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Rules For Success

Jim Collins follows many of the success rules I’ve observed in other successful entrepreneurs. Reading through this story in the NYT, you see:

  • Sensitivity to time: A second lost is a second wasted. He carries a stopwatch and drives for efficiency.
  • Unrelenting focus: pick big things to do that align with what you love to do – and just do them. This might not be a specific goal – it could be a framework in which work exists. He approaches every aspect of his life with purpose and intensity.
  • “That, he explains, is a running tally of how he’s spending his time, and whether he’s sticking to a big goal he set for himself years ago: to spend 50 percent of his workdays on creative pursuits like research and writing books, 30 percent on teaching-related activities, and 20 percent on all the other things he has to do.

  • Measured: They measure performance and outcomes. Mr. Collins, who is 51, keeps a stopwatch with three separate timers in his pocket at all times, stopping and starting them as he switches activities. Then he regularly logs the times into a spreadsheet.
  • Practiced in saying no: “Mr. Collins also is quite practiced at saying “no.” Requests pour in every week for him to give speeches to corporations and trade associations. It could be a bustling sideline, given that he commands a top-tier fee of $65,000 to dispense his wisdom. But he will give only 18 speeches this year, and about a third of them will be pro bono for nonprofit groups.”
  • Balance: Burning doesn’t work. Balance does. They are acutely aware of what they need to win. “Oh, he sleeps with vigor, too. He figures that he needs to get 70 to 75 hours of sleep every 10 days, and once went to a sleep lab to learn more about his own patterns. Now — surprise, surprise — he logs his time spent on a pillow, naps included, and monitors a rolling average.
  • Focus On What Not to Do as Much as What to Do: “This orientation — a willingness to say no and focus on what not to do as much as what to do — stems from a conversation that Mr. Collins had with one of his mentors, the late Peter F. Drucker, the pioneer in social and management theories. “Do you want to build ideas first and foremost?” he recalls Mr. Drucker asking him, trying to capture his mentor’s Austrian accent. “Zen you must not build a big organization, because zen you will end up managing zat organization.”
  • Sets Context For Feedback: “He then gets feedback from a large circle of people. To make sure they don’t hold back, he refers to them as his “critical readers,” and types in large letters atop the manuscript, “Bad First Draft.” “That gives them the freedom to say, ‘Jim already knows it’s bad, so let me tell him how it’s bad,’ ” he says.
  • Some good luck along the way… “for all his exacting approaches to time management and research, has been blessed with something he cannot control: repeated bouts of flat-out luck.” Someone once said to me that luck stands for Laboring Under Correct Knowledge – this is something I’ve always held true. You don’t get luck without the other stuff.

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