Sunday, August 5, 2012

Success Tip: Be Crazy

Michael Phelps won his 18th gold medal yesterday.  We'll return to this point.

If you want to be successful, you have to be CRAZY...about something.

Michael Phelps is truly crazy! (Photo taken from
Most people will not understand this point, but THAT is what separates the truly successful...and everyone else.

Let's try explaining this one.

Thinking about My Past

I've often thought about this, but recently, I've been reading the book "The 80/20 Principle" by Richard Koch.  Within that book, he asks his readers to do an exercise that has each of us looking into our past.

Part of that exercise involves thinking about the times that we have been the most productive during our lives.

I started to notice a pattern.

I've heard other people say it, and I've read it in books, but it didn't really hit me until I started looking at my own past.

I'm best when I'm being CRAZY...about something.  How does that make sense?

The more I thought of it, the more sense it made.

In my entirely unprofessional opinion, there are two (2) types of craziness:
  • Unproductive
  • Productive
Until I prove people wrong, everyone will assume that my (or your) craziness is UNPRODUCTIVE.

Why is that?  Why do people assume that we're just being crazy?

Craziness is simply behaving in ways that most other people do not, and most people do not understand it.  In fact, they CAN'T understand it.

There are times when people are right on the money to pass negative judgment about that craziness.  Truthfully, most craziness that I've seen is just that...craziness...without any true purpose...without any productive purpose, anyway.

However, the people who make the greatest accomplishments are absolutely crazy.
  • It's crazy to think that we'll send somebody to the moon.
  • It's crazy to think that someone will ever be able to run a mile in less then 4 minutes.
  • It's crazy to believe that a huge ton of metal will be able to fly in the air--well over 200 mph.
  • It's crazy to believe that I'll win a gold medal.
Let's look at this last one, in particular.

As I'm writing this, we are in the middle of the Olympics.  Michael Phelps just finished his mark on making Olympic history with 18 career gold medals and 22 medals overall.

Michael Phelps is Crazy!

Let's take about Michael Phelps now and take a closer look at his case.

Why can't just anyone do what Michael Phelps did?

Yes, it's true that only some people are built to be good swimmers.  Within that group of people, only one person--with that body type--accomplished what Michael Phelps did.

There are plenty of people who are "swimmers," but nobody else has accomplished what Michael Phelps has done.

Consider what Phelps had to do to be in position to compete for those Olympic medals.

Olympic swimmers train...I mean that they put themselves through GRUELING training.  They have all sorts of crazy exercises and exercising schedules.  They are really careful about what they eat...when they eat it.

They do this FOR YEARS!

If you're a swimmer, you can do those things, too, but do you want to do them?

Most of us quickly answer some form of...NO, are you crazy?

That's just it.  In order to do something extraordinary, you have to do things that ordinary people are not willing to do.

Michael Phelps (and plenty of other Olympic swimmers) have a dedication to doing things to become the best swimmer possible, and what they have to do is CRAZY.

I opened this post claiming that if you want to be successful, you have to be crazy.

Michael Phelps is crazy--in a PRODUCTIVE way--to become the best at what he does.

Don't Get Discouraged: You CAN be crazy, too!  Just look at me!

After reading and thinking about Michael Phelps, it could be easy to get discouraged.

However, it wasn't (always) grueling for Michael or these other Olympic swimmers, because they LOVED it.  They really WANTED that goal.  They wanted to do whatever it would take to be the best.

You might be asking yourself, "Do I have to do what Michael did to become successful?"

If you are looking to be at Michael Phelps' level of success IN SWIMMING, then the answer is, "Yes."

Otherwise, the answer is, "No."

Well, the REAL ANSWER is, "Yes, but..."

There is something to realize here, though.

We all can be crazy...and successful if we pick something that matters to us more than it does most other people.

My True Realization

When I was going through that exercise in The 80/20 Principle book, I started to notice a pattern.

My most productive times in life were when I had a clear, focused goal...and I set a path to make that goal and did it.

When I did this, I would be crazy in two (2) ways:
  • I focused on that goal.  It became my obsession.
  • I did everything I could to make sure that I got that goal.
Example of Craziness #1: Job Recruiter

When I wanted to become a job recruiter, I had no business thinking that I could become one.

My college degree was in Math in Statistics.  I had a job as a Quality Technician, and it was the only "experience" I had in my 1-1/2 years after leaving college.

I had no sales experience.

I did not know anybody who was a job recruiter.

However, I  wanted to become a job recruiter (or so I thought at the time).

I really wanted to help people, and I knew that I could put my analytical skills to work in a positive way for companies and people.

I started to read books about sales and job recruiting.

I looked up a list of job recruiting companies and cold called them.  I set up appointments asking for advice about how to break into the industry and how to prepare myself.

