Chapter 1: Success Without Struggle
There are only two times I feel stress: day and night.
I was ready to push my limits, to succeed at something I had never done before. That meant boarding the waiting airplane and pushing myself through a cargo door while cruising at 90 miles per hour at 14,000 feet.
I stood at this brink for one reason: I wanted to break through the unfounded terror I harbored about doing a solo jump out of an airplane. It wasn't as if I hadn't tried other boundary-breaking excursions. After all, I did bungee jump off the Golden Gate Bridge and rock climb sheer cliffs. But this was different. I really wanted to challenge myself, based on what I knew I could do -- but the idea sent bolts of stark terror through me.
As I stood there, struggling with my fear, my skydiving instructor sauntered over. "Hi, I'm Billy," he drawled, offering his hand. About forty, with a three-day growth of beard, he wore a T-shirt that said SKYDIVERS: GOOD TO THE LAST DROP.
When Billy asked me if I was scared, I tried to be cool. "No. I'm not really that scared," I said with a shaky voice. Then I let out a nervous giggle. I think Billy saw right through my act and knew how terrified I really was. Undeterred, he went over the safety instructions carefully as we put on our parachutes.
Billy and I joined a group of skydivers as we walked toward the plane. I boarded first, which meant I'd be the last one to jump. This seemed like a great plan while I was on the ground. Unfortunately, I realized that it just gave me more time to imagine what it would be like to plummet toward the earth like a meteor if the parachute didn't open.
As I pondered my fate, the other skydivers crowded into the plane. We sat on the floor in two long rows going from front to back, packed like eggs in a carton. All I could think about was what happened to Humpty Dumpty.
The higher we climbed, the faster my heart beat.
Finally, it was my turn to jump. "Remember," Billy yelled at me over the howling wind, "if you ever start to panic or struggle, just stop, be aware, and resume control." Nodding, I took a deep breath and then shouted out the protocol: "Ready...set...go!" Billy and I jumped out of the plane and into one of the most life-changing events of my life.
Billy stayed with me until we reached five thousand feet. Then he soared away so that we would have enough room to open our parachutes. As soon as I was on my own I heard that familiar nagging voice of fear that tortured me. "What are you doing out here alone?" the voice taunted me. "You're going to screw up. You're going to die!"
All of a sudden I lost focus and stopped arching my body the way I had been instructed. My body flipped, and I started to tumble over and over as I frantically grabbed for the rip cord. But the harder I tried, the more I missed it -- and the closer I fell to the quickly approaching ground.
Then I remembered Billy's words: Stop. Be aware. Resume control.
In that moment I stopped struggling. I corrected my position, found the rip cord, and pulled it. Phoomph!
A huge multicolored canopy mushroomed above me as I floated gently to earth.
I yelled in triumph as I touched down. I realized that I had overcome my fears and done something I had always dreamed about doing. Not only had I overcome my fear -- I had done it twice. Once before I jumped and once after. I achieved what I came to refer to as Extreme Success, that is, using powerful strategies to dramatically expand my success into new areas. At the same time, I overcame the nearly overpowering sense of struggle that almost prevented me from fulfilling my goal. The rush I then experienced was fantastic. I felt adrenaline pumping through my body and I felt totally alive!
I was energized and invigorated. It was an incredible feeling!
I learned an awesome lesson that day. I discovered that struggle doesn't make success happen. In fact, struggle can prevent success from happening.
This is the basis of the energizing philosophy I've adapted for my life -- and the heart of my business. I've learned how to neutralize struggle, redirect fear, and stay focused so that it is possible to achieve greater success. Like me, my clients have learned how to do this. And now so can you.Struggle: The Syndrome That Keeps On Giving
"C'mon Rich! The harder you work the better you'll be!" This belief was drummed into my head about fifteen years ago, when I was a competitive bodybuilder.
Every night at eleven o'clock, after a day working my full-time job and taking evening college classes, I would go to the gym. In the nearly deserted space I'd strain to lift weights for one more repetition while my workout partner would scream commands like, "No pain, no gain!" in my face like a drill sergeant.
