Personal Development Course
Becoming an Authentic MVP: Master the skills, attitudes, and discipline to be the Best in Your Business and Personal Life.

Lesson 7  –  The Habits of Excellence

Please listen to the audio file first in each section as it contains greater detail than the written text. Then follow the instructions, if any, at then end of each lesson.

(Listen to Mp3, audio message 9, Winning is Habit Forming)

Read text:

Recent scientific research has taught us a lot about habits which control most of our daily activities. We can now track a habit from the time sensory nerves carry messages to our brains from our organs for hearing, touching, seeing, tasting, and smelling. The brain uses this information to make decisions, then sends working orders through motor nerves to the body parts needed for action. It should come as no surprise, then, that habits are formed after the body responds the same way twenty-five or thirty times to identical stimuli. But here’s an interesting discovery. After a certain amount of repetition, the message from the sensory nerves jumps directly to the conditioned motor nerves without a conscious decision by the brain. So while a mere twenty-five or thirty repeats can form a habit, I’m happy to report that the same number is involved in developing good habits, depending on input, practice and supporting environment.

If twenty-five or thirty repeats can form a new habit, you may wonder why making it permanent requires at least a year of practice. The reason is that the old patterns remain underneath. If you slip back – even if you associate with them – a link immediately recalls and tries to reassert them. Habits are learned by observation, imitation and repetition. Repetition leads to internalization. We and our children are scarcely aware that role modeling is taking place and that our behaviors are being imbedded like the muscle memory of Olympic and professional athletes. Here are 4 rules to make your habits, winning reflexes.

Rule 1: No one can change you and you can’t really change anyone else. You must admit your need, stop denying your problem, and accept responsibility for changing yourself.

Rule 2: Habits aren’t broken, but replaced – by layering new behavior patterns on top of the old ones. This usually takes at least a year of practice. Forget the 30-day wonder cures. I don’t know where motivational speakers got the idea that it takes twenty-one days to gain a new habit. It may take that long to remember the motions of a new skill, but after many years of being you, it takes far longer to settle into a new habit pattern and stay there. Habits are like submarines. They run silent and deep. They also are like comfortable beds, in that they’re easy to get into, but difficult to get out of. So don’t expect immediate, amazing results. Give your skills’ training a year and stick with it, knowing that your new ways can last a lifetime.

Rule 3:  A daily routine adhered to over time will become second nature, riding a bicycle. Negative behavior leads to a losing lifestyle, positive behavior to a winning lifestyle. Practice makes permanent in both cases. This point is so obvious that it’s often completely overlooked. If you do it right in drill, you’ll do it right in life. Practice your mistakes on the driving range and you’ll remain a high handicap golfer-duffer. Practice the correct swing for each club as demonstrated by a professional, and you may become a tournament player.

As a volunteer rehabilitation coordinator for returning air force and navy POW pilots from their prison camps after the Vietnam war, I had the first-hand experience of learning about some of the most remarkable mental accomplishments I’ve ever known. As a former navy pilot, and seminar trainer for Apollo astronauts, I already was familiar with the importance of mental and hands-on practice. The Edge is gained by practicing within, when you’re without. It’s actually seeing yourself doing, within, when you are without. It is recalling and reliving those positive experiences from your past, and then dwelling on those successes rather than your failures.

It is creating the synthetic experience that will create the future, like the astronauts, by taking the correct theoretical information or data from other winners who have gone before you and practicing it as if you had accomplished it yourself. By practicing what’s right instead of what’s wrong, we can replace unhealthy habits with effective habits. Imagination plus simulation equals realization.

Rule 4:  Having changed a habit, stay away from the old, destructive environment. Most criminals find themselves back in prison because they return to their former neighborhoods and gangs when released or paroled. Dieters who reach their desired weight usually slip back into their former eating patterns because the new ones haven’t been imbedded long enough to make them stronger than the temptations. Meanwhile, they should steer clear of buffets! To remain optimistic and successful, you must avoid neighborhoods and Internet chat groups of pessimists and quick-fix pushers. Network with people with similar goals and those who already are succeeding with new, positive habits.

