A Question of Balance

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11,910,000,000

This is how many results Google told me it had when I searched for Starting Your Own Business. It’s a popular topic. It seems everyone has an opinion on what it takes from going to where you are at to getting where you want to be.

Make sense?

A lot of it is sound advice – Incorporation options, types of insurance you might need to carry for your business. Stuff like that.

But ya know what?

I saw nothing about creating balance in your life BEFORE you decided that you’d be be hob-nobbing with Elon Musk.

Nothing.

Cue the crickets chirping

Okay, I didn’t review all 11,910,000,000 results, but you get my drift.

I’ve been doing what I do for the past twenty years. I have helped all sorts of people, all shapes and sizes and all with creative ideas. I’m not sure what that makes me in the pantheon of coaching and I don’t think it’s bragging to say I’ve learned a thing or two during those twenty years.

So………… Before you hop in full-tilt-boogie, print up business cards and sink a ton of money into one of those a-million-dollars-in six months programs, consider doing this first.

Create some balance in your life!

When I conduct a discovery session, I ask a question.

Tell me what you do to cope with the stress in your life? Do you remember the Atari game Asteroid? You moved a cursor back and forth while enemy space ships hurled bombs at you from on high. The more bombs you destroyed, the quicker the next wave came at you. The more you concentrated on destroying all the bombs the more bombs came.

Does that sound like your life? Hint, hint. It sure does sound like mine. Know what I mean Vern?

I get a lot of stock answers. I run, I golf, I take long walks.

I ask if there is time during the day for you to close your eyes for ten minutes or so and focus on relaxing; centering, setting an intention or simply allowing yourself an oasis in time to relax. I ask if they are open to learning how to practice that technique effectively.

It’s called meditation and you don’t have to hover off of the ground and chant or wear a flowing robe while burning incense. Unless that’s your thing. It allows your mind and body to shift into neutral to create a restore point of clarity.

Sorta the drain cleaner of the spiritual realm.

Starting and maintaining your business will require you to test the limits of your internal resources. Imagine if you never changed the oil on your vehicle or never replaced the filter on your furnace. In a while things would break down.

When we are stressed,tired and frustrated we make mistakes.

Lemme tell you a story.

A few years ago I was working on a promotion for Small Business Week. I was offering potential entrepreneurs a special coaching package. I worked on it for a couple of weeks and published it with a link to my special offer. I waited, and waited, and waited.

While I was crafting my path to fame I was juggling at least three other projects and, oh yeah, I was way too busy to shift into neutral and meditate. Too busy! Business is Business. That hippy stuff can wait. Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos don’t meditate. Do they?

After two weeks I had zero responses. Huh! These people must be half crazy not to take advantage of this offer.

The phone rang. (No kidding it really did!) A friend called to ask me if I knew that you can’t insert a link to another page and then save the page as a JPEG file. (I swear to God he was stifling a laugh.) It won’t connect. When I hung up I checked the page. He was right. No one could register because I was too busy to sit down, chill out and think things through.

I’m a By-God-Entrepreneur.

The only person I could blame was me!

Ever done that? Blamed yourself for something and then slid down the murky slide of self doubt. It’s like getting muck stuck on your shoes in the horse barn. The harder you try to get it off, the messier it gets.

I am going to ask you to do something for yourself for one week. I am asking you to remove the distractions when you’re working on a project or offering and turn your phone off!

I learned a technique a few years ago that is a big aid in organizing my time and being productive when I need to be productive.

Yup, it’s an egg timer. When I sit down to work on a project or prepare for a coaching session I set the timer for thirty minutes. When the bell dings I stop and walk away from my desk and whatever it is I’m working on.

I am able to disengage.

That’s one example. I’m sure you can discover other ways throughout your day to take some time and recharge your batteries. You don’t need to become a Zen master or a yoga guru to get the benefit of creating an oasis in time.

Best of luck to you and I’m pulling for you. We’re all in this together!

It Begins With a Dream

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Saturday was a gorgeous day in a string of gorgeous days we’d experienced over the past week. I decided it was time for a visit to my local farmers market.

Apparently so did everyone else.

The place was packed – Like wall to wall packed. I drove around for five minutes before I found a place to park. Then I had to walk a block to the venue.

As I was approaching the market I heard music. Not recorded music. Live music. A voice and a guitar. Huh, that’s new, I thought.

