Why it’s the secret of all success. What it is. How to get it.
In the year 2424 the world will be a very different place. People will be singing the praises of individuals who helped create a new and vibrant world back in 2020 and beyond. They will be singing the praises of pluck — the one quality that can and did transform the world.
So, what is “pluck”? It’s really a simple yet very rare quality of mind and action. Pluck is what makes a man or woman do what other men and women are reluctant to do — push on until the job is done.
Pluck’s ingredients are sweat, stubbornness, willingness to look stupid if need be, and a white hot desire to accomplish the task at hand and the big goal at the end of the line of tasks. Pluck is persistence, but more than that, pluck is a character trait of all achievers, large or small.
It’s you and I magnified and amplified. Pluck is the quality you need now if you are to achieve your goals and dreams. So let’s get started and see what the hell it really is, and how you and I can grab your vital share of the most valuable human quality in the world — PLUCK.
You and I can develop pluck right this moment, as if by magic. Yet, to get good in the business of pluck, we’ve got to work at it, amplify it, and exploit it. Let’s go.
Here’s a secret: You already have pluck. You were born with it. When you burst out of the womb you were fully engaged with this quality. You mother had it, especially at the moment of your birth. When you took your first breath of outside air, you sucked in giant quantities of pluck. You were pluck itself. When you screamed your first cry of joy or anguish or whatever it was at the time, your pluck was fully engaged.
Nothing gets done without pluck
Yes, you read it right — NOTHING gets done without PLUCK. Whatever smarts one has, whatever ambition and dreams, whatever native talents, without pluck — the willingness to just fucking do it even before you’re ready — nothing gets done.
All achievers have it to one degree or another. Aristotle had it. Edison had it. Steve Jobs had it. Ronald Reagan had it. Ayn Rand had it. In fact, anyone who achieves what they set out to do has pluck.
But, despite the abbreviated definition above, what is it? The best way to describe it is to consider an opposite character trait of those who have all the talents and skills of achievement, except pluck. In my own case (and, by the way, I’m going to develop pluck a.s.a.p.) I have always been one to overthink and over-prepare before taking action — except when I made the best choice and action of my life: asking my wife to marry me after we had only been dating for two weeks. I had pluck in spades. I was motivated. I loved (and love) this woman.
Let’s get back to the description of pluck and what it isn’t. Pluck is NOT the absence of thinking. But, it IS the absence of OVERTHINKING. Pluck is seeing what one wants and jumping into the frying pan to get it. Pluck is a willingness to sweat, make mistakes, look foolish, but grab that thing in the middle of the frying pan one most wants, and jump the hell out quickly.
Pluck is plucky. Pluck gets results — sometimes the wrong ones. But that’s part of its power. When pluck gets the wrong results and falls flat on it plucky face, pluck learns yet another thing that doesn’t work, and moves on to find what does work. It’s the essence of that business wisdom of “fail forward fast.” Pluck is the essence of failing forward fast to reach achievement.
Someone I know with pluck
My wife, Pat, has pluck. It’s one of the many qualities that I love about her. She exhibits pluck even in her stance and her walk. She struts with a wonderful pluckiness that is quite appealing. She’s always been willing to take on new responsibilities long before she is “qualified” for them.
Pat and I were both unemployed at a difficult time in our lives. No money. Nothing. So Pat ended up finding a temporary job as a “floater” (an in-house temp) in a health center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She really liked this place. It was clean, organized, and seemingly well run. It was a big improvement over other jobs each of us had had.
Eventually she got hired full time as the medical assistant to a woman doctor. She had never taken any medical courses or had special training. But Pat had pluck. She learned fast. Eventually a supervisor job became available in the Medical Records department. She had no special training in medical records management. But she had pluck. She learned.
Long story short, from her lowly beginning as a temporary “floater” she eventually worked her way up to become the Administer of a major health center. Before she could get hired for the job, she needed an MBA degree. She got accepted to Simmons Graduate School of Management without a bachelor’s degree. How? Pluck.
Of course, she had to prove herself with special requirement. She did. Two years later she graduated in the top ten percent of her class. She got the job as administrator. She had (and has) pluck.
