Prepare Yourself for Success
by William Baldwin
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Success does not just happen. When we succeed in any area of life, some form of preparation went before us, whether we were aware of it or not. That being true, think of how successful you could be in your marriage, relationships, business or spiritual life, if you laid purposeful foundations, paving the way for success.
Consider my friend, Jim. A successful salesman in his field, in his early twenties he worked with a network marketing company. Like most networking companies they were known for promoting self improvement through literature and motivational speakers. Jim was exposed to some of the best teachers and motivators of that time. The result? Well, Jim did not stay with the company, but the effects of the company stayed with Jim. He admits, “The things I learned in my twenties are the foundations of my success as a salesman with the company I have been with for 24 years.” Unknown to Jim, he was prepared for the success he has enjoyed for several decades.
Similarly, all true success is balanced. Successful people understand this and strive to be successful in more than one level of life. The Bible tells a good story about unbalanced success. The main character is a businessman who becomes extremely successful in his business. He becomes so wealthy that it requires him to build larger warehouses (the story calls it “barns”) to store his returns and dividends. His success, however, was not balanced. He forgot that life is more than food, clothing, and stuff. On an unfortunate evening, he found his spiritual life “wanting,” and died suddenly, successful in business, but unsuccessful in spiritual matters. One rendering of the story ends with the comment, “What good would it be to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?”
You can fill in the blanks with anything. It could be the other way ‘round—successful in spiritual life, and unsuccessful in your career, leaving you empty and without purpose in this life. My point—success must be balanced to be true success. The good news is that success in the important areas of life is possible if you prepare yourself properly.
It follows, “How do I prepare myself to succeed?”
Prepare Yourself to STRETCH
I am at the gym every morning around 6:00 AM. When I begin my daily workout, the first thing I do is stretch. For me, this does two things. First, it sends a wake up call to every part of my body. “Sleep is over guys! Time to wake up and get going. We’re going to work off some fat and build some muscle today!” Second, it prepares me mentally and physically for the more rigorous routine that I am preparing to engage in (jogging or weight training). Stretching prepares me to successfully accomplish the next thing—the real goal.
Success rarely comes in an old mold. For everyone, success means getting “out of the box,” living beyond your comfort zone. It is “going where you have never gone before.” However, before you can go there, you have to stretch every fiber of your being—spirit, soul, and body. Stretching means you will challenge the paradigms in your life, which may be your work ethic, the way you think, relationships, your financial position in life, or a myriad other areas, depending on where you want to be successful.
Nevertheless, be aware that yesterday’s stretch will not suffice for today’s accomplishments. This morning’s stretch will not suffice for tomorrow’s workout. I have to stretch myself tomorrow to reach tomorrow goals.
As a kid in school, I was always one of the biggest boys in my class. I am a life-time “fat-fighter,” and I am grateful that some years ago I challenged the paradigm in my mind to see myself fit, rather than fat. Because of my weight, I was one of the slowest kids in the class, until one magical day.
It was my sixth grade year. We were on the playground when Mr. Cooper, our teacher, lined up all the boys to run wind-sprints. On his whistle, we ran a 40-yard dash and stopped; he blew the whistle again, and we returned.
On the first dash, I lined up beside Steve, one of the best athletes in our class. The whistle blew, we started off, and when we came to end of our dash, I was right beside him. Mr. Cooper told us—no, he ordered us—to run as fast as we could. I did. But I did not think Steve did because I was right with him all the way. So I warned Steve, “You better run hard—you know what Mr. Cooper said!” To which he replied (gasping for breath) “I AM RUNNING HARD!” My mind went—S-T-R-E-T-C-H! We turned and lined up to dash in the other direction, Mr. Cooper blew his whistle, and I was in front of the pack—with all the “athletes.”
For the remainder of the day, the talk of the class was “You should see how fast Billy can run!” That moment changed my life. From that time on, I no longer considered myself “the fat boy that runs slow.” Now, everyone else in the class expected me to run at the front of the pack. Furthermore, I, too, expected more of myself. My paradigm was shattered. I stretched and never went back to my former, low expectations.
That stretch in the sixth grade, unknown to me at the time, prepared me to become a good athlete throughout the remainder of school, good enough to receive a football scholarship to college. Someone has said, “Once the mind has been stretched by a new idea, it will never again return to its original size.”
Prepare Yourself by STUDY
School is never out. Life, lived successfully, is always a learning experience. Consequently, two things are necessary: Reading and listening.
The desire to succeed breeds a curiosity for knowledge and experience. Thus, you should develop a passion to read and listen to those who have “been there—done that.” Successful people study successful people. It’s as plain and simple as that.
