Positive People, Lifelong Learning and Success

Outstanding performance is one of the keys to career and life success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success and 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success.  If you want to become an outstanding performer you need to do three things.  1) Stay on top of your game by becoming a lifelong learner.  2) Set high goals.  Do whatever it takes to achieve them.  3) Get organized.  Manage your time, life and stress well.

Billy Donovan is the Head Basketball Coach at the University of Florida. He has been the coach there for 11 years. In those 11 years, he has compiled a record of 226 wins and 98 losses. His teams won the NCAA championship in 2006 and 2007.

Billy Donovan is one of the premier college basketball coaches. However, it wasn’t always so. He had a losing record in his first two seasons at Florida. “I remember my first couple of years here… trying to build something. It was really hard. We had two straight losing seasons. Losing is never fun,” he said. During the tough times, Billy Donovan took motivation where he could get it:

“You know those Successories, little motivational things, inspiration, drive, all those things?  There were like six or eight framed Successories things in my office just for support.”

Successories is a company that sells motivational products – framed posters, cards, awards, plaques, books. You name it, they have it. If you fly, I’m sure you’ve seen their ads in the Sky Mall catalog.

However, this isn’t about Successories. It’s not even about Billy Donovan. It’s about a very simple but often overlooked common sense point about career and life success: surround yourself with positive things and people and learn from them.

I know that framed motivational posters may seem a little corny. However, they worked for Billy Donovan. They’ve worked for me. I’ve mentioned the framed quote from Paul Meyer in my office that says, “Whatever you can vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act on… must inevitably come to pass.”

I’ve had this quote hanging in my office since 1988, the year I struck out on my own as an independent consultant, coach, and speaker. It has served me well as I built my business and wrote my books. It is my guiding light as I am learning how to use the internet to disseminate my thoughts more widely.

Positive people are even more important than positive things. Billy Donovan says that University of Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley gave him the support he needed during his first two losing seasons that helped him get where he is today. Cathy, my wife, is my biggest supporter and cheerleader. I also have a network of people who support me – some by providing the services I need to run my business, some through their friendship. I wouldn’t have had the success I’ve had over the past 20 years if it weren’t for these people. I’ve learned from all of them.

Here are some ideas that have helped me continue to learn and grow:

  • Be open – to new people, ideas, and perspectives. What you know to be true today may not be true tomorrow. If you’re not paying attention, your truths can drag you down. Keep asking yourself, “Why do I believe this to be true?”  You might be surprised and find that your reasons are no longer valid. Find friends who will challenge your thinking, not just go along with what you say.
  • Recognize your personal biases. We all have filters. The more you can recognize yours, the easier it will be for you to determine when they are getting in the way of learning something new. You can’t eliminate your biases, but you can compensate for them.
  • Be humble. You can learn from anyone. There is a lot of wisdom in this world that you will find in some unusual places. The key is to admit to yourself that you don’t have all the answers. The more you understand how much you don’t know, the easier it will be for you to take advantage of the knowledge and wisdom that enters your life every day.

The common sense point in all of this is simple. Successful people are outstanding performers.  Outstanding performers stay on top of their game because they are lifelong learners.  If you want to be successful, surround yourself with positive people and learn from them.  Find a mentor.  Listen to what he or she has to say.  More important, do what he or she suggests.  We all learn best by doing.  So do what your mentor suggests and you’ll become an outstanding performer.

That’s my take on positive people and lifelong learning.  What’s yours?  Please take a minute and leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading.


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  1. Michele Ramirez says:

    I went through some rough times several years ago when I was downsized by my company. After having a pity party for a few weeks, I kicked myself in the butt and read Norman Vincent Peale’s Power of Positive Thinking. I whole hearted agree with your proposition, be a positive person and surround yourself with positive people.

  2. Thanks Michele:
    Great comment. There’s nothing wrong with a small pity party when something bad happens. Just don’t let it turn into a full blown catered event with hundreds of people invited.
    Reading Dr. Peale’s book was a great way to get yourself moving again. Good for you.
    As I frequently say, “Stuff happens. It’s how you react to the stuff that’s important.”
    Thanks again for your thoughtful and very positive comment.
    All the best,

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