Posts tagged: entrepreneurs

The Sweetest Sound: My Name

Some people make jokes about their terrible memories and their inability to remember people’s names. Like it’s a big joke. It’s not.

“Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound” Dale Carnegie

Recently I recounted a story about the CEO of a national company with 2,000 employees. When I visited his office, the walls were covered with photos of the company’s employees. Some had check marks next to them. The check marks indicated those employees that the CEO had met in their hometown (all over the country) and with whom he had spoken about their family. His goal was to know the face, name and family members of each employee no matter where he met them. Imagine the energy it took to work on this.

Why did this CEO think this was so important? Well, first of all it meant that he was focused on employees. Next, it gave him a way to connect to people who were not at ‘headquarters’ and a way to make them feel that he cared about them, which, he obviously did.

I work hard to remember people’s names. I learned a trick many years ago; when I meet someone new, I say their name as I shake their hand. Then I try to use it at least one more time before we part company. It’s a small thing but it leaves a positive impression. Check out these tips for remembering names.

Photo credit: Whisper

Habits for Excellence – Yawn. Been There.

Creating ‘habits’ for excellence is hot topic. Make your bed as soon as you get up. Put things back in their place when you’re finished with them. Pick up clutter every night. Yawn. Heard it, tried it. Hate it.

One suggestion I do like is… Become Enthusiastic. Why don’t more of us do it? Habit.

“Most people drift through life with their shoulders hunched and wrinkles on their forehead. Be enthusiastic not just about going on vacation, or taking some time off from work… but about everything in life.”

How can we find a way to be more enthusiastic? Work at it. Set it as a goal. Understand its power.

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We show people we care by listening, so listen with energy. Be verbally supportive. Nod, smile. We demonstrate our priorities by where we put our time. It’s not easy to insert more enthusiasm in our daily lives, but it’s worth the effort. We are often enthusiastic about our kid’s accomplishments but not about our friend’s or colleague’s… or a stranger’s (heaven forbid!)

Enthusiasm doesn’t look the same in every person. Some might stand up, shift their weight from foot to foot; others might get louder. There isn’t a formula. Pay attention to how YOU show enthusiasm and then harness that focus and attention when you want it.

By the way, enthusiasm does not guarantee success, but it’s makes the journey more fun. And while some people might mock us, do we really care?

You’re A Rookie, Good!

Are you trying something new? How does it feel? Exciting? Scary? Confusing?

Are you feeling like you want to try something new but you’re afraid? (Seems reasonable!)

Have you stopped considering trying new things because you are:

  • too old, too tired, too cranky, too dull, too young, too blah, blah, blah

In this inspirational talk, the founder of ModCloth (which she started at 17), talks about why it’s good and even powerful to be a ‘rookie.’ When we are rookies, we have no preconceived ideas about how it’s ‘supposed’ to work. That makes it easier (and even necessary) to innovate. We ask rookie questions, we make rookie decisions and we hopefully have rookie energy. Learning is energizing.

There is power in rookiedom. I’m not suggesting that you don’t ask for help or get advice from trusted advisers. Of course, that makes sense. But it’s also important to trust your rookie ‘gut’.

If you are accomplished at something but still want to get better or if you want to expand your capabilities, consider talking to a rookie. Someone who knows very little about the topic. They may have insights that all the experts in the world never would have had.

I was a rookie teacher… I cringe when I think of how naive I was. In many ways, I see how those early lessons shaped the teacher I am today. I’m excited to be a rookie again. I’ll keep you up to date on my, ahem, progress.

Photo credit: School Friends  Woodley Wonderworks

Confront Your Shark

In the article, “10 Navy Seal Life Lessons You Can Use Everyday,” Navy Seal Admiral W. H. McRaven shows us how to train like a seal. One of the 10 lessons is to “confront your daily shark.” Wow, really. I don’t want to. That’s why it’s a shark; it’s big, dangerous, mysterious, overwhelming.

In truth, some sharks are overwhelming. But many sharks are sharks – only to us. To others they are simply bosses, bullies, relatives – whoever intimidates and makes us feel smaller than we are.

I can’t tell you what you to do, but I can tell you what I did. I went through a bad, awful, terrible divorce. Specifics aside, I can tell you there were many times when I felt I couldn’t keep going. I wanted to give up and give in. I had grownup with alcoholic parents, was always taking care of other people (mom, little brother, chronically ill older sister) and I had a poor sense of myself as a strong, confident person. So when this ‘challenge’ arose in my life, I was more than shaken to my (already shaky) core.

