December 24, 2013

Emotional Buying

As logical as you think you are, most of our decisions are made purely out of emotion. 

Take a look at most commercials, advertisements and retail stores/eateries...

It's simple: we see something that appeals to us, we buy it.
shopping cart heart emotional purchase
All great brands know if you have a nice design (packaging), you significantly increase your sales.

Take for instance Costco. The reason they don't label their aisles (and frequently move around products) is because they're hoping you'll make extra "emotional buys" that you didn't plan on.

So as a consumer, how do you counter your mortal ways?


Yes, that simple. The next time you're on Amazon searching, put items on your wish list instead of purchasing them right away. I bet in a week you'll forget what you saw. If you remember, buy it then.

Emotion doesn't wait for logic, unless you command it to

Examine the last time you lost your temper. Was there really a good reason to blow your lid? (most of the time, no.)

If you pause, leave the situation briefly, then return and you'll probably respond differently. 

That's why marketing is geared toward penetrating your heart more than your mind. Brands prey on filling your emotional needs. 

We think we make decisions with our brains, but usually that's not the case. 

I'm not suggesting you become a robot, just be more mindful of how you make your decisions. 

Make sure the "cost" doesn't outweigh the verdict.

December 17, 2013

The Fragile Mind

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." 

That statement has never been more false than now...
fragile handle with care
Millennials are great at taking risks, following their dreams and are by far the most tech-savvy generation in history. The flip side is how they deal with adversity (a.k.a. not getting your way).

Take for instance the show X Factor. Contestants arrive with hopes of being the next superstar, but sometimes forget they are in a performance based competition. The best judges provide constructive feedback, yet the audience boos while the participants disagree or respond defensively. 

Newsflash: you're not the best. All your dreams won't be fulfilled. You're not as good as you think you are. 

Learn to deal with failure. Teach yourself how to cope when adversity hits. Work hard on implementing a solution. 

Today, there's an emphasis on leadership skills, but how much of that is for notoriety? Leadership is not about you. It's about guiding and developing others. Everyone can't lead at the same time. Look one is following.    

Never has coaching been more important than now. Regardless if it's for personal or professional help, that extra set of eyes and ears provides fresh perspective, objective assessment and accountability for progress. Guiding talent in the right direction is what produces victory. So get on the right path and hire a coach!

November 19, 2013

If I Could Do College Over Again

...I probably wouldn't go. What?! 

Most careers aren't linear. That means there isn't a straight/direct path to finding a job in most fields. 

Certain industries require a degree or amount of schooling to even qualify, so in those cases you have no choice. 

If you fall outside of medical, teaching, engineering, etc. your college degree isn't worth much. 

Let's take my situation as an example. I graduated with a B.A. in Psych and my first job out of college was as a Youth Pastor which had no correlation to my education. 

If I could do it all over again, these are the 3 areas I would focus on:

1) Building my Network. It's all about who you know. Friends, and friends of friends, will find you a job. They're instant referrals and immediately bridge the gap of trust. If you're not reaching out to people you know, start. If you are, keep doing it and asking for more introductions.

2) Taking more Internships. There's no way of predicting whether you'll actually like or be good at something until you do it. Experience is the best teacher. Trying different jobs is a more productive way of identifying what you want to do than dreaming is.

3) Work in Sales. Arguably the most important skill in business. You can read/talk about it, but you'll never get better at it unless you do it. Whether you want to work for someone or be your own boss, you have to learn how to sell your product, service and/or yourself. 

College sets you up for a few career options, but if it's not a prerequisite for what you're going to do after college, you've got to weigh the cost vs. benefits. College doesn't prepare you for the real world. Experience in the real world prepares you. The three skills I mentioned above can be learned prior to college. No matter where you are in your career, follow this advice and you'll significantly increase your chances to be employable. 

Side Note: As a career coach, I advise people not to apply for jobs online through third party sites like Monster, CareerBuilder & Indeed. You'd have better odds winning the lottery. In fact, studies show less than 1% get jobs through those sites. 

November 5, 2013

The Buffet Strategy

Everyone likes to eat at buffets. There are limitless choices and numerous times to return and try new things. What if I told you starting your own business is similar to eating at a buffet?
Your first plate is filled with all different kinds of foods you want to try. Most of them you enjoy, but some you don't. To me, the best part of a buffet is your "return trip." That's where you skip the things you didn't care for and get more of what you really liked.

The first business you try will be as a "fan." You may not know much about the industry or your competition. Selling your product/service can be a huge challenge. You'll underestimate how much work it takes to succeed. Some areas you'll thrive in and other tasks will stifle you. The second time around you'll choose a business you understand and sales will be your main focus. If you can't map out a plan for massive sales, you won't start it.

