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Success Means Learning to Let Go

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Success Means Learning to Let Go

Post by Sam on Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:42 am

When most people think about success, they think
about adding things to their life: more money, more
prestige, a nicer car, a bigger house. The problem
with that way of thinking is that it ignores the fact
that your ability to succeed is directly proportional to
your ability to let go of things. Let me explain. Because you are a human being, you have the
potential to do and to be many different things.
However, though it's true you can do anything, you
can't do everything. Every life decision that you make
is not just saying yes to the future you want to create
but also no to the many other futures that you might have otherwise created. If you're going to be truly successful at pursuing that
future, you can't waste time and energy mooning
about what might have been if you had made a
different decision. You'll only achieve your goal if you
truly let go of those other desires and possible
directions. The ability to let go is especially essential for
managers. It's a truism that the most effective
managers delegate as much as possible. By contrast,
people who micromanage are always a burden on
themselves and the people around them. Success as a manager therefore means letting go of
responsibility and authority. Mitchell Kertzman, one
of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world,
once told me: When I started [my first] company, it was a one-man
business. There was a time when I did every job in
this company. I wrote the programs, I sent out the
bills, I did the accounting, I answered the phone, I
made the coffee. As the company has grown, I do
fewer and fewer of those jobs. And that's just as well, because I was certainly less competent at them than
most of the people who are doing them now. I'm the
reverse of the Peter Principle in the sense that I've
finally risen to my level of competence, which is that
I don't do anything very well and now what I do
extremely well is nothing. Similarly, Lew Platt, arguably HP's most successful
CEO, once characterized the job of the CEO as
"managing the white spaces on the organizational
chart." Business pundits are forever touting the importance
of being flexible and nimble. What that really means,
though, is that you, and your organization, must be
willing and able to let go of behaviors that were
successful in the past and are no longer working. The same is true throughout life, which is actually a
process of shedding the burdens and misconceptions
of youth. As St. Paul so memorably put it: When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood
as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a
man, I put away childish things. This is not a philosophy of loss or grief but of the
greater success you can achieve that can come only
if you truly learn to let go. At the risk of going from
the profound to the trivial, I would like to illustrate
this point with an experience of my own. A few months back, I was in a state of incredible
frustration. Every part of my business seemed to be
stalled, with the solution out of my control. While I
was in this state, I called a friend of mine, the movie
producer/sales executive David Rotman. (I wrote about him in a prior post.) He listened to me complain for a few minutes and
then said: "Geoff, take a piece of paper and a
Sharpie and write the following words in big letters: 'I
love letting go.' Now hang that paper by your
computer screen." "That's your advice?" I asked. "Yes," he replied. I did as he asked, and I'm looking at that piece of
paper even as I write this post. Do you want to know
what that piece of paper did for me? Plenty. Because
it was in my face every time I sat down to work, it
reminded me that it's crazy to obsess about things
over which I have no control. It was hard, but I finally managed to let go of the
things that were driving me crazy. And guess what? I
began to see that some of the goals I was so worried
about meant a lot less to me today than in the past.
As a result, I started putting more energy into my
writing and into my creative thinking. What happened? Well, I can't give you the details just
yet, but some incredibly positive things happened,
none of which would have taken place if I hadn't
followed David's advice, if I hadn't let go of my
conception of how things were supposed to be. I'm not holding myself up as some kind of role
model, because, to be honest, I struggle with this
stuff every day. However, I do know one thing for
certain. Whatever success I might achieve in the
future will be the direct result not just of letting go
but of learning to love the entire process.

Sam
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