Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Beware of the quagmire of quantity.

   We are often lead by our wants and desires. We'd like to have a holiday in a particular spot, some new clothes, a better body, better sex, you name it, we all have our "list".

  But often we don't want the "thing" in question, we want how we think it will make us feel. We imagine that we'll be transported. Therein lies the trick. We might get that feeling, but only if getting access to what we want remains somewhat elusive.

  For instance, earlier this week a woman in the UK was treated at the hospital for having a "two-hour orgasm". Crazy right? But I think of all the hullabaloo on magazine covers for "ultimate pleasure" and then it turns out, like most anything, that getting the quantity right matters.

   Or consider the time I was on my first safari in Namibia. We all trundled into the jeep and sped away. The first zebras we saw were breaktaking. As the trip continued we saw more and more animals, but lots of zebras. By the end of the trip we'd see movement in the brush, and the inevitable conclusion, "It's just more zebras".

   It can even apply to the wonderful feeling we get when someone slips us a love letter. It's grand and we savor the moment. But if they start sending note after note, leaving messages, and calling all the time, we quickly lose that lovely feeling. Then the word "stalker" jumps into our mind. All because the quantity was wrong.

   Quantity counts, up to a point. After that point we start rapidly reducing the value of what was previously so valuable. Beware of the quagmire of quantity.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A tale of scale.

  In the past four years I have had the need to sell two houses. One in Stockholm, and the other in Florida. One sold, the other didn't. This is a tale of scale.

  To many people the image of Sweden is probably of a chilly place with somewhat grumpy socialists marching across the frozen landscape. Florida by contrast is a wonderland of palm trees and happiness. But I digress...

  When I contacted my broker in Sweden, he came by, we discussed the market conditions (a bit mediocre in 2010) and signed an agreement. Since I was on the road a bit we arranged for the house to be shown in my absence. 

   In Florida, I also contacted a broker I knew and arranged for the house to be listed. Market conditions were a bit better in 2012, so I was optimistic about the prospects for the house. This house was also being sold with me being out of town.

   Two houses, both in desirable settings, were being sold in roughly the same manner, at least from my perspective as the seller. 

   Where things became very very different was in the approach of the broker. 

   My broker in Stockholm takes very few houses to sell. But they ALL get sold. He puts his time and effort into it, and the listings are exclusive to him. 

   He took a decidedly average house in a nice suburb and had it sold well above our expected final price within a matter of a few weeks. 

  Why? Because he is focused on very few things professionally. He takes in listings which he is confident he can sell, and then puts his efforts into making that happen. In this case he even, at his own expense, detailed the property. 

   By contrast, the broker in Florida has many many listings, all in the MLS. He's a good, hard-working guy, but he's focusing on running his business, rather than the individual listings his firm has.. His money is in having enough inventory that some houses move and they take a cut. He is, in a word, scaling. 

   In fairness, they did put some effort into it. But the focus of the business is too spread out. The effort to market the house was just not sufficient. It sat and sat, until the market just sort of forgot about it and I had it removed from the market after several months.

   The moral of the story, is that while scale might sound very appealing, it doesn't work for all businesses. For me as a client, I was much better looked after by my broker in Sweden. 

   Client's don't care about your market share, or your reach. The internet reaches everyone. We want to be looked after. In a business involving such an intrusive process as selling a home, being another number feels lousy. Having the home not sell, worse.

   I even wonder if scales works for the big broker. The smaller operation is less visible, but also less stressful, highly profitable (virtually no overhead) and he has the luxury of turning away business. The larger operation is a machine with a lot of moving parts. All of which must be kept working for the business to survive.

   In businesses that are totally data driven, with wafer thin margins, scale is a necessity. But in businesses where humans matter scale can be a stressful, counterproductive mistake. 

   To me, the equation looks pretty simple. Sometimes scale just doesn't work. Grow at your peril.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Forget your weaknesses, increase your strengths.

  We get the message over and over, "work on your weaknesses". Nonsense. Do you think Michael Jordan should have studied Spanish instead of practicing basketball? Or maybe Michelangelo should have spend time learning more about banking from the Medici family? Maybe, or more likely, probably not.

