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Book notes: The Real Truth About Success

This book's full title is: The Real Truth about Success: What the Top 1% Do Differently, Why They Won't Tell You, and How You Can Do It Anyway! The author is Garrison Wynn, a former business wunderkind and current consultant to executives. Wynn draws on years of observations and thousands of interviews to back up the lessons of this book. It's an easy and entertaining read, with many illustrative stories, but doesn't have the rigor I'd expect from such a reportedly large sample size of interviews: Were the interviews done systematically? Did they try to categorize and rank personal-edges? As readers, we don't find out.

Below are my per-chapter notes. And if you're too impatient for that, the lesson of this book is summarized by a quote (not from this book):

If you don't know what your edge is, you don't have one.

— Trading aphorism

Ch.1 The Lies We Believe

  • Positive thinking alone is BS.
  • The best is not necessarily what wins; consistency, clarity may matter more.
  • Genius alone is never enough. If you're not understood, if you're a jerk, your ideas won't go anywhere.
  • First-level Lesson: Without clarity, your value doesn’t have any impact.
    • Clarity, not intelligence, is what matters.
    • Second-level Lesson: "If you are clear on a regular basis, people react in a way that establishes you as a preferred source, thus boosting your impact and perceived value."
    • Trust trumps most everything else.
  • Stage the unfair fight
    • Know your edge, know how to deliver it.
    • e.g. look like a solution from the get-go.

Ch.2 From Interview to Confession—The Truth about Lying

  • For book, they did about 3800 interviews with successful people. Concluded that lots of lying/obfuscation was going on.
    • e.g. of typical success sources
      • I work hard.
      • I plan well.
      • I listen intently.
      • I gather lots of data.
      • I build strong relationships.
      • I present information well.
      • I have a high level of activity.
      • My information is superior to my competitors’ information.
    • That, or people honestly didn't know what lead to success.
  • David, the 400lb 6'2 guy in a yellow shirt: unforgettable, and used that to his advantage.
  • The author used his edge: humor, getting people to open up.
  • e.g. the plain, not-too-smart top insurance salesman who people trusted; he also made things simple, let his customers feel smarter.
  • Directions, old-gas-station-man story
    • As soon as you assume you know more/everything, and can't learn from someone, ALL WISDOM ENDS.

      Everybody knows something you don’t. The minute you think you know it all, your wisdom vanishes. In that moment when you think you no longer need input from anyone, wisdom leaves you. Your aptitude, your experience, your talent, your skill, and your time on the job—that all stays. Just the wisdom vanishes.

      I think most people understand at a basic level that everyone knows something we don’t. We just forget that sometimes when it’s time to position ourselves to be successful. But people who never forget it, like the insurance salesman I interviewed, have a great chance to stand out above their peers, giving them a distinct advantage.

  • After all the interviews, two conclusions:
    1. People who are really successful tend to have some sort of specific advantage. And some of these advantages you can develop for yourself.
    2. People tend not to admit to an advantage right away. And some of us appear not to even realize what our advantage is.
  • First-level lesson: People often do not tell the truth when asked about their success.
  • Second-level lesson: We often deem irrelevant the smaller things we do repeatedly, but sometimes those seemingly minor behaviors or actions are key to our success.
    • e.g. friendlier customer service

Ch.3 The Innate Secret Advantage—I Could Dunk too if I were Seven-foot-two!

