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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

Paul Brown: Awaken the Sleeping Giant Within

by Shel Horowitz

The difference between just getting by and achieving excellence is not a quantum leap. Rather, it's just a few percentage points-and that makes excellence achievable for all of us. In other words, most businesses don't need radical changes to achieve greatness; they just need to find the slight edge.

So says Paul Brown, who spoke to the Family Business Center on March 6 at the Hotel Northampton.

Brown, whose company, Leadership Dynamics, Inc., has helped 350,000 participants from more than 60,000 companies in over 60 countries, gave a few examples: "The difference between a .250 hitter in baseball and a .350 hitter is one extra hit every ten times at bat. But the .350 hitter makes 10 times as much money."

And "Does an individual who earns $300,000 work three times as hard as one who earns $100,000? No! They work smarter, not harder."

According to Brown, we can all achieve our goals if we follow a simple formula-and if we don't get turned around by 'no, you can't' messages all around us. The right goal will follow the SMART acronym: it should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Tangible

What's the difference between attainable and realistic? Attainable goals are possible; realistic ones are likely. And we should know by now what we need to do: "Most people can clearly identify their next steps-but they don't DO the behaviors. If you're not progressing, your goals aren't clear enough; success is goal-directed action." Instead, we're blocked by old messages about all the things other people believe we can't do. These "tapes," as Brown calls them, start in childhood when our parents tell us not to climb on the furniture, and are reinforced by peers all the way through.

But we can change those negative messages, replace the "can't" conditioning-messages like "No one in our family has ever become President of the United States"-with positive conditioning. The people who make things happen have a positive attitude, are goal-directed, and self-motivated. By setting and working toward SMART goals, Brown believes you can "take the dreams you thought may be possible and turn them into reality."

Success, Brown points out, is not just a matter of money. "Some people have the apparent trappings of success, but are not successful. they've lost their relationships with spouses and children. Those roles in relationships make people truly successful.

His own definition of success is "the progressive realization of worthwhile predetermined personal goals."

What does that mean? Let's take it one word at a time. Progressive, in this sense, means gradually increasing over time. Realization is achievement. Worthwhile means it's something important. Predetermined indicates planning, not happenstance. And of course, personal is about you, yourself. So another way to phrase this definition would be: to gradually but steadily achieve the meaningful goals you've thought about and planned for.

Brown cited studies that showed approximately 3% of the population is wealthy enough that they don't need to work. Another 10% are financially secure. 60% get by from paycheck to paycheck, and 7% need support. Researching those groups, Brown concluded that the majority of those who need support have no goals at all. The ones who are surviving have fuzzy, short-term goals such as planning their next summer vacation. Those who are financially secure tend to think about their goals often-but that wealthy 3% had specific, written goals they want to achieve.

How are people motivated to achieve their goals? Brown identified three types of motivation: incentive, fear, and attitude. the first two are external: to get a reward of some kind or avoid a negative consequence. But the third, your own attitude, is internal-and is a far more successful motivator as a result. Unlike a donkey who can be motivated by dangling a carrot in front of him (at least as long as he thinks it's possible to capture the carrot), "people are not donkeys. they're thoroughbreds. If we treat them that way, they'll achieve."

Brown's final words to the group: "If each of you believe in your potential as much as I believe in your potential, you'll achieve it."

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