Three Keys to Success

My first boss who became a strong mentor had a three-word mantra that he repeated for his salespeople and leaders. At the time, it felt like corporate jargon to me, but now I understand that these three words separate the highly productive and successful from average performers. 

Focus.  Execution.  Discipline.


Another mentor from my time at Berkshire Hathaway liked to say, “Control your controllables.” I like this. It reminds us that our focus is best spent in areas where we can make a difference. I sometimes find my focus misaligned from where it ought to be. The key is to reduce these distractions. Over time, I learned how to hone my focus and developed two tools: the F.I.E.R.C.E. acronym and The Areas of Control and Influence diagram (credit to Stephen Covey for inspiration on this one).

This is a clear way to look at focus because it makes us think about what we should spend our time on. If you then connect it to our research on setting goals and planning, you’ll know exactly where to put your time, energy, and focus.


The ability to execute on where you decide to put your focus generally comes down to two masteries: 

  • Courage over fear
  • Time and energy management over winging it

If we make a decision to do something, and to do it well, the ideation and creative work are a small part of the battle. A highly successful insurance mogul once told me, “Ideas are cheap, execution is gold.”  Our job is to consider not only our goals but our leading indicator action steps that will help those goals come to fruition. 

How many business-building calls do I need to make per week? How many blogs should I write? How many hours should I spend practicing my golf swing? How many hours should I practice guitar? What is it for you? The key is to focus on building your calendar with the things that lead to the wins, and the wins themselves will multiply.


Discipline is where focus and execution meet longevity. This stuff is hard. Practice is hard. Preparation is hard. Mastering your craft is hard. Life can be hard when you are doing things to the fullest and growing.

You see, almost all growth comes outside of our comfort zones. It’s how we are wired. We push ourselves to move beyond comfort, which causes some anxiety and forces the brain to kick into overdrive. This will lead us to failure or success. With the right growth mindset, the failures are taken as learning lessons and we approach it again a little better next time. When we make progress, the brain has essentially formed new neural pathways and we have improved. 

We learn new things. We get better at other things. This takes discipline because it doesn’t happen overnight, and we are naturally wired to seek comfort. The good news is, with discipline these neural pathways that are created then expand the depth and breadth of our comfort zone. So then we can enter what is sometimes referred to as a flow state where we get lost in the activity, it’s enjoyable and seemingly effortless to others (who haven’t witnessed the work that went into it).

In an article for PsychCentral that aims to explain neuroplasticity, Gina Ryder closes with, “You may have more say over your thoughts and behaviors than you think you do. Your brain provides you with the capacity for change and healing. It’s also possible to enhance that innate resource by trying new experiences, constantly learning, staying physically active, and creating stimulating environments.”

We were on a cruise recently and I tried the wave pool surfing experience. As a surfer, I thought this would be something I could adapt to quickly. It turns out, the board is a fraction of the size of a surfboard, and the muscle patterns and reflexes to stay up are quite different. 

They gave me two tries. 

The Second was better than the first, but not that good either.

I was focused on the matter at hand. I had courage over fear to execute the steps necessary (safety video and signing something that said I might die) to complete the activity.

If I had decided to become a great cruise wave pool surfer, discipline would have been going back to the line and trying again and again. I would adjust and get better to achieve a new level of comfort and eventually flow. As it turns out, that wasn’t a priority for me. But perhaps one day it will be, and the good news is I know what it takes.   

Where can you improve your Focus so you can minimize distractions and be more effective?

Where can you improve your Execution on leading indicators that will create the wins?

And where might you step up your efforts to play the long game, and stay Disciplined even if an action is making you uncomfortable?

Just imagine your possible outcomes!

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