  • Overview
    • For an innate advantage, the context matters. e.g. of height in basketball, and short 5'3" Muggsy Bogues
  • The Physical Advantage
    • e.g. of Michael Phelps: genetic swimming advantages: big torso, long arms, large hands, short legs, big feet, double-jointed
      • Lance Armstrong: 1/3 larger heart, less lactic acid buildup.
    • So think about natural advantages first.
    • David, the giant in the office, who's also intelligent.
      • He also peacocks: bright color shirts.
      • Giant Smart Guy combination
    • Napoleon was tall for his day! 5'6", 1" higher than avg
    • Wheelchair-bound, black car salesman
    • Good looks always helps.
      • Including in web sites!
      • 25 year-old blond pharmaceutical sales women
    • So, do you look like the solution?
    • First-level lesson: Don't dismiss how you're designed.
      • Not just appearances, or mental abilities; could be listening, likability.
    • Inequality - To Your Advantage?
      • e.g. physical durability, resistance to injuries/sickness
      • Second-level lesson: Know what you're NOT designed for.
        • Know your weaknesses. Know where you are at a disadvantage.
    • It Takes All Kinds - What Kind Are You?
      • Equal rights != equal people
      • e.g. forget the well-rounded team that gets along, instead have:
        • The vision person: “I see it. I see everything. I see the future.”
        • The butt kisser: “I see whatever you see, and it looks fantastic.”
        • The negative thinker: “I see it, and I see every problem we’ll have along the way.”
        • The lazy one: “I see it, and here’s the easiest way to do it.”
      • e.g. friendly makeup sales girl; Oprah's openness, relatedness
  • Case Study — From Receptionist to CEO
    • As secretary to the CEO, Mary stayed around after work to listen to the CEO's stories.
    • 16 years and many promotions later, she beat out 193 other candidates to be CEO.
    • She also learned to be one of the guys, in a male-dominated firm and industry.
    • "The real truth is that putting up with bad behavior unless that bad behavior becomes toxic is typically more effective in business than standing your ground…Tolerance tends to be more profitable."

Ch.4 Why Would Anybody Want to Be in a Fair Fight? — Create Your Own Advantage

  • Overview
    • Even if you don't have size, beauty, brains, etc. you can create an advantage.
    • Fist-level lesson: A fair fight is unprepared.
  • Business Culture—Where Fair Play Fails
    • e.g. political qualifications
      • photogenic
      • confident-looking
      • can squeeze grand ideas into simple sound bites
      • does not speak in compound sentences
      • unusually large head
    • Lots of politics in business - accept it.

If you’re a cranky, judgmental person who tends to see something wrong with everyone and everything, customer service is not in your future. But you are a natural-born safety inspector. The truth is if you’re a smiling, trusting, happy-go-lucky safety inspector, something is going to blow up.

  • The Right Person for the Role
    • The top 1% know to avoid what they suck at. Especially not in front of people they want to influence/lead.
    • Build strengths, mitigate weaknesses.
  • What "Right" Looks Like
    • Author looked right, was articulate; boss was not. Author got the attention of executive team.
  • Working the Disadvantage to Your Favor
    • The Big Ego - understand the size of ego you're dealing with.
      • Understand your own ego; big ego does not trump specialized knowledge when that knowledge is critical.
    • The Know-it-All Expert
      • Need to be right, or at least feel right.
      • Paraphrase what they say; you can turn their own words on them too.
      • If you're this way, learning to suppress your need to be right can make this work.
    • The Negative Thinker
      • Can stimulate problem-solving, critical-thinking.
    • The Obsessive Compulsive
      • Interviews revealed top performers often have compulsive behavior.
      • Turn your compulsive tendency to something useful.
    • The Attention Deficient
      • Can be good big-picture people, see more alternatives.
    • The Insecure
      • Star performers can be driven by their insecurity.
  • Get Yourself a Process
    • It takes a lot to understand, transcend, and use one's weakness, e.g. a big ego. It takes a process too.
    • Talk No Trash
      • It never makes you look good in the long run.
      • Rob's approach: talk well of someone behind their backs.
      • If you're likable, you have influence.
    • Be a Manager Who Markets
      • Marketing is always a core skill in business.
    • The Espionage Advantage
      • Jeff, the Vietnam vet, used his fearlessness and boldness as his advantage, actively spying on the competition.
    • Work a Dream Territory
      • Story of new sales guy getting NYC. By circumstance, he was in the only sales territory meant for 3-4 people, and leveraged that fact.
    • Surviving the Blame

      Put simply, a lot of leaders end up losing their jobs not because what happened was so bad but because what happened was bad and their relationships were bad too. The relationships were not strong enough to support them. When bad things happen to people who have the goodwill of those around them, they have a greater chance of hanging in there long enough to recover from the misstep. Surviving the blame is about the relationships you have in place.