This point of this article isn't to say you should try to fail the first time around. Instead, statistics show it's very hard to succeed the first time you start a business. If you're smart you'll take what you've learned during the initial run and apply it towards your following businesses.

I've enjoyed being an entrepreneur, but there are so many mistakes I made the first time around. I loved what I was doing, but didn't know how to sell it. With my second business, we study our competition, created a sales strategy and measure our progress frequently. The questions I ask now are different and moving forward only happens with a sound marketing plan. 

So keep fighting for your dreams and work hard to make them a reality. Your initial attempt will be much harder than you anticipated, but absorb what you are being taught through experiences and you'll eventually get there!

October 15, 2013

Debunking the Myth of Risk

From the outside, entrepreneurship seems very risky. I'm here to tell you it's not.
Sure, I'm biased because I am one, but I'll continue from my previous post to say your corporate job isn't as safe as it appears. 

Working for a large company gives you the illusion of security, but you could easily be let go tomorrow.

Everyone desires at least partial control of their lives and if you own a business, you have more of it.

What differs mostly from being an entrepreneur is: you don't have guaranteed income regularly and you have to learn how to sell. 

It's a skill set much different than what you've learned in school. Not only are you selling a product or service, but you're selling yourself.

Is it challenging? Yes. Can anyone do it? No.

In fact you'll work longer hours and get paid less initially. If you're willing to accept that, continue moving ahead.

What's not true is that it's highly risky. Anything you do has an amount of risk. For example, there's a higher risk that you can get in a car accident than crashing while flying in a plane, but almost everyone drives daily. 

I look at it in another way. Would I rather risk and try or not and regret it for the rest of my life? This isn't as much about risk as it is about effort. If you quit your job and start a business, it's probably not the smartest decision to make (I made it myself), but as long as you try new things, not repeat the same mistakes over and connect with people who have done it before, you'll eventually get there. 

Entrepreneurship even makes you look at failure differently. Talk to any successful entrepreneur and they can tell you 10 times the amount of mistakes they've made to the few successes they've achieved. Failure becomes your teacher as long as you implement the lessons it teaches you.

So as you ponder your next idea to pursue, instead of asking yourself why you should do it, ask why not?

October 1, 2013

Side Hustle

"Side hustle" is a term used by the younger generation and aspiring entrepreneurs, but guess what?

It's becoming a reality for EVERYONE.

The skill set that college should teach, but doesn't is: how to SELL.

The days of corporate security are over. Pensions, 401K's and retirement funds are rapidly disappearing. That means you can't put all your eggs (hope, money, dreams, etc.) in one basket.

All your ideas for a side business need to be implemented NOW. 

If you currently have a job, you can lose it overnight...
If you're unemployed, it can last a long time...
If you're an entrepreneur, you have to keep evolving...

This isn't meant to scare you, but motivate you to start DOING.  

What do you have a passion for?
What experience(s) in the past has prepared you for the future?
How can you make money doing it?

Everyone wants to follow their dreams, but you need to figure out a way to get paid to do them.

I'm not telling you to quit your job and pursue you passion now. 
Instead start researching, testing and networking in the industry you want to be in. 
Get some experience, even if it's not paid, so you can learn what your customers want. 

If you do your homework now, you'll reap the benefits of your "side hustle" becoming your main thing. 
Good luck and get started NOW!

August 28, 2013

Rear View Mirror

Would you drive your car by staring into the rear view mirror instead of looking ahead?

Most would answer no, but in life there are a lot of "rear view mirror" drivers...

Let's use driving your car as a metaphor for life. It makes sense to focus on what's in front of you and be aware of your surroundings while "driving." What's in front and around you takes precedence over what's behind.

The past can help you learn from your mistakes and give you context for making better decisions, but dwelling on it can destroy you. Successful people don't sulk about their past. They recognize it and move forward. How do you know if your past is guiding you? See how often you repeat making the same mistakes over and over again.

People who live in the past make excuses. They play victim to their circumstances. They believe they have no control over what will happen next. The problem is they choose to believe all of the above is true. When you create a self-fulfilling prophecy about yourself usually it comes to fruition.

If you want to escape your past and move into your future, you've got to stop looking in the rear view mirror for answers. Your ability to "move on" is determined by your perspective.

Don't be a prisoner of your past. Be present and focus on the future. It's your choice where to look while you're "driving." What direction are you headed towards?

