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

The New Normal

I wanna tell you a story.

You know the area on your web page where in big bold letters it says CONTACT ME?

Someone contacted me.

Someone I didn’t know. They wanted to set up a face to face meeting with me. They’d heard about the work I was doing with fledgling entrepreneurs and wanted to discuss some coaching.

Cool beans.

I stalked them looked them up on Facebook and saw that a client of mine was a connection of hers. I do this with just about everyone I meet for the first time that has a social media presence which is just about everybody. It helps remove the awkward, who says what and who goes first and all that other nonsense

Lo and behold one of her connections was a client of mine. Someone I’d coached a few years earlier.

After we shook hands and exchanged business cards with her, I said.

I understand you and I have a mutual connection.

Her face lit up.

OMG!!! We were best friends growing up. We  went to school together! 

For the next ten minutes I listened to her talk about her friend. She told me they’d lost touch because she’d moved to another state for a few years.

I have a daughter-in-law that grew up in that state. It’s beautiful there!

About that time the alarm went off on her phone.

John, I have another appointment in five minutes. Are you busy on Friday? I’d like to talk to you more and set up another meeting.

When I left her office I sat in the parking lot for a few minutes opened up my phone and messaged my client. I wanted to let her know who I’d met. She’d lost touch as well.

Here is my take away and how it relates to the new normal we some of us are creating. 

Stow the sales pitch! (Even if you have to sit on your hands.) It’s about realtionships! Did you notice that nowhere in the narrative above did I share what her purpose was in reaching out to me. Right now it’s irrelevant. I could have sailed into her office, free gift guns blazing, social media links showering from the ceiling and all the testimonials about the lives careers and businesses I’ve saved from the scrap heap. I could have, but what would have been the point?

She’s heard it all before. So have you. It’s why she set the timer on her phone. If I’d have been the lounge lizard of sales she could have done a quick exit with her dignity intact.

He’s gonna come in here and try to sell me something I don’t even need! Why do I do these things? I’ll give him a bottle of water and send him on his way. He’s probably used to it.

We never did get around to why she reached out. She will check me out, mostly with her BFF, and if things resonate with her we’ll move on too the second meeting. If not…. If not I made a new connection that may be a potential referral partner down the line.

True story: I developed a relationship over a one year period with someone I’d met at a networking event. We had lunch or coffee once a month or so. I’d never use her services and she’d never use mine but……………… One evening she met with two people who were looking to start a new business and in their own words Didn’t have a clue what to do first! My networking buddy said I know someone that could help you.

That referral and that relationship netted me a new client who in turn down the road netted me two other clients. All because we got to know and most importantly trust each other.

Can I repeat that?

All because we got to know and most importantly trust each other.

The people who will pay you the value of your service are the people who get it. They are the people who resonate with your message.

A relationship that shouts “equality.” Back in the old days people hired folks like me because there was the belief we drank a magic elixir every morning and it allowed us to gaze into the past, present and future. We knew everything. You, the poor client knew nothing. I am here to save you.

Will that be cash check or charge?

Sure you don’t wanna cash in your 401K to have me lead you to the promised land?

You don’t? Have a nice day. (By the way: There’s something intrinsically wrong with you if my message doesn’t resonate with you. You REALLY do need me)

I am going to give you one final chance. I’ll even let you send me twelve equal payments.

The poo-ru’s said I am supposed to ask you three times to give in and pay me. It doesn’t matter that you’re not sure if you need me or not. Just pay me!

I’m just going to make one point and move on:

Who knows more about your life, your career or your business than you?

Exactly

We, you and I, can see if we want to travel together on a portion of your journey. Can I help you as a coach or mentor? You steer the ship. I point out potential harbors of opportunity and a careful exhortation about the hidden ice bergs you may encounter.

We both walk away wiser.

That’s the new normal to me. (And I like it!)

5 Reasons to Meditate (And how it can help your life and career.)

I have learned that everything – our successes and our failures; our hurdles forward and our reluctance’s to grow – all emanate from the relationship we have with ourselves. It is the bruises and bumps that our soul’s endure that either motivates us or holds us back in our lives, and our careers

I heard this a number of years ago when I was on a retreat. I found it to be true. When I choose to be open and explore who I am and why I am – no matter how painful that may feel at the time – it allows me an opportunity to heal and to grow.