I came over a small rise and saw a sea of people all angling for the best spot to get their onions and tomatoes.

In the corner was a young woman sitting on a stool, oblivious to the throng around her. She sat with her eyes closed playing her guitar and singing. When she finished one song she took a drink of water and launched into the next song.

I noticed something. No one else was listening to her play. They were pushing, shoving, waving to friends and neighbors and floating past her. No one seemed to notice, much less care.

While I watched her perform I noticed the crowds reaction didn’t appear to phase her. She wasn’t playing for anyone but herself. She knew that one day, in some way, maybe someone else would notice and then a whole bunch of someone else’s would find her message and find that her style resonated with them. She was living her dream and it was her dream. No one else’s. You could tell by the look on her face that it gave her great joy.

We talk a lot about joy and passion and stuff like that but I wonder do we really tap into who we are and what we’re doing in our own unique way?

I’m driving home and thinking about all the times I stuffed my dreams in a neat receptacle and followed the flow of the crowd. I mean, it made me some money but it didn’t feed my soul. Being a child of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s I realized, much to my chagrin, that I’d sold out.

I fell off the tracks when I didn’t immerse myself in my dream. I kept it at arms length. That way, it couldn’t challenge me. It couldn’t laugh at me. I stood back and poked at it, refined, made excuses for it but never asking it to dance with me.

I was an observer, not a participant.

That was my ah-ha moment.

I’ve taken a step back and paused. For someone who’s been working since he was twelve years old that’s a damned hard thing to do. It’s not in my DNA.

For the past six weeks or so I’ve been on a conscious journey to get back to my roots, back to where the dream began. It’s getting back to where I started. A kid sitting in a park, writing poems for people. Someone who believed in the shear joy of life and everything it entailed. Someone who got excited and all jazzed up about the smallest of things that caused other people to whisper about his sanity.

Someone who is happy and fulfilled.

Someone who drinks in the small things in life and unpacks their joy.

In his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces, author Joseph Campbell shares something called The Hero’s Journey. It describes our journey from the known into the unknown and creates a new known. That journey, the journey each of us makes a dozen times or more in their lives is a journey fraught with danger, perils and dissappointments.

It’s also a journey filled with amazing discovery and unbridled joy.

I don’t expect you to be as jazzed as I am, but if you are – Welcome to my dream.

Stay tuned, there is more to come.

The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the road has gone, And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet, until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
J.R.R. Tolkien

Success Begins With Learning to Bring Our “A” Game

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Our thirteen year old grand daughter had a flute recital a few Sundays ago.

Some of the performers were seniors in high school and had been preforming since they were six. She is in eighth grade.

She was nervous at the start but regained her composure and acquitted herself well. Given the short time she had been playing I thought she did extremely well.

She didn’t concur.

She was mortified.

When we gathered around her afterwards she pronounced that she wasn’t pleased with her performance and looked on the verge of tears. She rattled off a whole list or errors and faults.

Driving home that afternoon I reflected on a time when I felt the same way she had felt after her perfomance.

A few years ago a connection of mine invited me to attend a visitors day their networking group was hosting. I’d been in business for fifteen years at the time and felt more than confident in my ability to impress this group.

When the day came I sat around a table with twenty five other people. Each had a minute to talk about their business. When all the members were finished, visitors had the same opportunity.

Did I tell you I was pretty confident?

When the time came for me to speak I stumbled and fumbled and pretty soon an alarm went off and the timekeeper cried Next person!

I was embarrassed. A large part of me wanted to eat a few more donuts and get the heck out of there, never to return. A voice inside of me said Hey buddy, this is the major leagues!! Guess what? You don’t belong here!

I was tempted to thank the person who invited me, stop at a hardware store on the way home, buy a shovel, dig a hole, crawl in, never to be heard from again. I was hosting a fully catered pity party with me as the honored guest. The more I thought about it the angrier I became. The world the universe, the cosmos was to blame. Everyone but me.

As I sputtered along vowing to get the person who invited me to attend in the first place, the words of Joyce Meyer somehow crept into my psyche. You can be pitiful or you can be powerful but you can’t be both.

Which means what? I answered!

I don’t know about you but when my self inflicted misery is in full tilt boogie mode you better not get in my way. Know what I mean, Vern?

I knew what it meant. I didn’t want to know, but I did. My mom used to put it a little less delicately. Sh*t or get off the pot!

