In this first principle, Napoleon Hill says to make up your mind and “start today to go after it. Do it now!” He may have even unknowingly inspired Nike’s greatest ad slogan, “Just do it!” He closes this principle by saying, “Successful people move on their own initiative but they know where they are going before they start.”
I would like to humbly submit an addition to his advice. Life has taught me that I must first start with who I want to be rather than what I want to have or accomplish. Maybe Hill presumed people would consider this before launching their plans for life and success. I’m not sure that was clearly articulated. In our culture that endorses going for what you want from childhood on, I would suggest that many of us don’t know ourselves well enough, early enough, to pursue those things that really serve us well. Or, that use our gifts and talents in the best possible way.
What if we were to set our sights on what we believe we are called to with the foundation of pursuing “it” as long as we are being the people we want to be. What if we considered developing our character first or fluidly while we grew. What if we held loosely to that plan so we can notice what’s working and what’s not working for that sense of success. I say this with a friend in mind. I grew up with a guy who became a lawyer, as his father and brothers before him. He was miserable. He chased success as a lawyer, often drinking to deal with a sense of emptiness and disappointment. His drinking left him physically present and emotionally absent from his family. He was divorced. Distant from his two children. One day he “woke up.” He decided he wasn’t being the person he wanted to be and began making different decisions about how he wanted to feel about himself and how he wanted others to experience him. He wanted them to see him as engaged, healthy, and successful; not because of what he did for a living but because of who he was as a person.
I often start work with people asking how they would like others to describe them? What adjectives would they like to use to describe themselves? Too often people say those adjectives are uncomfortably far from how they would describe themselves and how others would describe them. That’s where the focus begins. After being clear about who they want to be, then we can explore what that means for how they pursue success as they define it.
I suspect we will know when this shift is occurring. We will see a drop in obesity (the diet industry and health care crisis reflect people’s desire to be healthy, fit and vibrant), a drop in divorce rates (no one ever says “I do” and really means “I don’t”) and teen suicides, pregnancy, and depression would very likely decline. Now that would be a success for individuals, families and our nation!
Your turn: What are your thoughts? Have you focused on who you want to be before what you want to have? If so, what has your experience been? Would love to hear your story.