Success Begins With Learning to Bring Our “A” Game

Featured

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

Featured

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.

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.

The Wisdom of My Father

I never heard him drop the F-Bomb

He didn’t need to.

He never went along with the crowd and if the prevailing notion of the day lined up with what he believed, so be it. If it didn’t, as he often said, “tough toenails.”

He knew a lot about a lot of things but you never heard him make you look bad. If he thought you were wrong he’d put it in the form of a question and allow you the opportunity to back track a bit and save face.

In the fifty seven years that I knew him, he only recommended one book for me to read. It was Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People. He, himself, never had a problem in that area.

When I was old enough I worked summers in the factory he began his career in as a timekeeper. When people saw my name they’d ask me if “Are you Tom’s boy?” I never heard a negative word about him. This high praise came from men who found fault with the good Lord himself.

Don’t ever try to negotiate something with him when he believed his position was the right one. He was never mean or nasty. He simply held his ground and if you didn’t agree, after awhile he’d shake your hand and walk away. No hard feelings.

You could never convince him to do something he didn’t believe 100 percent in. Contrary to my mothers exhortation NOT to have opinions, my father had them and he held firm to them.

If you are thinking I am beginning to make a case for sainthood you’d be wrong. I came of age in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. He and I disagreed on a lot of things especially the War in Vietnam. It made for some interesting dinners.

Looking back, as loud as those arguments became he never made them personal. He would tell me my thinking was flawed but he never attacked me as a person. He told me when I was older I’d look at things differently.

My dad believed in three non-negotiable things.

Your faith in God,

Your family

Your career.

Those were the three things that came before anything else.

I was working third shift when Joan called to tell me my dad had been hospitalized. He’d become violently ill in the middle of the night. It could be his heart. They were running tests. (Turned out to be his gall bladder.)

That morning I reached him in his hospital room. I told him I was going to pack, rest for a bit and head for Milwaukee. He stopped me and said, “You have a family and a job. You take care of them. They come first.”

The last words he spoke to me came two days before he went to be with the Lord. He had an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth and every word was spoken softly. He pulled me close to him, raised the oxygen mask and said

It’s been a good, long life. But gosh, it’s gone by so fast

He was 87.

There was always a sense of who he was and what he had to offer this world. He made no apologies for how he felt or what he believed and deep inside of him was a strong sense of compassion and understanding for just about everyone he met. You didn’t have to agree with him to be his friend.

He’s been gone for seven years. When I look back I’ve always wondered how he came to be so resolute and firm in who he was and what he believed. I believe it was the unshakable confidence he had in himself.

There’s a lesson there.

Four generations My dad, me, my son Matt and my grand daughter Ava-Jo

A Heroes Journey is published each Wednesday morning at 7:30 AM CST

My Mother’s Wisdom

January 30, 2019

We’ve laughed about it over the years. The three things my mom told us every morning as we walked out the door for school.

As a kid they seemed annoying. Designed as something to inhibit the budding free spirit every adolescent craves. I guess Mark Twain’s old saying about how dumb my parents were at 14 and how smart they became in seven years when I reached 21 was accurate.

My mother was a child of the Great Depression. She was the fifth of six children who lived past infancy. Her father died when she was eleven and she left high school after her sophomore year so she could get a job with health insurance for herself, her mother and the one sibling that remained at home.

She worked in a dairy until she was twenty one when she and my father married. For the next fifteen years or so she worked in our home. During that time she developed a real passion and talent for drawing, painting, china painting, ceramic sculpture and was the best cook and baker I’d ever met.

We even had a kiln in our basement.

My father loved my mother without reservation. In other words, unequivocally. I am still in therapy because he refused to pay the additional twenty five dollars to upgrade my bike from a three-speed to a ten-speed but he paid put a 220 voltage outlet in the basement for my moms kiln.

Somewhere from those experiences in her life came the three things we heard each and every morning – Our marching orders.

Keep your eyes straight ahead. She wanted us to be safe. She wanted us to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. If you looked to the left or to the right, you’d be tempted to pause and investigate and only God knows who or what was over there. You might get hit on the head and sold to a circus.

You have no opinion. Opinions get you in trouble. Trouble finds the teacher. The teacher call mom. My brother and I would sit on the steps towards our basement trying to figure out which one of us was about to get in trouble. (Most of the time the call was about me!)

You can have all the opinions you want. Just keep them locked tight in your head and you’ll be okay.

Keep your big mouth shut! If you know me, you know this was the suggestion (?) most difficult for me to master. Along with having lots of opinions I was usually pretty vocal in letting the world know what those opinions were.

I’m driving down the road one morning trying to find a way to complete this post. It’s hung here for a few days now and I was getting worried.

Why does Wednesday morning always get here so quickly?

It dawned on me that my mom put stuff out there the way she knew best and what her life experience had taught. I mean, how many kids do you know leave school to be the sole support of their family?

So, while I was sitting in yet another meeting that showed little chance of going anywhere meaningful I re-crafted her three rules of life into what they’d come to mean to me.

Always keep looking forward. Keep your eye on your goals and don’t let anything or anyone distract you from where you’re headed. 

Keep growing and keep learning. Keep close watch over what you believe today and always compare it to where you were and where you want to go. Keep your options and your opinions open and closely held.

Choose your counsel wisely. A friend once put it to me like this: There are 3 or 4 people I’d get out of bed for in the middle of the night and get out of jail, no questions asked. They are the people I have learned to trust. A few more who I’d help; but wonder why they called me.

Finally there is everyone else.

I’d tell them I was sorry and go back to sleep.

The moral?

There are those people we’d do anything for. Keep them close and cherish them.

My mom went to be with the Lord January 1 of this year. She, along with her wisdom will be missed.

P.S. Happy Sixty Third Birthday to my brother Joe

A Heroes Journey is published each Wednesday morning at 7:30 AM CST