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You Can’t Compete With Passion

March 23, 2011 9 comments

What makes you stand out? What makes you different? What make you BETTER in your professional your personal life than others?

Passion.

Some people have it, only a select few know how to communicate or act on it, and most are too afraid to even feel it.

If you’re fearful of feeling something or believing in something so powerful it can bring tears to your eyes, this post is not for you. You’re one of the “afraid to feel” people and that’s fine! At some point, you’ll wonder why you climbed the proverbial ladder but never made it to “the top” or never started your own business.

For those of you who love being inspired, love inspiring, strive to be the best, know that you have “it” in you – you’re just not sure what “it” is yet – keep reading; this post was written for you.

Because people can’t compete with Passion.

4 Simple Steps:

Find Your Purpose

Everyone has a purpose. Your purpose may not be something you’re proud of outwardly, it may not be something others would find important – but it’s important to you. If you don’t know what your purpose is, seek out different people, different industries, new organizations; something will click. And when it does, you’ll know it. I never knew what I wanted to do in college; but I knew I was competitive and I liked to out think people (another way of saying that would be MANIPULATE). Because I was outgoing, everyone told me I should be a lawyer. I didn’t love the law, I didn’t have a passion for the law; but I aced my LSATs and got a full ride to law school – so I went. And proceeded to get A’s. And further proceeded to drop out – which was the best decision I ever made. Looking back, I guess I wasn’t quitting because I didn’t stop because it was too hard. I stopped because I didn’t like it. I wasn’t excited to wake up in the morning.

So what next? I ended up being referred to a job at Kaplan University. By the second day of a 2 week training course, I knew 3 things: 1) I would be really good at this job because I believed in education 2) We had ‘goals’ to meet, so it met my competitive nature 3) I got to be on the phones all day talking to people about themselves. This was perfect for me.

What I didn’t count on was the heart that went into the job. I consistently overachieved goals and was constantly asked and listened in on by senior management to see what it was I did differently; they didn’t find much. I used the same questions, similar responses…but there was one thing other people could not emulate – and that was the burning desire I had to help people better their lives through education. And yes, it sounds SO CHEESY – which is so unlike me; but it was true. To this day, I still know the names of the first few folks I enrolled, I still have letters and emails from people thanking me for changing their lives. Unknowingly and without trying to – I had found my purpose.

Purpose Drives Passion

And that purpose only served to heighten my passion. Being on the phone, I was only helping one person at a time; I wanted to scale that – I wanted to help more people back to school. So I trained others -and what I found was interesting. I could train many people to be average and above average – but only very few to “great” and it was at that point I learned the difference in being passionate about something and ‘just having a job’. Passion is not something that can be taught; it can be inspired for bursts of time, but it’s innate.

Passion Drives Success

I was becoming disenchanted with training; so when I was offered a role to work as a member of the Education Connection management team – I jumped on it. There’s nothing better than building a start-up and taking it through profitability, new product launches, and the intellectual banter and learning experience is worth any 3 corporate jobs. I worked for two men – to this day, still 2 of the only men I know – who knew how to direct their passion towards profit and do so while keeping their beliefs and remaining 100% ethical.

We had started an internet lead generation company, the only one / the first one at the time to drive students to go back to school using national television. Although we drove students to a website, we received 2-3 calls per day. Students had researched and gotten our contact information. Although I was constantly slammed with work, I took the calls. I missed talking to students. I took the calls because I knew that these students must be truly motivated to better themselves if they were researching and calling us. I spoke to the student; went back into my old role – to advise the student on the school that would best fit their needs. Once I had spoken with students and found a school and program that met their needs, I transferred the student directly to an advisor. Not only were the conversion rates 7 X that of the normal admissions conversion rate, but the students were so appreciative. I had found a way to take my passion, helping students, and bring that into my current role.

Innovate and Scale

But it wasn’t enough to help 2 or 3 per day. I told my CEO what I had been doing. He said, “Jamie – congratulations – you’ve come up with a new business model that’s never been done in the EDU space before. This is our new business. You have 60 days to build out this advising center, hire people who share our passion and vision, and train them to do what you do”.

