Sep 222011

take initiative

To Succeed, Learn To Take Initiative

There are many definitions of success, but to achieve most any of them, you must learn to take initiative.  Unless you have a “lottery mentality” and are content to just hope that all works out OK and you simply, miraculously “become successful,” you need to be willing to set goals, then take initiative and do whatever it takes to achieve them.

Take a look around at the successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, sports stars and other people that you know or know of.  How many of them are current or former pilots or avid sailors?  Ted Turner, Richard Branson, Michael Bloomberg, Ted Williams, John Travolta, Harrison Ford and Arnold Palmer come to mind, but the list is much longer.  What does one have to do with the other?

In all my time as an entrepreneur and now increasingly as I have started doing more coaching, research and writing on the topics of entrepreneurship, human “greatness” and peak performance, one pronounced trend I have noticed in those who succeed in all sorts of endeavors, is that they take control of their own destiny.  They leave the “employee mentality” behind and develop the habit of determining and describing in a detailed way all that they are trying to accomplish, and then they chart a course to get there.

When they chart that course, they know that there will be obstacles and they know that they will likely be off-course a good portion of the time, but they also know that it is far better to have an imperfect path charted than to have nothing at all and just hope for the best.  Successful people take initiative.  They determine where they want to go, they set specific goals, and then they “just do it”.  They don’t sit around waiting for success to come to them without effort or initiative.  They know that is a fool’s game.

At its essence, this mentality boils down to taking control and taking ownership of your life, your ventures and your future.  You must become the “pilot” of your life – even if you don’t literally become a pilot, you must assume the leadership, responsibility and control of where you take all aspects of your life.  Rather than just being a passenger in life, take initiative!  Think of yourself as the “pilot” of your life.  It’s OK to have co-pilots, but it’s not OK to just sit in the back of the plane and hope that whoever is taking initiative and piloting your life will get you where you want to go.  Do you know where you want to go?  Are you willing to step up, take initiative and become the pilot of your business and the rest of your life?

Like those “successful” people and the “greats” mentioned above, you must be willing to take initiative realizing that life hardly ever goes exactly according to plan; you will need to monitor your progress and course-adjust on a regular basis.  You must also learn to react calmly in the face of changes and danger; only by overcoming your fears will you be able to reach your goals.  The knowledge and confidence inherent in having a course charted and having developed contingency plans will help considerably in maintaining calm and “pressing on”.

Be bold.  Take charge.  Take initiative.  Overcome your fears and other limitations.  Become the “pilot” of your life and all your ventures and watch how the results you achieve improve markedly.

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin


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  • I’ve seen many people with the belief that something good has to happen to them, because they deserve it. That may very well be true, but those same people often just sit at home and wait for it to happen. Oppurtunity knocks, but you have to open the door and step through. It’s not going to let itself in and cuddle on your lap!

  • Yes, Paul, success by any popular definition does means you have to do whatever it takes to achieve them.

    Been there. Done that. Millions of dollars and all the perks. But I have repented. I have asked God for forgiveness. There is no amount of money, fame, or power that can compare to the happiness of God’s peace.

    I understand that you’re emphasis is not on doing whatever it takes – just doing it. Your emphasis is on moving forward despite the risks and fears, taking responsibility for your decisions and indecisions, and charting courses that others would never dare to launch upon.

    Thanks for reminding me that the factors of success are not all about the wrong things.

    Recently on my blog: Do Not Be Afraid. And Other Social Media DOHs

  • I think the game-changer is when a person makes the decision. Once their mind is made up, nothing gets in the way of their success. Yes, bumps in the road happen all the time, but that focus after making the decision is solid.

  • Grady Pruitt

    “It’s OK to have co-pilots, but it’s not OK to just sit in the back of the plane and hope that whoever is taking initiative and piloting your life will get you where you want to go. ”

    I love this! For the longest time, I felt I was just a passenger on the plane of my life. It never dawned on me that I was the pilot. Once I took the controls, I finally started moving towards where I wanted to go rather than where someone else wanted to take me.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Sherrie Koretke

    I love the idea of being a pilot of my own life. What an awesome way to tell me to take charge. I promise to be more bold and more importantly overcoming my self-imposed limitations. Thanks for the motivation!
    PS. Co-Pilots are great!