Now, in bodybuilding, that may be true. It is
important to put lots of stress on muscles to make them grow. The other lessons I learned, like discipline, focus, and visualizing my goals, also helped me to become more successful in other areas of my life. However, I took on the philosophy that the more I struggled and worked really, really hard, the more successful I would be. My problem was that I got in the habit of applying that philosophy to my entire
I also formed the skewed belief that struggle is noble. I thought that the harder I worked, the better a person I would be. Like millions of others, I bought into this counterproductive point of view. As a coach, I've heard it so many times I've coined a term for it: the Struggle Syndrome. Nobody I know embodies it better than my friend Chuck.Chuck, Amuck
No one could ever deny that Chuck works hard. Actually, he'd be the first to agree. He delights in telling people how busy he is, how overworked, how he has no time to live because he is so overloaded. Chuck makes these statements with pride, as if he deserves multiple pats on the back for all the struggle he is putting himself through.
And struggle it certainly is. His office looks like it was arranged by a tornado. Sticky notes cover the computer screen, and to-do memos are taped all over the desk lamp. Piles teeter upon piles. Just trying to get from his office door to his desk is an extreme sport in itself.
Every January for the past several years Chuck has told me, "This is the year I stop chasing my tail. I'm going to be organized and more effective." (As of this writing, it hasn't happened yet.)
Chuck's behavior is anything but unusual. The belief that struggle is an inseparable partner of success is deeply ingrained in our society; it's something I hear from just about all my clients. When I ask them why they feel this way, they usually say, "My parents always told me that if I wanted to make it big I had to work hard. And every time a colleague succeeds, you always hear someone say, 'Wow, he really worked hard for that. He deserves the recognition he's getting.'" They quote from self-help books they've read and seminars they've attended, all of which stress the effort of success and involve breaking through obstacles and making great personal sacrifices on the road to achievement. They believe that the reward for a job well done is more work. Is it any surprise that they usually feel overwhelmed and/or burned out?
Ultimately, they equate success with pain and end up filtering their work -- and their lives -- through the assumption that struggle is inevitable. The result is that other options don't get any consideration. When this happens it's time to remove the struggle filter and look at life through a wide-angle lens that reveals a much bigger picture with many more choices.
So when my clients start to brag about how busy they are, I shock them by saying, "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. How would you like your worklife to be?"
This opposing view begins to shift people from their rigid mind-set and helps them approach success in a different way. Then I tell them what I'm telling you: It took a leap out of an airplane for me to understand that struggle isn't only not noble -- it can be life-threatening!
I sum up my strategy like this:If you seek struggle, you will find it.
If you seek ease, you will find it.
I believe in trusting that things are going to go well.
And while I know it's crucial to prepare for the worst, I also expect the best. I realize this is an unconventional outlook, but I know how important it is to be open to the idea that success can happen with joy and ease, not struggle and frustration.
This doesn't mean that I don't believe in challenge. There's nothing I embrace more than the thought of achieving something new that's going to require real effort. What I don't believe is that effort automatically links with struggle, which further links to negativity. All struggle produces is a situation where enjoyment is sucked out of what you're doing -- even if the outcome is successful.No Pain, All Gain
You don't have to leap out of an airplane and lose control to feel the impact of the Struggle Syndrome. My coaching clients report lots of various Struggle Syndrome symptoms. Having headaches or a tight neck, snapping at coworkers, forgetting appointments, losing things -- these are all struggle signs.
I know when my own struggle bug starts to bite. I clench my jaw, jump from project to project, and build mountains of papers on my desk. Not surprisingly, I become distracted and even frantic. Now, however, when the symptoms first kick in, I can stop them quickly by asking myself, How can I do this with greater ease? Occasionally I do all of the following actions, sometimes just one or two.
- I shift my mind-set from "I have to do this" to "I'm choosing to do this."
- I stand up and take a couple of deep breaths.
- I break what I'm doing into small "chunks."
- I go for a walk.
- I clean up my work space.
- I choose only one project to focus on and "hide" all the others.
- I work on something else and come back to the project when I'm in a better mood and willing to focus on it again.
- I ask for help.
These choices help me to step back, become more alert, and look for a more effective way to accomplish what I'm working on. Once the Struggle Syndrome kicks in I stop, become aware, and resume control.
Isn't it time you gave yourself the permission to succeed with ease, too? It's a much more effective and joyful way to live and work.
Meet my client Lisa, in her mid-thirties, who learned how to succeed with ease. Lisa's personal fitness trainer, whom she saw whenever she was in the San Francisco area for her work, referred her to me.
Before I start to coach, I always send a series of questionnaires to the new client to fill out before our initial meeting. I sent these forms to Lisa, who had just begun a job as a salesperson for a medical supply company in the Midwest.
When asked what main areas she wanted to focus on, Lisa wrote:
- Increase my sales. I want to be the #1 salesperson in my company. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to achieve this goal!