August 21, 2013

The People Who Run the World

Guest Post by Josh Allan Dykstra
The people who run the world do so because they care to do so.

They are not any smarter than you or me.

They don’t have access to any better information.

They’re certainly not of higher character or moral fiber (if that wasn’t proved to you in 2008-2009, you weren’t paying attention).

They don’t have more grit or resilience.

(If we’re being honest, they may very well have started with more connections or money, but that’s becoming less and less important as it gets easier and easier to connect.*)

And this is why it all comes back to “care.”

The people who run the world — those who make the rules, etc. — do so because they want to do so. The vast majority of us opt out of these decisions because it’s such a hassle to participate. We want the world to be better, but if we’re being honest, it’s just such hard work to actually make it better.

If you feel this way, you are not alone.

There are many days when I wake up and think…

Is it really worth the hassle?

Good question… for my kids and their kids, I’m pretty sure it is. Then I think…

Can one person truly make a difference?

On most days I stay convinced that’s the only way it works. Then I think…

Deep down, do I somehow enjoy banging my head against a brick wall?

No, I don’t. But if I don’t care, who will?

The thing about making a “dent in the universe” is that you often have to be the hammer doing the denting. We don’t talk about this very much. It hurts, and often times, if we’re being honest, it kind of sucks. But I’m also pretty sure it’s the only way things really change — if we care enough to actually see it through.

*The money thing is admittedly tricky because of the whole Maslow problem: unless we have our basic needs taken care of, we don’t really think about these “bigger” issues. But “need” is more relative than we give it credit for. Money is horribly distracting — most of us, particularly in the US, do NOT need as much money as we think we do. We think we have to compare ourselves with the people who were born into a higher tax bracket, but of course, we don’t. We don’t REALLY need many of those things. We’ve just convinced ourselves otherwise.

August 14, 2013

When Failure is Your Best Teacher

I remember hearing a coach say "You can't learn anything from winning, only losing." At the time I thought he was crazy, but over the years I believe that statement is true.
Nobody grows up wanting to fail, but failure is inevitable. Even if you're risk-adverse at some point you'll experience defeat. Because it's not "if," but "when" you'll encounter failure so here are some ways to shift your thinking when it comes to failing.

There are no overnight success stories. There is so much hard work put in behind the scenes that no one will ever know except the person going through it. Have you ever heard the quote, "Success is 99% failure?" If that's true it's a "numbers" game. That means the more times you try, the greater chance you'll eventually succeed (with a lot of failure along the way).

Failure has such a negative connotation to it, but maybe you should start looking at failure as a part of the journey to succeed. The better you are able to cope with and embrace failure, the less rejection and losing will sting. Most risk-takers become numb to failure because they know it's just part of the process.

Now don't misinterpret failure by attempting to experience it daily. Knowing what you should avoid and not repeating the same mistake next time around will lead you to victory. The more ambitious your goal, the more arduous the process. Any great accomplishment will encounter setbacks along the way. What matters and what you can actually control is how hard you go at it and how determined you are to try new methods and along the way.

There's nothing worse than functioning by insanity (doing the same thing over and expecting different results). If you're willing to fail, then success isn't too far ahead.

August 7, 2013

Framing Perspective & Praxis For Innovation

Guest Post by Charles Lee
Innovation, in its most foundational form, is the introduction of something new (e.g., a new idea, method, or device).
While there’s some value in defining innovation, it’s far more important to frame one’s perspective and praxis for innovation. Innovation is much more than simply introducing new things and/or ideas. Good innovation actually solves problems for the one(s) receiving its benefit. Here are some thoughts that have helped me frame how I view and approach innovation:
  • Innovation changes the current situation into a preferred one. Innovation is not simply the act of adding a new idea on top of previous ones, especially those that created the problems in the first place. Rather, it’s an endeavor to create a new reality that breaks through our current roadblocks to the future that we desire.
  • Innovation requires good problem solving and design skills. Good innovators have (1) the ability to identify, clarify, and articulate the real problem and (2) design a practical solution that people actually need. Development of these skills require lots of practice and time.  
  • Innovation moves beyond creativity to strategy, metrics, implementation, assessment, and on-going refinement. Creative ideas are not enough for innovation. Innovation is not brainstorming nor just talking about new ideas. Innovation, in order to be effective, must attach itself to intentional planning, execution, and continual refinement.
Innovation is hard work. It’s far easier just to talk about ideas that might create the change we desire. Unfortunately, ideas are impotent without action.
The good news is that once you get in the habit of acting upon your ideas, your ability to innovate will quickly improve. Furthermore, you’ll start to see noticeable change in your life, work, and play. (You can thank me later.)

