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From the Horse’s Mouth

The other night I was watching the movie Hidalgo. Yes, the movie produced by Disney that is now being claimed as an “untrue” story. However, I don’t watch it because I am writing a book report for history class, I watch it for the story itself. Having said that, if you have never seen it I highly recommend you rent it, down load it, or Netflix it because the story is one worth remembering. It’s a story about dedication, perseverance, courage and an amazing partnership.  The story is about a horse, Hidalgo and his rider Frank Hopkins who decide to cross the Ocean of Fire, an endurance horse race that crosses thousands of miles across the Arabian Desert. As with all action movies, the story is about overcoming seemingly insurmountable and in some cases unbelievable obstacles testing fate to achieve the unachievable… success.

However what the story of Hidalgo is really trying to tell its audience is that having certain advantages (training, background, strong teams) does not necessarily make you a winner.  True success comes from hard work, making difficult decisions, overcoming obstacles and in some cases sacrifice. Even those with an Ivy League education, or having a family lineage rooted in success, or just good breeding does not guarantee a winning outcome. Basically, there is no easy or guaranteed path to being successful. However what Hidalgo teaches us is that there are certain things we can do to help facilitate success.  I call them success factors. I have outlined a few here for reference:

Dedication: Anything worth achieving takes dedication, no ifs, ands or buts about it. Unfortunately many of us throw around the word “dedication” as if it is a personal descriptor of who we are and what we are about. In reality dedication is generally a life-long approach to anything we do if we are going to do it right. For example, marriage, being a parent, being a role model, being a friend, these are all things that are not ad hoc focuses in our lives. They require continuous dedication in order to do well. The same goes for doing anything we haven’t done before but want to be successful at it. Only through dedication are we able to have the right focus and attention in order to pave the road to success.

Perseverance: Perseverance is a trait that is often confused with dedication.  However perseverance is the act of undertaking any task DESPITE counterinfluences, opposition or discouragement. Different then dedication, which as noted is generally a life-long approach to anything, perseverance is typically something we engage in when the moment calls for it. Moments that are a single act of accomplishment demand the need for perseverance. As an example training for a marathon takes dedication. Perseverance is what we tap into to actually do and complete the race.  In the movie version of Hidalgo, there was a moment when Frank was about to give up and shoot Hidalgo assuming the horse was dying. However just at the crucial moment Hidalgo stands up and nudges Frank to let him know there was still a race to be won. A pure act of perseverance! The road to success generally requires both dedication AND perseverance. Dedication allows us to keep our eyes on what we want to accomplish in the end while perseverance helps us find the energy to get through the obstacles along the way.

Courage: Out of all the possible success factors, courage is my favorite. It’s my favorite because it’s where the energy of perseverance comes from. It’s mustering the mental and moral strength to venture and withstand danger, fear or difficulty in order to achieve something. Essentially it’s the nuclei of perseverance. Once we decide we are going to do something that may be difficult with both our heart and our head, then what follows is usually perseverance. If the task is something that requires learning something new, then it will also require dedication. Essentially nothing daunting can begin without courage. It’s the impetus of all things outside our comfort zone. From courage come all things amazing. With courage comes glory.

Partnership: Unfortunately partnership is severely overlooked as a way to achieve success. For some, partnership implies “sharing the success or failure”. This mentally does not feed the ego and therefore is dismissed as an option. However a partnership can greatly increase the odds for success. This is something the movie version of Frank Hopkins embraced. He knew that a large part of his power came from his partner, Hidalgo. Basically without Hidalgo there would be no race. And what you find is that the two help each other through obstacles, danger and even during times of weakness to accomplish their dream. Glorified success. Never overlook the value of a partnership because as humans we are not all encompassing to accomplish all things. Engaging in a partnership provides depth in not only what we need but ensures a better chance at achieving success.

In the end, success factors can only get us so far in achieving our ultimate goal. To be successful we must be willing to have dedication, act with perseverance, engage with courage, and be open to valuable partnerships. While these factors are what pave the road to success, our willingness to draw upon them is what outlines the road to be paved.

In the movie, the unthinkable happens. A cowboy from another country and his painted pony win the race much to the awe and dismay of many. Through dedication, perseverance, courage and the heroism of an amazing partnership history was made. Ok well maybe not factual history but still a story that movies are made of…

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Running: A Success Story

For those of you who have known me awhile, you know that I enjoy running. Its something I have always done even as a child. Unfortunately, it’s not something that I have ever been spectacular at, as in setting or breaking records, but it is something I do well and continue to enjoy.

