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Three Simple, But Not Easy, Pieces that Must Fit Together

In our journey toward Success Built to Last, we discovered that these three elements—an individually defined Meaning, a creative ThoughtStyle, and an effective ActionStyle—when you have them in alignment, form the foundation on which you build and sustain the experience of success. It seems that you might not need all three aligned to achieve short-term ambitions or success as traditionally defined, but the more that you pull them together, the more likely it is that your success (that must be defined for you by you) will keep going decade after decade.

One way to remember these concepts is to think of these elements as the three primary colors of success built to last. When you overlap the primary colors of red, blue, and green,4 what do you get? A bright, white light. If there is a “right” target to go after, this is it. Builders don’t seek goals for their own sake; they find something that holds great meaning for them first, so meaning is on top, informing the rest of the model. Builders manage their thoughts in ways that keep them on track and then take relentless action in pursuit of what matters to them (meaning). The great opportunity in life and work is to make that target in the center as big as possible by bringing all three circles together and increasing the degree of overlap.

Become consciously aware of what matters to you and then rally your thought and action to support your definition of meaning. That is what we call alignment. As these elements come together to constitute a single target of white light, it gets easier to hit the mark in your life and actually experience success that lasts.

Of course, this is a simple model for a very complex and often challenging process. The greater tendency is for these three circles to drift apart wildly out of sync. Without continuous effort, many forces at work and at home make it difficult to keep the alignment together. In the immortal words of Peter Drucker, “The only things that evolve by themselves (in an organization) are disorder, friction, and malperformance.”5

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