Onward, Upward

Take the high road to success with these tips for positive progression.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the June 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

I was kayaking with my friend Keith, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not match his pace. Exhausted from trying to keep up, I finally asked him the secret behind his paddling success.

His answer was simple: Steady, assured strokes allowed the craft to react to the force applied by the blade of his paddle. As with many situations in life, the surface of the water and the undercurrents are unpredictable, but experience had shown him how to anchor his paddle effectively. Despite the changing seascape, Keith's craft glided forward as if powered by a motor.

It takes a similar dedication and steadfastness to smoothly move forward in your business. People can be difficult to work with, and it takes extraordinary self-control to create success in a chaotic world. By anchoring your actions in possibilities, you begin to get the world to act as you desire rather than leave you to react to the obstacles it produces.

Taking the high road begins by learning to navigate through life's challenges while suppressing the need to always be right. Be open, and realize there are lessons to learn from any situation. Every person's opinion has merit and can help you move toward your ultimate goal. Be optimistic and avoid all forms of negativity, and you will create far more opportunities for success.

1. Stay positive, even if you don't feel like it. The strongest stroke in kayaking is powered by the entire body, not just the arms. It's not always what we say, but how we say it that matters. Your body expressions can be as compelling as your words during conversations. In every interaction, define the goals involved, and focus your actions and words in a positive manner. Keep a close eye on the big picture, and speak from real-world experience--it validates your intelligence and competence.

2. Be an encourager. When I became drained as I paddled, a simple "Keep going, you can do it!" from Keith re-energized my efforts. The language you use affects your attitude as well as others' reactions to your words. Pump up your personal speech by persistently using morale-building, optimistic expressions. People refer business to those they respect. Treating people well ensures future business opportunities.

3. Consistently move forward. Believe that positive outcomes are always achievable if you work with others to find creative strategies. Complaining makes you seem ill-prepared to conquer challenges and drains your energy. Rather than criticize, acknowledge the reality of situations, then formulate possible positive outcomes. You will be amazed at how people rally when they feel they're moving toward a successful resolution.

4. Handle both success and setbacks with an even temperament. Your circumstances will continue to change. When a great success occurs, acknowledge the contributions of everyone involved. This boosts egos and encourages those recognized to collaborate with you again. Acknowledge setbacks, but stress that they are opportunities to learn. Decide on a path to propel your goal forward, and take it.

Taking the high road isn't always easy. It requires practice and perseverance to find the silver lining in every challenge, whether in business or in life. Take steady action, and even the most daunting tasks will seem manageable. Be patient--you will gradually notice positive changes in your work environment and personal interactions.

Speaker and consultant Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is author of Kick Start Your Success and Kick Start Your Dream Business.
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