by Allen Weiss, MD, MBA, FACP, FACR
President and CEO, NCH Healthcare System
Much has been written about how to succeed in life, business, school, and old age; as a couple or family; and in most every other environment and situation imaginable.
Famous authors including Stephen Covey, who emulated Dale Carnegie, who in turn revered President Abraham Lincoln, are the modern day experts on success lessons. To make himself understood, Lincoln was famous in employing Old Testament parables, stories, and lessons as he rode the circuit court in his early career and later as President when he met informally with constituents.
The Old Testament, in addition to being the core of Judeo-Christian religions, is the origin of many of our current success lessons.
Along with how to be successful, one should understand how not to fail, e.g., behavior to avoid. And to polish the entire subject of success, how can one be successful and remain modest? Really what is most admired is success without drama or fanfare.
LET’S START WITH SOME GOOD BEHAVIORS:
- “Take care of your body. It is the only place you have to live,” is a quote by Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker. Southwest Florida’s Blue Zones Project facilitates caring for yourself by making the healthy choice the easy choice. Fortunately, we live in the healthiest and happiest metropolitan statistical area in America for the past two years, as noted by the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index®.
- “Even if you are on the right path, you will get run over if you just sit still,” has been attributed to Will Rogers. Start new projects and move current projects along because no matter how far down the track you are, you will get run over if you are immobile.
- “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest,” according to Benjamin Franklin’s sage and timeless advice that reaffirms the importance of life-long learning. Southwest Florida ranks 8th in nation for learning or doing something interesting daily. Having our many institutions for higher education— for example, FGCU, FSW, Hodges, and our public school system—to create learning opportunities makes Franklin’s point.
- “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus,” is Alexander Graham Bell’s visual comment on focus. Paying attention or focusing along with willpower and feedback are attributes necessary for success of any individual or organization.
- “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it,” by Edith Wharton, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, shares the vision of helping others by either innovating or copying others’ best practices. Moreover, according to a Chinese proverb, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” And as I have shared, we don’t have time to make all the mistakes ourselves, so feel free to copy others’ successes.
- “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” This Chinese proverb means it is never too late to get started, and don’t let delay become overwhelming. The modern version is, “better late than never.”
- “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” Ben Franklin or Alan Larkin or both may be the authors of this recently popularized phrase that is another version of “a stitch in time saves nine.” Preparation is as important as talent, ambition, and endurance for success, and yet preparation is probably the most overlooked ingredient.
- “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” by Confucius, or “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life,” by singer-songwriter Marc Anthony, have the same meaning and provide enduring intergenerational wisdom. Having purpose, doing worthwhile work, and making a difference are three characteristics of the noble professions characterized by having beneficiaries’ interests placed above one’s own. Think of teachers/students, healthcare professionals/patients, and ministers/parishioners—all exhibiting the relationship of leaders subservient to recipients.
- “Be with people who bring out the best in you, not the stress in you,” by an unknown author, makes the point nicely that toxic people need to be avoided. You are the average of the friends around you, so find smart, nice folks and make them better. In turn, you will improve and be more content. Conversely, toxic people can take the life out of you. And be wary of trying to change toxic people because most times you will burn up an excessive amount of energy without much progress. Using limited resources on folks who want to change and are not set concretely in their ways is better.
- “One view is worth a hundred reports,” by George S. Patton captures the need to see and be seen. General Patton was referring to joining his front line troops, sharing their experiences, gathering intelligence, inspiring colleagues, and leading successful missions. The same is true in business and society today. Being immersed matters and cannot be overstated.
- “People bring their own weather,” is a thought first shared with me when discussing some self-appointed “leaders” who were not great listeners. Rolling into a room or meeting without sensing the surrounding environment or culture is usually counterproductive. Conversely, responding sensitively to others can create a successful team, better processes, less drama, and favorable outcomes. Our demeanor—verbal and non-verbal communication—sets the stage for success or failure.
- “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” is another piece of sage advice for the workplace. Our first impression matters because over a millennium, instant differentiation between a threat and an opportunity was a matter of survival. In today’s society, physical appearance creates the same instantaneous image in which others perceive us as a desirable companion and successful person.
- “Nothing happens when you stay at home,” is an old adage applicable for introverted or bashful people. Being purposeful in one’s personal life or professional career is the first step to success, requiring initiative. If you don’t try, you will never become successful.
- “The best way to predict the future is to create it,” a phrase attributed to Lincoln, goes along with being proactive, leaving the house, or in the professional environment getting away from your office email. Be mindful of your surroundings, but also be bold in your leadership. For example, creating a healthy community is the best way to decrease the need for healthcare, subsequently lowering healthcare costs. We can be accurate in our predictions when we have created the future.
Inspirational and wise aphorisms to share and follow are plentiful. All are helpful and based on doing the right thing at the right time in the right way. We are all challenged, and no one is perfect. I firmly believe if we do the right thing often enough, we’ll get the right result.