Book Summary: What Got You Here Won't Get You There

Certain people have an unwavering sense of direction in life. They are well aware of who they are and where they are heading. We feel safe in their presence. All surprises, we believe, will be positive surprises. They are our idols and role models.

However, we come across certain persons who exhibit the reverse characteristic. They believe they know everything, which we regard as arrogant.

People like these are unaware that their shortcomings might jeopardize an otherwise successful career. Worse, they have no idea that:

  • It is occurring.
  • They can do something about it.

This book is a map—a guide that can help you navigate the workplace's maze of false turns and find your way to the top.

Success Attainment Blinkers

We may achieve success by holding four fundamental principles. Nonetheless, each might make it difficult for us to adapt. That's the success paradox: the same assumptions that got us here may be setting us back.

Belief 1: I Have Succeeded

A male staff being thrown in the air with a trophy in his hand as a form of his accomplishments

Successful individuals have faith in their abilities. It's a mantra that goes something like this: "I have managed to succeed." This is what successful individuals tell themselves, whether they say it out loud or not.

It's not because they're reminded of all the blunders and mistakes they've had in recent days. Rather, it's because they filter out the failures and instead show the highlights of their accomplishments.

Belief 2: I Can Succeed

This is just another way of stating, "I am confident in my capacity to succeed."

Successful individuals think that they can achieve their goals. They would always gamble on themselves if given a chance.

One of the most common mistakes of successful individuals is them thinking, "I am successful. This is how I act. As a result, I must be successful since I work in this manner!"

Belief 3: I Will Succeed

This is yet another way of stating, "I am motivated to achieve." Successful individuals have an unwavering sense of optimism. They feel that they can create success and that it is literally their destiny.

Consequently, successful individuals have a propensity for pursuing chances with a zeal that others may find perplexing.

Of course, if left uncontrolled, this "we'll succeed" mindset can lead to fatigue and an overstretching of crucial resources and concentration.

Belief 4: I Choose to Succeed

Successful people think they are doing what they want to do because they want to do it. They have a strong desire for autonomy.

We are committed when we do what we choose to do. We are compliant when we do what has to be done. It's a condition known as cognitive dissonance. Even in the face of irrefutable proof that we are wrong, the more dedicated we are to thinking something is true, the less inclined we are to believe the reverse is true.

The topic of this book is that "what got us here won't get us there," as Goldsmith puts it. Almost everyone I meet is successful because of doing a lot of things right. And almost everyone I meet is successful despite some behavior that defies common sense.

Peter Drucker stated it plainly, "We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do. We don't spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop. Half the leaders I have met don't need to learn what to do. They need to learn what to stop."

Habits Worth Breaking

Let's look at some of Goldsmith's bad habits that he calls out in the book, which he refers to as habits worth breaking.

Habit A: Winning Too Much

A team winning the first award, yet they still choose to play it fair and be humble.

There's a fine line to tread between being competitive and being extremely competitive; between succeeding when it matters and succeeding when no one is watching. And successful individuals frequently cross it.

If we debate excessively, we want our point of view to win above everyone else's. If we're guilty of bringing people down, it's a sneaky act of putting them below us (again, winning).

It's all about winning if we disregard people—by causing them to fade away. If the desire to win is the dominant gene in our success DNA—the primary reason we are successful—winning too much might be a twisted genetic mutation limiting our achievement.

Here's an illustration:

Let's imagine you want to go to Restaurant X for supper. Your significant other has requested that you visit Restaurant Y.

You're having a heated discussion over the option. You draw attention to Y's negative reviews. But you eventually give up and head to Restaurant Y. Your fears have been confirmed by the encounter. So, what exactly do you do?

  • Option A: you may smugly point out to your spouse how incorrect he or she was and how this disaster might have been prevented if only you had been listened to, or
  • Option B: you can shut up and enjoy the food. Write it off in your head and relax for the evening. Which do you believe will provide a better result?

Habit B: Adding Too Much Value

Assume you're the CEO of a company. I've come up with a concept that you believe is fantastic.

Rather than patting me on the back and saying, "Wow, that was a great idea!" You're tempted (since you have to offer value) to say, "Good suggestion, but it'd be better if you handled it this way."

The problem is, although you may have enhanced the substance of my concept by 5%, you've diminished my dedication to executing it by 50% by taking away my ownership of the idea. My idea has become your idea, and I'm less enthusiastic about it now than when I first came in.

The further you rise in the company, the more you must focus on making others successful rather than on yourself. This involves keeping a keen eye on how you give out praise to employers.

If you find yourself exclaiming "Brilliant idea," then dropping the other shoe with a tempered "but" or "however," consider stopping at "idea."

