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Book review: No excuses!

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Yes, I am a sucker for books about success and willpower. This is one is exactly about that. No excuses! Brian Tracy helps you building successful habits, by becoming self-disciplined.

The book starts with saying that self-discipline, is thé one thing that can change your life. It is written for people who are ‘hungry’ for more, do more, have more. Well, I can certainly relate to that. The book says that, in order to achieve that, you must become a different person. Interesting… There are over a thousand things that can make you more successful, but without self-discipline (“the ability to do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not”) they won’t work.

Eliminating enemies to success

So, to become self-disciplined, you need to eliminate your two worst enemies: “Path of Least Resistance” (taking short cuts) and “The Expediency factor” (thinking short term). You must be able to deny yourself the distractions, and live for the delayed gratification, instead of the instant, because short term gain can lead to long term pain.

To become successful, you must make a habit to do things other people do not like to do. And be goal achieving instead of tension relieving. Tracy writes that this will bring you self respect, pride, self worth, happier and powerful.

One fact I find very interesting , is the quote of “Talent is Overrated” (Geoffrey Colvin, 2009) that says that most people learn their job in the first year, and then never get better. Yikes. That seems unthinkable. But indeed – I must say that continuous improvement is indeed not very common. Tracy pleads to invest 10% of your yearly income to personal development. That made me think – I’m not there yet…

Whatever you sow, you reap – Tracy explains. So what you put in, you also get out. Yes, I very much agree with that. And also with the fact that success is predictable. That reminds me of Malcom Gladwells “Outliers”. I remember that he also wrote about successful violin players and athletes: they just simply trained more than others. It is not a mystery – just hard work! But you have to be willing to do it. Pay the price. Which, Tracy says, you álways need to pay in advance. No billing afterwards:) I never thought of it like that, it is a funny thought. It made me think of the people we’ve promoted over the years, that actually were given the job title and benefits upon trust that they then would deliver. Well, that never really was a success. Hard work first, showing that you can, then the reward – yes, I relate to that much more.

Successful people are simply those with successful habits
– Brian Tracy

Tracy speaks of success as something you can copy. Look at successful people. In your company, in your world. Yes, that is one reason why I started this blog. I don’t have that many people around me that are truly inspiring and successful. So my book reviews on successful people hopefully help me to learn from them.

Becoming excellent is, according to Tracy, like fitness. If you stop doing the exercises, you’ll loose your progress. Which I can also relate to. He compares character and self discipline to crystallizing fluids: once it becomes hard, it’s changed forever. Interesting idea. So you need to build character. Take responsibility. Take action. Trace has you take 100% responsibility for everything you are and everything you become. Never complain, never explain. Since mastery acquires 7 years or 10.000 hours of hard work, you really need to commit to excellence. Talent is not enough. But, Tracy makes it simple: 2 extra hours per day will do the trick.

Exercises for excellence

The book is filled with steps to take and exercises to do. Below the ones I find most useful:

  1. Read 60 mins in your field daily;
  2. Rewrite your goals everyday, without reading back. This actually programming for the mind.
  3. Plan every day in advance… yes! Working on that:)
  4. Discipline yourself, choose the most important things to work on. Focus on that.
  5. Use time wisely: listen to educational audio training in your car (excellent! thats where I listened to Tracy. Makes my day 😉 )
  6. Ask two questions after each event: What did I do right? What would I do differently. Write it down. This helps you improve and learn from situations
  7. Treat each person you meet as they are the most valuable. This will make them return the facor.
  8. Practice these seven steps for a month.

Tracy’s view on leadership is that leaders have good vision and courage. Courage to take a leap of faith, and patience – they are able to hang in there. They don’t worry much, as worrying is also waste of time. Persistance is the primary reason for success: It is not how hard you fall, but how great you bounce. Optimism to do so, is necessary. Be proactive instead of reactive. Yes – knew that one already.

Procrastination? No more

In the book, Tracy continuously have you set priorities. He explains the 80/20% rule, so you’ll need to identify the top 20% of your tasks. Which brings you the most success. Not the chats at the coffee machine, but actual focussed and hard work. For that, he emphasizes the importance of time management and prioritization. I know many time management theories, but his one is nice because it is really simple and easy to remember. His recipe to overcome procrastination and prioritize:

  • Make a list of everything you need to do the next day
  • Apply ABCDE (A do, B should, C nice, D delegate, E eliminate)
  • Apply 1/2/3 to order;
  • Start with A and concentrate. Focus. Never do a B if you still have an A and so on.

