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The Biggest Mistake in Making a Plan for 2014

The Biggest Mistake in Making a Plan for 2014

January 15, 2014

Most people who have made New Year's resolutions and have begun their plans for this year are likely to make this one fatal mistake. Many will set their goals and focus on them and forget this one linchpin that holds the whole thing together: the journey to reaching your goals.  So, if you’re searching for a get-rich-quick idea, I recommend against it. Instead, I want to share with you my Get-Rich-Slowly idea, and it’s one that will bring you greater joy in working. To learn more about it, read on.  

Mastery or Lottery Mentality

Last weekend, my son had his Bar Mitzvah. As is the tradition, he read from the Torah in front of our entire congregation in the synagogue, without vowels and without musical notes, which is very difficult to do. He’s been preparing for a year, not only did he accomplish it, but he felt great about it. I am very proud of him. Dovid worked hard, and now he knows that through hard work he can achieve a level of mastery in whatever he chooses. 

Unfortunately, as Americans, we are living in a culture of wimps. Far too many of us are not willing to put in the effort it takes to achieve mastery at anything. We’ve been fed the story that you can have the benefits without investment. But, in reality, nothing good comes without hard work.

The whole concept of instant pleasure is something that drives me nuts; I call it the Lottery Mentality, where you spend a dollar, put in zero effort, and hope you’ll get a windfall. That’s no way to build a successful life.

It’s a pipe dream, along with get-rich quick schemes, crash diets, and miracle drugs — all promising that we don’t need to work hard to achieve results. 

Consider the story of a woman taking her first tennis lessons and asking her instructor how long it would take until she could play in tournaments. The instructor replied that it should take about six months for her to master holding the racket properly. Instant results? Unrealistic.   

What Happens in Vegas Should Stay in Vegas

I have a friend who goes to Las Vegas several times a year. He spends his money in hopes of making more money instantly. 

I’m not a fan of Vegas. My anti-Vegas attitude stems from having been there many times to speak at conferences.  I’ll tell you the truth, when you really look around the casinos you don’t see happy people. You see people feeding money into electronic machines or rolling dice. Actually, I found it very depressing.  People are groping for happiness in all the wrong places.  It’s just another form of the Lottery Mentality, completely artificial, and devoid of true joy.  In fact, if you Google “Post Jackpot Depression” you’ll find a treasure trove of stories of sadness and disaster that have plagued many big money winners who did nothing to earn their fortune. 

“If you want to reach the city of happiness, you’ll find it in your state of mind.”     

So, What is True Joy?

True joy comes from practicing something over again and failing your way forward. Whether it’s mastering tennis or mastering sales, setting your plans, failing, and finally succeeding is what success is all about. It comes from reaching new plateaus along the journey. It’s not that you’ve won the tennis match or made the sale, it’s about practicing again and again to achieve something and then practicing some more.

Mastery is a progression, a journey ripe with joy along the way. It’s actually quite natural if you consider the joy and the sense of accomplishment you see as you watch a baby trying to learn to walk; take a few steps, fall down, try a few more steps, until he or she has mastered it. We are born to feel a sense of joy and accomplishment as we take each next step. Yet our culture has chosen to seek shortcuts that deprive us of that journey.

The Journey to Mastery

There’s a great saying in the Talmud,

“Anybody who says I have found without effort, do not believe them.  If someone says I have put in effort but not found, do not believe them.”

To master a new language, a new game, a business skill, or anything else takes hard work. Michael Jordan spent thousands of hours shooting baskets, often before and after scheduled practices. The Beatles played hundreds of concerts in small clubs in Germany before they became famous.  However, “Mastery isn’t reserved for those with special talents or exceptional abilities. A master’s journey can be whatever you decide to learn,” says George Leonard in his book Mastery. Embrace the journey not just the destination. That's the problem with most business plans it's only about the end goal not the journey. What a tragic mistake.

For example, a client of ours, Jim McQuaig, President of Nation’s Home Funding, wanted to be the best in the world at presenting mortgage solutions. He kept practicing his pitch again and again for years until he was awesome at it. He simplified it, codified it, and multiplied it and changed his product line to support the world's best mortgage conversation. In doing so he created a great company as well.  That’s what mastery is, practicing and the joy it brings you. If you focus on your core competency and practice with true determination you can become one of the best in the world. Really.   

Mastering the Violin

I have a good friend named Yonatan Grinberg who began playing the violin at the age of seven, but did not take it seriously until he turned sixteen. He saw the challenge of playing music seriously as something that gave him a lot of joy. Today, while working on his Ph.D. at the Peabody Institute, which includes performances in various programs, Grinberg is an accomplished violinist.  He truly enjoys the journey that is mastery. He is amazing. Why? His commitment to mastery is unmatched. He practices for hours on end, continually improving himself, embracing the path of mastery.

Business people PAY ATTENTION.  You need to practice too. How can you embrace the journey of practicing and continual improvement? How can you be ok with being happy with incremental growth over the long haul regardless of whether you reach your goals or not?

“It was not just the dream of playing in concert, but the daily challenges of playing music seriously and the progress that brings me joy. A commitment has to be there for you to achieve anything,” he says. “The longer you are in the field, you realize that there is no moment of arrival, no big break. Mastery is not just the moment you play the concert; it is the day you get up after the concert and continue your adventure, your search, your journey, and your progress in that field.”

Can You Achieve Mastery?

Yes, you can! Here are some tips:

  • Focus on the next step in the present moment. Don't delay your joy and satisfaction to some future date
  • Determine what it is you want to master.  If you spend 3 years on one thing you can become one of the best in the world
  • Devote your time and efforts to the process
  • Grab the opportunity to work hard and practice repeatedly 
  • Hate free gifts, don't chase them
  • Don't focus on the climactic moments as they are illusory and will pass quickly
  • Let yourself enjoy each of the step along the journey
  • Embrace what others call the "mundane" idea of practice. This is where true joy lives

One of my favorite quotes is by Jascha Heifetz, 

“There is no top. There are always further heights to reach.”

Taking you from where you are to where you want to be,