  • No One Really Craves a Fair Fight
    • Second-level lesson: Creating an advantage is possible only if you’re willing to take a look at your belief system.
      • You have to know yourself to have any hope of building strengths.
    • Know your edge, develop it, use it.

Ch.5 “So Your Dad Owns the Company? Nice to Meet You!” — Leveraging Resources and Relationships

  • Overview
    • Relationships, resources are major catalysts.
  • Resources Withing Your Reach
    • e.g. realtor, whose husband was a major CEO with lots of contacts.
  • Who's Your Dadddy?
    • Paris Hilton: use money to be famous
    • Nepotism drives Hollywood to a greater extent than most know, e.g. vast majority of actors, comedians come from upper middle class or wealthy families.
    • If you're poor, you know how it sucks to be poor, and how that compels you to be resourceful.
  • Your Loser Buddies
    • You may need to grow past old relationships.
  • The Three-Level Process for Creating and Leveraging Relationships
    1. Get them to listen to you i.e. build trust: can you give love (sincerity), money (offer multiple solutions), or prestige (make people look good in front of others)?
    2. Your specific value proposition: it's not the solution itself, it's the impact/difference it will make for others.
    3. Confiding in you: when people will tell you the truth and dirt, you're in.
      • e.g. the best way to meet future spouses is still family and friends
  • First-Level Lesson: The willingness to take a relationship you have and turn it into one that connects you to someone who has more value is one of the cornerstones of success and influence.
    • Second-Level Lesson The powerful people and opportunities of the world are available only to those who can combine value with trust.

Ch.6 The Truth about Success — Being the Best versus Being Consistently Chosen

  • Overview - the top 1% use 6 principles:
    1. People are most likely to bond with people who listen more than they talk.
    2. People are most likely to agree with people who do not make them feel wrong.
    3. People are most likely to value a solution they helped to create.
    4. People are most likely to abandon a complex process, even if it works.
    5. People are most likely to choose what they’re comfortable with, whether or not it’s the best.
    6. People are most likely to follow leaders who make them feel important; those leaders are most likely to elicit the best performance.
  • Influence Factors — The Truth about Trust
    • Trust built on two things: compassion, competence
    • Make someone feel listened to in the first few minutes of conversation.
      • Most people suck at listening. Don't be like most people.
        • Don't be preoccupied, tuned out, pigheaded,
    • Seek agreement, rather than persuasion.
      • And make recommendations based on what you agree on.
      • "In business, people tend to hold their trust in tightly clenched fists. With your intentional effort to listen and gain agreement, you begin to pry those fingers away from the palm, loosen that grip—and trust begins to seep out."
    • Their input in your solution=>brilliance!
      • "People are most likely to value a solution they helped to create."
  • The Breakdown — Complexity Frequently Fails
    • More moving parts => more breakdowns
    • Stepfather's rule: Just don't get pregnant.
    • e.g. presenter 1, lots of charts even he didn't seem familiar with; presenter 2, talked about three driving speeds (55, 75, 100) to communicate risk.
    • Simplicity is hard, but worth it.
  • Clear, Simple, Comfortable Choice
    • USA Today, vs. NYT; George Bush vs. John Kerry
    • Michael Jackson, Tonya Harding
      • "Your behavior can jeopardize others’ appreciation of your skill, talent, or value."
    • If people don't like your behavior, your talent doesn't matter.
  • The Importance of Feeling Important
    • The top 1 percent understood that if people feel valuable, they’re more dedicated. Their performance goes up.
    • Per the book First, Break All the Rules people work for bosses, not companies.
  • The Takeaway
    • Keep things simple. Make others feel important. Don't be too smart to be successful.
  • First-Level Lesson: We choose what makes us feel secure and abandon things that don’t.
    • Second-Level Lesson: People choose what makes them feel valuable.

