Man is born to live and not to prepare to live.
Do you remember when Jimmy Carter was still the President of the United States, the Empire was striking back, Yoda and Pac Man were the rage, and nothing came between Brooke Shields and her Calvins? The Ayatollah Khomeini had come to power in Iran and held our fellow Americans hostage. In Poland, an electrician from the Gdansk shipyards named Lech Walesa did the unthinkable: he decided to take a stand against the Communist hold. He led his co-workers in a strike, and when they tried to lock him out of his place of work, he simply climbed over the wall. A lot of walls have come down since then, haven’t they?
Do you remember hearing the news that John Lennon was murdered? Do you remember when Mount Saint Helens erupted, leveling 150 square miles? Did you cheer when the underdog U.S. hockey team beat the Soviets, and went on to win the Olympic gold medal? That was 1980, a little more than ten years ago.
Think for a moment. Where were you then? What were you like? Who were your friends? What were your hopes and dreams? If someone had asked you, “Where will you be in ten or fifteen years?” what would you have told them? Are you today where you wanted to be back then? A decade can pass quickly, can’t it?
More importantly, maybe we should be asking ourselves, “How am I going to live the next ten years of my life? How am I going to live today in order to create the tomorrow I’m committed to? What am I going to stand for from now on? What’s important to me right now, and what will be important to me in the long term? What actions can I take today that will shape my ultimate destiny?”
You see, ten years from now, you will surely arrive. The question is: Where? Who will you have become? How will you live? What will you contribute? Now is the time to design the next ten years of your life—not once they’re over. We must seize the moment. We’re already immersed in the early pan of a new decade, and we’re entering the final years of the twentieth century/ And shortly we’ll be in the twenty-first century, a new millennium. The year 2000 will be here before you know it, and in a mere ten years, you’ll be looking back on this day and remembering it like you do 1980. Will you be pleased when you look back on the nineties, or perturbed? Delighted, or disturbed?
In the beginning of 1980,1 was a nineteen-year-old kid. I felt alone and frustrated. I had virtually no financial resources. There were no success coaches available to me, no successful friends or mentors, no clear-cut goals. I was floundering and fat. Yet within a few short years I discovered a power that I used to transform virtually every area of my life. And once I’d mastered it, I used it to revolutionize my life in less than a year. It was the tool I used to dramatically increase my level of confidence and therefore my ability to take action and produce measurable results. I also used it to take back control of my physical well-being and permanently rid myself of thirty-eight pounds of fat. Through it, I attracted the woman of my dreams, married her, and created the family I desired. I used this power to change my income from subsistence level to over $1 million a year. It moved me from my tiny apartment (where I was washing my dishes in the bathtub because there was no kitchen) to my family’s current home, the Del Mar Castle. This one distinction took me from feeling completely alone and insignificant to feeling grateful for new opportunities to contribute something to millions of people around the world. And it’s a power I continue to use every single day of my life to shape my personal destiny.
In Unlimited Power, I made it abundantly clear that the most powerful way to shape our lives is to get ourselves to take action. The difference in the results that people produce comes down to what they’ve done differently from others in the same situations. Different actions produce different results. Why? Because any action is a cause set in motion, and its effect builds on past effects to move us in a definite direction. Every direction leads to an ultimate destination: our destiny.
In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently. The key and most important question, then, is this: What precedes all of our actions? What determines what actions we take, and therefore, who we become, and what our ultimate destination is in life? What is the father of action?
The answer, of course, is what I’ve been alluding to all along: the power of decision. Everything that happens in your life—both what you’re thrilled with and what you’re challenged by— began with a decision. I believe that it’s in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped. The decisions that you’re making right now, every day, will shape how you feel today as well as who you’re going to become in the nineties and beyond.
As you look back over the last ten years, were there times when a different decision would have made your life radically different from today, either for better or for worse? Maybe, for example, you made a career decision that changed your life. Or maybe you failed to make one. Maybe you decided during the last ten years to get married—or divorced. You might have purchased a tape, a book, or attended a seminar and, as a result, changed your beliefs and actions. Maybe you decided to have children, or to put it off in pursuit of a career. Perhaps you decided to invest in a home or a business. Maybe you decided to start exercising, or to give it up. It could be that you decided to stop smoking. Maybe you decided to move to another part of the country, or to take a trip around the world. How have these decisions brought you to this point in your life?
Did you experience emotions of tragedy and frustration, injustice or hopelessness during the last decade of your life? I know I certainly did. If so, what did you decide to do about them? Did you push beyond your limits, or did you just give up? How have these decisions shaped your current life path?
Man is not the creature of circumstances; circumstances are the creatures of men. BENJAMIN DISRAELI
More than anything else, I believe it’s our decisions, not the conditions of our lives, that determine our destiny. You and I both know that there are people who were born with advantages: they’ve had genetic advantages, environmental advantages, family advantages, or relationship advantages.
