The only one holding you back is you. Change your attitude and you’ll find the key to success.

In this country, in these times, we have access to everything we need to be healthy, wealthy and wise. So what’s getting in the way?

You are.

The stumbling blocks on the road to success are of your own creation. I’ve listed the most common ones below. Recognize any of them?

Wishing & Wanting

Do you have a written list of goals? When you write down what you want to be, do and have, you hurdle a big stumbling block. Mark Victor Hansen -- the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” author -- suggests you write a list of 101 goals from mild to wild. Why not? Those who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them. Get going and get specific. Break the goals into monthly, weekly, daily to-dos. You know this. Quit wanting things to be different. Make it different.

Brainy Guys Get Paralyzed

I love Bill Rosenberg, founder of Dunkin’ Donuts, and Ray Kroc of McDonald’s. These guys, no offense fellows, were not geniuses. Have you read their autobiographies? They were adequately intelligent.

The smarter the person, the more likely he or she is to set up a stumbling block. The smart set can imagine so many ways things can go wrong. They see every possible future scenario. They can see all the imperfections in a plan.

So, they end up doing nothing. No plan is perfect enough. Sheesh. It’s called “Paralysis by Analysis.” Do you suffer from it? If so, dumb it down a little. Take action in light of uncertainty. Passion and enthusiasm trump smarts every day.

Laying Blame

On the economy. On customers. On competitors. Stop already! What difference does it make? Consider this: If the source of your problems is outside of your control, quit talking about it. Do what you can do. Lay out a plan of action, execute the plan. Assess your results; tweak the plan and keep moving.

Stating & Restating

And stating again, the problem (aka, whining). Picture your association meeting. The biggest whiner will find a few other losers and start a pity party. Woe is me, woe is you.

Refuse to participate in these conversations. No good comes of them. Find the most successful members of your group. Ask good question and shut up and listen. How did they overcome the stumbling blocks? Find out.

Sloppy Shop

The foundation of a focused, organized, successful business is clean. Clean is all good. Sloppy is all bad.

Not sure what to do to become more successful? Start by cleaning up. Throw out what you don’t need or could find elsewhere. Consider your office prime real estate. What needs to be close to you? Put projects in binders or file cabinets. Be selective about what goes up on the walls. Use frames and cork boards. No tape or pins directly in the sheetrock. Dust, mop and paint.

Create a sanctuary in which you can create your finest work. I have no tolerance for a sloppy shop. No matter how tough times get, you can always clean it up. I have never seen a sloppy, super successful shop.

What Silver Bullet?

There is no piece of information that is going to make everything all better. You know plenty. You know enough to be successful. Act on what you know.

There is no item of technology that will make all the difference. There is no single marketing piece that will solve all your problems. Paul Revere rounded up the revolutionaries by riding on horseback from town to town, shouting, “The British are coming!” Get moving. You can always upgrade your vehicle later.


Success in your professional life and your personal life are not mutually exclusive events. Success in one area of your life can build success in other areas. Quit using this excuse.

Buddhist author Jack Kornfield said this in response to a question about spiritual practice and the rest of your life: “In time you will realize that all of your life is part of your practice.” You have enough time to devote to the most important areas of your life. Weed out the less important stuff.


It’s not a river in Egypt. Denial is when you know something, but act as if you don’t.

A friend called me for advice regarding an employee who is currently on workers’ comp leave. After a few minutes of complaining about this employee’s poor performance and possible insurance fraud, he told me the employee was expected to return to work in a few weeks.

“Wait a minute,” I said, “Do you want him back?”

So often, we waste time on actions that are 100 percent counter to our goals and plans. It’s hard enough to make decisions when we don’t have much information. Don’t waste time on decisions you have already made. Wade through the denial.

Wrong Rewards

Do you keep score at your company? Do you track your plumbers’ sales performance? Terrific!

Now have you been tempted to tweak the rules of your bonus program to reward those who don’t sell but make contributions to the company? Knock it off.

A sales bonus is for sales performance. Want to reward the install team? Fine. Measure labor hours vs. hours bid on a job. Create a separate game. Reward the desired performance. But don’t give a sales bonus to people who don’t sell.

There is a dangerous trend in our society. It starts in school with the bastardization of competition. Somehow it’s not OK to win. Everybody has to get a trophy. Why? What’s wrong with not winning? We get to try, try again. Competition is essential to humankind. You don’t have to teach it to people, we naturally keep score when we get together to work and play. Bonuses should be given on production above goal.

The idea is that if the employee helps the company win, the company can share the extra profits. When you get off track with your sales bonuses, you may find yourself paying bonuses while the company is losing money. Not OK! Bonus time should be celebratory. If you feel resentful at bonus time, you have run into a stumbling block. Stop discounting sales by diluting the sales game. Play it straight and blast past that block.

Fumbling Family

At Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, we set up an organizational chart with each of our “Revolutionaries.” Organizational charts are essential to your success. How nice to know what it is you are supposed to do, and to whom you are held accountable.

Occasionally, when we have done this exercise, there is an employed family member “left over” after the org chart is filled. Oops. Now what?

It’s just wrong to employ someone who is not making a real contribution to the team. You may think you are being nice. You’re not. You are committing someone to the rank of “loser” every day.

Family or not, each person on your team needs to be the best possible person for the job. Fumbling family members have doomed too many businesses. Recognize this stumbling block and bravely do the right thing.

Addition Not Subtraction

You won’t be successful doing more, more, more. Keep a time card for a week and jot down everything you do. How much TV do you watch? How much time do you spend discussing what you are going to do instead of just doing it? According to the “80/20 Rule,” you get 80 percent of your production from 20 percent of your efforts.

Which leads us to the all-time biggest stumbling block of all: We continue to do that which doesn’t work. Review your time card. Stop doing that which isn’t contributing to the realization of your goals. Want to grow your company? If after five, 10, 50 years you are still at two trucks, you might try doing things differently.

You need to ask yourself if you really want to be successful. You are the one holding you back. And you are the key to your success. The choice is yours. Create the stumbling blocks or hurdle them.

You can’t plead ignorance anymore.