Without ambition, one starts nothing. Without work, one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

To succeed at most things in life, you must have persistence.  Persistence requires focus, action, and discipline. Without these three components you will flounder on your way. Focus keeps your mind on what you want to accomplish. Action moves you in the direction you want to go. Discipline keeps your focus and your actions thus minimizing effort you will use to get there.

Set goals to focus your mind. If work related, make sure that goal points you towards the company goals and objectives. Write these goals down and review them every day and any time you find yourself feeling discouraged. Since you will read them when you get discouraged, make sure to write these goals in a way that motivates and encourages you.

Take action towards these goals.  Without action, you have no movement. Plan your day with actions that move you towards your goals. You may want to schedule every minute of your day in the beginning. Just make sure you schedule time for action.

Discipline yourself to do the right actions throughout your day. You may get distracted, but your discipline will take you back to your focus and get you back on track with the right actions.

To succeed, discipline yourself to take action in a focused direction.

ACK E-mail

When two devices communicate with one another, the receiver of a message responds with an ACK message, acknowledging that it received and understood the sender’s message. If the receiver does not understand the message, it sends a NACK acknowledging receipt and signaling that the message came in corrupted. In either instance, the sender knows that the message arrived when it receives a response.

You should do something like this when you communicate through e-mail. I suggest that any time you receive e-mail from somebody, you immediately respond to the person to let them know you have received the message. If the person asked you some questions and you cannot answer them right away, still let them know that you received the message and tell them when you plan to respond to the questions. Acknowledge that you may forget to respond later and let them know you do not mind getting a reminder if you have not responded in a timely fashion. If you do not know the reason or purpose of a message you received, send a note stating what you do not understand. Do not simply ignore these messages or put them off until later when you have more time to think about them. For example:

I have attached to this message a description of a new business idea I want to pursue. When you have a few minutes, please look it over and let me know what you think about it.
– Frank

Dear Frank,
I took a quick glance at the idea you sent me. I will not have time to really examine it until Wednesday. Feel free to send me a reminder note if you do not hear from me by Thursday.

– Frank

ACK or NACK e-mail messages and you will improve communications with everybody who writes you. Without the acknowledgements, the sender does not know if you simply ignored the message, you received it and do not know what to write back, or their message ended up in your spam folder. If you acknowledge that you received a message, you will not unintentionally create the allusion that you want to avoid the other person and the other person will know that their message got delivered to you. This simple step builds trust and encourages continued communication between you and the other person.


How do you define productivity? The word comes from the same root as produce. What do you produce? What does your company produce? Do your work activities lead to your company products? If not, you do lots of non-productive stuff for your company. Sometimes we call some of the things we do busy work. Busy work waists the company’s financial resources. Busy work waists our time. It keeps us from doing productive work for our company.

When somebody asks you what you do, make sure you can answer in terms of the products your company sells. Does your company sell hearing aids? How does your work make life better for the hearing impaired? Does your company make LCD televisions? How does your work make life better for the television user? Does your company make brake calipers for cars? How does your work make life better for the driver? Ask the question and make sure you can answer it in terms of the customer.

When you ask the question, ask it about yourself, not the entire company. Make sure your work contributes to a happier customer. After you form an answer, go through all your activities in your work day. Eliminate the things in your work day that do not lead to your company products. Check your habits and inclinations during your work day and avoid doing those things that do no benefit the users of your products. Strive for productivity instead of doing lots of stuff.

Core Objective

A few years ago I took a UCLA Extension class called Strategic Project Thinking taught by Terry Schmidt. He taught the idea of logical frameworks for project organization and problem solving. Check out Terry’s site and the web for some great articles that go into this process in detail. If you can, take a workshop or course from him or buy his book Strategic Project Management Made Simple. A lot goes into logical frameworks. Here, I will write about one of the key elements of strategic project management.

As with any good problem solving method, you first want to identify the objective you really want to accomplish. This will take some effort—in the past you may have given in to the temptation to use the assignment given to you by your manager as your objective. The real objective will usually include something about your customer. In the hearing aid world, you want to improve the lives of hearing aid wearers. Your manager may have assigned you to reduce the background noise in the hearing aid. The assignment will help you improve the lives of hearing aid wearers, but it may limit your thoughts when you seek a solution to the noise problem if you focus only on reducing background noise. When you have determined this desired objective, you write it in the form of a verb and object phrase, preferably with a subject, too. Choose your words carefully because those words will bias your thinking. For example, Sonic Innovations has the mission: “Improving life through enhanced hearing.” Keeping that in mind helps every person in the company understands their role and responsibility in the company and on his or her project.

After you have identified your core objective, you will want to break it down to the purpose of your project, the outcomes you want to have, and the key action steps required to accomplish those outcomes. For each of these you will also determine how you will measure your success, how you will verify that you did succeed, and what assumptions you will need to make sure get cleared up to ensure success. In all this planning, always keep in mind your high level objective, otherwise you may ignore some very important ideas you could bring to the world.