Marshall Goldsmith: An incredibly powerful way to be more successful

One quick exercise for planning your life

My friend, designer Ayse Birsel, recently taught me an incredibly powerful way to be more successful. Of course, as you know success is defined by the person who wants to achieve it. Success could be a new job, a better relationship with your spouse, a great school for your kids, a bigger salary, or all of the above. Everyone is different. This exercise will work for anyone! For me, success is achieving my mission: helping successful people get even better.

According to Ayse, our point of view informs how we think about something. Last year I was ranked the #1 Leadership Thinker and the #1 Executive Coach in the World. My book, Triggers, was a New York Times #1 bestseller. I have definitely achieved a high level of success in my mission! As a coach and executive educator, I am helping many successful organizations and leaders be more successful. As an author whose books reach millions of people, I believe I am helping many people achieve positive, lasting change for themselves.

Ayse suggested that I try a little exercise to expand my point of view, to look at myself and what I do and see differently. Of course, I did as she asked and the result has been phenomenal!

Why don’t you try this exercise now? (This exercise is Adapted from Design the Life You Love: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Meaningful Future, by Ayse Birsel, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.)

Ayse says, “Here inspiration is a key tool. When designing your life inspiration takes the form of other people. I call them heroes—real or fictional—people we know personally or know of.”

“Just write your hero’s name, draw an icon for them, and list their qualities. You can have one or many heroes—list as many as you’d like and continue to add as new heroes come to mind. These heroes tell us something about our values, beliefs, and the kind of life we aspire to live. Many things can change in life but our values are a constant. They are the foundation of our life design.”


Now cross out your heroes’ names and put in your own name. To the degree possible, be a leader, manager, coach, person just like that, and you will be more successful!

In doing this exercise myself, I found that all of my heroes are generous teachers, like Buddha, Frances Hesselbein (former Girl Scout CEO), Alan Mulally (former Ford CEO), Peter Drucker (Father of Modern Management), and Paul Hersey (Co-creator of Situation Leadership®). Reflecting on what I learned from my heroes, I made a decision. I decided that just like my many teachers before me, I will give to others what has been so freely given to me.

How will I do this? With my new project 15 Coaches. 15 Coaches is my legacy project. I am going to teach 15 people everything I know, for free! This is my chance to honor the many wonderful teachers and heroes that I have had over the years and to give to others as they gave to me. If you would like more details, please go to

Triggers is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller! Order it at Amazon. See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series.

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