Master Your Traits

by Bob Burg

When it comes to knowing ourselves and conquering those character traits and habits that don't serve us - and actually work against us in terms of our personal effectiveness - we must first become aware before we can change them.

After all, without awareness of such, why would we even be concerned? What would cause us to take action and turn a "lemon" about ourselves into lemonade? Only when we are aware will that decision take place.

Each of us is born with - and develops over time - a set of traits, which make up our character. Some of these traits make us more effective in different areas of life; others cause us to be less effective.  The good news is that, as human beings, we can work on ourselves in order to master these inclinations, thus becoming more effective in all aspects of our professional and personal life.

Of course, once we're aware of these inclinations, changing them becomes a whole other issue. After all, habits are ingrained into our essence and part of our very being, and very difficult to overcome and change . . . without a System for doing so.

Over 200 years ago, an American Sage by the name of Benjamin Franklin changed his life by devising a method in which he could transform some of his least effective character traits into some of his strongest ones. Several years ago, I followed Dr. Franklin's advice and saw my own life change in much the same way. (Don't get me wrong - I didn't invent hundreds of products, serve as Ambassador to France or become a Founding Father of a new country, as did Dr. Franklin. But I did become a much better and more effective me.)

As human beings, we, you and I get used to doing things in a certain way. Those ways - those traits - become habit-forming. And, once they become a habit, whether positive or negative, they become very difficult to break. Perhaps, impossible to break without a method or system.

Character traits, or habits, are the servant of all successful people, and the master of the not-successful. Much like money, which makes a wonderful servant but an evil master. It all depends upon whether you control them  . . . or they control you.

The good news is that if we believe one or more of our character traits do not serve us - or anyone else - we can modify, and even change them. It's all a matter of forming new habits.

The way Benjamin Franklin developed this system was nothing less than genius. He decided that, instead of trying to work on numerous traits simultaneously, he'd focus - really laser-focus - on just one at a time; one per week. At the end of that week, he'd choose another.

Then, for that week, he'd do the same; focus with intensity on just that one trait. He did this for thirteen weeks with thirteen different traits.

At the end of the thirteen weeks he'd begin again with week one. He'd then - as the famous shampoo commercial told us - "rinse and repeat."

Let's do the math: thirteen weeks times four equals fifty two weeks. There are fifty two weeks in the year. This meant that he could go through his course four times a year. And, I can tell you from personal experience, as well as the experience of those who've taken the course, after four times through (often much less) you will have eradicated the negative traits and turned them into strengths.

While Dr. Benjamin Franklin helped to found a country based on liberty and freedom of the masses, he also invented a course allowing us as individuals to achieve perhaps the greatest liberty and freedom of all: Self-Mastery.

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