Be Plucky — Get Lucky
What’s the difference between pluck and luck? And how do they relate? Pluck is a courageous spirit ready, willing, and able to try and do whatever it takes to get the job done. It’s a dose of courage at just the right time, and in just the right degree. Luck, on the other hand, is a happenstance thing that we have little control over — except when we engage our pluck.
Take Ayn Rand, for instance, who met and got a ride from Cecil B. DeMille on her first day in Hollywood. Was it luck? Certainly. But without her pluck — her going to Hollywood to take her chances at a job — it would never have happened. Pluck opens you up to luck. When you’re plucky, you get lucky. Amen.
Great Leaders Have Pluck
You don’t have to be a leader if you have pluck, but all great leaders have it. It’s the quality of rational spunkiness and willingness to take a chance — to risk being wrong and failing. Failing to a great leader is a great lesson along the way to success. Pluck is like a spark plug of the spirit. And the spirit of all great leaders fires away because of pluck.
You, Me, and Pluck
So, what’s in it for you and me? What if we don’t want to be great leaders, or even great at anything? When you have pluck, you see what is possible and impossible at the same time. Without pluck you wouldn’t even begin if you thought it was impossible. Without pluck you wouldn’t give it your best try if you thought it was possible.
You need pluck to pluck victory from defeat
You need pluck to get up off the ground when you’ve been knocked down. In fact, you needed it to get into the ring first. Then, you’d need it to keep going even if you knew you would most likely be defeated. You’d keep going, like Rocky did in the movie “Rocky.” You keep going because of that inner quality of soul — pluck!
“Daycraft” is a word I coined to signify how one gets better at life and anything else. Each day is an opportunity to grab a slice of your dream. It’s a time that will only come once, each day. We don’t know how long we will live, but we do know when we’re alive. So, if you’re alive, it’s time to grab hold of your dream, your goal, or whatever you call the thing you want most — and work towards it. Pluck, by the way, is the quality of keeping on and not wimping out. It gets you to keep truckin’ and grabbing on to what you want.
Your days are precious. They come and go. One by one, they come into your life, and one by one, they leave. To wait until some perfect or best time to begin or work towards your dream is dangerous. You may find yourself, someday, bedridden and ready to die. That is not the time to regret not having done, each day, what you could do today. You are the master of your day — master your days, master your life. Today is now. Don’t wait. Do what is important to begin achieving you dream TODAY. NOW.
(For help and resources on how to exploit each day, read my free online publication, Achievement Daily.)
Now is similar to today, but it refers to the moment you are in NOW. It’s a tricky business: how to exploit or utilize each moment. You don’t want to be frenetically jumping around like an agitated jumping bean. You, instead, want to smoothly and efficaciously use each moment to your advantage, and toward what you want to achieve.
The trick is to know what you are seeking to do. In your mind you need to know the big picture dream, and be figuring out various steps to get you there. This is where pluck comes in again to save the day. You will go down many paths that don’t get you where you wanted to go. You’ll make mistakes (which, by the way, are more proof that you are working toward your goals). Pluck is your ability to pick yourself up, change course, and keep going.
Seek Your Dreams
Dreams are big goals that take time, effort, and, yes, pluck, to achieve. In the book, Get What You Want (later retitled as Achieve Your Purpose). I outline the process of dream achievement. But more importantly, I ask you, the reader, to answer some very basic questions that gradually lead you to a plan for achievement. Yet, without pluck, you and I may give up, slow down, or never start.
Your dreams — your biggest desires for the future — are the stars you are seeking. Pluck is you spark plug, which keeps firing until you reach your desired destination. Then, pluck is ready to fire again as you aim your desires to your next dream achievement.
I find it interesting that so many Eastern and some New Age philosophies advise you to ignore, squash, or negate your ego. Let’s face it, ego has gotten a very bad rap. I have a different perspective on ego. It’s your soul, you self, you most personal, inner consciousness. To squash your ego is to squash the life out of your personhood.
What I think has happened over the years is that ego has been confused with an inflated, unrealistic, pompous ego that is not really ego, but its absence. What do I mean about this? Ego has been tattooed with a false idea of ego. We see certain people who think they are little gods of whom we must bow down and worship. That’s not ego; it’s an inflated ego full of hot air. It’s a substitute for real ego.
Real ego is your ability to say “I want this,” or “I believe this,” or “I will do this because I want it.” It’s the same impulse of spirit that a young child uses when it sees something it wants. The child doesn’t have the adult knowledge yet of how to get it. The child just wants it. Its ego is as yet undeveloped, but still potent.
