Preparing to Fail is the First Step to Winning

Failure

Some of the most important lessons we learn in life are from our failures.  They serve as proof that we are trying new things, pushing new boundaries, and welcoming the unknown.  John Maxwell, the famous inspirational author, says the quality that distinguishes someone successful from one who is unsuccessful is his “capacity to manage disappointment and loss.” He goes on to say that while we all want to succeed, we should instead train for losses.

From our earliest days as children we learn to accept failure.  We fall while trying to learn how to walk, or ride a bike.  We don’t make the team we try out for, or we do make the team but as second string.  We get accepted by 4 of the 5 colleges we apply to, but that one declination stings.  Failure is everywhere.

Imagine if the world’s greatest inventors refused to fail.  Everything from the light bulb, to air travel, from the television, to the computer would be at risk.  When Thomas Edison was asked about how many times he tried for the light bulb and failed he said, “I didn’t have 1,000 failures.  It simply took 1,000 steps to make the light bulb.” Talk about an optimists attitude.

Our challenge is to rid our mind of the negative stigma associated with failure.  Human beings by nature are curious creatures.  Asking “why” leads to testing new thoughts, ideas, ways of doing things.  In the absence of curiosity we would have never discovered new lands, new civilizations, new technologies, or new medicines to treat and cure disease.  So why is it that people run from failure?

I would submit that some people believe failure shows weakness.  If you knew…you wouldn’t have failed.  Talk about an absurd viewpoint.  The famous management expert, Peter Drucker, said, “I would never promote a person into a high-level job who was not making mistakes…Otherwise he is sure to be mediocre.” Many organizations reward status-quo.  Companies that find themselves on a winning streak become complacent.  Their leadership sits back to relax and enjoy victory.  The problem is, that while you’re sitting back complimenting yourself for being so brilliant, your competition is working feverishly to disrupt your success and pass you by.  It happens every day.

So shift your thinking from having to be an expert at everything to one of a beginner…a learner.  When you’re in a learning mode your mind is open to everything that’s possible.  When you’ve decided you are an expert your subconscious shuts down your critical thinking skills creating tunnel vision.  So open your eyes, let your mind wander, and begin to think of new ways to do things.  As John Maxwell said, “Mistakes are acceptable as long as the damage isn’t too great. It doesn’t matter how much milk you spill as long as you don’t lose your cow!”

Embrace your failures…with each one you’re learning, growing, and becoming better at whatever you’re doing.

 

 

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Be An Inspiration

Inspire

What inspires you?  Perhaps a better question is who inspires you?  Who do you look to for a pick-me-up?  Someone you can always count on for a kind word, a gentle smile, and a reassuring affirmation.  They are the first person you turn to when things go sideways.  So what is it about that person that inspires you?  What traits do they possess and can you yourself be an inspiration to others?

When I think of the people who inspire me, they all possess similar traits.  They are all good listeners, strong observers, and offer great insights.  They’re able to assess a situation without bias and provide a recommendation for how to adjust or modify my thinking in order to accomplish my goals.

Being an inspiration to others requires the ultimate in authenticity.  Have you ever met someone who said they wanted to help you but instead caused your antenna to go up?  Their words seemed empty, their time felt rushed, and most likely they were not very empathetic.  Empathy is a necessary ingredient for inspiration. It’s not about sympathy.  Inspiring others doesn’t mean you allow that person to wallow in their sorrow.  No.  Inspiring others begins with empathy.  Being able to identify with someone’s struggles or challenges allows you to connect with people, build rapport, gain trust, and finally inspire them.

I’ve coached hundreds of people throughout my career, as well as others closer to home.  I enjoy helping people sort through their challenges by listening and providing perspective.  I make sure that when I’m coaching someone they know they are my #1 priority at that moment.  I turn my phone off, close my laptop, and focus on that person entirely.

We live in an age of sound bites.  There is an infinite number of inspirational sayings that are posted to Facebook everyday.  Yet nothing takes the place of speaking to another human being  about your challenges.  That real time interaction with someone who genuinely cares about you and your future is what inspiring others is all about.

There’s no class…no school to attend…no workshops that teach someone how to inspire others.  It takes time. It takes courage. It takes commitment to inspire others. Making a positive difference in someone else’s life is what inspires me to work hard to be an inspiration to others.  What inspires you?

 

Leader or Executive – Which Are You?

Washington

The dictionary defines an executive as someone who has administrative, or supervisory authority within an organization.  A leader is defined as simply one who leads.