   When I was in high school, my parents were very keen for me to study engineering. A fine idea, except for the fact that I wasn't even remotely interested in it. I liked business, and frankly, making money. Learning more about how airplanes stayed aloft wasn't in my circle of interests. 

   Now to listen to many gurus, I should have worked on my weaknesses. Why? So I could be bored and disenchanted with school? Possibly knowing more about certain things would have served me in some way. Except I didn't care then, and I don't care now. I can buy the books, but I'll always read something else ahead of them, and they'll sit unread for the rest of my days.

   I've taken the liberty of indulging my strengths. As a result, I've had a very nice business career, and a ton of fun. It's not to say that I haven't done considerable learning and growing along the way, but I think pushing myself into directions I wasn't interested in would have done pretty much nothing for me. 

   Truth be told, if you want to be really amazing at something it takes a focused effort. I'm no "super star" but I've done well, and I don't think it would have happened without having been extremely focused on business. Because I had a keen interest from an early age.

   Furthermore, I could read something every day and not come close to knowing everything about the things I am interested in within my field. You just keep banging away trying to stay a few steps ahead of the competition. 

   If you look at the top people in virtually every field, they got there through a keen focus on one item. Yo Yo Ma is an amazing cellist, Warren Buffet is a remarkable investor, Wayne Gretzky was a phenomenal hockey player. Focus, focus, focus. 

  Given the limited amount of time available to all of us, I say focus on your strengths. It's enough work just to maximize them.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Success occurs in a blinding flash of the obvious.

   Many people imagine that there are some secret handshakes and special software programs that lead some people to be more successful than others. In some instances, there is probably some amazing alchemy that occurs and a new business and fortune are born. I've never seen it, but it's the stuff of legend.

   But, on the side of town where the other 99.9% of business is conducted, it is the obvious that delivers success. Being completely committed, saying thank you, keeping notes, all the sort of things which would appear routine. Maybe they should be, but they aren't. People goof up all the time on the most elementary issues. Probably because they don't seem to require training and instruction, so they're just assumed to be "handled." Nope. It doesn't happen.

   Because everybody thinks they'll happen, they don't. The note about the clients' sons karate tournament doesn't get jotted down, the handwritten thank you for an order is carelessly forgotten. The bathroom someone forgets to clean. All seemingly trivial, but they aren't. These are the fundamental levels you have to execute on to win.

   Sure it's awesome to have a new way to analyze client data, to have a new gizmo that goes "bing". But if you don't execute on the basics, they're won't be any data to analyze. Your competition will do a better job on what clients actually care about, and walk away with what you long assumed to be yours.

   A friend of mine told me after I wrote 'Alphabet Success', "Tim, most of this stuff is common sense." to which he added, "I have put the nine acronyms on the wall so I don't forget them". Perhaps not so common after all.

   It's not that I'm a genius. Quite the contrary. But in watching sport teams, and businesses and people I observed one common phenomena about success. The basics, the obvious things, are what matter. 

   Care about people both inside and outside the business, make it easy for staff to do the important work, be forever grateful to everyone who buys from you, to people for showing up for work, for all the key elements of your business. Say what you'll do and then do that! 

   Through whatever method possible, be sure you are fundamentally sound on the "obvious" before embarking on a quest for nuance. The right logo won't help a crappy company. A good looking suit won't overcome a lack of knowledge. 

  What will make you successful won't be the topic of a TV series, it won't be retold as a fireside tale by teenage campers, and it's not going to be the subject of a spell-binding novel. 

   Success occurs in a blinding flash of the obvious. Now go see how "obvious" you can be.

NOTE: The phrase "blinding flash of the obvious" was lovingly stolen from Tom Peters. Because it was the obvious thing to do...Thanks Tom.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

You only pay for the kindness you don't give.

   John, an insurance salesman walked into the offices of a medium-sized construction firm. He'd been looking forward to this meeting, as he'd always wanted to get their business. He had heard the company had been around for many years.