A huge mistake made by many parents and teachers of young children is to attempt to squash, deny, or even destroy the child’s ego. Many of the adults who are either unable to really want something enough to fight for it may be the product of this kind of upbringing. On the other hand, those with inflated egos may simply be compensating for this treatment.
Did Hitler Have a Big Ego?
Piggybacking on the above discussion, let’s consider one of the worst examples we can think of. Of course, we could add Stalin and Mao as well. Was it ego that led them to their murderous mayhem? And, did they have pluck? Let’s consider this….
Ego is good. An inflated or diseased ego is bad. They were bad, therefore they did not have a big healthy ego. Instead they had a diseased and inflated ego puffed up with absolute power. The famous saying that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is for real. Hitler, Stalin, and all murderous despots and dictators don’t have healthy egos; they instead have cancerous, diseased, and inflated egos.
But what about pluck? Pluck is a good quality, which it is impossible to use destructively. Or is it? As with almost anything, it’s conceivable that pluck could be used as a destructive tool. Yet, by its very nature, pluck is the ability to take that first positive step, and each succeeding step until the job is done. Dictators don’t need pluck, and wouldn’t know what to do with it. They have substituted power for pluck.
How to Get Pluck
All of us are born with pluck. Being born is our first experience utilizing pluck outside the womb. Life itself is pluck. Pluck is the spirit that animates your life. As we grow older some of us have the pluck plucked out of us by parents, siblings, and/or the happenings of the day. As with ego, pluck can be squished right out of us or stomped down until it’s afraid to get up again.
So, if you don’t have pluck, or very little of it, what can you do? First of all realize that you’ve got it somewhere in your psyche already, waiting to be reborn. Whatever was squished out of you, or squashed down, can be reclaimed.
1) Decide to have it. It belongs to you, and you’re going to get it back — in spades.
2) Each night when you go to bed, imagine what pluck would help you accomplish. Pretend you already have it. Go to sleep.
3) When you wake up, think about how pluck could help you. What could you accomplish if you just had enough pluck?
4) During the day seek opportunities to demonstrate pluck — that spark of courage and “stick-to-it-iveness” that can get things accomplished. It could be a seemingly small circumstance such as answering a phone with a new spirit.
5) Practice being plucky whenever you can. “Bucky was plucky, he kept right on,” is from a children’s book I read to my son when he was a child. It captures the spirit of pluck — simply keeping on the task at hand until you accomplish it, with pluck,
6) As your pluck muscle gets stronger, you’ll soon realize that nothing is impossible to you — nothing!
What about Problems?
What about them? Problems are opportunities. To solve them you need the pluck to make the attempt, and then the pluck to keep on until the problem is solved. Part of this is the willingness — the pluck — to seek help from those who can do something about it, or have the knowledge you need to help solve the problem.
Problem solvers are results oriented. It’s the result that pluck seeks as it works on a problem. Joined by intelligence, planning, getting help when needed, pluck is unstoppable. “Failures” along the way are simply bumps in the road to success. You negotiate your was over or around them. Sometimes “failure” is simply telling you that you’ve picked the wrong direction or solution. It’s information that you can use.
We are born problem solvers. Life requires the solution to problems. What will I eat? Where will I sleep? How will I make my living? Who will I marry? Or, will I marry? A wise person once told me that the more problems you have the more successful you will be. It may or may not make sense, but I think it does, as long as you don’t allow problems to pull you down. They simply want solutions. With pluck, you can solve them.
So, What is Pluck?
We’ve answered this before, but now is a good time to think about it again. Pluck is the oomph you need to get things done. It’s your spirit made manifest. It’s a spring in your step. It’s persistence with a purpose and a passion. Passionate persistence mixed with a sense of purpose is another way to look at it. Pluck is a willingness to dive into the pool of life — and swim!
What’s Your Next Step?
Without pluck, your next step would most likely be cautious and half-hearted, especially if you’re venturing into areas that are outside your comfort zone. With pluck, however, you will take the chance, take that first step, assess where you are and what’s going on. Then, if needed, you may or may not come back to the comfort of your zone.
Pluck keeps you trying, testing, observing, calculating, and pushing toward what you want. Whether it’s an apple from the tree of knowledge, or that first important step in seeking new work, pluck keeps you plucking at the boundary of your comfort zone.
