Why Some People Always Seem to Succeed

Painted Star“Are you comfortable?” Reno Police Officer Patrick O’Bryan uttered those words to a silent room of 100 community leaders last summer.  “Because if you’re comfortable, then nothing will change. To change our community, we need to step outside our comfort zone. So are we willing to be uncomfortable?”

That story came to mind often last week, as we worked with consultants who were stepping decidedly outside their comfort zone.  Yes, sometimes it was uncomfortable, because sometimes that’s what it takes.

But that story alone cannot explain why some people always seem to succeed while others are always struggling.  For that, another story comes to mind.

It happened several years ago, when we were first considering how to teach Pollyanna Principled Consulting.  At that time, we surveyed consultants who might be likely candidates for the course.  We provided a bit of information and then asked those consultants whether or not the material would be of interest to them.

While many said it would indeed be of interest, one consultant – let’s call her Joanne – responded with the following:

“If you’re going to tell me that everything I have been doing for 20 years is wrong – that one of the reasons my clients are not creating more impact in their communities is me – then I don’t want to hear it.”

While Joanne was more direct than most, we heard her tone again when we announced our immersion course this year.  Interestingly, many of these comments came from folks who had not even read The Pollyanna Principles to know what we would be teaching!

“I have my MBA and I’m pretty sure I’m already doing what you do.  While I always appreciate getting new tips, I can’t imagine what you could teach for 5 days that I don’t already know how to do.”

And then there is William. William not only has an MBA, he has 34 years of corporate experience, many of those years as an in-house consultant.  Since retiring, William has consulted to all the big name Community Benefit Organizations in his community (Red Cross, United Way, etc.).  He has sat on their boards.  In every way imaginable, William is at the top of his game.

William is the last person we expected to be participating in our immersion course for Pollyanna Principled Consultants.  To be honest, I wouldn’t expect someone like William to even know our little Institute exists!

However William was one of the first to register for last week’s course.  And when I asked him why, his words were the exact opposite of Joanne’s.

“If what I’m doing is not creating the kinds of community change I want to see, then I need to know how to change that!”

Along with everyone else in the room, William was unlearning and relearning.  Those dedicated individuals did some of the hardest work I’d ever seen. In the end, each one of them was literally transformed into a catalyst for what is possible. It was a privilege to have a hand in guiding that change.

Years ago I knew a consultant who used to ask her clients, “If it winds up what needs to change is you, do you have the courage to change?”

And that brings us to Officer O’Bryan.  If you are hoping your consulting practice will soar to the next level of effectiveness, I would ask you to consider this:

Are you comfortable?

And whether it is through our class or through some other means, if it winds up what needs to change is you, do you have the courage to do so?

Ultimately it those two questions that will determine your success.

2 Responses to Why Some People Always Seem to Succeed

  1. This is a brave and challenging post. I have never been comfortable, and have been dedicated to change in needed ways … but still, there’s such a strong resistance to admitting that you may have it all wrong despite your years of experience. There’s simply no end to how difficult it can be! Such irony: age steals your energy but also reveals how much you still must evolve.

  2. Wonderful post Hildy. Very timely. I will share it with my organization. Some of the wisest people I know, like my mom and my Aunt Barbara, keep learning all the time. They both got Doctorate degrees in their 70’s! They have confidence in what they know but also humility in understanding that life changes so fast and one can never have all the answers. The only certainty in life is change. Thanks for your post.