I’ve been blessed throughout my career to have encountered some of the best leaders in the business world. Many of these leaders took a personal interest in me and my development. The coached me. Guided me. Taught me.  They invested in me. These same leaders who I once worked for have become mentors later in my career.  They are the same people I turn to for coaching and advice today who taught me years ago. They stood by my side then and they’re still with me today.

From them I learned the importance of kindness, and the power of paying it forward in the business world. And just how do you pay it forward in the business world?  By leading. Just as I had someone take an interest in developing me, I too have taken people under my wing to teach them.  Leadership is about giving not taking. Taking is easy.  Giving is tough.

Leaders inspire. They provide vision. They create excitement. Leaders instill trust. They stand firm in the face of adversity. They provide strength and confidence. Leaders create an environment where learning takes center stage.  They have a beginners attitude.  I’ve worked for plenty of executives who believe they know everything, yet I’ve never worked for a leader who behaved that way.  Leaders know that to continue leading they must continue to learn. When the learning stops, so does the leading.

The good news is that it’s a choice.  It’s a conscious choice to lead.  It takes time, courage, discipline, a sense of humor, and perhaps most importantly leadership takes commitment.  Commitment to keep learning, to keep teaching, to keep giving.  I’ll take a leader any day of the week over an executive.

Is it time to change?

The-Rol-of-Good-Communication-Skills-While-Introducing-Change

With nearly 200,000 books on “change” for sale at Amazon.com you can bet people are trying to understand change in their lives.  Whether it’s a new job, new boss, your first child, a different diet or a ruptured disc, chances are someone somewhere is trying to understand how it will affect their life.

Some companies spend years and countless resources to avoid change.  They operate under the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” model.  This mindset stifles innovation and simultaneously sends a message to employees to not try new things.  Sure we can all agree that New Coke’s introduction in 1985 was a miss.  It resulted in a drop in market share and ultimately ended in 2002 as Coke brought back the “classic”.  New Coke however represented a change.  It represented innovation regardless of the outcome.  Think about it.  Steve Jobs introduced the first PDA, Newton, in 1993 and just 5 short years later it was discontinued.

So when should you change?  Is change mandated by a timeframe?  Does your competition drive when you change?  Does your boss require you to change, or a merger that results in a new management teams arrival force a change?  Is it a measure of market share?

There’s no one way to advise someone, or a company, when the right time is to change.  My belief is that it’s better to change before change is forced upon you.  However, if you have a change mindset chances are you view change as a learning experience.  A way to grow.  A chance to expand your horizons.

In the movie, The 100 Foot Journey, Helen Mirren’s character, the owner of a one-star French restaurant who is in relentless pursuit of her second star, asks Manish Dayal’s character, a chef, why he changed a 200 year old recipe.  His response? “Maybe 200 years was long enough.”

Don’t change for the sake of change.  That’s silly.  Change because the thing you are altering, modifying, or adjusting will become better as a result of the change.  Perhaps the true result indicates the change wasn’t worth it.  I’d suggest to reevaluate a few weeks, months, or even years later.  When Steve Jobs was asked why Newton flopped yet the iPod took off, Jobs said the world simply wasn’t ready for Newton.  The infrastructure, specifically referring to the iTunes store, wasn’t ready.  Sometimes a change made today doesn’t make sense today, tomorrow, or next month.  But with time, an open mind, and a beginners attitude we can learn from all of our changes.  They instruct us, inspire us, and lead us to better outcomes.  Without change we become stagnant, static, irrelevant.  And who wants that?

How Pressure Affects Performance

Pressure

I work better under pressure.  Courage is grace under pressure.  When you work under pressure you trade perfection.  Pressure is something you feel when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.

Perhaps somewhere along the way you’ve heard someone say one of these things, or maybe you’ve been the one saying it.  Regardless, pressure takes many forms, and delivers an equally different number of outcomes.  But harnessed properly, pressure can create a winning edge in business.  I had a former boss that said, “it’s my job to back the bus up as close to the edge of the cliff as possible without going over”.  That’s pressure.

Pressure develops our ability to adapt.  Under pressure we may be tempted to look for the path of least resistance yet it’s most likely that the situation created by this pressure has already eliminated all the paths without resistance.  All that’s left are the paths that present resistance ,including conflict, confusion, and discomfort.  The better equipped we are to effectively deal with the confluence of these challenges the better we are able to succeed.

While human nature leads us to avoid pressure I would submit that seeking pressure improves performance.  Diamonds are made under enormous pressure; without it they are just rocks; carbon deposits.  But with pressure they turn into beautiful gems of great, and often times, enormous value.  Top performing athletes are molded under pressure moments.  Peyton Manning holds the record for the most 4th quarter comeback wins with 44.  By definition, comeback, means pressure.  You’re behind.  You’re losing.  That’s pressure!