My own bad habits include scheduling too many activities to be effective in all of them. Disorganized filing – sometimes in my computer filing too – makes me waste precious time finding research material. And I still don’t balance my work with enough recreation and physical exercise. Several years ago, I allowed myself to become very over-committed and began arriving late for appointments, meetings and social events. Friends and associates called me “Waitley Come Lately. Then I chose new goals and made new images of achievement: “I’m an on-time person,” “I always arrive on time for meetings, appointments and trips.” “Because time is important to others, I respect and honor the commitments I make” After a year or two of practice, I became known as “First to the Gate Waitley.”

What I’d learned was to frame a goal statement that’s the opposite of the bad habits I wanted to convert, then schedule activities in my planner that confirmed my goal. The new habit patterns followed.

Learn what triggers your bad habits. Identifying your unwanted patterns makes replacing them easier, beginning with the triggers – which are often stress, criticism, guilt, or feelings of rejection. Recall the situations that cause you the most frustration and tension and plan ways to avoid or reduce them. List the benefits of a new habit that would replace the old. Self-esteem, improved health, longevity, enhanced relationships, more professional productivity and respect, better focus, accelerated promotion potential and financial security ….each helps lead to your ultimate goal of lifelong improvement and growth. Say farewell forever to excuses for mistakes and failures. Accept your imperfection when an old habit begs for attention. Instead of “There I go again,” say, “Next time I’ll be strong enough to do what’s right.” Instead of thinking “I’m too tired,” say, “I’ve got the energy to do this and more.”  Change “It’s too late” to “As I get organized, I know I’ll have time.”

You deserve as much happiness and success as anyone. You’re worth the price – which is knowledge, attitude, skills and habit training. You control your thoughts, and your thoughts control your habits.  Always remember that practice makes permanent. Your mind can’t distinguish a vividly repeated simulation from a real experience. It stores as fact whatever you rehearse. The software drives the hardware – which is true for losers and MVPs.

(Listen to Mp3, audio message 10, Become a Change Agent)

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As the world becomes more interconnected, events outside your industry and career have an impact on your business, your family and your pocketbook. Whatever your daily routine, it takes place in a larger context of social, technological, political, economic and cultural change. To be an MVP  today, you must understand that world as we fast forward through the early decades of the 21st Century. Without that you won’t be prepared to innovate; you’ll only be able to react and to avoid.

Many people will tell you it doesn’t matter how well-informed you are. “You can’t do anything about it anyway,” goes the refrain, “so why bother to find out about things?” Here’s a newspaper editorial that sums up this attitude:  “The world is too big for us. Too much going on, too much crime, violence and change. Try as you will, you get behind in the race. It’s an incessant strain to keep pace and still you lose ground. Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment. Everything in business and life is high pressure. Human nature can’t endure much more!”

This newspaper editorial reads as if it were written last week in USA Today or The New York Times. But it actually appeared about 180 years ago on June 16, 1833 in The Atlantic Journal back in the “good old days!”  How can you avoid becoming a casualty of the “volatile new days?” Surf the Internet for trends. Pay attention to the early warning signs of change. Look for changes in your industry, your family life and your region. You cannot innovate is your understanding of change is misinformed, incomplete or outdated. Success in the new era is heavily dependent upon innovation, creativity and solving problems for which there are no precedents.

While new technology is often the driver of economic and social change, the real opportunities are created by individuals who apply technology in new ways. Every day a new Apple, Google, Facebook or cloud computing concept is hatching in someone’s dorm room, garage or living room. Soon your smart phone will seem like a dumb phone. Your success depends on how well you think, adapt and innovate. You are not paid to collect, sort, store or retrieve information, although you do these things every day. You are paid to interpret that information and create and implement new ideas. Ask yourself:

What can I offer that “they” aren’t offering?  Where’s the niche that hasn’t been developed?  How can I add value to the service or products I promote?

