Important to focus on success

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(Fotolia)

Barbara Stewart, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:51 PM ET

It might seem like strange advice from a professional money manager, but here is my own personal get-rich-quick scheme: Focus.

In the mid-1980s I started working for Xerox Canada. I was young, energetic and excited to be earning straight commission for the first time. It was a perfect arrangement: the harder I worked, the more money I would make. The world was my oyster.

At first I was scrambling around trying to be everything to everyone but somehow not quite making things happen. Fortunately, I had a highly effective sales manager who watched my behaviour, and told me what changes to make to improve my sales.

The single most important change was to set an income objective, a dollar amount that I wanted to earn each year. I printed that number out on a piece of paper, put it in my wallet, and looked at it daily. By focusing on that, I met my goal and soon was winning President's Club Awards for excellence in sales.

One of the wealthiest women I've interviewed told me that she learned her most important money lesson from her mother.

Jane's mom was a guidance counsellor, and so she was the natural person to review her daughter's CV. The first draft was all over the place, and her advice to Jane was to use a resume as a long-term strategic plan. Start focused, and keep that focus. Build on it, and examine each subsequent extracurricular activity or job in terms of how it would make that resume stronger as time went by.

That strategic focus ultimately translated into serious money.

The idea that the first step to financial success is to focus is hardly new. Earl Nightingale, an American radio star, motivational speaker and author, became famous for his 1960 phrase: "We become what we think about."

When he was 29, he read the 1937 book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and he realized the power of thought.

"We become what we think about" was a plea for focus, following in the tradition of other thinkers, going back to the New Testament: "As ye sow, so shall ye reap."

Xerox was many years ago in my own career, but remembering the importance of focus still works for me today. Recently, I set a short-term goal to add a certain number of new clients and dollars to my assets under management. I won't tell you what that number was, but I set my target on March 26 of this year. By April 15, I had met my goal.

What short-term goal do you want to achieve? Ready? Set? Focus.


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