- Stop procrastinating! I have so many things I want to do, but I never have the time or energy to complete them. I have so much to do, but I can't keep up with everything. Every time I turn around, there's something else I need to do.
At our first meeting I asked Lisa, "What's the biggest obstacle that might get in your way of becoming the number-one salesperson at your company?"
Lisa said, "Look at the second thing I want to focus on: procrastination! I want to move forward, but it feels like I have too many things just to catch up on. I feel like I'm on overload and about to go into overwhelm."
As a "homework" assignment, I asked Lisa to make a list of all those things that she "had to catch up on." She agreed.
The following week she brought the list. I began our session by saying, "Okay, let's see what you can eliminate or delegate." Lisa was adamant: "I can't! All those things are my responsibility. Anyway, if I try to get someone else to do them they'll probably do them wrong and then I'll have to fix their mistakes. That will take longer than just doing it myself."
"How do you know that they will do them wrong?" I asked.
"I just know it."
But when I said, "Please just trust me on this one. Let's go through the list, okay?" Lisa agreed.
As we began, Lisa was very uncomfortable with the idea of letting go of total control. It was obvious that she assumed that reaching her goal was going to be brutal, because even before the first coaching session, Lisa had set up her own struggling strategies.
She told me about how she had considered working twelve-hour days to "catch up." Of course, that entailed giving up a few things, like not working out at her gym for a few months. Lisa assumed that struggle, in order to achieve her sales goal, was inevitable.
"Lisa," I told her, "as long as you keep telling yourself that what you want to accomplish is going to be hard, it will be. Let's look at a different perspective. What would it be like if you had space in your schedule to focus on what really matters for great sales?"
Lisa didn't say anything for a moment. Then she replied, "Peaceful."
"Great! It can
be that way if you tell yourself it will
be that way. Are you willing to take on that perspective? I know it's an unconventional way of approaching a goal, but I believe it's really important to be open to it. It's the best way -- the only way -- to bring you success with joy and ease, not struggle and frustration. Look at it this way: If your desire is to ski, why hike up the mountain and wear yourself out when you can take the chairlift?"
Lisa nodded. "I'm willing to try," she said.
Line by line we began to go through her list again. This time, Lisa was much more willing to cross off the not truly vital to-do's. She was also much more willing to take what she called the "risk" of delegating many of the remaining tasks from her list.
From that point on, she began looking for the most effective and enjoyable ways to reach her goal. She hired an assistant to whom she delegated many of her tasks. At the same time, Lisa continued with her workout program and kept her commitment to work no more than nine hours per day.
Throughout this book we'll follow Lisa's story, along with those of several of my other coaching clients. You'll see what happens with Lisa's stress, how she does with her goals, and what happens when she breaks free of the Struggle Syndrome.Keepers: Thoughts to Remember
Action Idea #1: Learn to Work with Ease
- Struggle doesn't make success happen. In fact, struggle can prevent success from happening.
- If you seek struggle, you will find it. If you seek ease, you will find it.
- Learn to stop, be aware, and resume control.
- Notice how you start falling into the Struggle Syndrome. Write down what red flags start flying.
- Decide what you will do when you notice that you're struggling or losing control.
- Write a personal affirmation to help bring you back to grounded effectiveness as you stop, become aware, and resume control.
- Think about your past week. Write down one way that you made the process of going for your goals harder and less effective.
- Now write down how you could have made the process more effective and enjoyable.
- On the same day each week go through this ritual. Week by week you will develop a stronger ability to avoid the Struggle Syndrome. You'll find that you will become more effective (and happier) as time goes on. If you want to raise your level of awareness even further, begin this ritual by rating how the week was for you on a scale of 1 to 10. (With 10 being very effective, joyful, and struggle-free.)
Copyright © 2002 by Rich Fettke
Introduction: What Is Extreme Success?
If you have achieved professional and personal success but also fear that you've accomplished everything you ever will, I want to reassure you: Extreme Success can be yours.
If you want to live out a dream, whether it's starting your own business, moving to the top of your company, traveling around the world, getting into great physical shape, or stepping beyond the apparent limits of your day-to-day life, Extreme Success can be yours.
If you have tried to follow the old success rules and find that they just don't work anymore, Extreme Success can be yours, too.
Whether you want to improve your performance, increase your income, get more out of your life -- or all of the above -- the strategies you need and the tools to make them happen are in your hands.
So what is Extreme Success? Very simply, it's a more effective, life-affirming way to succeed. At the heart of it lies the simple (yet uncommon) realization that everything can be easier. And a whole lot more fun.