   The older woman at the desk asked if she could help him and he confidently blurted out, "I have an appointment with Mike, the owner." She replied, "It'll just be a minute, please have a seat." More or less ignoring her he stood looking out the window of the office. She then remarked, "Mike's on his way up." He silently continued looking out the window, thinking about the commissions he'd make on this sale and that it'd be a great down payment on a new Porsche.

   Mike arrived, and invited the salesman to his office. They got along quite well, and shared stories about some of their mutual acquaintances. John then gave a flawless pitch on the benefits of obtaining insurance through his firm. Mike was clearly impressed. He told John that they'd be very interested in his offerings.

   Just then, Mike's phone rang. He answered, and just stood listening. "Right, right. OK, I see." he quietly said. He then hung up the phone, and turned to John. "I think we're going to have to pass John." he informed him. John was stunned. Everything had gone so perfectly. He then asked Mike, "I thought you were interested. What happened?" 

   Mike then replied, "The woman at the front desk is my mother. She's been the owner of the company since my father died years ago. She told me you ignored her and informed me that I could not, under any circumstances, buy anything from you." John recalled his casual indifference with deep regret. He started to say, "But, Mike, I didn't..." John cut him off, saying, "There's nothing left to say, thanks for stopping by."

   He then silently escorted him to the door.

   Moral: You only pay for the kindness you don't give. 

   Alphabet Success, your personal step-ladder to success.  To buy, click here. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Internet, where big business gets in touch with it's inner sociopath.

  After engaging a little on Twitter yesterday I ended up at a site called There you'll find a half hour video that, while geared to user interface designers is easy enough for a lay person to follow. The video is an examination of the tricks used online by businesses to upsell us and or trick us into unwanted products and/or services.

   The most devious user of this in their presentation is Ryanair (a European discount carrier). As a former customer I was well aware of the numerous permutations they put you through in an effort to shake some change out of your pockets. If you are unfamiliar, the default on nearly every booking selection is for you to buy something. You have to opt out of darn near everything. Mind you all this is a conscious design decision on their part. They are purposeful in their effort to trick you into buying things you do not need. 

   While I understand "business is out to make money" Ryanair's tactics seem positively sinister compared with Southwest Air (US-based discount carrier). While Southwest has plenty of extras on offer for you to click on, but at no point do they attempt to hoodwink you into an inadvertent purchase. The two airlines have somewhat different business models with Ryanair being almost completely al la carte. But that hardly excuses the larceny on their website.

   This leads to my more fundamental question, have we become so jaded by the web that we are now willing to excuse what would have previously been inexcusable behavior?

  Imagine if the behavior of a physical store was the same as their internet site. What if a clerk walked around putting things into your shopping cart based on what you had already selected? Or perhaps added insurance on durable goods without asking first? My suspicion is that you'd be outraged. On the internet, we just seem to accept it. Odd. 

   Moreover in the "life as the Internet" concept, if the cashier rang up your purchase (including the "staff suggested" items) you are almost incapacitated in your ability to return the purchased goods. Would you stand for the same behavior in a live situation as you do in a web situation? If not, why not? Aren't the situations just different implementations of the same transaction?

   Has the web desensitized us to bad behavior? It certainly seems the rules have changed, and for now, many businesses seem to be getting in touch with their inner sociopath. That's reprehensible, but I am even more disgusted at the bleating acquiescence of the masses. 

   From now on, try to follow a simple rule: If you wouldn't tolerate behavior from a bricks and mortar merchant, don't tolerate it on the Internet. We have a voice, but we must open our mouth if it's going to be heard. 

    Alphabet Success, your personal step-ladder to success.  To buy, click here. 

If you want to improve your self-worth stop giving other people the calculator.

   Measuring your own value is a very difficult proposition. On one hand you need to hold your own counsel, but a bit too much of that and you'll veer off course into a quagmire of arrogance. 

   One thing is for sure, if you leave it up to others to give you your value, the "price fluctuations" will make you crazy. Friends and family are awesome, and a very important part of life. But in the end, the person who has to live in your skin is you, not them. 

