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With 2019 about to arrive and a full stock of calendar days ahead of us, many people use January as an opportune time to wring their hands free from the previous year, gain new inspiration and start anew. In light of the “newness” of 2019, below are seven sources of inspiration to consider for success in the year ahead:

  1. Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. It has been said that who you are speaks louder than what you say. Core competency skills mean nothing without the soft-skills to support them. After all, know-it-alls are about as fun to be around as sitting in traffic. Don’t be the social hand grenade from which people seek cover. While the motivation for self-worth—to feel valued—is a strong driver, too much can be toxic because nobody likes hearing the same voice all the time. Know when it’s time for input, time to question, and time to listen.
  2. You will be the only person tomorrow who remembers your errors of today. Everybody is his or her own worst critic. It’s natural to hold oneself to a high standard for a number of reasons, and while setting a high bar for oneself is good, failing to adapt that bar to the circumstance is not. Sure, do your homework, work hard and expect results, but when life throws a curveball, take it as an opportunity to learn and optimize success rather than characterize it as a failure.
  3. Always have a plan—always. Not having a plan is akin to shooting in the dark and hoping to hit your target: you may hit it, you may not, but either way there’s no feedback, so the source of success (if any) is not attributed to the plan. In other words, without linking feedback to intention, the ability to measure, adjust and adapt for purpose become additional wasted shots.
  4. Plan, plan, plan—but be ready to adapt. Now that I’ve beaten a dead horse with the need for planning, be sure to keep any emotional investment in the plan at full distance. Here’s why. No plan survives first contact with the enemy (or competition) – but the plan’s intent, does. The raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in 2011, for instance, was perhaps the most carefully constructed mission in special operations history, and you know what? It still went wrong. The plan went out the window but the intent – to win – stayed intact. There are things that you simply cannot plan for, and the only thing left to do at times like these is execute the intent of the plan, not the plan itself.
  5. Ask and clarify questions, but make your own decisions. There are two ways to come to a conclusion: to solicit input from others so as to formulate your own opinion, or to assume their opinions because you don’t have one. The former speaks to an independent mind whereas the latter lends itself to groupthink. Not having an opinion is fine, but there are also plenty of ways to find one.
  6. Forget yesterday. Focus on today. There was a saying – a motto, really – in BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/ SEAL training), which was, “the only easy day was yesterday.” Meaning, that yesterday was easy because it’s over; there is still today and tomorrow to endure. Sure, accomplishments are great and they propel one’s reputation, but there’s also a shelf life to the past. Use the past as a rite of passage – something to be proud of – rather than a right to passage.
  7. It’s okay to take risks, but it’s not okay to never try. It has been said that the only failure in life is the failure to try. How you deal with uncertainty offers a glimpse into who you are and what you can do – your character and competence – and both can always be improved. You don’t learn from that which you do not try; if you don’t learn, you fail to adapt; if you fail to adapt, you become obsolete.

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