It took a few days a few weeks but I realized my anger stemmed from my misaligned belief that just because I thought I was all that plus a bag of chips the rest of the world hadn’t taken notice !

I went back to that networking group and I am glad I did. In the two plus years I spent with them I learned a lot. A lot about business, life and relationships. I became a better coach because I was with people who challeneged me to become better.

Sometime in the near future I am going to share that story with my granddaughter and I am going to add the three things I learned from the experience.

You deserve to be successful. If you don’t believe in your ability to succeed in life, why should anyone else? The knowledge that we deserve success is a powerful motivator. It’s going all-in. It’s believing that you really can accomplish whatever you want. It sets you apart from those who simply “phone it in.” It means that you know who you are and the price you want to pay to get there and;

You are worth all the effort you invest in yourself. Success is hard work. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. When you believe you deserve success the effort you invest to obtain it almost comes naturally. Practice can be dull, boring and sometimes frustrating. But, just when there is no end in sight, we have a breakthrough. The breakthrough comes from hard work and dedication. IOW(In other words,) There is no magic!

I would stand before the bathroom mirror and rehearse my one minute commercial each week until I felt it was natural and sincere. When I walked into the meeting room I knew what I was going to say and what the impact was supposed to be on my audience. My success came from a lot of boring hours staring at myself in the mirror, week after week, working on my delivery.

You can read all the books you want be inspired by the guru’s and poo-ru’s in the galaxy but it means squat unless you embrace the next thing I’ve learned in life:

You are who you hang around with. It’s so important to choose wisely. The people who invest in themselves and believe in themselves associate with other people who feel the same way. Those people lift us up, they challenge us to be better. They are not the status quo. We learn from them and we copy or emulate their behavior and add our own unique flare.

Those people, the people who lift us up don’t understand good enough! They believe in excellence, which BTW (By the Way) has absolutely nothing to do with the perfection that often causes us to crash and burn. Excellence means you are making your point, walking your walk or singing your song better than the other folks in lock step with you.

It also means that those other people who are motivated and believe in themselves will challenge you to become better.

You have to ask yourself what it is you want from life and when you discover it, devote yourself to getting it.

It’s called bringing your A Game. It’s called being the best you. When we learn that we have learned a lot.

Remember the lesson of the seed too in its sending a shoot down so that it may be rooted and grounded, while at the same time it sends a shoot up to be the plant and flower that shall gladden the world. from God Calling

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There is No Business Like Your Business!

Can I tell you a story?

A few years ago I received a call from the owner of a local nursery. He was teetering on the brink of disaster and the bank, which held a note on the business, decided it was time to get involved.

They nursery sold flowers and vegetable plants; shrubs and trees as well as the equipment to go with it. His grand father founded the business at the tail end of The Great Depression. They had a great location, right next to a busy mall. He was a local celebrity of sorts. He had a weekly radio show where he dispensed wisdom on all things plants and shrubs. He had a five acre series of green houses a few miles from the nursery.

Everything went well until……….

(((Dramatic pause here.)))

Until a big box store opened about a half of mile away. You know, one of those places that sold in volume. Business went from booming, to slow to almost non existent. If I can buy three trays of flowers for the same price you sell one tray for, where do you think I am going to shop?

That’s when the bank decided to get involved. Banks do not care about how long we’ve been in business or all of our past successes. Banks care about getting the money they lent us repaid and they don’t care about “how.” They care about the “when.” There is one universal truth I can share confidently with you: You don’t want your banker running your business!

The bank hired a consultant to analyze the business and create a recovery plan. The consultant knew a lot about consulting. You might say they were famous. They knew very little about the nuances of a family run business and all the challenges that go with managing it. They analyzed, interviewed, and analyzed some more. They poked, prodded and nodded. They gathered everyone in the small conference area. With solemn faces they pronounced that while the business was in critical condition it could be saved.With their help.

By now the owner felt like he’d been hit up along side of the head with a four by four. He nodded his head pulled out his check book in ascent and the consultant told them that he would be back.

I am going to fast forward.

All of the information the consultant shared was valuable. Valuable in a “thirty thousand foot view” sorta way. You couldn’t argue with any of it. But none of it solved the problem of how the nursery was going to compete with the big box store down the road. No one asked:

What makes your nursery unique and special and how are you going to leverage that quality to stand out in your market?

What no one understood was there is no business like his (yours, our) business and that while it’s easy to throw a few MBA type solutions at an issue; situations, circumstances and markets are like the micro climates in southern California. They often vary from street to street and business to business.