Here’s what I did:

1) Got a physical and communicated regularly with my doctor

2) Exercised regularly

3) Talked and talked and talked.. thank you to everyone who listened

4) Tried to have fun whenever I could (I wasn’t great at this to begin with and … still not good at it)

5) Worked to change the “tapes” playing in my head that told me, I couldn’t, shouldn’t, wasn’t strong enough, smart enough, etc.

6) I focused on ‘the prize’ – what I wanted as an end result

7) Listened to inspirational (rock n roll songs) like:

Already Gone – Eagles

So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key

You Gotta Be -Des’ree
You gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm
 What are your favorites inspirational songs? Share them and what you’ve done to ‘confront your shark.” Go get ’em!

Photo Credit: 3D Shark Will Ellis

The Creative Journey… What About the Money?

“Art suffers the moment other people start paying for it. The more you need the money, the more people will tell you what to do. The less control you will have. The more bullshit you will have to swallow. The less joy it will bring. Know this and plan accordingly.” Hugh MacLeod

This post is dedicated to my daughter, Jenna aka Jenna Marbles, the YouTuber. (If you know a girl between the ages of 13 and 20, they probably know her.)  Here’s a  NY Times article about her.

Jenna has always been a free spirit who found a way to cope with ‘regular’ life. She made some videos in high school, but she wasn’t a ‘theater kid’ and never had aspirations of ‘fame’ that I know of. So when her video, “How to Trick People Into Thinking You’re Good Looking” (warning language) got 5 million views in its first week, you could say she ‘stumbled’ into making videos for a living.

The fact that she single handedly writes, films, stars in, edits and uploads a new video every week (and has for 4+ year) is amazing. SHE HAS NEVER MISSED A WEEK — that’s 215 video in 215 weeks! 1.5 Billion views. Many people think what she does is easy. Try producing original content every week for 215 weeks. But there’s a story beyond that, that’s even more impressive (besides how much she cares about the people who support her.)

She understands who she is and what she wants. In the quote above, MacLeod talks about how money influences art. Jenna wants creative control and isn’t willing to let the bullshit run her life.

I am immensely proud of her for that.

Starting a Business… Founders Reflect

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As some of you know I am expanding the focus of this blog to include the start up experience.

According to this article in Fortune, the #1 reason founders think their company failed (by a big margin) is that there was no market need.

I am 30+ years in business, many of them working with start ups  and this problem is widespread in start ups. The good news is that the people who tried, learned. The bad news is that a lot of effort goes in to creating a company or a product. With some discipline, this problem can be eliminated.

I have seen so many “technology-push” solutions… i.e. “oh we’ve got this great widget, it’s so cool. Everyone will want one.” But then (shock), everyone doesn’t want one.

I have spent years sizing markets (especially for new categories/products), understanding customer needs and developing “go-to market strategies.” There are experienced people to help you determine the size of and how to approach the market. Please ask. Here’s a local resource and a national one.

Image credit: Fortune

Life and Death as a Frog

On our rainforest block we have many litoria infrafrenata frogs.  Boy are they loud during the monsoon!

When we think about survival of the fittest, we may not get inspiration from frogs. I’m hoping to change that.

When I mow the lawn, creatures run when they hear the lawn mower coming.  Rabbits, butterflies, large bugs; the vibration and noise from the mower send them scurrying. But I notice that the frogs are not that swift.

I don’t see them in the tall grass but, in theory, they ought to see, hear and feel the mower. And yet, I have run over two frogs in the past two weeks. No matter how careful I am; these frogs do not seem to get the message. In fairness, frogs have limited brain power/access to resources but we don’t. We have access to lots of resources. Do we pay attention?

The frog dilemma got me thinking about times in my life when I saw the warning signs, felt the warning signs and HEARD the warning signs and yet, I still didn’t scurry (read: change my behavior). Instead I carried on about how unfair it was, how upset I was, why did things have to change, etc.

Some of this is a completely normal part of loss and grieving. (see Kubler-Ross 5 stages of grief) Things are changing at home, at work, my kids are growing up, my company is downsizing, I’m getting older and so we need time to process these changes and adapt. I’m not talking about this.

I’m talking about the little frog or me, when I hear the roar of the mower engine, I smell the cut grass, I feel the earth shake as the mower passes by and I still don’t do anything. I am stuck.

Truth is, that mower has run me over a few times. I could have gotten out of the way, but I didn’t. When was the last time you heard the mower coming and didn’t ‘get out of the way?” I know it’s hard. We all procrastinate. Maybe this time, I’ll scurry a little, then rest, then scurry a little more and hope I avoid the blades.

