Read an Excerpt
Create the Life You Really Want
By ETHAN WILLIS RANDY GARN
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2011 Ethan Willis and Randy Garn
All right reserved.
Chapter One LOCATE YOUR POLARIS POINT
The Master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion.
He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he is always doing both. —from the Buddhist tradition
By your Polaris Point, we mean the ultimate destination that guides you, that inspires you when you're making progress, and that rights you when you get off course. It's the sparkle that lights your way in the dark.
In astronomy, there is but one Polaris, otherwise known as the North Star. Among the billions of stars, it is unique in that it is the beacon most nearly aligned to the north spin axis of the Earth. As the Earth turns, stars and constellations move through the sky—but not Polaris. It stays fixed in the sky relative to Earth, and any time it can be seen, true north is revealed. The result has guided travelers since the dawn of human history.
Polaris, the North Star, has ensured the fortunes of countless navigators on land and sea, and the concept of the Polaris Point can help guide you. All it requires is that you carefully choose a spot on the horizon, making sure to steadily move toward it. This is your Polaris Point. For the time being, think of it as defining the only direction worth following.
In this chapter, we will help you locate your Polaris Point.
YOUR UNIQUE POLARIS POINT
Everyone's Polaris Point is unique. It's the envisioned future of what you aspire to become, to achieve, to contribute, to create and how all of that relates to money. A true Polaris Point is clear and compelling without being overly restrictive. It serves as a unifying focal point for your ongoing earning efforts, a goal that inspires creativity, and a catalyst for profound action (see Chapter 6).
Here's the way we think about the Polaris Points. Imagine that you are at the end of a well-lived life in which you have met all the goals you have set for yourself. You have no regrets. You are invited to your own funeral. Now, what is it that you hope people will say about your life? If you've aligned your life with your authentic self, chances are many of the eulogies will mention your Polaris Point—not because they heard you talk about it, but because your actions and contributions spoke convincingly to them.
WHERE'S THE MONEY?
A Polaris Point is unique in that it always addresses your relationship with money. Yes, it usually also talks about your ethics, values, and passions. It can reflect your hopes and desires for happiness and prosperity. But it always defines a fundamental aspect of how important money is to you. Whatever amount of money you believe you will require, your Polaris Point has something to say about how your sense of prosperity determines the income you intend to generate.
Let us show you what we mean. We asked five people to share their Polaris Points.
Ellen Teaching is my joy and passion. Seeing the transformation in young people's lives is what I want to spend my health, wealth, and self doing for the rest of my life. Instead of filling bank accounts, I want to fill the minds of future leaders with knowledge and integrity. I want to do this side by side with my husband.
Floyd I want to provide for members of my family and extended family who do not have the means to achieve their own dreams and aspirations. I am okay working sixty hours a week as long as it provides for their aspirations and I can maintain healthy strong relationships with them. Money is less important to me than a lasting legacy.
Hector I want to leave a legacy of honor, service, and excellence for posterity. I am dedicated to a lifetime of defending my country as a member of the armed forces. I know I will not make as much as I could in other professions; however, a pattern of honor and safety for my children is more valuable than gold.
Steven I desire to live my life to the fullest. Money is best invested in experiences. I want to create a life that is a string of exceptional life experiences. In order to do this, I need to create substantial income that allows me to have flexibility. I will work hard, but I will also play hard. I will not let the pursuit of money overtake my goal "to seize the day."
Tamara I want a life that is simple and worry-free. I want to put down roots in a neighborhood and live there for a long time. I want to only work twenty to thirty hours a week and enjoy the time with my children, friends, and pets. These relationships will come before the pursuit of material things, not the things I need. I am willing to spend much less and live in a smaller house in order to do this. I will control money, and it will not control my quality of life.
THE AUTHORS' POLARIS POINTS
For most people, determining their own Polaris Point and putting it into concrete language can be one of the most challenging tasks they will ever face. We ourselves struggled with the process of identifying our Polaris Points, and we think it might be helpful if we showed you a bit of how we arrived at them, a bit about the circumstances from which they originated, and how we express them.
Ethan Willis Before I give you my own Polaris Point, I'd like you to know a little bit about me. While growing up in Southern California, I cannot remember a house that my family ever owned. My six brothers and sisters shared everything. What I remember most is that, while there was not much to share, we all got along, and we were happy sharing. It wasn't until much later that I realized how little we actually had. Still, it often seemed to me that our family enjoyed some seasons of prosperity.
