The Laws Of Lifetime
These laws were
articulated by Dan Sullivan and Catherine Nomura in their excellent
book, The Laws of Lifetime Growth™. The book contains ten laws with many
stories, examples, and tips for how to keep growing throughout your
life. We are grateful to The Strategic Coach for permission to reprint
these excellent bits of wisdom here.
Law One: Always Make Your Future Bigger Than Your Past.
A bigger future is
essential for lifetime growth. The past is useful because it is rich
with experiences that are worth thinking about in new ways — and all of
these valuable experiences can become raw material for creating an even
bigger future. Approach your past with this attitude, and you will have
an insatiable desire for even better, more enjoyable experiences. Use
your past to continually create a bigger future, and you will separate
yourself from situations, relationships, and activities that can trap
you in the past.
What does it mean to have “a bigger future?”
Most of us have our own idea of what a bigger future means. We have a
vision of what we’d like to be true at some point in the future, which
seems better than what’s true now in terms of our:
- knowledge and wisdom
- new capabilities
- quality of life
- quality of relationships
- accomplishments and contributions
Where does a bigger future come from?
We develop our idea of a bigger future from our own experience and the
examples of others. We borrow, change, and customize things we see other
people enjoying. If we’re around great people, we learn faster and tend
to see a bigger future for ourselves more clearly.
Our ability to grow is driven by the idea of a “bigger future.” Anyone
with this idea firmly planted in his or her thinking will always grow,
regardless of external conditions or how old the person is.
What’s the advantage to having a bigger future?
The rewards of lifetime growth are infinite. Imagine that, no matter
what your age, you constantly have a sense that your future will always
be even more exciting and fulfilling than anything that’s happened to
you before. Your contributions and recognition keep expanding as you
grow and take on bigger challenges. And even though you receive greater
and greater benefits, the real rewards are your mastery, skill, and
wisdom in life.
What are some of the obstacles?
The expression “stuck in the past” is commonly used to describe people
who have made their past bigger than their future. There are a lot of
ways to get trapped by the past. As with anything, the first step to
progress is to recognize the truth. Here are a few common signs that
indicate the past has become or is about to become bigger than your
Feeling that there is nothing new ahead; it’s all been done.
Longing for the return of a “golden age” that has passed.
Resigning yourself to being “retired from service.”
Taking windfall growth for granted.
Lamenting that you’ve missed “the big chance.”
It starts with attitude and belief.
Having a bigger future is always possible, regardless of what has
happened in the past. No matter how much you’ve done or what you’ve
achieved, it is still possible to approach life with the attitude that
everything that has happened in your life up until now was just the
beginning. This healthily acknowledges and encompasses what has gone
before and puts it into its most useful context: as a springboard for
even more meaningful and rewarding accomplishments and experiences that
are yet to occur.
Law Two: Always Make Your Learning Greater Than Your Experience.
Continual learning is essential for lifetime growth. You can have a
great deal of experience and be no smarter for all of the things you’ve
done, seen, and heard. Experience alone is no guarantee of lifetime
growth. But continually transform your experiences into new lessons, and
you will make each day of your life a source of growth. The smartest
people are those who can transform even the smallest event or situation
into breakthroughs in thinking and action. Look at all of life as a
school and every experience as a lesson, and your learning will always
be greater than your experience.
Our ability to learn continually is what makes it possible to always
have a future that’s bigger than the past. There’s a method to doing
this. Every experience you have ever had has two parts to it: what
worked and what didn’t work. What worked were the parts of the
experience that moved you forward. They added to your capability and
confidence. What didn’t work had the opposite effect, blocking or
undermining your capability and confidence.
Experience provides the raw material for learning, but actual learning
requires that you transform this raw material into new insights and
wisdom — into new, better, more effective ways of taking action in the
future. By identifying the two aspects of every experience, your mind
automatically begins to see new ways of maximizing what worked, and
bypassing what didn’t.
Heavy on wisdom, light on baggage.
We all have experiences to use as the raw material for new learning.
Once we get in the habit of examining our experiences on the basis of
what worked and what didn’t work, we tend not to live with untransformed
experiences for long. Once we get the lessons, our minds are freed up
for other things, and we’re wiser.
Despite the obvious benefits of learning from experience, there are a
number of obstacles that can keep this from happening. Once we learn to
recognize these obstacles and see when they’re getting in our way, we
can use simple strategies to overcome them.
