Life is Like a Harley-Davidson Transmission

Someday, I just need to take a long vacation to recharge.

When things slow down, I’m going to get that MBA.

I just need to make it past this busy period, and then I’m going to learn that new software program.

When we get through the fourth quarter, I’m going to start eating right and get in shape.

How many times have thoughts like those raced through your brain?

Enhancing your education, learning new skills, and taking good care of yourself are all actions that can provide you with the horsepower needed to propel you to a higher level of performance.

But I’ve got news for you: It’s never going to happen.

All of those good thoughts are never going to become reality if you continue waiting for the perfect time. Don’t get me wrong: It’s a fun fantasy, dreaming about uninterrupted time for you to hone, polish and work on all those self-improvement ideas. And it’s one I indulge in myself. But the only people who can really make those things happen seem to be the ones who take professional sabbaticals – something I’ve heard about, but I have never spoken to anyone outside of academia who has actually taken one.

Year ago, I experienced an epiphany: Life is like a Harley-Davidson transmission; it’s constant mesh. This is a mechanical term that describes when all of the gears are in constant engagement with one another. So, if you’re spending time dreaming about when you can actually unplug and carefully study and focus on the ideas that can launch you toward greater success, I’m here to suggest you need another plan. You’re going to have to focus while you’re currently engaged.

Here are four ways you can create change while surviving the “constant mesh” of your career and your life:

1. Embrace the concept of balance.

To successfully ride a motorcycle, you obviously must keep it upright. But there are other dynamics at play, such as centrifugal force, gyroscopic effects and – not unimportantly – a sense of balance in the rider. Compare riding a motorcycle to creating change in a busy career. How do you balance the constant demands placed on you? First, identify your highest two or three priorities. Not 57, but two or three. Then, be reasonable and balanced in your approach to meeting those priorities. Spend one hour a day reading material in your field, for example, and another hour listening to an informative audiobook or podcast. There’s no need to try to do everything all at once. Gradual change is good and even desired. Everyone probably can find 60 minutes each day to make this happen.

2. Realize that energy makes the difference.

Most successful sales professionals I know are well-organized with daily planners, to-do lists and a strong grasp of time management. Perhaps they don’t execute perfectly all the time, but they understand the importance of heading into a day, a workweek or a sales call with a solid plan. For them, that’s nothing more than standard operating procedure. They just need to channel the proper energy to get them through the required tasks. Think back to a customer-service problem in which you played no role but one that affected you, nonetheless. You know that sale you worked so hard to attain but then someone in the home office messed things up? Remember how getting upset and fuming about the circumstances did nothing to alleviate them? That was because you no doubt were channeling the wrong kind of energy. In times like that, you need calm, cool and intelligent problem-solving approaches that will enable you to rectify the situation at hand and create a process to help minimize the chances of it occurring again. Otherwise, you may cause irrevocable damage. Remember, you need to use the right kind of energy to accomplish the right tasks.

3. Forget about perfection.

Do you know anyone who figuratively uses a five-pound sledgehammer to drive a carpet tack? The sledgehammer gets the job done, but it takes more energy than using a tack hammer – and probably damages something in the process. Think about how much energy you are putting into a special project or an everyday task. One of the greatest energy drains is perfectionism. Take a tip from my friend and mentor, consultant Alan Weiss: “Go for success, not perfection.” The energy you spend trying to achieve perfection is usually wasted. The difference between 80 percent and 100 percent is often negligible, and not significant enough to be appreciated by your buyer. So, achieve success, and then use the remaining energy to work toward your other areas of development.

4. Harness the power of circadian rhythms.

The term “circadian rhythm” was coined by Dr. Franz Halberg of Germany in 1959. Loosely interpreted, it means to find what you do best (and when) and then use that information to maximize your performance.

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