July 31, 2013

3 Skills Millennials Need to Succeed

Working in a "bridge" position as a consultant between Baby Boomers and Millennials I've noticed skills that young professionals need to thrive in this economy.
Professionalism for Millennials comes down to meeting the demands of their senior counterparts. Here is what I believe are the top 3:

Speed Matters: When you receive a phone call or email respond quick. That means within 48 hours, but preferably 24. Follow up is essential and the ones who do it faster and better get the prize. Sadly, I've witnessed many missed opportunities that had nothing to do with talent or experience, instead lack of urgency. Move fast or you'll get left behind.

Improve Your "Soft" Skills: In the age of technology, communication has eroded. Texting may be easier and more convenient, but it's not professional. Want to know what impresses management? Public speaking ability. Now you need to be able to write a clean email, hold your own during a face to face conversation and command presence in an interview/ audience. It drastically increases your chances for a promotion and pay raise.

The Ability to Sell: It helps to sell a tangible product, but what you really need is the ability to sell yourself. If you are fortunate enough to have a corporate job with benefits now, start working on your "side hustle" because the new economy demands everyone is at least a part-time entrepreneur. When I look back on my college years, I wish I majored in business and started a sales job when I was a teenager. That's a skill most college graduates don't leave with, but can benefit you for the rest of your career.

I don't claim to be the authority on career advancement or Millennials, but I've worked with enough as a career coach and recruiter to recognize what matters. In fact, the 3 skills I listed above aren't exclusive to the young professional, they're important to your career period. It's helpful to know what you want, but understanding a need then solving it equates to long-term success. 

July 17, 2013

Don't Play Hero Ball

Hero Ball refers to a selfish brand of playing basketball. When a player is more concerned with his own statistical performance than winning, there's a problem. Today's athlete is easier to market based on individual talent, but talent alone doesn't directly equate to winning. 
Let's transition to the professional world. If you're solely interested in being successful alone, you're missing the boat. Yes, you need to be a certain degree of selfish to get ahead, but it's hard to climb high without the help of others. 

Take for instance attending a networking event. I've been to plenty to know who's in it for themselves vs. those who genuinely want to help others. The "sharks" who are after the sale craft their pitch and want you to buy. When they realize you have nothing to offer, they leave. Someone who is genuinely interested in connecting with others asks more questions and wants to know how they can help you. Another true indicator of intentions is what, if any follow up is done after the meeting. 

Going back to my example of the athlete, not only is a "hero" out for themselves, they're also hard to play with. You'll notice they tend to jump from team to team (company to company), season after season (year after year), not because they're not talented, but because they don't make everyone around them better or get along with many people.

It's important to note, every success story has many people who helped him/her get there along the way. You won't hear about them because it's not newsworthy, but every tall building needs a foundation to stand on. 

Be ambitious, pursue your dreams, but don't be a hero and step on people to get there.

July 10, 2013

Learning To Say No To Good Things

Guest Post by Josh Allan Dykstra

Entrepreneurs never want to pass up a good deal.
We thrive in the shimmering halo of possibility. We’ve learned through experience that one opportunity almost always births another, and that it’s our job to see the things others miss. We are always on the alert for the next Whatever. Our ears are constantly perked and our eyes are open wide. If they aren’t — if we don’t stay available and flexible and receptive and enthusiastic — we miss those things that make us, and our businesses, grow.

Literally, we create real things out of no-thing; this is the only sentence on our job description (if we had one).

As we grow as entrepreneurs, however, a new challenge emerges: learning to say NO to good things.

This is hard, because our experience has taught us to not do this. One of the reasons we were able to create a business from scratch is because we said YES to a million things others said NO to. We saw opportunity where others saw certain abject failure. We refused to relent when others may have quit.

But a never-ending stream of “YES” simply isn’t sustainable, for a couple of reasons:

First, we have to learn to say no to good things when they’re attached to the wrong people.

As your career progresses, you will inevitably come across amazing, potentially world-changing ideas that you want to be a part of. Your honed marketplace instincts will kick in and scream “PAY ATTENTION” — loudly, right in your ear. But as you learn more about the idea or project, you’ll also learn more about the people who are behind it.

Like they say: everybody’s normal until you get to know them.

Ideas that look good (and probably ARE good) on the outside can have not-as-golden insides, and the insides are always about the people.

I am not talking here about scumbags or assholes, by the way. Hopefully your instincts told you to stay away from those people altogether. I am talking about really decent people with really, REALLY great ideas — but who don’t treat you like you should be treated. This area gets rather gray very quickly, and it’s why learning to say NO to these opportunities is so damn hard.

