When I was in college at the University of Georgia I decided to pursue a degree in business. Once accepted into the business school I had to choose a major. Since it the late 70’s (the VERY late 70’s) and computers were the rage, I chose Information Systems as my major. I had no idea what I would do with that major, or if I could even graduate with the requirement to pass a couple of different programming language courses, but Information Systems it was. One thing I was sure of though was that one day I wanted to work for IBM.
Fast forward 35 years and I am approaching my 30 year anniversary with IBM. It has been a fantastic experience that has allowed me to grow and learn and see the world like very few people I know.
What I loved about the idea of working for IBM was that I would be a part of something that was considered to be the best. To be an IBM salesman at that time was the top of the ladder in the sales world. There were very high standards and I wanted to be a part of that. You were expected to dress in a specific way and you were expected to sell in a specific way. Although at the time I joined I didn’t know where that standard came from, but it only too one day in my first IBM Sales School class to learn about IBM founder Thomas J. Watson. Unfortunately, it took many more years to begin to apply the same high standards to my personal life.
IBM has been in business for over 100 years and they are still going strong. To have been successful for that long there had to be standards and basic beliefs. If you would like to know more about how IBM was able to repeat their remarkable results and how you can apply that same standard to your life, you should get a copy of my book called, Repeat the Remarkable, How Strong Leaders Overcome Business Challenges to Take Their Performance to the Next Level. But for now I would like to talk about how you can drive sustainable success in your family, your business and yourself.
I saw a picture at the IBM Schoolhouse and Engineering Laboratory Building in Endicott, New York. The engraving on the steps are the founder of IBM, Thomas J. Watson, Sr.’s, famous “Five Steps to Knowledge”: “Read, Listen, Discuss, Observe, Think.”
Most people over the age of 35 could probably tell you that, THINK is IBM’s corporate motto. But, what most people don’t know is that there were four other motto’s on the steps that led up to THINK.
1. Read – by far the most important change I made in my life that has led to more opportunity is when I decided to invest some amount of time EVERY DAY reading something for business and something for me.
2. Listen – by far the most difficult of the 5 Steps. We all think we are good listeners and we are all pretty much wrong. It takes a lifetime of practice to master the art of listening.
3. Discuss – If you read every day and listen to the ideas of others, the next step in the natural progression is to discuss new ideas with the people in your circle of influence.
4. Observe – this one gets left out a lot today in our hustle and hurry world. You would be surprised at what you can learn if you simply put down your smartphone and look around. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn about life and success just by observing those that have gone before you.
5. Think – the final step on that staircase leading to the learning center says to think. Many of us don’t do this because it is difficult. You actually have to stop what you are doing and focus on an idea or a challenge you are facing. It gets easier, however, if you have been reading, listening to others, discussing the options, and observing what others are doing.
It is never too late to set a higher standard for your life, or for your family, or for your business. I can tell you from my personal experience, doing these five things has led to a level of success that I don’t think I could have imagined as I was submitting card decks at 2am in hopes of getting a program to run by the time my 9am class started. Yes, card deck, don’t go there!