Yet you and I also know that we constantly meet, read, and hear about people who against all odds have exploded beyond the limitations of their conditions by making new decisions about what to do with their lives. They’ve become examples of the unlimited power of the human spirit.
If we decide to, you and I can make our lives one of these inspiring examples. How? Simply by making decisions today about how we’re going to live in the nineties and beyond. If you don’t make decisions about how you’re going to live, then you’ve already made a decision, haven’t you? You’re making a decision to be directed by the environment instead of shaping your own destiny. My whole life changed in just one day—the day I determined not just what I’d like to have in my life or what I wanted to become, but when I decided who and what I was committed to having and being in my life. That’s a simple distinction, but a critical one.
Think for a moment. Is there a difference between being interested in something, and being committed to it? You bet there is! Many times people say things like, “Gosh, I really would like to make more money,” or “I’d like to be closer to my kids,” or “You know, I’d really like to make a difference in the world.” But that kind of statement is not a commitment at all. It’s merely stating a preference, saying, “I’m interested in having this happen, if I don’t have to do anything.” That’s not power! It’s a weak prayer made without even the faith to launch it.
Not only do you have to decide what results you are committed to, but also the kind of person that you’re committed to becoming. As we discussed in Chapter 1, you have to set standards for what you consider to be acceptable behavior for yourself, and decide what you should expect from those you care about. If you don’t set a baseline standard for what you’ll accept in your life, you’ll find it’s easy to slip into behaviors and attitudes or a quality of life that’s far below what you deserve. You need to set and live by these standards no matter what happens in your life. Even if it all goes wrong, even if it rains on your parade, even if the stock market crashes, even if your lover leaves you even if no one gives you the support that you need, you still must stay committed to your decision that you will live your life at the highest level.
Unfortunately, most people never do this because they’re too busy making excuses. The reason they haven’t achieved their goals or are not living the lives they desire is because of the way their parents treated them, or because of the lack of opportunities that they experienced in their youth, or because of the education they missed, or because they’re too old, or because they’re too young. All of these excuses are nothing but B.S. (Belief Systems)! And they’re not only limiting, they’re destructive.
Using the power of decision gives you the capacity to get past any excuse to change any and every pan of your life in an instant. It can change your relationships, your working environment, your level of physical fitness, your income, and your emotional states. It can determine whether you’re happy or sad, whether you’re frustrated or excited, enslaved by circumstances, or expressing your freedom. It’s the source of change within an individual, a family, a community, a society, our world. What’s changed everything in Eastern Europe in the last few years? The people there—people like you and me—have made new decisions about what they’ll stand for, what’s acceptable and unacceptable to them and what they’ll no longer tolerate. Certainly Gorbatchows decisions helped pave the way, but Lech Walesa’s determination and commitment to a higher standard built the road to massive economic and political change.
I often ask people who complain about their jobs, “Why did you go to work today?” Their answer usually is, “Because I had to.” You and I need to remember one thing: there is virtually nothing that we have to do in this country. You certainly don’t have to go to work. Not here! And you certainly don’t have to work at a particular location on a particular day. Not in America! You don’t have to do what you’ve done for the last ten years. You can decide to do something else, something new, today. Right now you can make a decision: to go back to school, to master dancing or singing, to take control of your finances, to learn to fly a helicopter, to turn your body into an inspiration, to begin meditating, to enroll’ in ballroom dancing, to attend a NASA space camp, to learn to speak French, to read more to your children, to spend more time in the flower garden, even to fly to Fiji and live on an island. If you truly decide to you can do almost anything. So if you don’t like the current relationship you’re in, make the decision now to change it. If you don’t like your current job, change it. If you don’t like the way you feel about yourself, change it. If it’s a higher level of physical vitality and health you want, you can change it now. In a moment you can seize the same power that has shaped history.
I’ve written this book to challenge you to awaken the giant power of decision and to claim the birthright of unlimited power, radiant vitality, and joyous passion that is yours! You must know that you can make a new decision right now that will immediately change your life—a decision about a habit you’ll change or a skill that you’ll master, or how you’ll treat people, or a call that you’ll now make to someone you haven’t spoken to in years. Maybe there’s someone you should contact to take your career to the next level. Maybe you could make a decision right now to enjoy and cultivate the most positive emotions that you deserve to experience daily. Is it possible you might choose more joy or more fun or more confidence or more peace of mind? Even before you turn the page, you can make use of the power that already resides within you. Make the decision now that can send you in a new, positive, and powerful direction for growth and happiness.
Nothing can resist the human will that will stake even its existence on its stated purpose. BENJAMIN DISRAELI
Your life changes the moment you make a new, congruent, and committed decision. Who would have thought that the determination and conviction of a quiet, unassuming man—a lawyer by trade and a pacifist by principle—would have the power to topple a vast empire? Yet Ma-hatma Gandhi’s indomitable decision to rid India of British rule was a virtual powder keg that set in motion a chain of events that would forever change the balance of world power. People didn’t see how he could accomplish his aims, but he’d left himself no other choice than to act according to his conscience. He simply wouldn’t accept any other possibility.
