Several years ago, I wrote out a list of “100 Things I Want to Do Before I Die.” It’s really an amazing, audacious list. Whenever I review it, I am both inspired and stunned by how many of the items I have already accomplished. And yet, there is so much more. The list keeps growing.
I’ll bet you have a list, too. Perhaps you’ve written it down; perhaps not. Regardless, you doubtless want to accomplish things—probably a lot of things. Really important things. Unfortunately, life is short. I have more to accomplish than I could probably do in seven lifetimes.
So how do you actually make significant progress on your goals? How can you get more things done and squeeze as much juice out of life as possible?
One of the most important things you can do, of course, is to write down your goals. I have written about this in The 90-Day Challenge, so I won’t repeat myself here. But assuming you have done that, what’s next?
I’m going to tell you the single most important action you can take to go further, faster and to make your dreams become reality. I have done this over and over again in my life. To the extent I have achieved any level of success, I believe this is the secret:
My assumption is that someone, somewhere has already done what you are attempting to do—and done it well. If you can tap into their experience and learn from it, you can get to where you want to go faster and with fewer missteps along the journey.
There are basically three ways you can do this. These are arranged from least expensive to most expensive. However, you can often find free alternatives if you look hard enough.
- Read the best, most relevant information.
My journey into uncharted territory always begins with a search on Google. There is a ton of free information on the web (obviously). This will give you a feel for who the experts are and what they have to say. If I want to go deeper, I then buy the best books I can find on a given topic.
For example, when I took up digital photography, I bought the three books with the highest Amazon ranking and the best customer reviews. I did the same when I decided to start running or wanted to learn how HTML or CSS. This is a relatively inexpensive way to learn the basics and get a broad working knowledge of the topic at hand.
But this step doesn’t just apply to new interests. I continue to read in areas where I am already proficient. I want to deepen my knowledge and my skills sharp.
- Sign-up for specialized classes.
I have a short attention span, so full-length, longer-term courses don’t work for me. I get bored. I prefer the all-day, three-day, or (occasionally) a one-week course. For example:
- When I wanted to figure out my purpose in life and where I fit into the totality of God’s plan, I attended John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart Boot Camp. It was so good that I went back two more times. The last time I took my two sons-in-law with me.
- When I wanted to learn how to build a great marriage, Gail and I attended several courses on marriage, some taught by Gary Smalley. (A bit of trivia: Gary and his wife, Norma, introduced Gail and me to each other. He actually performed our marriage ceremony.) A few years ago, we attended Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs’ “Love and Respect” marriage seminar. It was outstanding.
- When I wanted to learn how to create alignment in teams, I took a one-week course from Gap International called “The Alignment Intensive.” It blew my mind. I use the tools I learned in this course almost every day.
- When I wanted to improve my writing skills, I signed up for an intensive one-week course from American Writers & Artists, Inc. called, “The Copywriting Success Bootcamp.” This was one of the best professional investments I ever made. Recently, I went through the Fast, Effective Copywriting course. It was worth every penny.
- When I wanted to improve my golf short game, I signed up for a one-day course with Nancy Quarcelino, one of the best golf teachers in the country. Though my game is still not all that great, it’s a lot better since taking this course.
- When I wanted to learn how to use Photoshop to edit my digital photos, I took a one-day course from Ben Willmore called, “Photoshop for Digital Photographers.” (Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like he is teaching this any longer. But he does have plenty of other great resources.)
- When I wanted to take my Bible study to the next level, I spent last weekend going through a seven-hour video seminar taught by Morris Proctor called “Camp Logos Live.” It was a detailed, excellent course on how to use Logos Bible Software. It was incredible.
These are just a few examples of dozens I could cite. Some of these courses were free. Some cost a few hundred dollars. In a few rare instances, the courses cost several thousand dollars. Regardless, you can sometimes find very good, free or inexpensive courses taught by churches or other non-profit organizations or even local colleges. Like I said, enlist the help of the best coaches and instructors you can afford.
Next, I enlisted the help of real people who could hone my skills beyond what I could learn in a book or garner from a course. For example,
- When I wanted to create sustainable work/life balance, I hired Daniel Harkavy, the president and founder of Building Champions. He helped me craft my very first “life plan.” (You can do the same with my free e-book.) He then held my feet to the fire until I got my equilibrium. (He is also the author of the excellent book, Becoming a Coaching Leader.)
- When I wanted to take my personal leadership skills to the next level and really see how my own thinking was impacting my corporate results, I hired Ilene Meuthing of Gap International. She’s basically did a brain transplant on me., helping me change my thinking and produce better outcomes.
- When I wanted to figure out why I kept slicing my drives, I hired Nancy Quarcelino for a two-hour session. She videotaped me, so I could see the problem in my swing and fix it for good. Last week when I played, I hit every drive but two into the middle of the fairway.
- When I wanted to get in the best shape of my life, I hired Tom Gmitter at my local YMCA as my personal trainer. He designed a plan that I could have never developed on my own. He also kept changing up my routine, so I wouldn’t get bored. He worked out with me twice a week for two years.
In addition, in the course of my life, I have hired nutritionists, counselors, music teachers, accountants, lawyers, fishing guides, agents, and various kinds of instructors and coaches. Some have been short-term; some have been long-term. My philosophy is to use them as long as they continue to provide value.
Note that I said, “hire the best coaches and instructors you can afford.” For years, the most I could afford was to check out a book from the library. Don’t worry about what you can’t afford or do. Focus, instead, on what you can afford and do that.
In the end, you can accomplish more than you ever thought possible. And you can do it faster and with better results if you just enlist the assistance of the right guide and do what they say. I can’t think of anything else that will help you accomplish your goals more than this.