   Set your goals and standards, and as long as you make progress toward them, give yourself a cheer. If you veer of course, figure out why without beating yourself into oblivion. The path is never straight, at least in my experience.

   Be happy, appreciate both your victories and failures. And remember, if you want to improve your self-worth stop giving other people the calculator.

    Alphabet Success, your personal step-ladder to success.  To buy, click here. 


Friday, April 18, 2014

How'd that book get here?

   In the summer of 2000 I was driving to some sales calls. As usual my mind was wandering  It came to a sudden halt on the idea of writing a book. The thought of sharing the things that I learned along the way was interesting to me. While I had read and enjoyed many business books in the past, I wanted to do something different. 

   As I thought about it, the idea was increasingly appealing. However, I felt many "success" books gave you a bunch of information that, while valuable, was not easily remembered. After a bit of thinking I decided to use the alphabet so I could break down the "lessons" into nine acronyms that would make remembering them easier. An idea was born.

   Later that day I sat in my office and wrote out the following outline:

ABC - Always Be Committed  
DEF - Don't Ever Forget (to say thank you)
GHI - Getting Highly Inspired
JKL - Just Keep Looking
MNO - Make Notes and Observations
PQR - Pursue Quantitative Results
STU - Start Teaching and Understanding
VWX - Value with X-factor
YZ - Yellow Zebra

   While the book took over ten years for me to get around to writing, editing and finishing, the alphabetic outline survived. The reason is simple. In the time between then and now, my opinion didn't change. Learning has to be memorable.

   Will the book "make" you a success? No. That'd be a silly commitment to make. Will it make you better prepared to succeed? Absolutely. If success were on a shelf, my book is a step ladder to give you a hand getting there.  You'll have to put work into it, but that's true of any approach to improvement. What's more, I think you'll be able to easily recall the essence of every chapter due to the acronym anchor provided for each one. 

   Now you have the challenge of taking action. Knowing about my book won't make you better, but reading it will. I did my part. Click here to do yours: Buy the book, be better.  



If you want a new tomorrow, then make new choices today.

   It's fun to imagine a bright new tomorrow, but a bit harder to alter today to steer toward that tomorrow. There are so many things we put time into that we find to be "normal". Our friends, our family, our food, our work, the list goes on and on. If today is out of kilter, it usually took a bit of time to reach that state. 

   My most recent example is food. After quitting smoking a few years ago, I have managed to put on weight like a mother expecting quadruplets. Clearly my exercise is not keeping pace with my fork. In fact, it's not much of a competition. The fork is doing an end zone dance after scoring repeatedly. Choices...

   Having been a competitive athlete most of my life (even when I was smoking) this is all a bit new. But I'm determined to make sure it becomes a novel memory, the "tubby era" or something like that. 

   It won't be wished away. If only, right? 

   It is going to require some coincident choices be made pronto, like the decision to write this and put some psychological pressure on myself. A start, but the fork also needs to be put under a strict probation, and exercise needs to move to the front of the cue. 

   The hardest part is breaking all the little routines that have developed to ensure that the plan doesn't become a lining on the bottom of a bird cage. To that end, I'm out the door to exercise (torture myself) at the gym.

   It won't be easy, but I can't accept the future looking like the present. So I have to make new choices today in order to change tomorrow. 

    Alphabet Success, your personal step-ladder to success.  To buy, click here. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Humanity is underrated, but it outperforms.

 A few years ago I was at Joe's Stone Crab on Miami Beach. A friend and I were sitting at the bar waiting for a table, as Joe's doesn't take reservations. So we chatted at the noisy bar and had a couple of drinks. 

  After a while the wait seemed to be a bit too long, even for Joe's which can be a little slow in getting around to seating you. Aside from a few serious Miami players, everybody waits, so it's just part of going there. That said, I decided to ask the maitre d' for an estimate of when our table would be ready. 

   Once I managed to break through the throngs of people I got the maitre d's attention and we located my name on the list. Upon which he informed me, "I called your name about ten minutes ago."  Having no reason to doubt him, I said, "Oh, well I guess I didn't hear you. Do we have to start over? What's the process?" While I didn't want to sit another ninety minutes, there was no point being pushy with someone who deals with pushy people in 15 second intervals.