Decision was the source of John F. Kennedy’s power as he faced off Nikita Khrushchev during the tense Cuban Missile Crisis and averted World War III. Decision was the source of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s power as he gave voice so eloquently to the frustrations and aspirations of a people who would no longer be denied, and forced the world to take notice. Decision was the source of Donald Trump’s meteoric rise to the top of the financial world, and also the source of his devastating downfall. It’s the power that allowed Pete Rose to maximize his physical abilities to Hall of Fame potential—and then ultimately to destroy his life’s dream. Decisions act as the source of both problems and incredible joys and opportunities. This is the power that sparks the process of turning the invisible into the visible. True decisions are the catalyst for turning our dreams into reality.
The most exciting thing about this force, this power, is that you already possess it. The explosive impetus of decision is not something reserved for a select few with the right credentials or money or family background. It’s available to the common laborer as well as the king. It’s available to you now as you hold this book in your hands. In the very next moment you can use this mighty force that lies waiting within you if you merely muster the courage to claim it. Will today be the day you finally decide that who you are as a person is much more than you’ve been demonstrating? Will today be the day you decide once and for all to make your life consistent with the quality of your spirit? Then start by proclaiming, “This is who I am. This is what my life is about. And this is what I’m going to do. Nothing will stop me from achieving my destiny. I will not be denied!”
Consider a fiercely proud individual, a woman named Rosa Parks, who one day in 1955 stepped onto a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and refused to give up her seat to a white person as she was legally required to do. Her one quiet act of civil disobedience sparked a firestorm of controversy and became a symbol for generations to follow. It was the beginning of the civil rights movement, a consciousness-awakening ground swell that we are grappling with even today as we redefine the meaning of equality, opportunity, and justice for all Americans regardless of race, creed, or sex. Was Rosa Parks thinking of the future when she refused to give up her seat in that bus? Did she have a divine plan for how she could change the structure of a society? Perhaps. But what is more likely is that her decision to hold herself to a higher standard compelled her to act. What a far-reaching effect one woman’s decision has had!
If you’re thinking, “I’d love to make decisions like that, but I’ve experienced real tragedies,” let me offer you the example of Ed Roberts. He is an “ordinary” man confined to a wheelchair who became extraordinary by his decision to act beyond his apparent limitations. Ed has been paralyzed from the neck down since he was fourteen years old. He uses a breathing device that he’s mastered against great odds to lead a “normal” life by day, and he spends every night in an iron lung. Having fought a battle against polio, several times almost losing his life, he certainly could have decided to focus on his own pain, but instead chose to make a difference for others.
Just what has he managed to do? For the last fifteen years, his decision to fight against a world he often found condescending has resulted in many enhancements to the quality of life for the disabled. Facing a multitude of myths about the capabilities of the physically challenged, Ed educated the public and initiated everything from wheelchair access ramps and special parking spaces to grab bars. He became the first quadriplegic to graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, and he eventually held the position of director of the California State Department of Rehabilitation, again pioneering this position for the disabled.
Ed Roberts is powerful evidence that it’s not where you start out but the decisions you make about where you’re determined to end up that matter. All of his actions were founded in a single, powerful, committed moment of decision. What could you do with your life if you really decided to?
Many people say, “Well, I’d love to make a decision like that, but I’m not sure how I could change my life.” They’re paralyzed by the fear that they don’t know exactly how to turn their dreams into reality. And as a result, they never make the decisions that could make their lives into the masterpieces they deserve to be. I’m here to tell you that it’s not important initially to know how you’re going to create a result. What’s important is to decide you will find a way, no matter what. In Unlimited Power, I outlined what I call “The Ultimate Success Formula,” which is an elementary process for getting you where you want to go: 1) Decide what you want, 2) Take action, 3) Notice what’s working or not, and 4) Change your approach until you achieve what you want. Deciding to produce a result causes events to be set in motion. If you simply decide what it is you want, get yourself to take action, learn from it, and change your approach, then you will create the momentum to achieve the result. As soon as you truly commit to making something happen, the “how” will reveal itself.
Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth—that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. —JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE
If making decisions is so simple and powerful, then why don’t more people follow Nike’s advice and “Just Do It”? I think one of the simplest reasons is that most of us don’t recognize what it even means to make a real decision. We don’t realize the force of change that a congruent, committed decision creates. Part of the problem is that for so long most of us have used the term “decision” so loosely that it’s come to describe something like a wish list. Instead of making decisions, we keep stating preferences. Making a true decision, unlike saying, “I’d like to quit smoking,” is cutting off any other possibility. In fact, the word “decision” comes from the Latin roots de, which means “from,” and caedere, which means “to cut.” Making a true decision means committing to achieving a result, and then cutting yourself off from any other possibility.
