Life Lessons From Benjamin Franklin

I like this post. If you read anything about personal development at all then there’s nothing new in it but there’s also no harm in reminding yourself of a few key traits of successful people. It brings to mind the harsh but true statement “If you don’t get what you want, you get what you deserve.”

Life Lessons From Benjamin Franklin – Business Insider.

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Did you write out your goals today?

There is some much quoted but totally made up story about research done at Harvard (or according to some it was Yale but as it never happened the location is academic [Get it?] ;)) where only 3% of grads had written down their life goals and 25 years later those 3% were worth more than the 97% combined.  Sadly this is total horses**t but as Brian Tracy apparently said when confronted with the news that the research he quoted was made up “If it’s not true it should be.”  

The simple fact is that writing out goals works. Unbelievably well.  So well in fact that I have to write out one of my longterm goals which contains a figure for my net worth in five year’s time with the additional words “through my own efforts.” This is incase by writing it out I was to bring about the untimely demise of my mother or father-in-law, both of which events would achieve that net worth figure but not in the way that I intended.  You have to be quite specific sometimes.

For instance last year I wrote that I wanted to “Make the final table in a poker tournament in Las Vegas before the end of the year”.  I entered just one event, there were 24 of us, I made the final table but was knocked out 8th without having made the money.  I meant that I wanted to make money at the final table but I hadn’t written that out so how awas my sub-conscious to know.  It did its job but as they say in computer programming, “GIGO”.

I write out my goals most days and feel bad when I don’t.  I have no real idea how it works so well but it does.  Just yesterday for instance I had written that one of my goals for the end of May is to hit a certain target weight.  Travelling home from a conference I stopped at Tim Horton’s fast food joint in the airport for the healthiest thing on the menu and I swear that the following happened.  I thought that I deserved a little treat so my conscious mind told my mouth to ask for lasagna plus a boston creme doughnut.  What I actually asked for was a lasagna plus a 12 grain bagel.  Huh?  I have absolutely no knowledge of any conscious though about the virtues of a bagel versus a doughnut but that was what I asked for.  I must have looked a little odd when I looked confused after making my request.  Where did that come from?  I honestly expected me to ask for a doughnut and I asked for a bagel.  Stuff like that happens when you are delibarate enough about your goals to write them down.  It wasn’t the best choice in the world but it was the best available.

So if you are going to try it out and write our some goals, how many should you have?  It depends.  More than 2, less than 25.  It’s up to you and how big they are.  I have four.  They should cover work, health, personal life and any other areas that you deem important.  Don’t make it all about the money.

Can you type them once and cut and paste each day?  NO, NO and NO again.  Something amazing happens when you write it out longhand with a pen or pencil.  Do it often and you’ll freak yourself out about how well they work.

Write them out as if you already have the goal attained. e.g. On 1 June 2012 I weigh 174lbs or less and have a resting heartbeat of 58 or less.  Make them SMART goals (Google that if this is new to you).

I could do a 3 hour workshop on the topic so a short blog can’t begin to do it justice but if I’ve made you interested in learning more then it’s mission accomplished for a Sunday evening.

Good luck.  I’m going to write mine out now because I forgot to do so this morning.  A small mistake but I was taking a pause (see previous blog).

Stop Working More Than 40 Hours a Week | Inc.com

In line with my last blog about pausing. Here is a good little article expounding the virtues of working fewer hours. Go tell this to the Big 5 in Consultancy and Accounting. Wake up partner, you’re fooling no-one!

Lessons from Sheryl Sandberg: Stop Working More Than 40 Hours a Week | Inc.com.

Businesses are like stocks – funnily enough

If you listen to the best investors in stocks of FX or commodities they’ll tell you that you should know when you’ll get out before you get in. That means having a stop-loss set in case your gamble (because that is what it is) goes wrong and a set point at which you’ll cash out if you are right. How many entrepreneurs think that way?