Pluck and Your Comfort Zone
We all have comfort zones, those areas where we feel safe and comfortable in our own skin. The boundary lines of our comfort zone can expand if we have the pluck to forge ahead. Chuck Yeager, the famous test pilot who first broke the sound barrier, knew all about the boundary line between what people thought possible, and what he was prepared to prove otherwise.
His method: keep testing that boundary, going a tad further each time until, presto, he broke the sound barrier. It was dangerous work, but Yeager had pluck and a willingness to keep plucking toward his goal until he achieved it.
You can use the same method if you exert your pluck. Your seemingly unattainable goal can be approached utilizing Yeager’s method of testing the boundary, assessing the facts, then testing again and again, each time going just a little bit further until — BAM — you’ve broken your own sound barrier. You’ve escaped the confines of your limiting comfort zone. And, now when you come back to your comfort zone to rest and recuperate, you’ll be living in an expanded comfort zone that can grow larger as you keep testing the boundaries.
The Reward of Pluck — Renewing Your Spirit!
Pluck is the essence of spirit. It’s your spirit in action mode, ready to tackle whatever it wants. Your reward for strengthening and exploiting your pluck is accomplishment and more… You give your spirit a tune-up. Pluck cleans out the cobwebs in your spirit. Pluck plucks them out and fires you enthusiasm. You then are ready to become the person you were meant to be. You become who you really are — a wonder of humanity, a benefactor of mankind, a Howard R0ark of life itself. Pluck engages your spirit.
The Downside of Pluck
Pluck does have a downside — with pluck you tend to “fail forward fast.” This means that when you are willing to take those first, second, or third steps, you will find out not only what does work, but what doesn’t work. Those without pluck tend to give up at these small setbacks. With pluck, you learn what’s not working, and keep on plucking away at your goal.
So, it’s not really a downside at all. Small or even large “failures” are telling you what doesn’t work at that moment in your forward quest. You learn, turn, shift, and keep on going. Like a football receiver who has caught a pass is attacked on all sides by the opposing team, you go left, go right, go straight ahead until you either get to the goal line or are tackled down to the ground. It’s all part of the game of living life.
The only person who cares is you. No one else really cares a hoot or holler about whether you achieve your goals or not. You’re the motive power. You’re the pluck of the situation. You’re the one, my friend. You alone.
If you’re ambitious, you care. I care. All productive people care about pluck. They may not call it pluck, but they know the essence of that quality — getting things done, somehow. It’s the “somehow” that defines the oomph of pluck. When you have pluck, you are determined to get the job done — somehow. You may not know how, but you will find a way.
You see the goal in your mind’s eye. You know what it is. You want it, desire it, and demand of yourself the oomph to get it. Pluck takes the first step. Pluck gets off the ground when knocked down. Pluck keeps going toward that distant goal. Detours, frustration, discomfort, and disappointment are not enough to stop you if you exert you God-given pluck, the same pluck you used when you left the womb and faced a new world.
Pluck: the ability and willingness to do it, even when you don’t know how yet. It’s the ability and willingness to try and fail; try and fail; try and fail; try and fail; and try and succeed! Oh, yes. And sometime the first try succeeds. But many times it doesn’t. Not important. Pluck keeps on keeping on until it makes progress toward the achievement of a goal. Yes.
So, What’s in it for You?
Everything you want. This, that, and the other thing. Whatever you truly want. Meanwhile you need to exercise your pluck every day in every way you can imagine. Just do it. Summon up the pluck you need to get done what you want to get done.
Your next step . . .
OK, so we now know what Pluck is and why you need it for a full and happy life. Yes, it’s also possible to have such a life without pluck, but pluck makes it so much easier and better.
Your next step is to grab every ounce of joy and beauty from life as you can. Don’t wait for next year or some other time. Do it now. Get plucky and be lucky. You are the one who can move the world — at least the world you live it and occupy. You are the moving force of your life, the captain of your soul. It’s time to realize what life would be like with the ability to do what you want. Don’t wait ’til you too old or infirm to grab life. Do what’s important for you now.
How can you accelerate your passion, purpose, and talents? That’s our focus. (We also talk about politics.)
Ken is the author of Achieve Your Purpose!