When you truly decide you’ll never smoke cigarettes again, that’s it. It’s over! You no longer even consider the possibility of smoking. If you’re one of the people who’s ever exercised the power of decision this way, you know exactly what I’m talking about. An alcoholic knows that even after years of absolute sobriety, if he fools himself into thinking that he can take even one drink, he’ll have to begin all over again. After making a true decision, even a tough one, most of us feel a tremendous amount of relief. We’ve finally gotten off the fence! And we all know how great it feels to have a clear, unquestioned objective.
This kind of clarity gives you power. With clarity, you can produce the results that you really want for your life. The challenge for most of us is that we haven’t made a decision in so long we’ve forgotten what it feels like. We’ve got flabby decision-making muscles! Some people even have a hard time deciding what they’re going to have for dinner.
So how do we strengthen these muscles? Give them a workout! The way to make better decisions is to make more of them. Then make sure you learn from each one, including those that don’t seem to work out in the short term: they will provide valuable distinctions to make better evaluations and therefore decisions in the future. Realize that decision making, like any skill you focus on improving, gets better the more often you do it. The more often you make decisions, the more you’ll realize that you truly are in control of your life. You’ll look forward to future challenges, and you’ll see them as an opportunity to make new distinctions and move your life to the next level.
I can’t overemphasize the power and value of gaining even one, single distinction—a sole piece of information—that can be used to change the course of your life. Information is power when it’s acted upon, and one of my criteria for a true decision is that action flows from it. The exciting thing is that you never know when you’re going to get it! The reason I read over 700 books, listened to tapes, and went to so many seminars is that I understood the power of a single distinction. It might be on the next page or in the next chapter of this book. It might even be something you already know. But for some reason, this is the time it finally sinks in and you begin to use it. Remember that repetition is the mother of skill. Distinctions empower us to make better decisions and, therefore, create the results that we desire for ourselves. Not having certain distinctions can cause you major pain. For example, many of the most famous people in our culture have achieved their dreams but have still not found a way to enjoy them. They often turn to drugs because they feel unfulfilled. This is because they are missing the distinction between achieving one’s goals and living one’s values, something you will learn to master in the pages to follow. Another distinction that many people don’t have causes pain in their relationships on a regular basis. It’s a rules distinction, another key element we’ll be examining in our journey of self-discovery. Sometimes, not having a certain distinction can cost you everything. People who run strenuously yet continue to eat fatty foods, clogging up their arteries, court heart attacks.
For most of my life, I’ve pursued what the famed business expert Dr. W. Edwards Deming calls profound knowledge. To me, profound knowledge is any simple distinction, strategy, belief, skill, or tool that, the minute we understand it, we can apply it to make immediate increases in the quality of our lives. This book and my life have been committed to pursuing profound knowledge that has universal application to improving our personal and professional lives. I’m constantly figuring out how to communicate this knowledge with people in ways that truly empower them to improve their mental, emotional, physical, and financial destinies.
It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.
Three decisions that you make every moment of your life control your destiny. These three decisions determine what you’ll notice, how you’ll feel, what you’ll do, and ultimately what you will contribute and who you become. If you don’t control these three decisions, you simply aren’t in control of your life. When you do control them, you begin to sculpt your experience.
The three decisions that control your destiny are: 1. Your decisions about what to focus on. 2. Your decisions about what things mean to you. 3. Your decisions about what to do to create the results you desire.
You see, it’s not what’s happening to you now or what has happened in your past that determines who you become. Rather, it’s your decisions about what to focus on, what things mean to you, and what you’re going to do about them that will determine your ultimate destiny. Know that if anyone is enjoying greater success than you in any area, they’re making these three decisions differently from you in some context or situation. Clearly, Ed Roberts chose to focus on something different than most people in his position would. He focused on how he could make a difference. His physical difficulties meant “challenge” to him. What he decided to do, clearly, was anything that could make the quality of life for others in his position more comfortable. He absolutely committed himself to shaping the environment in a way that would improve the quality of life for all physically challenged people.
“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.” —HENRY DAVID THOREAU
Too many of us don’t make the majority of our decisions consciously, especially these three absolutely crucial ones; in so doing, we pay a major price. In fact, most people live what I call “The Niagara Syndrome.” I believe that life is like a river, and that most people jump on the river of life without ever really deciding where they want to end up. So, in a short period of time, they get caught up in the current: current events, current fears, current challenges. When they come to forks in the river, they don’t consciously decide where they want to go, or which is the right direction or them. They merely “go with the flow.” They become a part of the mass of people who are directed by the environment instead of by their own values. As a result, they feel out of control. They remain in this unconscious state until one day the sound of the raging water awakens them, and they discover that they’re five feet from Niagara Falls in a boat with no oars. At this point, they say, “Oh, shoot!” But by then it’s too late. They’re going to take a fall. Sometimes it’s an emotional fall. Sometimes it’s a physical fall. Sometimes it’s a financial fall. It’s likely that whatever challenges you have in your life currently could have been avoided by some better decisions upstream.
