By one distinction, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who get ahead, and those who just get by. Determining the characteristics that allow us to bridge that gap can bring a great deal of success and satisfaction. And yet, for most people, it seems to be enough to simply glide through the world, giving little thought to leveraging themselves into higher and higher atmospheric levels. What factor enables some people to push themselves toward the upper echelons of their organization or industry?
Skill and competence are not enough to carry us to the top of the mountain, because there are always others who are just as smart and capable. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” Life does not give handouts. Thus, it is up to us to set the gears in motion to elevate ourselves above the pack, into positions of greater opportunity and responsibility.
The attitude we carry through life is perhaps the greatest factor that we control, and that is capable of helping us get ahead. There are so many messages and affirmations telling us that the attitude we possess directly impacts the success and satisfaction we achieve. How we view ourselves is the source of how others view us. The difference between the words PRESENT and PRESIDENT is just two letters: ID. Likewise, the difference between whether we follow or lead is encapsulated in those two letters: our ID.
If we have a positive, confident image of ourselves, we can excel at most anything to which we set our minds. A positive attitude, and the confidence it brings, is an existential attribute we must manufacture within ourselves. We cannot simply flip a switch and become a different person. As with anything else worth doing, it takes effort and perseverance. As John Maxwell writes, “Leadership develops daily, not in a day.” What are some real steps we can take to develop our attitude, and improve our ID? Consider the following:
Few things improve our confidence and image more than increasing our competence at our chosen profession. Thus, we should do something daily to build our skill level. Any number of activities can serve this purpose, including reading, attending a conference, listening to a speaker at the local AFP meeting, and asking questions of our colleagues and mentors. The Fundraising Free Press is published in great part as a tool to assist development professionals in this regard.
Raise the level of dialogue in which you engage so that it challenges you to broaden your horizons and expand the scope of your thinking. Admiral Hyman Rickover said, “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.” In our business, we need to do all three. Too many people, however, never get to the point of discussing ideas. It is tremendously invigorating to engage in deep thoughts and conversations, where the big questions are debated. It is difficult to do so without emerging with an expanded mind and an improved image of yourself.
Confidence is a circular process. To build our self-image we must tell ourselves we have a strong identity. I start every morning by looking in the mirror and declaring out loud that I am the greatest fundraiser on Earth. Does that statement make it so? No. But it will never be true if I am not the first to say it and believe it can be. There will always be people who think less of you than you do of yourself. But there are very few who will hold you in higher regard than you hold yourself.
How often do we hear this in relation to personal development? Achieving a goal depends upon your ability to see yourself in those surroundings. World-class athletes talk all the time about being able to see themselves on the dais, accepting their gold medal. They describe the scene in complete detail; sights, sounds, smells, sensations. When I walk into a room to solicit a seven-figure pledge, I have done all I can to convince the team of people with me and myself that victory is assured. That attitude is contagious, and it breeds within the prospect a desire to join our winning team.
Find others like you who are also interested in developing their ability to lead and succeed. Invite a frank discourse within that group about what each individual can do to improve themselves. Build a mutual admiration society so that each person’s confidence is bolstered. Offer constructive ideas for what each person can do differently to achieve the greatest possible result.
What is your ambition for yourself? Do you wish to be PRESIDENT, or merely PRESENT? If the former, you will need a strong ID to make it happen. What is your ambition for your organization: to lead your industry, or follow others? It is difficult to envision how an organization’s level of success can far exceed the vision and ambition held by its leaders. Decide to succeed; then make it so. Then apply that same confident leadership to your organization. The sky is the limit!
Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) is among the most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada. If you have a fundraising question, please call CDS at 800-761-3833 or send an email to email@example.com.