Ch.7 What Most People Will Not Do—From the Outside In—Looking Deeply Into How Others See You

  • Overview
    • You're most likely unaware of how others really see you.
  • Be and Own Who You Are
    • Armando: Hispanic, who owned up to having a thick Mexican accent, becoming an expert on how to reach Hispanic market.
    • Tom, the know-less-than-customer, damn-competitors-with-faint-praise, and subtly-on-your-side entrepreneur.
    • Sidebar: there's no strong linkage between success and happiness; so, getting real to be successful may not bring happiness.
      • e.g. author learned he was not an effective CEO
  • Perception is Reality
    • Like actors, who you are must fit the part you want to play. You can't just be anybody.
  • Solutions: Solicit, Self-Scan — Whatever It Takes
    • You need a blunt, direct friend.
    • e.g. Assessment: You’re candid and forthright; you don’t compromise integrity.
      • Advantage: In today’s corporate world, suck-ups are everywhere. People in power often expect it but don’t respect it. Play your strengths to audiences that seek candor and integrity. These qualities are what people or corporations seek when they’re in dire trouble. On the brink of a disaster that can be averted, don’t delude me with niceties or false optimism. Don’t blow sunshine in dark crevices without offering honest evaluation and practical advice. Shoot straight, nail the problem, save the situation, be the hero. Your skills are in demand.
  • Be Responsible and Accountable

    Nearly all of the top 1 percent we surveyed were willing to say something like, "Most of my problems are of my own making. It is my fault. If I hired this guy and he did all these terrible things that ruined my company, then maybe I don’t hire well."

    • Just like in trading.
  • Be Unemotional
    • The top 1% control their emotions, by identifying and understanding them, and changing their perspective.
    • This also enables you to steer/control emotional response in others.
    • e.g. manager: "If I had someone who I knew felt about me the way I feel about my employees, this person would have great influence over me. So I know how influential I am."

      Sometimes who you are matters less than knowing who you are. To get the advantage, you don’t have to be the greatest person in the world who possesses the most skills. If you know who you are, you can probably use that to your advantage no matter what.

Ch.8 Summoning the Willingness — How to Cross the Line from Knowledge to Implementation

  • First-Level Lesson: Overcoming unwillingness requires taking stock of the discomfort of where you are.
    • As politically incorrect as it sounds, the key to overcoming unwillingness is a lack of tolerance (for where you are now).
  • Confidence?
    • Fake it 'till you make it.
    • Courage is acting in the face of fear.
  • Ego and Self-Esteem
    • Ego can be a liability; it can also move you to act.
    • e.g. of oil engineer who "wins the battle with himself" - he knows he's brilliant but doesn't have all the answers, so he asks others - gets information AND buy-in - then implements.
  • Examining Your Belief System
    • e.g. “blue-collar BS.” To justify your feelings about your own existence and your unwillingness to move out of a mediocre situation because of the effort and risks that might be involved, you simply find something wrong with people who have or want something better—and dismiss them when they act on their advantage.

      This is how a person’s belief system holds him or her back. If you see managers as inherently bad people, you will never become "the enemy." Instead you’ll stay in positions of lower pay and lower authority. This kind of logic is almost its own form of insanity.

  • So What's In Your Way?
    • Get moving: define goals, manage stress, don't fear success (it's another form of fear-of-failure), manage people around you (i.e. manage YOUR words, deeds, and perceptions of others).
    • "Knowledge – effective action = stress"
  • Willingness to Change
    • This is core.

      Our interviews with the top 1 percent showed that they did not overcome bad habits simply through willpower; they overcame them with better, productive habits.

      If you can’t stop complaining, become a politician. If you can’t stop lying, become a criminal defense attorney. If you find fault with every little thing you see, become a safety inspector. One top performer replaced sticking his nose in all of his employees’ business with sticking his nose in his competitor’s business. He went from being just plain annoying to being productively annoying—and very successful.

  • Second-Level Lesson Making the leap from knowing to doing is less about being willing and more about being action-oriented.
    • "Not only is knowledge not power; when it comes to getting things done, it’s often irrelevant."