   He looked at me for a second, and then said, "just stand over there" and motioned to the side of the vestibule. We did as instructed. Within seconds we were whisked away by "Bones" who is the a long-time fixture at Joe's. He took us to a nice table, handed us menus, thanked us and departed. The perusal of the menus began.

    Within a minute or two our waiter arrived and asked about our drink order. We asked for a couple glasses of white wine as well as some water. A few minutes later the waiter returned with a bottle of white wine. I mentioned we had just wanted a couple of glasses. He then explained that the wine had been sent to us by the maitre d. I was floored. I couldn't imagine why.

   After inquiring, Bones returned and explained, "We have people miss the call for their table all the time, and it ends up with an argument and them making a fuss. You were so calm and respectful, we just wanted to say thank you." Wow! It still floors me. What an impression.

   Here it is, over ten years later, with over thirty years of patronizing the restaurant and that's still my defining moment at Joe's. Many great dinners, and fun times, but that memory is right at the top of the heap. It's the reason I still go there every time I am back in Miami, and will continue to do so. 

   The point is that a single gesture, made with such humanity, has incredible power. Joe's is a Miami Beach institution. If I stopped visiting, I don't think there would be a noticeable difference in their revenues. But it is because they have that humanity that the restaurant continues to be "the place" to for anniversaries and birthdays in Miami. Your customers aren't units, they're people. When you relate to them as people, that makes a pretty huge impact. 

  When you're planning for success, don't forget the simple premise that people matter greatly. In fact, they probably matter much more than many more "sexy" ideas. 

   Humanity is underrated, but it outperforms.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Inspiration gives you a start, endurance gives you a victory.

   We all love an exciting new idea. Something that gets us PUMPED UP! The adrenaline gets flowing, and we're ready for action. This seems like the moment when our future is decided. Well kind of, but not really.

   Such moments are not all that rare, and if that were the magic elixir for success, there would be a whole lot more of it happening. If inspired people all went out and remade the world, the place would look much different I suspect. 

   What happens is people get really fired up, and then most of them calm down and go back to what they were doing before. There are obviously exceptions but, in general, the inertia of life pulls them back into their old pattern of behavior. 

   There's a second element, which is essential to make inspiration more than a wisp of thinking that passes by, which is endurance. Once inspired, if we begin working toward realizing the idea in our mind, and keep on working toward it relentlessly, then some magic happens. We start moving toward what we had previously only imagined.

   I'm not aware of any success stories where inspiration alone did the job. You need a large quantity of endurance to make success out of inspiration. Endurance doesn't make for a great headline or spectator sport. It's the slow grind late at night, throwing out mistakes and trying again and again. Trying over and over to translate inspiration to reality. 

   That's the nature of success. There is the glory of the idea which makes for compelling copy and a dramatic storyline. The rest of the process can be tedious, boring and at times, heartbreaking. It's not easy to make something new appear in the world. But there are few shortcuts, it's just putting in the time and slogging away until the idea starts to come together.

   Like I said: Inspiration gives you a start, endurance gives you a victory.

    Alphabet Success, your personal step-ladder to success.  To buy, click here. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Don't underestimate the power of being underestimated.

   In 1950, in the final round of the World Cup, Uruguay faced the presumed winner Brazil.  The Brazilian newspaper O Mundo had printed an early edition on the day of the game with a photograph of Brazil and the caption "These are the world champions". The Brazilian players each had limos with their name on them to escort them away from the game after their victory. A victory that was in the eyes of virtually everyone, a forgone conclusion.

   Among those not so convinced were the players of Uruguay. They were enraged by the smug attitude of Brazil to think they could easily take a victory. To frame this, you must imagine one pre-game locker room filled with the Brazilians who were relaxed, awaiting to dispense with their inferior neighbors. In the other locker room were the Uruguayan players with every reason to prove them wrong. All this was unfolding on Brazil's home turf in Rio de Janeiro. 

