~Joel’s Blog

The core of this article comes from Joel’s book-in-progress called Prepare For Rain; The Ten Essential Steps for Creating the Life You Want.

Activity precedes success

Intention is similar to purpose. They’re related but not quite the same. People with a passion for impacting their world can still lose their way. They are fully capable of losing their focus and drive, just as much as they are of making progress. So, it is intention is what makes all the difference. And the primary clue that intention is present is activity.

In the world of sales, it’s almost an incantation: “Activity precedes success.” But what does this mean?

At first, it struck me as incredibly stupid when my sales manager declared this in my first week as a financial planner. Of course, I thought, if I’m not doing anything I can’t expect to win. It turned out I was incredibly stupid. The key word in his short declaration is activity. I made the nearly career-ending mistake of believing I understood what he meant by “activity.” Because I didn’t, I initially suffered at succeeding in business. Once I wrapped my head around Brad’s meaning, things got much easier. As I observed my colleagues in the office, certain patterns emerged. Everyone was busy, bustling around, “getting things done.” Everywhere I looked, there was activity. Lots of it, in fact. But there was a wide variety of success. Eventually, I realized there must be something about the type of activity that was influencing the success of some and, by extension, the lack of it for others.

An inconvenient truth

Early in my first year, I attended a 2-day training conference for new advisors. The trainers were highly seasoned, very successful leaders. Their enthusiasm for us was contagious. Everyone was excited to go back to their respective offices and launch exemplary careers. The energy level was stratospheric on our last day…right up until the closing session. That’s when the leaders shared with us that of the 20 of us in the room, only 2 would still be around in 2 years. The fellow I was sitting next to—by then a friend—turned to me and whispered, “That’s nuts! There are really sharp people in here. Some have way more experience than I do.” I nodded, and whispered back, “Well, if it’s true, how about you and me plan on being those 2 guys. Deal?” We shook hands. Two years later, he and I were the remaining two still with the company. A year after that, it was just me.

Why? The reason, it turned out, was precisely what my manager had been trying to tell me. In any venture, there are certain activities that lead to success. Not a truckload of things. Only a few. Engaging in those activities moves a person forward. Not engaging in them—doing something different—makes it much harder to win. In fact, it may even doom a person to failure. Most of our classmates engaged in the wrong actions for too long.

It gets real

Once back, it didn’t take long before I more deeply observed the nature of the bustling. Those that progressed with their career engaged in a pretty narrow set of activity: they were primarily focused on setting meetings with prospective clients and then holding them. The advisors who were not getting far, which included me until I finally got the connection, had very long lists of activity. The problem was that most of the activities were diversions from setting appointments. For all kinds of reasons, they just didn’t set many appointments.

The core problem with that pattern is it inhibits building strong skills. With only occasional opportunities to conduct a good meeting, there was no consistency to their skills.

Spin cycles of doom

My fellow newbie professionals set the wheels in motion for not succeeding because they weren’t assuring they could improve their skills. Sitting behind their desk thinking about getting better wasn’t enough to actually get better. So, with few appointments, by the time they would sit down with someone keen on learning more about the benefits of financial planning, my colleagues were so uptight about “making a sale” they telegraphed their anxiety to their potential client. Rather than enter into a professional relationship based on a strong bond of trust and understanding, my colleagues created a self-defeating spin-cycle of pressure and fear.

There were so many people who could have had great careers, making a real difference by helping people develop a sound financial future. But they weren’t willing to engage in the activities that would lead to eventual—and predictable—success.

The simplest way to put this is that without the daily intention of doing what was necessary to succeed, my colleagues—and very nearly myself—were committing to fail.

How was this possible? The answer to that question came in another often-heard quote from those same leaders:

To be successful, you must be willing to do the things today others won’t do in order to have the things tomorrow others won’t have. ~Les Brown

Answer your call

Which begs the question… “Is there something you’ve been avoiding, something you’ve been thinking about doing, but not actually doing?”

If you’ve read many of my articles, you know by now that I believe none of us are here by accident and that all of us have a calling—a purpose. You also know that I believe most people in North America suffer from overthinking and underdoing. It takes work to stop thinking about getting better and actually…get better. It’s uncomfortable.

Yet consider that the result of that lack of activity means for people of faith. When God calls people to action, they’re not called to be successful. God’s measure of “success” is not built on the world’s. Rather, we’re expected to be faithful to our call.

So, get uncomfortable. Stop thinking about things. Instead, do things. Step out in faith and make a difference. Be faithful to your calling.

Engage here. What’s your take on this? Add your thoughts or feelings below.