And I did. I finally learned how to scale my passion. And it wasn’t only successful, it started a new lead type in the education industry. Don’t run from your passions; continue to work at them. Success will come; you may have to be patient, but finding your purpose, your passion, and continuing to embrace it – eventually you will find a way to make it a business. Keep w

“I’m Always Willing to Have a Conversation”

March 11, 2011 11 comments

Have you ever turned your nose up at an opportunity? I bet you have. And I bet there are some people who, as they’re reading this, are thinking, “no, I haven’t”; my comment to you is that you probably weren’t aware enough to realize that someone was offering you an opportunity.

In February 2011, I achieved a goal. In February 2010 I started my own business with 3 goals in mind before going back to the “working world”: 1) I wanted to work 40 hours / week or less 2) I wanted to prove to myself I could run my own business 3) I wanted to bring in “X” dollars in revenue. It took me exactly one year and I achieved all three. So now what?

Now I go back to the world I love so much; the world of working with others. Being an extravert, the past year has been incredibly difficult for me; consulting and being “with myself” from 9 AM – 6 PM everyday. But I did it. And I’m better for it. So, how does one get back into the work world? Most people are probably thinking, “duh – apply for jobs”. But no – that’s not my schtick. I know the stats. I know that 92% of jobs are found via connections, not uploading a resume. So, I embraced the stats and started calling around, making conversations.

And it’s been fun – it really has. I realized not only how many connections I had made – but more importantly, the depth of those connections; I didn’t network – I was a relationship builder. And the response was overwhelming. That said, there were certain opportunities that were thrown my way that I impulsively chose not to look at. I didn’t have any reason except that I “thought the job sounded too junior” or I “didn’t think I believed in what the company did”. Stupid.

So I’m on the phone yesterday with Linda – this rockstar Marketer that I “connected with” to work for over the year; while working together, I was impressed…and I’m rarely impressed – so I basically bothered her into a relationship. So we’re discussing jobs on the phone and I mentioned a couple of companies that had reached out to me and asked her opinion on if I should speak with them…I had already made up my mind NOT to speak with them, but I thought – eh, let me see what she would do. And her response, the same response I’ve heard multiple times from her was,

It’s always worth having a conversation.

So I started thinking back to other conversations we’d had and one thing that stuck out whenever I asked if she wanted to be connected with someone – she said, “I’m always willing to have a conversation”.

So I spent the rest of the day thinking about all of the conversations I had turned down and what a bad decision that had been. And I don’t mean just “career” opportunity conversations, but conversations with people in general. How many ideas, thoughts, and great people had I missed out on because I was NOT “willing to have a conversation”? My list was not too long, but it wasn’t too short either.

And then I went back to my first three jobs as well as all of my consulting work; I had never applied for anything – they had all been started with random conversations. My first job, at Kaplan, I was referred there by a high school friend I saw out at a bar. Within Kaplan, I went over to Education Connection based on a conversation about television commercials, and my last role, at HEH, I had been having a conversation with a friend who was in TX and bam – jobs for me and my husband. I could have easily ignored the friend from high school or walked away from the other conversations – but I didn’t.

So, while many things are left to chance – and I firmly believe that everything is purposeful – when you get asked to speak with someone; or maybe not even asked, but the opportunity presents itself – always be willing to have a conversation. Don’t snub your nose at something. You never know where it will lead.

Why “Tribe” Is The New “Job Security”

March 7, 2011 9 comments

One of the only blogs I subscribe to and read every time there is a new post; I’m honored to have Agent of Change, Josh Allan Dykstra, guest blog.

One of the most interesting things about the way work is evolving in the emerging world is how much of it seems to be a return to things we used to do before.

And I don’t mean “1950’s” before — it’s more like “50 A.D.” before.

The hyper-connection of the globe is having a fascinating effect on the way we approach relationships in the marketplace. It almost seems that the more connectivity we have, the more we become aware of a lack of real, true connection.

Brian Dunn, the CEO of Best Buy, once poetically remarked:

“An important principle that is often overlooked inside the boardrooms and offices where business decisions are made [is this]: The world was built on relationships between human beings.”

The more our digital networks expand, the more we rely on our “community” — our tribe, our people (whoever they may be; they may very well be “virtual friends”) — to recommend to us products, services, jobs, etc. The informational overload “out there” is just too much for us to do anything else. We need to find a manageable way to process life, and for most of us this means retreating to a natural group around us we trust enough to give us recommendations and suggestions.