Future not bigger than the past.
A person won’t transform his or her experience into new lessons unless
he or she has a fundamental belief that the future is going to be bigger
than the past. When we learn from our experience, we create future
possibilities that are greater than any experiences we’ve already had.
“Things will be different next time.”
Another obstacle to learning from our experience is the belief that the
same things that didn’t work in the past will suddenly work in the
future, with no change on our part. Learning from what worked and what
didn’t work and changing your approach proactively greatly increases the
odds of creating a better result in the future.
It’s not my fault.
Most of us don’t consciously choose to have “negative” experiences, yet
they can occur. What we do always have a choice about is what we do with
these experiences and the emotions they evoke. Channel them into a
desire to learn how to make the future better, and you will experience
Too intense to transform.
Sometimes negative experiences are so intense that we lose the ability
to transform them. Yet there are countless historical and present-day
individuals who have demonstrated an incredible personal ability to
transform extreme, traumatic experiences into remarkable insights that
benefited themselves and many others. Sometimes this means recognizing
when an experience is beyond our ability to transform on our own, and
seeking outside help.
“Nothing’s wrong, why do I need to learn anything?”
There are great opportunities for personal growth in learning from
positive experiences, but we often overlook them because nothing went
wrong. Ironically, without the motivation of the unpleasantness of a
negative emotion that we want to overcome or avoid in the future, we
don’t bother to think about the learning possibilities in these
Growing wisdom and consciousness.
The notion of learning from experience gives us insight into what it
means for a person to become wise. Wisdom is not related to a grasp of
the past — but rather directly to the ability to transform experience
into new, better, and different ways of thinking, acting, and being.
The greatest stimulus for increased wisdom is the belief that one’s
future is always going to be bigger than the past. From this belief
comes a continual sense of urgency to transform experiences — even the
smallest events — into better ways of thinking and acting. You see your
entire life as a single learning experience. In fact, your entire life
is a single, evolving, infinite school.
Law Three: Always Make Your Contribution Bigger Than Your Reward.
contribution to others is a way to ensure that you keep growing
throughout your life. As we become more successful, numerous rewards
come our way: increased income, praise, recognition, reputation, status,
capabilities, resources, and opportunities. These are all desirable
things, but they can be growth-stoppers. They may tempt us to become
fixated on just the rewards, rather than on making still greater
The one sure guarantee that rewards will continually increase is not to
think too much about them. Instead, focus on making an even greater
contribution – by helping others eliminate their dangers, capture their
opportunities, and maximize their strengths in new and better ways.
Greater rewards will automatically result from this kind of activity,
and your future will continue to be filled with increasingly enriching
ways to contribute.
Always focus on creating new kinds of value for larger numbers of
people, and you will ensure that your contribution is always greater
than your reward.
Non-contributors and their obsession with rewards.
There are endless examples in the daily news and history books of
individuals who have made enormous contributions to others. Yet there
are also people who contribute only sporadically, or even never at all.
People who hold out on making contributions to others are usually driven
by a particular set of beliefs:
-The belief that the purpose and meaning of life is about gaining as
many rewards as possible, and keeping others from having more.
-The belief that their worth as a human being is determined by how many
rewards they achieve.
-The belief that all other people think the same way that they do, and
are motivated by the same external rewards.
Believing in contribution for its own sake.
Habitual contributors, on the other hand, are motivated by an internal
standard to make some kind of contribution to every situation – not for
the rewards, but for the activity itself. A system of values based on
contribution provides them with an increasing sense of purpose, meaning,
This isn’t to say that they don’t value or take advantage of the rewards
that come their way, just that they see these as by-products, rather
than goals in themselves. They use these unexpected bonuses or gifts
gratefully as further means to make even greater contributions.
Contribution first, rewards later.
It feels good to be rewarded, and this feeling can be addictive, so much
so that we can forget to focus on what we did to get the reward in the
first place and just seek the reward. Doing things just for the reward,
then not being rewarded, or fearing we might not be, can keep us from
acting in the future. In not acting, our growth stops.
Sometimes you just know you have to do something, even though you don’t
know why. There doesn’t seem to be any guaranteed payoff, and there may
be risks and costs that are more definite, yet you still have a gut
sense that you should make this contribution. These gut instincts often
lead to rewards that are beyond our imagination.