Quite a lot actually. They think “I’ll not spend anything on this venture but maybe when I turn a profit Google/Amazon/Yahoo/Apple/Facebook will buy me for a billion dollars.” Good luck.

Any business needs a plan and maybe’s and plans don’t mix. Hey, I’m not saying that all plans are firm and as a former soldier I know as well as anyone that no plan survives contact with the enemy or reality (and my enemies, thankfully, were all pretend ones). But you must have a plan. That includes an exit plan. At least have an idea how you will get out and please don’t leave your baby at the mercy or whim of a huge faceless organization o decide if it has any value or not. Work out who will want this living, breathing organization and create an entity to attract that buyer. Who will tend to it, help it grow better that you could, who will nurture it best? f you can’t work that out then at least work out what the sucker who will buy it will look like but please don’t leave it to fate or try and work it out in five year’s time. Five years will leave you in the same place or the wrong side of an optimal exit.

The Power of the Pause

As a culture we are all pretty much geared to being on the go the whole time.  I know that I indulge my A.D.D. tendencies far too much, through listening to podcasts when driving, watching TV when eating, having 6-8 websites open at a time and sometimes trying to edit two documents at the same time.  We just have WAY too much on our plates and we’ve lost (or ignore) the ability to stop.

And yet there are several clear examples of when pausing is good for us. In fact it’s great and it helps others too.  Let’s explore those and maybe regain our ability to stop when we need to:

1.  In a conversation:  “Don’t fill the silence.”  I was recently in a negotiation with a new team and we hadn’t taken time to fully connect before the meeting so it was an ‘invigorating exercise’ in off-the-cuff discussions and I had to work very hard to keep the parties on-track and focused.  One thing that stood out though was how one of the negotiating parties had an absolute inability to sit with the silence.  As soon as a topic sounded like it was winding up he always started on another topic or offered a concession to avoid an awkward pause.  I felt like kicking him and on a couple of occasions had to be very direct to ensure that the other party made the next move or comment.  I believe that in this case the over-talkative party lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in concessions to the person opposite.  

In your next meeting make it a point to sit with the silence until your counterpart can bear it no longer and they start to talk.  See how much more YOU get from that conversation.

2.  In speeches:  The power of a correctly placed pause in a speech is undeniable.  It almost bounces off the walls and rings around the room.  Your audience has the opportunity to replay what you just said in their head and create neural pathways that will last.  It is a profoundly powerful tool yet so few speakers use it.  They allow either their time to talk to be so short or they try to cram in so much information that there is no “spare” time to pause.  As a speaker you have to pick your moments and stop.  It draws the audience in and makes your message infinitely more impactful.

3.  In action or inaction:  “Look before you leap.”  We can never guarantee that any decision that we make will work out how we intended but pausing before acting, however briefly, will allow some time for us to do a gut check, listen to our inner-voice.  Getting in touch with that little inner voice and knowing when to listen to it and when to ignore it is an essential skill.  Sometimes it sprays you with fearful reasons to not act that can be ignored and other times it is your intuition screaming at you to listen.  Knowing the difference can only be achieved by conscious effort to learn to discern the motives and understand the nuances of each voice.  That knowledge can only be achieved if you pause long enough and often enough to listen.

4.  Time away:  On a larger scale we need to pause our working lives on a regular basis to allow time for creative thoughts to flourish, to reconnect with those who are really important to us and to recreate ourselves.  In my native land of England four weeks vacation is the standard minimum.  Senior managers routinely earn six or seven week’s vacation.  That is a week off every two months or a two week vacation nearly every quarter.  Now in practice that rarely plays out and few take their full allotment but senior players feel no guilt in regularly being out of the office on vacation.  Compare that to North American culture where employers think that two weeks vacation should be sufficient to maintain acceptable levels of performance.   This is the kind of BS that I want to expose in this blog.   In my last corporate role as a director I was allowed four weeks vacation and even that left me feeling depleted.  As a business owner I allow myself as much time off as I need to feel energized and I am far more productive as a result.