Wait just a minute, you might say, this goes against everything I've read and been told.
What about all those motivational books that told me to push hard and struggle? you might ask.
Forget about them.
I want you to break the old rules. Most people believe that they must pay a price to attain what they want, and often that price is poor health, not having enough time to enjoy life, and strained relationships with family and friends.
The old rules preached that success involved lots of homework and planning. You were directed to prepare for and then forge into the battle. Instructed to ignore your fears, overcome your weaknesses, and strain over obstacles, you may have bought into the belief that to be a success you had to fight and struggle. You were told that long -- make that very long -- hours of hard work were the only path to victory. You were told that achieving success wasn't about having a good life, it was about going to war! Well, not anymore.
Overpreparing and overorganizing -- and, yes, even working too hard -- can backfire. Struggle can actually prevent
you from achieving the success you want. Because what you are really struggling against is yourself.
A counterintuitive idea? Of course. But a necessary one, because the old paradigms just don't work anymore. I've read dozens of books, attended endless seminars, and listened to hundreds of hours of audio programs. Most of them are based on a business model for success that was used fifty years ago. Today the message hasn't been changed, it's only been reformatted. Let's face it, an old typewriter with a new cartridge is still an old typewriter.
That's why I'm offering you revolutionary ideas for our revolutionary times. Technological advances keep changing the way you communicate and live. Every moment opportunities spring out of thin air. You function in a business world where the luxury of taking time to make decisions is as dated as an IBM Selectric.
But getting caught up in the wild pace of change and trying to handle it by frantically working harder and faster is like trying to swim upstream. You're only going to wear yourself out. You're not a salmon. And remember: After the salmon finishes its upstream swim, it spawns and dies.
The new world of business demands a new way of succeeding in it.
That's what Extreme Success is all about. It will show you how to break free of the limiting perspectives of the past so that you are ready to act on the best opportunities right now and in the future. You'll succeed more and struggle less than ever before -- and have a whole lot more fun in the process!
I'm going to give you something else that will change your life: a surefire approach to create your own luck.And
I'm going to show you simple and effective ways to balance your life. In my workshops I often hear variations of a common complaint. It's either "I spend so much time at work that I have to wear a name tag when I go home," or "I'm afraid to make a commitment, because I can't split myself in two. My job is so important -- but so is my personal life. Or it would be -- if I had one. Help!"
Guess what? Balancing your life doesn't mean you have to compromise.
You can expand success into ALL areas of your life -- and you don't have to sacrifice one element to achieve success in another. You can take your whole life to the max.
I know this is true. I believed that getting married and having kids would hold me back from success. Then I fell in love with a woman who already had a three-year-old daughter. I married her, but I was certain my work would suffer. Just the opposite happened. Because I wanted to spend more time with my new family, I became more focused and effective in my business. I learned a big lesson about how to work less and achieve more.
I've discovered from my own successes as well as from those of my clients that the more fun something is, the easier it is to learn and stay focused on it. Every six-year-old kid knows this intuitively. It's amazing how adults forget.True Success Stories
I'm a certified personal coach. What's that? Well, a personal coach's approach is similar to what an athletic coach does, but with a wider focus. A personal coach takes the time to find out what winning in life
means to you. We are specially trained to listen and observe and to help our clients succeed in all areas of life.
Coaches work with clients in all areas, including business, career, finances, health, and relationships. As a result of coaching, clients set more effective goals; devise strategies to get results; move through obstacles, difficulties, and procrastination; create more balanced and fulfilling lives, and more fully use their natural strengths. People hire me when they want more -- more growth, more money, more ease, more time, more quality relationships, and more satisfaction. Bottom line: They want to get more out of life.
One of the great benefits of being a coach is the incredible education I receive from my clients. As you read, you'll find an assortment of the lessons they've taught me as well as some of my own experiences. And while we're all very different people with very different goals, it's amazing to see how the strategies that work for one client in one area can often help other people in other areas. That's one of the driving ideas behind Extreme Success, and the results are fantastic.
