Critical Success Factors - for anything

There are critical success factors associated with everything, and what we'll find is that the factors are nearly the same for anything we desire to have success with.

I promote frugal living, self reliance, saving money, accumulating wealth, getting out of debt, growing our own food, raising small animals for meat and eggs, doing it ourselves, wise money management, energy conservation, becoming and living debt free, alternative energy and smart shopping. All of these require a focus on success.

Many of the factors for success for any of these areas of interest are critical success factors for all of these areas of interest. Therefore, it would behoove us to take a good look at what these critical success factors are and get to know them better.

This will allow us to sharpen our skills a bit and be better positioned for success, regardless of how we define it, and regardless of what areas of interest we might pursue.

In roughly the order in which they come into play, here are the critical success factors that I think we all should keep in mind:

    The Foundation

  1. Know what you want. This is the first of the critical success factors simply because it's the logical place to start when you're looking for success. I've been told, "be careful what you want, because you just might get it." I know it to be true.

    If you set our intentions, you'll be much more likely to succeed, but you have to know what you want in the first place. Yogi Berra told us, "If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else."

    Here's the two prong approach I take when I want to answer the question, "What do you want?"

  2. Stay with your strengths. I list this as the second of the list of critical success factors because there are many people who have failed simply because they started operating outside of their area of strengths. If we're experienced individuals, then staying within our areas of strength makes perfect sense. There is no sense reinventing ourselves to see if it works.

    Michael Jordan tried golf and baseball, but he went back to basketball - his strength.

    If we don't have any particular skills or experience, then that has to be our first order of business - find out what we're good at. Skills and experience are critical success factors in anything we undertake. In the absence of knowing our strengths, we could be floundering around for quite some time - wasting our time and energy.

  3. Be knowledgeable. Of all the critical success factors, this one should be obvious, but many times it's not. Information is key, so the more you have, the better your chance of success - up to a point.

    We can inundate ourselves with too much information to be sure, and that just gets in our way. Despite that possibility, we should always seek information, as much as we reasonably can, before moving headlong into something that is particularly challenging.

  4. Have foresight. When we think of foresight, just think about having a "crystal ball" of sorts. We wouldn't invest in a stock that represents an old technology that's on the way out. It wouldn't be wise because our crystal ball would show us that our investment would be lost as the business shrinks.

    Buying a nice house in a nice growing area is using foresight. We can see that it will be a good investment.

    No matter what our interest, having a decent "crystal ball" will be of benefit. It will help with selection as well as timing. Foresight should be viewed as a special type of knowledge.

    The Inspiration

  5. Create a vision. Our vision is the key to our inspiration - the thing that will keep us going. Think of our vision as a picture of our prize, the reward for all of our efforts. It's what we're working towards.

    A vision should help us clarify our intentions and sharpen our focus. Think of our vision as a dream, but with much more clarity and realism. It's the force that will allow us to put this all down on paper so we can make it happen.

  6. Have courage to pursue the vision. This is another of the critical success factors that is very important. Courage is what keeps some of us going when others feel like quitting. It's what allows us to push the limits and discover new things.

    Don't mistake foolishness for courage. One is well considered action, while the other is not. Practice having courage and you'll be practicing for success.

  7. Maintain the right attitude. Having a can do attitude is the only way to approach things. If we say "yes we can," then we're likely to accomplish our goals. Once we start doubting ourselves, we'll most likely start backsliding and lose interest and enthusiasm for the project.

    Also, another of the critical success factors is to put aside the sometimes natural feeling of being entitled to something. If you believe that someone owes something to you, you'll believe less in the truth that you owe something to yourself.

    Putting our Critical Success Factors on Paper

  8. Plan for success. I'm big on planning. It has helped me accomplish many things. If it does little else, it helps get everything out there in front of me so I can make a reasonable assessment of what needs to be done, who should do it, and the priority and sequence of things.

    For long term and complex activities - plan it - it's necessary. Even a simple household budget is a type of plan. It allows us to know where we're headed, and we can measure our success in terms of how well we've stayed on plan.

  9. Make decisions using logic instead of emotion. We all have an emotional side. We all have a logical side. Let's allow our emotions to inspire us and keep us focused, but use our logic and reason to make key decisions, create a plan and execute our plan.

    My rule is pretty simple - think with your head, then with your heart, and then go back and use your head again. Knee jerk emotional reactions to things will always be poorer decisions than logical responses that are well thought out. Use reason over emotion, and you'll be doing yourself a favor.

  10. Aim high, but be realistic. When we envision something, we can create our own type of movie in our mind. Anything can happen in the movies, but reality is a bit more limiting. There is nothing wrong with aiming high, but we need to be cautious and realistic while doing so.

    We can follow all of these critical success factors and still fail to achieve your goals if you're aiming way too high. We need to be realistic about what we can do, how long it takes to do it, and the type of resources we'll need.

    If we stay realistic, we'll be successful. Once we're successful with one of our plans, we can aim a bit higher the next time.

