I couldn't help but listen in. RB, an upperclassman, was reveling in his “accomplishment” from the weekend.

“We found a gate into the pasture and drove out toward where they were sleeping,” he said, lowering his voice. “The first one woke up and ran off, just as we got close. We were especially quiet with the rest, but it was hard to do since we were laughing so hard! I think the final count was 15 and I was worn out. Pushing that many cows over is harder than you think!”

That's right, RB had been cow-tipping. As the son of a dairy farmer, his story was especially interesting to me. That weekend I spent an hour herding cows that had escaped through an open gate that we never used. My dad called the veterinarian out that afternoon because 11 cows were obviously hurt and had blood in their milk. Turns out that they had broken ribs and had to be removed from production.

For our small operation, those cows represented 14% of our producing herd. I could easily rant about how such an idiotic pastime can be so damaging. Or, let my emotions run about how hard it is to be a small business owner without the random doofus getting involved.

The thing that still blows me away, about RB and his exploits, is that his family owned the most successful dairy operation in the area. How could he be so short-sighted and selfish? As a dairyman, he should have had a greater appreciation for what those big, dumb animals represented...cash and our way of life.

More than 20 years later, and after a decade of studying how people achieve and sustain personal success, I better understand RB's actions. He lacked two of the seven critical factors for a successful mindset. Gratitude and purpose.

Without gratitude, without appreciation for what is good and right about our lives, we are unlikely to have perspective for how our actions impact others. As a result, we are self-centered and wasteful regarding the world around us. RB wasn't grateful for his own lifestyle, so how could he have an appreciation for anyone else.

RB found that out when his family's multimillion-dollar farm went broke within three years of him taking over. In the aftermath, he realized how ungrateful he had been. I know that because he applied for a job in the business unit I was running at the time. More determined than desperate, RB shared his revelation about gratitude and how he hoped for new start.

After some soul searching, I passed RB and two other candidates on to our company president and RB got the nod. For the next 2 months, I coached him around his new sense of gratitude. Though he was sincere in his attempts at taking control of his life, I still needed to continually prod and motivate him to stay on track.

The absence of purpose was just as fundamental to RB's old mindset as his lack of gratitude. I'm not just talking about some ethereal concept of your life's purpose, but a more practical, down-to-earth purpose. “Why am I doing this and what do I hope to gain?” Answering that question brings focus and meaning. Without that answer, without a purpose for our actions, good decisions are accidents.

By setting down and asking RB some very pointed and heartfelt questions around purpose, we finally got down to the core of why he was starting over. The personal details aren’t important, but I dug in with one “why is that important,” question after another. Until finally, he cried.

I know, I know… how could I make the poor guy cry? Those tears changed both of our lives.

The bigger the task or opportunity in front of us, the bigger our purpose for taking it on has to be. RB was uprooting his family, moving to a big city, starting a brand new career, and hadn’t figured out why.

Before I started coaching him, his biggest reason was that he needed to find a way to make more money. Money, by itself, is never a strong enough motivator. As it turned out, it wasn’t even in his top five of what was really important to him.

With his new found appreciation for life and a supremely powerful purpose for what he was trying to accomplish, RB became my most valuable colleague in less than six months. He made decisions quickly, accurately, and in alignment with what mattered most to the company. Our business unit grew from $600,000 per year to $8,000,000 during his first full year and he had a big hand in the growth. He took over for me when I left the company and he was eventually recruited to run our largest competitor.

At home, he made the same transition. Not only did he keep his family together, he took the same principles that I taught him and instilled them in his wife and children. One of his children was a 2010 Winter Olympian and she credits, “what my dad taught me about how to think,” as her biggest competitive asset. That makes me smile.

So, what were the keys to RB’s transformation from cow-tipping redneck to poster boy for success?

* A wake-up call. This is an event that causes enough pain that you can’t ignore your need for change. Typically, they are external, but you can generate your own wake-up call with a little personal awareness.

* Gratitude. Being grateful is actually easier when the chips are down. When all of the things we take for granted are disappearing or gone, we give our attention to what is left. The trick is to maintain gratitude for what we have, while we have it.

* Purpose. It seems so fundamental, but how often do we set a goal, take on a task, or engage in an activity without knowing what we want to accomplish? This is one of the greatest keys to eliminating disappoint and increasing fulfillment in life.

* A mentor. I had the great privilege of being just the right person at just the right time for RB, but there is more at work than timing. Make up your mind that you are ready to learn and grow, first. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

* Never stop learning. Become a life-long learner. Keep a healthy sense of humility and fascination for the world with you at all times. You never know where your next wonderful lesson may come from.

Author's Bio: 

PJ McClure has taught more than 3,000 entrepreneurs in 54 countries how to design their lives and businesses for optimum success through engaging and shaping their mindset. He is an international speaker, author, and coach. PJ is offering a 10-video series about the developing your mindset and you can get them for free by going to 10 Free Videos on Mindset