Today as I was rounding the corner of mile five of the eight I decided to run, I suddenly realized that running has provided me with knowledge and tools that can lead to personal success. I smiled to myself wondering how I could have been running most of my life and not recognized this important information before. Getting in the groove I began to think through the tactics I have used to help me build endurance, speed, and efficiency as a runner and how those same tactics can apply to build success.

Tip One: Having the proper tools is important so just plan to pay for them. Anyone who has ran in cheap running shoes knows the aches and pains of getting what you paid for. The same goes for personal success. Today’s job market is filled with talented people but today’s business leaders are looking for more then just talent. They want proven performers. In some cases, depending on the job, this may mean having a great education. In other cases this may mean gaining work experience outside what you already know which may include taking a more challenging position. On the other hand, it could mean just having a killer resume that truly helps you stand out of the crowd. No matter what the tool is, in most cases there is a cost associated with having that tool in order to achieve success. The bottom line is you must know the tool your missing and never skimp on acquiring it. Otherwise plan on always carrying band-aides because skimping on what you need to be successful is like running in cheap tennis shoes.

Tip Two: No true success is ever gained without the right training.
Even the natural born athlete, think Lance Armstrong, knows that in order to have continued success they must focus on continued training. Each race is different and has different challenges. Sometimes it’s a difference of terrain. Sometimes the difference is altitude. In other cases its competition. Despite the challenges, the only true way to overcome it is through training. Facing the challenges of success are the same. Training provides knowledge and understanding that comes from going through a particular process be it educational or experiential. When a business leader faces a new challenge, they may draw on old experiences to determine a best course of action. However in the end when they come across an obstacle not faced before most will rely on training to get them through. It’s a proven practice so expect for much of life to always be in training. Remember, even Lance Armstrong trains every day and he IS a proven performer.

Tip Three: Know the rules of engagement and follow them.
Many runners at some point in time have come across a road hog. Other people who feel they are entitled to more of the road then you thereby taking it over forcing you to move out of their way.  These people not only do not follow the rules of engagement but also don’t care about them either. They are going to do what they want to do despite whom it impacts along the way. This way of thinking not only ticks people off but in some cases facilitates a similar reaction. Not a good way to achieve success long term. I understand that sometimes you have to break the rules to be successful, however when part of your success is dependent on interacting with other people, following rules of engagement is not only necessary, it’s imperative. Most leaders understand that they are not successful without the hard work and effort of their staff and give credit accordingly. This is a good practice to follow because it builds relationships, which is the key to everyone’s success.  The important thing to remember is NO ONE likes a road hog and eventually someone else bigger and faster will come along and knock a road hog out of the way.

Tip Four: Understand your limits and plan accordingly.
When I was younger I use to run under any circumstances. It could be raining, no socks, shoelaces torn and not able to tie, no sunscreen and definitely never ran with a heart rate monitor. Today I not only check the weather conditions before I run, but I spend about fifteen to twenty minutes before each run to go through my gear and ensure I not only have everything I need but am fully prepared. And I go through this process for every run whether it’s a three-mile run or a thirteen-mile run. Over the years I have become acutely aware of my limits when it comes to running. One misstep in the process and the perceived success of my run will be greatly compromised. It’s the same with personal success. There is only so much we can do before we become acutely aware of our limitations. Knowing what we are good at is part of our success but so is knowing what we are not so good at and planning for those limitations. Whenever I run five miles or less, I can do so with minimal gear. However once I decide to run over five miles, my gear increases exponentially. I need a strap to keep my knees from aching; I need electrolytes to keep my energy; I need sun block that has a longer wear time; I need to wear a heart rate monitor to track my beats. Without these things, not only would it be difficult for me to run longer distances, I would likely over time incur some physical damage. Truly successful people never assume they can do all things. They know their limitations and they find the right “gear” to help them through the long haul.  The reality is that success is never something gained individually. There is always assistance along the way. Learn to embrace your limitations and plan accordingly.

As I sprint toward the finish of an eight mile run, I am suddenly grateful that my accomplishment today was in part due to the fact that I had the right tools, I have properly trained, I followed the rules of engagement and my knee strap addressed my limitation of distance. Essentially, I had a successful run. And as I let out a long wind of air and a smile I am reminded that the rush that comes from doing something well vaguely feels a little like success.

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