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Build Your Success Pyramid
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Written by Gary J. Hubbell of the Growth Design Staff (this is part of a larger article originally written in 1991 in the NSFRE Journal)

So you're the development officer. You're charged with the responsibility of moving your organization smoothly through the shifting sands of rapid change by securing the contribution to achieve its mission. How can you assure success?

Whether you've been in the business 40 days or 40 years, you've either devoured (or plan to devour) every book, tape and article explaining "how to" do it better. In a similar spirit, your eye has landed upon this article. Neither this author nor any other can give you success. Instead, what follows is a lesson in looking in the mirror in order to find your own success.

More than anything else, your success and career evolution is governed by three crucial elements which make up what I call the success pyramid. They are, first as the foundation, your self-esteem. This important cornerstone provides the necessary foundation for the second ingredient: balance. Finally, the third, and typically most noticeable component, is your sense of humor.

Your self-esteem holds the key to your rate and direction of growth as an individual and as a development professional. In their book, Megatrends 2000, John Naisbitt and Patricia Aburdene discuss the millennial trends of the shift from institutional primacy to individual primacy, form institution help to self-help. These trends suggest introspection, which for most of us has been passive and occasional at best.

Through he process of introspection, you're no doubt aware of that little voice inside your head with which you have frequent conversation. I'm sure you recognize's the one that's now saying to you, "not me, I don't have a little voice inside my head, do I?" That's called self-talk and you do it without always being conscious of doing it. What is alarming, however, is that studies have shown that 85 percent of self-talk is negative.

This is, on average, true of everyone, but consider the implication for development professionals. In your work, rejection and failure are frequent companions, thereby posing routine pounding of your self-esteem.

Much of the damage from the resulting negative self-talk occurs in your subconscious mind, which constantly takes direction from your conscious mind. In addition to controlling the functions of your body, your subconscious mind goes to work immediately to bring about exactly what you're thinking. Stop for a moment to recall the last time you prepared for an important task or activity. When you got ready to write the case for support, did you find yourself saying "I know how to do this, but I've never been a good writer"? Or, in preparing for an important personal solicitation visit to a top prospect, did you "hear" yourself say, "My presentation skills are great...up until the point of the actual ask; then I get nervous"? Chances are great that exactly what you feared would come about actually did.

In his brilliant audiocassette program, The Psychology of Achievement (Chicago: Nightingale-Conant, 1984), Brian Tracy refers to this event as the law of expectancy, suggestion that we get in life about what we expect. Similarly, he describes the law of attraction as attracting to yourself the people, things and events that are in harmony with what you expect. Could it be, the, that your performance as a development professional--regardless of years experience--is largely determined by your self-talk and self-esteem? I suggest the answer is yes. Dr. Robert Schuler said, "There is an abundance of scientific evidence that an individual's mental picture of himself, more than any other factor, sets the ultimate boundaries for his achievement."

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