The Seven Ps that Will Change Your Life

John Laurito

By John Laurito | November 2, 2016

Success just doesn’t “happen” in life. You have to plan for it. I often give talks to different organizations about positioning yourself for success, and I was recently asked to speak with our Penn Mutual interns as part of their training curriculum.

Success is all about the small differences. Most people think being a top performer means you have to do things two, to three or four times better than average, which is simply not true.

When I spoke with the interns, I started with a comparison of two professional golfers, Steve Marino and Jordan Spieth. You’ve probably never head of Steve Marino, but at the time of my presentation, he was the hundredth ranked golfer in the world. He earned about $464,000 in 2015 and his stroke average per round was 71.6.

Jordan Spieth, on the other hand, is widely recognized as one of the top golfers in the world. He earned around $50 million in 2015, yet he shot 69.4 strokes per round, only two strokes better that Steve Marino, a hundredth rank golfer. Just being three percent better can make the difference between being number one and being average.

When you relate that to your work, it’s pretty powerful. Think about what impact “just three percent better” would have on your career. Here are some of the principles I laid out for the interns to help create success in their lives.

1. Plan for Success

There’s a great story about a study at Harvard School of Business that showed a tremendous difference between those who had specific written goals and those who didn’t. This study asked new graduates about their goals, and 84 percent had no specific goals, 13 percent had goals but hadn’t written them down, and only three percent had specific written goals. Ten years later, the study looked at the income of these graduates, and the 13 percent of the class that had goals were earning twice as much on average as the 84 percent without goals. Even more impressive, those with written goals had gone much farther, basically earning ten times as much as the other 97 percent put together. Interestingly, there’s a debate as to whether this Harvard study actually took place, but it still illustrates the point that goal setting is important. And there was also a study done by Dominican University which showed that people with written goals, on average, were 50 percent more successful at achieving their goals than those with unwritten goals. The more specific you can be about your goal setting, and the more you share your goals by writing them down or talking to people about them, the more likely you are to succeed.

2. Plan A Only

When you have a safety net, or a “Plan B,” it dramatically reduces the likelihood that you’re going to achieve success with Plan A. Truly successful people jump in with both feet. A great example of this is Hernán Cortés, who conquered Mexico in 1519 with only 600 men. When Cortés landed on shore and saw his opportunity, he ordered his men to dismantle the boats that had brought them. With that, Cortés and his men no had no other option: they either fought to the death, or they would fight and win. There was no option to retreat.

3. Play to Win

Of course, you think, everyone wants to play to win. What I’m really saying here is to stop playing to not lose. It’s a matter of mindset. Everyone has their own internal “thermostat” of what they expect of themselves, so I’m suggesting you kick it up a notch. For example, if I’m an adviser and I’ve been setting eight appointments a week, should I be satisfied with that, or do I want to reset my expectations and establish a new norm for myself to set 10 appointments? Just like turning the dial up on your thermostat, you can dial up your expectations.

4. Positive Attitude

Continuing with the golf analogies, there’s a story about Jack Nicklaus, one of the best golfers ever. He once made the audacious comment that he had never three-putted in the last hole in a major championship. A sportswriter at the conference challenged the golfer on that comment: “All due respect, you’re a legend in the sport, but you did three-putt. It literally just happened in the tournament you played. Your approach shot landed on the green about 20 feet short. Your first putt lagged about 10 feet. Your second putt just slipped out and then you hit it in for the third putt.” Jack thought again, and again he insisted, “No, I’ve never three-putted.”

Frustrated, the sports writer later went up to Jack’s coach and asked why the golfer was in such denial about this. The coach explained that, somewhere in the back of Jack’s brain, he probably knows that he’s three-putted before, but the next time he’s on the 18th hole in the final round of the Masters Championship, and he’s standing above his second putt, one he has make to win the championship, the “knowledge” that he’s never three-putted before in a championship might be the edge that wins the championship. That is the importance of positive thinking.

5. Patience

A prime example for the lesson of patience is that of the Chinese bamboo tree. The tree requires watering and nurturing every single day for four years before it finally pops out of the ground, and, when it finally does, it grows 90 feet in five weeks. Think about the farmers that grow these trees and what they have to endure for four years without any visible sign of progress. Yet, when it finally happens, did the tree grow that tall in five weeks, or did it take four years? Of course, it took the four years. So many “overnight successes” are like that, and it takes patience. With some due diligence, eventually, the results will come.

6. Persistence

Colonel Sanders was basically penniless at age 65 when he decided that his chicken recipe was good enough to franchise. He literally went from restaurant to restaurant and made a batch of chicken at each for the manager and service people to taste. They’d love it, obviously, and then his proposal was: okay, I want you to put it on menu and I’ll take a percentage of the increased profits you have as a result of having it on your menu. When the first person said no, he packed up the chicken, he drove down the street to the next restaurant. They said no. He packed it up and continued on. The story is that he got over 1,000 people saying “No” before he got his first “Yes.” The result is the restaurant chain we know today as KFC.

7. Pushing Through the Pain

Success is not easy. There will be pain and discomfort, and you have to push through that. One of the things that comes with being successful is that you have to do the things that other people aren’t willing to do. There’s a terrific story that illustrates how much you can accomplish if you push through the pain. During a 120-mile relay race, which is usually done by a team of people who run in turns, a writer noticed there was one man who was running the entire 120 mile race by himself. After the race, the writer went up to the runner, David Goggins, to find out his secret. David invited the writer to visit his ranch for the weekend. During the visit, he took the writer to his gym and told him to do as many chin ups as he could. The writer did eight. David then told him, “Jump up again and do as many as you can.” The writer struggled to do three or four more, before he dropped to the ground, his arms on fire. “OK,” said David, “I want you to do 100 more.” The writer protested that he was finished. The response was, “Unless you do 100 more, our interview is over. Take as long as you want, however long it takes.” It took the writer several more hours, but he did 100 more pull ups.

“That’s my secret,” said David. “I was a Navy Seal, and there’s something called the 60 Percent Rule. When everybody feels their tank is empty and they’ve got nothing more in them, there’s actually another 60 percent in the tank, and you just proved that. You thought you were done, and yet you were still able to do another 100. You had no idea you could do it.” Success comes when you break through the pain barrier and keeping going when everybody else stops.

Success is often a matter of doing the little things that make a difference. Are the small things you do teeing you up for success? What time do you wake up in the morning? What do you do when you come into the office? Do you plan your day out? What’s your attitude towards your work and towards life? You may not think any one of these little things really means that much, but when you start adding up them up, you may be surprised to find that those little things are what help you achieve big goals.


  • Avatar STEVEN D. SOCHA, CAS says:

    Every day….up early, at the office, gym, with your family, apply yourself, it’s easy to say or hear that it’s just too difficult. Take the effort, make the effort, good reading!

  • Avatar Ed Domanico says:

    Great read John, thanks! A valuable message that bears repeating. Happy to see you thriving at Penn Mutual.

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