procrastination and doing something is always better than doing nothing.
Another great way to figure out what you should be work on is to take a few minutes and write down and prioritize a list of your 25 most important goals. That done; just focus on the top 5 goals and put the other 20 aside. If those twenty items are still on the list once you get your top 5 done THEN you can have a look at them.
Learning not to worry about EVERYTHING you have to do and learning to FOCUS ON THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS is one of the very best things you can do for yourself. Your stress levels will go way down and your productivity levels will drastically improve.
This is the art of creating focus and the more you can focus your efforts the easier your life will become.
If you want to learn more about the difference between goals and objectives please check out THIS link to the explanation of the differences between goals and objectives. (BTW please let me know what you think of this site, I have never linked to them before).
If you are still have trouble determining your priorities consider the following quote by Peter Drucker, In the busyness of daily life it is incredibly easy to get off track and spend a literal life time pursuing goals that really don’t matter.
“There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.”
2.) Pick the most important objective that leads toward your goal.
Once you have determined what your major objective is you are ready to take action. While a goal can be rather vague and hard to measure an objective is clear, specific and measurable.
But you need to remember that not all goals are created are created equal and not all objectives are created equal either. Some goals have a much bigger positive impact on your life than others and some objectives lead more quickly to the attainment of goals than other objectives.
Given that many golfers read Success on the Far Side of Fifty I have chosen the following example;
If your goal is to lower your golf score should your objective be?
- Practice driving,
- Practice hitting from the fairway,
- Practice chipping and putting.
Given that 70% to 80% of your strokes come within 50 yards of the green the answer should be obvious. Practice chipping and putting.
The problem is that mid to high handicap golfers do not approach the game this way. They spend too little time practicing their short game and (if they practice at all) too much time on the driving range, this is why they remain high handicappers.
They put the most effort into the thing that gives them the least payback.
But before you go trying to lower your golf score ask yourself the question – “IS THIS THE GOAL I SHOULD BE WORKING ON?”
This exact same strategy can be applied to many aspects of life. Many people spend a ton of time exercising when they should be working on their diet. They spend hours trying save money by getting the lowest possible price on an item that they don’t need.
The more time you spend working on the critical few as opposed to the irrelevant many the most successful you will become.
For those of you who have read my past posts this is just another way to restate Pareto’s Principle which you can find HERE.
“Typically, causes, inputs, or effort divide into two categories: (1) the majority, that have little impact, and (2) a small minority, that have a major, dominant impact.”
Richard Koch, author of The 80/20 Principle
3.) Do the things that you don’t want to.
As a personal story; for the longest time my business went nowhere. I did lots of the right things; I studied, built a website, created products, wrote books and talked to people about my business. But there were two critical pieces that I didn’t do. I didn’t sell my services and I made very little money.
Guess what; I can coach people, give great talks, put on seminars, give key-note speeches and all the rest of it but if I don’t make money I am operating a business. I am pursuing a hobby or operating a charity but I am most certainly not operating a business.
At some point I had to get off my ass and do the one thing that I hated most, I had to sell myself. For some reason I have never liked asking people for things and I have always felt a little greasy about selling myself. But my dream was to operate a business and to do that I needed to sell myself and my products. Once I got used to doing self-promotion my business took off.
As a different example I know many people who struggle with a variety of health issues. These issues include arthritis, diabetes, shortness of breath and a lack of energy. As a result these people spend a ton of time and energy just managing their ailments.
In most cases if they could just focus on improving their diets many of their issues would just go away!! Health is one of the foundational goals we should all work towards and 80% of health is diet. Unfortunately few of us ever think about our health until we lose it.
One lady I work with finally made the decision to stop managing her illness and start managing her life. Since the beginning of the year she has lost 30 pounds and has finally been able to get off her diabetes medications. Now that is success by any measurement.
As a warning your subconscious mind is lazy and hates change. As a result it will trick you into procrastination. You will find all kinds of reasons to not follow through with making the changes you need to. Attempting difficult things means you will automatically find many more things that are more fun, exciting easier to do. Unless you are careful you will find it easy to get busy completing tasks that feel like progress but aren’t (like me designing logos for my business cards instead of getting out and selling my services).
Get used to doing the things that you don’t really feel like doing.
4.) Overcome your fear of rejection.
As I mentioned earlier, I hated to sell myself. Every time I put myself in a position of selling my services I was also putting myself in a position to be rejected.
