Lessons in Life and Leadership from GFG, Part 1

1. What’s luck got to do with success? 

What determines success? Hard work or good fortune? Effort or randomness? I think we all understand both factors play a role. 

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, reminds us that you can increase your surface area for good luck by taking action. The forager who explores widely will find lots of useless terrain, but is also more likely to stumble across a bountiful berry patch than the person who stays home. Similarly, the person who works hard, pursues opportunity, and tries more things is more likely to stumble across a lucky break than the person who waits.

In the end, we cannot control our luck—good or bad—but we can control our effort and preparation. Luck smiles on us all from time to time. And when it does, the way to honor your good fortune is to work hard and make the most of it.

Gary Player, the famous golfer and winner of nine major championships, has said, “The harder I practice, the luckier I get.”

2. Kaizen, a Japanese business philosophy. 

The philosophy of kaizen or continuous improvement — combines two words: Kai, meaning change, and zen, meaning good. The core concept behind kaizen is relatively simple: You can always make or do things better, even if they seem fine for now.

It’s perhaps best known as one of the pillars of Toyota, but it’s reach extends far outside Japan. For example, the grocery chain Trader Joe’s has been practicing kaizen since 2007, when CEO John Bane adopted it in order to help the company expand. 

It’s not a coincidence that continuous improvement is a vital part of so many companies’ philosophies. Still, it’s not always obvious how to implement it, especially when things seem to be going well.

Entrepreneur magazine mentioned that practicing kaizen means never becoming too comfortable and not accepting the status quo. It’s asking the question, “How can I grow?”. In order to identify an area of growth, you have to be able to take a step back and look through a different lens.

For a busy entrepreneur, it can be hard to make self-reflection a priority, but it is important. Set aside time to regularly check in with yourself and assess how well you’re meeting your goals, if your company is staying aligned with your values, and remembering your “why.”

Here’s to kaizen. May your improvement be continuous and your changes be good.

3. Have you ever heard of the compound effect?

It is an idea that is just as powerful as it is simple. It’s the name of a New York Times bestselling book, and we keep multiple copies in our office at any given time to give out to others. We love it so much that we even mentioned naming our podcast after it, but (gasp!), the name was clearly taken. 

The compound effect is the concept of continually making small behavioral changes that can compound into life-changing results over time. 

Small, Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = Radical Difference

As you may know from finance, compound interest can lead to surprisingly large returns. A penny that doubles in value each day for 31 days ends up being worth over $10 million. Similarly, in our personal life, small changes maintained consistently over time lead to unexpectedly dramatic results. 

It is important to note, The Compound Effect also works in reverse – one small bad habit leads to a significant problem over time. Beware of the negative ‘ripple effect’. 

Take a moment and ask yourself what is influencing you—what you feed your mind, the people you spend time with, and your environment will all conspire to bring you closer or further from your goals. Stand guard.

4. Burn the ships?

Claudio touched on this phrase in this week’s podcast. If you are a history buff, you may know the story of Cortés and the burning of his ships. In the year 1519, Hernan Cortés arrived in the New World with six hundred men and, upon arrival, made history by destroying his ships. This sent a clear message to his men: There is no turning back.

Two years later, he succeeded in his conquest of the Aztec empire.

As leaders taking your people into new territories, you need to ensure those that you are leading that there is no turning back. There shouldn’t be an option for an ‘off-ramp’ or an escape route to avoid the challenges of a new business territory. We need to burn the ships

Burning your ships doesn’t mean you can’t ever change course or decide that a current pursuit is not working. But no change process has a chance of working if your team has an off-ramp.

So commit. Update. Eliminate. Embrace. Whatever it is that you choose to do next, do it with fire

5. Growth in the darkness.

Recently, Claudio was asked the question, “If you could have given yourself advice at your lowest point, what would you have said?” A lot of his answer was to remember we grow in the dark times. We have to keep moving. Keep the faith. All of these things allow us to build resilience. 

Most growth occurs in darkness. Our body and mind are rejuvenated during the darkness of sleep. A seed grows in the darkness of the earth to become a bountiful fruit-bearing tree. So, too, the dark times of our lives have a sacred purpose—to bring us closer to the truth, closer to our true potential.

Constantly focusing on the dark times, or looking for the worst to happen, can cause you to miss the best and budding opportunities right in front of you. In uncertain waters, the best plan of action is to stay on course toward your goals and not make snap decisions to branch off or go it alone. 

Andy Rooney said, “Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you climb.”

What’s Next?

In the quest for success, we find a mix of luck and hard work shaping our story. Reflecting on the five success philosophies—acknowledging luck, practicing continuous improvement, leveraging small positive changes, committing fully to goals, and finding growth in tough times—we see a set of principles guiding us. Success isn’t just a finish line; it’s an ongoing journey. So, as you move forward, let these ideas be your guide, steering you toward a future full of accomplishment and happiness.