Managing Yourself First

Updated: July 08, 2009

Managing Yourself First
by Richard E. Goldman,
Author of Luck by Design: Certain Success in an Uncertain World

To help you learn to manage yourself, I offer a set of don'ts: habits and traits to watch. If you find them in yourself, learn to take control of them, and make sure that you manage to best advantage. Conquer these don'ts with the recommendations given here and you'll be a better person, a better manager, and a better leader.

Don't Wait for Someone Else to Teach You

Practically whatever the task, if you teach it to yourself, you'll learn it better. The easy way out is to have someone sit down and parse information to you, kind of how toddlers are fed before they learn to manage using spoons on their own. The harder way is to go out and figure it out by yourself. This might require a bit of research on your part; you may need to end up asking a bunch of questions. It may be time consuming -- and it's the right way to go. Just keep in mind that the only "stupid" question is the one that you don't ask.

When you're done asking and researching and when you've figured out something new, whatever it is, the next thing that you have to do is to share the knowledge -- pass it along. Learn to be a mentor and to be helpful in having the next person gain the knowledge.

Don't Wait for Someone Else to Give You a Choice; Choose for Yourself

If you have to wait for someone else to make choices for you, in likelihood, you'll have poor ones to choose from. If you're unsure about your choices, make the best possible choice given the information you have in front of you. Whether the decision is right or wrong, making your own decision will still be better than letting someone else make the decision for you. It's part of the process of learning.

Don't Settle For Less; Follow Your Dreams

Every dreamer pays a price, but so does everyone who fears to dream. The price for not dreaming or ignoring dreams is much higher. Every now and then, sit down and let yourself imagine. Let your mind go, and let all of the inner voices have a rest. Think about what the world might look like if your contribution to it was unfettered, if it was pure and simple and unbiased. Daydreaming is an important part of your creative process; allow yourself to do it often. It is the way to open your heart and to shut down your head. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. Your head has all the "what ifs" -- the obstacles, the speed bumps, and the warning signs. And yes, it's important to be conscious and present, with your eyes open and in protective mode most of the time. But it's equally important to do the exact opposite: to let go and put no limits on yourself. After all, it's only a daydream.

Here's a good way to encourage yourself to daydream: every day, spend at least five minutes looking at something that's several miles away, or even better, looking into infinity. Most of our day is spent looking at objects that are merely a few feet in front of us -- like computer screens and cell phones. For many of us, the farthest that we might be looking over the course of the day is the distance that we look while we're driving. You don't have to live in the mountains or on the beach in order to look out at nothing -- sit back and look at the sky. Let your eyes focus on nothing; it will help open your mind to doing the same. After your mind has done this, daydreaming becomes much easier.

Don't Sell Yourself Short -- Ever

Don't doubt your abilities, and don't doubt your talents. Forget about what you've been led to believe by the media or people in your life. That's a journey that's not productive. As the American psychologist Abraham Maslow once said, "Learn to become independent of the good opinion of other people." Recognize your strengths, and listen to your inner voice; believe your inner voice over the voice of advertising or of others. Eliminate "I can't" from your personal lexicon.

Don't Accept or Expect Mediocrity

Expect excellence of yourself to begin with; then, with others. The minute you expect less of yourself is the same minute that your inner self will get the compromised message and start delivering less. Push yourself -- always.

Push others, as well, in a gentle, affirming way. Push yourself as a consumer out in the marketplace. Let's say you walk into a fast-food restaurant. You're probably hungry and not expecting a lot. Does that mean you have to put up with something less than courteous service, a clean environment, and a warm meal? Absolutely not. As a consumer, you are entitled to great service wherever you go, and when you don't get it, speak up! The people running any business you frequent can't be at every location every day, and they can't always see what's going on, so they really want and need constructive feedback.

Don't Worry about Being the Best

Believe it or not, you just have to be better than the people around you. Do you think that Men's Wearhouse assembled the smartest and the best retailers on the planet? Not quite. The company did assemble the people who demonstrated the want and the desire to succeed. And the company did everything just a little better than the competition. There's a wonderful joke that relates to this:

Two men were walking through the forest when in the distance they saw a bear approaching them. The first man started to run away. The second man stopped and put on his running shoes. In disbelief, the first man called, "What are you doing? The bear is running after us!" The second man answered calmly, "I don't have to outrun the bear; I only need to outrun you."

Just learn to outrun everyone else. Instead of trying to be the absolute best, strive to be the best that you can be at that particular function on that particular day. It's the experience of trying that really counts.

Worrying about being the best can also prevent you from even trying new things or taking on new responsibilities. Let new things just be that -- new -- with no personal judgment attached and no preconceived notions of how they're going to proceed or work out and with no worries about how you might look.