   With everyone expecting a victory, including the FIFA organizers who had prepared solely for a Brazilian victory (even preparing medals in advance with Brazilian players names on them), the teams took to the field. At the end of the game, Uruguay had prevailed with a score of 2-1. The had beaten Brazil in their own backyard, against what were considered insurmountable odds. Why? Because they held the power of being underestimated.

   Clearly, being underestimated is not, on it's own, enough. But letting your opponent enjoy the feeling of an advantage is a powerful tactic. Anyone who thinks they have victory before the game begins is taking a huge risk. It leads to both an undue lack of mental preparedness as well as providing the competition with an added incentive to win. 

   When it comes to talking about the competition in business, life, or sport; let the them do the talking, while you are busy "doing". While they promise the moon, you prepare to deliver it. Let them have a high opinion of themselves. I've even hinted agreement with my competition's hype, if only in words. But when it comes time to "play", hold nothing back. 

   Let them discover, to their surprise, the power of being underestimated.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Innovation requires communication. The case of the reverse twisting buzznut.

   When I was in my third year of university I decided to launch a business wherein students would submit a resume to my database (pre-Internet) and I would in turn market their resumes to companies based on their selection criteria. Not a wildly different model from or other career sites today.

   There was just one problem. In 1985, there weren't a whole lot of people thinking about databases, there was no to compare myself to, and in general few people understood what I was talking about. Thus the innovation dilemma. Great to have a new idea, but people don't generally buy things that they don't understand.

   Fast forward a year, I was out of money and patience (not that either were especially abundant previously) and simply folded up my tent and went on to other things. But the lesson of those days did remain. When you invent or present the world with a new idea, you better be able to very simply explain the concept, because people aren't going to hang around for a class on the subject. 

   The easiest explanations are those that allow the audience to reference an existing idea. If, for instance, I mentioned that I had an amazing new type of donut, you'd have an image and usefulness in your mind already. It might not be exactly what I was doing, but it would likely be close. But if I said I had a reverse twisting buzznut to help with your laundry, you'd be understandably in need of further information.

   The reverse twisting buzznut might be awesome and filled with benefits. But until the potential buyers understand the product sufficiently to become "actual" buyers your cash is going out the window. The idea will only make it when someone emerges with the resources and skills to get the message out effectively. 

  If you happen to be an innovator, you must also be a communicator, or have access to one. In most instances it would be best if it is a different person. The innovator/inventor inherently understands the product/service, and that's not usually a great starting point for explaining it to others. 

  Without communication, innovation will languish in isolation. A lonely reverse twisting buzznut sitting dusty on the shelf.



Sunday, April 6, 2014

Persistence, patience and the elusive squirrel.

   Patience and persistence are two widely admired characteristics. Rightfully so, as they contribute to a broad array of accomplishments. There is just one problem, on their own, they are pretty useless.

    To illustrate my point, my old dog "Patches" loved to chase squirrels. He held on to this passion into the final years of his life. Moreover, he wasn't just passionate about the chase, he truly wanted to catch them. It consumed him to even see a squirrel in our yard. He demanded to be released to pursue his quarry.

   In fourteen years of diligent pursuit of squirrels, never giving less than his absolute all, he caught exactly zero squirrels. So much for persistence and patience. On their own, those two attributes have great potential; for comedy. To be effective they must be tied to intelligence. In that regard, Patches was sadly lacking. A lovely dog, but dumber than a bag of hammers.

  If you want your persistence and patience to pay off, you need to add a nice healthy dose of thinking to interpret the feedback you get from your efforts. By using that feedback you can adjust your efforts and continually get closer to your goal. 

   Sometimes, we just need to switch races. By all means, put in an effort. Just be prepared to use the feedback you get honestly. Be willing to accept that you're doing a "Patches" and putting a lot of effort into a losing idea. 

   Maybe you're just not meant to catch squirrels. 



Saturday, April 5, 2014

Hey, gotta a few minutes? The incredible force of consistent action.

   If you ever decided to join a gym, and were a little too "excited" the first day, you have probably experienced the difficult reality that you can't change a few years of idleness with an hour of spirited exercise. Not to mention discovering muscles you had forgotten about.