My mother worked as a night shift nurse helping deliver high-risk babies. She taught me that I could be anything in life if I just found the right solution and applied it. My father was born on a dairy farm and taught me the value of getting up early and working hard. He would leave the house at 5:00 a.m. to work at two different hospitals as a respitory specialist, and not come home until late. But however tired he was, my father would wake all the children at 4:30 a.m. for family prayer before he left. We read scriptures and expressed gratitude for the blessings of life.
My father's goal in life was to provide for his children a better life than he himself had. In this goal, my father was clear that a better life meant more than just money. He spoke about the importance of being happy and living purposefully. I was a teenager when my father died of cancer. To honor his sacrifice, I committed to deliver on the goal that he set on behalf of his children. My conscious path to prosperity began at that moment.
I first sought God's presence. I wanted to understand what this life was really about, where my father went, and what I could do to ensure I could be with him again. After passing up such opportunities as playing baseball for a Los Angeles Dodgers scout team, I decided to go to Brazil on a volunteer service mission. During my time in one of the poorest parts of Brazil, I learned something about poverty and prosperity.
When I looked closer, I saw something totally unexpected. People in the exact same circumstances with the same levels of income experienced their situations in completely different ways. Some families dwelled in abject poverty. But others, with no more resources to their names, lived lives that looked much more satisfying, even prosperous. I was fascinated by the clear implications that, on some level, poverty and prosperity are states of mind.
When I returned to the United States after two years, I knew two things: (1) prosperity is a choice, and (2) only you can define how much money you need to be prosperous. I set a goal to earn enough money and do it in a way that helped others do the same. That was the beginning of my Polaris Point. Since then, I have pursued prosperity in many ways: from feeling trapped by my job, moving up the corporate ladder; to bootstrapping my business, scraping to make payroll each week; to selling pest control services door to door, raising five children, balancing family relationships and the demands of the world; to working with famous authors and millionaires, experiencing Harvard Business School's perspectives of prosperity, seeing people in eighty countries strive for prosperity, employing over 2,000 people, and struggling to find balance between money and happiness and purpose.
My last fifteen years have been spent trying to define, live, and teach prosperity. We all have a story, and I hope sharing a little of mine can help you understand how I might be able to help you on your path.
ETHAN'S POLARIS POINT
I will put off instant gratification for long-term prosperity. I will treat my time as an asset. I will invest the greater amounts in the things that will last longest. My greatest priorities are my wife, children, extended family, dear friends, and commitments to the Divine. Earning will be to support my family and to build people, businesses, and ideas that will better the world. The earnings of profits will be the applause customers give me because of the value they receive.
Randy Garn I grew up in a small town with parents who taught me the value of integrity and hard work. My father and mother both taught at the local high school. My mother was the English teacher and debate coach. My father was the athletic director and the head football coach of the high school football team.
One of the central learning experiences of my life was watching my father coach and inspire student athletes to reach their full potential, and not always just in football. His example cemented in me the power of teamwork and the importance of a good coach. From my father, I learned that if I wanted something and worked hard for it, then nothing was impossible. I learned that money was important, but many other things were more so. To me, the great sources of well-being and happiness are the relationships that I nourish and which nourish me.
I have always tried to live each day to the fullest and have a cheerful, positive outlook in every circumstance. I have only one life to live and only one opportunity to leave my mark on this world. I want to take that opportunity and leave the world in better shape than I found it. In my view, the very best way to do this is by helping as many other people as I can and looking for the best in other people rather than the flaws. To lift another person, you have to be standing on higher ground.
I have a great passion for innovation and entrepreneurship. I love helping other businesspeople grow and flourish. I am especially proud of my role in helping start several businesses and steward them to success, jobs, profits, and value for others to enjoy. Having enough money is important, but my passion is helping people take an idea and transform it into a thriving business.
RANDY'S POLARIS POINT
I found my Polaris Point when I came to understand that through technology, education, and hard work, I can help change the world one person at a time. I love being a coach, a guide, a positive motivating force in another's life. I cherish human relationships. I have a unique ability to connect people together in a way that creates lasting value. Money is important to me, but my passion is being the connection between what others desire to become and how to get there. I truly love to see others succeed.