When I look back at my career I realize that in order to reach my current level of success there were many areas of fear that I had to overcome. Fear of public speaking was one, when I started blogging I was afraid of putting my words into writing for the world to see. When I talk to people I had to overcome shyness (which is just fear of rejection) and I had to get by the fear of selling myself (another form of fear of rejection).
In fact learning to overcome fear and discomfort has been such an important part of my success that I built a large part of my personal coaching program around that idea. “Growth Zone Personal Coaching” is all about learning to recognise and move beyond your comfort zone and through your fears.
If you are interested in hearing a great video about overcoming rejection check out THIS great Ted Talk.
5.) Big goals can be reached by the daily accomplishment of small tasks.
One people set their sights on the completion of a major life goal they often make a critical mistake, they try to do too much too soon. They set a massive goal and try to do it all at once, as a result they almost always fail.
I always advise clients to choose simple goals that are easily attainable. Success breeds success and you earn your success one small daily activity at a time.
My constant advice is to keep your goals and expectations small and manageable, your objective should be to start creating a chain of success. To break through my shyness I didn’t start by talking with large groups of people, I started by talking to one new person every day. Once that became easy then I moved on to speaking with larger groups of people.
Although I have written four books I never focus on writing a book. I have a daily goal of getting into my office and writing a line. Once I get started writing I never stop at just one line. I write a paragraph, a page or even several pages. By setting a simple daily task for myself I have managed to keep up a bog and write 3 full length books and a novella in 2 years.
I actually accomplish quite a lot by keeping my goals small and manageable and the other great outcome is that over time I have been able to create both discipline and momentum in my life.
One fellow I worked with fell into this same pattern over and over again. Because he was carrying so much extra weight he would frequently run into major health issues, such as asthma attacks, high blood pressure, and even a minor heart attack. Every time he ran across an issue he would attempt a wholesale life change.
He would completely change his eating habits, moving from junk food to salad. He would go from a sedentary lifestyle to daily workouts and he would try to cut his 80 hour work weeks to 60 to fit it all in.
He tried the same things over and over and he failed over and over.
But finally he tried something different. He made two small changes; he started walking for 20 minutes three times per week and cut most of the simple carbohydrates from his diet. Six months later he has lost massive amounts of weight and is feeling much better.
6.) Get an accountability partner.
If you tell a friend or even a bunch of friends that you are you are going to do something then it will be hard to not do it. You don’t want to disappoint them and you don’t want to be embarrassed by not following through.
One of my coaching clients set a personal goal of getting daily outdoor exercise on her lunch breaks, so as her coach I also became her accountability partner.
First we made a bet that if she kept going for ten days in a row I would buy her a coffee, if she didn’t follow through she would buy me a one instead. (This is important – people dislike losing way more than they like winning. Although the amount was small the meaning was significant.)
We also made an agreement that she would report back to me by 1:30 every afternoon confirming that she actually completed her daily objective.
Needless to say she attained her goal and now we have moved her to a weekly follow-up on that item and we have started focussing on a new daily task.
The simple process of having to report back to someone who is actually interested in your success can skyrocket your success rates on goal achievement.
The good news is that you do not have to have a coach to have an accountability partner. You can report your daily success to a spouse, friend or a co-worker. The important thing is to ensure that your accountability partner is reliable and confident enough to call you out when you don’t follow through.
7.) Analyse your failures.
Given that you are pursuing a new level of success you are going to make mistakes and things will go wrong. Making mistakes is part of the learning process but I am constantly amazed by the unreasonable expectations people set for themselves.
My best advice is to lighten up on yourself, don’t take your mistake seriously and try to look at errors as learning opportunities. Make the time to look at the things that go wrong in your life and analyse the causes of those your mistakes and then correct those causes.
Failure to reach your goals is not a sign of personal weakness, it is the sign of a flaw in your strategy or your systems. Failure to reach your goal is merely a signal that you need to change your approach or adapt your processes. Nothing more and nothing less.
Given that I climb mountains as a hobby I frequently run across challenges, in fact overcoming challenge is the whole point of climbing mountains. Although I plan my climbs I often run across unforeseen circumstances and occasionally fail to summit the mountain.
Most often the challenge is weather related, sometimes it is equipment related and occasionally the problem is people related. The really interesting part isn’t so much the nature of the problem, the truly interesting part is seeing how our climbing group responds to the challenge.
