They take steps that are inconvenient, uncomfortable and expensive.

Not long ago, a friend asked my advice about a program she was thinking of attending. She wanted to go, but it would be costly. She felt somewhat unprepared, and she wasn't sure she could afford to take the time away from work. When she told me her reservations, I said emphatically, "This sounds like a really good idea." She was surprised at my reaction and asked me, "How do you know?" I told her, "I have a really simple way of determining whether something is good for me or not: It'll be good if it's inconvenient, uncomfortable and expensive."

My friend laughed because she knows it's true. The seminar would be good for her, not in spite of these obstacles but because of them. Although there are exceptions, most anything that is going to make you more successful will by definition cause you to stretch and grow and therefore have these three characteristics-otherwise it wouldn't have much impact.

Think of the inconvenience, discomfort and expense you encounter every time you take an important step toward your own growth, whether personal or professional. (Remember your first love? Your first home away from the parents? Your first steps into the financial profession?) The things that are going to take you to the next level or make you great will be difficult, and they won't arrive on your schedule; they'll appear when they appear, however seemingly inopportune. But there's the trick: to see them, however ill timed, awkward and high-priced, as the golden opportunities for tremendous growth that they really are.

Who are the most successful individuals in the financial services industry? They are the men and women who seize these veiled opportunities, learn from them and implement them. I learned this from my clients: Advisors who enroll in my company's programs to grow their practices are willing to do what others aren't-pay a lot of money for our coaching, spend time with our training and put themselves through the pain of watching themselves on videotape-and the results are proportional to these sacrifices.

If you were buying stock in financial advisors, in whom would you invest? You wouldn't choose the one who says, "I want to be successful, but a lot of this stuff I'm supposed to do is a pain in the neck. I know this seminar will make me more effective at my job, but I'm going to wait until it's held in my town, at the hotel next to my office, offered for free. Then I'll go. Meanwhile, I'll just keep on doing what I've always done. Isn't that good enough?"

Forget it! Who would invest in anyone with this attitude? You would buy stock in the advisor who's willing to go out of his or her way, make an effort to secure success and, as a result of doing what few others will, acquires a competitive advantage.

There's a great scene in the movie A League of Their Own in which one of the baseball players cries, saying, "This is hard!" Her coach, played by Tom Hanks, tells her to pull herself together: "It's supposed to be hard. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it."

To reach the heights of success, you must do something different from everyone else. Olympic gymnastics medallist Peter Vidmar has made this observation that applies to our business: In the upper echelons of his sport, you get an edge on the competition not by working harder, but by doing something different. At that level, everyone is in the gym about the same amount of time every day-there are only so many hours of physical exertion a body can take. But the winners had a different regimen, which gave them their competitive edge.

Likewise, if you are working 55 hours a week, those top producers making three times the money you are can't be working three times as hard-there aren't 165 hours in a week. They are achieving far greater results than you are but applying the same amount of time and energy as you (or less). They just have a better system-one you can be sure they acquired by doing something uncomfortable, inconvenient and expensive.

What's more, top advisors don't just attend a variety of workshops, seminars and programs: They implement what they learn, which is where the results truly come from. (Attending a seminar is easy, inexpensive and comfortable compared with actually implementing what you learn!) Not surprisingly, people with athletic or military backgrounds tend to be better at making the necessary adjustments and remaining extremely disciplined-they don't mind the uncomfortable and inconvenient part. They have already seen the results you get from simply doing whatever your commanding officer or coach tells you, even though the last thing your coach or c.o. is concerned with is your comfort or convenience. It's not about you. It's about the results you get, not how you feel along the way.