A bigger, better world.
Contribution is a way of creating a world around us that has a future
bigger than its past. It’s a form of communication with the world – an
active demonstration of positive intent. Contributing so that others can
grow supports the conditions for your own continued, unrestricted
growth, and for others’ contributions to you.
Law Four: Always Make Your Performance Greater Than Your Applause.
Increased performance is essential for lifetime growth. If you become
more skilful and useful, you will receive greater applause from an
expanding audience. This can be intoxicating, and the temptation will be
to start organizing your life around other people's recognition and
praise — to keep repeating what got you the applause in the first place
— rather than moving on to something new, better, and different. When
this happens, the danger is that applause will become more important to
you than your improved performance.
The greatest performers in all fields are those who always strive to get
better. No matter how much acclaim they receive, they keep working to
improve their performance. Continually work to surpass everything you’ve
done so far, and your performance will always be greater than your
Applause is a by-product.
The visions you have of a bigger future become a reality because of
actions you take toward specific goals. These actions are a kind of
performance, and as with any performance, you may receive applause for
it. But the applause is just a by-product — however gratifying.
If you want to keep growing, your central focus always has to be the
performance itself — never others’ response to it.
Continually focused on improvement.
You have no control over others’ responses, their approval, or their
applause. But you do have total control over your performance.
When you’re continually focused on getting better at an activity, it
doesn’t take long for other people to notice your performance, including
your clientele and your industry peers. You will be praised and
recognized for being extraordinary — relative to what the vast majority
of other people are doing or not doing.
Applause can be wonderfully useful to your growth. It opens doors to all
kinds of opportunities, resources, and capabilities that can support
performance at an even higher level. But as an end in itself, applause
becomes a growth-stopper.
Three applause traps.
Here are three common obstacles to lifetime growth caused by a
misunderstanding of applause:
1. This is it. The belief that “Now that I’m at the top, I don’t have to
2. Entitlement. The belief that once at the top, one’s supremacy and
upkeep become an entitlement. (Exemplified by the attitude “Don’t you
know who I am!?”)
3. The only goal. The belief that applause is the only goal worth
pursuing. With this belief, all sense of self-worth, confidence, and
motivation disappears if applause isn’t forthcoming.
The true spirit of your performance.
Performers who reach a certain level of success and then keep giving the
same performance over and over are often said to have “sold out.”
There are lots of incentives to stick with a formula that works. This is
the unspoken rule in many bureaucracies. You may even recognize it in
your own business if you’ve ever felt tempted to reject innovative ideas
— your own or others’ — because they would take you out of your comfort
zone or force you to share the stage in an ensemble performance.
Of course, it’s anyone’s prerogative to stick with the familiar, or to
cash in on an opportunity for a payout. But those who choose this route
often find that the status and success they’ve achieved slip away
despite their efforts to hold on to them.
Performers who are constantly growing, putting bigger and better
projects and goals out ahead, are more likely to continue to expand
their influence, respect, and the enjoyment they receive from their
New and experimental efforts sometimes aren’t as high-profile at first
as your past achievements. But performers who aren’t adversely affected
by lack of recognition come across as much more professional and
dedicated to the true spirit of their performance.
Performing for the love of what you do, not allowing applause to color
your approach, puts you in control of your situation. The quality of the
performance will be based on your own standards and nothing else.
Law Five: Always Make Your Gratitude Greater Than Your Success.
Focus on appreciating and
thanking others, and the conditions will always grow to support your
Increased gratitude is essential for lifetime growth. Only a small
percentage of people are continually successful over the long run. The
reason? They recognize that every success comes from the assistance of
many other people — and they are continually grateful for this support.
Conversely, many people whose success stops at some point find
themselves in this position because they have cut themselves off from
everyone who has helped them. They view themselves as the sole source of
their achievements. As they become more self-centered and isolated, they
lose their creativity and ability to succeed.
Continually acknowledge others’ contributions, and you will
automatically create room in your mind and in the world for much greater
success. You will continually be motivated to achieve even more for
those who have helped you.
Positive interactions with the world lead to growth.
Growth in all areas of life — physical, emotional, and mental — comes
from positive interactions with the outside world. The more positive the
interaction is, the greater the growth. There’s a single strategy that
practically guarantees that the interactions you have with the world
around you will be continually more positive and expansive: gratitude.
