What One CEO Learned From Darryl Mobley

The 3 steps to success

What I Learned From Darryl L. Mobley

By James Michael Lafferty – Retired CEO of Procter & Gamble, a Former CEO of Coca-Cola and a current CEO of British American Tobacco*

MANILA, Philippines – Twenty-five years ago I had one of those bosses who drastically influenced the course of my life. His name was Darryl Mobley and he was the living and breathing example of a “self-made man.” He grew up as the grandson of migrant orange pickers in Florida. He studied hard, stayed out of trouble, and after high school attended the prestigious United States Military Academy at West Point (alongside future general Danilo Lim). He graduated into leading roles in U.S. Army Intelligence, Special Intelligence, and then later entered business life, first as a quickly promoted Procter &Gamble business executive and now as a successful entrepreneur, publisher, and consultant.

The man is the definition of success — of overcoming huge odds and winning.

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Whenever someone asked him, “How did you do it?” and avoid the traps so many of his peers fell into, Darryl always had a simple answer. He has an uncanny ability to distill things into very simple concepts. And his “three steps to success” changed the course of my life and has shaped how I have approached challenges ever since.

It’s super-simple stuff. And it applies to life. Business. Sports. You name it. You want to succeed? Well, it only takes three simple — yet oh-so-difficult — steps. Here they are in order:

1. Determine what you want.
2. Determine the price.
3. Pay the price.

So, you want to be a lawyer, let’s say? Well, good! Now you have step one out of the way. On to step two.

The price? Well, it is getting good grades and three years of law school. And that is step two.

Now you have to pay the price. You need to buckle down. Study. Give up three years of life to attend law school.

That’s it. Success is really not any more complicated than this.

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I have shared Darryl’s wisdom over the past quarter-century with students, colleagues, and employees. My own children. And it has resonated well with everyone. It just makes sense. We can make things so complicated. Success really isn’t.

The issue is usually in steps one and three. Step two is rarely a problem. Some people struggle to understand “What do I really want?” This can be common for younger people with less life experience, or fresh out of school. It’s okay to be confused. Take your time. Go see things. Learn about the world. What is not okay is to sit around and do nothing and mope about it. The answers won’t come from sitting in a room, listening to music, or playing video games. It comes from experiencing life and seeing new things. Eventually you will find your passion.

Of course, the biggest hang-up is on step three, no surprise. When you get right down to it, many people are clear on steps one and two, yet they simply refuse to execute step three. They want to believe the price is “really not that high” or they want to find a way to get a “discount.” They listen to get-rich-quick gurus who charge them huge sums on money on how to avoid paying the price! Success doesn’t work this way. It is a non-discounted part of life. You have to pay full price!

These people lack the real drive. Or desire. Or simply self-discipline to achieve what they want.

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Many of us, for example, have a goal, or define success as weight loss. So they know what they want. They know the price is to stay away from sugary foods, eat right, and exercise. But when they get down to it, they simply won’t pay the price! So they look for the discounts and shortcuts that never work. They take pills or supplements to “make it easy.” They wear plastic clothes to “sweat the fat off” and the temporary water weight loss remains temporary!

Unfortunately, I see it in the workplace all the time. Everyone wants a successful career, full of promotions and ever-increasing incomes. But many simply won’t pay the price to bring this to life. They play hooky and take false sick leave to run around and play with friends. They don’t put in the extra hours to sell a few new accounts each day. They don’t exert the effort to put in the merchandising materials and do it right. They cut corners whenever they can. They quit and run away when a job gets too tough, and along the way they learn how to quit whenever things get messy. And then they wonder why they don’t get the rewards they feel they deserve. Why their career leaves them so unsatisfied.

Look no further than a failure to pay the price.

I have said many times in this column that sports mimic life. And nowhere can one find more glaring examples than in athletics.

At present I am working with some potential Olympians. Everyone wants to go to the Olympics. Everyone will say, “I want to win a medal.” But, my gosh, is the price high!

Are they all ready to pay the price?

Some are. And some aren’t.

Olympians today give up much of their lives to train and win gold. Michael Phelps celebrated upon retirement his “first fast food in seven years.” Now contrast this against an athlete who celebrates by posting pictures of eating donuts on Facebook days before a major competition. Or saying, “I cannot give up my white rice.” They aren’t going to make it, and they aren’t going to win. Because somewhere else, someone is paying this price. And they will be the ones who win.

Be it in life, in sports, in business, there are three simple steps to success. You know what to do. It is all up to you.

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*James Lafferty was Chairman and CEO of P&G Poland (1999-2003) and P&G Philippines (2006-2009), both wholly owned subsidiaries of The Procter and Gamble Company, and retired in 2010. James was also CEO of Coca Cola Bottling Nigeria (Nigerian Bottling Company), a publicly traded company. James is presently CEO of BAT Philippines.

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