Ch.9 Action and Adaptability Create Opportunity — Establish a Repeatable Process for Success

  • Marriage is fattening; getting a divorce would help lose weight, but is not sensible, but neither are most dieting ideas.
  • The truth about success is often unpopular as well. Remember the myths and lies the book started with. But as demonstrated, at least in business, it's not just about hard work, intelligence, ability.
  • Top 1% realize the business world is unfair.
    • They confronted and were honest about weaknesses.
    • They found or made their strengths, and played them full out.
    • e.g. of manager who had no ideas, but was good at making people feel important: threw celebrations, encouraged his team to come up with their own ideas; repeated that as he rose up.

Look carefully for the unfair fight that works for you. Successful people know how to act quickly to seize an opportunity, but they also know when to use their personal advantage and act to create the greatest opportunity. Then they consistently couple that advantage with their skills and constantly make adjustments as circumstances warrant. Doing all this can move you past 99 percent of your industry peers and into the top 1 percent.

  • First-Level Lesson The real truth about success is that not only do we not like to talk about the real truth, but we don’t necessarily want to hear it.
  • Cut Out Random Factors and Fluctuations
    • We all have a norm, a baseline; do nothing different, and we fluctuate around it.

      In other words, you really need a repeatable advantage that can raise your norm to a higher place. When you can apply your personal advantage in a repeatable way, you raise the bar and keep it from falling back. That new height of success becomes your new baseline.

  • Adjust in Midflight
    • Flexibility, adaptability are requisite for success.

      In our interviews with top performers, we essentially discovered two means to achieving the same successful end: People were either natural seat-of-the-pants impatient leaders or gifted strategic thinkers accustomed to a calm, patient approach. In the end, you get the same result—finding solutions to the task at hand.

      You need to be honest about where you fit into the marketplace. Find an arena where the skill, strategy, process, or advantage you have is not the same thing everyone else has.

    • Always keep looking for areas where you can repeatedly bring an unfair advantage.
    • Action and flexibility create opportunity.
  • Connecting the Dots — Upon Reflection
    • Second-Level Lesson: What it takes to get to the top may be something that a lot of us are unwilling to do.

      It’s not necessarily about what you know or how smart you are; it’s about your willingness to use the resources around you, take a look at who you are, and use everything you’ve got. Everything.

    • It's also painful at times to realize we're not good at something, or that we can't apply our advantages as we want to.
  • Concluding paragraph:

    The top 1 percent know how to set themselves up with those advantages that allowed them to win consistently. They weren’t winning all the time because they battled it out to the end, fought to the death, and barely made it. They won by a lot. It was a lopsided victory. Every unfair fight is. Why would I want to be in a fair fight? Personally, I like to have every advantage I can, and so should you. Anyone can lose a fair fight! The goal is to consistently put ourselves in fights we can actually win. That’s the truth about success. It’s more than just leveling the playing field; it’s using what you have to tilt the scales decidedly in your favor.

Ch.10 For the Lazy Reader - Quick Advice for People Who'll Pretend They've Read the Book

Here's the author's bullet-point summary of his book, quoted verbatim:

