Growing up, my dad would get home at 3:30pm from his job at General Electric. He was an aircraft engine tech for consumer jets. One of the things I remember most, were the moments of him setting his keys down in the entry to our house, looking at me and saying, “Dale, I’m wearing the golden handcuffs.”
At 5 years old, I had no idea what he meant. But as I grew older I learned the translation:
“Dale, I have a job that’s too good to leave.”
My dad hated working for someone else. There was an entrepreneur deep inside his soul. And his reaction was interesting. Instead of chasing his dream, he groomed me to build mine. By 5 I was selling lemonade to the neighbors, by 8 I was pushing moving boxes to those on the go, by 12 I was peddling candy at school, and by 19 I was selling my first company for $50,000.
But here I am now. At the time of this article, I’m just 10 days to my 30th birthday. And life is on track. My wife and I just purchased a 7 acre ranch in a resort town in Central Oregon. We’re building our dream home (debt free), with a few horses, chickens, a greenhouse, an outdoor skatepark, and a spectacular mountain view.
As for life goals, I have been featured in every major business magazine and news network, I’ve dined with billionaires, traveled the world, and I’ve even been paid to speak to companies like Facebook, Adobe, and Spotify.
And the question I get almost every day is: How did you do it?
In the fall of 2013, I began answering this question in my new book People Over Profit: Break The System, Live With Purpose, and Be More Successful.
As I began writing, I quickly realized there was no set of tidy tips I could easily hand to someone looking to create a million dollar company or create a life of financial freedom. Rather, my success was driven from a fanatical addiction to a business philosophy that is biologically embedded into the minds of every human.
My book shares the hidden secrets that play into the unchangeable features of the human heart. Values, steps, tactics, mindsets, lessons, and learnings that have supported the most successful people of all time.
But it’s more than business success. These principles have built financial freedom, strong relationships, a healthy marriage, wise parenting, and have allowed me to maintain a good reputation.
But they are not easy.
They stand as leadership characteristics that have stumbled humans for thousands of years. I have outlined a few of my favorites below.
1. INCREDIBLY SUCCESSFUL LEADERS CHOOSE COURAGE OVER COMFORT
A true leader is someone who has the courage to say publicly what everybody else is whispering privately. It is not their insight that sets the leader apart from the crowd. It is their courage to act on what they see, to speak up when everyone else is silent. Inside the book, I share powerful lessons from leaders who would rather challenge what needs to change and pay the price, than remain silent and die on the inside.
Many who lack the courage to forge ahead alone yearn for someone to take the first step, to go first, to show the way. It could be argued that the dark provides the optimal context for leadership. After all, if the pathway to the future were well lit, it would be crowded. It’s also why most 29 year olds are not paying cash for 7 acre ranches…
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2. BLAME IS PERHAPS THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP AVOIDANCE STRATEGY.
There are individuals who (for whatever reason) live their lives according to a different set of rules — principles which really do not match the reality of the world. And, as a result, they wind up having significant and ongoing problems in their lives — relationally, financially, and in their careers.
The practice of blaming others for problems you are experiencing, rather than accepting responsibility for the choices you have made, will ruin your life from the inside out.
There are some truly great blamers out there. They are incredibly skilled verbally (and sometimes interpersonally). They can be fascinating to watch in action, as they run circles verbally around others, and (for the moment) look like the victor in attributing the responsibility for a negative result to someone or something.
As I teach in the book, blame is the parking brake for improvement. If I blamed my lack of success on my parent’s divorce, or the $30,000 of debt I had in my early 20’s, or that I didn’t come from a wealthy family I would be a living what’s common: Unmarried, renting an apartment, with debt, working at a job I dislike, and angry that my dreams weren’t working.
Essentially, successful leaders care less about who or what is at fault, and are more focused on “What can I do to correct the situation and make it work?”
One of the best responses I have observed is: “Yes, I did that and it was a mistake. And I’m working on what I need to learn so I don’t make the same mistake again.”
3. YOU CAN LEAD WITHOUT CHARACTER… BUT CHARACTER IS WHAT MAKES A LEADER WORTH FOLLOWING.
Too many leaders have wrongly assumed their position alone would ensure the loyalty of the people. They weren’t mature enough to understand that every follower is a volunteer. I don’t care if you’re a husband leading his family, a freelancer leading a few contractors, or a manager leading 10 employees; Abuse your position as leader and you will lose those you lead. Nobody has to follow. As I point out in chapter 5 “People Matter”…
You can’t force people, even subordinates, to follow. You might be able to force them into submission, but you can never force loyalty.
As leaders we can afford to be broken, but we cannot afford to be immature. People will follow you in spite of a few bad decisions. People will not follow you if you are unaware of your weaknesses. As a leader, you must develop the elusive skill of leading confidently and purposefully growing or you will forever stand still.
Do you want to become a captivating leader? Maybe you’re a new entrepreneur or dreamer. Or maybe you own a small business already. If you’re looking for a practical guide with timeless principles that never fade, principles that push for a healthy type of success, one with integrity, honor, and respect, my new book People Over Profit is for you.
Dale Partridge is a serial entrepreneur and founder of Sevenly.org and Startupcamp.com. He’s the Author of the bestselling business book”People Over Profit” and is a keynote speaker for Facebook, Adobe, and Spotify.