If you are an employer then I urge you to review your vacation policy.  Give your people four weeks vacation as a minimum and make sure that two of those are mandated to be taken consecutively to ensure that they get a proper opportunity to wind down.  If your business can’t cope without someone being there for two weeks then there’s a clue for an area to focus on.

 

5. Napping/Meditation:  I would assert that as humans we have not evolved to work eight or ten hours per day straight at a steady level.  We fool ourselves if we think that we are productive for that amount of time on a consistent basis.  We need peaks and troughs in activity.  One way to recharge and give yourself that contrast in your day is to periodically nap for 15-20 mins once per day or to take 2-3 opportunities for a 7 minute meditation session.  Look out for Get Appy on Android (to be released next week and on I-phone later in 2012) which helps you to manage your meditation.

 

So there are five simple ways that you can inject pauses into your life for dramatic and powerful effect.  I encourage you to try them in your life and business and see how they work for you.  Now close down your PC for 20 mins and take that nap that you know you need.

Don’t say I didn’t tell you….Business Plans are essential.

Sit Down Now and Write That Business Plan Opinion | Entrepreneur.com.

For those of you how connected with my recent blog and need a kick in the pants or for those of you who thought that it was just my preference. Enjoy this read.

Social Media Gurus Piss Me Off

Just like any small business owner I am bombarded by more SEO and SM advice that I can possibly handle.  It comes from all quarters.  It is full of jargon and I can barely read it or watch the videos.  For starters I just don’t have the time and secondly I find it deadly boring.   Rather than dismiss it thouh I was reflecting on why I find it all so impenetrable.  There has to be a lesson in it for me and others.  And of course I found it.  I realized three things that are universally being overlooked in the wailing from the highest tower about how good their services are:

 

  1. The clue is in the title, Social Media MARKETING.  Marketing has its place in the lifecycle of a business and it (should) always comes after the definition of an overall strategy and business concept.  Unfortunately somewhere around 90% of business never ever write down a business plan other than on a piece of scrap paper at the idea stage and of the 10% more still don’t use it as a guide.  Life just moves on so fast.  Which is why when someone comes along chirping about the importance of SEO and SM that the owner just gets on board (as they tend to do with things that offer me-too capability but rarely do with differentiating ideas). 

 

Much in the same way that the saying goes that we get the politicians that we deserve so the same is true for our media.  That holds for print and TV media and has come to be true of Social Media.  If we aren’t asking our SM experts to situate their input in the terms of an overall business concept then we’ll not get that.  We’ll get when we get which is (with a few exceptions) the appearance that your business begins with an SM strategy.  It doesn’t it beings with your overall vision, mission, values and principles for your business.  Having SM tactics (bundling them together does not make it a strategy, they are really just a lot of tactics) will get you closer to your vision but will only be effective in doing that in the context of a broader business overview.

 

That is what I discovered that most SM experts miss.  They don’t ever refer to their ability or willingness to defer commenting on how SM can help my business, to what extent, to what value until they have fully understood my vision and mission.  This is a big mistake.

 

  1. Secondly the messages are all written by SM experts.  What makes a good SM expert? Someone who loves technology, is an early adopter, is really focussed on researching and delivering great content.  What makes for a rotten SM expert?  Someone like me who far prefers a person to a PC, who believes that a  handshake is not something that two computers can do, who has so many projects on his plate that his (untidy) desk is overflowing and who believes that everyone should be just like him.  Where is the problem?  The SM guru is one personality type and they don’t seem to be able to find ways of reaching other personality types.  The guys who are becoming minor celebrities in this arena are hitting lots of hot buttons with some types of people but they are leaving others behind.  That’s fair enough but I will be giving my SM dollars to the coach/consultant who talks my language and sees life through my eyes.

