Posts tagged: entrepreneurs

Irritation: A First World Problem

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“Irritation is a privilege. It’s the least useful emotion and… it’s a choice.” Seth Godin

Heebie Geebies

I  have been irritable lately. I noticed that I was being short with people, interrupting them, feeling jumpy… but I didn’t know why. I read this excellent blog post from Seth Godin “On Being Irritated,” and I made a decision to immediately take action to get off the crabby bus.

Honestly, I did know why I was feeling irritable … but I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I was obsessively thinking about things. I was not taking good care of myself. I was taking on too much. This is a familiar pattern for me and I thought I had defeated this demon. Wrong! Bad habits and negative thoughts/behaviors can sneak up on me.

Don’t Try Harder, Try Different

For me, when I’m irritable… it may be because I’m hungry, angry, lonely or tired. So I look first at these 4 things  to see how I can fix them. Then it may be that I am expecting something from someone and they are not coming through. Now my job is to make sure that I have made it clear what I expect, need, or want. The other person is free to say no, ignore me, or suggest something else. My job is make sure that I have been clear, with myself and them. Then I can deal with the situation from a position of clarity. I may be upset but at least I know what I need.

Caution: Feeling Irritable May Be Habit-Forming

There is huge difference between irritable and depressed/lost/hopeless. Irritation is minor, these other feelings are not. Look beneath your ‘irritableness.’ If you are feeling lost or hopeless or if there are people in your life telling you that ‘something is wrong’… then most likely ‘something is wrong.’ Pay close(r) attention. If you’re just crabby, because you’re crabby, then please take good care of yourself. The world needs you at your best.

Image credit: Image

The Return on Investment of Reading

My summer reading pile. From top to bottom: "Rhode Island Notebook" - Gabe Gudding "Freakonomics" - Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner "How to be Alone" - Jonathan Frazen "A Handbook of ...

Why Should I Read Books?

In the age of Twitter (and I love Twitter), the time and energy for reading books is shrinking. Especially the kind of books that help us grow our businesses. Isn’t it easier to read ‘articles’, blog posts (yeah, like this one!) or your favorite business news source?

Here’s what goes on in my head…. Reading a book… ugh. It’ll take a long time. Not only do I not have a couple of hours to read a book, I don’t have the mental energy it takes to concentrate on a business book. My days are just too busy.

But often, the smartest person in the room, the one with a good perspective and ideas,  is the one who reads books. If you ask them what is the most recent business book they read, they’ll have a ready answer. We read books in school, but once we get out, we think it’s either not necessary or a luxury we can’t afford.

Skill Building

“In medical school, an ongoing lesson is that there will be ongoing lessons. You’re never done. Surgeons and internists are expected to keep studying for their entire career—in fact, it’s required to keep a license valid.” He continues, “knowledge workers, though, the people who” manage, market, and do accounting— “often act as if they’re fully baked, that more training and learning is not just unnecessary but a distraction. The average knowledge worker reads fewer than one business book a year.”  Seth Godin

When I read a book, one that requires me to actually think, as opposed to my favorite mysteries, I have to focus 100% on the page. It’s one of the few times during the day (or evening) that I do only one thing at a time. I get to concentrate on just one thing and I build skills, knowledge, and perspective.

Finding The “Right” Investment

One of the hardest things for me is to figure out is ‘what’ to read. There are so many books! A quick search indicates there are some 11,000 business books published every year. How in the world can I sift through all that noise to find something that will actually give me some return for my precious time?

Here’s how I try to figure out what to read. I think about:

  1. An author, is this someone who has written something that I learned from before?
  2. A general business book that brings a big picture into focus (as opposed to ‘marketing’ or ‘finance’ or some other sub topic.)
  3. Bigger ideas or technology trends… not just specific companies or individual technologies.
  4. Books where the author has done research. The research means that the author had a hypothesis and then tested it.

Some of My  Favorites

  1. Anything by Chris Anderson, Amy Cuddy, Brene Brown, Daniel Gilbert, Josh Bernoff, Charlene Li, Seth Godin.
  2. Traditional favorites like: Warren Bennis on Leadership, Michael Gerber on Entrepreneurship and my all time favorite – Peter Drucker on anything he ever wrote about.

I’d love to hear how you select what books you will read and who your favorite authors are. Thanks!