Where is the market inefficiency?  What would make this process more convenient? How can I do this less expensively?

What would people pay for that isn’t available now?  Which consumer groups and Internet communities are the most likely prospects who want what I provide? What trends will change my and their assumptions about the quality of life?

Breakthrough ideas often occur when you are calmly searching for opportunities. They rarely occur when you are anxious and frustrated. Close your eyes and dream!

(Listen to MP3, audio message 11, Carpe Diem! Seize the Day!)

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What each of us is doing this minute is the most important event in history for us. We have decided to invest our resources in this opportunity rather than in any other. It is helpful to remember this when we consider the passage of time.  As the years pass, I am acutely aware that the bird of time is on the wing. At my fiftieth high school reunion, I saw old people who claimed to be my former classmates. We all had big name tags printed in capital letters so we wouldn’t have to squint with our reading glasses on trying to associate the name with each well-traveled face. It was only yesterday that I was really enjoying high school. What had happened to the decades in between? Where had they flown?

To the side of the bandstand, where the big-band sound of the 50s blared our favorite top-ten hits, there was a poster with a printed verse for all of us to see. I read the words out loud: “There are two days in every week about which we should not worry, two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension. One of these days is Yesterday, with its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains. Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot bring back Yesterday. We cannot undo a single act we performed; we cannot erase a single word we said. Yesterday is gone.  The other day we should not worry about is Tomorrow, with its possible adversities, its burdens, its large promise, and poor performance. Tomorrow is also beyond our immediate control. Tomorrow’s sun will rise, either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds; but it will rise. Until it does, we have no stake in tomorrow, for it is as yet unborn.

This leaves only one day: Today. Anyone can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternities -Yesterday and Tomorrow – that we break down.  It is not the experience of Today that drives us mad, it is remorse and bitterness for something which happened Yesterday and the dread of what Tomorrow may bring. Let us therefore, live this one full Today.”

(Listen to Mp3, audio message 12, Overcoming Rejection)

Read text:

To conquer your fear of rejection, you need to handle the word “no” in a constructive way. When people turn you down after a presentation, you have to interpret the “no” as “no this is not right for me now.” We also can interpret “no” as meaning, “I need to know more about this opportunity or the products before I can say yes.  I look at the service I offer to others as a gift that almost everyone desires. It’s like a nutritious dessert. What if waiters or waitresses in a restaurant said to customers at their tables: “Would you like our special strawberry parfait for dessert? It’s the best in the world!” And they were told “no” by their patrons, three out of five times. Would they go to their manager, throw up their hands and quit, lamenting, “They don’t like me or my strawberry parfait?”  Of course they wouldn’t. They’d go on about their business, thinking the patrons had missed out on something delicious. That’s why I treat products as a gift, much more nutritious and beneficial than a fruit dessert. But what is being rejected is the presentation, not the presenter. When I can separate my self-esteem from offering the products or business opportunity, I can live with rejection and look for ways to get a positive response more often. When you are experiencing rejection, that’s the time to network with mentors and role models.  It’s also the time to listen to upbeat music and programs like this, to attend meetings and conference calls, and to hang around with optimists and winners. All you really need to move up to the next level is have faith in yourself .and to risk that your ideas may not be accepted by others today, but may be tomorrow or next month.

Did you know: Eighty percent of all new sales are made after the fifth call to the same prospect.  Forty-eight percent of all sales persons make one call, then cross off the prospect.

Twenty-five percent quit after the second call. Twelve percent of all sales representatives call three times, then quit. Ten percent keep calling and networking until they succeed. The sales reps in what I call the top ten percent club are among the highest paid professionals, in all industries, in the country.  The 10 percent who persist get the real payoff.

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