How do we turn things around if we’re caught up in the momentum of the raging river? Either make a decision to put both oars in the water and start paddling like crazy in a new direction, or decide to plan ahead. Set a course for where you really want to go, and have a plan or map so that you can make quality decisions along the way.
Although you may never have even thought about it, your brain has already constructed an internal system for making decisions. This system acts like an invisible force, directing all of your thoughts, actions, and feelings, both good and bad, every moment that you live. It controls how you evaluate everything in your life, and it’s largely driven by your subconscious mind. The scary thing is that most people never consciously set this system up. Instead, it’s been installed through the years by sources as diverse as parents, peers, teachers, television, advertisers, and the culture at large. This system is comprised of five components: 1) your core beliefs and unconscious rules, 2) your life values, 3) your references, 4) the habitual questions that you ask yourself, and 5) the emotional states you experience in each moment. The synergistic relationship of these five elements exerts a force that’s responsible for prompting you to or stopping you from taking action, causing you to anticipate or worry about the future, making you feel loved or rejected, and dictating your level of success and happiness. It determines why you do what you do and why you don’t do some things that you know you need to do.
By changing any one of these five elements—whether it’s a core belief or rule, a value, a reference, a question, or an emotional state—you can immediately produce a powerful and measurable change in your life. Most importantly, you’ll be fighting the cause instead of the effects. Remember, if you’re overeating on a regular basis, the real cause is usually a values problem or a beliefs problem rather than a problem with food itself. Throughout this book, step-by-step, I’ll be guiding you in discovering how your master system of decision making is set up, and you’ll be making simple changes to make it consistent with your desires—rather than continue to be controlled by your past conditioning. You’re about to embark on a fascinating journey of discovering who you are and what truly makes you do what you do. With these distinctions of power, you’ll be able to understand the system of decision making that your business associates, spouse, and other loved ones are using. You’ll finally be able to understand their “fascinating” behaviors, too!
The good news is that we can override this system by making conscious decisions at any moment in our lives. We don’t have to allow the programming of our past to control our present and future. With this book, you can reinvent yourself by systematically organizing your beliefs and values in a way that pulls you in the direction of your life’s design.
“I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” —THOMAS EDISON
There is one final impediment to really utilizing the power of decision. That is that we must overcome our fears of making the wrong decisions. Without a doubt, you will make wrong decisions in your life. You’re going to screw up! I know I certainly haven’t made all the right decisions along the way. Far from it. But I didn’t expect to. Nor will I always make the right decisions in the future. I have determined that no matter what decisions I make, I’ll be flexible, look at the consequences, learn from them, and use those lessons to make better decisions in the future. Remember: Success truly is the result of good judgment. Good judgment is the result of experience, and experience is often the result of bad judgment! Those seemingly bad or painful experiences are some times the most important. When people succeed, they tend to party; when they fail, they tend to ponder, and they begin to make new distinctions that will enhance the quality of their lives. We must commit to learning from our mistakes, rather than beating ourselves up, or we’re destined to make the same mistakes again in the future.
As important as personal experience is, think how invaluable it is to have a role model as well— someone who’s navigated the rapids before you and has a good map for you to follow. You can have a role model for your finances, a model for your relationships, a model for your health, a model for your profession, or a model for any aspect of your life you’re learning to master. They can save you years of pain and keep you from going over the falls.
There will be times when you’re on the river solo and you’ll have to make some important decisions on your own. The good news is that if you’re willing to learn from your experience, then even times you might think were difficult become great because they provide valuable information —key distinctions— that you will use to make better decisions in the future. In fact, any extremely successful person you meet will tell you—if they’re honest with you—that the reason they’re more successful is that they’ve made more poor decisions than you have. People in my seminars often ask me, “How long do you think it will take for me to really master this particular skill?” And my immediate response is, “How long do you want it to take?” If you take action ten times a day (and have the proportionate “learning experiences”) while other people act on a new skill once a month, you’ll have ten months of experience in a day, you will soon master the skill, and will, ironically, probably be considered “talented and lucky.”
I became an excellent public speaker because, rather than once a week, I booked myself to speak three times a day to anyone who would listen. While others in my organization had forty-eight speaking engagements a year, I would have a similar number within two weeks. Within a month, I’d have two years of experience. And within a year, I’d have a decade’s worth of growth. My associates talked about how “lucky” I was to have been born with such an “innate” talent. I tried to tell them what I’m telling you now: mastery takes as long as you want it to take. By the way, were all of my speeches great? Far from it! But I did make sure that I learned from every experience and that I somehow improved until very soon I could enter a room of any size and be able to reach people from virtually all walks of life.
