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The Secret to the Emotional Journey to Success

Creating anything is hard work! To get through each phase of the emotional journey to success requires tenacity and resilience. But it also requires something more important.

Ever wondered why some people are more successful than others? Why two athletes who practice exactly the same amount of hours every day and one makes it to the Olympics, the other one doesn’t. Why some people are more successful in business/ventures/projects than others and are able to conquer the emotional journey to success? What do the people who master their goals do differently?

In 1874 a young man had just invented the telephone. After hi-fiving his assistant Watson, he headed down to Western Union…the greatest communication company in the world….to show them his work. Despite his excellent pitch (a century before PowerPoint), they turn him down on the spot, call the telephone a useless toy and show him the door. Did he give up? Fortunately, Alexander Graham Bell didn’t listen to the folks at Western Union. He started his own business and changed the world, paving the way for the mobile phone in your pocket.

The spectacular Usain Bolt’s holds the 100 metre world record at 9.58 seconds and the 200 metre record at 19.19 and is undoubtedly the fastest human on the planet. We marvel at his superior performance and his behaviour seems so effortless and natural that we are tempted to believe he has special superhuman talents and genes. When you break it down though, the only genetics he was gifted is his height. The rest he had to work at to attain.

So what’s the secret to this success?

It’s the amazing power of Deliberate Focus!

Scientists have measured experts’ supposedly superior powers and found that they don’t actually possess any superiority. Besides a few exceptions, such as the height of a professional basketballer, scientists have failed to find much evidence of natural abilities explaining experts’ success. Instead they found that it is a lifetime accumulation of “deliberate focus” that again and again ends up explaining excellence and success.

Here’s how. It’s not the amount of time you spend on your business/project that is important, but it’s what you do in that time! If you just show up and work hard, you’ll soon hit a performance plateau which you will fail to get any better. What makes focus deliberate is the effort of specific application and concentration…as distinct from just showing up. So to conquer the emotional journey to success, you have to have a never ending thirst to get better and stretch yourself.

Consider the activity of two rugby players practicing goal kicking for one hour. Player A kicks 150 practice goals, Player B kicks 50. Player B retrieves his own kicks, bounces the ball leisurely and takes several breaks to talk to mates. Player A has a colleague who retrieves the ball after each attempt. The colleague keeps a record of kicks made. If the kick missed, the colleague records whether the miss was short, left or right and the kicker reviews the results after every 10 minutes of practice.

To describe their hour of practice as equal would hardly be accurate. Assuming this is typical of their practice routine and they are equally skilled at the start, which would you predict would be the better goal kicker after only 100 hours of practice? Each player in this example could brag about practicing for one hour, but only one of them is focussing and practicing deliberately.

Stick at it! The emotional journey to success takes time so you’ll need to adopt a long term perspective. To become an expert and successful in something, researchers like K. Anders Ericsson, found that you need to put in “10,000 hours” (10 years) of deliberate focus.

Push past the pain! Deliberate focus is often the opposite of enjoyable.  It will often feel like you’re failing. What feels like struggle and frustration is often skill development and growth. What looks like little pay and no recognition is often the price you have to pay to discover your best work. If you’re not uncomfortable then you’re probably stuck at an acceptable level. Deliberate focus will push you past this “acceptable” plateau and into a realm where you have little competition! Just when you think you are on verge of defeat is the time when you most need to keep going…..because success is only a few steps away. Think of it as climbing Mount Everest. The shortest leg of the climb is the hardest and the steepest – Camp IV to the summit. The oxygen is the thinnest and your body is screaming to stop, the going is the hardest. But you are only a few short steps to the summit. The biggest successes in my career have come straight after when I have thought it was all too hard and wanted to give up.

BridgeClimb is the business that equips you to scale to the summit of the spectacular Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was the brainchild of businessman Paul Cave. A true fighter, he took on four different government departments over nine frustrating years to ensure his business dream of people walking over the treasured Sydney Harbour Bridge came true. He also fought his funding partners, who were getting tired of the battle with government and who tried to convince him to accept a three-year lease on BridgeClimb. Cave, stubborn to the end, hung tough against his mates and ended up with a 20-year lease. The business now turns over revenue of $40million+ and profit of over $10million+ annually and is the number 1 unmissable experience of Sydney!

Virgin Group founder, Chair and school dropout (and my idol!) Sir Richard Branson is one of the richest people in the world, estimated to be worth around $4.6 billion. Despite being such a success today, things didn’t always look so rosy for Branson. For starters, he suffers from dyslexia, which made both reading and learning certain things incredibly difficult. Although this still affects him today, he has never let it hold him back. He experienced a myriad of problems at the beginning of his career. Some of these included cash-flow problems, tax issues, law violation and even a night in jail. Instead of giving up, he chose to learn from his mistakes and use them to guide him later in life. It also inspired him to educate himself in certain areas of business so he could persevere and succeed.

As for Usain Bolt, he became the fastest human on the planet through deliberate focus and overcame the very thing he was genetically gifted. Height is normally a challenge for most sprinters but Bolt turned his into an advantage. Being taller than many of his competitors, Bolt’s stride is longer than theirs….it takes most elite sprinters 44 strides to complete 100 meters, Bolt does it in 41. But, because he is taller he weighs more and needs more force. This force comes from weight lifting for many hours every day working his legs with intensity in the weight room, spending hours every day on the track to achieve greater force and precisely control his movements to have his long lanky legs and feet move in harmony and avoid any missteps.

Creating anything worthwhile is an emotional journey. Even the biggest stars, richest businesspeople or the most accomplished athletes get lost sometimes. What gets you back on track and drives you to achieve is the love you have for your goal and the curiosity about how much better, faster or successful you can get. When you let go of the outcome and just keep going by focusing deliberately, you will get there! It’s similar to a game of cards. You have a better opportunity if you are dealt a better hand, but you also need to play the hand well to win!

Rob Lancuba heads up Thought Patrol Finance, who enable CEOs and CFOs and their organisation to realise their full potential. If you are a purpose-driven CEO or CFO we’ll help you become a better business builder and leader, uncover new possibilities and achieve your goals with greater focus, greater energy and greater impact. Make contact and let’s talk strategy! | @Thought_Patrol | @Roblancuba

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