   A better, longer lasting approach is to bring new habits into your life that are a change, but not such a dramatic one that you may not stick with it. Because sticking with it is what will get you to your goal. 

   It could be writing for ten minutes, or walking around the block. Pick something you won't need to do much to put into your schedule. Something "bite sized" that moves you toward your goal.

   Just be sure that whatever it is, you do it every day, without fail for about a month. By then you'll be on cruise control. It will be automatic. While you may not achieve your goal in that month, you will likely have made progress toward it. You can always upgrade your efforts as you go along. But just keep at it.

   Excitement is no match for persistence in achieving goals

   Best wishes! This approach has worked for me, I hope it works for you too. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

The biggest obstacle to your success is in your mind.

   Occasionally I get involved in conversations about the means by which people get ahead in life. While I am quite aware there are some seriously corrupt people in the world, the majority of my high achievement friends got there the old fashioned way. Hard, persistent, intelligent work and a bit of luck.

   The reason I'm bothering to write about this is that the idea that you have to sell your soul and be corrupt is both false and disempowering. It sends a message that getting ahead is impossible without some sort of magic contact list coupled with a dearth of ethics. In fact, I'd say the opposite is true, and now more than ever.

   The flattening of the barriers to communicate about a product or service, along with the myriad of outsourcing opportunities have allowed a great number of new entrants into most markets. There is so much niche territory at the edges of markets that big companies simply cannot manage to keep up with their nimble competition. Opportunity abounds.

   Is it easy to succeed? Nope. But it is completely possible, and the barriers to entry for many fields are lower than ever. Don't be misled. Most markets are open to people with the ability to use some empathy and apply that into a meaningful market offering. No special contacts, and no secret handshakes are required.

  Believe in yourself and make a difference. The only thing holding you back, is you.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Never give up your right to be wrong, and be sure to give others that right too.

   Why would we want the right to be wrong? Don't we want the right to be right? No, if the world is going to move forward, we want the right to be amazingly wrong. 

   Imagine if the rule for learning to walk was pass or fail. If you could not walk at the right moment, you were fitted with leg braces and sent off - consigned to the label of "non-walker" forever. Perhaps this seems an exaggeration. But we do this with people all the time. 

   The key to mastery is effort and time. For some, mastery takes longer. But the end result may actually be superior expertise compared to the person for whom it came easily. Why? Because we learn from our mistakes. All those blunders provide an information set on what to do in the future.

   For the best levels of expertise we need to embrace more than one path to success. We can't just pick the front runners early and "label" the rest as incapable. But, we like our human filing cabinets. This person is one of "these", that person is one of "those". It's neat and clean. Except when it's us being stuck into a particular drawer or onto a certain shelf.

   Because in our heart we know it's rubbish. The whole reason we like the "filing cabinets" is because figuring people out is messy. Many of us are more bright than our transcript lets on. Most of us have a topic we are interested in, but are too timid to pursue. So we'd under perform on knowledge but over perform on interest.

  It's worth it to evaluate each other with greater depth. In a world going shallow, go deep. Be willing to accept mistakes from both yourself and others. Pursue mastery right through a barrage of errors. Everytime we fail we get a bit better. 

  Suddenly we can be better than the best, a breakthrough occurs and we are soaring. After sloppy results and discouraging reviews, we jump ahead. We discover something new that benefits the world. A moment which requires our patience and that of those around us.

  Never give up. Never give up your right to be wrong, and be sure to give others that right too.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Goals should be like bread. Baked fresh daily.

   Hi there!

  Forget about what happened before, start fresh now...

  Here are a few tips on making something happen in (the remaining nine months of) 2014. 

  Some folks will disagree with my suggestions, but tough tiddliwinks.

  How to set goals, the quick version:

   1. Keep it simple, measurable, and in spite of the "soar with eagles" chatter, within reasonable grasp. Complexity messes up your thinking, measurement is essential, and by finding some things you can get done with a modest effort, you can always reset your target with the confidence gained from round one.