No one asked the owner.

The owner was equally as culpable. He was searching for a magic elixir that didn’t exist. He wanted a quick fix. If it got the bank off of his back he’d have done just about anything.

A year later the shop stood empty. The bank eventually foreclosed and the property was sold. Today it’s a convenience store with a gas station.

It’s true. There is no business like your business.

Mine either.

To Thy Own Self Be True

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The last full conversation I had with my dad was a joke.

Seriously, it was a joke. It was a groaner and I guess I should have locked it in my memory for posterity and tender memories and all that stuff but I didn’t. That wasn’t my dad.

Six days later he went to be with the Lord. He’d been living with a host of ailments for the last 6 months and contrary to those stories you read about 95 year old’s running their first marathon your body begins to wear about when you are getting ready to turn 88.

His was. Wearing down that is.

He called me on a Saturday evening and said he had a joke to tell me. He’d heard it from my sister. It was unusual for him to call. My mom always made the phone calls and when you’d ask how dad was feeling she’d pull the phone away from her ear and shout:

Tommy, John wants to know how you’re feeling!

Get my drift.

So I was taken by surprise. He told me his joke, we talked about sports for a few minutes and he said That’s all I needed. Talk with you soon.

But we didn’t. three days later my sister Mary called and said those words I didn’t want to hear. You probably need to come up here. I don’t think it’s going to be much longer.

I am not for certain how many years I have left. I hope quite a few, but when you’re almost 66 you start thinking about your end game.

I don’t act 66. I prefer to associate with younger people and I’m not much for sitting around thinking about the old days. There are folks I hold in my heart but I’m always looking ahead not backward.

That’s who I am. That’s who I’ll always be

I had a good teacher.

My dad was one thing, consistent.

You always knew where you stood and he was easy to anticipate. He never changed. Ask him a question and in most case you already knew the answer

He was we are fond of saying comfortable in his own skin.

I thought about him the other day. I was talking with a coaching client and he told me that one day he just wanted to be like…….

My in box is full of people wanting me to be just like them and for a kings ransom they will show me how it’s done.

But really, they can’t.

You see I cant be anyone other than who I am, and who I was meant to be. It’s like our DNA. There may be similarities with other folks but basically you and I are one of kind.

No matter how hard we try to emulate fill in the blank, we never will.

Look, I been there and done that and I can tell you the main reason I was so attracted to someone elses success pattern: It’s a whole lot easier then carving out your own path.

But in the end I was never as successful as the other guy.

We invest a lot of time and resource in running away from ourselves and becoming something we were never intended to be to begin with.

The key to your success is pulling apart your own DNA and seeing what suprises it has in store for you.

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3 Ways to Get Better Results From Your Network Experience.

“First you must be visible in the community.You must get out there and connect with people. It’s not called net-sitting or net-eating. It’s called networking. You must work at it.” Dr Ivan Misner


Hey. Mr. You-Know-Everybody! You wouldn’t happen to know where I could find a bee keeper? 

I did. Well, I knew someone whose mother was a beekeeper. My doctor’s office was next to a field and when he went to his car at lunch it was surrounded by a swarm of bees. He was allergic to bee stings. A connection I’d met at a local networking event told me his mom was a beekeeper one day while were having coffee.

So what does my doctor, and a bee keeper have to do with networking?

I network for three reasons.

  •        To build my referral network
  •        To test out a new program or product on a live audience
  •        To educate people on who I am and what I do.

There is no magic formula. I attend multiple events each week. There are weeks I will use more that one strategy depending on the group I’m with. If I am a first-time participant, they will hear about who I am and what I do. If I’ve been attending on a regular basis I may talk about my most recent program offering.

It isn’t what happens at the networking experience itself. It’s what happens before and afterwards that determines your success. When I am looking to add new people to my referral network, that’s where my focus is concentrated.

When I enter the room for the event I know why I am there for who I want to connect with AFTER the event is over. Sometimes it’s a brand-new connection in an area a client may need some assistance for. Sometimes its renewing a business relationship that I’ve not cultivated in a while.

Look at it this way: The event you go to once a week for 90 minutes or so is simply a staging area or a springboard for building your business. I believe that’s where we get confused at times.

If I walk in the door and am not sure what my purpose is in being there why should you want to engage with me and learn more about me? If I’m not crystal clear on my purpose and intentions I am asking you to pick through the mine field of my mind and try to figure out exactly what I am trying to say.

