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Often the rules for success are so simple and so obvious they aren’t even seen.


You’ve undoubtedly heard the old saying, “Behind every great man, there’s a great woman.” 

Well, here’s a variation for you: “Behind every great success, there’s a great system.”

Though both the great woman and the great system go unnoticed, their presence makes all the difference in the world.

Success is all around you.  If want to create more success in both your professional and personal life (notice I did not say “attract more success”), you need to identify and emulate the system that’s producing it.

In Business:

They’ve had some struggles recently, but McDonald’s is one of the greatest business success stories of our time.

Since most of their employees are just starting out, they have an extremely high turnover rate.  It’s an incredible 300% annually. 

Let’s do the math on that.  For a business to have a 100% annual turnover rate, they have a totally new group of employees every year.  So a 300% rate means when you walk into your local McDonald’s, the faces you see today will be replaced with new faces four months from now.  And, in eight months, a completely different crew will have replaced those faces.

Wow.  How can McDonald’s maintain their consistency across all those thousands of locations around the world when they have to plug in new employees at such a rapid rate?  They have a system!  To be more accurate, they have a system for everything.

My first job out of college was a copywriter at a local ad agency, and our local McDonald’s franchise was a client.  I can tell you first-hand that they have systemized every aspect of their business.  We had a whole wall of bookshelves filled with 3-ring binders from McDonald’s corporate headquarters (they call it Hamburger University), and that was just for their advertising and marketing.

One of the big takeaways from Michael Gerber’s excellent book, The E-Myth Revisited, is to systematize your small business so there’s a procedure for everything.  Even if you have no plans to ever sell your business, pretend you are going to sell it and document all the step-by-step procedures for the “new owner.”

Yes, behind every great success is a great system. 

In Life:

A more informal word for “system” is “habit.”  Habits are our personal systems.  But why are the successful ones, as Mr. Stone says, often so hard to see?

Many times, we choose not to recognize the successful habits of others because doing so would lead to us having to do the one thing we dislike most: change.

I’m comfortable and familiar with my current habits.  I don’t want to abandon them because they’re actually working for me.  People only do what works for them. 

You may see a friend or family member engaging in what you think is a bad habit.  But, to them, it’s a positive.  On some level, it’s absolutely working for them, just as your current habits are absolutely working for you.

If you have a habit you’d like to change, there’s a conflict inside you.  You’re obviously getting something you perceive as positive from the habit.  However, another part of you senses a negative aspect to it.

Focus exclusively on the positive.  Be honest with yourself, and figure out the benefit you’re getting from the habit.  This may take some soul-searching, or it may come to you in a flash.

Once you’ve identified the positive, you can then try replacing the current habit with another one that delivers the same benefit, but doesn’t cause the inner conflict.

For instance, smoking may be a stress-relieving positive, but you know it’s unhealthy.  Is there something else that would give you similar stress-relief, without the downside of the health risks?

As Og Mandino said so well in his classic book, The Greatest Salesman In The World, “In truth, the only difference between those who have failed and those who have succeeded lies in the difference of their habits. Good habits are the key to all success. Bad habits are the unlocked door to failure. Thus, the first law I will obey, which precedeth all others is — I will form good habits and become their slave.”

Of course, the irony in that passage is that becoming a slave to good habits results in the ultimate freedom of success.

Change your habits; change your life.

So remember…

Often the rules for success are so simple and so obvious they aren’t even seen.

— W. Clement Stone

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