Friday, August 9, 2013

The Birth of GPS Theory

One morning, back in November 2012, I had a great idea!  It was the kind of moment where one sees things clearly.  I had a realization. I recognized a behavioral trend that explained the root cause of not only my greatest successes but also my deepest failures and my situation at that point in time.  The way I perceived myself didn't always match up with the way others did.  My professional performance hadn't always matched up with my behaviors in my personal life.  My career progression hadn't always reconciled with my accomplishments. Mainly, the disconnect centered around trust.  The people who had the most influence on the results I sought didn't always trust me.  The trend had nothing to do with whether I'm trustworthy, it goes much deeper than that.  

You see, I strive for excellence and I have a track record to prove it.  When I served in the Army, I earned the right to wear the Ranger tab. In the corporate world, I've led teams to triple-digit performance improvements and saved the companies I worked for millions of dollars.  I've been this way consistently for two decades.  In short, I've shown, time and time again, that I am willing to do what it takes to lead others and exceed expectations! So, why hadn't I moved up the corporate ladder as quickly as others who mainly "just put their time in"?  Why was I unemployed?  Why did I just lose a dream job opportunity to someone else? What was going wrong and how could I stop it? 

The answer came to me that morning. The facts were telling me, "People don't trust you because you try to push them out of their comfort zones."    

"What!?!," I resisted at first, "That's crazy, I've only given them what they've asked for.  They said they wanted something and I helped them understand what it took to make it happen!  I was always willing, they weren't!"  It didn't make sense!  Why would people say they want something if they aren't willing to do what it takes to get it? Nothing of value in life comes without risk! "How am I ever going to be successful if I have to work with people who think like this!?!"  

The question stopped me in my tracks.  It was a helpless thing to say. I sounded like I was a victim.  I'm not a helpless person.  I believe my life is the result of my own decisions and actions and therefore I am not a victim of circumstances!  There was an important message here.  So, I asked myself a question, "What does "success" look like to you, Tom?"

I decided to take a minute to answer the question about the meaning of success.  As I did that, reason and logic began to return to my thought process.  I realized the main point isn't about money, power or authority.  It's about being able to look in the mirror and ask myself if I always try to do the "right" things.  The guy looking back at me already knows the truth, and he knows I have not always been successful at this.  The good part is, as human beings, we don't need to be perfect, what we need is to continuously try to be better. But better at what? Being right?  Life just isn't that black and white. The conversation I had with myself that morning led to the most powerful question I've ever been asked and it gave me the greatest insight into what trying to be better means to each and every one of us, "When it's all said and done, what words do I want other people to use to describe me and the life I lived?"  

Making my "what words?" list was easy.  It was empowering!  There I sat, with a list of words I want other people to use to describe me and the life I've lived.  Now what do I do with it? How would I ever know if anyone would ever use those words?  After all, it's the kind of question that implies you won't get the real answers until you're dead, as if you could hear what people were saying at your funeral... and anyone can see the irony in expecting to find out anything at that point.  

It felt like I was getting close to something.  If I could help people create their "what words" list to identify and define their criteria for Life-Long Success (their Core Values) and then provide them with the means to find out if the people in their World would actually use those words to describe them, it would open doors for positive change.  You see, Life-Long Success has two components which must work together:

  • Results which are material and temporal in nature.
  • Behaviors that represent human Core Values.
Results are easy to measure.  Honest and accurate measurements of behaviors against the standards of Core Values seem impossible to acquire, but they're not.  You see, the people in our World provide us with what we need to know every day but they don't do it in a way that is easy to understand.

I set to work creating the measurement system that would help people improve the relationships with the people they need to succeed by clarifying the signals we often misinterpret because of the intricacies of ambiguous communications and our limited ability to translate them.  Why? So we can understand the true gap between the person we are and the person we want to be.  This system is called GPS Theory and it's available at

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tom Eakin is the author of Finding Success and the Success Engineer at BoomLife. LEARN MORE ABOUT TOM...