As an entrepreneur we should develop obscenely strict standards for the kinds of behavior we’ll tolerate inside our inner circles, and we should be fanatical about protecting it. All the money in the world isn’t worth spending your time beating your head against a brick wall. Be militant about finding ONLY situations that are healthy and in alignment with the way you deserve to be treated.

Second, we have to learn to say no to good things when they don’t fit our long-range strategy.

When you’ve created something real, people will notice. Recruiters may stop by and say hello, random people will track you down on Twitter and want your attention, and opportunities will present themselves.

First off, this is amazing and we should be forever grateful that there are people who seem to care about what we’re doing. We may work hard to get what we’ve got, but we’re absolutely no better than anyone else, and for someone to seek out our expertise on, well, anything should be a ever-humbling experience.

We should also be very careful.

As your business grows, very well-intentioned others will attempt to pull you in a thousand directions. You’ll get invited to job interviews and nonprofit boards. You’ll be asked to guest post on blogs, share people’s content, and help friends-of-friends. I’m sure many people have opinions on how to handle this; my current policy has three parts:

1.    First, be nice to everybody.

2.    Second, be straightforward and don’t BS people.

3.    Third, have a larger strategy that helps you know when to say NO.

The first two are hard, but not complicated. The last one is not-so-hard once you have it, but it’s really complicated to get there, which is why I want to talk about it a little more.

For me, a larger strategy starts by getting crystal-clear about the “noble cause” of your career. Start here:

-       What’s the big problem in the world that you’re on a life’s mission to solve?
-       When you think about the state of the planet, what pisses you off more than anything else?
-       What is the one thing you’d like to be known for?

These are a few of the questions that helped me find my noble cause (which, if you’re curious, is: to improve the wellbeing of people by creating better places to work).

Without this “noble cause” I wouldn’t have a clue what to say NO to. I’d end up fracturing my attention in a million unproductive ways. (It’s hard to stay focused even with this, honestly. When your “problem to solve” is appropriately large, it leaves you many ways to get there.)

I’ve also found that, for me, family and health and balance are a crucial part of my “life strategy,” and that my sincere desire for those things also helps tremendously when having to say NO. Whatever your equation is, find a way to get your long-range target on the wall, and use it to filter out the stuff that won’t help you hit it.

July 3, 2013

Focus on Being the Best, Not First

Apple wasn't the first to create to tablet.

Nike didn't invent the shoe.

Disneyland wasn't the first amusement park.

Yet the one thing they have in common is they're the best at improving an existing idea.
As an entrepreneur, it's much harder to be the creator than it is the refiner. Let me give you a personal example:

When I first started my business as a coach, I had to "double sell." That means on top of trying to get a potential customer buy my services, I had to explain what my services were. I spent more time educating people what I did then once they understood I had to convince them that they needed what I was offering. I'm not the first coach, but since coaching isn't mainstream the odds are stacked against me.

When you improve an existing idea, context is in your favor. People need a starting point to make a decision because that's how your mind works. Your brain builds on what it already knows. That's why commercials play over and over again - to brainwash you into thinking you actually need what you're seeing. 

So if you're thinking of starting a business, start with the end in mind. What are your sales goals? What is your financial model? How are you going to get people to buy your product/service?

Competition isn't easy to deal with, but being a pioneer is that much harder.

June 26, 2013

5 Keys to Creating an Innovative Company

Guest Post by Charles Lee

Innovation is essential to the success of any company in our world today. Given the speed of evolution in most markets, companies that don’t innovate will soon find themselves in decline or even obsolete.
Innovative companies work hard to bring clarity to real problems and design practical solutions for implementation. Many of these companies are exerting a lot of energy and resources towards creating an innovative company versus simply launching innovative projects. Here are some commonly adopted keys to creating an innovative company:

    1. Innovation Starts with Vision – The topic of innovation must have a seat at the executive table. It should be a regular point of conversation and integrated fully into the overall narrative of a company. Whether it is a C-Level executive vision casting or a manager speaking to a direct-report during a review, the story of innovation must be integrated into the vision of the company. Team members at every level should be able to point to actual stories within the company that highlight this vision for innovation.

    2. Innovation Scales with Culture – The natural outflow of vision should be the development of culture. While it’s tempting to just focus on the short-term ROI found in growth or value-adding products/services for customers, innovation flourishes when there’s a commitment to developing company culture or environment. In the long run, a great culture creates more energy for a company, long-term growth, and retains more talent. People aren’t usually leaving companies because of a lack of new innovation projects. It’s often an issue of culture.

