What Really Matters In Success

Nearly a half-century ago, I was told, "It's what you know that matters, so learn all you can." And I did (well, at least until I was in high school).

When I started my career in sales, I was told, "It's who you know that matters, so meet as many people as you can." And I did (although I didn't' really care much about who I met).

Sometime in my thirties, I was told, "No, It's not who you know, but more importantly, who the people you know happen to know. Get to the second level of the relationship." So I did, I met people who knew people I knew. This was my first clue.

Then, later in life, I was told, "Look, it doesn't matter who you know, what really matters is who knows you. You've got to get people to know you." So I did. I self-promoted and got people to know me. This was my second clue.

But then I was told, "Look, it's really not about any one thing. It's about everything. It's about what you know, who you know, who the people you know happen to know, and who knows you. That's the secret to success." So I put it all together. I focused on all of it.

And I came to realize, what really matters is what you do with what you know, who you know, who the people you know happen to know, and who knows you.

It's all about action. It's all about execution. The clues were, "take some action".

It really doesn't matter if you're the smartest, best connected, best connector, and the best known. If you do nothing, you'll get nothing.

And those who know little, know only a few, and have only a few know them but take action will lap you over and over.

You've got to take action with and on the assets you have.

That's what really matters in success.


You're Getting To That Age

Over the past few weeks, I've noticed a lot of my contemporaries are experiencing illnesses and death in their families. Sadly, we've all lost loved ones but recently it just seems more prevalent. Last Sunday I got an early morning text and had a phone call with a dear friend whose wife was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. It all seems to be happening so fast. While I'm no poet, after that call I wrote these words. I've hesitated to post it but, well, I'm getting to that age.


You’re getting to that age
I can look and see
That for the very first time
You see the look from me

You’re getting to that age
When everything is new
And everything is interesting
There’s just so much to do

You’re getting to that age
When you’ll try anything
They tell you that you’re tone deaf
So what? You want to sing

You’re getting to that age
Where right and wrong will matter
But oftentimes you see the signs
And it’s just a lot of chatter

You’re getting to that age
The hard things now seem easy
You can’t understand
When others don’t find life breezy

You’re getting to that age
You’ve worked your way on up
You’ve learned to scrape, to love the grind
They say you have good luck

You’re getting to that age
When a surprise isn’t always good
You lose a job, you lose a friend
You don’t do what you should

You’re getting to that age
When time just flies on by
It seems like only yesterday
It goes by in a blink of an eye

You’re getting to that age
Where friends of friends are sick
Focus on your health
That should do the trick

You’re getting to that age
Your contemporaries are dying
There’s still time to do what you want to
It’s the lie you keep on lying

You’re getting to that age
Now, it is your time too
Your friends and family gather round
But really there’s only you

Before for you find yourself at that age
Stop a moment and think
Is this really what I wanted to do
Before my body sinks

Before for you find yourself at that age
Give it one more go
Do that which you wanted to
Stop telling yourself no

You’ve gotten to that age
A decision must be made
Will you break away from the crowd
Or drink someone else’s kool-aid?

Cause life can really beat you up
It can really suck
Or it can be your greatest dream
I wish for you good luck



The Finish Line

Being tired at any task can often be traced back to a lack of meaning in the task. Whether you're tired at work or after a workout, new found energy can be found near the finish line, so long as you know where it is and why it is important.


New Year's Day - It's Not Just For January Anymore

Today is June 1, but it could just as well be any other day. A day of resolution. You don't really need New Year's Day to resolve to do or not do something, but seems like people like starting at the beginning.

I like the first of most anything and perhaps that's my problem.

I'm great at starting over. I've had to do it so many times now it seems like I'm always doing it. And not only have I had to start over countless times, I've chosen to just as many times as I've been forced to.

When we were kids living in Brookview Gardens Apartments on South Cobb Drive in Smyrna, GA, we used to play all sorts of sports on a small patch of open grass right next to the main road. We had a perfectly good baseball field which was much bigger, but it just seemed that when we'd play football, it was on that small patch.

Maybe it was because it had the telephone line that crossed it near the end, suspended by two poles. We'd use it to kick field goals. Problem was, every once in a while a play would be interrupted by that telephone line.  Someone would throw a pass that would hit the line. Whenever this would happen we'd all yell in unison, "Do-over!"

Seems like my life is one big "Do-over".  Always deciding, "This is the time, this is the year, this is it." And yet, no more than a few weeks later I'm yelling "Do-over!" again.

And maybe it is as it should be. Because here's the thing about "Do-overs". Whenever we had a "Do-over" on that field, we never had back to back "Do-overs". That's because we almost never ran exactly the same play, and if we did, we had the knowledge that we had gained the first time around.

So, yes, it's time for another "Do over" and I'm excited about it. Because I now possess all the knowledge I've gained through the previous plays I've run, tries I've had, and successes and failures I've experienced. With all the knowledge I've gained, certainly, this will be the time I'll not have to "Do over" again.

Until the next "Do over" that is.

How To Say "Thanks" This Memorial Day

2008 Memorial Day Poster #1. Created by Virginia Reyes of the Air Force News Agency. US Air Force Photo by Vance Janes. Air Force Link does not provide printed posters but a PDF file of this poster is available for local printing. Requests can be made to art@afnews.af.mil. Please specify the title and number

I sat at my desk dumbfounded. Mr. Coker, my math teacher admonished me again. “Think, Mr. Gould. Think.” Problem was, no one had ever taught me how to think and I had never sought to learn.

That moment of embarrassment would prove invaluable for it set me on a course to learn how to think. Perhaps not like Edison or Einstein or Hawking, but as myself and the experiences I would have would instruct me.

During my time of exploration of thought (which has never ended), I found I knew little about freedom as well. Here’s what I’ve learned about freedom.

Most people in a free country think very little about freedom. They focus on that which they believe or allow to rob them of freedom, never realizing they have freely given rule over their lives to the very things they feel enslave them. It is their freedom to choose that has, with few exceptions, provided the shackles they so desperately wish they could remove.

And if you find yourself quickly dismissing this notion with the justification of those with real limitations, those who have handicaps or other physical or mental limitations that restrict their freedom, I urge you caution. The weakest form of argument is from the extreme.

“You have no idea what I’m facing” you may say. And you’d be right. Each of us has limitations to overcome, problems to solve, and challenges to face. And to each of us, they are as massive as the next. But we have the freedom to face them as we choose.

Men and women give their freedom and lives to protect what they believe to be worth more than anything. They protect freedom for themselves, their families, their country, and you and me.  How do we repay the debt?

This Memorial Day many will say they have nothing to give worthy of the sacrifice of those who died in battle beyond, “Thank you.” Respectfully, they’re wrong.

Each of us has the duty, obligation, and responsibility to utilize our freedom to the greatest extent we desire. We must use the gift to honor the sacrifice.

Some will say they are happy just as they are. They’re free to be so long as they aren’t limiting the freedom of others by exercising their own. Some will say happiness is in the journey. They’re free to get moving. Some will say they are limited by circumstances. They're free to change them.

And some will say life’s not fair. Was it fair that someone fought and died so you could have the freedom to think life isn’t fair? Life’s not fair, get over it and exercise the freedom you have to choose a better life. Even a little freedom is better than none and in our country, you get as much freedom as you make your mind up to.