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Elevate Your Success with Five Simple Steps

People often convince themselves that highly successful individuals who possess a special gift set themselves apart from everyone else. However, the reality is that your ability to have success, however you define it, can be accomplished with a few simple steps.

Personal responsibility for our actions is seldom championed in society these days, and like it or not, we all live with the consequences of the lifestyle choices that we make every day. We can sit in an office staring at a spreadsheet waiting for our situation to improve or make a few changes that will put us on a path to shaping a better future for ourselves and others. The following are five simple steps you can take to elevate your level of success.

1. Challenge Your Habits and Change Your Routine

It is incredibly easy to fall into the comforts offered by habits and routines, those that make our lives feel like a scene from Groundhog Day, in which the alarm wakes us at the same time every day as we hit the snooze button at least once before jumping into the shower. The familiarity of the daily grind, in which grabbing a coffee as you head into the office before performing the same tasks, can be comforting, yet we often wonder why nothing ever changes.

Our education system tends to encourage everyone to learn one correct answer and basically think in the same way. And when it comes to creativity, only a small number of people might be thought of as “creatives,” but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Technology is increasingly replacing laborious and repetitive tasks with automation. Creativity and critical thinking have become essential skills in the 21st century and possess the power to make you stand out from the crowd.

There are countless self-help books that advise you how to create new patterns and habits to help you achieve your goals. However, simply getting off the hamster wheel of life and allowing yourself to mix things up by both thinking and doing things differently is a great place to start, and it will stimulate creative thought.

2. Surround Yourself with People Who Lift You Up

They say that we become like the five people we spend the most time with, and ultimately they have the power to either inspire or drain us, so maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the amount of time that you spend with toxic individuals who only bring you down.

Surround yourself with like-minded souls on a similar journey or, better yet, those who can see the big picture better than you can. They will help you see failure as an opportunity and will certainly increase your odds of achieving your dreams.

Business is 80% people and 20% everything else, and this illustrates the importance of investing your time in getting to know open-minded individuals who enjoy helping turn others’ dreams into reality. What if you surrounded yourself with inspiration?

3. Fuel Your Creativity

If you begin your day reading the news that reminds you of all the negative aspects of our world, followed by looking at social media sites that show snapshots of lives that are edited to look much better than your own, you will never increase your productivity or creativity. I like to start each day thinking of all the things I’m grateful for. It’s hard to have a bad day when you start your day like this. Try it!

Whether they are stuck in a traffic jam or are on a delayed train or airplane, or even doing household chores, highly successful people unleash the power of refueling their creativity during these moments of “dead time” by reading books or listening to podcasts.

Books and podcasts on subjects that stretch your thinking are a fantastic way to stay inspired and learn new tools you can use to resolve problems that are stopping you from reaching your goals. Try having fewer calls with people who pull you down and don’t help you move forward, and instead call people who lift you up, or watch a good TED Talk or listen to podcasts or audiobooks that offer advice and insights from others.

Removing yourself from a routine or familiar surroundings and going for a walk in a direction where you haven’t gone before instead of staring at a screen will help a lot. Highly successful individuals often find that their brains will naturally join the dots when they expose themselves to new ideas, surroundings and experiences.

4. Bring Focus and Clarity to Your Dreams

Bringing focus and clarity to your dreams while working alone in front of a computer in a dimly lit room is good, but is not enough on its own. Do not underestimate the importance of sharing and communicating your vision with others. It will attract the right people to you who will begin to see where you are going and offer ideas to help you get there.

By sharing your passion for a future vision and communicating the message with transparency on how it will be achieved, you will find people who can help you to create a solid path to achieve your goals.

5. Embrace Marginal Gains

When Dave Brailsford became the manager of Great Britain’s professional cycling team, no British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France. However, he had a simple concept known as “aggregation of marginal gains” that would revolutionize the sport and lead to his team members becoming tournament champions and Olympic gold medal winners.

The philosophy involved improving tiny areas that were traditionally overlooked by 99 percent in the belief that a long list of 1% improvements would be the difference between being champions or losers.

Researching for a pillow that offered the best sleep for cyclists to take to hotels, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection, were just a few of a long list of improvements that, although they looked tiny, ended up making a massive difference.

Whether you want to lose weight, build a business or achieve any other goal in life, it’s clear that heading straight for the moon with only one step will almost certainly result in failure or demotivation.

Small changes to your daily routine, such as creating a new email signature or changing those boring, stuffy group meetings by asking better questions, could boost your momentum and enthusiasm. All these changes not only deliver long-term improvements but also improve the overall quality of your life.

Will what got you to where you are be enough to take you to the next level? There are entire chapters on how to act in the future in my latest book The Anticipatory Organization. I’ll buy the book, you pay the shipping cost. Click here to order your copy.
Growth Management Personal Development

Leadership, Creativity…and Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds and Ariel Winter in
Burt Reynolds and Ariel Winter in “The Last Movie Star”. Source: IMDB

As an independent film maker, Adam Rifkin is in the dream-making business. Come to think of it, if you’re a C-Suite leader, maybe you are too.

Leadership is about bringing your dreams to life – not only for yourself, but for your team… and your customers.