There are three things you can do to help yourself be more effective.

Prepare  I cringe when I hear someone say I don’t really have a lot to say today. I’ve been busy. Take ten minutes the night before and prepare. If it’s a group I meet with frequently and most people know who I am I’ll concentrate on a program or an educational moment. Something they’ll remember when they walk away from me.

Engage  No one likes to listen to some one drone on about themselves. Engage a group by starting with a question that pertains to your topic. It gets them involved and makes them feel included. Ask for their advice or ask what they know about something. In short, they become part of my short presentation. A bonus happens when one of their ideas or observations is something you can use in the future.

Be memorable (What’s Your Story)  The way you can tell the contenders from the pretenders is to listen to their story. Have they lived what they are talking about or did they read about it?

confused mind

Have they gone through the experience, know where the trap doors are and how to avoid some of the banana peels? It’s how I found out that one of the folks I network with has a mother who is a beekeeper. They told the story of learning first hand how their mom started a home-based honey business complete with bee hives. That’s something I remembered, and that memory became a referral.

One last thing.

Business working is hard work. It’s  not magic.

 

A Look In The Mirror

I saw Brandy this morning.

That’s right. You probably don’t know who Brandy is.

Brandy is a trainer at my gym.

A few years back I took a class she taught called Ab-Blast. Mostly, it was a grueling hour of contorting your body into all sorts of strange positions twice a week for 5 weeks in an effort to strengthen your core muscles.

I was ready to quit after the first class but I’d paid sixty dollars to be there and a small voice inside of me that sounded an awfully lot like my dad kept shouting You made a commitment!

I was the oldest person in the class. Oldest by a few miles. My partner for our warm ups was a twenty something who had enough energy and enthusiasm to light up a small town.

She told me I reminded her of her grandfather and kept telling me to take it easy.

I toughed it out until the last week. The last week was devoted to forming and holding a plank. If you aren’t aware, a plank is when you put your entire body parallel to the ground, lift up about six inches and hold it for thirty seconds. It’s supposed to strengthen your core muscles. Build character and all that stuff.

Uhm Okay.

It wasn’t working too well for me. I kept falling flat on the mat after about 3 seconds, so I devised a work around, so -to-speak.

I sorta scooted my butt up in the air a bit so I looked like an bridge rather than a plank. It took the pressure off of my core muscles and made me feel a bit more comfy.

Comfy not healthy

Brandy was walking around encouraging us and when she got to me she leaned over really close and whispered

The only person you’re cheating, John, is yourself

With that she firmly put her foot on my lower back and pushed.

Embarrassed?

Humiliated?

Sure was.

What happened early that morning long ago has never left my thoughts for very long.

Taking the short cut, cheating, phoning it in – call it what you will only provides us with a false sense of who we are or what we can do. I’ve come to discover it is one of the more selfish things I can do.

There have been times I’ve been tempted to take the short cut and when I do I remember what she told me. The only person I am cheating is me. I’m robbing myself of an opportunity to grow.

I’ll leave it there

Oh yeah. I don’t see Brandy very often anymore but when I do I make it a point to thank her. She just smiles.

Wisdom comes when we least expect it

Namaste.

The Chain That Binds

Before an elephant can be trained it has to be tamed.

A trainer fastens a chain to its ankle and anchors the chain to a stake in the ground. The elephant is conditioned to stop when the chain provides resistance. Once trained as a baby this elephant who has the power to tear the stake out of the ground, doesn’t. It’s been trained and conditioned to accept limitation and it behaves that way for the rest of its life.

Ever seen how huge and powerful an adult elephant is?

They should easliy remove the stake and ramble and amble wherever it chooses.

But it doesnt.

Somewhere deep inside the elephants mind, when the chain pulls taught it reminds it there are limits to where it can go and what it can do.

And what it can’t do.

It’s been conditioned.

Just like me and you.

Someone or a bunch of someones told us we couldn’t or shouldn’t.

So we didn’t

I am tempted to write another ten paragraphs telling you why we behave the way we do, but ya know what?

We already know.

Breaking that chain, metaphorical or real is a matter of how strongly we believe in our own power and passion. In our lives, our careers and our businesses, we decide what we’ll accept as a limitation and what we won’t let hold us back from our goals and dreams.

It’s up to us

Namaste