  11. Focus our efforts. If we hope to accomplish a goal, we'll have to focus on it with our imagination, planning and actions. Otherwise we'll be diluting our efforts.

    Our focus must be carefully applied if we are to achieve our goals.

    Businesses focus on a particular niche in the marketplace. Musicians focus on a particular style. Miners focus their efforts where they're likely to find the resources they're looking for.

    If our planning efforts are solid, then we'll know where and how to focus our efforts, and that will maximize the effectiveness of our efforts to provide the greatest return on investment.

  12. Sequence and prioritize. There are many things to do in order to successfully achieve our plans. We'll need to know what the first steps should be. That means we need to understand the appropriate sequence of events. This will allow us to prioritize our actions.

    Before we learn how to water ski, it would probably be a good idea to learn how to swim. If we think through the sequence of events, part of learning how to water ski involves being in the water, and often that involves being in deep water and taking a spill unexpectedly, so learning how to swim would be a good first step, and it's a high priority as well because our survival in the water depends on it.

    We all face this every day in our financial dealings. With a limited amount of income, we have to prioritize spending to make certain we're using our resources wisely.

    One of the keys to prioritization is understanding the difference between something that is important versus urgent. Distinguishing between the two and understanding the relationship between the two will help us be better planners and decision makers.

    Critical Success Factors at Work

  13. Follow through on our planning. The best plans are of no use if there is no follow through at the implementation end. The key to turning our plans into reality is action. If we don't act, then we're merely entertaining ourselves with daydreams.

    We need to remember that our planning is a valuable preliminary step for our success, so we owe it to ourselves to work the plan. Let's say we put it on paper, we walked through it in our mind, and we may have even conducted a table-top exercise as a type of dry run. If all of this was done with success, then why not move forward and make it happen as planned?

  14. Be deliberate in your efforts. Success isn't something that just happens, we have to make it happen. We either float along through life or we act deliberately and create the change in ourselves and our circumstances that we want to see.

    Being deliberate means we act in our own best interest. That doesn't mean we have to ignore the needs of others, but too many of us bend over backwards to accommodate the few and the vocal. Instead, we need to be assertive and claim what is rightfully ours - success.

  15. Have tenacity. Stick with it. Don't give up. Keep the faith. Stay the course. Work the plan. Our stick-to-it-tiveness is one of the critical success factors that matters most during the implementation stages. We have to take the long view. All good managers do.

    The American Revolution was won by hanging in there. For many years we never won a battle. Some say we never did - until the end. The British military was worn down, not utterly defeated. We won our independence because of our tenacity.

    That's just how we're going to win anything we truly want, and when we win, we'll be getting what we deserve.

  16. Accept ownership for what you do. A "ne'er do well" once told me, "I wash my hands of it." That was a clear indication to me that they never took ownership of the situation from the start.

    What we do, what we say and what we get started are things that we have to have ownership in. We can't get something going and then watch it coast along. We have to be there like the good shepherd tending our flock.

    That also means that we have individual responsibility when things go wrong - we have to take the blame as well as the credit for how things turn out. Our involvement has to be through and through, not just something on the surface.

    Feedback and Update

  17. Gather insights about activities and how well they're working. No plan is perfect, no matter how much time we spend on it. No implementation is perfect, no matter how much time and effort we spend on it.

    Recognize that we're going to "go to school" with just about everything we do. Learn from it by making observations and turning those observations into insights. Analyze those insights and lessons learned, and draw conclusions about our assumptions, planning, and implementation.

  18. Course correct as necessary to improve the plan. No matter how well we think we've followed the critical success factors, we'll undoubtedly find instances where we could have done better. After careful consideration, we need to reconsider certain aspects of our goals, our plan and how we're implementing it.

    It's important for success that we update our plan and improve it for greater success in the future. It's a simple matter of incorporating lessons learned. If we don't do it, we're doomed to repeat the same "less than satisfactory" performance.

We need to be aware that these critical success factors come into play with just about any undertaking, even something as routine as working for a living.

As I've said before, success isn't going to find us and settle in. We have to go out and get it. We get our "act together" first by keeping these critical success factors in mind when we set about trying to achieve something.

If we practice using these keys to success and we'll see payoff in terms of achievement. If we turn our back on them, we'll have no one to blame for our pedestrian level performance except ourselves.

As with anything else, the decision is all ours.

Done with Critical Success Factors, take me back Home

There certainly is a broad scope of topics here at Frugal Living Freedom. When you think about it, money permeates so very many activities in our lives, therefore, being frugal encompasses a wide range of interests, from being employed to taking a vacation, and just about everything in between. Enjoy the variety, pick up some new ideas, and start making frugality a part of your signature.

I'm a big proponent of being debt-free, and I mean entirely debt-free - no mortgage payment. It's not essential for financial freedom, but you'll love the feeling once you get there. If you didn't have a rent or mortgage payment, how much more could you do for yourself with your current level of income? I suspect plenty.

If you ever hope to see an abundance of wealth, you need to plug the hole in your boat. The wealthy don't necessarily make lots of money, instead, they know how to hang onto what they make, and make it work for them.