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 Helping Managers and Salespeople Thrive in Turbulent Times Vol. 1, #6, June 2003 
in this issue
  • You'll Never Get to Heaven
  • About Jim Schaffer & Associates


  • Greetings!

    This month we talk about what success really is and explore how we might get there.

    Just click "reply" to send along your comments at any time.

    Best regards,

    Jim Schaffer
    President, Jim Schaffer & Associates


    You'll Never Get to Heaven
















    In my first newsletter of this year I referred to the scene in "Rocky" when the fighter dashes up the steps of the Philly Art Museum and thrusts his hands to the sky in triumph. Success!! (and a heart-racing, jazzy theme song in case we missed the point).


    Most of us in business are striving for our "Rocky moment". Once in awhile, we actually get to experience one in all its glory. The trouble is, it comes and goes faster than you can say "So how's July looking?" In real life, those big moments arrive, we briefly enjoy them, and then the moment passes: in an instant, a day, a week. Maybe you might stretch little bits of it out for a year.

    Even Rocky had to come off of those steps and deal with his relationship, his aches and pains, his bills, and you can bet his trainer was on the phone with him early the next morning exhorting him to get his butt back to the gym to hit the bag for the next one.

    We know this, intuitively, but Hollywood endings are so ingrained in our consciousness we keep looking for the moment when we will have "made it" forever, even though we know the very concept is a myth. Nothing — and we know in our heart of hearts that means NOTHING — is permanent. So how do we achieve success when, ten minutes later, we are asked to achieve more, and then MORE?

    The answer is to get off the treadmill and onto the path of mastery. George Leonard, Aikido instructor and former Esquire writer, offers this definition of mastery in his wise book of the same name:

    "the mysterious process during which what is at first difficult becomes progressively easier and more pleasurable through practice."

    Leonard observed that in martial arts and sports, the people who desperately tried to reach the next level of excellence in a hurry more often than not injured themselves. The key to reaching the next level of mastery, he found, was to embrace the plateau. Show up daily and practice. Slowly and methodically work on your tasks and make sure each of the small pieces that make up the whole is learned. And not just learned, but explored, savored and enjoyed. One day, we find, after working on the plateau for an undetermined length of time, we rise inexplicably to the next level of accomplishment. Seemingly "just like that."

    And then there's another plateau.

    "If there is any sure route to success and fulfillment in life," says Leonard, " it is to be found in the long-term, essentially goalless process of mastery. "

    A career path follows the same laws of nature, only there is a built-in quandary that puts us at cross- purposes with our own efforts. Even if WE want to adopt a posture of mastery, our goals and objectives usually demand that we do more each month, or each quarter. How can we create a solid path of achievement, one that nourishes us and helps us grow, in the face of the "more" mentality of Corporate America?

    The answer lies in walking that line between what is demanded of you and what you know in your heart is the deeper, more lasting approach to success. Here are some tips which can help you on your own path of mastery:


    1. For God's sake, lighten up. We have a moral obligation to do good work and to take care of our responsibilities to family, colleagues, customers. Beyond that, nothing very serious is happening. It's only life.
    2. You've got to start taking your work more seriously. It sounds like I'm contradicting myself, but here's what I mean: It is important to pay attention, to be really "present" for the other human beings with whom we interact, to do high quality work. As we get older, especially in the face of adverse conditions, we are tempted to go on autopilot. The slide from sloppiness to cynicism is precipitous.
    3. Learn to love the plateau. Try to enjoy the dailyness, the richness even mundane tasks can give when we focus our full attention on them. Be more curious about why small things work and others equally small may not. Enjoy the rituals, whatever they may be, that surround and infuse your work day.

    4. Hold your goals lightly. Yes, we are accountable for them on a monthly or quarterly basis, but they are usually someone else's fantasy of what achievement should look like. You will hit them just as often and take better care of yourself in the process if you don't grip them so tightly on a day- to-day basis.

    Rocky's peak moment of triumph was just that, a moment. Far more significant was his time on the path: showing up, practicing, training. For most of us, this will be true as well. We may experience a half-dozen or so "Rocky" moments in the course of a career, but most of our time will be spent on the plateau, coming to work on many days when nothing astounding happens, honing our craft, cranking it out.

    In real life, true achievement and fulfillment rarely hit you smack in the face. Rather, they kind of sneak up on you, a notion beautifully phrased by those Boddhisatvas of Broadway, John Kander & Fred Ebb, in their song "A Quiet Thing:"

    "But I don't hear the drums
    And I don't hear the band
    The sounds I'm told such moments bring

    Happiness comes in on tiptoe
    Well, what do you know?
    It's a quiet thing
    A very, quiet thing."


    See you on the path!

    To hear a clip from Morgana King's haunting version of A Quiet Thing, click here

    About Jim Schaffer & Associates

    Jim Schaffer & Associates helps management teams & salespeople stay focused, get results and keep high morale — regardless of what may be going on around them.




    Copyright 2003 by Jim Schaffer & Associates.

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  •      email: jim@jimschaffer.com
         voice: 617-332-9105
         web: http://www.jimschaffer.com
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