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START NOW
by Dr. John C. Maxwell

In the early 1970's, I had the opportunity to hear a speech by W. Clement Stone, co-author of one of the best-selling motivational books of all time, Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude.

At age 6, Stone was hawking newspapers on the streets of Chicago to help his widowed mother pay the rent. He had his own newsstand at 13, and later founded what would become a multibillion-dollar insurance empire with $100 of his hard-earned savings. Stone's own rags-to-riches story convinced him that, with a positive mental attitude, anyone could become successful. The formula for achievement that he shared with us that day allowed no room for procrastination, however, "When you wake up in the morning, start with the phrase, 'Do it now, do it now, do it now, do it now,'" he said, adding that we should repeat those three words 50 times in the morning and 50 times before bed.*

The message he wanted to ingrain in our heads was simple: If you want to be successful, don't wait for tomorrow. Just do it now. Stone, who died in 2002 at the age of 100, was a prime example of the power of starting. He didn't let significant obstacles deter him from becoming successful because he understood that the journey of a thousand miles really does begin with one step. And there's no time like the present to take that first step.

I don't know what you need to start. Maybe it's an MBA program. A foreign-language course. A leadership training program. An exercise regimen. A new way of running meetings. A complete overhaul of your hiring process. The search for a new job. It doesn't matter what it is.

Just start now.

If you're still wavering, let me give you three more reasons why you should start now.

1. Start now because today matters.
That phrase—today matters—isn't just the title of my latest book. It represents a deep conviction I have that, to borrow a line from Benjamin Franklin, "One today is worth two tomorrows." Here's what I believe. Most people—including many leaders—over-exaggerate yesterday, over-estimate tomorrow, and under-estimate today. The fact of the matter is that the "good old days" were never as good as we remember them to be, and tomorrow often isn't as productive as we think it will be. Today is the day that matters, the day with the greatest potential for accomplishment.

2. Start now because it removes the greatest barrier to your success.
Do you know what that barrier is? It's what W. Clement Stone warned against: Procrastination. Anyone who brags about what they're going to do tomorrow probably did the same thing yesterday. My friend Dick Biggs made a tremendously insightful comment one day while we were having lunch together. "John," he said, "let me tell you what the greatest gap is. The greatest gap is between knowing and doing." That is so true.

3. Start now because it is the open door for opportunity.
It's the job that never started that takes longest to finish. And let me tell you something—you cannot win if you do not begin. You must go through the door of opportunity when it opens to you, because you never know how long it's going to stay open or if it will ever open again. I love this statement by Karen Lamb: "A year from now you may wish you had started today." Those are strong words of caution, especially for people who are reluctant to start because they're comfortable with the status quo, they're afraid of failure or they don't want to put forth the effort.

This highlights a problem that is all too prevalent in the 21st-century marketplace: We want the rewards of success without paying the price. Unfortunately, as Seth Godin—author of Purple Cow and Permission Marketing —pointed out in the May 2003 issue of "Fast Company," you can't have one without the other.

"You don't win an Olympic gold medal with a few weeks of intensive training," Godin wrote. "There's no such thing as an overnight opera sensation. Great law firms or design companies don't spring up overnight. Every great company, every great brand, every great career has been built in exactly the same way: bit by bit, step by step, little by little."

In other words, there is no magic solution to success. But there is a first step, and that first step is starting. Not tomorrow, but today. Not next week, but now.

Anne Frank said, "How wonderful it is that we need not wait a single minute before starting to improve ourselves and our world."

Start improving yourself today, and the rest will be history. [for further motivation, imagine 5, 10, 20 years from now the regret you would feel if you didn't start/do what you had dreamed of doing so many years ago ... then imagine 5, 10, 20 years from now the exhilaration you would feel having accomplished what you set your mind on so many years before! Whatever you set/focus your mind on becomes a "command" to your powerful subconscious mind and, being the obedient servant it is, it will make it a reality. click here]

* To take it a "step" further, you might repeat to yourself -- "I DID it!" 50 times. Since in visualization we "see" the end result beforehand; likewise, we do the same with affirmations! (i.e. You don't say, "I will be a great violinist." ... you say, "I AM a great violinist." [or whatever it is you desire] ... the mind, being the cybernetic, automatic goal-striving mechanism it is, will bring the closure to it you "dictated," during the course of the day! see imprinting)

(read Ready, Fire, Aim!)