Eventually, I started to get referrals.  Eventually, I got a job offer.

Most people would not even dare try to enter an industry without experience.

Most people consider it crazy to do work when you're not really working.

I really wanted this, and I was obsessed--even crazy--about getting this opportunity.

Example of Craziness #2: Perfume Store Training Aid

Later in life, I had a hard time getting a job that paid me what I believed I was worth, but I realized that I had to work at something.

So I took a job that paid me about 1/2 of what I made at my previous position.

I really enjoyed the job, but I needed to make more money.  So I looked for a 2nd job...and got it.

My 2nd job was at a perfume store in a local outlet mall.

Before starting my work there, I thought that I knew a lot about different men's and women's fragrances, but after starting my job there, I realized that I barely knew anything.

That store had over 1,000 different perfume types--literally!

I only knew a few of them, and I had the hardest time finding ANY of the perfumes.

Luckily--for me--I stared working at this store during a slow season for retail.  So we had a lot of downtime.

I had an idea.

I started to look through EVERY shelf of fragrance we had, and I wrote down the Designer, Fragrance Name, and Physical Location of where to find it.

This project took me weeks.  (I was only working there Part-Time.)  My manager and other coworkers thought I was crazy, and they were right.

I was crazy--to find a way to teach myself the names of the different fragrances and where to find them.  (I could NEVER find any of those silly things!)

They told me that there were too many, and it wouldn't do me any good.

Several weeks later, not only did I write down everything, but I also typed them into a database and printed out a catalog.

I meant for this guide to help me and other new workers learn where to find each fragrance.  However, even the more experienced workers--including the manager--used this guide often.

Yes, I WAS CRAZY to take time to put together that catalog.  Nobody else could envision how it could be valuable, and I was even getting permission by my manager to sit, do nothing, and get paid for it.

Yet, I relentlessly worked on getting the data to put together this catalog.

People STOPPED thinking I was crazy once I finished the project, and they could see it for themselves.

Ordinary people would never do that.  That's why it was so extraordinary!

Example of Craziness #3:You're buying THOSE stocks?

In 2008, the US economy was starting to become the worst since the Great Depression, and most of the people alive in 2008 weren't alive to experience that Great Depression.

In particular, the Auto Industry was dying.  Manufacturing companies were really suffering, because so many people no longer had jobs to earn income to buy cars.  Banks began tightening credit, meaning that fewer people were qualifying to get loans for cars, and few people actually had enough cash to buy cars.

When nobody has money to buy cars, car companies are not going to sell any cars.

Any idea what that does to their profits?

Yeah, it wasn't pretty.

In particular, the Ford Motor Company really suffered through an extended period of being mediocre, if not worse.

Auto stocks began to tank.

One of my friends--who is incredibly intelligent and has a job within the auto industry--scoffed when I suggested that he should invest in Ford (and his own company, too).

The price of Ford stock (and many other auto company stocks) was dropping like crazy.

I started to buy this stock in mid-2008 and continued throughout the first half of 2009, even as its stock price was tanking.

People thought I was crazy!

People were afraid to buy these stocks, because they saw things as they were THAT DAY.

I could see how they were going to be.

For Ford, I knew that they planned to bring the Ford Fiesta--a HUGE hit in Europe--to the United States.  This car would get incredibly good gas mileage, and this was during a time when gas prices were threatening to jump to ridiculously high prices.  So I understood that demand had been building.

Ford was known for having poor quality in its cars; however, they recently started winning quality awards.

Plus, Alan Mulally, the CEO that left Boeing to come lead Ford, was clearly a leader that many people truly wanted to follow.  Not only was he sharp, but he always seemed to be in control.  He even proved to be a brilliant problem solver, too.

Even as the stock price started to drop, I was CRAZY about buying as much of this Ford stock as I could.

Other people thought I was crazy.

(Note: I did this in a couple of other hurting industries, too.)

Since then, the stock price increased to 17 times its lowest point.  Honestly, I did not catch THAT entire swing, but I saw an opportunity that made me seem be crazy--at the time.

How can YOU be crazy--in a PRODUCTIVE way?

I mentioned that to be successful, you need to be a productive way.

You do not need to be "crazy" in my way or the way Michael Phelps is.

You just need to find ways that are easy for you to be crazy.

Find a goal that is important to you, and figure your path to get it.

You will soon be able to tell whether you have a goal or a wish.

If you aren't crazy enough to do those crazy things to make sure that you accomplish it, then it was a wish.

If you are "crazy" enough, then other people will find you to be crazy--until your actions make them see how brilliant you really are--not crazy.

Only, you had to be crazy to achieve those things.

If you do what ordinary people are not willing, then you will achieve something extraordinary.

It's that simple, and it's that difficult.

How do you plan to be crazy...and successful?

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