What Trick-or-Treaters Do Better Than Most Leaders

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I loved dressing up as a child and getting candy with my best friend. As I got older, I loved going to bars with friends in costumes. Now, as the father of a nearly teenage son, it’s different. Watching your kids get ready for Halloween can shed light on your own goals.

I’m surrounded by friends and clients making their dreams come true. They’re making big moves in all parts of their lives. I see what it takes to get what they want most. I’m in the trenches with entrepreneurs and leaders achieving amazing things. We talk about their strategies, team development and mindset.

The most innovative and impactful leaders think differently. Last week, I saw trick-or-treaters using smart strategies to load their bags with candy. Three of their approaches apply to your business, too:

1. Break the rules.

I loved talking to my son about his strategy to get the most candy. He wanted to create a reversible costume, with a ninja on one side and a ghost on the other. He saw the benefit of hitting each house twice. We talked about it for weeks. Let me be clear: I thought this was a terrible idea. However, I played along to encourage his creativity.

When was the last time you really thought about a new way to achieve your goals? The most comfortable strategies are the ones you’ve already used. You don’t try new strategies until you get frustrated enough to ditch your old ways.

While interviewing Mike Landman, CEO of RippleIT, I noticed how he thinks differently than his peers. His IT services business has become highly focused on digital agencies–a “niche-ing” strategy that’s not common in service businesses. He chose this approach to create client specific solutions that created more efficient results. The tactic took the company to No. 3013 on this year’s Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in America.

A kid is willing to break rules to achieve his goals. I’m not suggesting you do anything illegal — I’m asking you to think about the rules you’ve accepted as fact. Much of our growth comes from being willing to look beyond the status quo.

2. Increase your focus.

It takes starting early and having a clear plan to haul in as much candy as my son did. He put in effort to collect what appears to be 11.2 pounds of candy.

I watched him construct and navigate his plan. He sharpened his focus as the night wore on. He started leaving his bag with me as he ran up driveways, jumping bushes to get to doors. I haven’t seen him put that much focus into anything before. He had one goal, and he was willing to do the work to achieve it.

As for you, you’re working hard — you’re probably swimming in work. I’m not here to tell you to work your face off in service of your company’s growth. I’m encouraging you to streamline your thinking to increase your focus.

Focus has become more important than intelligence. I find that my most impactful days start with a 90-minute session of work on the single most important project I have.

Many leaders just want to do more things, but the solution isn’t to do more. Look for ways to streamline your work to meet your primary goal for now.

3. Give up.

The morning after Halloween, I told my son that I wouldn’t eat any of his candy. I don’t say that because I respect his candy; I’m a firm believer in the “parent tax,” and if I wanted it, I would eat it.

I know my body, however, and eating crap makes me feel terrible. While I want the delicious taste of candy, I don’t want the feeling that follows — and that becomes my primary goal.

A significant aspect of a leader’s success is a willingness to give up what she wants right now to get what she wants most. We’re so emotionally connected to “easy” that we let the hard stuff scare us. 

I’ve had numerous clients give up checking email throughout the day. Giving up the need to check and respond at all moments of the day has created more intention toward their current work.

You can have most of the things you want, but you can’t have them all right now. You have to decide what’s most important and begin working on that. If you want something badly enough, you’re willing to give up what’s keeping you from getting there.

If you’re willing to commit to what you really want, giving up what’s keeping you stuck is easy. You don’t get what you deserve. You get what you work for — just like trick-or-treaters.

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