No matter how prepared you are, there’s one thing that I can absolutely guarantee: if you’re on the river of life, it’s likely you’re going to hit a few rocks. That’s not being negative; that’s being accurate. The key is that when you do run aground, instead of beating yourself up for being such a “failure,” remember that there are no failures in life. There are only results. If you didn’t get the results you wanted, learn from this experience so that you have references about how to make better decisions in the future.
“We will either find a way, or make one.” HANNIBAL
One of the most important decisions you can make to ensure your long-term happiness is to decide to use whatever life gives you in the moment. The truth of the matter is that there’s nothing you can’t accomplish if: 1) You clearly decide what it is that you’re absolutely committed to achieving, 2) You are willing to take massive action, 3) You notice what’s working or not, and 4) You continue to change your approach until you achieve what you want, using whatever life gives you along the way. Anyone who’s succeeded on a large scale has taken these four steps and followed the Ultimate Success Formula. One of my favorite “Ultimate Success Stories” is Mr. Soichiro Honda, founder of the corporation that bears his name. Like all companies, no matter how large, Honda Corporation began with a decision and a passionate desire to produce a result.
In 1938, while he was still in school, Mr. Honda took everything he owned and invested it in a little workshop where he began to develop his concept of a piston ring. He wanted to sell his work to Toyota Corporation, so he labored day and night, up to his elbows in grease, sleeping in the machine shop, always believing he could produce the result. He even pawned his wife’s jewelry to stay in business. But when he finally completed the piston rings and presented them to Toyota, he was told they didn’t meet Toyota’s standards. He was sent back to school for two years, where he heard the derisive laughter of his instructors and fellow students as they talked about how absurd his designs were. But rather than focusing on the pain of the experience, he decided to continue to focus on his goal. Finally, after two more years, Toyota gave Mr. Honda the contract he’d dreamed of. His passion and belief paid off because he had known what he wanted, taken action, noticed what was working, and kept changing his approach until he got what he wanted. Then a new problem arose.
The Japanese government was gearing up for war, and they refused to give him the concrete that was necessary to build his factory. Did he quit there? No. Did he focus on how unfair this was? Did it mean to him that his dream had died? Absolutely not. Again, he decided to utilize the experience, and developed another strategy. He and his team invented a process for creating their own concrete and then built their factory. During the war, it was bombed twice, destroying major portions of the manufacturing facility. Honda’s response? He immediately rallied his team, and they picked up the extra gasoline cans that the U.S. fighters had discarded. He called them “gifts from President Truman” because they provided him with the raw materials he needed for his manufacturing process—materials that were unavailable at the time in Japan. Finally, after surviving all of this, an earthquake leveled his factory. Honda decided to sell his piston operation to Toyota.
Here is a man who clearly made strong decisions to succeed. He had a passion for and belief in what he was doing. He had a great strategy. He took massive action. He kept changing his approach, but still he’d not produced the results that he was committed to. Yet he decided to persevere.
After the war, a tremendous gasoline shortage hit Japan, and Mr. Honda couldn’t even drive his car to get food for his family. Finally, in desperation, he attached a small motor to his bicycle. The next thing he knew, his neighbors were asking if he could make one of his “motorized bikes” for them. One after another, they jumped on the bandwagon until he ran out of motors. He decided to build a plant that would manufacture motors for his new invention, but unfortunately he didn’t have the capital.
As before, he made the decision to find a way no matter what! His solution was to appeal to the 18,000 bicycle shop owners in Japan by writing them each a personal letter. He told them how they could play a role in revitalizing Japan through the mobility that his invention could provide, and convinced 5,000 of them to advance the capital he needed. Still, his motorbike sold to only the most hard-core bicycle fans because it was too big and bulky. So he made one final adjustment, and created a much lighter, scaled-down version of his motorbike. He christened it “The Super Cub,” and it became an “overnight” success, earning him the Emperor’s award. Later, he began to export his motorbikes to the baby boomers of Europe and the United States, following up in the seventies with the cars that have become so popular.
Today, the Honda Corporation employs over 100,000 people in both the United States and Japan and is considered one of the biggest car-making empires in Japan, outselling all but Toyota in the United States. It succeeds because one man understood the power of a truly committed decision that is acted upon, no matter what the conditions, on a continuous basis.
Honda certainly knew that sometimes when you make a decision and take action, in the short term it may look like it’s not working. In order to succeed, you must have a long-term focus. Most of the challenges that we have in our personal lives—like indulging constantly in overeating, drinking, or smoking, to feeling overwhelmed and giving up on our dreams—come from a short-term focus. Success and failure are not overnight experiences. It’s all the small decisions along the way that cause people to fail. It’s failure to follow up. It’s failure to take action. It’s failure to persist. It’s failure to manage our mental and emotional states. It’s failure to control what we focus on. Conversely, success is the result of making small decisions: deciding to hold yourself to a higher standard, deciding to contribute, deciding to feed your mind rather than allowing the environment to control you—these small decisions create the life experience we call success. No individual or organization that has be- come successful has done so with short-term focus.