 

There are plenty of courses and models to help people understand the various personality types and apply SEO type techniques to their marketing message will help to attract more attention and belief from a wider variety of people than they currently are by writing for people like them.  I use DISC as my tool to help clients understand that not everyone is like them and why that is a good thing.

 

  1. Lastly I realized that when you combine the first two points the big thing missing for me is ROI.  In DISC terminology I am a high D and I like to know what I get back in return for my investment in time and money.  I don’t know what a hit is worth and I don’t know what an eyeball is worth.  That lack of ability to attribute value to metrics is a reality for most businesses and those that think that they con do it accurately are generally kidding themselves.  Their brand and message are evolving faster than ever as is the competition, so the use of useless metrics concerns me. 

All of this goes to explain why it is that the person who gets my SM dollars is going to talk in terms of the bottom-line and they will know the impact that they will have because they will have understood my strategy and my other marketing channels.

Business Plans and why you need one. Even a basic one.

If you are a business owner who doesn’t have a business plan then you’re in good company.  Well company anyway.  I am really surprised by how many businesses survive, profit and go from year to year without such basic business planning tools as P&L and cashflow forecasts.  As one author, probably Brian Tracy, put it, it is like trying to drive a car with a blanket over the windshield, looking only in the rear view mirror for guidance.  Sure you may not stray too far off the road but you have no way of avoiding potholes or even forks in the road.  All that you’ll know about an approaching obstacle is when you hit it.

If you can do one new thing this easter time to resurrect your business it should be to spend some decent, quality time planning and forecasting.  Then use that as your roadmap forwards.  

You can’t run a business without proper planning.  If you try the business runs you.  We all see owners everyday who suffer that fate, “trying to live with a tiger” as one colleague of mine puts it.  Is that company you want to keep on keeping?

10 Things Bosses Never Tell Employees | Inc.com

10 Things Bosses Never Tell Employees | Inc.com.

I think that the title of this should replace the never with ‘Rarely’. In the blog the author says that the owner/boss CAN NEVER say these things to employees. Rubbish. They rarely do but, depending on the employee, the boss and the situation I think that all of the statements are perfectly reasonable discussions to have with employees. They are humans in a subordinate role not subordinates per-se. When I was employed it frustrated me no end that bosses were not more human and I got on best with and gave most to the bosses who were open.

I knew that they were playing a game so the less they pretended that they weren’t the more respect that they got from me.

I understand that not every employee is able to deal with the honesty that I am advocating but asserting that NO employees are able to cope with it is damaging nonsense.

Bosses, use your judgement and open up where your people need you to open up. Be vulnerable and you’ll be amazed what that unleashes in your team. Creativity, loyalty, dedication, urgency. Try it you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

And if you dare not try it, do you have the right team in place? If not then work on that first.

May I respectfully disagree with Oprah?

One reason that I loathe TV with a passion is the way that it dumbs down important topics.

The truth of the message that Tony Robbins and Oprah are trying to get across is that fear is a permanent and persistent partner for all of us all of our lives. That said there are ways to work with fear so that it doesn’t stop us. What distinguishes ‘successful’ people from others is their ability to overcome their fears and act anyway. They may learn not to fear a particular thing but that is always on the far side of moving through the initial fear.

What Oprah’s script writers had her intimate is that if you ‘fix’ your mind you can live a life without fear. With respect Oprah that is horse droppings. Find me someone who fears nothing and I’ll show you someone living a tiny life well inside their comfort zone. If that’s all you want in life fill your boots but I would like to leave a somewhat larger ‘dent in the universe’ and I know that Oprah is wanting that for her audience.

Please! Everyone! When you have enough money to own your own flaming TV network, please rewrite the rules and don’t dumb down TV to sound bites that lose the essence of the message. It is tragic and frankly irresponsible to give the message that Oprah gave in this clip. It couldn’t really be more wrong.

How Tony Robbins Helped Oprah Turn Her Fear Into Power – Video – OWN TV.