Photo Credit: Summer reading list

 

Strength is Elastic (Not Steel)

Do you equate strength with the following?

  • Loud
  • Brusque
  • Aggressive
  • Reluctance to “give in”
  • Authoritative
  • Fast talking/Quick witted
  • Unemotional

If you do, I ask you to think carefully about your definition of strength.

Real strength has flexibility and resilience. Think of the power of water… it is powerful in it’s own way. Think of people who have changed the world for the better. Seldom are they the loudest people in the room. They may have an unrelenting drive… like water… but they don’t have to bully and belittle. They know that building up others, leading with self awareness and grace, are a more powerful force than any muscle flex or shouted order.

“Strength begins with unwavering resilience, not brittle aggression.” Seth Godin

Image credit: Bands 3

Patience is an Action

This guy gets me almost all the time. It seems like there's someone sitting there at the bus atop but nope, it's a statue.

“Patience is also a form of action.”―Auguste Rodin

Modern Living

I don’t know about you, but patience isn’t my long suit. I think I know best, I think other people should do what I think they should do and then I get antsy when they don’t do it. Pretty insane. And yet, I keep doing it because… I’m a type A, know-it-all, fancy pants.

Many decisions in life seem really important:

  • What courses to take in high school that will lead to what college I attend that will lead to what I do for a living that will lead to who I meet and marry… OMG. The pressure that teen feels to ‘figure out’ their “whole life” by 15 or 16 is overwhelming.
  • What do I wear to the job interview? What should I put on my resume? What if I’m not “good enough” to work there.
  • Do I make my kids go to church/synagogue/temple?

The list goes on and on.

Why Patience?

Now that I’m old… I see the benefit in focusing more on the ‘little’ decisions. Did I exercise today? Am I getting enough rest? Am I feeling hungry, angry, lonely or tired? If I am, then I think it’s a good idea to tend to those needs right now.

I can see that focusing on this moment, right here, serves larger goals. If I make a decision under duress, because others want me to, then I’ll likely have my priorities mixed up.

Patience is the gift of waiting. Waiting to make the decision. Being quiet until I ‘hear’ the right answer from inside my own head. It takes a lot to know that the time isn’t right to make the decision.

Parents are the Worst

I’m lucky. My kids are grown, healthy and have people that love them. I don’t need to try to influence them anymore. But parents of today’s teens have lots to worry about. You may make it worse when you insist that you know best, in every situation. Maybe your kid knows best in this situation. Once they reach a certain age … the consequences of those decisions will be theirs. If they have proved trustworthy, trust them.

If you believe in yourself, then trust yourself. Just for today, have patience with yourself and those around you. Take a deep breath.

Image credit: Bus Stop Statue  JDNX

The Tides of Confidence

PHOTO CAPTION: Delegates at the Pacific Youth Leadership Forum negotiate a confidence-building exercise at Camp H.R. Erdman, a YMCA camp located on the North Shore in Hawaii. The YLF was sponsored and hosted by Installation Management Command-Paci...

Confidence Comes and Goes

I was thinking about my confidence. How it comes and goes like the ocean tides. Sometimes, I feel supremely confident. Like my decisions, my thought process and my ability to ‘pull it off’ are good. No doubts, no questions. Then something happens. I’m never quite sure what happens. Suddenly, I’m questioning everything.

Like the ocean tides (although thankfully not as predictable!), my confidence almost disappears. I can’t control when I feel confident and when I don’t. For me, the first step is to realize when the tide is in (I’m confident!) and when it’s out (OMG, I can’t do anything right). The tricky part is to own the feeling and acknowledge when I’ve done something to deserve the feeling.

I Want to Be Confident All the Time

Because I carried a lot of responsibility at a very young age, I learned to depend on myself. And I know that I can… do a lot of different things, fix what’s broken, change, lead, and make good decisions. I know that I can come off as very confident. As a person who knows what’s going on and can handle things, and oftentimes, I can. But sometimes, I am paralyzed. I don’t know what to do and I can’t quite seem to muster any of that confidence that has served me so well.

In a heart beat, my confidence is like low tide, stinky and exposing everything. It’s like I only have 2 switches – on and OFF. This is not good. Cocky is bad. It doesn’t serve anything.  A dish rag doesn’t either. The really confident person stands a certain way. Even if they are unsure, they pay attention to their body language. They stand up straight, they smile, they’re usually kind.

