194. You mustn’t ignore this.

For the past two weeks we have been discussing The Habit of Must.

We’ve talked about how everything we do each day is in fact a Must or we would not have done it and we discussed in detail how we frequently get caught in the trap of promoting items from our Should pile to our Must list while simultaneously relegating some of our Musts to our Shoulds.

Yesterday afternoon while I was contemplating what to write about in today’s topic I received a call from Joanne. She wanted to point out the importance not only of adhering to a Must list but also of creating and unquestioningly sticking to a Mustn’t list.

We’ve talked about the non-optionality of a Must list. We’ve agreed that any item placed on a Must list unequivocally must be done and completed which means that if at 11:30 at night, as we are about to turn out the light and go to sleep, we remember an unfinished item from that list, we get out of bed and complete that activity before going to sleep for the night.

Joanne explained the importance of the Mustn’t list. She used this very tool to shed more than 100 pounds over a 15-month period. Her Mustn’t list contained every food item she planned on eliminating from her diet and that could not come near her mouth and also committed to a Must list each day which included those foods that she chose to “must eat”.

Unlike a Must list where an unfinished item remembered late at night can be completed, a Mustn’t list poses somewhat more of a challenge because, as she put it, if you consume something from the Mustn’t list you can’t exactly undo it several hours later.

So Joanne added an item to her Must list recognizing full well that if it is on the list it must be done.

The item in question was an activity to be triggered only by her consuming items from her Mustn’t list.

And this Must item was not something she would look forward to with relish.

It worked like this: if Joanne consumed any items on her Mustn’t list, her actions in doing so automatically triggered an addition to her Must list for that day.

Remember, if it is on the Must list, it must be done: no deferrals, no excuses.

And for Joanne, triggering the special activity on her Must list meant getting down on the floor and forcing her way through 75 push-ups for each item consumed from her Mustn’t list.

A tough toll to pay for a moment of enjoyment and Joanne only had to do that once before the lesson was well learned.

On the second day of her commitment to the Must and Mustn’t list, she talked herself into eating a piece of chocolate cake while celebrating a colleague’s birthday.

That evening, realizing what she had done, Joanne forced herself to complete those 75 push-ups because she knew to not do so would be the beginning of yet another failed attempt at finally shedding the weight that had been such a burden to her for so long.

The next morning, to quote her, “every muscle, nerve, joint, cell, molecule, organ in my body felt like it was on fire and there was no extinguisher insight.”

And never again did Joanne violate the terms of her Mustn’t list.

The Habit of Must, along with a well detailed Mustn’t list, can guide us to places we never thought we could reach.

And as Joanne has so elegantly taught us, a lesson learned well need not be learned again.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

193. What a difference one word can make.

To my friend Jeff, The Habit of Must it is not something to be taken lightly.

Jeff uses as daily Must List as a navigational tool to guide him to precisely where he wants to be as he builds his empire piece by piece.

Jeff’s life took a dramatic turn the day he first learned of the Power of Must. He took a very serious look at how he was managing his daily activities and realized immediately that he, like so many of us, was guilty of regularly converting Shoulds into Musts while relegating Musts down to Shoulds.

I have never met Jeff and yet have considered him a friend ever since that day a colleague introduced us by phone.

Jeff lives in Tennessee and 10 years ago took an enormous risk. He quit his high-paying job as a senior executive with a multinational corporation and hung out a shingle offering his services as a management consultant and high-performing team expert to small local and midsize businesses.

Like so many before him who have taken a similar plunge, Jeff spent most of his first year knocking on doors, attempting to build a referral network and learning how to support his family without a paycheque.

At the end of his first, 12 months Jeff’s gross income from consulting fees amounted to a princely $1,800.

Jeff is, if nothing else, a determined fellow and rather than entertain the thought of going back to the security of a job, he deepened his resolve and began what he called his second job.

Each evening after his wife and kids had gone to bed, Jeff “hit the books.” He was determined to learn everything there is to know about marketing consulting businesses, closing sales and delivering value to clients. He often was up until two in the morning before crawling into bed to catch a few hours’ sleep and then attempting to put into practice his newfound knowledge.

His efforts certainly reaped benefits. By the end of his second year, Jeff had billed an amount equal to half the salary he had walked away from when he quit his job.

By all accounts his progress from the end of his first year to the end of the second was nothing short of remarkable, but Jeff was not satisfied.

He was restless. He wanted more. Much more.

And he knew intuitively that in order to produce a result different from the one he was now getting he had to start doing different things.

And that’s when he was first introduced to The Habit of Must.

And a light immediately turned on in his head. A big, bright light.

Jeff realized why he was not getting the results he wanted: he was allowing himself to constantly end the day without completing what he set out to do. In fact, sometimes the day ended without him even beginning to do some of things he wanted done that day.

And so he began to rule his life by his Must List.

Each evening he made a list of those things that he believed must be done the next day and a second list of those things that should be done if time and opportunity permitted.

Jeff promised himself that nothing on the Should List would ever become a Must, meaning that until every item on the Must List was completed before the Should List would even be looked at and, most importantly he pledged to never go to bed at night without having completed every item on his Must List. If that meant leaving the house at midnight to get something done, then he committed to leaving the house to do it.

Paramount on his list was an irrevocable, non-negotiable vow to present his services to 10 people – possible potential clients – every single weekday.

And he did.

Never missing a day.

And today his growing company employs more than 40 people, working across four states, helping small businesses realize their potential.