Success as a function of attitudes and behaviour.
Many people hold a certain kind of “logic” in their heads about success:
- Success is a result of luck.
- Not everybody can be lucky all the time.
- Therefore, we can’t be continually successful.
But what does “successful” mean? Do you use an internal or external
standard for measuring it?
Measuring your success by external standards robs you of control and
makes your satisfaction contingent on changing circumstances. Being
motivated instead by the desire to create positive, ever-expanding
interactions with the world gives you endless room to grow. It makes
success a function of your attitudes and behavior, which are constantly
available to you. And adopting attitudes and behaviours based on
gratitude is the greatest guarantee of successful interaction with the
world over an entire lifetime.
Three growth qualities: connectedness, commitment, and humility.
Gratitude simply means acknowledging how the world around you supports
and encourages your progress, success, and enjoyment. What comes with
gratitude are three prime ingredients for lifetime growth:
connectedness, commitment, and humility.
Connectedness means that you see yourself as part of something larger.
Commitment means that you want to contribute to that larger reality.
Humility means that you see yourself as a unique part of the world
around you, but not the most important part.
Motivation to grow.
Motivation depends upon always seeing the possibility for greater, more
rewarding, and more enjoyable growth in our lives. When we have this
prospect ahead of us, we’re highly motivated. Connectedness, commitment,
and humility always give us this sense of a better life ahead.
A strategy that makes the world better for your growth.
Here’s a very simple formula, and a spectacularly effective one: Simply
by focusing on one thing — gratitude — you continually improve your
external circumstances for success and growth. It’s not even a function
of what other people do for you, but rather how you look at the world.
That being so, it means that it is under your control.
Gratitude eliminates isolation, egotism, and arrogance.
Gratitude by its very nature automatically works to eliminate the three
mental characteristics that undermine individual success in an
interactive world: isolation, egotism, and arrogance.
Isolated individuals cut themselves off from the crucial knowledge,
resources, and capabilities other people can provide.
Egotistical people destroy the goodwill and support of others.
Arrogant individuals actively inspire others’ opposition and hostility.
On the other hand, anyone who actively cultivates gratitude also creates
an immunity to all three of these threats to success.
Misunderstanding the basis of growth and success.
Isolation, egotism, and arrogance often arise after an initial period of
growth and success. In every case, these attitudes and behaviours are a
result of not understanding what caused the growth and success to
We naturally start off life with a self-centered approach to the world
around us. This is the nature of infants, children, and adolescents.
Only through growing interactions with the world do we realize that life
is not really about us but rather our creative interactions with other
Some people learn this lesson and continually grow throughout their
lives. Others have it for a short time and lose it, whereupon their
growth and success slow down and stop. Others never grasp the lesson at
all and never experience growth and success.
The self-centered must get what they want by force.
Self-centered individuals — those who are isolated, egotistical, and
arrogant — must continually reinforce their negative characteristics in
order to overpower their circumstances.
Since the world around them does not respond to their negativity in a
cooperative and supportive manner, they succeed — and only for limited
periods of time — with an aggressive approach, taking from others what
This can work on an external basis for a while, but while this is
happening, they experience no internal growth — because there is no
positive interaction. Just the opposite occurs: They are declining and
decaying on a physical, emotional, and mental level.
The lucky few.
It’s interesting to observe the few highly creative individuals who
become very successful and manage to continue to grow and succeed. One
of their “secrets” is always the same: They have developed the gratitude
to match their success.
When you place value on the relationships, opportunities, and resources
you encounter, you’ll find that your interactions are increasingly
positive, and as a result you’ll experience a surge of creativity,
success, and what looks to others like luck
Law Six: Always Make Your Enjoyment Greater Than Your Effort.
Neither a lofty degree of
intelligence nor imagination nor both together go into the making of
genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius. –Wolfgang Amadeus
Enjoyment is essential for lifetime growth. Some people believe that
success has to be hard-earned to be real. They are highly suspicious of
any gains that come as a result of enjoyment. If they earn rewards this
way inadvertently, they feel guilty. If others appear to be profiting
from enjoyment, they question their morality, certain that such gains
can only be ill-gotten.
