Episode 19: Getting Started

Dream Toolbox - Getting Started

Welcome back to Dream Toolbox.  We have talked a lot about changing core belief systems, visualizing your dream and making it real in your mind, as well as creating useful waypoints to make sure you stay on track.  There will be more to say about each of these as we go along.  They are the critical pieces in making any dream come true.

But now it is time to talk about more mundane things.   The first of which is just getting started.  For most people, dreams remain just that—dreams—and are never realized because of a critical missing piece:  those who had the dreams simply never took the first practical steps to make them a reality.  So let’s talk about those steps.

1.  Take a hard, realistic look at where you are in life and where you want to go. If you have no money and perhaps belong to a minority race or have any of many other obstacles in your way, don’t pretend those obstacles are not real.  Instead, start thinking about what you will have to change about you, your surroundings, your education, or your lifestyle to turn those obstacles into stepping-stones to success. 

I know that I have said that those kinds of obstacles do not define you or prohibit you from achieving success.  But, and this is a big “but”, if you don’t address them realistically, they can block your success.  I’ll give you a trivial, but illustrative example.  I had a business partner a few years ago who was an incredibly talented black man.  I noticed that when we went to business meetings, he was inevitably the best-dressed person in the room and then when we traveled together he always carried a travel iron and pressed his clothes before each new day.  

I asked him why, and his answer was simple and insightful.  He said, “Although I am confident of my ability, I know that in any meeting I may encounter those who expect me as a black man to be less capable.  Being always the best-dressed person in the room helps to keep that issue off the table and requires very little effort on my part.”  I asked if he resented having always to be just a little bit better than his competitors.  His answer was wise and accurate.  He said, “Everyone has obstacles to overcome.  Mine just happens to be skin color, but the things I do to make sure that is not a barrier to success can also give me a better chance of success even if my skin color would never have mattered in any particular meeting. So, by solving one problem, I have created extra opportunities.  Why should I resent that?”

2.  Prepare to succeed.  Begin by doing the things we have already discussed and whatever else you have determined need to be done for success.  Above all, remember the words of John Wooden, perhaps the most successful basketball coach of all time, who said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”  

3.  Finally, just start.  That sounds simple, but when any of us faces the uncertain future and the risks that are involved in trying to make a dream that matters to us come true, it is very easy to say, “I’ll start first thing tomorrow.”  Procrastination is the greatest thief in the world; it steals our lives, one day at a time.  Whatever your age or circumstance, you have the power right now to begin reshaping your life for success.  Just begin—now.

Episode 21.  Luck and Preparation

Dream Toolbox - Luck and Preparation

I have noticed that most people when they meet or hear about someone who has been highly successful think to themselves, “Wow, how lucky he (or she) must have been to be where they are.”

The reality is that, although there is an element of luck in every success, there are many people who somehow manage to be “lucky” a lot more than most of the rest of us.  There is a reason for that and it is summed up in this frequently quoted statement: 

Let’s talk about good luck first.  When we exclude such things a winning a lottery or inheriting a fortune from a long-lost relative, almost all luck is a matter of recognizing and acting on something that others do not see as an opportunity.

A dear friend recently told me the story of her parents. They were immigrants who lived in a Midwestern city, had worked hard all their lives, and lived a prosperous middle class life.  But they had not reached financial freedom because they still needed to work every day to keep the revenue coming in.  One day, my friend recalls, they commented over dinner how cheap land was in the United States where one could buy land around the city they lived in for $100 per acre.  Although they were not rich, they could easily have bought quite a few acres of that land that would, in time have made them wealthy and secured their children’s future.  

Instead, they just noticed it, but did nothing.  In their case, that failure to act was primarily a function of the culture from which they came in which such investments were not common because ownership of property was not protected well by the law—one of the great benefits of living in the United States.  But how many native born Americans read the same newspaper article, but failed to take the action that would, today, have made them wealthy and financially secure. But they did nothing.

Why not?  I submit to you that the reason was a function of two things:

Failing to prepare their minds to look around them on a daily basis for opportunities that others were simply not seeing or were ignoring; and

A fear of taking a risk that might lead to a loss instead of a profit.

We’ll talk about fear of risk shortly, but let me give you another example of the difference between looking at the world with entrepreneurial eyes or failing to do so. I read recently about an entrepreneur who made his first fortune many years ago when about 25% of the paper currency in the United States was backed by silver.  Recognizing that silver was also used in industry and might in the future be worth more than the currency, he began buying paper currency that was convertible into silver and, when silver prices grew beyond the value of the currency, he converted the currency to silver and, I am told, ended up making over $100 million dollars.  

Why didn’t everyone else do the same?  It was printed right on the currency, “Silver payable to the bearer on demand.”  He saw that as an opportunity.  Most of the rest of us just noticed it and did nothing.  I was one of those who did nothing and had to make my fortune another way.  Buy why? I, like so many others, had not yet developed the habit of looking at the everyday world around me as the candy store of opportunities I now know that it is.  None of us will recognize all the opportunities, but failing to prepare our minds to see those opportunities is preparing to fail.

However, I later did notice that there was a lot of interest in using some things called “stem cells” as a potential way to treat diabetes.  This time, I recognized the importance of what I was hearing and remembered that I know a scientist who was one of the leading cell biologists in the world and was looking for a new job or project.  A few years later I was CEO of a public biotech company worth over $100 million dollars.  Not all of that was mine.  We had many investors, but it started because my partner and I saw something most everyone else was ignoring and took some risk to test our theory. 

It all starts with preparing the mind to see opportunity where others see either nothing unusual or see problems instead of opportunities.