Monitor the Tide

When it’s low tide , I try this: 1) take a deep breath (no really, do it now… take a deep breath)  2) stand a little taller 3) think of someone who loves me (unconditionally) 4) remember I can trust myself. Practice feeling confident when you’re not ‘feeling it’. Fake it ’til you make it. This is a very important skill.  Modeling this skill for our children is powerful. Realizing that confidence comes and goes like the tides, means that when I’m paralyzed… I have choices. And I won’t feel this way forever.

Image credit: Pacific Region Hosts   familymwr

Be Coachable — At Any Age

But I Haven’t Got the Talent

Sometimes I hear people giving up on their goal. That can be ok. Sometimes surrender is the right thing to do. But sometimes, giving up is a very bad thing. We act as if changing ourselves or working harder wouldn’t make a difference. In our hearts, we know changing could make the difference, but we’re lazy.

Be Coachable

Because I can be stubborn, I think I missed a lot of opportunities. One of the most important was, that I didn’t take advantage of finding mentors who could guide me. I didn’t know how important they can be. I did have one. He met me, helped me get out of a dead end job and move into a job that opened a lot of doors for me. He was a very smart but difficult person. Many people didn’t like him. That was because he, unwittingly, tested people and if they couldn’t stand up to him, he would lose respect for them. People didn’t like that.

I had my chance to stand up to him. One day he snapped at me. I looked him in the eye and said, “Bob, do you have a problem with me?” He stammered, “No, why?” I replied, “Well, you just spoke harshly to me and it made me uncomfortable. I’d like to avoid exchanges like that in the future.” He apologized and said it wouldn’t happen again. And it didn’t.

I think what would happen with others, although I never saw it, was that he would snap or challenge them and because he was abrasive (not tactful), they would shrink from him. If someone is trying to toughen you up, so you can face the world… then they need to challenge you. Instead of taking it personally, see it as an opportunity. If you are an entrepreneur, this is even more important because you’ll need multiple mentors and coaches to succeed.

The Coachable Mentee

I wish I had been more open, less dogmatic. Now that I’m in my sixties, I still work to be a more approachable and “influenceable” person. What does it look like? Here are few keys:

  • Good listener
  • Able to summarize and feedback the other person’s point of view
  • Strong but pliable

Being coachable doesn’t require talent… it requires awareness… and work. Got a story about being coachable?

Image credit: Banksy on Twitter

Just Connecting Isn’t Enough

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Me Likey/Me Don’t Likey

Most of us have good work relationships. We get along with people, we know how to help colleagues, we enjoy building our business. In 2016, we know we need to have a strong network so when we need to change jobs (either our choice or our company’s), we’re ready. The part most of don’t like is the meeting strangers, making small talk, finding common ground and then figuring out whether this connection is worthwhile or an annoying person I want to avoid.

5 Ways to Make It Easier

When you watch a really great networker… what do you see? Someone who smiles easily, makes small talk like a champ and instinctively knows how to make friends. There are a few people who really can do all this well. But most of us, need to work on it. We need ideas, tools and support. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Set a numerical goal for the number of new connections you want to gain every month. Why? Because if we set a goal, we’re likely to reach it. I recommend 5-10. LinkedIn is a convenient place reach out and ask for the connection.
  2. Write down 5 places where you might meet new connections. Does your church/place of worship have a social group? If you belong already, it could be a good place to make connections. If you don’t belong, maybe you could join. The point is to think of places where you are already comfortable and go from there.
  3. Reach out to 10 contacts a month.  Look through your business cards, LinkedIn connections or address book. At the end of each month, find people  to connect to in the coming month. Jot down the following:  name, contact information (phone/email/mailing address), what you might say. If you take a few minutes to do this preparation, you will reap many benefits.
  4. Say thank you to 5 connections a month. Again, I recommend you jot down the names, contact info and what you might say. These people could be customers, old work connections, volunteer contacts.
  5. Review your contacts for people YOU can help. It’s amazing what happens when you give.

Connecting Isn’t Enough

Connecting isn’t enough because if all you do is meet more people and your association never goes any deeper, then you haven’t built a relationship. Engaging with others, thinking about how you can help them and consciously building relationships is the key to thriving in a changing business world. Got something that works for you? Please share.