When I have a discovery session with someone I ask is if they have a meditation practice or carve out some quiet time for themselves to reflect on what’s going on in their lives. When they learn to seek themselves through meditation, they are always surprised how things begin to flow for them.

Over the years I have discovered five benefits of creating a successful meditation practice

Meditation can help deal with stressful situations  I have practiced meditation since the late 1980’s. It is my go-to remedy when I feel the muscles in my shoulders and lower back slowly start to tighten until I am the last person you want to be in a room with. Stress breeds stress which……… wait for it……….. breeds more stress. When I’ve worked myself into a dither over something I probably don’t have any control over to begin with I take a pause.

Okay, on top of being really good looking I read minds.

So you want me to leave my workplace and go off in a corner and chant for an hour?

Well, not exactly.

Close your eyes, inhale a deep breath, hold it until the count of five and then slowly exhale, five times.

But isn’t stress natural and inevitable? 

Yup, it is but if we learn how to deal with stress and create strategies to control it we are in control of how it affects us.

While you am concentrating on your breathing it disengages your mind for a short period of time. The whole exercise takes less than a minute.

Which leads me to my next point.

Meditation can help increase focus and attention. The phone is ringing, your smart phone is dinging, and three people are impatiently waiting to dump their issues in your lap. Your head is spinning.

I used to drive myself crazy trying to win a war I had no business fighting.

I started taking time at lunch to relax and rest my mind. I didn’t have a smart phones with apps. I had a cassette recorder with some guided meditations on tape and I’d sit in the car and take some time to reboot.

A smart phone and a good set of ear buds can get you focused and back to dealing with priority issues quicker than you think.

Meditation can boost your creativity Contrary to centuries of mythology the quickest way to advance your career is not to marry the bosses children or suck up to an executive vice president. It’s learning to think and approach an issue from a different perspective.



It’s a great way to get noticed, but…………… (There is always a but ain’t there!) you have to clear out all the useless traffic that’s cluttering your mind like the 405 on a Friday afternoon! When we’re not thinking clearly, we cant focus on creating solutions and we shut down and rather than having the confidence to take a risk with a suggestion or solution that no one else has thought of.

The operative word here is thinking clearly. Daily meditation can help you locate that nasty old clutter and remove it so you can focus on your natural creativity.

Meditation can help overcome anger and confusion I cant’ think of anything worse than being stuck!  First we get frustrated, then confused and if we don’t work our way through the issue, we get angry.

The anger is directed at ourselves because we haven’t figured out an answer to our dilemma. (Even though we like to think it’s because our fourth grade teacher never called on us.)

There are all sorts of modifiers we use when we want to describe being angry. What they mostly say is that our internal field of vision is cloudy and uncertain. Meditation allows us the opportunity to explore our inner self and create ways to deal with our anger and confusion. C

Meditation is a practice not an event. Okay technically this isn’t a benefit but if we don’t embrace this notion right from the beginning we are apt to crash and burn – big time.

When I began meditating some thirty plus years ago I almost stopped after a few days. I had this notion that I should be deep in some foggy thought process for at least an hour each day and wipe my mind totally blank during that time. Otherwise, I wasn’t doing it the right way.

Fortunately a good friend set me straight.

Like everything new, meditation takes time to get the hang of. I started with five minutes each morning and worked my way up to ten. Some days I was surprised when the my clock went ding and some days I kept wondering if the darn thing was busted. Ten minutes! It seemed like 10 years. 

Today I meditate for no longer than thirty minutes each morning.

Clearing our minds? Some days its a breeze. Some days it’s a struggle. What I’ve learned is to hang in there, brush my thoughts away very gently and focus on my breath.

I’d suggest you begin with some guided meditation. It’s like learning to ride a bike with training wheels.

There is no right or wrong way to meditate. The key is to create a practice that benefits your life the most. When you do you will begin to see some positive changes in your life:

You’ll have more energy

You’ll focus on your goals

You’ll open yourself to more self development. 

I promise.