Shortcuts on the Long Road to Success

Are there really “shortcuts” to success?

That’s what I asked Mark Hopkins, author of Shortcut to Prosperity: 10 Entrepeneruial Habits and a Roadmap for an Exceptional Career.
His “shortcuts” seemed to me more like habits… that require a lot of work– worthwhile work. He shared,

“You’re right, figuring out what prosperity means to you and achieving it IS a lot of work. The shortcut is in understanding the common set of behaviors that prosperous people have figured out are critical to success. Every one of the people whose stories I write about feels lucky to have discovered (mostly through trial and error) what worked and they are all eager to illuminate the path for others. They know it’s not a zero sum game.”

The Prosperity Cycle

My favorite part of his book was his concept of the “prosperity cycle.” The cycle begins with either a “compelling personal hardship” or a “compelling personal vision” that motivates a decision to “do something.” From there the habits kick in, the winning begins, and confidence improves… which leads to more vision…
I asked him to elaborate. “You see two main starting points of the prosperity cycle, personal hardship and creating a compelling personal vision. Are both equally powerful triggers to “do something?”

The short answer is ‘yes’, hardship and a compelling personal vision can be equally powerful motivators. The longer answer is that, unfortunately, hardship is the more common motivator. Some of us have experienced more graphic hardship than others, but every one of us has had some very unfair life experiences. The only question we have to answer is “How am I going to respond to it?”. You can try to bury the memory of hardship or you can get mad as heck and decide to use it to fuel a change. In the book I share some stories of amazing achievement that was motivated by hardship.
The more infrequent, but in my opinion, more interesting motivator of change is when someone takes the time to think deeply about what they really want—what prosperity means to them—and paints a vivid picture of what that looks like. It’s hard to give up on something that you have taken the time to imagine achieving and that you really, really want. The magic of the prosperity cycle is that it usually starts small with a relatively simple change like doing what it takes to lose the ten pounds that you want to lose. But through successive cycles (wins) it can grow to encompass something much larger—like gaining the confidence to do what it takes to go in a new career direction or even to start your own company.

Mark’s Favorite

Mark shares, 10 “shortcuts,” so, looking for more shortcuts, I asked him which was “most vital and why?”

If someone said that they only had time to investigate one of the shortcuts, I would suggest they learn about Creative Tension (Shortcut 4). It is a powerful force first described by an MIT professor named Peter Senge. In short, it is the transformational power that you can tap into when you take the time to do an honest assessment of your Current Reality (your current life examined in its multiple dimensions) and compare it to the life of your dreams (your life as it would like it to be in everything from relationships to community to what you do for a living)

Tips for the Let’s Grow Leaders Community

I asked him for some final tips for the Let’s Grow Leaders Community.

The world of work is changing so fast. What does it take to be a “hot commodity” in today’s world? 

That’s easy—deep insight and knowledge. The pace of change in the world has only reinforced something that has always been true, that leaders, managers, and most importantly, consumers are drawn to the person who has the ability to produce a better solution to their problem. And the best solutions come from those with the deepest knowledge and insight. The way to become a hot commodity is to leverage your natural curiosity to effortlessly invest the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell says (and I heartily agree) it takes to get to the point that you have a differentiating level of knowledge. After that, it’s just a matter of finding the right place to do what you love.

I resonate with Mark and his perspective. He “skips to work” and teaches others to do so. As you know, I’m not selling this book… just sharing insights. In fact you can check it out on your own and download the first chapter of Shortcut to Prosperity here for free.

About Mark Hopkins

Mark Hopkins earned engineering degrees from Cornell and Stanford and then spent the next twenty-five years deciphering the factors that make some people prosperous, successful and happy. After building a leadership career with companies like Hewlett Packard and Emerson Electric, Hopkins founded Peak Industries, a medical device contract manufacturer, which he grew to $75 million and later sold to Delphi. He then founded Crescendo Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and Catalyst, a private foundation supporting Colorado-based nonprofits and micro-lending in the developing world. He is a member of the Chief Executives Organization, a partner in Social Venture Partners’ Boulder-chapter, and is on the board of governors for Opportunity International. He has led YPO Global Leadership Workshops around the world.

A Groundhogs Day Blessing or Curse?

My parents have a wonderful Groundhogs Day tradition. That’s when they celebrate their love with snuggly stuff and romantic gestures. Somehow, early on, they preempted Valentines Day, and it stuck. Hey, it was the 60s, who needs Hallmark when you have a groundhog? This rodent continues to inspire.

As for me, somehow each Groundhogs Day, I wake up with the curse of contemplation not of love and romance but of which areas of my life I have become more like Phil Madden (played by Bill Murray, in the 1993 classic, Groundhog Day.)

Phil is cursed to live the same day over and over (if you don’t know the movie click here and for goodness sake, rent it) until he finally recognizes the patterns, looks deeply into his own behaviors, and changes his approach.

A curse can become a blessing.

How many times have your heard someone say, “this feels like Groundhogs day?”

We all get stuck. We get stuck in patterns, in behaviors, in outdated beliefs about ourselves and others, in jobs.

A Few Groundhogs Day Examples

I ran into a once young guy (no longer so young) who worked for me years ago.

“What are you doing these days?,” I asked eager to hear about what he had become and what he was learning.
“Oh, I’m still doing exactly the same thing.”
I was shocked and saddened.

This was a bright kid, full of energy, ideas, a great team player. Why had he gotten stuck in that job? Why hadn’t anyone continued asking/encouraging (okay pushing) him to accomplish his potential? Who else was left behind in this same organization?

And then. I talked to an old friend. She shared,

“I finally figured out that I keep repeating the same patterns, both in dating and in looking for jobs. I have this perfect list of what I think I want. I go after him or the job full tilt. I attract the guy, I get the job, and then I realize it’s not really what I want. I break up with the guy . I begin looking for a new job. I’ve got to find a way to interrupt that pattern.”

Another friend’s Christmas card read “nothing much new has happened for me this year, but I guess that’s the way it is at this age (see It’s Never Too Late to Grow Great)”

Breaking Your Groundhogs Day Patterns

So today.

I wish upon you my Groundhogs Day Curse.

I hope you wake up tomorrow looking at your own shadows.

Where would you interrupt?

Is it time to smash the alarm clock?

  • What patterns do you keep repeating?
  • What routines do you wish you could change?
  • Where is your team stuck?
  • What processes and rituals no longer serve your vision?
  • What if you interrupted the patterns?

The first step to getting unstuck is recognizing the patterns.

Of course, if you chose February 2 as your day of romance that sounds good too.

A worthy tradition.