  • Pingback: Blog Soup: A blog log of a servant triberratus 2011.09.22 « The unofficial blog of Stan Faryna()

  • Thanks, Sherrie. I love the pilot metaphor too! I’m happy you enjoyed the post and found it motivating. 🙂 In terms of being bold and taking initiative, I have no doubt that you’re already doing a great job. It never hurts to be reminded though, right? Finally, I agree with you, co-pilots are great, but you must choose them wisely! Experience is the best teacher for that one. Paul

  • James St. John

    Paul, this is a great post. Too many people have a fatalist mentality that requires them to believe that only the “lucky ones” get a large piece of the pie…or experience any success. It has been my experience, that if I am going to accomplish anything I have to get off of my tail and work it…work it, more…keep working it, you get the idea. There are few real achievers who experience over-night success. Just like there are few people who just “stumble” into an accomplishment. It takes hard work, lots of prayer and an understanding spouse…not necessarily in that order. Boldness is an element of the character of every successful person I know. You have not, because you ask not.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Thanks, Grady. I’m happy you like the pilot metaphor; it really appeals to me as well. You’re the only one that truly knows how to “fly your plane”. The key is realizing that only you can take the initiative necessary to learn to fly it well and take over the controls. As I said in the article, co-pilots are OK, but you must take charge. Sounds like you already learned that lesson, which is great to hear. Paul

  • Sandra McLeod Humphrey

    I also like the pilot metaphor. I’ve usually thought more in terms of the “director” metaphor–you write your own storyline, select your own characters, etc., but I think the pilot metaphor is a stronger metaphor. They say that the most successful people have also failed the most times and I believe that–what makes the difference is that they keep plugging away toward the goals they’ve set and never give up!

  • Thanks, Janelle. Well said! I agree with you that a lot of people do just expect something good to happen to them. That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, it makes sense to be optimistic. The issue arises with the remainder of what you said; that is, when they think they deserve it and it will just come to them without any effort on their part. When opportunity knocks, you will have to be the one who “steps through the door”. That’s a great way to put it. Thanks for stopping by and for your comments. Paul

  • Thanks, Sandra. I like the “director” metaphor too! I hadn’t really thought about it, but that works quite well. I also appreciate that you brought up the whole issue of persevering through through thick and thin and never giving up as you pursue your goals. I’ve written quite a bit about that topic, as I believe willpower and the ability to carry on regardless of what happens, are absolutely critical for achievers. I also believe that achievers really have to look at “failure” differently. To paraphrase Edison, “I didn’t fail … I just eliminated another way that doesn’t work. Paul

  • Thanks, James. Sounds like we’re on the same page! There typically is no such thing as instant success. Many times success appears instant to the outside world, but when one digs just a little bit deeper, it becomes clear that the “instant success” has occurred over a period of roughly 10 years of “deliberate practice”. I’ve written about this quite a bit, mainly in terms of achieving “greatness,” and have a related book coming out shortly. I also agree with you that boldness is a very common characteristic in “successful” people. Paul

  • Thanks, Martha. I agree that making the decision is critical. Once a person has truly decided that nothing is going to come between them and the goal(s) they are seeking to accomplish, “the sky is the limit”. Several elements are key here: 1.) the goal(s); 2.) the decision to pursue those goals; 3.) the commitment that comes with the true decision; and 4.) the willpower necessary to overcome any obstacles that may get in the way — that willpower is accessed based on the strength of the decision and commitment to reach the goal(s). Paul

  • Kate

    Stated well.

  • Stefan

    Paul, Nice article. Many people out there are discouraged to take chances and go for their dreams!!! However you only live once, and you’re better off taking a risk, than not and second guessing yourself on what could of been!

  • Thanks, Kate.

  • Agreed, Stefan! Or said another way, “I’d rather regret the things I did, than thing I didn’t do, but should have tried”. There are many definitions of success, but however you define it, “successful” people are those who take initiative. Hardly anything happens magically, with initiative and significant effort. Paul

  • As you know, Stan, one’s definition of “success” is very personal. I wouldn’t impose my definition on you, and I’m sure you wouldn’t impose your definition on me. Per your clarification in the third paragraph of your comment, when I say “whatever it takes,” I’m referring to not letting obstacles stop your progress toward your goals; I’m not referring to “whatever it takes” in an “ends justify the means sense”. In a post I wrote quite a while back regarding “ethics,” I encouraged people to “draw their line in the sand” now, rather than waiting to do so when presented with tough ethical choices. In my opinion, that is a critically important step. In a related point though, I do not think there is anything inherently wrong with making money, particularly when it is derived from value that you are adding to clients and customers. Paul