Are you successful in love and life? Do you ever wonder what it takes to get there? I read a great book recently that gives some insight into what it takes to live life with success. The following review is of 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life by Henry Cloud. I think you may be surprised at what he uncovered about successful people.
In 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life, Henry Cloud describes his recurring feeling of déjà vu every time he encountered certain people. This feeling nagged him until he finally figured out that the pattern these individuals followed, and the characteristics they possessed, all led to one conclusion: “they were all successful in life” (p. 3). Cloud uncovers nine things successful people implement into their lives, shows the reader how they do it, and provides ways for all of us to do the same.
Principle 1: Dig it Up
Cloud begins by helping the reader unearth the buried treasure of his or her passion, because this is what “makes relationships alive and keeps them growing” (p. 26). He encourages people to cultivate their talents, dreams, and the desires of their heart for “it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23, NKJV). So many people drift along through life in a proverbial dingy with no oar, allowing circumstances to be their guide. Or they are led by fear stemming from past experiences. This fear causes them to be completely out of touch with the very center of life itself. Marriages become stale when couples neglect to encourage each other’s God-given passions. When boredom sets in, a slow drift happens and before they know it, the dingy is too far from the shore. Cloud admonishes that, “we are given a heart full of treasure and talent, feelings and desires…God has granted to us a heart, mind, and soul full of potential realities for whatever our situation might be” (p. 31). So, start digging! Find out where those passions lie.
Principle 2: Pull the Tooth
Cloud not only urges the reader to dig up the good things, but to deal with the bad as well. Successful people get rid of negative energy drains to make room for positive things. There is no room for hope when life is full of negativity. Sometimes, it hurts to remove something that will feel so good once it is gone. Cloud put it this way: Successful people “get rid of bad stuff. Period. Sometimes quickly and sometimes through a process, but they get rid of it. They get it out of their hair, off their plate, out of their souls, and out of their lives. They do not allow negative things to take up space in their lives, draining them of energy and resources” (p. 45). Are there negative things taking up space in your life? Get rid of them.
Principle 3: Play the Movie
In order to be successful for the long haul, one must look into the future to see how his or her life might play out. The wise person will “play the movie” (p. 72) of his life to see if it ends well. He or she will then adjust the plot, create new scenes, and gather a cast of characters that will bring the desired end. Cloud states that, “Any one thing you do is only a scene in a larger movie. To understand that action, you have to play it out all the way to the end of the movie” (p. 72). In my counseling practice, I like to ask people to picture themselves on their deathbed with their family and loved ones around them. Try it. What kinds of things will you want to hear? Will the memories be filled with what you wish for now? Play the movie in your mind, and determine if it is on track to be a blockbuster. Alter scenes if necessary. Or add scenes and build characters. Get new direction, but don’t continue to expend energy into what might be a flop.
Principle 4: Do Something
Once successful people have played the movie, they do not sit around waiting for life to happen to them. They take the initiative to do something about it. Beside digging deep to find their passion, getting rid of the negative, and thinking ahead to what the future may look like, successful people tend to look to themselves first to find ways to correct difficult situations. Cloud notes that “it does not matter whether they think they are to blame or not. Even if someone else is at fault, they will ask themselves, What can I do to make things better?” (p. 98). The successful person faces into life and is not passive, but active, “going toward life, not away from it” (p. 101). They are not afraid of the future and what might happen. Cloud says he has “never seen successful people stall out because of some feared, anticipated, or hypothetical outcome” (p. 101). Are you stalled because of fear? If you want to be successful, you must be proactive through the fear. Do something instead of nothing.
Principle 5: Act Like and Ant
Wise people do this one step at a time. They do not bite off more than they can chew; therefore they do not get discouraged. Proverbs tells us to consider the ant: “Take a lesson from the ant, you lazy bones. Learn from their ways and be wise! Even though they have no prince, governor, or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter” (Proverbs 6:6-8, NLT). Ants do this a tiny bit at a time, but they make amazing progress by focusing on the steps. Sometimes we want what we want right now and skip important steps, taking shortcuts. Cloud warns that, “all-or-nothing thinking keeps people stuck in destructive ruts” (p. 129). Successful people value the tiny steps that need to be taken to fulfill an objective. How do you eat an elephant? That’s right, one bite at a time. What do you need to get done today? Start by taking a little bite, and then another, and another……
Principle 6: Hate Well
Those are some pretty strong words. But as you read, you find out that Cloud shows how the things people hate define them as well as the things they love. People are less attracted to what they dislike. The wise and successful person learns to hate the things God hates. Paul says in Romans 12:9, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (NIV). Cloud suggests that our hating the right things benefits us by helping move us against the things we don’t want to be or do. He says, “in that way we eliminate the danger of having it become a part of us, as we do not allow ourselves to become attached to it” (p. 144). It also gives us reason to protect what we value. Cloud instructs us to turn subjective hate into objective hate by transforming “it to the kind of hate that solves problems, protects things that you value, and stands against the things that you do not want in your life” (p. 153). Think about some things in your life you need to start hating.
Principle 7: Don’t Play Fair
Should everything in life be fair? Cloud suggests that if you go through life playing fair you will ruin all your relationships. He states, “fair is giving good things to others as long as they give good things to us. Then if they fail us in some way, we respond ‘fairly’” (p. 173). The Bible says to “conquer evil by doing good” (Romans 12:21, NLT) which means give back better than you are given. Successful people give out of a pure heart and not merely to receive in return. They will be rewarded as a by-product anyway. And when someone does them wrong, successful people have learned to not seek revenge. As Cloud writes, “Revenge is for immature people, and they know that ultimately the offending person is going to get what he deserves without his needing to bring it about” (p. 186). Next time you want to play fair, consider instead tipping the scales with love, grace, and pardon.
Principle 8: Be Humble
Humility is the eighth principle commonly applied by successful people. Cloud explains that being humble is simply being “who he or she really is, a human being like everyone else, avoiding the need to be more than that” (p. 193). When one is humble, one can identify with others (p. 194). However, having humility does not mean that one is a doormat. Cloud asserts that, “self-confidence does not come from seeing oneself as strong, without flaws or above making mistakes. Self-confidence and belief in yourself comes from accepting flaws and mistakes and realizing that you can go forward and grow past them, and that you can learn from them” (p. 199).
Principle 9: Upset the Right People
Successful people know how to do what is right even when it means upsetting someone. As Cloud says, “déjà vu people do not make decisions based on the fear of other people’s reactions” (p. 215). Doing what you know you should do, and someone else’s response to that are two different issues. Successful people “do what they need to do, and then figure out the best way to handle the situation with the other person’s feelings” (p. 221). Sometimes saying “no” is the best thing you can do. Don’t live your life trying to appease everyone. As Cloud states, “you cannot speak the truth, live out good values, and choose your own direction without disappointing some people” (p. 233).