Meanwhile, they continue to toil away at things that give them no
pleasure, suppressing any hints of enjoyment that may creep through,
lest these be interpreted as signs that they’re not “serious” or
“professional” and deserving of success. In the process, they cut
themselves off from a major source of energy, creativity, and
Finding ways to get more and more enjoyment from your activities is one
way to ensure continued growth. Creativity in all fields of activity is
intimately linked to playfulness — the constant desire to do new things
just for the fun of it. Approach everything you do with this sense of
play, and you will ensure that, though you still get as good or even
better results, your enjoyment is always greater than your effort.
Work is the main form of effort.While there are those who theorize about
some other basis for society, the real world we live in is based on
certain fundamentals. One of those fundamentals is that we need money to
survive, and the main source of money is work.
Three attitudes about work prevail:
- “I resent having to work. Work is tedious.”
- “I work hard because it gives me status or rewards.”
- “I love what I do.”
Our attitude may shift among the three depending on the kind of work
we’re doing, but only the third approach contains room for lifetime
enjoyment and growth.
Work as tedium and work as status.
Many people see work as an unpleasant necessity. They would rather not
be doing it, and to them it feels like a huge effort.
When relieved of work, for instance, at retirement, these people lose
their bearings. Instead of being liberated to do what they want to do,
they discover that they don’t have anything to do. Their energy has been
habitually spent on resenting their employer or the work itself, rather
than generating something better to do.
Because entrepreneurs are, by definition, people who generate their own
opportunities, few harbor this mentality. The bigger danger is falling
into the trap of believing that hard work is necessary to get them the
rewards they seek. This can limit an entrepreneur’s success.
People who are in this trap often begin to take perverse pride in
working hard without any enjoyment. This allows them to see themselves
as superior to anyone who isn’t working so hard. Effort is everything,
and enjoyment is nothing.
Of course, in entrepreneurial life, how long or hard you work is
irrelevant. What matters is whether the effort you put in is generating
results. If your work is aligned with your best personal abilities, you
can produce extraordinary results with comparative ease — and enjoy
yourself while doing it.
Work as enjoyment.
The most successful and innovative people in the world are those who
derive pleasure from their work. Work is an immensely satisfying way to
entertain themselves. They do it not just to get somewhere, but for its
own sake. In fact, they would do it even if they weren’t rewarded,
because it’s essential to who they are. When confronted with negativity,
they transform their attitudes, behaviors, and approach to become better
than they were before. In other words, they grow.
Work viewed this way can help make sense of life. It gives us a sense
Our own uniqueness.
What we’re capable of.
How we’re valuable to others, and how we can keep becoming more
Work can inject meaning, purpose, and enjoyment into life, or strip it
away. Therefore, it’s crucial to get your lifetime relationship with
work set on the right foundations. With this relationship in place, work
becomes a positive, creative, highly enjoyable activity that supports
growth in every area of your life.
Enjoyment as a mindset.
This kind of experience of work begins with a prior determination to
derive enjoyment from every situation, without waiting to see if the
circumstances are enjoyable. Instead, you automatically decide to make
them so. In The Strategic Coach Program™, we support entrepreneurs in
their efforts to do this by helping them discover what they love to do
and how to do more of it. This approach helps them find and travel along
the growth path that offers the greatest potential for increasing both
income and quality of life.
Law Seven: Always Make Your Cooperation Greater Than Your Status.
Cooperation is essential
for lifetime growth. When people come together around a common purpose,
they can achieve things no individual could do alone.
Working with others and creating opportunities for increased cooperation
makes greater things possible in our lives and in the world. Yet some
people mistakenly think that if they work with others, or treat them as
equally valuable contributors, people will somehow think less of them,
or it will diminish or obscure the value of their own contribution.
These people’s attachment to their status keeps them from cooperating
with others and puts a ceiling on their growth.
Always make your cooperation greater than your status, and you will find
unlimited possibilities and synergies in combining your talents and
opportunities with those of others.
The urge to protect your status.
Some people reach a certain level of success and feel a growing urge to
protect the status they’ve acquired. Others become obsessed with
obtaining status even before they’ve produced any noticeable
In either case, it soon becomes impossible for these individuals to
create value for others, because the urge to achieve or maintain status
blinds them to opportunities for cooperation — which is essential to any
growth or success in this world.
Status is not confidence.
