To achieve great things in life, you’ll need people to buy into your vision. Heed this timeless advice from personal development and leadership icon Jim Rohn.
The more things change, the more they stay the same: In 2021, just as it was in 2020 or 1920, leadership is the great challenge. It will continue to be among the greatest challenges of the future.
Let’s begin by recognizing one of the most challenging roles in leadership: parenting. Unless we take our children by the hand and strengthen the family foundation, the nation is shaky. Parenting is where it all begins.
My father had a simple little rule. He said, “Son, if you get in trouble in school, when you get home it’s double trouble.” Does that method sound familiar? Double trouble at home if you get in trouble at school.
A lot of parents are hoping someone else will exercise the leadership role—teachers, or the church, or the school or the community. They want somebody else to take up the task of being the example. But this is a challenge for parents to take up themselves, to become leaders.
The Challenge of Leadership
Leadership is the challenge to be something more than mediocre. It was said of Abraham Lincoln that when his mother died, he was at her bedside, and her last words to him were, “Be somebody, Abe.” If that story’s true, he must have taken it to heart. Be somebody. Be somebody wise. Be somebody strong. Be somebody kind. All of the attributes of leadership are a unique challenge.
This call to be somebody does not mean on Instagram. It’s not about putting on a show. The first step of being is becoming. We’re called to grow into it in every aspect of life. Leadership is the challenge to step up to a new level, a new dimension that has opportunity and responsibility. Who wouldn’t want the responsibility along with the opportunity if it builds an extraordinary life? You wouldn’t want it any other way.
There’s a whole new method of leadership called leadership by invitation. Not leadership by threat. Not leadership by aggravation. Not leadership by intimidation, which shows their weakness or ego at work instead of their skills. Leadership by invitation. Invite somebody to a better way of doing things.
It’s also called leadership by inspiration. Inspire somebody to make the necessary changes to move up or to get the job done.
The Basic Laws of Leadership
All leaders must learn the basic laws of leadership so they can use them as illustrations, as well as use them for productivity.
The Law of Sowing and Reaping
Whatever you sow, you reap. Another way to put it: In order to reap, you must sow. Everyone has to get good at one of two things: planting in the spring or begging in the fall. To deserve the harvest, you must plant the seed, take care of it in the summer and then carefully harvest it.
Now, here’s the rest of the law of sowing and reaping: If you sow good, you reap good. If you sow bad, you reap bad. You can’t sow bad and hope for good. You can’t plant weeds and hope for flowers. It works both ways, positive and negative.
Here’s something else about the law of sowing and reaping: You don’t reap only what you sow. You reap much more than what you sow. That’s important to understand. This works both positively and negatively, too. The old prophet said, “If you sow the wind, you don’t reap wind, you reap a whirlwind.” But if you plant a cup of corn, how much do you get back—a cup? No, a bushel for the cup. You get back much more than what you plant. That’s the reason for planting—for the increase.
Now, here’s the next key to the law of sowing and reaping: Sometimes it doesn’t work at all. The farmer plants the crop in the spring and takes care of it all summer. He’s an honorable man, loves his family and is a decent citizen. But the day before he sends the combines into the field, a hail storm comes along and beats his crop into the ground. And it’s gone. It’s lost.
So this time it didn’t work. Now what must the farmer do? He’s got to decide whether to do it again or not. “Shall we take another chance the next spring?” We would advise him to do so even though he lost everything in the last harvest, because, more often than not, you’ll have a harvest if you plant in the spring. There’s no guarantee, but it’s pretty good odds.
The Law of Averages
If you do something often enough, you’ll get a ratio of results. Once you understand that, the world is yours.
Let’s say you’re just getting started in sales and you talk to 10 people, and you get one. We now have what we call the beginning of a ratio. Talk to 10, nine say no, and one says, “Yes, I’ll buy your product. I’ll take your service.” Somebody says, “Well, one out of 10 isn’t that good.” Fine, but you’re just getting started. Here’s what happens with the law of averages: Once it starts, it tends to continue. If you talk to 10 and get one, chances are excellent that if you talk to 10 more, you’ll get another one. You don’t have to be perfect here. All you have to do is understand the law of averages.
Even if you’re only getting one out of 10, you can now start to compete. If you’ve been at it a long time, you can get nine out of 10. Even though I just started, I’m telling you if we have a contest, I will beat you. You say, “Well, you just started. How could you beat me?” It’s very simple. If we have a 30-day or a 60-day contest, while you talk to 10 and get nine, I’ll talk to 100 and get 10. I win. Isn’t that clever?
