Alignment Performance Results

How to Achieve a Breakthrough in 2019: Why Not Me? Why Not Now?

Posted on 01/07/2019 in Featured Articles, Leadership by Jack Speer

How do you want your life to improve in 2019?  How do you achieve a breakthrough to a larger career, a richer family life, and opportunities to serve others and make a difference?

Congress Avenue in the 80’s. Austin was a nice place to live and a difficult place to make a living.

You have been included on the Tuesday Report list because of our belief that you are part of those we define as The One Percent—not the One Percent that politicians talk about negatively, but those who can and will live a life of continuous achievement. There aren’t a lot of you, but you are the most rewarding people we know, and that’s why we’ve spent a lifetime working with you.

Breakthroughs in life for the majority of people are most often frankly quite unlikely. At this time of the year, there are hundreds of articles flooding the Internet by “sadder but wiser people” who don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, goals, or that anything ever basically changes in life.  Thinking things can get better is a delusion and distraction. The great majority of the people around you will spend their lives hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

If You Could Make it In Austin Then (circa 1990)

Carol and I have faced the struggles for a breakthrough that many of you are facing now.  We were not ready to begin a company in Austin, but that is exactly what we did In the early 90’s. People used to say that Austin was a nice place to live but a very difficult place to make a living. We loved Austin before it was popular to love it—way before it was hot.

We wanted to be organizational consultants, but that was a very new direction for both of us. We had both had successful careers—in very different fields. I had been a chamber of commerce executive and city lobbyist and was very familiar with Austin. Carol was a scholar with a PhD from Duke University and had formed her own communications company.

We had one thing in common. We had no reason to believe that we would not fail—but we believed we would overcome all the obstacles and create a successful consulting company. We saw ourselves on the level of a big ten consulting company that would enable companies to achieve their best. We were one of the first to get our products online and survived the bust to survive and thrive.

We combined a stubborn refusal to quit with a combination of goals, vision, research, technology and insight. We kept our expenses low and officed near, and sometimes on, Congress Ave, which was then the really low rent district.

How to Achieve a Breakthrough — We Had to Do It

We found we couldn’t make it as a company if we didn’t achieve some huge breakthroughs. The first thing we learned was that the best of our competitors in those days were dropping like flies. We learned that even if we did better than all of our competitors, we would never be successful. We had to top the scale, go beyond it, and create a new scale.

We created a model of organizational success that included ways for companies to measure their own success and improvement and the effectiveness of their executives and employees. Our model included assessments like the Myers-Briggs Type IndicatorTM, the Delta 360TM, and leadership and alignment initiatives. Clients began to value our model as part of their success. We developed a diverse national client base.

Leaf Cutter Ants are so organized that no one ever gets out of place.

How Do You See Yourself — Leaf Cutter or Life Achiever

Several years ago Carol and I spent a week hiking in the Peruvian Amazon where you encountered the Leaf Cutter Ants—the most organized society outside of the human race.

Only 2.5% of the female Leaf Cutters that swarm become queens. The rest of the Leaf Cutters below her are organized in a strict caste system. Some fertilize the fungi they farm. Others cut and carry the leaves, while soldier ants watch and guard against enemy attacks. Some care for the newly born. Others are on the cleaning crew.

Human society is not as different from the Leaf Cutters as we might think. In the Leaf Cutter Society there are no revolutions. No ant rises up and says, “Why is she the Queen, and why am I stuck carrying the leaves around all day?” We humans have revolutions from time to time, but most of us see ourselves in a fixed role, and not as top royalty. Why is that? Why don’t we change the way we think about ourselves?

Why do some people see themselves as at the bottom, but inevitably headed for the top. Michael Dell, legendary founder of Dell Computers, began selling computers out of the back of his car. We had a housekeeper a few years ago who worked for Michael Dell when he had his manufacturing operation in the back of his house. “You know that Michael,” our housekeeper used to say, “was so full of himself.”

“Yes,– he was” Tina, I would say, and look at where it got him. I thought Jeff Bezos was out of his mind when he started in books and then began to sell things he didn’t even know anything about.

So if you think you’ve been stuck—and I have been stuck multiple years—and need a break, see yourself differently in 2019. There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s where we all must begin.

Cover Photo: “Pulling into the Austin Motel after dark” by stuckincustoms / CC BY-NC-SA
Ants Photo: “Leaf-cutter ants” by Geoff Gallice / CC BY 2.0

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