Initiative
by Dr. John C. Maxwell

It's cliche to say that every journey begins with a single step, yet it's true. Leaders don't wait for everything to be perfect before they move forward. They don't wait for all the problems or obstacles to disappear. They don't wait until their fear subsides. Leaders take initiative.

Leaders know the secret of momentum: once you take the first step and start moving forward, everything becomes clearer and easier. If momentum gets strong enough, problems begin to take care of themselves and new opportunities arise. But the benefits of momentum only come into play once a leader takes initiative.

As leaders, why are we sometimes timid or tentative when we should be taking action? In my experience and observation, there are six root causes of our procrastination.

SIX SOURCES OF PROCRASTINATION

1. We hesitate to do chores we don't enjoy.
For me, yard work has always been draining. I don't find pleasure in it, and there's a million other things I'd rather spend my time doing. When I was first married, I would procrastinate mowing the lawn until it grew into a small jungle. I knew mowing would make my home look nice and would please my wife, but I abhorred giving it my time and attention.

2. We hesitate to do activities we aren't good at doing.
I enjoy the arts, and I am fascinated by highly creative persons. However, I'm not particularly gifted in painting, drawing, or designing. That's why I avoid decorating. I enjoy a finely manicured Christmas tree, or an exquisitely decorated room, but I simply have no talent at making things look good. As a consequence, I will put off decorating as long as possible.

3. We hesitate to do what isn't on our agendas.
Human nature tends to be set in its ways. When changing circumstances make our plans obsolete, we resist making adjustments. We stubbornly hold to our old course of action and avoid altering our behavior.

4. We hesitate to solve situations that are likely to be messy
A prime example is confrontation. It's difficult to tell someone what they don't want to hear and probably won't respond well to being told. Dreading the possible outcomes, we dawdle and delay rather than initiating confrontation.

5. We hesitate to tackle a task that is high-energy and low-return.
As leaders, we are hard wired into getting the most bang for our buck. The same holds true with our time. We want to invest it profitably. As such, I have always been hesitant to put energy into relationships with high-maintenance donors or investors who aren't substantial contributors to the organization.

6. We hesitate to step into things we don't understand.
Hence the saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." My generation has had to come to grips with fast-moving technologies, and it hasn't been easy. I don't understand many features of GPS systems, iPods, or PDA's, and, as a result, I procrastinate adopting them into my life - even though I know they could be helpful to me.

VISION AND VALUES - THE ANTIDOTES TO PROCRASTINATION

Author John Kotter, says, "Most people don't lead their lives, they accept their lives. Leaders are the exception. In their mind's eye, they have a vision of exactly where they want to go. By keeping that vision in the forefront of their minds, leaders develop priorities, maintain focus, and, acquire a sense of urgency. The vision becomes the driving force behind everything a leader does.

Leaders with a vision are active rather than passive. Whereas most people follow the path of least resistance, visionary leaders refuse to settle for what's comfortable or easy. They shape their world rather than fitting into its mold.

In addition to following a vision, leaders relentlessly schedule their lives around their core values. Leaders are attuned to what they feel is important in life, and they align their activities to reflect those beliefs. Values dictate what they will do, what they will avoid, and where they will invest their most precious commodity - time.

THE POWER TO QUIT

You may have heard the saying, "Quitters never win, and winners never quit." Nothing could be further from the truth! Leaders are strategic quitters. They ruthlessly avoid activities that don't align with their vision or values. They know the power of "NO" when faced with opportunities that threaten to drift them away from their purpose.

I've quit a lot of things during my leadership journey: counseling, administrating, controlling, people-pleasing, and more. Quitting has been healthy for me because I've always quit for the right reasons.

VALID REASONS TO QUIT

• You quit something you don't do well to start something you do well.
• You quit something you're not passionate about to do something that fills you with passion.
• You quit something that's doesn't make a difference to do something that does.

SUMMARY

To acquire more influence, taking initiative is a prerequisite. Leaders step forward when they clarify their vision and values. Knowing their purpose gives them a starting point, and a reason to act. By clearing out the clutter in their agendas, leaders recognize the power of quitting. Free from the handcuffs of over-commitment, leaders are able to choose the dreams they chase rather then drifting down the current of life's circumstances.

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