Here’s what I do if I’m new: I make up in numbers what I lack in skill. When my skills increase, I don’t have to do 100 to get 10. Once you understand the law of averages, the chances are excellent that the ratios will work for you. The law of averages will serve you well as a leader in your business career, in your sales career, in any kind of career.
The Law of Faith
Faith is the ability to see things that don’t yet exist. Faith can turn difficulty into positive reality. There are a few parts to the law of faith:
See it as it is. First, faith is the ability to see it as it is. Faith doesn’t mind seeing it as it is because faith is a miracle worker. Faith does not ignore the negative. Faith uses the negative, because if there was no negative, then there’d be no need for faith. You need faith because everything isn’t OK. If it’s ugly, then it’s ugly. If it isn’t working, then it isn’t working. If it’s a mess, then it’s a mess. It doesn’t hurt to call a mess a mess. Faith doesn’t mind admitting that. Faith doesn’t mind seeing that. Seeing it as it is—that’s the beginning of faith.
See it better than it is. Second, faith is the ability to see it better than it is. Can’t you see beyond the mess? The mess is for today. Can’t you look into tomorrow? The answer is, “Yes, I can look into tomorrow.” Humans have this incredible ability to look into tomorrow, to look into next week, next year. So we not only have the ability to see it as it is—the beginning of faith—but also to see it better than it is. Dream the dreams, make the plans, visualize, use your imagination and see it better than it is.
Make it better than it is. Now, the part that turns faith into reality: Make it better than it is. Faith now must be invested. If you invest faith in action, you can take any situation and make it better than it is.
Don’t see it worse than it is. Here’s something to watch out for in the beginning of faith: Don’t see it worse than it is. Don’t blow it out of proportion. If it’s bad, that’s how bad it is. You don’t need to multiply how bad it is by 10. That’s not necessary. See it just as it is. That’s the deal.
Don’t see it for more than it can become. Here’s another unique key to faith: Don’t see it for more than it can become. There’s a thin line between faith and folly. Yes, it’s possible to see yourself as a millionaire, but not overnight. It’s still possible to be a millionaire and it’s still possible to be rich and wealthy, given a certain amount of time working with the law of averages. Plenty is possible without being foolish in your faith exercise.
It might be worse than when you first see it. Keep in mind that it might be worse than you first see it. Sometimes you just look at the surface. You’d better look underneath. You’d better take a deeper look so that you can really see it as bad as it is. Not to overblow it now, but to make sure you see it as bad as it really is.
It might be far more in the future. Don’t forget to give yourself a chance to see that it could be far more in the future than what you can first see. On a foggy night, if all you can see is a hundred feet, then walk that first hundred feet. Now you can see another hundred feet.
So take the early steps of faith. Whatever you can see as possible to become, start believing that, have faith in that. As that starts to take hold, you’ll be able to see it for more and for more and for more, and the possibilities will start to increase in your own imagination.
Work With the People Who Deserve It
Life operates by deserve. So, in leading people, learn to work with the people who deserve it, not the people who need it.
You’ve got to set up objectives ahead of time to determine who deserves it. When you bring somebody into your enterprise, you set the ground rules. Make sure all the guidelines are clear. Monitor results and accomplishments, then you know who deserves it.
Now, remember the 80/20 rule—the pull is in the opposite direction. Guess who wants your help: usually the wrong people. It’s usually the people who need it, not the people who deserve it. There are plenty of places for your benevolence, but in your enterprise, you must respond to the people who deserve it.
Teach people how to deserve it.
Teaching people and moving them from need to deserve starts to accelerate their self-esteem. You can’t believe what a high the beginning of new self-esteem is. If a person hasn’t had it for years and years, and they’ve been beaten down by their own philosophy and they’ve been beaten down by everybody else—if you start them on the early steps of learning to deserve, then that starts this process of self-esteem. And self-esteem leads to action, action leads to progress, and progress leads to fortune. So work with the people who deserve it. And teach people how to deserve your time, how to deserve your help.
Let people grow and develop.
Don’t expect the pear tree to bear apples. I mean, let people do whatever they can do. And let them change their mind. Let them grow and develop. Here’s what I’ve found: You cannot change people, but they can change themselves. The best you can do is to inspire, teach, pray and hope. You can’t get in there and change them, but you can do your best to deliver the message that can create change if someone will accept it. If someone will do something about it, then take the early baby steps to get them started. Be happy with the smallest progress, give some rewards and a pat on the back and say, “It’s going to work for you. You’ve taken these two steps. I’m telling you, if you can take two steps, you can take 102.”
Invite them along as you take those next 100 steps. They’ll be inspired to follow you.
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2021 issue of SUCCESS magazine and was adapted from The Jim Rohn Guide to Leadership.
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