In determining what it is that defines success and failure in a person, many often wonder: Is it a gene? The lifestyle we grew up with? Was there a pivotal point in our childhood, or for that matter, our adulthood? Were the planets lined up at the certain time of our birth? For many, it is seemingly impossible to say. But for me, I have come to understand an unfailing formula.
My experience has shown that all kinds of people, from all different cultures, lifestyles and ages have become exceptionally successful. We are in a league of men and women who caught the dream and will never let go, or perhaps can’t let go. We all persevere to reach our goal no matter what and confidently succeed. On this journey, and from my 50+ years experience as an entrepreneur, it is an honor to share with each of you my own interpretation of the ‘formula’ for exceptional success and great leadership.
There are many important elements I could elaborate on. Elements such as: passion, commitment, discipline, vision, clarity and drive. Each of these qualities is worthy and necessary. However, as we are referring to complete success as a leader, here I will share with you the qualities that I believe one must first embody. The first is integrity, and in my opinion no others truly count.
According to Webster’s Dictionary definition, Integrity is: an undivided or unbroken completeness. Integrity is the basing of one’s actions on an internally consistent framework of principles. Relevant views of wholeness may also emphasize commitment and authenticity. Integrity can be seen as a virtue in that accountability and moral responsibility are often indicated as necessary tools for maintaining consistency between one’s
actions and one’s principles, methods and measures.
From my experience, I have come to understand that integrity is the true foundational quality that leadership is built upon – a common ingredient for most success formulas. The greatest qualities in a leader are strengthened and supported by integrity. Successful people, whether they are Millionaires or even Billionaires, are not extraordinary people; they are simply people who accomplish extraordinary tasks. Tasks which require an extraordinary amount of teamwork and passion, which must be tied together with unfaltering integrity, otherwise your team or project will not have the determination and persistence to survive.
In hindsight, I sometimes wonder where my own principles of success stem from. I was a street person at the age of 15, always looked at and considered as a pathetic loser. My clothes were from the Salvation Army and I was 100 pounds of skin and bones. Parents would not allow their children to associate with me; saying that poverty might be contagious and that I would ultimately end up in prison. My Grandfather, who raised me, said the only reason they make desks so small in grade 4 is so that you won’t fit into them when you’re 25. Thus, the only thing that kept me from going to a University was High School.
I gathered that my lack of education provided me with the vehicle that allowed me to not know enough to let the continual put-downs and criticisms get to me, but rather use them as a source of motivation, proving to everyone they were wrong about me. With very little education, I chose to get my degree from the school of life. I established my own Board of Directors: Henry Ford, Charles M. Schwab, John F. Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill and many, many others. Although they did not know they were on my board, their influence in my businesses and personal life was profound.
I read hundreds of books and listened to thousands of hours of audios on successful people, realizing the only reason they write books on these types of people is because they don’t have a “loser” section in the library. I found the common denominator of all successful people and great leaders is a willingness to do things that failures won’t do. As well as this, I found a profound sense of integrity permeated throughout all of their successes.
Integrity is a core value in the leaders who are revered throughout time. It was inspiration and having identified these traits from my board of directors and more, that allowed me to ultimately go on to become a millionaire by the age of 27. And yes, I do have some eerie sense of satisfaction knowing that I proved everyone wrong, because I simply can’t imagine where I’d be had I listened to them.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I began a life-long decision to be exceptionally successful. However, in order to be a winner or to be successful, you have to surround yourself with positive ideas and thoughts. Thoughts can rule your life – negative or positive. You are what you watch, read, and allow into your life, thusly becoming a product of your environment. Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.
As I have told all of my associates, integrity builds credibility. It only takes one lie to taint your entire credibility and from there it’s all down hill. We move in and out of a fast pace life with thousands of options and you really only have one chance to win someone over. Whether it is a client, a business associate, a friend or family member, what you do and say in any situation will reflect on your integrity’s scorecard. This means that you can’t justify an action in one situation while hypocritically doing the opposite in another. It just doesn’t work in the long term.
Speaking of long term, it took me twenty years to become an overnight success. I have found that another by-product of this fast pace world is that many will do and say anything to “make the deal”. This just doesn’t work! Oh sure, you’ll make a quick buck, but you sacrificed your integrity for the long term to do it. That’s where the beginning of the end starts, because eventually it will catch up to you and your name, business and personal life will suffer the decay.
You will have your integrity attacked on many occasions. Why? Generally because the weak minded have no where else to go. It seems when things are running fine and all is going good, someone’s jealousy will zero in on you and say “You don’t deserve this and I will do my best to make sure you don’t get it”. They will poke and prod at your business ethics and then your life, looking for a weakness. Many times they don’t find anything and that’s when they go for the jugular. They attack your personal values and beliefs.
In times like this, I say never fear the criticism, people are going to criticize you no matter what, live with it. Don’t fall into their trap, because criticism is a disease of the weak minded. You see this most commonly with sports figures and celebrities, constantly being bombarded by those who are jealous of their success and feel the need to attack it on some level, just to insert some kind of value into their own empty lives.
If these people could simply remove jealousy from their lives, they would find an incredible world out there waiting for them, yourself as well. If you are doing the right things and moving forward in the right direction, there is no need to be jealous of anyone. Instead, use the envy you’re feeling as a motivator to move yourself in the direction you are attracted towards. Otherwise, the jealousy will destroy your dreams from the inside out.
I remember when an associate asked me my opinion on whether or not he should tell a lie to another associate, as a means to protect a project. I told him he had two choices; the first, was to go through with the lie and know that he has jeopardized his personal and professional integrity. The second, was to tell the truth and know that he did the right thing, even though there may have been a short term consequence. He chose the later.
To summarize; never leave your mind open to the negative influence of others. You have 100% control of only one thing; your thoughts. Remember, success and great leadership is no more than a state of mind.
Here’s a simple test; if you had a best friend, would you want it to be you? If the answer is no, you have a lot of work to do. If you do not love, respect or trust yourself, no one else will. If you’re not happy inside, you will not be happy outside and people will see you as you see yourself. You are the only person that can make a difference in your life. When you make decisions in your life based on integrity, you will make a great difference in the lives of others.
"Do not walk in front of me; I may not follow. Do not walk behind me; I may not lead. But walk beside me, and be my friend." Follow your heart wherever it takes you and be happy, for life is brief and very fragile, only loaned to us for a little while.
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