At the same time this “tribal redux” is happening in our personal lives, we are also experiencing a transition in business. We are migrating away from old-school hierarchy and full-time structured jobs to the more fluid, organic, and virtual sphere of contract workers.

Much has been made of these two ideas, separately. But when we start to explore how these movements converge, we see something alarming. Namely, we see this: “Job security” as it used to exist is going extinct. It will be replaced by the strength and vitality of our personal network/tribe.

The deluge of constant input competing for our attention will only get worse, which will force us to rely even more on our personal networks. This increase in competition will also be reflected in the marketplace. You think it’s tough to find a job now without a connection on the inside? Wait another decade and see.

Thankfully, it will be a number of years before this transition is complete and what we used to think of as “job security” is gone forever, but the toothpaste is out of the tube. The days of being able to spend 35 years in a singular white collar sweatshop are long-gone, and they ain’t comin’ back.

But the bigger question is… do we want those days back?

I don’t think we do. What’s coming might be scary, but that’s because it’s different, not because it’s not BETTER.

Get ready for the new world of work!

(There’s a terrific article on how to build your network here.)

Josh Allan Dykstra is a consultant/author/speaker and agent of change. It is his mission to change the world by helping organizations become more vibrant and healthy places to work. His eclectic background spans Fortune 500 companies like Apple, Starbucks, and Viacom/CBS to startups, nonprofits, and government agencies. His new book, The Mosaic Mind: Understanding the Emerging Mentality That Will Destroy or Propel Your Business, will be released in 2011. Connect with him online at joshallan.com.

Life Lessons from the Top Bloggers on the Internet

March 2, 2011 12 comments

A few months ago, bloggers Farnoosh Brock and Abubakar Jamil sent me an email regarding my post, “30 things I’ve learned in 30 years”. They wanted to add it to their collection of the top 108 articles posted on the internet that would lead to a fulfilling life and personal growth. I was honored and happily contributed. Since that time, I’ve not only had the opportunity to meet with others and learn from their life lessons, but was offered multiple offers; being on alltop and writing for Forbes just to name a few.

The post and articles in it became so popular that the two teamed up to develop an e-book containing the best lessons and quotes from each of the contributing authors. Abubakar

“believed that such an eBook would serve as an inspirational book that will teach you and me things about life, how others lived their lives and what they learned, the hard way or otherwise, and that it will have the potential to teach us a thing or two about living our lives more effectively.”

So – do yourself a favor; download this free e-book. Save it to your computer, print it out, or bring it wherever you may go and have a free moment. When you’re in need of advice or a ‘lift’; or when you think no one else feels as you do – open it up. Read a few lines. Not only will you be inspired, but you will act. In a positive manner.

Click here to download your free book. I hope this affects you as positively as it has me!

I Beg to Differ…in the Proper Way

February 21, 2011 5 comments

Professional writer, Ty Unglebower, shares his thoughts and feelings on relationships, interactions and the internet; I am personally a huge fan of Ty’s blog and his writing; he is one of the FEW people who KEEP IT REAL! Thanks for the Guest Post, Ty!

Some people love to have arguments. They get some sort of satisfaction out of knowing that by expressing a deeply held (or not so deeply held) opinion of theirs, they illicit protest, challenge, or even anger and disgust in other people. Whether online or in person, such people thrive on the conflict. Or perhaps more accurately, they thrive on the drama it produces.

They always try to change everybody elses mind. Because they are right. They conclude that the group is so far beneath them that it can never be enlightened, and so they scorn the group for being stupid enough to believe what they believe.

People of this ilk are not in a discussion it for exploration. They are in it to browbeat their worldview onto others. Or if it is not their world view, they are in it just to watch people get pissed or offended.

You can call it passion, or having faith in one’s view point, or “taking the lead” in a conversation, if you like. I, however, call it shit.

Then there are those who enjoy conversation, or perhaps the occasional “debate”. These people also like to express their opinions in the face of opposition. But their impetus, rather then contention, is exploration. They want to delve into as many possible interpretations of an issue or dilemma as possible. They feel perhaps their own opposing viewpoint is enhanced through exposure to other opinions. They may even alter their own view at some point. Unlike the first group, their goal is not to change minds up front, but to understand minds.

It is the passionate exchange of opposing or complimentary ideas that excites such people. Not the ability to make others look stupid.

