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Are you making a living or designing a life?

Jul 01, 2024

Be the one

This year’s Glastonbury Friday headliner was Dua Lipa and I was enjoying her set via BBC iPlayer. I loved Dua’s energy and I really liked the way she connected with the audience. Something she said in particular caught my attention- she said that she had dreamt of headlining Glastonbury on the Pyramid Stage, even before she had recorded her first album. She even wrote it down, saying that she wanted to headline the Friday night, so that she'd have the rest of the weekend to enjoy the festival! That’s some dream. Even so, Dua had written it down and kept that vision in mind: “I’ve written this moment down and wished for it and dreamt it and worked so hard,” she told the enthusiastic crowd. She recalled one of her first gigs, where she had played to around 10 people who “only came because we offered them free drinks” – I think in that moment, she possibly felt rather overwhelmed to now by playing to an audience of around 100,000. I loved that she followed that by saying: “It’s a lot, innit? A lot to take in… Little me would just be beside herself right now.”

On The Winning Edge, we ask participants to think of and write down a stretching goal they can set themselves, for home or work, with the following criteria:

  • They would be genuinely proud or excited to achieve.
  • They currently don’t have the resources, skills or ability to achieve.
  • They do believe it’s possible.

There is a reason that we say a ‘stretching’ goal as opposed to ‘realistic’. When we say realistic, our brain is searching for something real, something that has already been done before, or something that has been tried but has not been possible. We either look in the luggage of our life and see what we have achieved so far and whether based on past achievements, the goal in question is possible. We look to the past.

Or, we look at what others have achieved and whether our goal is realistic in comparison; and as a result hold ourselves back based on those observations.

When Roger Bannister wanted to break the four-minute mile, if he had looked to see what had been achieved before, he might have thought it impossible. It’s interesting to note that his record only stood for 46 days– he made it realistic, and then the next athlete decided they could run faster.

Aged 10 years old, Whoopi Goldberg dreamt of being an Oscar-winning actress. It's said she received a lot of negative input from those around her. If Whoopi had thought about setting ‘realistic’ goals, she might have thought about how many people of colour had won an Oscar so far, and there were only two: Hattie McDaniel who won Best Supporting Actress for 'Gone with the Wind' in 1939, and Sidney Poitier won Best Actor for 'Lilies of the Field' in 1963. Of course, Whoopi Goldberg went on to win the Oscar for Best Actress in 1985, for The Colour Purple

It’s much more beneficial to set 'stretching' and achievable goals because we test and push ourselves. Who knows, with extra hard work and belief, might we perhaps achieve our goal? If it hasn't already been tried, or achieved, it doesn't mean it isn’t achievable. You don't necessarily need to know how you're going to get there, just have the belief you will and you can start from the end and work your way back.  

I should be so lucky

What are the traits of those who are a success, in whatever that might look like for each individual? What are the characteristics which ensure someone achieves their goals? Some might say self-belief, self-discipline, optimism, effective communication skills, positive attitude and so forth.

Does persistence and drive play a part in success? Yes. What’s the key ingredient in perseverance? A goal! We need to know what we want in order to be persistent. Think about young children when they want an ice-cream. They ask and the parent or grandparent might say no. Do you find the child tends to then re-phrase the request, like it’s a different question they are asking?! Six questions later and they’re licking an ice cream! Why are children so persistent? For two reasons: they believe they’ll get an ice-cream and they believe they deserve it!

Examples of persistence:

  • Colonel Sanders. He was struggling to live on his $7 pension. He had a chicken recipe and drove around restaurants in his station wagon trying to find a buyer for the recipe. He wanted it badly enough so kept on going. How many rejections did he get? 1,009 customers before getting a deal with Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  • How many publishers did JK Rowling approach with the manuscript for Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone? Not one. Not two. Not three or four. Not five nor six. It was the 13th publisher who showed an interest.
  • It’s said, James Dyson took 5,127 attempts to make a vacuum cleaner.
  • Edison had10,000 attempts before success so he must have failed 9,999 times? No, he just found 9,999 ways how not to make a commercial light bulb. Edison said: “I just knew I must be running out of ways to fail.”

What about luck? Does pure luck exist? I believe there are moments of pure luck however, I also strongly believe that we make our own luck. If we know what we want, if we programme our self-conscious with our dream, goal and aspirations, if we write them down and use mindset tools such as assumptive affirmations i.e. that we already believe in a positive outcome, and we visualise our success- our brain will then help us to spot the opportunities. Luck is where opportunity and preparedness meet so if you have a clear goal and vision, you are more likely to see opportunities. It's about doing the groundwork, laying the foundation so that your subconscious can get to work, being persistent, together with the belief in your ability and that you're worthy of success and happiness is vital. 

The success equation

Let's explore further the part mindset plays in someone’s success.

Take a look at these two columns:

                                                    Mindset                                 Qualifications

                                                    Thinking skills                      Skills

                                                    Motivation                            Knowledge

                                                    Attitude                                 Competence

There is a common link between the words on the left. And there is of course a link between the words in the list on the right. The question is, what percentage role do these two groups play in success? There is no answer that can be proved however, from our experience of four decades of The Winning Edge programme, we find it to be:

80 / 20

Of course, in many endeavours in life, you need the 20% to get a foot in the door, and education is a privilege for so many and should not be squandered because it’s not something everyone has access to. However, possessing qualifications is not the be all and end all and the lack of them does not determine the results you will get in life. The 80% leverages the 20% and when the 20% is lacking, it gives you the gumption to power forward. There are countless success stories of people who didn’t have the skills, qualifications nor experience in a situation but through pure self-belief, effective thinking skills, determination and motivation, they built something of their life for them to be proud of.

A brain surgeon who attended a Winning Edge programme, 100% agreed. He said of course, his role requires the qualifications, skills and experience however, to run an effective operating theatre, you need the thinking skills, the motivation, the right attitude and the mindset to rally a team, to get everyone on board, to keep the energy and positivity, especially for lengthy and complicated operations.

The question to ask yourself is how much time, money, and effort have you spent on the group on the right? What could you do if you worked as hard on the group on the left? Maybe you have a lot of books on self-development, but the thing is, have you read them? Do you take on board their ethos and actively employ it? Or do those books become part of your shelf-development i.e. they nicely pad out the bookshelves…

Many people attend our Winning Edge courses and from the outset, believe it’s just another ‘how to’ training course. The thing is, we go deeper and it’s palpable to see that realisation in the room. Working through our 3-day course means being reminded, or becoming equipped with the knowledge and power that we as individuals get to direct our lives and create the results we want in life once we start to run our brain, rather than to allow it to run us.

If we think more consciously about the way we think about what we think about- if we decide what we want out of life and have the belief, motivation and utter grit and determination to work at it to succeed, other than changing our mind or a lighthouse getting in the way (which we can choose to intelligently think our way around), we can achieve what we want to achieve.

Gonna change my way of thinking

I believe all those who perform on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury- Dua Lipa included, know what they want in life- it isn't all happenchance. They most probably wrote their goal down, they visualised it and it was all part of their self-talk as they told themselves, and others, what they were working towards.

As Stephen Covey said: “Begin with the end in mind.”

Here’s the thing, ten years from now, make sure you can say that you chose your life, you didn’t just settle for it. Does it take effort to set goals and make them come to fruition? Yes. Does everything always go to plan? No. But anything worth having takes hard work. Think about where you are at in life now and what you want to create for yourself and ask yourself: “Am I making a living or designing a life?” 

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