My clients seek my coaching to help them realize their goals, which may include career advancement, financial success, and improved personal lives. If you met these amazing people, you wouldn't be surprised at what they have accomplished -- after all, their devotion to their goals is clear -- but you might be surprised at how relaxed yet focused they are. There's a simple reason for their demeanor: They've found an effective, uncomplicated method to make success happen, one that doesn't rely on a sixteen-hour workday and zero personal life. I've helped them discover how this method works -- and now I want to share the same strategies with you, as I did with
- Tamara, the owner of a large gymnastics school and rock-climbing gym, who was spending all her time and money on her businesses, to the exclusion of her family, her friends, and her self. By tackling her problems with new strategies, she was able to cut down her presence at work while her ventures continued to grow. She found more time to spend with her family and to participate in the sports she loved. Best of all, she took herself away from work -- all the way to Nepal -- for a real vacation.
- Michael, a partner in a television commercial production company, who had a $30,000 credit card debt he wanted to pay off. Michael needed help. Taking one of my suggestions, he made the crucial shift from working in his business to working on his business. In only eighteen months he raised his company's annual income from $50,000 to more than $1 million a year. And the credit card debt is gone!
- Christine, a financial adviser at a Fortune 100 investment firm for eight years, was burned out. Her income had hit a ceiling, and she had no time for herself. She wanted to "live again." I showed her how to break out of boredom and burnout. She lost more than twenty pounds, met a wonderful man, and increased her income by 200 percent over the previous three years combined.
Best of all, Tamara, Michael, and Christine all learned one fundamental lesson: They stopped struggling against themselves
and were able to meet their goals -- and even surpass them.
Because Extreme Success and extreme sports are linked like a parachute to a rip cord, I use my adventures as an extreme sports athlete as lessons for achievement in business and in life. Why do these lessons matter? Because in extreme sports the traditional rules are broken or just plain thrown out. We invent a new sport, a new paradigm, a new way of doing things -- one that's a lot more exciting. In extreme sports, the decision about whether a challenge will be a struggle or a joy can be made before a hand is placed on a cliff or a bungee cord is tied around the ankles. The same principle applies in your professional -- and personal -- life.
But please don't think that you must scale a cliff or dive off a bridge to qualify as an Extreme Achiever. You don't. Extreme sports are not a prerequisite for success. Applying the principles involved in successfully performing the sport is what counts -- and they work just as well on the Street as they do on the rock or in the air.
Ultimately, you're going to feel the astonishing exhilaration that comes from attaining what you really want -- as you revel in your ability to build on past accomplishments.Taking Your Success to the Extreme: Seven Ways to Make It Happen
In seven quick-reading sections, I'm going to give you the tools you need to achieve Extreme Success. They are:
Extreme Success Is in Your Future
- Create opportunity and make your own luck. You'll learn how to be in the right place at the right time. It's not just about luck; it's about being prepared and willing to take the risk when an opportunity arises. I'll reveal the intersection where strategy meets opportunity, and take you to the place where you can create your own "luck."
- Learn to use your strengths -- and forget about those self-limiting weaknesses. They are merely underdeveloped qualities. The key is to redirect past successes and strengths into your underdeveloped areas. That way, when opportunities arise, you will be better prepared to take action. By learning how to turn perceived "weaknesses" into strengths, pushing limits without struggle can become easy. I'll show you how it's done.
- Finding the right partners and get the help you need. There's no such thing as a self-made success: Everyone needs partners for support and creative give-and-take. In today's world, you can't compete if you can't collaborate. There are extremely effective ways to use partnerships and alliances. We'll look at what they are and how to form them.
- Focus your attention on intention. Many people allow their attention to be drawn away in lots of different ways. Encompassing everything from disorganized offices to listening to all those inner voices about what won't work, lack of attention on your goal wastes a lot of time and energy. I'll explain how your intention can reap huge rewards.
- Take risks and overcome the fear factor. This is where my four-step process to manage your fears comes into play. You'll be able to clarify what to do, when to do it, and how to avoid the pitfall of overpreparation.
- Maintain the momentum you gain. You're going to learn how to get to and stay in the "Zone" of high effectiveness. You'll experience increased confidence, heightened awareness, total concentration, and near-effortless momentum. You will learn how to keep your attention on what you truly want and how to improve your focus. I'll also help you find a challenge-ability balance so you don't become overwhelmed, frustrated, or ineffective.
- Face the next challenge. We'll look at how to widen the path of your success. This will allow you to face future challenges and opportunities with greater enjoyment, effectiveness, and ease.
So, are you ready to reach higher levels of success with greater joy and ease?
Are you ready to push your limits and build on what you've already accomplished?
Does the idea of using an innovative approach to reaching your highest goals -- without struggling or sacrificing your life -- appeal to you?
If so, then you're ready to take the leap to Extreme Success!
Copyright © 2002 by Rich Fettke