Jeff attributes much of his success to his daily Must List and his commitment to honour it. By binding his word to this list he was honour-abound to meet its dictates. This meant he could no longer convince himself that it was okay to put things off until tomorrow or to just complete half of what he set out to complete because after all, half is better than none.

Jeff’s 40 employees are required to only follow one rule: they too live their lives by daily Must List and, in turn, encourage their clients to do the same.

The Habit of Must made an enormous difference in Jeff’s life.

It will do exactly the same for you if you invite it into yours.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

192. A four letter word we must use.

What did you do today?

Did you do what you must do?

Did you do what you should do?

Imagine if you had begun the day with an action filled list with everything to be done. The list contained two columns, one titled Must the other Should.

Now, as you review your list at the end of the day, what did you actually do?

As did you complete all every item listed on your Must list?

Did you complete a few of them?

Did you complete every item listed on your Should list?

Did you complete a few of them?

Let me help you with your answer. Every item you completed belongs on your Must list. As you glance at your list there may well be items checked off from both halves while each half may also contain action items left undone.

Everything you did was a must because were that not the case you would not have done it. And herein lies the great challenge of why personal change and personal growth are not easy.

We all know people whose conversations are sprinkled with:

I really should quit smoking.

I should cut back on my drinking.

I should do something about all this weight I have gained.

I should go back to school and complete my education.

I should spend more time with my family.

I should visit my parents more often.

I should sign up for those dance lessons.

I should go to the gym.

These folks are full of should.

And they will remain that way until they learn the power of Must.

Must is the propellant that moves necessary to essential and boosts important to urgent.

And Must is what we all do.

Look back at your list and ask yourself why you did some of those items listed on your Should list and didn’t do others from the Must list.

And the answer is because those Shoulds became Musts and the Musts became Shoulds

For years now we have been discussing how we only ever do one thing – we do what is most important in the moment. And that, loosely translated, means everything we do, we do because in that moment it is on our Must list.

And that’s why a life without The Habit of Must is, sadly, a life spent “shoulding on oneself.”

And long term shoulding becomes long-term regret.

The Habit of Must reminds us to choose what’s important and then do it with urgency.

A Must list is a list with all choices removed. Nothing that makes the cut and lands on the Must list is optional as opposed to the Should list where everything is.

The Habit of Must is the price we pay for the life we want and is the barrier to entry we must overcome to transform the dreams we have into the life we crave.

Most of us know exactly what it is we need to do to carve out the life we want, but sadly far too many of us relegate those things to the Should list with the true but mistaken belief that, miraculously, we will one day address them.

Henry David Thoreau said it best, when he said “Most men live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

Let’s not be like most. Let’s build Must into every day of our lives so when the time comes we go to our graves with the song loudly sung and the music still blaring.

Living a life of Must will do that for all of uS.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

191. Not knowing can be very expensive.

For the past two weeks we have been discussing The Habit of Always Being Current and I have received many calls from people wishing to share their experiences when being current carried the day for them and when not being current lead to very red faces, disappointment and disillusionment.

In all cases agreement was unanimous: being current cannot, should not and must not ever be optional

But several callers also pointed out that in addition to being current there is another, equally important, component, one that, all too sadly, we’ve all witnessed the consequences of its absence.

Since 1907 the motto of Boy Scouts everywhere has been Be Prepared. Borrowed from the Latin, Estte Parati, both Boy Scouts and Girl Guides have had the importance and urgency of this message drilled into them and, indeed, many who have gone on to live lives of great accomplishment have attributed much of their success to the fanaticism around always being prepared.

An embarrassing example of ill-preparedness took place recently when I was visiting a client’s office. While I was there the sales representative for an office supplies company dropped by and asked for a few minutes with my client.

This person had been attempting to sell my client nine high-end printers for his organization and had brought in one of these models to demonstrate the efficiency of the machines.

Unbeknownst to the sales representative my client had also been speaking with distributors of competitive products and had learned of features available on their machines that were not on the one being used in his office.

He asked this person questions regarding the capability and availability of having these features added on to the product in his office and, to our surprise, the sales representative’s ignorance of these features was quite startling.

Here was a person attempting to sell approximately $120,000 worth of equipment and was uninformed as to its capability.

He also questioned the accuracy of the information supplied by his competitor and quite plainly stated he didn’t believe those features were available on any product in the market today.

Not only did he make the unforgiveable mistake of trashing a competitor by suggesting they were not being truthful, he then hammered the final nail in his own coffin by not offering to do any further research to see whether his company could provide the features my client was inquiring about or to learn what they might have in their inventory to compete with those very features.

I was back in that client’s office a few days ago at the same time as a number of bright, shiny new printers were being delivered. Naturally curiosity drove me to look at the brand name on the printers and I was not surprised to discover my client had not purchased his new printers from that sales representative.

I have no idea what the commission is on a $120,000 printer sale, but I would imagine it to be substantial. The sales representative demonstrated a complete lack of being current as well as a lack of being prepared. I can only hope he considers the loss of a commission cheque to be the price of education and that this error in judgment on his part has served as a valuable, never to be repeated, lesson.

The Habit of Always Being Current along with always being prepared cannot ensure success on every occasion but, more than anything else, goes a long way to weighing the odds heavily in our favour.

I cannot think of a single reason for not taking the time to ensure The Habit of Always Being Current is present in everything we do.

After all, is there any possible downside?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.