There are two sides to becoming powerful. The first is being able to act effectively; in fact, the definition of power is the ability to act. The second side of power is staying out of other people's control. That's a big one in itself. During my career, I've identified 12 paths to power:
Path # 1: Know yourself intimately . I believe this one is the most important. Many businesspeople overestimate their chances of success and wildly under estimate their chances of failure. This is especially true of wild-eyed, optimistic entrepreneurs. That's one good reason to get up at 5 AM with a blank piece of paper and try to think through things from as many angles as possible. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and say no to what I call “open-ended aspirations.” People who are very ambitious – and I am one – tend to want it all. That's open-ended ambition, and it's a recipe for disaster. You have to know what you do not want as well as what you do want.
Path # 2: Be an information filter and a knowledge sponge. Keep searching for the truth. Keep trying to figure out what makes other people tick, and why they do what they do. Greater knowledge of yourself and the world around you gives you a wider range of actions to choose from.
Path # 3: Get it together. Focus like a laser on what you want. Many people want it all, so they're not very powerful. This reflects what I was saying about open-ended ambition.
Path # 4: Live an upright life. Honesty really is the best policy. One of my favorite quotes is “To thine own self be true.” I've said it to myself thousands of times when I did not know what to do. If you're true to yourself, you can not be false to others.
Path # 5: Take a shot. You can not win if you do not play. Dream big dreams. Go for the gold. Take massive action: start moving in a lot of different directions, and figure things out as you go.
Path # 6: Hang in there . Persevere no matter the pain, as H. Ross Perot once said. You'll find that those who make it in this world are the ones who hang in there longer than everyone else.
Path # 7: Pick doable objectives . Do not waste your time and energy fighting losing battles.
Path # 8: Do not make a big deal about being the boss . Be humble. You need other people around to help you win.
Path # 9: Do not motivate other people to oppose you. They say that friends come and go, but enemies stay forever. Do not make people any more jealous than they already are if you're super successful already. Do not strip someone down and cause them to seek revenge.
Path # 10: Put your adversities to good use . Adversity contains the energy you need to succeed. Problems spur you to action. It's up to you to decide what to do with that action.
Path # 11: Calm down. Open-ended desires lead to nothing. Be satisfied with what you have-and then keep pushing. So pace yourself and push yourself.
Path # 12: Think win-win. You empower yourself by empowering others. As Zig Zigler once said, “You can have anything in this world you want, if you help enough other people get what they want.” Think about how you can help other people while helping yourself in the process.
Those are my 12 paths to power. I urge you to reread them and think about them deeply. Are there more paths? Yes, of course there are – but focus on and master these first.