POLARIS POINTS IN ACTION
In his book The Transparent Leader, Herb Baum, the former chairman and CEO of Dial, illustrates how Polaris Points operate by working to keep people aligned with their highest aspirations. There is intense competition between his company and Colgate in such areas as soap, shampoo, and other billion-dollar market segments. He recounts receiving a telephone call from Reuben Mark, the chairman and CEO of Colgate-Palmolive:
I have a lot of respect for the company [Colgate], and I knew Reuben to be an outstanding CEO with an excellent reputation. The day he called, he said that he had in his possession a CD containing Dial Soap's marketing plan for the year. It had been given to him by a member of his sales force (a former Dial employee who had taken it with him when he left to join Colgate), and it meant that one of Dial's most important product line's strategies had been revealed, and could result in the loss of revenue, profits, and market share.
"Herb," Reuben said, "one of our new salespeople gave this CD to one of my sales managers. I'm not going to look at this information, and I'm sending it back to you right now. I'll handle it on this end." It was the clearest case of leading with honor and transparency I've witnessed in my career. After all, who expects a CEO to call his competitor and tell him they have a copy of their detailed business strategy? If he hadn't, I never would have known, but that one call gave me more insight into his character than anything else.
It wasn't hard to see why he had been so successful in his career. He knew he didn't need to gain an unfair competitive advantage to succeed, even when he was presented with the opportunity. He chose not to abandon his leadership style, and he had the courage to stick to his principles even when it meant giving up confidential information that could have helped his company gain an edge. (Baum and Kling 2004, 31)
To us, what Baum called leading with honor and transparency actually describes the Colgate CEO's Polaris Point. We'd guess that early in his career Reuben Mark decided that the only legitimate success was success that he earned and that he would not tolerate nor take unfair advantage in any form. The honor and transparency that Baum described are very real because they are consequences of Mark's Polaris Point. Everyone can be tempted to violate what one knows to be right. Being clear about how he would or would not make money guided his business decision. When temptation strikes, it's very important to have solid Polaris Point values to guide you.
POLARIS POINT MENTORS
Some people instinctively know what their Polaris Point is. But most people, like us, have to work at it.
One great way to get a clearer view of what your Polaris Point might be is to think about the people you most admire. We think of these people as Polaris Point Mentors. They can be people you know, such as your parents or a beloved teacher. They can be world leaders, famous scientists, athletes, astronauts, or other celebrities that you view from afar. The odds are that if you feel this person's life represents something you yearn to emulate, there is an element of your Polaris Point in that person's experience.
Clayton Christensen, an influential professor at the Harvard Business School, is an individual who is absolutely committed to a Polaris Point that, to us, is about the integrity of never compromising over the things that matter most (Christensen 2010).
Most of us know the difference between right and wrong, but sometimes it's tempting to loosen our standards. We whisper to ourselves, "Okay, I know that as a general rule I shouldn't be doing this. But in this particular extenuating circumstance, just for me, just this once, it's not so bad. I'll never do it again." Sound familiar? Many of us go through these rationalizations. This often happens with the choices we make in how we go about making a living.
The technical term for this moral wiggling, Professor Christensen taught us, is the marginal cost. The marginal cost of doing something wrong "just this once" always seems alluringly low. It suckers you in, and you don't ever look at where that path ultimately is headed. This compromises your Polaris Point.
PICK YOUR POLARIS POINT OR ELSE IT WILL PICK YOU
When it comes to deciding on what your Polaris Point should be, just make sure your aim is true. That's why starting with what you already have and working from your core are so critical.
In the movie Up in the Air, Ryan Bingham (played by George Clooney) has a Polaris Point that consists of collecting 10 million frequent flier miles. Bingham believes that when he finally gets all those miles, he will be happy. He fantasizes about the perks and status that will result: the front-of-the-line access, premium seats, lavish attention, free wine, and, most of all, being recognized by name. Status, even more than money, can be a powerful motivator. When Bingham finally hits his 10-million-mile goal during a flight from Chicago to Omaha, the chief pi lot of American Airlines makes it a big deal while presenting the coveted graphite card that allows him to access his own private customer ser vice representative. But the satisfaction is short-lived. Bingham's interest in this goal was already waning—he'd already started looking elsewhere for fulfillment—and that's why this moment was so sad.
Excerpted from PROSPER by ETHAN WILLIS RANDY GARN Copyright © 2011 by Ethan Willis and Randy Garn. Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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