There are few musical greats that demonstrate more genius than Stevie Wonder. One of his projects I really love is the soundtrack to the movie Jungle Fever. Not just because I liked the movie. But because a blind musician scored a movie he never saw. That's got to impress you.
On that soundtrack is a song “These Three Words” which is all about the words “I love you.” Those are powerful words. Today I want to share with you the secret of my success. Equally powerful, but four words instead of three.
The Reason Most People Fail
Before sharing with you this special secret – one I've never shared before – I thought I'd share with you a tiny bit about why I think most people fail. And let's be clear, this is just one man's opinion.
When you think about how people react when you start something (project, company, diet), it's all very positive. People cheer you on. They celebrate. They're encouraging.
Now think about how people react when you reach your goal (revenue, staffing, product launch, losing weight). It's all very positive. People cheer. They hold you in high esteem.
And guess what happens in the middle, in between these two points. Nothing. No cheering. No celebrations. Nothing but the grind.
Most people fail because they don't get comfortable living in the grind.
To get anything done – anything seriously awesome – will mean real work. Work that will take more than just a start and a finish. It will take the grind in the middle.
The grind is where it's easy to get distracted with another new project.
The grind is where it's easy to put something on hold when you can't figure it out.
The grind is when you realize that the only way forward is to develop the discipline to ignore the deep desire you have to do something else.
Most people just start the next thing and get accolades again.
Until enough people figure out that they're always starting and never finishing.
Success is about finishing things, not starting. And that means you have to embrace the grind. The late night or the early morning where you work without a cheering section.
How do you get thru the Grind?
So if success is all about getting thru the grind, if it's all about working with discipline to push past the frustrations and boredom of not jumping to the next shiny project, how does one do it.
That's what brings me to these four words.
“I'm proud of you.”
I was lucky enough to have a mom who said it often. If I wrote a story for school, I heard it. If I entered a math contest and won, I heard it.
My dad didn't share those words often. It took big deals – after all, Lemas don't celebrate “graduating from 6th grade.” So I heard it less, but I remember hearing it when I got into Berkeley. I think he was more surprised than I was.
I had mentors in my college and early work years that said it. And each time I heard those four words, it was like I was handed a fuel pack to go the next stretch. No crowds, no cheering. Just four words.
It's not just the words
Over time I've learned that it's not just the words. It's who says them.
Last night we celebrated WordPress's 10th anniversary of being in existence. Yes, that's strange, I know. I didn't realize it was strange until my wife pointed it out. She highlighted that we don't celebrate GMail's anniversary, or our television's – and yet here we were, going to a party for WordPress. A party for software.
But she went with me, because I asked. I invited her to meet the many people I spend afternoon and evening hours tweeting, skyping, emailing and writing for. She came because I asked.
But it's more than that. She's been on the journey with me as I decided to blog more regularly, present more often, and bring my speaking and business experiences into the community. And all along the way, she's said the words that fueled another ebook, another post, another talk. So she wanted to see what had become of it all.
The night ended with the right words, from the right person:
I'm proud of you.
There's Power in Words
These days I really spend most of my time doing just two things: I manage people and I speak to people. In both cases, I use words. And I'm constantly aware of how my words can help or harm.
The right words can equip someone to work all day and all night simply because I believe they can do what they don't think they can do.
The wrong words can deflate someone and cause them to question themselves – which is a horrible thing.
So today, rather than writing about business, WordPress, presentations or new product development, I'm writing you about words.
The words you use. The words you say. The words you write.
I hope you use them to empower others and be the secret of their success.