Habit C: Starting With 'No,' 'But,' or 'However'

Regardless of how nice your attitude is when you open a sentence with 'no,' 'but,' 'nevertheless,' or any variant thereof, the impression to the other person is "You are incorrect."

"What you're stating is bad, and what I'm saying is good," it says flatly and decisively. Then, nothing useful can happen. The usual reaction of the other is to argue with you and put up a fight.

The debate then devolves into a useless conflict: you haven't communicated in a long time. You're both attempting to win.

If this is your social difficulty, start tracking how often you begin a statement with 'no,' 'but,' or 'however.'

Pay special attention to when you use these words in phrases when the goal is to achieve agreement with the other party.

"That is true, but" (Meaning: You don't believe it at all.) is an example of a phrase to avoid. Or the all-too-common "Yes, but." (Meaning: Prepare for conflict.)

Habit D: Telling the World How Smart We Are

A smart person with lightbulbs, books, laptop behind him, showing that he is capable of doing everything which sometimes is not a good trait.

This is a variant of our desire to succeed. We need to gain people's respect. We must demonstrate to them that we are at least intellectually equal to, if not superior to, them. We must be the most knowledgeable person in the room.

It almost always backfires. Many do this unconsciously and secretly throughout the day. We do it anytime we agree with someone giving us sound advice when we nod impatiently while others speak. And when our body language implies that we aren't hearing something we have not yet heard before.

The issue here isn't that we're bragging about how smart we are. We're making a snide remark about the other individual.

So, how do you minimize your desire to display how clever you are?

Goldsmith recommends a three-step practice in which we

  • pause before speaking, asking ourselves, "Is anything I say worth it?"
  • determine that it isn't, and
  • respond, “Thank you.”

Give it a try and see if it works for you.

Habit E: Failing to Give Proper Recognition

You are treating individuals unfairly when you refuse to acknowledge another person's contribution to a team's accomplishment. You are also denying them the emotional benefit that comes with progress.

They can't celebrate their accomplishment or accept compliments since you've taken away their ability to do so. They are instead disregarded, neglected, and shoved to the side. They despise you for it. People are robbed of closure when they are denied acknowledgment.

It's all about bringing things to a close. When you don't provide that acknowledgment, you're cheapening your achievements.

You've achieved success, but you're missing out on the afterglow. Of all the interpersonal slights we commit, failing to acknowledge the wronged person may be the one that sticks with them the longest.

Habit F, on the other hand, is its more nefarious counterpart.

Habit F: Claiming Credit That We Don’t Deserve

When a coworker takes credit for an achievement that you helped to build, it's the most anger-inducing social 'crime' in the office, and it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

You may forgive someone for failing to notice your outstanding performance. You CANNOT forgive that individual for recognizing it and taking it as their own.

When it comes to distinguishing who managed to come up with the winning remark at a meeting or who kept an important customer connection together through a tough period in the company, the evidence becomes hazy. It's difficult to identify who gets the credit.

So, when faced with the decision of taking credit for ourselves or letting it go to someone else, we fall into the success traps of the four successful people's beliefs listed above. We give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. We take credit for things we don't deserve, and we start to believe it.

Meanwhile, the victims of our injustice are furious. The most effective method to avoid becoming a credit hog is to do the exact opposite. Distribute the riches. Straightforward. Share the joy.

Habit G: Not Listening

A queen sitting on her high throne and feeling like the most important person and not listening.

You send out a slew of negative signals when you don't listen. You're basically saying, "I don't give a damn about you. I'm not sure what you're talking about. You're mistaken. You're a moron. You are squandering my time."

It's a silent, unnoticed occupation to not listen. Unusually, anyone notices you doing it. You can be uninterested, preoccupied, or focused on composing what you want to say while not listening, and no one will notice.

People can only tell if you're not paying attention to them or expressing great impatience. You want them to get to the point as soon as possible. That is noticed by others. And they seldom think less of you as a result.

Stop tapping your fingertips while someone else is talking, whether it's psychologically or physically. Stop being impatient when you're listening to someone. 'Next!' should no longer be said (or considered).

It's not just impolite and infuriating. It'll almost certainly motivate your staff to look for a new job.

Habit H: Passing the Buck

We will not mindlessly follow a leader who is incapable of taking responsibility. We have an innate doubt about that person's character, trustworthiness, and allegiance to us. As a result, we hold back on our devotion to them.

Everyone knows when we pass the buck, nobody is pleased. The dark side of taking credit for something that belongs to someone else is passing the buck.

We unfairly burden others with the guilt of our failure rather than depriving them of their deserved honor for a triumph.

