8 April 2020
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The stuff that explains successful people

On Wednesday I interviewed the redoubtable and irrepressible Gerry Harvey, and after working out why his profit fell by 19.8% (which incidentally he’s not worried about), I did a quick “Coffee with Switz” video recording, where I try to get into the core of the thinking of successful people.

Gerry says he loves to meet young people who’ve got that keenness to win and improve.

On the other hand, he also likes older people who have done stuff and are still performing.

That’s Gerry. I have to say that various legends of business, sport, politics, the arts and so on can be very different in terms of what they think has been important to their success but there are common traits.

Lots of successful people I have interviewed, analysed and written about believe in the importance of goals and many have emphasized how crucial it is that they write the goals down and see them all the time.

This characteristic came back to me recently when I decided I needed to build up some muscle so I bought a set of dumbbells but risked getting a bollicking from my wife for leaving them beside the dining room table, where I love to write in the wee hours of the morning.

Yep, I have an office in the city and I have a home office on our third level but in the morning I want to be close to the kitchen and all of the niceties that Maureen has assembled in our lounge and dining rooms.

That said, how I’ve got away with these dumbbells in front of the fireplace is an achievement I never expected! Happily, Maureen must like the fact that I’m working out regularly and it’s starting to have an impact on what she’s forced to look at. In fact, I’m stopping right now to do a quick session!

To be honest, it has been only two weeks but it has rammed home the relevance of the old maxim: “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Some time ago, I took four family members who worked in our business to listen to Tom O’Toole — the Beechworth Baker and one of the country’s best business speakers — to his session at a Hamilton Island conference.

My sons and future daughter-in-law were gobsmacked at Tom’s unusual and confronting presentation but one of his rules for building a successful business was that “you have to write down your goals. If they’re not written down, they’re not the on the planet!” he roared.

It was unforgettable for my family and that’s the best kind of valuable lesson anyone can ever have. If it’s unforgettable, then you find it hard to ignore.

Ex-Wallaby Ben Darwin bought a Wallaby footie jersey when he was 13, put a future date on it and hoisted it on his wall so he would see it every day, to force him to get up early and run the laps at his school oval.

World surfing champ Layne Beechely wrote a message to herself on her mirror where she did her hair each morning, reminding her of her goal to be the best female surfer on the planet.

Both Ben and Layne said they had some family challenges when they were young and their written down goals were powerful motivators to keep them on track for what they really wanted.

OK, that sounds great, but how do we know that goals written down really make a difference?

Well, a Harvard MBA study actually set out to test the proposition. Forbes.com says “graduate students were asked if they have set clear, written goals for their futures, as well as if they have made specific plans to transform their fantasies into realities.”

Damian Pros, writing for elitedaily.com, revealed that “the result of the study was only 3 percent of the students had written goals and plans to accomplish them, 13 percent had goals in their minds but haven't written them anywhere and 84 percent had no goals at all.”

That’s staggering! And it shows you where competitive advantages might lue if you are trying to beat the rest to become the best!

This long-term study caught up with the students 10 years later and this is what was found:

  • The 13% who had goals that were not written down earned about double than those 84% with no goals.
  • But the 3% with written down goals were earning, on average, 10 times the other 97% in the group!

Pros recommends five steps to increase the odds of achieving your goals:

  1. Figure out your goals — what money you want, how you will look, where you want to live, what job and what you need to learn.
  2. Write these goals down.
  3. Make sure you write specific goals. He makes the good point that “I want to lose 20 pounds of fat," is hugely different than, "I want to lose 20 pounds of fat in the next four months.”
  4. Always put deadlines in your written goals because this makes you think through the timeline of how you are going to get to your goal.
  5. Write a three-step plan under each goal saying how you will achieve your goal.

Let’s take the weight-reducing goal and say first, I will go to a dietician. Second, I will employ a personal trainer and third, I will go on Dr. Michael Mosely’s 5:2 Diet.

This is a great blueprint to make your goals come true but as I’ve argued before in this column, you have to have the desire. You really have to want to achieve your goals or all the writing in the world will come to zero.

Desire, plus this good goal-writing process, increases the likelihood that you will create a great business, a great body, a great career, a great family and yes, even a great life.

And if that’s what you want, go looking for a piece of paper or go to your computer, write down those goals and the steps and put it on your screen-saver so you see it every day.

Of course one great daily goal would be to read me daily at Switzer Daily at www.switzer.com.au because as I always argue — anything worth doing is worth doing for money!

One last one. I’m not sure who said it first but I like it: “If you don’t sacrifice for what you want, what you want becomes the sacrifice.”

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