Don't Ask for a Favor; Bring an Opportunity

A long time ago, my gut told me not to accept Bob Day's opinion that I wasn't ready to be hired by his advertising agency. In a nanosecond after hearing him say, "No," I was able to come up with a "yes" scenario and an opportunity that cost him nothing and ultimately helped both of us. The next time that a problem comes up, stop and look at it and let yourself contemplate the first solution that comes to mind -- no matter how crazy. The worst thing that's going to happen is that you'll ultimately decide against it. Learn to look at problems as opportunities for learning and for expanding your universe.

Don't Hide Your Strengths; Develop Them and Use Them Well

You undoubtedly have some aptitudes you were born with and more that you've developed. Use them all. Develop your confidence in them and in yourself. Know your weaknesses, and use your strengths to overcome them.

Why do many of the most successful people succeed? Confidence. Learn how to act confident, even when you might not feel confident. Confidence is the result of the most important relationship you will ever have: the relationship with yourself. Like all relationships, it begins with trust. The ability to trust yourself draws out of you an emotional power that reflects outward as self-assurance. Being confident is reflected in the expression of your creative abilities and is demonstrated in your power to create. Confident people are in control of themselves, exude composure, and are emotionally secure relative to trusting their own ideas. One of the many tests of true confidence is the ability to stand in your truth against all odds. When you know something is right while everyone else is saying "No! No! No!" -- that's confidence. Your self assurance, coming from the trusted place within you -- deep down inside -- is your truth. You will be tested many times.

Remember: if you know why you feel very confident about your idea, decision, or direction, even if the solution is not yet visible, know that your confidence will illuminate the path to the next step.

Don't Be Afraid of Your Own Power and of Using Power

Power is one of the most misunderstood ideas. Many of us have had the experience of power, both personally and through the observations of others and dramatization through the media, and have been led to believe that power is a bad word. The misuse of power -- the use of power over someone or something else -- deserves a bad rap. The power that I refer to here is the power that is inside of you: your ability to use your energy to influence outcomes. Find your power and use it wisely. When you find your power, it's . . . powerful. Honor your own gift. Don't run away from it just because it's outside your comfort zone. Enduring power -- power from the inside out -- sustains and maintains. After you have found and honored your power, you then have to find the fine line between power and humility. The question is -- can you be both powerful and humble? The answer is -- you have to be. The alternative -- being powerful with no humility -- easily slides into arrogance.

Don't Be Afraid to Share the Credit; Get a Partner

Don't buy into the ideas behind the old expression, "Lead, follow, or get out of the way." There are always many more options than those three, and decisions are not black or white, do or die. You'll learn a lot when working as a team. Or as Grover from Sesame Street said, "We'll have fun and get things done when we cooperate." The bottom line is that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole when there is teamwork. Successful players on a team are eager to ask questions and will get help from others around them in order to improve the team. Team players seek to motivate and inspire, and they put the needs of the group before their individual well-being. Your ability to ask for help, and other people's willingness to help you will affect your success more than you can alone.

Be part of a new paradigm of cooperation. Winning is something that you can do with a team. With a team, each member has a piece of the puzzle that can fit perfectly into what is needed. And the team doesn't have to be big. To make the most of your talents and time, recognize that you can't know everything, and take on a partner or build a team that's strong in the areas that you don't know. With a bit of synergy, you'll be able to create and accomplish more, and you'll find that the rocks in their heads fit the holes in yours.

Don't Just Succeed; Succeed by Helping Others Succeed

Success is not a one-person venture. Real success is inclusive of other people and also means helping other people succeed. Be sure to let other people shine. Successful leaders know how and when to delegate, as well. Successful delegation is about surrounding yourself with great people, knowing what their special skills are, and making best use of those skills.

It's quite a list. Certainly it's one I wish I'd had (and paid attention to) much earlier in life. As one example, time management somehow seemed unimportant and without consequences or penalties before my working life. So I have another recommendation to add to the list: Don't wait for any further explanation of these don'ts. Instead, make a point of practicing these ideas now, before more time passes. That's what it takes, as I learned early, and on the job at Men's Wearhouse.

The above is an excerpt from the book Luck by Design: Certain Success in an Uncertain World by Richard E. Goldman. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2009 Richard E. Goldman, author of Luck by Design: Certain Success in an Uncertain World

Author Bio
Richard E. Goldman, author of Luck by Design: Certain Success in an Uncertain World, started working on the sales floor of a small clothing store, it had annual sales of only a few hundred thousand dollars. Over the years he helped grow that one store into the emerging and now omnipresent Men's Wearhouse. By the time Goldman retired early in 2002, there were 680 Men's Wearhouse-affiliated stores across the United States and Canada, the business was known nationally and internationally, and had annual sales in excess of $1.27 billion.

Widely recognized as the marketing mastermind behind the success of Men's Wearhouse, Goldman has also been a quiet force in business, education, and volunteerism. His luck -- luck that he has actively created -- has expanded his life in ways and directions well beyond anything he might have imagined as a child in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, or later, as he began contemplating the larger world and his future in it.

To learn still more about Luck by Design, how you can incorporate luck into your future, and to share your own "lucky" experiences, visit

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