    3. Innovation Welcomes a New Kind of Thinking – Traditional thinking tells us to do what we know. How do we know what to do? Look to the past. This kind of thinking does not lead to more innovation. Innovative thinking adds another layer that allows people to diverge from what the past tells them. Divergent thinking takes what we know and then explores what could be. The past alone does not dictate what the future could be in this model.
    4. Innovation Embraces Processes & Metrics – Innovation is not just feel good idea-making. Innovative companies embrace processes and metrics. Refining how a company gets innovative ideas to implementation is a constant area of focus for these companies. Developing metrics for how innovation gets injected into a company, how it is measured in-process, and what are expected as outcomes collective provide guidance for the innovation process. Innovative companies don’t shy away from creating and refining processes and metrics.

    5. Innovation Needs Space for We & Me – Innovative companies allow for both individual times for employees to innovative as well as collective times. These times are often integrated into the rhythm on one’s work week. Also, these companies encourage the cross-pollination of inter-departmental expertise to spark new ideas and opportunities. There appears to be a growth in the number of idea-competitions, innovation think-tanks, and innovation centers on the rise.

      Innovation is no longer optional in our new world. What will you do to help your company innovate?

      June 19, 2013

      Turning a Weakness into a Strength

      During an interview, how do you answer the question, "What is your biggest weakness?"

      It sounds like a setup, but it doesn't need to's how to flip it:

      Turn your perceived weakness into a strength
      Here's my personal example: "I'm impatient.

      "I prefer to move fast, so it frustrates me when I work with others who hold me up. I like to make progress, so when I feel like those I'm working with aren't as committed to winning as I am, I start to do more. I understand not everyone is going to see things the way I do, but I'm very driven to achieve quickly."

      See what I did there? I took a "weakness" and made it sound like an admirable strength. This nice thing is you can prepare for it. This type of answer can be used in most situations. Beneath it all, the interviewer wants to know if you have the confidence to get the job done. Your employer can teach you the skills needed, but your tenacity towards completing the task is innate. 

      My advice to you is when you're asked this question, don't cower under it, be prepared and attack it! 

      June 12, 2013

      Your World is Made of Stories

      Guest Post by Josh Allan Dykstra

      The world we see is dictated by the stories we’ve told ourselves about the world.

      • The stories we tell ourselves about people of other faiths

      • The stories we tell ourselves about where human beings came from

      • The stories North Korean leaders tell its citizens about the outside world

      • The stories we tell ourselves about gay people

      • The stories we tell ourselves about what it means to be successful

      • The stories we tell ourselves about Republicans

      • The stories we tell ourselves about Democrats

      • The stories we tell ourselves about how we manage our own strengths and weaknesses

      • The stories we tell our kids about how to “get a job”

      There’s a stark difference between facts and stories, after all.

      When someone doesn’t call you back when they say they would, that’s the fact: They didn’t call you back when they say they would.

      The story, however, is what we tell ourselves about that fact.

      “Oh, they’re pissed at me.”

      “I must have done something to annoy them.”

      “They’re so disorganized and irresponsible.”

      These are stories.

      For all we know, they got in a fender bender and had to speak with the police, or their kid got sick at school and they had to go pick them up.

      Our worlds are made up of stories — some big, some small — and they define the world around us.

      In our day-to-day life, the way we feel about the items on the above list are more constructed from stories than from facts. The majority of the hatred and destruction we see on the news is born out of a terrible, tragic story that people have been convinced is a fact. (Likewise, the joy and beauty around us comes from stories, too — they are just very different ones.)

      I think it would be great if we could spend more time pondering the stories we tell ourselves — and we should certainly learn to have more respect for the power these stories wield over the way we live our lives.

      June 5, 2013

      Hate Losing

      If you ask someone who is extremely competitive whether they love winning or hate losing, they'll answer, "I hate losing."

      Most believe the obvious answer would be, "I love winning," but let's dig into the process behind personal drive.
      Who doesn't love winning? The problem is you can't win all the time. If you get accustomed to winning, you expect it. You stop working hard. Your focus is on your past success, therefore you're susceptible to complacency. That's when someone is ready to knock you off your throne.

      Take for example elite athletes. They train harder after a painful defeat. They remember how bad it feels to lose so they never want to experience that again

      Competitive companies such as: Google, Zappos and Nike never stop innovating. They're not satisfied being #1, they desire more. Even during their current success, they're planning ahead for future domination.

