Thursday, December 29, 2011

Focus on the Why

Is this the year you're finally going to cross those New Year resolutions off your list?  I read a report the other day that stated four out of five people who make resolutions will break them and one third won't even make it to the end of January.  If you are the one in five who will achieve your goals, congratulations.  And if you're in the majority who will end up on.

A good role model can help you make a template for your goals.  John Grisham writes five hundred words a day.  He is one of my wife's favorite writers.  When Grisham was a young boy, he dreamed of being a professional baseball player.  At some point, he realized he didn't have what it takes to make it in the big leagues, so he majored in accounting at Mississippi State University.  After graduating law school, he practiced law for nearly a decade, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation.  One day he got an inspiration for his first novel and woke up every day at 5:00 to write before heading off to work.  It took three years to complete A Time to Kill.  Like most aspiring writers, John had to deal with the rejection process before getting his first book deal for 5,000 copies.  The day after completing his first novel, Grisham went to work on his second book.  He sold the film rights to The Firm for $600,000 and the book was on the New York Times bestseller list for 47 weeks.

In order to understand someone like John Grisham, you need to read between the lines of his own life.  John believes in keeping promises.  Here's a writer who is at the top of his game, cranking out international best sellers the same way my grandmother served up her famous home-made tortillas, a little bit every day, year after year for all those hungry appetites.  Suddenly, one day he stops writing and returns to the courtroom for several months.  Why?  To keep a promise he made to a family of a railroad brakeman killed when he was pinned between two cars.  Grisham won the case and earned the family a jury award of $683,500, the biggest verdict of his career. Then he returned to writing.  Besides his first two novels, A Time to Kill and The Firm, he wrote The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, The Broker, Playing for Pizza, The Appeal, and The Associate - every one of them international best sellers.

When Grisham isn't writing, he works on charitable causes, like the Rebuild the Coast fund, where he raised 8.8 million dollars for victims of Hurricane Katrina.  He also keeps up with his greatest passion, baseball,  serving as the local Little League commissioner.  Twenty three best sellers out of twenty three attempts.  That's an impressive batting average.

Think of your New Year's resolutions as promises.  Ask yourself why these promises are important.  You and I may not be John Grisham, however, we can pursue our passions the same way John does.  Whether it's writing five hundred words a day (BTW, today's post is 774 words...go ahead, call me an over-achiever) or pursuing something that can change the world around you, let's focus on the "why."  If you can learn to keep the promises you make to yourself and others, you will join the ranks of those one in five who actually avoid breaking their resolutions.  Don't forget to ask yourself why your goals are important to you and ask this question every morning when you first wake up.  The day you stop focusing on the "why" is the day you will let the obstacles get in your way.

Another one of my mentors, Tom Hopkins, once told me at a seminar, "success is the continuous journey towards the achievement of predetermined worthwhile goals."  So, if it's one book, one home-made tortilla, or even one small moment to tell someone, "I love you," remember to focus on why it's important and take action.  Make this New Year your break-out year.  You will not be judged by the number of times you strike out each day, only by your home runs.  And the number of home runs you hit this year is directly related to the number of times you strike out and keep swinging.  Just don't forget the reason why you step up to the plate and why you want to keep swinging after each strikeout.

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