Image credit: Social Media

The Power of Asking

Sales Stinks

When I work with entrepreneurs, the most significant skill they lack is very often in sales. And sales is all about understanding the customer’s need and then asking for their business. It’s that simple. Ask good questions, listen to the answer, match their need with what you have to offer. If you can’t give them value with your offering, then offer to help them in some other way. A contact, a resource, a smile and an open mind. You’d be surprised what you have to offer.

What If They Say No

The down side of asking is… what if they say, the dreaded, “NO.” Well, it’s likely that they will. Not every person you ask to help you, buy something, share something, etc. will be willing. But you will get nothing if you don’t ask.

Be Yourself. But Ask.

The other down side is that people often feel that there’s a formula for asking. That pushy people get ‘better’ results than the more mild mannered. This is simply not true. The person who offers value, is the one who wins the business or the relationship. There is no one way to ask. I can guarantee though that if you are authentic to your own style… you will do significantly better than if you act like you think you should. The difference between the successful entrepreneur and those that are not, is that one learned to ask, the other didn’t.

How do you ask? Try something like this. “I’m trying to grow my business and I’m wondering if you would have any need for ‘xyz'”.  If they say “No, thanks.” You could try, “I appreciate your time. If you know of someone else who might benefit from my xyz. I hope you’ll pass along my name.”

Simple. No one is offended. No one was pushy or aggressive. Just a simple ask. Practice in your personal life. Let me know how it goes.

 

Image credit: Jules Renard

Job at Google? No Thanks.

Google, The Holy Grail of Employers

A lot has been written about interviewing and working at Google. William Poundstone has a book. Here’s an article from the NY Times, and there are probably hundreds more. My question is, what do you give up when you work at a big (50k + employees) company? (I worked 17 years at Eastman Kodak, 120K employees.)

Free food, dry cleaning,  onsite child care, convenient transportation, gyms etc.  The free sushi may flow, in some offices you can bring your dog and when you tell people you work at Google, they say wow, good for you. The list of benefits is long and generous. Only a company with huge margins could afford to offer all these.

Do Perks and Prestige Kill Innovation?

But my question is, what can you really accomplish (vs. working at a smaller company)? I know first hand the benefit of all the training and rubbing elbows with really bright people. I also know how much inertia a large corporation generates. The very thing that builds the company, is what holds it back.

Besides search, where has Google, with all it’s billions, really innovated? (I’ll give them Google Earth/Maps). They have tried in vain to create a Face Book competitor (think of Google Friend Connect, Google Wave, Google +, etc.) They have spent years trying to crack the way ‘people’ connect… and they haven’t succeeded yet.

What About YouTube?

One could make a case for YouTube. It brings people together to share, but I would suggest that YouTube’s ‘socialness’  is purely technical.

There have been almost no improvement in the interaction/social aspects of YouTube. Commenting is just as linear and lame as it’s always been. There’s no way to see comments in the context of the where it might be relevant in the video. Every time they come out with an “upgrade”, I think oh, good, they’re finally going to improve the viewers experience. But no, the upgrades make things easier for YouTube.

Look, if you want to work at Google, great. I wish you well and I know you’ll meet lots of smart, interesting people. If you want to really use all parts of your brain and general capacity… then I hope you aim for a smaller company. Let me know how it’s going, wherever you work.

Photo Credit: William Poundstone

No Is A Complete Sentence

What I Learned

My grandmother used to say, if someone offers you something and you don’t want it… say, “not today, try me tomorrow.” I thought she was nuts (well, she was, but not for saying that.) Women are taught to say yes. We are rewarded for saying yes… “Yes, I’ll make dinner and do the dishes.” Yes, I’ll volunteer at the school. Yes, I’ll run those errands, put a band aid on that cut, work that extra shift and on and on. I never learned to say no. I learned to try to please people, even at the expense of my own well being.

 Why I Can’t Just Say Yes All The Time

So I had to learn to say no. One “no” at a time. It was hard. Every time I said no, I felt like I was disappointing everyone. Then it began to dawn on me. I’m not the only person who can do whatever needs to get done. Often, I wasn’t even the best person to do it. When I said no, it gave someone else a chance to give, to help, to learn, to show they cared. Who knew?

The Power of No

Who knew I could say no, feel better about myself and provide someone else with an opportunity? I didn’t know it then but I know it now.  If you are one of the lucky people who learned to say no early in life, I envy you. I’m going to be watching you, to see how you do it.

Image Credit: No is a complete sentence