On prioritization, he advises to write down everything you do in a day, then review: which one? which two? which three things are the most important and help you in your success? That actually add value. Or, to calculate your own hourly rate (yearincome/2000hours), then only do activities that are worth that. Delegate or don’t do activities that are not worth that. Check with your boss whether he agrees with your list of important things to ensure you are on the same level. Don’t waste time – work hard. Aim to have the reputation of the hardest worker, do stuff your boss asks directly. Pay the price: come in earlier, work harder, leave later. This allows you more efficient time, and will triple your results. Also, Tracy advises to look the part. Dress and groom in such a way that matches your ambition.  I fully agree with him on all this. I think I am where I am now, because most of these things (at least the hard work, extra hours and dressing part) I feel like I master.

No excuses to become a great leader

Tracy writes that self discipline is vital to be a leader. A good leader is in complete control. During your career, you have mastered four levels; employee, supervisor, manager, leader. That last role allows you to decide on what is to be done instead of how it is done. That should then already be mastered. Good leaders have vision and the ability to project forward. They set a standard and are a rolemodel. Tracy summarises this with the 8 C’s: clarity, confidence, commitment, constraints identifying, creativity, continuous development, consistancy. And in Crisisses: calm, cool, objective and in control. It is an interesting list to measure yourself on. Am I a leader that masters all those?

Tracy is not all about hard work and no happiness. He explains that your ability to be happy actually is the end goal. But – where short term focused people find instant happiness in relaxing, he explains that your true happiness is an internal locus of control, where you are in the drivers seat. I am not sure that is the case for everyone, but I agree with him. I am much happier when I have reached a goal, learned something new or were able to finish a boring task, then when I have spent an entire day watching tv.

In different chapters of the book, he applies his lessons to certain areas of life. For example, building a business or becoming an excellent sales. I don’t think all the chapters are interesting for everyone (I was mostly engaged by the Work and Leadership part) and for me, the Health and Fitness parts were a bit unoriginal – Tracy tries to rush through a diet and exercise regime – I get how that relates to self-discipline, but I’d personally would either make that a new book (and there are too many already) or skip the subject. From a personal point of view, I also skipped the chapters about raising children and self discipline and marriage. No need. Funny though how I felt a bit guilty there (“the path of least resistance”?) but then realized reading these chapters would not allow me added value (no kids, not married. Get my point?)  Yay, I applied his principles. Learning in action!

I did tune back in for the final chapter: Self-discipline and Peace of Mind. In this part Tracy explains how you also need the discipline to let go, for inner focus. You should practice detachment. Learn to not always want to be right. Stop taking things personally. Stop justifying negative emotions and practice forgiveness. This way, you allow more room for positive energy. Yes – work in progress. But good that he also point this out. Without that, I’d miss the spiritual part of leadership and self-discipline.

A successful habit to read this book? 

Overall, I found this book very enjoyable. His ideas really match mine: success is a result of hard work, and self-discipline is an instrument to get there. I found the exercises (did not do all of them yet) easy to do and because of that, easy to incorporate in daily life. I am already executing some of his suggestions, I will keep you posted of the progress through the 30-day challenge posts. On the negative side, it is quite much if you want to apply self-discipline on all parts of your life, and read the entire book. Sometimes he sounds a bit too simple. And I actually missed a recap and summary to focus – but hey, I will forgive him that and focus on the positive side! Must read for people who need to be inspired and believe you cán do it and want to develop successful habits.

The author

Do you know that feeling? That a hairdresser who does your hair, will need to look amazing? That you don’t trust a personal trainer that isn’t completely ripped? I was a bit hesitant about this author, since I’d never heard of him. And that, to me, means he’s unsuccessful. But hey, I’m open minded 😉 Tracy explains that his success means finishing an MBA program, imported Suzuki’s and created 65 dealerships and sold worth of $25 million, went into real estate, built shopping centers and offices and then became a trainer and motivational speaker and sold over $ 500 million. Okay, I guess that’s quite a curriculum. At least I’m not there yet, so I can probably learn something from him indeed…

Need more inspiration?
Brian Tracy Official Site – BrianTracy.com‎
http://www.briantracy.com/blog/

 

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