Status is not the same as confidence or self-esteem. Focusing on
cooperation does not mean you can’t hold yourself in high regard or
receive recognition for your accomplishments. However, if all your
measures for how you’re doing are external, controlled by others rather
than by you, you eventually come to live in fear of your status being
taken away. From this perspective, others’ strengths, abilities, and
successes seem like threats rather than opportunities.
Confidence is essential to an entrepreneur’s effectiveness and comes
from a trust in your abilities, values, and thinking, regardless of
Being cooperative doesn’t require that you humble yourself or acquiesce
to whatever others say. Cooperation is often the most powerful form of
Let it go.
Status is purely a by-product. Anyone who makes it their goal soon sees
their growth come to a halt. That’s because status is all about the past
since it’s based on what you’ve already done. Status is not focused on
bringing value to others, it’s defensive. And whenever you’re on the
defensive, your creative abilities are no longer available. All you can
do is maintain your position, which is also known as standing still.
Status can be useful as a means to growth because it can be used to open
doors and attract new opportunities. But once you have an opportunity in
front of you, your growth is better served by letting go of status and
concentrating completely on cooperation. Why is this the case? Because
it’s not hard to tell when someone is only interested in doing something
to advance their own interests. Others won’t want to contribute their
abilities and resources to you if they feel they’re going to be used
solely for your
What cooperation can achieve.
On the other hand, cooperation is a commitment to bringing people
together, focusing them on a common objective, and allowing everyone to
make his or her best contribution. People can tell just as easily when
this is your motivation and instinctively trust you, and will want to
share their knowledge, skills, and assets with you. What you’re doing is
obviously larger than you, and this dynamic sense of purpose is
You have little control over your status because it depends on so many
external factors, but you can actively control your level of
cooperation. When you focus on the opportunities to create better
results in the world through facilitating greater levels of cooperation,
your potential is unlimited and unobstructed by your personal agenda.
There are endless opportunities to create value through cooperation once
we lay the desire for status aside. Some people call this “checking your
ego at the door.”
No special skills required.
When you act as an agent of cooperation, whatever you need is drawn to
you. You don’t even need all the skills required to reach your goal, you
just need to focus the talents that come to you. Not only does this take
pressure off you, it dramatically increases your ability to achieve
As Ronald Regan is reported to have said, “There is no limit to what you
can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
Law Eight: Always Make Your Confidence Greater Than Your Comfort.
Increased confidence is
crucial for lifetime growth. Many successful people start off life as
dreamers and risk-takers, but the moment they become successful, they
start seeking greater security and comfort as their main goal. This
attitude puts them to sleep motivationally, and they lose the confidence
that made them so successful.
Security and comfort are desirable by-products of goal achievement, but
when they become the goal itself, they quickly stop lifetime growth.
Treat any increase of comfort in your life as only a temporary stage for
establishing bigger goals. Continually strive for higher goals and
Entrepreneurs are familiar with risk.
Being an entrepreneur often means risking your comfort and security in
pursuit of greater freedom, income, and opportunity. If you didn’t have
such confidence in your ideas and abilities, you would probably be
working for someone else.
At some points in your career, however, particularly if your business or
your industry feels like it’s in chaos, this confidence may be difficult
Sometimes the way to get it back is actually to forget about comfort and
take a risk.
Different types of entrepreneurs.
People become entrepreneurs for different reasons. For some, being an
entrepreneur offers the chance to support a certain lifestyle. These
“lifestyle entrepreneurs” aren’t necessarily interested in growth. Their
growth ambitions stop once their quality-of-life goals are met. There’s
nothing wrong with this, though it does leave these entrepreneurs open
to the danger of being overtaken by others who are more growth-focused.
This brings us to the second type of entrepreneur, the entrepreneur
who’s in it for the enjoyment of the activity itself: for the
challenges, possibilities, and satisfaction of seeing their innovative
ideas realized. (By virtue of the fact that you’re reading this, you
probably fit into this second group.)
The first type of entrepreneur is all about comfort. For the second
type, comfort comes and goes as they grow.
In periods of discomfort, it’s important to determine what’s really
“But I don’t feel comfortable.”
There are different types of discomfort that can occur in an
entrepreneurial life. We like to refer to these as “short suffering” and
Short suffering arises when you move into unfamiliar territory. It’s
often akin to growing pains. These pains are temporary, and sometimes,
like exercise, are essential as you push yourself to new levels in order
to go further and become stronger.