  • Most Successful Businesspeople Get Where They are because They Have a Secret Advantage, and They’re not Afraid to Use it.
    • Our research showed that top performers in every industry are carefully guarding the real truth of their success — that some secret personal advantage catapulted them to the top. They used a personal advantage to position them as a trustworthy, easily understood solution. Whether they sought a job or influence, they made sure that everything they did looked like the solution. They had people believing in what they did before they did it. They had instant image impact. Competitors might call their secret advantage an unfair advantage, but it’s exactly what we all want in our corner to stage an unfair fight. Because really, the fair fight is overrated. I can lose a fair fight! Give me an unfair fight and the upper hand—I’ll take those odds any day.
  • All I Ever Wanted in Life was an Unfair Advantage.
    • The unfair fight is not a dirty fight; it’s just an unfair one in which the opponents are not equally matched. The top performers we profile did nothing underhanded to get the upper hand. It’s just that some had a way of doing things that positioned them so well from the start that they got not only better results but better perceived results thanks to their advantage.
  • Remember, If You Think Your Boss Is Stupid, That Person Is Just Smart Enough to Be Your Boss. The Smartest People in the World are not in Charge; They Work for the Action Takers
    • The reason the top 1 percent will not tell you how they became so successful is that the truth often does not sound impressive enough. They put the odds in their favor by being clear and direct and knowing what people need in order to feel satisfied and important. Their success was about whom they knew and how they reacted—not about superior ideas, genius, and sheer force of will! The real truth about success is that it’s a bit too real. Sometimes our greatness is just not cool enough to brag about! If people knew how hard one task was for you and how easy another one was, they might think you’re just kind of a lucky loser. In the worst-case scenario, some people are so hopelessly pathetic that they naturally attract a lot of support. As a result, they have help they would never receive if they were somewhat less pathetic. That’s proof that some advantages should definitely be kept secret!
  • Approach Life Talent First. Find or Create Your Personal Advantage.
    • You might not have innate advantages. Maybe you are short, or lack wow-’em smarts or cleverness. I know what you’re thinking—“Just shoot me!” Hold up, negative Nancy. The truth is that you can create your own advantage. The top 1 percent of industry leaders we interviewed have discovered innate secret advantages and created new ones; you can too. Take a look at the advantages others have exploited and use them as a launching pad to identify your own innate advantage. Make the effort. After you determine what you bring to the table, you can start to level the playing field (or even make it really lopsided) by creating your own advantage like a lot of people we’ve covered in this book. What is your unique, distinctive edge? It might be your look, your personality, a character trait, your demeanor, the people you know, the resources you possess, or even a well-crafted plan to bolster your popularity in the workplace. You might be so lazy that you know the easiest way to be successful. Whatever it may be, everyone has an untapped advantage. Finding that edge and using it effectively is what separates the top 1 percent from the remaining 99 percent.
  • Satisfaction may Be the Goal of the Average Person, but it Is the Enemy of Greatness.
    • No offense (which is what people say right before they offend you), but sometimes a skill set isn’t your trump card. Maybe it’s the people around you. Are you willing to leverage the relationships you have? Are you really willing to build on the relationships with people you already know to get to the people you really need to know? Some might think that this is a manipulative approach, and that’s when you have to ask yourself whether you are willing to ditch the loser buddies and the horse you rode in on and do what it takes to be successful. Leverage the resources and relationships around you that will contribute to your success. Take a look at what’s working, and be honest about what isn’t. If you are not satisfied with the results of your efforts, it’s okay. One of the common traits of the top 1 percent is that their lack of satisfaction propels them forward. I take a look at myself all the time to see how I’m viewed. If my advantage is not working, I either alter my approach to the best of my abilities or, as I did in most cases, find a way to make my problems work for me! In the words of Spider-Man, “My gift is my curse.”
  • Long-Term Success Is the Result of Relationships Built on a Foundation of Trust. People Get More Value from Those They Trust.
    • The truth about success—being the best versus being consistently chosen as the best—is that a lot of people are good at what they do and have talent. But to be consistently chosen, there are specific things you need to do, and some tried-and-true methods still hold water. Take a look at those ages-old axioms about success. Then take a deep look at yourself and see if you’re on track. Are you even in the ballpark? Have you even seen a ballpark? Some of the people we interviewed hadn’t done anything tremendously groundbreaking, but they were successful anyway. In many cases, their simple answers didn’t reveal enough to establish them as number one in their company, industry, or profession. This left us asking, “Surely there’s something else?” But they all had achieved a degree of trust, clarity, and comfort with the people they worked with and had built that trust on a foundation of two things: compassion and competence.