I personally view every excursion as a test of my physical ability, a learning opportunity and a chance to enjoy the great outdoors. As a result every trip I take is a good one. I have great climbing experiences even when I battle blisters, fatigue and weather. The circumstances do not dictate my enjoyment, my attitude does. As a result of my positive attitude I continue to grow as a climber and learn from my experiences.
Over the years I have encountered people with a different goal. While I climb because I love the outdoors they climb to get to the top of the mountain. They see a personal failure every time they don’t summit. Because they are so focussed on the end result they are often unhappy if we don’t make the top. Occasionally they blame other people and often they quit climbing because they don’t find it enjoyable.
Which processes do you think leads to the better result?
8.) Create a to-do list.
One of the simplest and most reliable ways to move closer to your goals is to create a daily to do list.
Most people roll their eyes and grimace when I start talking about to do lists. They envision a multi page list filled with trivial items that they do not want to do.
I recommend creating a different sort of to-do list. In my opinion you should have a maximum of five things on your list and those five things should all be items that take you closer to the accomplishment of your major goals. The act of writing your tasks down and then reviewing the list a couple of times a day more than triples the chances that you do the things on your list.
As an added trick I like to write my tasks down in a journal and then put a green highlighter stroke through all the things I get done. I love seeing item after item with green strokes through them. All that green looks and feels like success to me.
Getting into the habit of completing a daily to-do list will result in you building just a tiny little bit more discipline every day.
Eventually you will realise the compounding effect that happens when you layer small achievement over another. Imagine how much better your health would be if you started eating better AND you got more exercise AND you started drinking more water AND you started getting the correct amount of sleep.
Imagine how much financial prosperity you could have if you eliminated unnecessary spending AND increased your employment income AND developed a totally new income through an investment or a business.
Learning to compound successes is one of the real secrets of success on the far side of fifty. Fortunately you can learn this skill at any age.
The real intent of completing small daily tasks that line up with your major goals is habitualization.
Once you create a habit of taking action toward you major life goals you are almost assured of reaching them.
9.) Remember that you chose this.
A huge advantage of realizing a certain measure of success in your life is the feeling of empowerment that comes from knowing that you are a strong, self-reliant individual. Once you become firmly assured of your own self-worth then and only then will you start to feel the level of personal power that is truly within your grasp.
Like the term suggests “personal power” starts and ends with you becoming accountable for your choices. Taking action on things the things that matter is not always easy; in fact it can often be very difficult. But when things do get tough (and they will) remember to remind yourself that you are in charge, you are creating your own destiny and that you have chosen your course of action.
When I get up early in the morning to write I remember that I chose to do it. When I travel to another part of the world to speak at a conference I tell myself that I chose to do it. When I am cranking out my 300th push up in 10 minutes and my arms hurt and my heart is pounding I remember I chose it.
Having the ability to choose is one of the truest indicators of success. Remembering that the life we live is the life we chose is a great reminder of that fact.
10.) Focus on how.
Making change and achieving success means learning to work through the self-doubt that afflicts us all from time to time.
Self-doubt is the enemy of all great change in life. We all wonder if we are good enough, smart enough, if we have prepared enough or capable enough.
All the self-doubt can mess with your mind. You can spend days, weeks or years thinking about all the reasons to not take action. One fellow I know is a true expert at not taking action. Without even leaving his arm-chair he can come up with at least 20 reasons why an idea won’t work and as a result he never does much of anything.
So instead of letting your mind get lost in what if’s or the why not’s focus on the how. Focus on how you can solve a problem or achieve a goal. Do some research, get support from friends or ask for help from other people.
Focusing on the how puts your mind to better use and creates a positive attitude within rather than a negative or uncertain one. This makes it easier to maintain enthusiasm and momentum and minimizes hand wringing and worrying.
The real point to this blog is getting you move from wishing to doing.
I am nearly 57 years old and I have no time to waste on wishing, I have to focus on getting things accomplished. If you are like me and still have a whole bunch of things that you still want to I have only one thing to say; “let’s git er done” (if you don’t speak red-neck you will have to figure it out).
You have reached the moment in your life when you have to decide; are you going to give up on your dreams or are you going to take your shot.
I sincerely hope this is the moment in your life when you can start becoming who you want to be. Today is the day when you can start living the life you were meant to. This is the time when you finally start to take action.
As always thank you for reading. Feel free to sign up to receive success on the far side of fifty in your inbox. You can also leave a comment or contact me by email.
Here’s hoping you have a fantastic week!!