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.

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