The Success Recipe: What does it look like?

All I want for Christmas is...

All I want for Christmas is…the recipe for success!

I was dragged out of a deep sleep early last Thursday morning. Cillian slept through his alarm and was late for work. Daddy Taxi to the rescue – again! The speed limits only apply after 8am. Right? On the way there – dressed in slippers, a dressing gown that’s seen better days and the previous nights T-shirt – I was reminded on an innovation I’d seen in New York many moons ago. It was a clock where you place a $5 (or $50) bill when you set the alarm. If you don’t hit the snooze button on time, the phone shreds the note! Genius. I suppose you could do it with a Galaxy Note 7 on full charge and get your money incinerated!

On the way to work, Cillian told me the following story. Last Christmas his buddy got a present of an alarm clock that physically shoots a projectile to help wake you up. Part of the design is that the missile has to be replaced in its cradle to cut off a piercing air raid alarm siren! One summer morning, when he’d slept with the bedroom window wide open, the thing shot through to the garden below. They guy spent 15 minutes in his jocks (light Irish summer rainfall), searching for a 2” plastic missile. Now, that would wake you up better than any Americano! (unless she was very pretty). Yes, there’s something about getting up early that gets the day off to a flying start. Henry Ward Beecher said: “The first hour is the rudder of the day.”  You need to jump up and knock the ice off the Rooster!

Success Behaviour: Some people seem to incorporate incredible self-discipline into their lives. Getting up early and going to the gym. Chairing meetings with the authority of Vladimir Putin. But the rest of us struggle with an energy roller coaster and get distracted by the latest shiny new object (email alerts, the new almond flavoured Magnum). So, is there some sort of recipe that guarantees success? As we head into a New Year, the ideas listed below seem simple – but they work (most of the time).

  1. Clear Goalposts: Are you clear on what exactly you are trying to achieve and how this will be measured? Today? This week? In 2017? In his TED talk, Simon Sinek (author of Start With Why) makes the point that Martin Luther King didn’t become famous for the line: “I have a plan.” It was something bigger. So, what’s your aim point in 2017? What inscription do you want to have engraved on your tombstone? Aim high.
  1. Saying No: We all need to be loved and want to ‘chip in’ to resolve life’s problems. But for some people this need is so strong, they get run ragged looking for approval. You don’t have to solve world-hunger (every single day). And, you shouldn’t allow yourself to be bullied by anyone (a boss, aging parent, an overpowering spouse or anyone else). Acquiring the ability to say no is a helpful addition to your psychological armory. Try assertiveness! You might like it (and, on the subject of approval seeking, will all adults please stop posting messages like: “Just arrived in Helsinki Airport” unless you need to source a taxi from there). This need for constant attention is not cool and actually damages your brand!
  1. Relinquishing Sainthood: Family therapists tell us that the roles played in early life often continue throughout our entire lives. The first organization we were part of was our family. That’s where we learned the rules and how to survive. But, so much of this stuff is unconscious. For example, approval seeking from a boss (we all do a bit of it) can be likened to looking for attention from a parent. You need to become attuned to the signals. Shy away from conflict? Constantly use humour to lessen tension? Have difficulty in expressing what you really feel? A lot of this stuff has its roots in our nuclear family (in my case, the term ‘nuclear’ is quite apt). For a couple of years, I unconsciously took up the role of rescuer. Like Red Adair, I felt the need to fly around and extinguish all family fires. No more. A friend, John Randles said: “Why don’t you get down off that cross for good?” As soon as I figured out why I felt compelled to behave like this, I was able to discard the fire-fighting uniform. Now, I do stuff I want to do – with a real heart rather than thinly disguised resentment. This isn’t an argument for selfishness. But it is an argument for establishing boundaries and sticking to them. You may not get canonized; but there’s a solid chance that you will become happier in this life.
  1. Self-Acceptance: Who doesn’t like James Bond movies? I’ve always been a little disappointed that those 007 opportunities seemed to pass me by. But, somewhere along the line, I’ve come to accept myself – flaws n’ all. It’s taken time (and I’m not fully there yet). But, if you don’t love yourself, it’s hard for other people to love you. Giving up on perfect is such a liberating idea, I can’t understand why more people don’t try it.
  1. Shit Happens: Part of being resilient means accepting that life is not fair i.e. some good and some bad things will happen. Mike Tyson, the former Heavyweight Champion of the World said: “Everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the face.” I know that this is largely common sense, but it’s not common practice. Some people have a continuing expectation that life will be all powder snow and great skiing – setting themselves up for disappointment. It’s like the old cynics recipe for a happy marriage i.e. set your expectations low!

No doubt you will have your own ‘tricks’ to keep mentally healthy and positive in the year ahead. Of course, if you are struggling, you can always make a start by purchasing one of those money-shredding alarm clocks and stuff it with Drachma (before the advent of the euro, sleeping in was much cheaper).   Why not put together your own mental toughness list for the next 12 months?

I hope that you enjoy the Christmas break and 2017 brings you every success. Thanks a million for keeping up with all the rants – which are set to continue next year! And, if you are disappointed with your Christmas present, spare a thought for someone, somewhere, who is receiving a Mayo jersey.  Up the Dubs!


PS Next Blog: 9th January. I know, I know. You can barely wait!

PPS Lighter Note: From Kevin Griffin. It’s never too late to tell Christmas 1 liners (some are a bit vulgar – but that’s Kevin for you!). Perhaps his behaviour will improve next year – but I very much doubt it!  Look away now if you are easily offended….

Q: What do you call a kid who doesn’t believe in Santa?

A: A rebel without a Claus.

Q: What is the most popular Christmas carol in the desert?

A: Camel ye Faithful.

Q: What do you call people who are afraid of Santa? .

A: Claustrophobic

Q: What does Santa bring naughty boys and girls on Christmas Eve?

A: A pack of batteries with a note saying: “toy not included.”

Q: What nationality is Santa Claus?

A: North Polish.

Q: Why are women’s breasts like a train set a kid gets at Christmas?

A: They were originally made for children but the father wants to play with them.

Q: Why is Christmas just like your job?

A: You do all the work and the fat guy with the suit gets all the credit.

Q: What do you call a blind reindeer?

A: I have no eye deer

Q: What do hip hop artists do on Christmas?

A: Unwrap.

1st guy: “How come you never hear anything about the 10th reindeer, Olive?”

2nd guy: “Olive?”

1st Guy: “Yeah, you know: ‘Olive, the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names’”

Last One: A timely Christmas thought from the ever-popular Aidan Cahill: Golf Game

Four old-timers were playing their weekly game of golf. One  remarked how nice it would be to wake up on Christmas morning, roll out of bed and without an argument go directly to the golf course and meet the lads. His buddies all chimed in “Let’s do it! We’ll make it a priority – figure out a way to meet here early, Christmas morning.”

Months later, that special morning arrives and they are on the golf course. The first guy says, “Boy this game cost me a fortune! I bought my wife a diamond ring. She can’t take her eyes off of it.”

The second guy says, “I spent a ton too. My wife is at home planning the cruise for next year. As I was leaving the house, she was up to her eyeballs in brochures.”

The third guy said: “As we speak my wife is at home admiring her new car, reading the manual on how to bluetooth the phone.”

The last guy in the group is staring at them like they have lost their minds. “I can’t believe you all went to such expense for this golf game. I said to Mabel: “Well babe, Merry Christmas! It’s a beautiful morning for either golf or sex?”

She said: “Don’t forget your hat.”

Check our website or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.


About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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