By Dr. John C. Maxwell
Oprah Winfrey and Anderson Cooper are two of the most popular media personalities in America. Yet, their backgrounds hardly could be more dissimilar. Oprah was born to unmarried teenage parents in rural Mississippi. Anderson’s mother was fashionable railroad heiress, Gloria Vanderbilt, and his father was a successful writer/editor in Manhattan. Oprah grew up in poverty, spending her childhood in the inner-city ghettoes of Milwaukee. Anderson was born into wealth. He appeared with his mom on The Tonight Show when he was three, and he modeled for Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, and Macy’s as a child.
Yet, for all of their differences (background, race, and gender), Oprah Winfrey and Anderson Cooper have unmistakable similarities. At some level, they resemble each other. They have an aura of success that identifies one with the other.
For example, both Oprah and Anderson Cooper consistently deliver. Whether it’s a talk show, a book club, or a cause she has adopted, we can rely on Oprah’s candor, inspiring energy, and excellence. The same consistency can be attributed to Anderson Cooper. One night he’s reporting from New York, the next night from Cairo, and he’s in London the day after that. Yet, when we turn on CNN, we can count on him to be poised, polished, and deliver the news with excellence.
What is it about successful people, like Oprah and Anderson Cooper, who, although completely different in background and style, are almost identical in their approach to work and life? In his book, 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life, Dr. Henry Cloud passes along his observations of nine principles commonly practiced by the successful people he knows. The book drips with leadership application, and I would like to take this lesson to summarize Dr. Cloud’s insights.
Principle #1: Dig It Up
Each person has a treasure trove of ability inside of them. Everyone has dreams and desires lodged within their soul. Why do some people dig deep and take hold of their dreams while others let them drift away?
According to Dr. Cloud, successful people give sustained attention to what stirs within them. They find outlets for their passions. Exercising their strengths is non-negotiable.
Principle #2: Pull the Tooth
Many people I know have an irrational fear of the dentist’s office. The idea of someone poking and prodding in their mouth fills them with dread. Amazingly, some people are afraid to the point where they would rather suffer discomfort day after day rather than undergo the temporary pain of a visit to the dentist.
As Dr. Cloud has observed, successful people go to the dentist. They face their fears and make the appointment. They pull the tooth that is causing the nagging ache and, by enduring the pain, they come out better on the other side.
Successful people refuse to carry their baggage through life. They confront their hurt, disappointment, and anger early, and they seek emotional freedom from life’s injuries. Likewise, successful people quickly recover when they fail. Rather than succumbing to a downward spiral of disappointment (or even depression) they come to terms with the failure, make course adjustments to their lives, and move on.
Principle #3: Play the Movie
Dr. Cloud recommends the exercise of playing a movie of your life in which you are the hero or heroine. What traits does your character have? What happens during the plot of the movie? Who do you starring alongside you? How does your movie inspire the people in the theater?
Most people live their life and then look at it. Do the opposite. Look at your life and then live it. Envision and step toward the future you want to experience. Don’t wake up one day to realize that your life is like a B-grade movie—you don’t want to leave in the middle, but you would never want to watch it again!
Principle #4: Do Something
Dr. Cloud’s fourth principle is short and to the point: successful people do something. They initiate, create, and generate. Successful leaders are proactive as opposed to reactive. “They do not see themselves as victims of circumstances,” Cloud writes, “But as active participants who take steps to influence outcomes.” Their days and their lives are controlled by internal motivations rather than external currents.
In a similar vein, successful people take ownership for their destinations in life. They don’t assign blame; they welcome responsibility. They refuse to cede their freedom to others and live dependently. The successful person has done leadership’s toughest task—mastered the art of self-leadership. The benefit of leading yourself well is that you don’t have to rely on others to provide direction for your life. You get to plan the course.
Principle #5: Act Like An Ant
“Go to the ant, you sluggard;Consider its ways and be wise!It has no commander,No over seer or ruler,Yet it stores its provisions in summerAnd gathers its food at the harvest.” -Proverbs 6:6-8
Dr. Cloud points to the ant to develop another principle of success. Three lessons stand out from the metaphor of the ant. First, they appreciate the ethic of hard work. Their lives are a flurry of constant activity as they tirelessly search for food. Second, ants refuse to give up. They never abandon the hunt, crawling through cracks and crevices in their pursuit of a morsel. Third, ants understand the value of compounding. Grain by grain an ant builds the hill that becomes its home, and crumb by crumb they accumulate storehouses of food.
Principle #6: Hate Well
In his writing, Dr. Cloud talks about focusing feelings of anger constructively to solve problems or end injustice. As he develops his idea of “hating well,” he distinguishes between subjective hate and objective hate.
Subjective hate is toxic. Dr. Cloud describes it as, “a pool of feelings and attitudes that resides in our soul, waiting for expression. It is not directed at anything specific or caused on any given day by any specific object. It is already there, sort of like an infection of the soul.” Subjective hate poisons and corrupts the person who houses it.
On the contrary, objective hate can be described as anger with a purpose. Objective hate protects by standing in opposition to dishonesty, exploitation, or deceit. Objective hate may spark entrepreneurship. In fact, many successful businesses have begun as a result of the founder’s hatred of poor service or shoddy quality.
Principle #7: Don’t Play Fair
Fairness says “an eye for an eye,” or “a tooth for a tooth.” Fairness weighs all actions in a balance and continuously moves to equilibrium. The rule of fairness means good actions deserve kind responses, and bad behavior deserves punishment.
In Dr. Cloud’s opinion, living in accordance with fairness will destroy every relationship in life. With everyone keeping score of favors bestowed and received, eventually someone will feel victimized when a good deed goes unreturned. As a leader, I’ve learned the high road is the only road to travel on. Don’t treat others according to what they deserve; treat them even better than you would prefer to be treated. By doing so, you’ll keep integrity and avoid sticky accusations or petty arguments.
Principle #8: Be Humble
“Pride is concerned with who is right.Humility is concerned with what is right.” -Ezra Taft Benson
In Dr. Cloud’s estimation, successful people have a healthy dose of humility. Humility has an internal and external component. Internally, humility comes when we admit our errors, and open ourselves to instruction. Externally, humility is gained when we show patience for the faults of others, and when we are quick to shine the spotlight on the successes of others.
Principle #9: Upset the Right People
A person’s success will always be inhibited if he or she tries to please all of the people all of the time. I like how Dr. Cloud explains the principle of upsetting the right people:
Do not try to avoid upsetting people; just make sure that you are upsetting the right ones. If the kind, loving, responsible, and honest people are upset with you, then you had better look at the choices you are making. But if the controlling, hot and cold, irresponsible or manipulative people are upset with you, then take courage!
Be likeable and be gracious, but don’t sacrifice your identity or values for the sake of harmony.
Review: 9 Things You Simply Must Do for Success
Principle #1 – Dig It Up
Principle #2 – Pull the Tooth
Principle #3 – Play the Movie
Principle #4 – Do Something
Principle #5 – Act Like an Ant
Principle #6 – Hate Well
Principle #7 – Don’t Play Fair
Principle #8 – Be Humble
Principle #9 – Upset the Right People
Filed under: Leadership Skills