Consumers rate a service firm based on how it responds to a mistake rather than how it performs when things go wrong (which they expect). In the office, it's the same. How well you admit your faults has a greater impact than how you celebrate your victories.

If passing the buck is difficult for you, you're likely already doing it. You're never fooling anyone—except possibly yourself—and you're totally destroying your skin, no matter how much you believe you're saving it.

Habit I: Goal Obsession

One of the odd attributes we embrace as a driver of our success is goal fixation. As a result, we abandon our manners in the relentless pursuit of our objectives.

People are friendly to us if they can assist us in achieving our aim. If they aren't valuable to us, we shove them out of the way. We might unintentionally become self-absorbed tricksters, alienating friends and allies in the process.

The solution is straightforward but not simple. We must take a step back, inhale deeply, and see. Also, take a look at the circumstances causing us to be fixated.

We must ask ourselves these questions:

  • When are we under time constraints? Or are you in a hurry?
  • Or are we going to do what we've been told is important? Or are there those who rely on us?

Answer: Probably all of the time.

These are the typical symptoms of a goal-oriented person. Every minute of each day, we are confronted with them. They aren't going away. As a result, it's critical to reflect on our job, compare it to the lifestyle we want to live and ask ourselves:

  • What am I doing?
  • What am I doing here?
  • Why am I doing this?

Are you accomplishing a task—while neglecting your "true north" mission?

Changing for the better

Goldsmith has developed a seven-step technique for improving our interpersonal interactions and keeping these changes permanent to assist us in breaking the patterns.

Step 1: Seek Feedback

A male seeking feedback from his female friends as a form of improving himself.

When it comes to coping with negative criticism, successful individuals face two issues. They wouldn't want to hear it from us, and we do not wish to give it to them. They must agree to the following promises to break the chain and receive feedback.

Is it possible for them to let go of the past? Will they make a solemn oath to speak the truth? Will they be encouraging without being cynical, critical, or judgemental? Will they choose one area to improve to reciprocate the change?

Step 2: Apologizing

Here's how it works: You say, "I'm sorry." Then you say, "I'll try to do better in the future." You don't say anything else. Don't try to justify it. Don't make things more difficult.

There's no need to qualify it. You're simply putting yourself in danger of saying anything that will weaken it. The only sensible advice for apologizing is to get in and out as fast as possible. You'll be able to move on sooner if you can get the apology out of the way.

Step 3: Advertising

You must promote after you have apologized. It's not enough to tell people you want to improve; you must specify exactly what you want to do.

To put it another way, what are you going to do now that you've apologized?

If you tell these people you're attempting to change, your chances rise dramatically. If you tell everyone how hard you're trying and reinforce the message time after time, your options grow once again. The message gradually sinks in, and people begin to accept the potential of a new, better you.

Step 4: Listening

The most common misconception about listening is that it is viewed as a passive activity. You are not required to take any action. This is not the case.

Good listeners see their work as a very active process that involves every muscle in the body, particularly the brain. You must respect their opinions and listen to them carefully to learn from others. It isn't enough to keep our ears open; we need to show that we're fully involved as well.

Before we can talk, we must first listen and then respond to a challenging question. "Is it worth it?" encourages you to look beyond the current conversation to assess:

  • How the other person feels about you.
  • What that person will do next.
  • How that person will act the next time you speak.

Step 5: Thanking

A female individual showing gratitude by saying thank you.

Thanking is effective because it reflects one of our most fundamental feelings: gratitude. When someone does something good for you, they want you to thank them—and if you don't, they will think worse of you.

When you express gratitude for someone's assistance, you're acknowledging that you required assistance in the first place, which is one method to identify your flaws.

You wouldn't have needed another person's support if you didn't need to be better in a certain area. It aids in the identification of previous flaws (which may still be weaker than you think).

Step 6: Following Up

The way you track your progress is by follow-up. Follow-up is how we let folks know that we're trying to change and that they're assisting us. Our efforts are engraved on our colleagues' memory through follow-up.

Follow-up is how we dispel our teammates' doubts about our ability to change.

Follow-up is how we let ourselves and others know that becoming healthier is a lifelong journey, not a one-time conversion.

Follow-up motivates us more than anything else.

Step 7: Practicing Feedforward

Feedforward requests that you follow these four basic steps:

  1. Choose one behavior that you'd like to modify that would significantly impact your life.
  2. Describe this goal to everyone you know in a one-on-one conversation.
  3. In the future, ask that individual for two recommendations that will help you make a good adjustment in your chosen behavior.
  4. Pay close attention to the ideas. The only guideline you must follow is that you must not assess, rate, or criticize the proposals in any manner.

That's all there is to it. Unless you stop the habit, what brought you here won't bring you there.

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