Whatever dream you decide to go after, whether it is a family, or a career goal, you must consciously decide that it is your life’s mission. Benjamin Disraeli said, “The secret of success is constancy to purpose.” You must go at it obsessively and set high standards for yourself along the way. There is no room for compromise when you are charting a course for your life or your career.
I spoke to a group of sharp young people not long ago, and when I finished, some of the fellows came up and said they were interested in becoming professional speakers. They invited me to go out with them that evening to have a good time. These fellows looked as though they knew how to have a serious good time.
I had planned to work on my delivery that night by listening to my tape of my speech. I tape my speeches and listen to them later so I can study what works and what does not work with a particular audience. In effect, I listen to the audience listening to me.
I was tempted to go with these fellows, and back when I was their age I probably would have given in to that temptation and gone. But I have become more disciplined and more committed to my craft. A friend of mine, Wes Smith, wrote a humor book called Welcome to the Real World, and in it he offered advice to fresh high school and college graduates. He had a line in the book that pertains to the situation I faced that night. It said, “Having a drink with the boys after work every night is a bad idea. Notice that the boss doesn’t do it. That is why he is the boss and they are still the boys.”
Wes told me that he wrote that line with one particular group of hard-partying young businessmen in mind, and five years after the book came out, he ran into one of them. The guy volunteered that he’d read that line in Wes’s book and decided never to go drinking after work again. It paid off, he said. He had risen to a vice-presidency at a savings and loan.
In my drive to become a public speaker, I developed that kind of focus, too. There is not a lot of time for hard partying if you are pursuing greatness. It was not that these young fellows were not serious about their interest in professional speaking, but they were just as serious about having a good time. I don’t believe they were focused on their goals. They were seeking a profession but they were not on a mission to make a dramatic difference in the world. I am. You should be too.
Rather than the party crowd, I prefer to seek out people with knowledge that might be useful. I like to find out what books successful and intelligent people are reading. I want access to the information that contributes to their success and intelligence.