Remember your greater aspiration and enjoy your life
If you are reading this column, you are not an ordinary person.
got it straight from Marshall Goldsmith, ordered by forbes as one of the top five executive coaches in the world, who has written or edited 48 books – six of them bestsellers – and whom I recently interviewed.
He spoke to me from his home in Nashville, where he and his wife of 40 have moved to be closer to their grandchildren. (He has a second home in New York City and a third in the “little building,” as he described the 163-story Burj Khalifa in Dubai.) Marshall was preparing to publish his latest book, The life you deserveonly released last week when we were catching up.
One of my first questions was if he had ever visited Ireland. He has. Multiple times. “And like almost all Americans, I have ancestors from Ireland. You can see,” Marshall joked while we were in front of the camera on Zoom, “I’m wearing my green shirt.”
I asked him what his main encouragements for this column were.
“I’ll give you two dimensions,” Marshall began. “One of them is what I do in coaching, which is helping leaders.” He listed three qualities that should be developed in this area.
COURAGE. HUMILITY. DISCIPLINE
“You must have courage. Because everyone I coach needs feedback and it’s not easy to look in the mirror.
“Second, one must have humility. I’ve learned that I can’t help perfect people get better. If someone is perfect, they don’t need me. You have to have humility to want to improve.
“And then you have to have discipline. Everything I do when coaching people involves work. You have to do the daily work. They don’t get better because I’m good, they get better because they’re good. They are dedicated, hardworking people.
“My whole job as a coach is to work with great clients. I’m often called the best coach in the world. Why? Nobody knows I’m a good coach, but they know who my clients are and I work with spectacular people who all say nice things about me. The key to my success is great clients, and if you work with enough great people, you’ll look good.
“One of the best people I’ve ever worked with in my life is (retired Ford CEO) Alan Mulally.
“I said, ‘Of all the people I coach, you’re the least time I spend with you, you’re improving the most and you were great to begin with. What should I learn from the coaching with you?’
“His response was, ‘If you work with dedicated, hard-working people, your process will always work, and if you work with the wrong people, you’re just wasting time. Your whole job is to work with great people.”
“That conversation changed my life.”
Marshall then transitioned from having traits demanded of his coaching clients to traits he believes are necessary for great living.
“First of all, let’s assume you’re healthy. You have a middle-class income and good relationships with the people you love. What else matters?” Marshall posed.
He described three things.
ASPIRATION. AMBITION. PLOT
“You need higher standards. What am I here for? You need something to justify why you are here on earth. Oh, and the higher aspiration has no finish line. It’s beyond.
“Secondly, you need your ambition, which is related to your goal achievement.
“And third are your daily actions, which need to be balanced with your aspirations and ambitions. To the extent that you can align them, life is very good. It is easier said than done.
“Throughout history, most people are stuck in the action phase. They live the everyday life, they are nice people and they do what is in front of them. You just live. But the people I coach are not like that. They are often addicted to ambition. The good news is that they are achieving a lot, but the bad news is only good up to a point.
“One thing is very important. Never compromise your identity as a human being on your level of achievement. For two reasons. First, you don’t control the results. There are many variables besides you. Number two is, “What if you achieve something? How much satisfaction do you get from it? One week? A month?’
“One of my guys is Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, I asked him the other day, ‘How are you? Vaccine for Covid, CEO of the year, new book, and so on; So what’s your biggest challenge?’
“And he says, ‘Next year.'”
Marshall explained that high achievers are willing to sacrifice the present for the goals they set for the future. But he warns that it’s important to remember why you work so hard. Remind yourself of your broader aspirations and don’t forget to enjoy life in the meantime.
When I asked about the new book’s focus, I said, “I imagine it’s aimed at more ordinary people who are looking for aspirations or who want to find ways to motivate themselves.”
“No,” he replied immediately. “Ordinary people don’t buy books.”
“Oh, Marshall, that’s bold,” I challenged.
“Nope.” Marshall fired back.
“Only a tiny percentage of people buy books. There are studies on this. 97 percent of people who buy books are college graduates. Two thirds have a university degree. Ordinary people don’t read what you write about in the newspaper. Normal people don’t read, let alone anything about their careers.”
So, dear readers. You are special. Welcome to the club.
- Write to Gina in care of SundayBusiness@independent.ie
- With corporate clients on five continents, Gina London is a leading expert in communications strategy, structure and execution. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and former CNN anchor.
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