Escalators may be quick, convenient and even fun, but according to Rory Vaden, author of Take the Stairs, they aren’t the fastest route to getting ahead. The New York Times best-selling author recently spoke to students at Mays Business School about the virtues of taking the stairs in an “escalator world.”

“We live in a society of shortcuts and procrastination,” Vaden told a packed Ray Auditorium on Wednesday, the second group of Mays marketing students of the day. “When faced with the decision to ride an escalator (the easy route) or take the stairs (the hard route), most people choose the path of least resistance.”

Vaden’s appearance was a team effort. Ron Lamb, president of Reynolds & Reynolds the first founding partner of the Professional Selling Initiative (PSI) at Mays had introduced PSI Director and Marketing Clinical Professor Janet Parish to Vaden’s works. “After reading the books, I was so moved that I led a special topics course with 13 students to study the books,” Parish said.

She told Lamb she was doing this, and he in turn told Vaden. After a chain of events and contacts, Parish invited Vaden to campus. Once he accepted, Parish asked fellow instructor Sandi Lampo to provide the audience her large marketing classes to create to biggest impact for M

Vaden is co-founder of Southwestern Consulting, a multimillion-dollar global sales consulting practice. He said part of his job is to study what makes other people successful. Throughout his career he has encountered countless successful people, from entrepreneurs to athletes to founders of large churches, and discovered the common denominator of their success. Surprisingly, he said, it had nothing to do with age, personal background or education. “The real secret is self-discipline,” Vaden said. “Successful people are those who have formed habits of doing things they know they should do even when they don’t feel like doing them.”

He recalled when he was age 10 and he complained to his mother about not enjoying martial arts and wanting to quit. His mother quipped: “Enjoying it isn’t a requirement of doing it.” From then on, he learned the value of following through with anything painful, uncomfortable or even boring. “It’s not just about making your life
as hard as possible,” Vaden said. “Difficult short-term choices lead to easy long-term consequences.”

Vaden said he believes success is never a one-and-done deal. It comes at a daily price. He summed it up with what he calls the “Rent Axiom:” “Success is never owned. It is only rented and the rent is due every day.”