Needless to say, I prefer the latter group, but find myself constantly surrounded by the former group.

But perhaps you fall into the first group on the surface, but that is not your intention. It is possible that merely in the course of what you would like to think is an “animated discussion” you come off as a pompous, dismissive ass. How can you feed your enjoyment of open discussion of a topic, but hold on to your point of view, and do so with passion, without pissing people off? In the end there are always X factors, but I think I have come to find a few ways.

I have tried to take note over the years of how I react to certain people with differing opinion on various subjects. I know many people with whom I disagree, even on some critical issues. Jamie herself and I disagree about some fundamental approaches to life and success. But that disagreement has never angered me, or made me want to disassociate myself from her. The same can be said for several of the bloggers and writers with whom I have come into contact over the last year or so.

But then there are others, on Twitter, or on Brazen, that do not agree with me, and very quickly just piss me off. But as Jamie proves, it is not the disagreement with my opinion that angers me. It is the presentation of that differing opinion.

Here are some key phrases likely to put me in attack mode when those with opposing opinions use them in a discussion. Avoid them.

“You are fooling yourself if…”
“You couldn’t possibly understand…”
“I’ve been there, you have not..”
“You are not thinking clearly…”
“That’s just insane…”

Do you see a pattern? All of these phrases are set up to condemn the actual person. Note how many of them have “YOU” in them to start the argument. But the mistake many make is to argue the person when they should be arguing the concept, opinion, or approach.

Instead of saying, “You coming at this from totally the wrong angle, because as most liberals you have deluded yourself into believing that Progressive politics have in any way shape or form improved the American lifestyle.”

Try this…

“It has been my experience that progressive programs, while well intentioned and generally fairly popular among the population, often end up being run inefficiently, and eventually fail to serve the very constituency they are designed to assist. Let me give you an example of what I mean.”

Do you see how in the first expression of opinion, you are coming after the person. You are actually labeling them, and deligitimizing them as a person, because of the belief they hold. Plus you haven’t actyally expressed anything but contempt for a certain demographic. You have not presented a single cogent argument for your opinion if you use the first approach. That may be fun on TV, but if you want actual, real people to listen to what you are saying, the second approach is more effective.

Note how in that second approach it is the concept you are examining, not the person. You establish that your position is based on what you personally have seen, and you acknowledge some aspect of good within the other person’s position. And then you proceed to offer some example as to why you have concluded what you have concluded. If you do this, you greatly improve your chances bring about passionate discussion, and exploring what makes other types of people tick, instead of fighting, or in the end, just being ignored by everyone else. (Or blocked if the platform is online.)

In the end, ask yourself as you enter a “lively discussion”, what moves me about conversation? Am I moved by the importance of the ideas? Do I think that be shedding more light on my view someone else may come to understand me better as a person? Might I learn more about other people, or the issue at hand if I listen to what they say?

Or do you just like to yell and scream and listen to people hurl half-baked insults back and forth at one another? Because if you get off on that, don’t bother.

Some things are too important, deep, or volatile to be discussed. Fair enough. But if you do open your mouth, (or write your post) about a subject, and expect to engage in intelligent debate, you had better come prepared to defend the idea, as well as to understand the opposing idea. The person on the other end of the debate is not what you are there for. You are there for the ideas.

At least you should be.

5 Ways to Show “thank you”, not say it

February 12, 2011 5 comments

Yes it’s cliche, but sometimes saying “thank you” is not enough. We all have people who have touched our lives and helped shape who we are along our journeys. I always look for ways to build upon relationships by showing how important someone is to me; taking the time to do something a little “more”. It doesn’t have to cost money, it just requires thoughtfulness. Taking the time to do something meaningful speaks far more than a simple “thank you”. Below are 5 ways I’ve shown people how much I appreciate them. Some cost and some didn’t, but they were all wildly received.

1. Write someone a story. It doesn’t have to be long, it just has to be targeted to them. Many times we forget to tell people all of the little things we remember and how they’ve made us feel. Post the story online. Public display of affection shows love and commitment in ANY relationship – not just romantic ones.

2. Artwork – this doesn’t have to be expensive. There’s a great artist named Brian Andreas and on his site – storypeople – he has thousands of framed prints that have ‘mini’ quotes / stories that speak to all different types of people. A great one that I’ve sent to people that inspire me is here – the quote story is “Don’t you hear it? she asked & I shook my head no & then she started to dance & suddenly there was music everywhere & it went on for a very long time & when I finally found words all I could say was thank you.”