Here’s how a seven-year search for financing – and the patience of Burt Reynolds – brought Adam’s boyhood dream to the big screen. An excerpt from “Leadership Language” by Chris Westfall

As a kid, growing up in the Chicago suburbs, Rifkin was practicing for his career in Hollywood by making movies with his junior high pals.

Back in those days, if you could ride your bike to Adam’s house you could be in a movie.

Rifkin commandeered his father’s video camera and began producing middle-school masterpieces like MURDER CAN KILL YOU, PAPERBOY CRIMES and THE BURGLAR FROM OUT OF THE DISHWASHER.

Adam Rifkin
Director Adam Rifkin

Adam explained, “I didn’t realize it at the time, but out of necessity I was actually teaching myself the basic principles of leadership.” Even at an early age, he had a knack for getting his fellow middle schoolers excited about the next opus.

“My enthusiasm must’ve been infectious because each project began the same way: I’d tell my core company that I had a cool idea for a new movie. This was inevitably met with a chorus of ‘no thanks’, ‘not this time’ and ‘I’ve got soccer practice’.  Yet somehow, after a few more minutes of colorful discussion, where I’d wax poetic about the glories of the new idea and the fun that was going to be had bringing it to life, everyone signed on yet again.”

The Secret to ‘YES’

“Here’s what I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt: if it were to cease to be fun, my team would disperse. As a leader, even when I didn’t really know what that word meant, I had to develop a unique set of skills that enabled me to be able to speak to each cast and crew member individually. I had to get the most out of them creatively, also keep them engaged.” And that conversation is where leadership and creativity came together.

From backyard movies to the backlot in Hollywood: cut to Rifkin’s latest project, The Last Movie Star, featuring his childhood idol, Burt Reynolds.

More Burtastic than Ever

“Burt Reynolds was my hero. Not only was he the biggest movie star in the world when I was a kid, he was funny and self-deprecating and approachable. He made being famous seem fun, and I dreamt that someday we’d not only be friends, but that we would work together,” Adam shared. A film buff from a very young age, Smokey and the Bandit made a lasting impression on Adam.

“I wanted to create a role that would remind movie fans just how great of an actor Burt Reynolds is. Selfishly, I also wanted to make good on my secret dream of getting to work with The Bandit.  I didn’t know Burt but I felt it was worth rolling the dice. So after writing the script I submitted it to his manager.  I shared my passion for all things Burt and asked him to please send Burt the script. I also told him to let Burt know that if he wasn’t interested in playing the role I wasn’t going to make the film. I wrote it solely for Burt. My impassioned pitch was apparently enough for Burt’s manager to agree to send over the screenplay that day.

Smokey and the Bandit and Leadership
Do you remember The Bandit?

“Much to my shock and delight, the next afternoon I got a call from none other than Burt Reynolds. Suddenly I was transported to that fateful day in 1977 when I was watching SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT for the first time, and dreaming of Burt and I becoming pals. And now, here I was, talking to the man himself.

“Little did I know in that instant, things were about to get a whole lot more Burtastic.

“Burt accepted the role and attached himself to play Vic Edwards.

“Now, the only thing left to do was everything.”

An initial success created a new vision: namely, how to get this project funded.

The Search

“When I approached Burt I didn’t have any of the money secured to make the film. I naively believed that with Burt attached to this particular script, in this particular role, finding the cash would be easy. I was wrong. It ultimately took more than seven years to finally find the money,” Adam explained.

A creative journey, indeed. How can you maintain your vision, even when it seems like you’re not getting closer to your goal?

“It had almost gotten green lit multiple times along the way, but each incarnation fell through. Every time the financing dropped out I had to call Burt and give him the bad news. I always expected him to use each disappointment as his opportunity to graciously bow out, but instead, each time the financing disappeared, Burt seemed more determined than ever to stick with the project and see it through to fruition. His enthusiasm inspired me just as I believe my enthusiasm inspired him.”


“Each cast and crew member is required to focus on a particular task that services the whole. As the director, it’s my job to not only keep a focus on the individual components needed, but more importantly, keep an eye on the macro task of how all these countless pieces will fit together. From carpenters to fine artists to performers to financiers, a movie brings together a very disparate group of individuals who might otherwise never have a reason to interact. The director needs to not only understand how to best communicate with each as an individual, but also inspire this eclectic team to work well together to essentially create this temporary movie making bio-machine.”

Can you relate?

From childhood dream to reality: a lifetime of leadership lessons on contagious enthusiasm, and a seven-year journey to bring this project to the screen. From a place of understanding, Rifkin made it all fit together.

“Leading by example, and being passionate and enthusiastic about a project is fundamental to getting the very best out of your crew,” according to Adam.

Fun is what makes it functional, when it comes to making movies. What about in your industry? Rifkin points to loving his work, time and time again. From that place he found new results for himself, his crew and his actors. “The director needs to be well versed in how to talk to all manner of cast and crew member to get the very best out of him or her.”

Do you see the creative spirit inside of yourself? Whether you are making movies, or making gadgets, your creativity is what makes a difference.

In fact, that creative spirit is the foundation of leadership.


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