Success Is Made of Little Victories

Looking Off Everything we do to be successful comes from little victories. When someone takes notice of our success, it looks like something big. It feels like one big moment. But always, and I mean always, it comes from a series of little victories. Look at the successes you’ve had. Did they all come at once? Or did you build up from nowhere to somewhere to somewhere better to a quick fallback to a new success, and then pow? Right.

In August 2003, I decided to get healthy. So did Kat. We started with nutrition. We lost a little weight. Then we lost some more. We worked on our fitness. Then we did even more. Then I got into running. And by November 2004, I ran and completed a trail marathon. I sure didn’t wake up one morning in November 65 pounds thinner and start running. It was built on several hundred (thousand?) little victories along the way.

Start With Little Flags and Bigger Flags

One way to start achieving your own victories is to know what you’re aiming to accomplish. For instance, if you hate your job, plant a positive flag in the ground that says, “I’m going to change roles/careers.” That’ll be your bigger flag. If you want to get really specific, you should consider adding things like dates to your flags. (Otherwise, they’re more like dreams.)

Then, plant some smaller flags. For instance, having some extra money stashed away so you can cover your transition for a few months might be a good way to accomplish your bigger flag goal. So, how will you get that money? Maybe it will be to start an eBay business. (My friend Marsha Collier is THE author of all the best books about eBay and eBay businesses.) With extra revenue, you’ll reach another little flag that builds up to your next victory.

See how it works? Put out a bigger flag that signifies your victory: “I’ll work independently 8 months from now.” Then, figure out how many little flags you’ll need to put in the sand for all the little victories that will get you there. “I’ll look to start taking in an extra $2000/month within 60 days.” From there, figuring out HOW is a bit more concrete.

Praise Each Little Victory. Then Move on.

On your way to success, make sure you praise your accomplishments. I’m working on my fitness and nutrition again after a long hiatus. At the time I wrote this, I’d lost 10 pounds in my first two weeks. I’m happy with that progress. But, I’m also not going to linger. I’m going to work harder at getting more fit, at reducing my calorie intake a bit more (I’m not eating a fad diet and I’m certainly eating more than enough food), and working those little victories. But I just accept each win, nod, and move on.

Never Justify

One secret to your little victories: never use one to justify a fallback. “Well, I did lose 10 pounds. I’ll just have this vat-sized popcorn at the movie theater.” No. Never. That’s how you got there in the first place. Apply this thinking liberally over all the other things you do. If you get a win with one client, never let that be a reason to mess up with another. Treat every victory as crucial to your success, or you’ll risk eroding your success.

Your Flags, Not Everyone’s Flags

The flags you set for yourself, the little victories, are yours. They pertain to goals you’ve made. Sometimes, on the way to success, our passion to be helpful sometimes overrides our sense that our efforts are our own, and not prescriptive across everyone else. That’s when we risk coming off as preachy. For instance, just because you realize that Twitter and Facebook are the wave of the future doesn’t mean that everyone else who doesn’t is a jerk, behind the times, and doesn’t get it. Maybe those aren’t the flags those people are working towards. Maybe their victories are different than yours.

Work your own flags.

Praise Others Often

The best thing you can do with success is share it. Praise others along the way. Be grateful. Thank others. Share as much of the stage and spotlight as you can. Hoard nothing. Instead, give as much praise away as possible and keep only what you can’t possibly deny to yourself. Your success was made up of many other helping hands. Do what you can to thank them.

Success Accepts Temporary Setbacks and Failures

I called my business New Marketing Labs because I wanted us to always be experimenting. We win business by telling our partners that sometimes we’re not sure the outcome of our efforts until we give it a try. We have, on many occasions, told someone in a meeting, “We’re not really sure if this will yield, but we’re going to try it, and if it does, we’ll do it some more. If it doesn’t, we’ll figure out how to make things work.”

Experimentation, failure, and setbacks are all part of the map. Just don’t dwell on them. Airplanes are off-course 90% of the time, I once read. As long as they land safely and on time (oh, how I wish), that’s good enough for everyone involved. Accept your setbacks (but learn from them).

What Happens With Success

Depending on your views, what happens next is usually the most important. When I’m successful, I do what I can to educate others in how they can accomplish what I’ve done, or at least they can have access to the tools I used to get there. Teaching, raising others up, doing what one can to bring success to others is perhaps the biggest measure of the real value of success. It’s not money that determines success. It’s not fame. It’s the chance to help others with their own success that I value most of all.

Our efforts to achieve success hinge on little victories. When it’s all said and done, after 10,000 hours of hard work, the external sense that it all seems effortless is just another external sign that you’ve worked hard to achieve your position. But it’s really only the start of another kind of effort, complete with more little victories to be had along the way.

What about you? Does that describe your own successes? How are you planting your small flags? What do you find discouraging?

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