Long suffering, on the other hand, is more like a persistent ache that
you learn to live with: Sometimes it’s easier to stick with a familiar
pain, putting up with something that doesn’t work and resigning yourself
to a bad situation, than to take a risk doing something different that
might turn out better.
Take, for example, an entrepreneur who has an employee she just can’t
bring herself to fire. The employee should be looking after his
responsibilities, but consistently doesn't. Yet the entrepreneur puts up
with the persistent discomfort of looking after these responsibilities
herself rather than risking the shorter term, but more intense,
discomfort of firing the employee.
It’s quite amazing what human beings can accommodate and learn to accept
as “normal” as we put things aside and buffer ourselves against them. We
sometimes get caught up in the belief that the world is “doing it to
us,” and instead of acting, we simply complain. Allowing this to go on
for long periods of time fills our world with messes and regrets. The
complacency of accepting this “uncomfortable comfort” eventually dulls
our confidence and lowers our expectations.
Greater confidence through risking discomfort.
Gaining greater confidence sometimes means having to risk the comfort of
maintaining the status quo. Confronting the “non-acceptables” in your
business and cleaning up the “stuff” and messes is one way to make
things less difficult and more enjoyable.
Another strategy is to do something that stretches your abilities, or
creates a bigger vision of what your business could look like. This
reconnects you with your original purpose in becoming an entrepreneur,
and you’ll probably experience an extra burst of energy as a result. It
could be just what you need to take your business to the next level
Law Nine: Always Make Your Purpose Greater Than Your Money.
Greater purpose is
essential for lifetime growth. Many people start off their careers
thinking that money is the goal. Money can be a useful measure of
success or progress in certain circumstances, and it’s a resource we can
use to realize greater possibilities, but at some point, money without
purpose loses its meaning. Money as an end becomes a growth stopper.
Having a purpose that is greater than yourself will give you a constant
impetus to strive. Purpose gives life meaning and helps us direct and
focus our talents and efforts. It also attracts the talents and energies
of others whose purposes align with our own.
Think of money only as a means to achieving a greater purpose and you'll
attract all the resources and rewards that make up a rich life, not just
No business can exist without money.
Money is, of course, essential to the operation of any successful
entrepreneurial organization. But simply pursuing money could lead you
in directions that may not be consistent with who you are or what you
love doing. When this happens, you lose your personal reasons for being
involved in your business, which are key to enjoying long-term success
and happiness in your career. Therefore, staying aligned with a sense of
purpose is essential to achieving this goal.
Purpose not only keeps you engaged, it also engages other people,
drawing clients, customers, and team members who will want to be part
of, and contribute to, what you’re doing
Why you became an entrepreneur.
Few of us really want cash itself; we want what that cash represents,
what it can provide. In this sense, no one ever becomes an entrepreneur
just to make money.
You likely began your entrepreneurial career for a particular purpose.
Some of the most common motivations are:
The desire to work for yourself, not someone else.
The creative license to explore and realize your own ideas.
The ability to work the hours you want.
Control over your lifestyle.
All of these share a common theme: freedom. Most entrepreneurs start in
business to enjoy the freedom to do certain things, and the freedom from
having to do others.
Finding the money/purpose balance.
When you find that the pursuit of money has led you away from freedom or
the quality of life you want, it’s not always easy to change course
along the way.
Take, for example, a financial advisor who’s frustrated with his
industry. Its regulations, controls, and pressures are wearing him down
to the point that he’s deeply unhappy, but he’s hooked on the
commissions he’s earning. The money is good, and he’s managed to
establish a material quality of life for himself and his family that
takes a certain amount of money to maintain. The thought of doing
something else is frightening.
There’s an echo here from last month’s law: “Always make your confidence
greater than your comfort.” The entrepreneur in this situation is stuck
in a comfort trap where the familiar discomfort still seems preferable
to the imagined discomfort of the unknown. No amount of money, though,
can erase the fact of his unhappiness.
Where would the confidence to make a change come from? It comes from the
entrepreneur’s sense of purpose. Purpose gives you a context bigger than
yourself in which to make all your decisions and come up with all your
Finding and protecting your purpose.
