Thursday, March 27, 2014

Success is taking what you know, and creating the best YOU that YOU can be.

   There are no Ivy League degrees on my wall, since I graduated from Miami-Dade community college. I also went to an average public high school, never took the SAT exam, and was frequently in trouble in school. Some pedigree. 

   My reason to tell you this is because I, like you, thought I would never be able to "make it". There was no point of reference for success in my family or education. I was on a track to be pretty darn average. But I decided not to accept that. You can make that same decision.

   Is everyone capable of anything? Probably not. But you are certainly capable of being much more than you currently are. You are capable of being a pretty amazing YOU. 

   That's the central idea behind my book, Alphabet Success. "Making it" isn't so much about having a remarkable IQ, or a previously unheard of invention. Success is taking what you know, and creating the best YOU that YOU can be.

   My message to you is, don't settle. Discover the most powerful version of you. I too thought successful people were "special". Perhaps, but it's a sort of special that is available in some way to everyone is who is willing to try, and keep on trying until the "special" happens. 

   The trying part? That part is up to you. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Want people to read your content? Stop blogging! #Twog it.

   If you want people to read your content, twog it, don't blog it.

   Most of us are pretty unknown. So why is anybody going to invest twenty minutes on our blog?

   Oh, that's right, they're not. 

   Apply Franklin Roosevelt's advice to writing: "Be sincere, be brief, be seated." 

   People will learn they can trust you to make your point and exit. It's appreciated.

   When you respect their time, they'll enjoy your writing.

   Twog, n. a blog of less than 140 words

   On that note, I'll leave with 47 words to spare.

   Happy twogging!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Get the Myopia Out of Your Ear.

   Is it important to listen? You betcha. But listening is a 101 level skill. Listening alone isn't nearly a world class skill. It is the foundation of a larger skill we'll call "Creative and Open-Minded Listening". Perhaps the difference is apparent. But just in case it's not, here are two imaginary examples of listening gone awry...

   An astute Native American repeatedly refined the bow and arrow based upon feedback from his customers. He continually tested new versions of the latest bow and arrow technology, and based on that information he consistently produced unparalleled bow and arrow quality. Every military leader in the region awaited his latest versions and paid handsome sums to keep an "edge". Which was awesome, until some dudes showed up with guns. 

   Benedict was an extraordinary hunter. His tracking ability and marksmanship were far above anyone within 500 miles of his town. A lifetime of learning from the great hunters of his region had earned him a place at the top of hunting culture. He earned tremendous sums of money from trading pelts and meat to people from far and wide. Which was awesome, until some guy started farming cattle near his village. 

   Now you might think, "well you're talking about major shifts in technology, or lifestyle". Perhaps, but in the first example someone other than the "good listener" had figured out that launching a projectile with greater accuracy and less bulky ammunition would be far superior. And, of course, they were correct. 

   In the second example, the hunter focused his attention and questions on being the most amazing hunter ever. But that gave him nothing close to the edge of the farmer who could, through less guile and more routine effort, have a predictable supply of meat and leather.

   Though these may seem obvious, they both circle around the idea of avoiding listening "myopically". When you are asking the wrong question (though it may have served you for years) you can never get the right answer. What to do?

   The best way to avoid this is to use the BIGGEST MENTAL FRAMEWORK possible when thinking about a particular problem. Don't make a better bow and arrow, make a better hunting tool. Don't be a better hunter, be a better food provider. Don't train your horses to be faster, think of a better way of being transported. 

   Improve your listening so you can see your client's problem directly, within a broader potential context. This leads to durable advantages, and profitability. Get the myopia out of your ear, and you'll put more money in your pocket. 


Sunday, March 2, 2014

A one word suggestion for improving your life? LISTEN.

  When I was a boy, I used to cut grass in the summers to make extra money. One of my clients was my father. On a pretty routine basis I'd cut the grass (what I thought I was hired to do) only to have my father dissect the job with his engineering mindset (I imagined him with a T-square examining the edges). In short, he was disappointed, and I was annoyed. 

   A classic case of poor agreement on expectations. To me "cut the grass" meant running the mower over the yard to reduce the general height of the lawn. To my father "cut the grass" meant running the mower over the yard until it looked like a putting green. Nobody was right or wrong. Just badly matched ideas of the job in question.

   I hadn't listened well, and he'd fallen short in explaining. Thus, the problem.

   That listening could fail so completely in such a rudimentary task is illustrative of the problems we all encounter in trying to foster meaningful clear communication. My use of lawn cutting is deliberate; many of our daily communications are on much more complex topics.

   This could be a complete book (and perhaps that's a thought) so let me outline a few suggestions:

   1) Listening requires more than remaining quiet. If you aren't positive you understand, even by a whisper of a hint, ask for clarification. 
   2) The more specific the communication, the less room for misunderstanding. Over- communicating is faster than reworking. (Even when lawn cutting!)
   3) Listening includes CULTURE.  Active listening is a CULTURE. A valuable one at that.
   4) Listening includes demonstrating your comprehension by using some of what you hear in your plans. Even if the information is marginal, the payback for using a suggestion is in opening the pipeline for future information and suggestions.

  5) Be sure you are truly open to ideas and comments. When people are busy calibrating their message to accommodate your "demanding personality", you may lose the point. 

  6) Remember, often the most important message is the one left unspoken.

   In the end, my father and I sorted things out. Once I understood clearly what he wanted, I increased my price 250%. After an initial hesitation he accepted. I got more spending money, and he got his putting green. 

   Listening is a profitable, sanity preserving, exercise that everyone should actively practice on a daily basis. Of course, listening isn't mandatory, but neither is success. 

PS - Tip of the hat to Tom Peters for getting me fired up about this. Thank you sir.