  • It Does not Matter How Smart You are if Nobody Knows What You are Talking about.
    • The common answers top performers gave about the reasons for their success also revealed that the top 1 percent often did something different, something most people deem irrelevant — they listened for things they could agree with, and they kept their processes or solutions simple. They made people comfortable with what they had to offer, which reinforced their value. The top 1 percent know that being the best is irrelevant. It’s all fine and dandy if your product, idea, or solution is the best, but you hedge your bets for success if you are clear and likable and make people feel comfortable and important. I’m not saying that skill and good ideas are not valuable; I’m just saying our research showed that they are not what the most successful people had in common.
  • Knowledge Is not Power; Implementation Is Power.
    • Willingness to use an advantage is just as important as discovering it. Cross that line from knowledge to implementation, and be willing to act! Not everybody is. Many need to be coaxed into utilizing their distinctive edge to their advantage. Most people tend to draw a line in the sand or create a boundary they’re unwilling (or afraid) to cross. Many of these are not based on ethical or legal bounds; they’re rooted in personal fears of how others will perceive us. Can you step back and look beyond the conventional business culture? Are you willing to take a chance? Can you create a plan for yourself? Can you adapt your beliefs in order to utilize your advantage?
    • Creating that willingness to actually utilize your edge is how you achieve greater success. The funny thing about willingness is that it’s like opening a door. If you just crack it a little, you’ll find it’s relatively easy to move forward from there. But you first have to turn the knob and push. If you start with a little willingness to change or improve in certain areas, you’ll soon find it easier to tackle other areas of your life or business relationships. But if you aren’t willing to look at all or if you try to avoid delving into some particular area, you’ll wind up stalled. Any advantage that gets you noticed is worth pursuing. Opening a door just a little bit is much easier than worrying about all the closed doors in life you’ll have to go through to become successful. Knowing something and doing it have very little in common!
  • Action and Flexibility Create Opportunity.
    • Discovering and being willing to use your edge will only prepare you for battle. Your next move involves some strategic planning and flexible decision making about when and how to deploy this personal advantage to best effect. Just because you’re a competent driver at speeds of 200 miles per hour doesn’t mean you should exercise that particular skill daily on America’s highways. Habitually drive like mad on a NASCAR track? Win titles, trophies, esteem, and prize money. Habitually drive like mad on Interstate 95? Win a trip to jail and lose your license (not to mention how the police feel about your roadside champagne celebration). The advantage really plays like an advantage only when it’s used in a particular environment or arena.
    • Once you happen upon something that yields results, you need to build it into the culture of what you’re doing and create a repeatable process that you can responsibly ride to success. You also need to be flexible enough to employ your advantage in situations where it makes the most sense to you. Now you’re taking action, you’re adapting along the way, and you’re creating opportunity. Action and flexibility allow me to choose the opportunity that’s right for me. It also gives me the power to decide what I don’t want as well. So now I only draw lines in the sand based on the value system that I choose. For example, I don’t eat Spam because of that gelatin goop that’s used to slide it into the can. I refuse to eat any food that comes with its own lubricant! Spam is a fine product, I’m sure, and loved by many—just not by me. We don’t have to live by the value systems of others and try to follow a path that does not fit who we are. It’s time to capitalize on the opportunities that your advantages create.
  • Circumstances Do not Create the Quality of Your Life.
    • So, what are you waiting for? You have made it to the end of this chapter, proving your laziness is not an obstacle. Get out there and find your personal advantage and use it to succeed. It’s you, only better. It’s not unethical or wrong to use every resource you can get your hands on, as long as you are not hurting others. That’s how all civilizations were built. They looked at what they had to work with and did the best they could. But it’s important to note that not everyone was able to be successful, just the people willing to use the resources. Life is not fair; some people are dealt negative circumstances and have to find a way past them in order to succeed. It’s like superstitions. There was no justice in the Salem witch trials; you could be convicted for showing up in another person’s dreams. (If you think our court system is strange now, look where it came from: “Your honor, thee approached me in a devilish manner as I dreamt!”) But once we got past the evil dreamers and scarlet letters, we progressed. There is an old saying, “You have to play the cards you’re dealt.” What if your cards suck? What if the cards you hold could never get you where you want to go? That’s it? I’m done? I’m born mediocre and game over? Circumstances do not create the quality of your life—you create the quality of your life. It’s called your life because you get to decide how it feels to live it.
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