      I learned the hard way with my first business. I had idealistic goals and dreamed about achieving them. When I came up short, I stopped trying as hard. This time around I'm realistic about what needs to get done. Even when there's good news, I know something could happen that can ruin it. It may sound like you'll never be satisfied, but it's more about always working hard to elude failure.

      So the next time you have a goal in mind, don't daydream about winning, be driven by hating to lose.

      May 29, 2013

      The Power of WE

      Guest Post by Charles Lee
      Human beings were meant to experience life together.

      Life makes so much more sense when we come to a place to that we NEED others. No matter how different others may be in their worldview, cultural identity, and personal preferences, moving towards a mindset that says WE is better than ME is healthy.

      G5 Leadership just released a new video, presentation, and discussion guide as a part of their research for a new book they’re writing. It’s absolutely FREE to download.

      I hope you will take a moment to watch this video and visit their site for some great resources. Here’s a quick synopsis of the project from their founders, Steven Smith and David Marcum:
      As part of research for a new book we’re writing, we noticed a societal decline in unity. You’ve probably noticed it too.
      Politicians are divided with intractable positions. Enterprises and teams are territorial. Partners often appear to simply coexist. Families seem more separated, even when they’re together. There is a growing trend of me that divides we. We wanted to do our part to reverse the trend.
      We created a video on the power of unity titled We. To spark a discussion, we produced three tools you can download that go with the video:
      1. A discussion guide to build a stronger culture of we where you work.
      2. A PowerPoint presentation for the discussion guide, including the video.
      3. A handout for people who attend the session.
      We hope the discussion makes a difference, wherever we matters to you.

      May 22, 2013

      Managing Expectations

      One of the most underrated attributes of a leader is his or her ability to manage expectations. This extends to personal, team and projects. 

      I learned this lesson early on. I distinctly remember posing this scenario to Dr. Henry Cloud in a class he was teaching. I asked, "How do you manage expectations so you don't end up being disappointed?"
      His answer went something like this...

      "A lot of times we have our own expectations that are best case scenario or idealistic and there's nowhere for you to go except down. I'm not saying lower your expectations, but think more at a realistic level so there's at least some room to be happily surprised."

      I have high expectations and I don't have any intention of changing that. What I have changed is forcing my expectations on others or situations where I don't have much control over the outcome. For example, if I am leading a team I will set the standard high and expect my team to meet them, but if they don't I adjust. Anytime your expectations include another person, be prepared for a variety of outcomes.

      When your expectations are too high, it's like putting someone on a pedestal...the only way they can go is down. People are going to let you down. That's not being pessimistic, that's a fact. It doesn't mean you don't put your faith in others, it just means we're all human and we make mistakes. 

      Disappointment can be a result of unrealistic expectations. Don't ever apologize for having high standards. Just make sure you're not forcing your expectations on someone else.

      May 8, 2013

      The Interview X-Factor

      Since last fall I've been recruiting for a school so after seeing multiple resumes and doing several interviews I asked myself, "What's that ONE THING that stands out as a candidate?"

      I'm a firm believer that resumes aren't a good judge of talent. It's similar to having a Driver's license...just because you have one doesn't mean you're a good driver. Everything is exposed when you interview. Whether face to face or over the phone within the first five minutes you can tell whether you have a great candidate or not.
      So what is that ONE THING? Confidence. Not arrogance. Not ego. It's confidence knowing who you are. Clarity about your strengths and weaknesses. It's knowing your style and what results it brings. You can hear it in someone's voice. You can see it in the way they carry themselves. Confident people's self-assessment is the same as the way others see them. Confidence brings results and breeds trust from others. Confident people can do the job, because they've done it before. If they don't have the experience, they have the drive to figure it out. Confidence is multi-sensory. Hard to describe, easy to recognize.

      I'm not downplaying experience or education by any means, but when you're the interviewer confidence separates a good from great candidate. On a scale of 1 - 10 how confident are you?

      May 1, 2013

      The Magic of Strengths-Based Coaching

      Guest Post by Josh Allan Dykstra

      I had the pleasure of presenting a virtual class entitled “The Magic of Strengths-Based Coaching” to the ICF (International Coach Federation) a couple weeks ago. Over 140 coaches attended from around the world!

      Here was the gist of the class:
      Research shows that the most effective leaders in the world share one surprising trait: they know their strengths and they work “in” them almost all the time. By attending this session, you will discover a fresh perspective to share with the clients you work with, and learn why a focus on “what’s right with people” is surprisingly counter-intuitive and also, perhaps, the most important insight you can provide someone who desires to live an exceptional life.