3. Research something you know the person is interested in and get them something that is rare and they do not have. Example: My old boss was a golfer and talked about Bobby Jones as the best golfer of all time. After a day he had been particularly patient with me, I found a ticket autographed by him on ebay. I bought it and gave it to him. He was floored. He had only mentioned it a couple times, but showed him how much I was listening and how much I cared.

4. Books – instead of just sending someone a book; send them YOUR book – with your notes and thoughts in it.

5. Music – make someone a playlist. Again – show them that you listen to them. If they love TED videos – add a TED podcast and 3-4 different songs.

I could keep listing, but the unfortunate reality is many people “don’t believe in” gifts. Or perhaps they believe in them on birthdays and holidays only. I assure you, if you want to show true, thoughtful appreciation for someone – review the list above and act on it. If you don’t have anyone in your life you want to thank in such a way, it’s time to start building some more meaningful relationships.

Loyalty Programs To Be More Loyal

February 9, 2011 5 comments

Article first published as Loyalty Programs To Be More Loyal on Technorati.

After moving to Dallas, TX, I realized if I wanted to leave the state and fly direct, it was going to be on American Airlines. So I signed up for their “loyalty” program and like other loyalty programs, was bombarded with email offers, vacation packages, and the like. I will admit, I did look at them, but I was disappointed; not based on the prices, they were good; and the packages were decent, but I wanted something more personal. So when I started receiving emails saying, “Your personalized AA offers”, I was stoked. I mean, based on how far we’ve come in tracking, data segmentation, data purchasing and monetization, cookies on sites, etc. I was pretty certain I should be receiving an email that offered packages for activities I liked or services I frequently used. Nope. The emails were the same and they were offering one personalized thing; flights out of Dallas. Well, there’s a no-brainer – so they booked me coming out of Dallas. Why not take the time to make more personal?

With the advent of all listed above – the segmentation possibilities, the data research, etc. why would AA not make it a priority to send something more personal? I had used their site and their credit card to book hotels, golf packages, spa packages, car rentals, and many other specific items; and I had done so more than once. Why not send me specific emails? Or even better – why not hand written letters?

I contest that loyalty programs will have to become far more personal and individualized over the next year to compete. Certainly, the psychological benefits of the programs work – they make people feel special, entitled even. But to continue to compete with other loyalty programs in the market place, they are going to have to be a bit more strategic.

Let’s take Marriot Rewards as an example; I’ve booked golf getaways through Marriot and every month I receive “golf getaway special offers”. I may also receive an upsell or cross sell from time to time. Because of the implied endorsement, that the up sell is coming from Marriot, I frequently click through these specials – even if I don’t need something. I’m “loyal” to Marriot and their partners and in return, they show me that they are loyal to me by taking the time to track specific activities.

To become and remain a “player” in the loyalty space, investments must be made in strategic partnerships, business development, and more than anything, analytics and data segmentation. I’ve flown 190,000 miles on American this year and guess how many targeted emails I’ve gotten that target different things other than flying from Dallas? None. So, I added Expedia to my credit cards and programs; why be loyal to a company that does not invest in the time / research / resources to be loyal to me, individually?

A letter in the mail would be nice; these days, that insinuates some effort. Even more so, what about a package when you get to the airport when you hit a milestone number of miles? Maybe a travel bag that says “AA” on it? Or a blanket / pillow set? We know the cost involved with these, because we can purchase them – about $10. Am I not worth that $10 investment after spending nearly half a million dollars on your flights? You would even get free branding out of it.

Sure, I like the perks and the free flights, but whichever loyalty company finds the way to differentiate their offers utilizing data segmentation and tracking will be the loyalty program of choice over the next couple years. Come on American, I don’t want to have to choose another program.

“I do”

February 8, 2011 7 comments

I spent the weekend in NYC at my cousin’s wedding and while listening to the speeches at the party and the rabbi speak during the service, I thought, “hmmmm – that sounds exactly how I feel when I’m going through the interview process and decide I want to commit myself full time to a business”. Some of you may read that and think, “she’s nuts!” and certainly I’m not one to argue your opinion; but if you break it down as I will below, you’ll see the similarities. Granted, there will still be those of you who think I’m crazy – but in response I would preface with perhaps you’re mistaking “crazy” for “passion”.