   2. Find a way to give your goals some synergy. Losing weight? How about a 5k run as another goal? The training will help with your other goal of losing weight. Losing weight will make running easier. Or if you want to read more, then add joining a book club. You get the idea. 

   3. Write it down! Commit it to a friend! - Everyone says this. Why? Because it works. Writing it down makes you internalize it. It's harder to forget. If you put it somewhere (like your calendar) it will keep staring you in the face. Good. Tell a friend too. They can also stare you in the face! If you have someone who will give you a friendly nudge, take advantage of it. Big help.

  4.  Don't be too rigid. Things go wrong. Adjust and move on. Rigid thinking is what puts goals on the shelf for another year. Relax a bit and if something goes wrong, dust yourself off, adjust and keep plodding along. You'll make it!

   5. Whatever you do - this is critical. Have fun. The more fun your goals are to reach, and the more fun you inject into the mindset, the more likely you'll make it happen. Fun: have it!

   Get your PEN and PAPER. Make it happen. Don't clean a drawer. Don't have a bagel. Move your life in a better direction for (the rest of) 2014. 

   Have fun. Really. Lot's of fun.

   Happy (almost) New Year.

You've got to risk the terrible and pathetic, in order to get to the graceful and elegant.

   If you haven't been bad at something recently, then you probably haven't tried anything new. The awkward bumbling of trying the unfamiliar is something many adults don't encounter very often. A pity, since the mastery of just about everything starts out badly. As toddlers we bumped and scraped our way to walking, which most of manage quite easily now. But often there are scars to show our early efforts.

   You've got to risk the terrible and pathetic, in order to get to the graceful and elegant. Nobody is born a ballet dancer or a piano player. Try, fail, try again, fail better, and so on, until there is something there worth showing off.

    In a world of rapid change, getting used to trying new things is pretty important. Fumbling with editing a video, sorting out a new app on your phone, wrestling with pronouncing a few words in an unfamiliar language are all the sorts of things you'd be advised to suffer through. Because you'll either be involved in the changing world, or left behind bewildered by it.

   So, go on - be terrible; it's the key to greatness. 


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Thanks for everything Dad!

   Today marks seven years ago that my dad walked off the mortal coil and into eternity.

   While I miss him, everybody goes sooner or later. He was looking out at his beloved garden transitioning into spring when it happened. I guess if you have to check out, that's a pretty good place to exit. As always, well done Dad.

   It's nice to reflect back in gratitude at all the things he did, tolerated, encouraged, and prevented in the course of my life. I'll not burden you with the lengthy list, but please take it on faith I was not an easy project.
  If you are fortunate enough to have your parents around, take the time to say thanks. Some parents are blessings directly, and others require a more creative skill set to admire, but with few exceptions, they kept us fed and provided a roof. For most of us, much more than that.

   So take the time to say thanks, and be grateful. While you're at it, work diligently to be worthy of the thanks of the people in your life. Create a lasting circle of gratitude.

   Thanks again Dad. I miss you.


Leadership, fear and reality.

   Some situations seem truly, no win. Omega had a sales rep who, while hugely popular, had defied all instruction and was badly under performing. 

   Having answered the question, "Can this be fixed?" with a no, it was time to move on. But firing someone sucks in the best case. Dumping everyone's buddy was going to be doubly hard. Ugh.

   Summoning the requisite courage, the conference room got booked, and the firing happened. Strangely easier then expected. When the employee has been talked with enough beforehand, goodbye becomes a formality. 

   On to face the throngs with the news. With a heavy heart, I share news of the parting. "That took long enough.", one rep commented. Adding, "We thought they'd have been gone long ago." I'm stunned as heads begin nodding in agreement.

   What I had thought would be stunning news was already baked in as a foregone conclusion. In short, for not the first time, the staff were way ahead on the problem. Everyone was waiting for me to take action.

   The moral of the story? Most decisions I have faced running a business were on the staff's radar already. In fact, I think most knew before me that something needed to happen. The real problem was my own fear. Fear that I'd disrupt the harmory of things.

   In fact, there was no harmony. People were waiting for my decision. In leadership, the announcement of news is often received as"about time". Adjust your fears accordingly.