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9 1/2 Secrets Successful People Use to Get the Most From Their Time, Life and Career (Part I)


Mon Jul 25 2016

9 1/2 Secrets Successful People Use to Get the Most From Their Time, Life and Career (Part I)

Few would disagree that time management is a critical skill to develop if you want to get the most from your life and career. Without the ability to manage your time: 

  • There is too much to do. 

  • You’ll feel as if you never get everything done. 

  • It will be hard to focus on what is really important. 

  • Others will control your life. 

 When I began my company, SSA International, I was convinced this was true until I was asked two questions that changed and simplified my life—and they can do the same for you and those you train.


The Story Behind the Story 

If you’ve ever started your own business, or dreamt of starting one, you can imagine my hopes and fears. I had just given up a secure job with the promise of a comfortable pension, and invested more than half my savings in a business focused on helping people reach their full potential.

To be sure that my first training program, Maximizing Managerial Effectiveness, was working well, I interviewed each participant after providing the module on traditional time management. One of the interviewees, Bob Bauress, asked if I had time for a couple of questions after the interview.

“Sure, Bob,” I willingly replied, with no inkling of the career-altering event about to happen. “What would you like?”

He asked me, “I have something I can’t make go faster or slower and neither can you. I can’t give you any of mine and you can’t give me any of yours! And neither of us can save it. Do we control it?”

If you could put yourself in my shoes, what would you have said? “I guess not. What are you talking about?”


“I’m talking about time. We define time as the way we measure the turning of the Earth. And no one can make that go faster or slower.”

Two Very Simple Questions

“If you want a really good time management program, you need to answer these two questions for us,” Bob said. (To this day I’m thankful he did not say, “You have a crummy time management program.”) His two questions were: 

  • What do we really control? 

  • How do we get the most from it?

What Do You Really Control? 

What would you have answered?

I said I would think about it and get back to him. Actually, by the end of that memorable day, I had a clear answer to the first question. The past is gone. The future is not here yet. So the only thing you and I control is the present!

How Do You Get the Most From It? 

It took many years to come up with a simple answer to the second question. This question is answered more easily in two parts:


Part 1. What do you really want from your life and career?

This is a challenging question. Over the last 40 years, it has been my privilege to interview leaders in 160 Fortune 500 companies. I discovered that the most successful people can answer this question. This relates to the first of the three principles for developing a competitive edge: When you know exactly what you are looking for, you give yourself a significant competitive edge to discover it.

However, these 40 years of leadership interviews have taught me that less than 10 percent of people write down their professional mission or purpose and review it regularly. And even fewer people have done this for a personal mission or purpose.

The second part is where the most successful are separated from the less successful. The more successful are able to answer this question:

Part 2. How do you align the only thing you control—your next action—to what you really want from your life and career?

The purpose of this blog series it to share with you my 40 years of interviews with leaders in 160 Fortune 500 companies. I have learned what the most successful people do, and the quickest, easiest, and surest way to imitate them and teach others. I will reveal one secret in each of the 10 posts. Implementing them can make a significant difference in your life; you’ll: 

  • Accomplish more of the things that are important to you. 

  • Increase your satisfaction with little or no stress. 

  • Improve your work-life balance. 

SECRET 1. Start With What You Control

The most successful people make life easy for themselves by starting with what they control  - just this action NOW.

Starting with what you do not control does not make sense. It leads to low productivity, minimal satisfaction, and in many cases, frustration and chronic stress. Learning how to align just your next action now to the values, life and career you really want helps you get closer to the future you envision for yourself. All by being totally focused on the present - the only thing that you really control.

To start with what you control, the next 8 ½ secrets will be very helpful. They are:

  • Clarify and stay focused on your passion. 

  • Connect the only thing you control to your passion. 

  • Focus totally on your MIN (most important now). 

  • Motivate your life. 

  • Turn all interruptions into opportunities. 

  • Avoid to-do list frustration. 

  • Use the secrets as a life system. 

  • Imitate the champions. 

  • Kaizen (grow continuously).

For more details, check out the next few blog posts!

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