A successful person is automatically considered a leader. You may be a mentor to an individual, or you may lead hundreds, but you will be a leader. It just comes with success.
Likewise, you will never turn around an unsuccessful experience until you change the way you think. And you will never change the way you think until you re-program your mind to think successfully in the area where you are weak. That means you must feed your mind what it needs in order to think differently. As the ancient proverb states, “As a man thinks, so is he.”
In addition, your mind thinks what you feed it, and gives back what you program into it. You are what you “think” you are; whatever mental and spiritual food you feed your mind that is what you will become. You must program your mind to think like a successful parent, spouse, coach, teacher, businessperson, etc, long before you become one. The way we think always precedes the way we act.
Because of this, I am always reading a book that helps me think successfully. The key areas of my personal and professional life encompass that of husband, father, pastor, author, success motivator/trainer, and mentor. I do not necessarily have to read “how to” books on each of these topics, though I do if I have a particular need. I am, however, always reading some kind of personal development book. I find that this gives me a success oriented attitude and keeps me mentally tough and focused.
Do a search on the internet using names of speakers and authors you know to be good at motivating and inspiring you to reach your potential in life. Here are a few names I would suggest you begin with: John Maxwell, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Zig Ziggler, Brian Tracy, Jim Rohn, Connie Podestra, Norman Vincent Peale, Lisa Jeminez, and Bob Proctor. You will find these leaders to have great materials that will help you.
What’s the bottom line? Invest in yourself. Read and listen to others who have done what you have always wanted to do. I listen to CD’s while I am jogging, that way, I accomplish two things at the same time. You may feel you are pressed for time, but if you really want to be more successful in life, you will find time for personal improvement. Successful people read and listen intently to others who are successful.
Prepare Yourself by SERVING others
Life is about people. Life is not about money, places or things (though I want to experience all these in as much abundance as possible). As a pastor and church conference speaker, I tell people, “God loves people—all kinds of people—and He is happy when we succeed in life.” Successfully balanced people understand this and make serving others their number one priority.
Not long ago, a businessman who became wealthy in a network marketing company moved to our small town. He is the brother of a good friend of mine who happens to be the CEO of a local bank. Of course, I just had to ask the newcomer to lunch. I wanted to get to know him—find out what made him “tick.”
The lunch experience was fabulous! For over three hours we talked about life, faith, families, and business. While discussing business, I asked him one of those questions you always want to ask a successful businessman: “What would you say is the key to making it big in business?” Without hesitation he said, “Servanthood and genuinely caring for people more than you do for money.” Then he quickly added, “But if you genuinely care about people and their welfare, they’ll make you lots of money.” I agree.
There are three things to remember about serving others. First, people will do business with you if they feel you care. Caring is an action—something you “do.” But after you “do it,” it’s the feeling they remember. This feeling lasts a long time, and will carry you a long way.
Next, people are more likely to do their best for you when you care about their success. Some months ago, I sold a piece of equipment to a businessman who owns two restaurants of the largest restaurant chain in America. I visited his home and notice that, it seemed, he had no apparent need for the unit. But—he bought one, simply because I had served him and helped him become successful in his relationships. He knew I valued him as a person. In turn, he did not purchase my equipment because he liked the company or product—he did it because he likes me. I invested in him and he did his best for me. This works on all levels of life.
Finally, people will genuinely care for others when they watch you model servanthood. Like produces like—whatever you sow is what you reap. People become like other people they most admire.
A psychiatrist stated, “One of the deepest drives of human nature is the desire to be appreciated.” One of the best ways to express your appreciation for humanity is to choose to value and serve other people. Help people become successful in their life and you will find people helping you become successful with your’s.
A successful business, career, marriage or spiritual life does not just happen. It is planned. The planning may seem capricious, but there is a plan, nonetheless. Just think how much more successful you would be if you made a plan and prepared for the success you desire. Isn’t it a shame that most people will live life and just take what comes to them. But there will be a few, like YOU, who will “finish their course” as a winner—all because you planned it that way.
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Well, now, that answers a lot of questions...the last sentence did it for me. "All because YOU planned it that way." What a relief, and silly me, I had believed that all these years God was to get the glory. "Lean not on your own understanding" is now religious tofu, plain and tasteless. Well written, I'll give you that much. As far as content, in the context of Faith?...well, I think you may have wandered into the wrong forum. For example; Peter was not a success because of his planning. He was a "success" because of the Spirit of Christ in him. Peter went to great lengths in his letters telling us that the "secret of his success" was not him at all.