Ideally, you would build your business from the beginning around a
strong guiding intention. However, at any point, you can reconnect with
your purpose or define what it is. Many tools and concepts that we teach
in The Strategic Coach Program™ are about creating or clarifying your
own “big picture” context for the future. One question we sometimes ask
entrepreneurs to consider before they join the Program is, “If
everything I’ve done up until now is just the beginning, what’s next?”
Another question that they are asked to contemplate early on in the
Program is, “What do I want my life to look like just before I die?”
When you give yourself the freedom to think about what you’d like to see
as part of your bigger future, and what you would like to accomplish in
the entirety of your life, you begin to see what’s really important to
you. This becomes a strong, motivating foundation for focused decisions
Having a purpose greater than yourself also allows you to keep money in
its place, as a means rather than an end. It also gives you the
satisfaction of feeling that your efforts on a day-to-day basis have
Purpose connects and aligns people.
One of the further benefits of articulating your purpose — this vision
of who you want to be in the future, personally and as an organization —
is that you can then communicate it to others. Within your company, a
clear statement of purpose helps team members to align with you so that
everyone is working toward the same goals. It also attracts like-minded
people, those who share your vision and want to contribute to making it
a reality. When purpose becomes part of the culture of your
organization, it gives your business a core around which to build
integrity and focus forward momentum.
Integrating your purpose into your business allows your work to support
a more satisfying life — one in which you’re always growing and learning
in the ways that are most meaningful to you.
Law Ten: Always Make Your Questions Bigger Than Your Answers.
Questions are essential
for lifetime growth. As children, when we’re all growing at a rapid
rate, we ask lots of questions. As we get older, we gradually begin to
think we have a lot of the answers. For some people, their entire sense
of security and self-image depends on having all the answers — on never
being wrong. As a result, these people try to understand everything in
terms of what they know. But all growth lies in the territory of the
What we already know is in the past. What we have yet to discover is the
future. Always make your questions bigger than your answers, and you’ll
keep drawing yourself into a bigger future with new possibilities.
Losing the questioning habit.As youngsters, we spend a lot of our time
asking questions, driving our parents to distraction by demanding, “But
why?” At some point, however, most people stop asking these big
Perhaps we feel we should already know the answers: We’re self-conscious
about admitting to gaps in our knowledge. Or perhaps we’ve just become
too busy: We don’t want additional information, because then we would
have to deal with it.
But questioning is essential to our growth, not just for the
intellectual exercise, but as an opening to greater possibilities.
You don’t have to have the answer.
Over the years, we have encountered many highly successful individuals
who have used questions at key junctures in their lives to open up their
thinking about the future.
Here are a few of those questions:
“If everything I’ve done up until now was just the beginning, what’s
“What do I have to become to get all that I want?”
“How far can I go?”
Each of these questions acknowledges the past, but uses it as the
foundation for a new stage in life.
Many people won’t ask a question if they don’t already have the answer
to it, but this limits them to thinking within the realm of what they
already know. Your current ideas may have got you here, but if you want
to produce bigger results, you need to think bigger too.
Breakthroughs occur when you engage with open-ended questions like:
“What’s next for me?”
“What would it look like if this worked out?”
“What do I want my life to look like?”
Some questions are inherently unanswerable, yet are still valuable
because of where they lead you — even if that’s only to other questions.
As you keep inquiring, you’ll naturally seek out structures that allow
you to explore your ideas and create new things in the world.
“What if I just want things to stay the same?”
Standing still isn’t really an option, even if your intention is just to
stay where you are, because life is constantly moving and changing
People who stop asking questions stop growing. When you content yourself
with old, unquestioned answers, you’ll reinterpret anything new so that
it conforms to your existing model of understanding. This leaves you
dangerously open to being blindsided. People in this situation often
find themselves asking, “What happened?” after things have gone wrong.
They never saw it coming because they weren’t looking in the right
Take, for example, a company that invests time and effort into
developing a product, but somewhere along the way forgets to ask if this
product — their “answer” — is actually something anyone wants. They
could be in for an unpleasant surprise because of their unwillingness to
accept what the real answer might be.
If, on the other hand, you’re committed to asking questions, big or
small, you set yourself up for a lifetime of exploration — of new ideas,
methods, and capabilities. The motivation to constantly refine, grow,
and change comes easily because you trust and value your expanding
wisdom over any set of answers from the past.
© 2007 The Strategic Coach