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Mentor offers 3 steps to leadership success

(Image credit: Afif Ramdhasuma/Unsplash)

Success — both at work and in life — requires resilience and the ability to weather the storms that inevitably occur. The key to building resilience is to focus on the areas of your life that are 100% within your control. This means surrounding yourself with the right people, optimizing your environment and taking responsibility. 

Here’s the advice I give to the leaders I mentor who want to get ahead.

1. Surround yourself with the right people

Bill Murphy

If you put a crab in a bucket, it can easily climb out. But when you put a bunch of crabs in the same bucket, no crab will ever get out, because the others won’t let it. Crabs will literally pull down any crab that tries to escape. They actually have a name for this. It’s called “the Crab Mentality,” and it’s the perfect illustration of how the people in your life can hold you back. 

Who do you spend the most time with? Do you associate with people who inspire you and push you to get where you want to go, or do you hang around with people who hold you back or even discourage you? 

Focus at first on those people closest to you, but realize that negative influences can come from many different areas of your life. Workout partners and colleagues can have a negative influence on you. Once you can recognize that negative influence for what it is, it’s easier to limit it and even remove it from your life. 

In the end, you attract what you put out there. As I’ve distanced myself from those people who are on a different path, I’ve attracted those who are either on the same path as me or have already gotten to where I want to be, either athletically, personally or professionally. Some of the people I’m closest to today are people I’ve met on various work trips, retreats and events because we’re all in the same boat and headed in the same direction. Our values and goals align. However, it’s also important that these people you associate with are honest with you. You shouldn’t surround yourself with people who always tell you what you want to hear. It’s important to get healthy, constructive criticism that allows you to grow and become better. 

Having good people in your corner who relate to you and understand what you’re going through is invaluable because whenever you’re stuck, down or in trouble, one phone call can pick you up and completely change your perspective. 

2. Optimize your environment

If your goal is to improve your nutrition so you can lose weight and become healthier, you want to do everything possible to make it easier for you to accomplish that goal. So, if you’re prone to snacking on junk food, don’t buy junk food and leave it around the house. Instead of forcing yourself to resist the temptation, eliminate the temptation. 

If you’re trying to get into the habit of going to the gym in the morning but have trouble getting yourself moving, prepare the night before. Lay out your gym clothes and everything you need in the evening, so you can just go. It makes it easier for you to take action, and it also eliminates potential excuses. 

If you want to start journaling, but have trouble getting started, try keeping your journal where you’ll see it first thing in the morning. Maybe downloading a journaling app that can give you some guidance will be that nudge in the right direction. 

If your goal is dependent on more efficient time management, but you’re easily distracted throughout the day or spend too much time looking at your phone, create a hack to prevent that. It might be as simple as keeping your phone across the room when you sit down to work and only allowing yourself to check it at designated times. 

These are all simple steps you can take to begin making your environment more conducive with achieving your goals. 

3. Take responsibility

One of the most common patterns that people need to break is making excuses or playing the victim. Many people have become so good at this that they don’t even know they do it, but it’s pretty easy to detect when you see someone else do it. 

This became much clearer to me when I started working in the mortgage business, because I had to run credit reports on prospective clients and saw how they spent their money. Some people would have 25 collections on their account, and a large portion of those people would immediately say something like, “Those are not mine.” They have excuses for every one of them. It’s all about blaming someone else, but what they didn’t realize was that they will always be in their own way until they figure this out. 

Get in the habit of being honest with yourself. It’s natural to try and pull the wool over your own eyes and coddle yourself so you feel better, but that will only hold you back. If you turn that instinct on its head and learn to take responsibility (for the good and the bad), you’ll be clearing the path so you can grow. 


Bill Murphy, author of Thriving in the Storm, is a nationally recognized mortgage originator who has been a top producer for 25 years. Since 2017, he has served as a business coach for the Fairway Ignite program, and he is also a marathoner, ultra-marathoner, Ironman finisher, and has a second-degree black belt in Krav Maga. 

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


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