Thursday, March 16, 2006

Success: Boiling It Down to One Thing

Michael Hyatt, President and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, blogs intermittently at "Working Smart." Though his postings can be infrequent, Hyatt rarely fails to refresh and further inform my resolve and capacity for accomplishment. I appreciate his succinct and savvy insight. This post of February 27 responds to the question Hyatt reports most frequently asked of him, "What's the secret to success?"

Hyatt acknowledges the reduction of "life" in any answer to that question and cautions readers to factor for oversimplification, but he goes on to say, "If I really, really had to boil it down to one thing, I would say this: responsiveness." Hyatt goes on to say how often people fail to answer their phone calls, respond to email, or complete their assignments on time, promising to do something on time and never following through. He situates his answer against the demands of an "instant world" and the certain report of work performance accumulating among peers and co-workers. We write our reputations with every interaction. "You can't afford to be unresponsive," says Hyatt. "It is a career-killer. The basic rule is this: respond immediately unless there is a good reason to wait." Even then, the limit for delay is twenty-four hours. "The great thing about being responsive," Hyatt concludes, "is that it will quickly differentiate you from your peers. People love doing business with responsive people. Nothing will advance your career faster than this."

Ann Marsh, writing for Fast Company, discusses new applications of
Csikszentmihalyi's 1990 book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Harper Row). Marsh highlights the work being done today among management teams finding ways to invest Csikszentmihalyi's ideas in such a ways as to return higher yields in productivity. For my read, finding "flow" works in harmony with the "responsiveness" about which Hyatt talks. Perhaps an increased capacity for responsiveness is another product of emerging from this state of heightened human experience. Marsh notes a number of characteristics identified by Csikszentmihalyi as indicative of "flow":

  • engaging so completely as to lose track of time
  • hours pass in
    minutes
  • all sense of self recedes
  • a tendency to push beyond one's limits and develop new abilities
  • the body or mind is stretched to
    capacity
  • emerging from each flow experience more complex
  • becoming more self-confident, capable, and
    sensitive
  • finding the experience to be "autotelic," the
    activity is its own reward

I appreciate Hyatt's observation and council, and I've ordered Csikszentmihalyi's book. There is something familiar to me in the notes of highlight Marsh provides, and I want to know more. The list of those recommending the book is long and impressive. I'll take that for my lead and get back in the future with my own review.

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