So let’s break down a wedding speech. They typically start with the story of how the two have met; and how “they just knew” or “there was chemistry right away”. Any job I have taken, there has been a definitive chemistry felt during the interview process. I only work with / for people who “get it”, “get me”, and vice versa. If a common bond or understanding is not developed with at least one of the Executives in the interview process, I do not continue. This works for ME because I’m a quick rapport builder; if you know yourself and know how quickly you connect with people, use that as a ‘judge’, but in my experience if there is no connection – the job will likely not be for you.

The speeches then talk about “how the relationship has grown” and at my cousin’s wedding, they talked about their relationship growing because “they had the same values; family was of the utmost importance.” Similarly, when you are attempting to build business relationships, especially with your internal team or attempting to evaluate whether a company is the right fit for you, having similar values is important. If, for example, your top priority is ‘family’ and you are in a company culture that does not value family; there is likely going to be a rift at some point. If you value your religion and your company Executives are all agnostic or atheist, it is probably going to cause a problem if you are the one person who wants to take off for every holiday. Values are a hard thing to find out about as the topic can be one that is not “HR Friendly”, but you can usually develop an understanding of the company’s values by reading their mission statements, by asking open ended questions about how the company reacts when put in certain situations, and even by external clues like looking at what’s on the wall in someone’s office. If an Executive has 3 diplomas and all pictures of his family, he probably values education and family; ask about the diplomas and the pictures. Here is where you need to ‘dig’.

The speeches typically end with “how they got engaged” or “how he knew she was ‘the one'” and they tell the story of their engagement. If the couple is ecstatic and happy, you can see it when they tell the story – they are teary, emotional, animated, uncaring if they look ‘cool’ or not, and they have an unmatched excitement that even makes you a bit jealous. When you are given that job offer from the “one” or the “right company”, you feel the same way. Well, at least I do – unbridled emotion and excitement.

You can even take it one step further to the wedding vows. While you certainly can’t use ALL language, anyone who has built a business from scratch with other founders can likely attest to, “In sickness and in health” (work ALL the time), “good times and in bad” (usually there are more bad than good when starting a business), “support your goals” (company vision – enough said), “honor and respect”….I could go on and on.

So, if you are a crazy passionate business person; perhaps you can see the similarities above. Or, of course, it is possible that I’m just crazy, but in the words of Jack Kerouac, ““The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

6 Ways to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone…and Love it

January 28, 2011 27 comments

I frequently blog and talk about getting out of your comfort zone. I preach this because this is the one way I KNOW to expedite the personal and professional growth process. Someone asked me yesterday, “what do you mean ‘get out of your comfort zone? How do I do that’?”

While it sounds simple, if you are truly stepping ‘out’, this is a BIG change. EMBRACE IT. The learning and growth you will experience will be directly proportional to the magnitude of the change you make or the discomfort you seek to experience. I’ve learned to thrive on this feeling of discomfort…can you?

1. Start Small. Change is scary for everyone, so the more used to it you are, the easier it will be. If you’ve never done anything REALLY scary in your life, start with a small change. Make a goal like, “I’m going to give my opinion to the CEO” and DO IT (do it professionally). Another example of something small would even be ‘asking the boy or girl you like on a date’. Anything that makes you feel a bit unnerved when you think about it is a great place to start.

2. Commit to yourself. Commit to change. “Agreement is not commitment” – RC and you need to learn the difference. A commitment is a complete mindset face lift. Your mindset must be committed to growth; quick growth.

3. Measure your commitment. Decide that you are going to do “one thing that takes you out of your comfort zone” per day; or maybe it’s ‘per week’. You want to face one fear or one situation that you normally would have brushed off. Write it down in the morning, check it off at night.

4. Reinforce outcomes. Each time you do something you wouldn’t normally do, write down what you learned from it. When you’re fearful of taking on something different the next time, go back and read what you learned and how you grew from something.

5. Know yourself; know when you’re ready for a big change. Make the change. Don’t think about it emotionally. As Nike says, “Just do it”.

6. MAKE MISTAKES and love it. Any successful entrepreneur will tell you they learned more from the failures than their successes. If you hold yourself accountable and learn from them, you have served yourself best.