Look for opportunities to experience pressure.  Volunteer for a project at work.  Offer to bat clean-up on your baseball team.  Commit to losing a certain amount of weight in a specific period of time.  Tell others that you plan to get a certification or license of some sort by the end of the year.  All of these create moments of pressure. Only in times of pressure will you be able to see what you’re truly made of.  Remember how diamonds are made, and even further how that process creates the hardest, natural-made material known to man.

Pay Attention. You’re Missing So Much.

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Pay attention.  Did you see that?  Did you notice her roll her eyes?  Did you see how he looked at his watch?  Did you hear the receptionist’s tone when she told you to hold?  Are you watching?  Are you paying attention?

Life’s all about nuances.  The little things that make all the difference.  The quick but genuine smile.  The empathetic reply you receive when you ask if Mr. Smith is in.  The notes your customer takes as you’re talking.  Or even something as simple as your 9 am appointment coming to get you promptly at 9 am.  Not 9:05 am.  Not 9:15 am.  But 9 am sharp.

In some ways we’ve become numb to life’s little nuances.  Maybe it’s our phones, social media, the internet, or maybe its Darwinism as our ability to compete, survive and reproduce evolves.  Regardless, we’re slowly losing our ability to spot things.  To recognize signs.  To pick up on the “subtle clues” a prospect gave, or in some cases the very visible and obvious clues a dissatisfied customer gives.

The next time you’re in the grocery store, department store, car dealership, or just about anyplace where there are things for sale take a moment and observe.  Look around you.  Did anyone acknowledge you?  If they did, what did they say?  Did you feel comfortable?  Did you feel confident they were asking because they had your best interest at heart?  Or did they say hello and roll right into a sales pitch?

Whether you’re a professional sales person or a marketer, your job more than any other in the company is to be in tune with these signs.  Your job is to notice things and to challenge or acknowledge them.  Only through observation can you effectively sell.  Only through observation can you begin to create a compelling story that people find interest in.  Only through observation can you begin to align your business with your customers interests.  Until then you’ll continue to slam the round peg in the square hole not because you want to, but because you don’t know any other way.  You haven’t been watching.  You haven’t been observing.

Pay attention.  Look around you.  Watch… really watch… your customer.  How they react to you and others in the office.  What did they say?  How did they say it?  What was they’re body language?  How are they observing you?

Engagement comes in all shapes and sizes.  But when we’re truly engaged, others know it.  While engagement for me may have a different physical appearance than your engagement, the fact is that true engagement creates a visible and tangible level of energy.  It can be seen and felt.  Pay attention.  Watch for it.  Recognize what it looks like.

“Nothing has the power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under they observation in life” ~ Marcus Aurelius

3 Hints to Help You Hit Your Goals in 2016: Hint #3 – Tell People

Goals

In my previous two blogs I wrote about the power of visualization, and the importance of writing down your goals with as much detail as possible.  You spent time thinking about your goal, what it looks like and feels like.  You captured those details on paper and keep it somewhere visible where you can see it daily.  Now you’re ready for the third, and perhaps the most difficult hint in helping you reach your goals.  Tell people!

Fear is undoubtedly the biggest driver for why we don’t achieve our goals.  Be it the fear of failure, the fear of getting started and not finishing, the fear of embarrassment, or the fear of having to ask for help, fear is the #1 reason people don’t accomplish their goals.

All of these fears are based upon our desire to fit in, to be accepted, to be normal.  As such we crave average.  Don’t shoot too high but don’t aim too low.  That’s the thinking of average.  Once we declare our goal publicly we’re now on the hook.  We’re staring that fear straight down.  We’re saying to the world “I will do this”, not try, not attempt, not hope to…but will.

Courage is perhaps the single greatest trait of successful people.  The courage to believe so deeply in yourself that even if you fail, you know you’re not a failure.  That same courage allows you to not be afraid to go after your dreams and accomplish your goals.  Courage enables you to tell the world exactly what you’re going to do.  This isn’t easy stuff.  But then again, nothing worth accomplishing is easy.

The fact is that most people are fearful of declaring their goals.  They immediately get bogged down by the “what ifs”.  They haven’t even given themselves a chance to start before they begin to identify all the obstacles and reasons why they’ll never do it, never make it, never get it, never reach it.

Surrounding yourself with the right people is crucial to your success. Your network should be filled with people who encourage you to go for the gold.  No one ever sets out to win bronze.  Tell your friends, your peers, your mentors exactly what your goal is.  Tell them when you’re going to reach it.  Make a declaration.  Write that down too.

Doing these 3 things will help you reach your goals, not just in 2016, but well beyond.