[blockquote author=”Franklin D. Roosevelt” pull=”normal”]Happiness…lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.[/blockquote]

To date, I have not met anyone who did not want to be successful in whatever he or she chose. Not many say, “I think I’ll just be mediocre…it seems to satisfy my needs!” Yet there are people who seem to avoid success because of rather meaningless, shallow excuses. Why? Why would anyone settle for less than he or she can be? As teachers, do we not all have the obligation to serve as role models of and for excellence?

Is it that people don’t want to be successful, or is it that we have not learned how to be successful? We certainly have an abundance of information, which should “boost us to the top.” However, there are still countless examples of people who are not willing to take the risk of going for it. Yes, that includes both you and me.

What would you do if you knew there was no way you could fail?

Isn’t that fun to think about? If you knew there was no way you could lose, be side-tracked, detoured, embarrassed, humiliated, or intimidated. If you knew you would forfeit nothing, but only gain and benefit, what would you do? Isn’t it true that most of us have set limits on what we can do simply through self-inflicted barriers? Literally, our success is our own doing. We have the potential to do just about anything (and it may well be anything!) we choose. Yes, we do! To say, “Nah, we don’t,” is just more self-limitation. It is a matter of convincing ourselves (our self-image) that we are capable of going beyond our present-day limits.

In a brilliant analogy, author Anthony Robbins explains the way our mind works on electronic impulses (based on research done at Stanford University). We can now identify the positive and negative impulses being sent via brain waves, which dictate our behavior. Negative impulses cause negative behavior, and positive impulses cause positive behavior. The mind, much like a computer, simply processes the message and kicks back the behavioral patterns we are to act out. The mind cannot distinguish whether they are right or wrong, but merely acts upon the given data just as a computer would run whatever disk we insert. The really exciting part is: our conscious mind has the ability to make the choice of what message we want to send! In other words, we choose the program for our own behavioral computer.

When we don’t consciously make this choice, the mind will simply take whatever is the loudest sensory information and use it as the computer program. It is like drifting aimlessly at sea, when we have the ability to guide our ship if we take the responsibility of steering it.

There is a “price to pay” for success, just as there is a price to pay for negative conditions. It is not a random “luck of the draw,” but a systematic, self-disciplined plan of action that affords everyone the same opportunities for reaching his or her goals.

Not to over-simplify this formula (the reader can rest assured there are volumes written on the subject that warrant study) but the condensation of everything boils down to this three-step process: vision, commitment, action—or for those of us who understand “plain old language”—ready, aim, fire.


The people who “make it” have this in common. They see, dream, and envision their goal before it ever becomes reality. They burn it into their sub-conscious and can describe every detail of their dream.

Knowing the mind will always lead us in the direction of our most dominant thought, these winners make sure they are constantly reaching into their creative mind to shape/sculpt/draw their exact blueprint of the future. They leave nothing to chance.


Successful people understand that “the world is not devoted to making them happy” and face the responsibilities of successful living, knowing it will mean sacrifice in certain areas. But they also understand the personal growth and strength that will result from this effort, which really makes it a benefit.

Anyone can succeed if they are willing to make a personal commitment to handle:

  1. FRUSTRATION – Everyone experiences this throughout life.
  2. REJECTION – Have you ever met a successful person who has not been subjected to rejection…lots of rejection? In fact, the really successful man or woman sees rejection as a chance to learn and grow.
  3. FINANCIAL PRESSURE – Whether we like it or not, it is part of our society. The only certain way not to have any financial pressure is to not have any finances…and that, in itself, could be real pressure!
  4. LACK OF WILL TO GROW – Complacency is a dangerous mood. It can cause the mind to rationalize everything from boredom to apathy. When skepticism appears, the “red flag of danger” should be bright in your vision. When we’re convinced that “we can’t,” we become our worst enemies on the road to success.

You must “take aim” through your personal commitment to follow through no matter what obstacles or barriers you encounter. Each disappointment can serve as a stepping stone in reaching the goal.


The last key element of the trilogy. It is easy to “dream the dream” and even exciting to sit down and “draw up the plan,” but doing it, actually taking action, seems to be where many halt. If we are expecting people to come to us to support our endeavors, then we have missed the point. If your dream is not worth self-action, what is its value to begin with?

“But what if I miss the target when I fire?” Reload and fire again! “But what if I run out of ammunition?” The fuel to fire your efforts is self-created, and the closer you get to the goal, the more enthusiasm and excitement you will experience. Positive energy produces more positive energy (part of the Stanford research findings) just as negative energy produces negative energy. What is the basis of your energy source? Positive or negative?

It is important to see the order of the system: vision, commitment, action (ready, aim, fire!). If this order is violated, the formula loses its potency, and we all have examples of this in our lives. Don’t you know many situations where you have seen something like this: ready, fire, aim. (It is important to have “aim/commitment” in place prior to firing. We might wound someone, including ourselves, by not having a good plan!)

Then there is the case of the over-planner with this common pattern: ready, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim… (These people do not want to “fire/take action” because they don’t want that next level of responsibility.)

One of my favorites (self-recognition!) is the infamous: fire, ready, fire, aim, fire! (How many times have we all just wasted human energy in our fruitless attempts to get the job done! No plan, no vision, no goals, no organization, just blind, uncontrolled energy being shot in a hapless, hopeless attempt to hit some unseen target!)

We can all play with the pattern and apply it to any situation. Humor is a catalyst that allows us to understand our errors. If we do not learn from them, we have destroyed the greatest worth of the experience.

The three-part formula is tried and true. It works. Use it!

Success (whatever it is for you, and it is different for all of us) is available in abundance to each of us in our daily work, personal lives, and missions in life. Our limits are exactly that: our limits! Using the “ready, aim, fire” technique for success seems like a small price to pay for making our dreams come true. Just take ten minutes out of your busy day to check yourself. Do you have your vision clearly in mind? Have you carefully established your committed plan of time and organization to get there? Are you taking action to achieve your goals?

What you will gain personally is exciting, but far more important, you will be a role model of endless, limitless possibilities to your students! Let them buy into your success. That’s a price tag every student can afford and will certainly want to purchase! It’s a cheap price to pay for personal happiness.


This article is adapted from the book “Everyday Wisdom for Inspired Teaching” by GIA Publications, and reproduced with permission from Tim Lautzenheiser.

Tim Lautzenheiser

Written By Tim Lautzenheiser

Tim Lautzenheiser presently serves as Vice President of Education for Conn-Selmer, Inc. His career involves ten years of successful college band directing at Northern Michigan University, the University of Missouri, and New Mexico State University. His books, produced by G.I.A. Publications, Inc., continue to be bestsellers in the educational world. He is also co-author of popular band method, Essential Elements, and is the Senior Educational Consultant for Hal Leonard, Inc.