The guardrails you create must be closely aligned with the values you set in chapter 3. You need to have people in your life who will tell you out when you are out of bounds. I have a good friend who was a successful and well-known college basketball coach until he got embroiled in some politics and lost his job. We were talking not long after that, and he shared what I consider to be a very profound insight. He said, “Rich, when I was winning championships, everyone laughed at my jokes. Now they only laugh when my jokes are actually funny.” You need someone in your inner circle who knows you and who you trust to tell you if your jokes are funny or not.
Alex Mendozian is a teleseminar trainer. We had discussed the possibility of working on a project together. Before we began, he called me and said, “Rich, I have some good news and some bad news. I’d really like to work with you. That is the good news. The bad news is before I do, I need to have an intervention in your life.” I pushed back, thinking, “What is he talking about? I don’t have a drinking or a drug problem!” He continued, “Yes, you need an intervention!” He then got my wife and his executive assistant on the phone and explained he was having this intervention because I had to quit saying “Yes” to everyone and everything. Warren Buffet once said, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”
Sometimes, in your zeal to reach your beacon in the fog, everything seems possible. It’s a time when you’re generating a lot of ideas. It’s a time when, out of necessity, you need to fire, fire, fire, and then aim. I refer to this part of zig number 1 as the time I have to weave gold out of straw. During this time I may not have a lot of resources, and I may find myself holding things together with duct tape and bailing wire. As I’m trying to get something to work that will generate cash, I find myself saying, “Yes, yes, yes, no; …yes, yes, yes, maybe.”
Once I get to the next zag, I have to create systematic and organized processes so I can hire employees and teach them how to make the business work. During this time, I find myself saying “No” about half the time. Part of that involves learning the discipline of delegating and letting others do the work for me.
Getting to the third zig demonstrates that I have achieved success by reaching cash creating an organization that is working. Now I need to scale it. This is a much more controlled phase of the process because I do not want to destroy what I have just created. I finally have all of the gears meshing, and I now need to figure out how to scale the business so it will generate income independent of my direct involvement. During this period, I find myself needing to say “No” far more often.
Another guardrail you need to put in place is identifying and empowering those people in your life who will help you say “No” and who will let you know when you are heading out of bounds. For me, those people include my wife and my executive assistant, both of whom are excellent at letting me know when I am crossing the lines I’ve established. My children will sometimes even tell me when I am out of line—and I’ve learned to listen. My business partner is another person I make sure I listen to. Unfortunately, it’s rare that your subordinates will point out when you’re heading toward danger. Some see things quite clearly, but many are either making sure they look good in your eyes, or they are afraid of your reaction. If one speaks up, listen, unless it feels like they’re stoking your ego.