What To Do If You Want To Underachieve

I read somewhere that the key to success is to “start with the end in mind”.  The argument was broadly that unless you know where you want to end up, how can you possibly get there?  After all, the organisers of a marathon can only plan the entire route by deciding first where they want it to end and then working backwards.  You can only hit a target if you know where it is.  You don’t get on a plane unless you know where it is going.  You get the drift.

Decide where you want to end up and then plan a route to get it.

I’m not sure where I stand on this.  Actually I do.  I don’t agree.

I’m not saying I don’t agree with planning.  Obviously planning is a good thing.  You can never guarantee to achieve anything in time unless you plan it.  But I’ve long thought that if you plan too much you can become too focused, miss opportunities and even limit your potential.  

And then I got an email which seemed to back me up. 

In this email, the writer told the true story of a conference for online marketers, in which the six successful speakers were invited declare how much they had earned online that year as inspiration for the masses.  Although they were all sole traders (it was the early days of the internet), and spent similar amounts of time online, it turned out that one person had earned more than the other five PUT TOGETHER.  When they compared notes, the ONLY thing that this super successful person seemed to have done differently from the others was NOT set a target for their online earnings.

The others had all set an earnings target at the outset and so had seemingly “capped” their online potential.

I think this is a recurring truth.  “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right”.  “Careful what you wish for, you might get it”. “You only find what you look for”.  They all say the same thing.  You get what you plan for. 

But you can’t plan everything because you don’t know what is possible. 

Imagine you are walking along an unfamiliar crescent (road).  You cannot see the whole road from the start because it curves out of sight.  You want to go to the end house.  You know it will be the highest number on the road.  You just don’t know what the highest numbered house will be.  As you walk along the road, you see the numbers getting increasingly higher.  And as you reach the middle part of the crescent you have a much better view of the whole road.  You might even be able to guess what the highest numbered house might be.  But you won’t know for sure until you get there. 

Sometimes you have to trust the next step will eventually get you to the right place, even if you don’t know exactly what the right place looks like when you start.  Having a map helps, but you can only take the photograph when you get there.

Planning is good.  But don’t let it limit where you get to.

Have You Forgotten This Key To Success?

Everyone online is looking for the key to success.  Like everyone who has been trying to make a living online for any length of time, I find myself on several people’s mailing lists.  And from time to time, I really connect with someone, their way of thinking or their writing style or both.  And when one of these people sends me an email, I tend to hear what they’re saying. 
And one such email from Martin Avis made me remember what EVERY coach and mentor has ever told me about the most important key to success… and what I seem to forget every day.
Martin told the (apparently) true story of what happened in 1930 when Ivy Lee, a young management consultant approached Charles Schwab, the head of American Bethlehem Steel and one of America’s toughest businessmen.  Lee claimed he could improve the efficiency of Schwab’s company by 50% just by implementing one simple technique.  

Lee said if Schwab would get his company’s executives to implement the technique religiously for one month, he would give the advice initially free of charge.  Schwab could pay Lee whatever he thought it was worth at the end of the month.  A deal was struck.

At the end of the month, Schwab paid Lee $25,000 – over $275,000 in today’s money!

And the piece of advice?  

“Write down the most important things you have to do tomorrow.  Now, number them in the order of their true importance. The first thing tomorrow morning, start working on an item Number 1, and stay with it until completed. Then take item Number 2 the same way. Then Number 3, and so on. Don’t worry if you don’t complete everything on the schedule. At least you will have completed the most important projects before getting to the less important ones.”

It is simplistic advice indeed. 

And comes in many guises – I have blogged before about the importance of “pushing one car at a time“.  It can be summed up in one word.


Do one thing until you have got it going.  Then do the next thing on your list.  Schwab valued it so highly.  It works.  It brings results.  So why do so many people (myself included) still forget to do it?