On a national scale, most of the challenges that we’re currently experiencing are the result of not thinking of the potential consequences of the decisions we’ve made. Our crises—the S&L scandal, the challenge in our balance of trade, the budget deficit, our educational malaise, drug and alcohol problems—all are the result of short-term thinking. This is the Niagara Syndrome at its most potent. While you’re raging along the river, focusing on the next rock you might hit, you don’t—or can’t—see far enough ahead of you to avoid the falls.
As a society, we’re so focused on instantaneous gratification that our short-term solutions often become long-term problems. Our kids have trouble paying attention in school long enough to think, memorize, and learn partly because they’ve become addicted to instantaneous gratification from constant exposure to things like video games, TV commercials, and MTV. As a nation, we have the highest number of overweight children in history because of our unrelenting pursuit of the quick fix: fast food, instant pudding, and microwave brownies.
In business, too, this kind of short-term focus can be deadly. The whole controversy surrounding the Exxon Valdez disaster could have been averted by making one small decision. Exxon could have outfitted its tankers with double hulls, a proactive decision that would have prevented oil spills in the event of collision. But the oil company chose not to, looking at the immediate rather than long-range impact on its bottom line. Following the crash and resultant spill, Exxon is responsible for paying a whopping $1.1 billion* as some compensation for the devastating economic damage it has caused, not to mention the immeasurable ecological destruction to Alaska and surrounding areas.
Deciding to commit yourself to long-term results, rather than short-term fixes, is as important as any decision you’ll make in your lifetime. Failing to do this can cause not only massive financial or societal pain, but sometimes even the ultimate personal pain.
One young man you may have heard of dropped out of high school because he decided he wasn’t going to wait any longer to follow his dream of becoming a famous musician. But this dream didn’t become reality quickly enough. In fact, by the time he was twenty-two, he feared that he had made the wrong decision, and that no one would ever love his music. He’d been playing in piano bars, and he was flat broke, sleeping in laundromats because he no longer had a home. The only thing that had been holding him together was his romantic relationship. Then his girlfriend decided to leave him, and when she did, it pushed him over the edge. He immediately focused on how he could never again find another woman as beautiful as she. What this meant to him was that his life was over, so he decided to commit suicide. Fortunately, before doing so, he reconsidered his options and decided instead to check into a mental institution. Spending time there gave him some new references about what real problems were. He later recalled saying, “Ohh, I’ll never get that low again.” He now declares, “It was one of the best things I ever did because I’ve never gotten to feel sorry for myself, no matter what’s happened. Any problem since then is nothing compared with what I’ve seen other people go through.”* By renewing his commitment and following his dream long-term, he eventually had all that he wanted. His name? Billy Joel.
Can you imagine that this man, whom millions of fans love and supermodel Christie Brinkley married, was ever worried about the quality of his music or finding a woman as beautiful as his ex- girlfriend? The key to remember is that what appeared to be impossible in the short term turned into a phenomenal example of success and happiness in the long term. Billy Joel was able to pull himself out of his depression by directing the three decisions that we all control each moment of our lives: what to focus on, what things mean, and what to do in spite of the challenges that may appear to limit us. He raised his standards, backed them up with new beliefs, and implemented the strategies he knew he must.
One belief that I’ve developed to carry me through extremely tough times is simply this: God’s delays are not God’s denials. Often, what seems impossible in the short term becomes very possible in the long term if you persist. In order to succeed, we need to discipline ourselves to consistently think long term. A metaphor that I use to remind myself of this is comparing life’s ups and downs to the changing of the seasons. No season lasts forever because all of life is a cycle of planting, reaping, resting, and renewal. Winter is not infinite: even if you’re having challenges today, you can never give up on the coming of spring. For some people, winter means hibernation; for others, it means bobsledding and downhill skiing! You can always just wait out the season, but why not make it into a time to remember?
HARNESS THE POWER OF DECISION
In review, let me give you six quick keys to help you harness the power of decision, the power that shapes your experience of life every moment that you live it:
1. Remember the true power of making decisions. It’s a tool you can use in any moment to change your entire life. The minute you make a new decision, you set in motion a new cause, effect, direction, and destination for your life. You literally begin to change your life the moment you make a new decision. Remember that when you start feeling overwhelmed, or when you feel like you don’t have a choice, or when things are happening “to” you, you can change it all if you just stop and decide to do so. Remember, a real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.