      Coaches will deepen and stretch their knowledge of several ICF core coaching competencies, including:

      How to create greater personal awareness for coaching clients, particularly in the areas of enduring personality strengths and natural sources of energy

      How to design better action plans for coaching clients by aligning individual goals with unique personal motivators and, therefore, achieving more success

      How to manage progress and accountability for coaching clients by integrating action plans with personal strengths, thereby developing greater resilience to meet objectives

      If you missed it, you can listen to the recording here. While you listen, I recommend opening the visual presentation here, and following along with it as you listen to the recording. I give cues throughout to make it very simple.

      ICF-LA does great stuff like this all the time (and the host, Paul, is seriously one of the most wonderful people you’ll ever meet). If you’d like to register for one of their upcoming teleclasses, just go here.

      April 24, 2013

      The Choice Generation

      Millennials can be difficult to work with, but I believe it's because they're misunderstood.

      The reason they change their mind so often and their tenure at a job is so short is because: they have choices.
      Their parents were loyal to a fault and believed "a job is a job."

      Baby Boomers don't normally resonate with the idea that you should love what you do.

      Millennials believe you have to love what you do or else you'll eventually quit.

      Call it entitlement or lacking commitment, but it is what it is.

      As an employer or colleague, the quicker you accept this the faster you can adjust.

      Money isn't a Millennial's main motivator, perks are. Companies such as Google, Zappos and Facebook are revered for their work culture. The interview process is difficult, but if you get in the benefits help retain talent.

      If you're a small business or "traditionally run," offering perks may not be an option. In that case give daily feedback, mentor and challenge them with new tasks. At the heart of the matter it's not much different than anyone else: they want to feel appreciated and needed.

      Like it or not Millennials have choices. The question is: will they choose you?

      April 17, 2013

      5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making a Presentation

      Guest Post by Charles Lee

      Making a remarkable presentation is not easy.
      No matter how experienced or polished you are in doing presentations, it takes a little extra to make your talk truly remarkable (i.e., worth making a remark about). While presenting with confidence and content is great, it doesn’t guarantee that things will stick with your audience. Here are 5 questions to ask yourself while preparing for your next remarkable presentation:

      What’s the main objective you hope to accomplish through your presentation? While it’s tempting to share all that you’ve prepared for a talk, don’t! Focus on the main point you hope to communicate. The more you blur the main objective, the more your audience will begin to distant themselves from your presentation. Keep in mind that you’ve had time to process your information leading up the talk. Your audience is processing ideas in real-time and don’t have the luxury of reflection. It won’t matter how important your content is if your audience can’t digest it. There’s nothing more frustrating than to listen to a speaker try to do too much with a presentation.

      Why should the audience care about what you have to say? Don’t assume that your audience cares about what you have to say. Simply because your content may be important to you, it doesn’t follow that it is important to your audience. Your assumption going into a talk should be that the audience has no real reason to care about what you’re about to say. Do the hard work of creating mental on-ramps for your audience so that they can find reasons to care about your talk.

      How do you want your audience to feel during and after your presentation? Put yourself in the shoes of your listener. What are they like and how would you like them to experience your presentation? Don’t ignore emotions. Many presentations stick with an audience because of how an audience emotionally connects with a speaker and/or his/her content. Are there things you could do during your presentation to heighten the listener’s emotional connection with the content being presented? Are there ways to illustrate and/or experience the emotions that are naturally tied to many of the things you present?

      What role, if any, will technology support your presentation? Technology is meant to be a supplementary tool for presenters. It is not designed to fully replace the one doing the presentation. In fact, some of the best presentations I’ve heard over the years have been technology-free. If you do use technology, try not to hide behind the tool. Many simple read what’s on the screen and don’t leverage the complimentary nature of these tools. The tool is there to support your talk. The focal point in presenting is still you. If you’re using any type of presentation software, (1) minimize the amount of text you use on your slides because people will stop listening when they see that they can work ahead and read your points, (2) use images to create a visual imprint of what you’re talking about, and (3) take out any unnecessary elements that don’t add value to what you’re talking about.

      How will your respond to the body language of the audience during your talk? Outside of seeing someone in the audience completely knocked out in deep sleep, it’s often difficult to read people’s body language. Many people make interesting facial expressions when contemplating ideas. In other words, it’s quite possible that many in your audience may appear disengaged when in fact they are thoroughly engaged. The key is to keep moving forward with your presentation without being discouraged by what you think you might be observing. Don’t let people’s body language derail you from focusing on the presentation. You’ll find that many who come up and speak with you after your talk are actually the one’s you perceived as not connecting with the presentation. We humans are funny creatures.

      What are some of the things you think about before making a remarkable presentation?