Let's say you’re looking up a word in the dictionary, and the word you're looking for is "lemming." As you flip through the pages, you stumble onto the word "orotund" and wonder what it means. You find out that it means "pompous." You then make your way to the “P” section, glance at "pompous," and find "pretentious," which leads you to "ostentatious." In the process, you forget about "lemming" altogether. The result: lots of action, brief amusements, but mission not accomplished. The cause: Lemmings get lost in thoughts.
Let's take another example. Have you ever gone to a grocery store with the intention of getting milk, cereal, and batteries and walked out with 12 or 15 items, but no milk? What prompted you to deviate from the milk aisle and pick up two magazines, cookies, ice cream, mouthwash, and a can of cling peaches? The cause: Lemmings get lost in action.
A third example may drive the point home. Have you ever sat down in front of the TV just to relax for a few minutes and found yourself clicking from one channel to the next? Two hours later, you realize that you’ve watched dozens of programs that you were not interested in, and you’ve seen dozens of commercials that all melted into a blur. The cause: Lemmings get lost in images.
As the world grows in complexity, there are more chances to get lost in thoughts, action, and images. Lemmings act like children riding on a rocking horse – fully engaged, always in motion, but going nowhere.
The key characteristic of a lemming is that he or she follows the crowd. Lemmings pursue the path of least resistance, which has been created by millions of footprints left by Mr. and Mrs. Average.
Leaders, on the other hand, are aware of the impulses that lead us to run in place. Leaders know that technology can create chaotic minds (just watch people as they stare at their cell phones and walk into lamp posts). Leaders know how to avoid the path created by lemmings, and they confidently build their own road.
Heavyweight boxing champion and grill salesman George Foreman once told Selling Power that "success begins with a decision." If you set your mind to reaching a goal, you'll make certain that you reach it. You'll say no to all distractions, detours, and time-wasting activities. As a result, you’ll clearly focus on reaching your destination without detours. The decision to be successful helps you to develop an internal guidance system that keeps you moving upward and onward.
Think about the dreams you had 10 years ago. What happened to them? What about the five-year goal you set five years ago? Where did it go? Where did you go? What about today?
Sylvester Stallone once reflected upon his own success, saying, "I am not the smartest or the most talented person in the world, but I succeeded because I kept going and going and going." Stallone had a rich history of failing, something lemmings try to avoid at all costs. Leaders prepare to tread a straight path to success, a destination that lemmings dread because they are afraid of failure. When faced with conflict, leaders seek solutions while lemmings seek comfort. When they come to crossroads, leaders follow their compasses; lemmings follow what’s convenient.
What is your vision for the year 2020? Will you be a leader or a lemming?