2. Realize that the hardest step in achieving anything is making a true commitment—a true decision. Carrying out your commitment is often much easier than the decision itself, so make your decisions intelligently, but make them quickly. Don’t labor forever over the question of how or if you can do it. Studies have shown that the most successful people make decisions rapidly because they are clear on their values and what they really want for their lives. The same studies show that they are slow to change their decisions, if at all. On the other hand, people who fail usually make decisions slowly and change their minds quickly, always bouncing back and forth. Just decide! Realize that decision making is a kind of act in itself, so a good definition for a decision might be “information acted upon.” You know you’ve truly made a decision when action flows from it. It becomes a cause set in motion. Often the effect of making a decision helps create the attainment of a larger goal. A critical rule I’ve made for myself is never to leave the scene of a decision without first taking a specific action toward its realization.
3. Make decisions often. The more decisions you make, the better you’re going to become at making them. Muscles get stronger with use, and so it is with your decision-making muscles. Unleash your power right now by making some decisions you’ve been putting off. You won’t believe the energy and excitement it will create in your life!
4. Learn from your decisions. There’s no way around it. At times, you’re going to screw up, no matter what you do. And when the inevitable happens, instead of beating yourself into the ground, learn something. Ask yourself, “What’s good about this? What can I learn from this?” This “failure” may be an unbelievable gift in disguise if you use it to make better decisions in the future. Rather than focus on the short-term setback, choose instead to learn lessons that can save you time, money, or pain, and that will give you the ability to succeed in the future.
5. Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach. Once you’ve decided who you want to be as a person, for example, don’t get stuck on the means to achieving it. It’s the end you’re after. Too often, in deciding what they want for their lives, people pick the best way they know at the time—they make a map—but then don’t stay open to alternate routes. Don’t become rigid in your approach. Cultivate the art of flexibility.
6. Enjoy making decisions. You must know that in any moment a decision you make can change the course of your life forever: the very next person you stand behind in line or sit next to on an airplane, the very next phone call you make or receive, the very next movie you see or book you read or page you turn could be the one single thing that causes the floodgates to open, and all of the things that you’ve been waiting for to fall into place.
If you really want your life to be passionate, you need to live with this attitude of expectancy. Years ago, I made what seemed like a small decision, and it has powerfully shaped my life. I decided to do a seminar in Denver, Colorado. That decision caused me to meet a lady named Becky. Her last name now is Robbins, and she is definitely one of the greatest gifts of my life. On that same trip, I decided to write my first book, which is now published in eleven languages around the world. A few days later, I decided to conduct a seminar in Texas, and after working for a week to fill my own program, the promoter didn’t pay me for the event—he skipped town. The obvious person to talk to was the public relations agent he had hired, a woman who had similar woes. That woman became my literary agent and helped to get that first book published. As a result, I have the privilege of sharing this story with you today.
At one time, I also decided to take on a business partner. Choosing not to investigate his character in advance was a poor decision on my part. Within a year, he’d misappropriated a quarter of a million dollars and had run my corporation $758,000 in debt while I spent my life on the road doing more than 200 seminars. Fortunately, though, I learned from my poor decision and made a better one. In spite of advice from all the experts around me that the only way I could survive would be to declare bankruptcy, I decided to find a way to turn things around, and I created one of the greater successes of my life. I took my company to a whole new level, and what I learned from that experience not only created my long-term business success, but also provided many of the distinctions for the NeuroAssociative Conditioning”* and Destiny Technologies™ that you’ll be learning in this book.
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” HELEN KELLER
So what is the single most important distinction to take from this chapter?
Know that it’s your decisions, and not your conditions, that determine your destiny. Before we learn the technology for changing how you think and how you feel every day of your life, I want you to remember that, in the final analysis, everything you’ve read in this book is worthless . . . every other book you’ve read or tape you’ve heard or seminar you’ve attended is worthless . . . unless you decide to use it. Remember that a truly committed decision is the force that changes your life. It’s a power available to you in any moment if you just decide to use it.
Prove to yourself that you’ve decided now. Make one or two decisions that you’ve been putting off: one easy decision and one that’s a bit more difficult. Show yourself what you can do. Right now, stop. Make at least one clear-cut decision that you’ve been putting off—take the first action toward fulfilling it—and stick to it! By doing this, you’ll be building that muscle that will give you the will to change your entire life.
You and I both know that there are going to be challenges in your future. But as Lech Walesa and the people of Eastern Europe have learned, if you’ve decided to get past the walls, you can climb over them, you can break through them, you can tunnel under them, or you can find a door. No matter how long a wall has stood, none has the power to withstand the continued force of human beings who have decided to persist until it has fallen. The human spirit truly is unconquerable. But the will to win, the will to succeed, to shape one’s life, to take control, can only be harnessed when you decide what you want, and believe that no challenge, no problem, no obstacle can keep you from it. When you decide that your life will ultimately be shaped not by conditions, but by your decisions, then, in that moment, your life will change forever, and you will be empowered to take control of…
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