7. Move. Be in constant motion. What has served me best over the past decade is constant motion; and please note – this does not mean, “move up” – this may also mean, “moving down” (in the proverbial corporate ladder). It takes just as much courage to take a step back from a job or product you are not ready for as it does to take it head on.

My experiences and growth periods all stemmed from #7 – movement. I worked for Kaplan and I was their top sales rep for years; but that was where my professional skill set ended – SALES. While fun and certainly profitable, it was a skill set that many others entailed and it was beginning to get boring. I wanted to use my brain, I wanted to be challenged, and I wanted to be completely uncomfortable. So, I left the security of my job and went to a start up company. Best career decision I ever made. I “took a step back”, took a pay cut, and was constantly thrown in all functional areas of a business. I was scared, I was excited, and everyday was an adventure. I have yet to match that experience. Over 3 years, I became a different person – both personally and professionally. Professionally, I was making more money and dealing with more high level strategies, deals, and executives than any of my friends that had MBA’s. While I’m a proponent of continuing education, I can contest that there is no better education than working in a start up.

MOVE AGAIN. I didn’t want to leave my start up, but the opportunity for another start up company was offered. It was across the country. Being your typical “Damn Yankee”, I thought NYC and South FL were the centers of the universe for most of my life. When I was offered a role for a job in Texas, I grabbed it. In 3 weeks, I left my job, my home, my family, and my friends; and moved to Dallas, TX. This was the second best ‘move’ I made both personally and professionally. From a business perspective, I interacted with and learned how to communicate with a different type of executive. The conservative nature held by those in Texas was nothing I’ve ever experienced on the east coast and I had to relearn and reteach myself how to communicate, both internally and with clients – as a representative of the company. Personally, it WAS the best move I’ve made. My marriage was stronger than ever, as when you leave your friends and family – you truly only have each other. Not being around family and friends was tough, but I learned independence quickly. Being an extrovert, I thought it would be fun to make new friends, but it is a challenge to find people whose values are similar to yours. I learned new and different values and cultures and gained a whole new perspective as well as a new “family” – or set of friends in my building who became like family.

Take it from me and my experiences – you want to grow – get out of your comfort zone. It’s scary and hard while it’s happening, but when you look back, it will be the best experience of your life.

Uncomfortable

You Have to Love the Process

January 23, 2011 4 comments

What is that special something that “winning” entrepreneurs possess?

The standard answer seems to be part luck, part guts, part brains and part the people they surround themselves with. Or, in mbaspeak…”right time. Right place. Right product.”

Lately, I’ve come to realize that the recipe is far different, seemingly simple, but, extremely difficult to execute.

I’ve been fortunate enough to spend my career working for and with entrepreneurs. Some who “get it done” and some who don’t.

The ones who do follow a pattern. A recipe that allows them to orchestrate success in the same way as a conductor does a symphony. They love the process and engage as it unfolds.

So, rather than a formula it’s a series of steps, notes on a page that blend together.

The winning entrepreneur:

(1) Checks their ego at the door
(2) Doesn’t become emotionally attached to their original idea to the extent that it outweighs sound business judgment
(3) Seeks out and listens to opinions from experts and their target market
(4) Engages in intellectual debate when challenged
(5) ACTS quickly when a suggested change of course makes sense

And, most importantly

(6) Embraces the process

Sounds simple. But, it’s not. By nature, serial entrepreneurs are egoists. They not only love their ideas, but many are in love with themselves and therefore emotionally tie themselves to their creations. Whether it be a product, a website, or a commercial, to WIN – the entrepreneur must actively engage and WANT others to better what they’ve done. Many CEOs engage in steps 3 and 4, but have never mastered 1 and 2 and therefore cannot execute on step 5. They know it all; the project is their “baby”. Who could create something better?

I’ve lived a real life example with a winning CEO. My CEO at Education Connection had been massively successful. He had started and sold several businesses – for millions of dollars. He was known in the for profit online education space as well as internet marketing industries as “the golden boy” or the “man with the midas touch”. He was incapable of creating something that was not a success. Having the opportunity to work for him and now having worked for several other CEOs, the difference is clear; he loves the process. He had said to me hundreds of times while building our business, “enjoy the journey – be present – don’t always rush to the end goal” and only now – a couple years later – do I understand what that means and why it led to his success. It’s the process outlined above.

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