Photo credit: White Lipped Green Tree Frog   maggie p 

I Hate Being A GrownUp

One of the good things about about being a grown up is that you get to choose when you act/think like a kid. The problem is that many of us never choose that path, even for a few minutes. Once we’re grown up, we think it’s wrong to be silly or color outside the lines. This is a shame.

The older we get the more invested we are in ‘the same'; what Seth Godin calls lizard brain. Our prehistoric need to stay in the cave, “to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise.”

The idea is to live our lives according to what we (and our loved ones) need at the time.  This doesn’t mean I have to work at this job or this career forever. Just right now.

People forget this. They also forget that they can change their minds. I am not recommending arbitrarily job hopping. But trying several different paths to build skills and ‘try things on’ is a legitimate path – AT ANY AGE.

The problem is the judgement of other people, specifically our fear of it. When I requested and got approval (in 1984) to manage my team while working part time, many of my colleagues were upset. Here’s what they said; “why does she get to?” “she can’t be serious about your career” and my favorite “I wish I could do that.” Blah, blah, blah. I showed them how to do it, they were too afraid. That’s cool. You do it your way and I’ll do it mine.

But if you think you can go your own way and not face judgement from others, stop. it. right. now. Accept the fact that for whatever human reason, the pack doesn’t like lone wolves. If you choose a path that isn’t like everyone else’s, people are going to be upset and many will let you know.

Insofar as you can (and still pay your bills) stop thinking/worrying about what everyone else wants/thinks. You will NEVER please everyone so you might as well please yourself.  For me, this was a tough lesson, but once I learned it… I was free forever.

It’s hell in the hallway but the difficulty doesn’t last forever. But when you’re in the hallway… it sure feels like it will.

Want a laugh? check out my daughter Jenna’s take on ‘grownuphood” (alert: fbombs & other foul language included)

Photo credit: Why Do We Work?

 

Creating Work You Love (Sounds Scary or Ridiculous)

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Why am I an entrepreneur? “We’ve made the decision to let you go,” my boss said over the telephone.  I was shocked and upset.That was, the first time.

The second time I was let go, not so much. By the third time I said to myself, “Never again.” I am not going to put myself in a position where how I earn my living is dictated by someone else’s priorities.

I learned to work hard when I was young and frankly, since I’m a Baby Boomer, being a workaholic is normal and I always wanted my own business. I remember more than one person saying to me, you can’t start a company (you girl, you), what could you possibly do? As angry as I was at them, I used the anger to motivate me.

Assessing the possibilities I had a bunch of skills, foreign languages, marketing, healthcare, blah, blah, blah. They didn’t really fit together into a solid plan for earning a living being an entrepreneur. So I devised a three pronged strategy for creating income.

1) Teaching

2) Speaking and workshops

3) Consulting

Getting started I met with a lot of people and talked about my idea. Some nodded, “Hmmmm, I could see them thinking, she’ll never make this work.”  Some tried to discourage me, “Get a job,” and a few encouraged me, “You can do it!”

I can report that 5 years in, I am doing better than I ever hoped. It isn’t what I expected and that’s not only good, it’s fun.

You can do it too.  So if you are wondering where your next job is going to come from… I will ask you this; what will it take for you to say, “Enough. I’m gonna try something different?  I can guarantee you will learn more in 1 year on your own path than you will in 5 years working for someone else. If, at any point,  you decide to go work for someone else, you’ll be even more valuable to that employer. You will be a better problem solver, see the big picture and actually empathize more with your boss in a different way.

But I can’t…. I have responsibilities   The first time I co-founded a start up I was the single mother of 2 kids, 14 and 12 with no family to help me. That start up only lasted 2 years, thanks to 9/11, but I learned so much and my actions showed my children how to go for what they want and to not be afraid.

Just Do It. Join millions of others who are finding a way to create meaningful, interesting work.

Photo credit: You Can Do It

What I Learned from My Dog: Part 2

Untitled  How do dogs spend their days?

– Eating, sleeping, sniffing, barking, chasing

We human beings can learn a few things from them. The eating and sleeping part we all get. But what about:

– Sniffing – this is the equivalent of learning, but hands on learning, not the… oh I went to college kind. The kind where you have to get right in there and possibly not be ‘perfect.’ This is where the real learning happens.

– Barking – this is the communicating part of the day. We all communicate in various ways, we whimper, we brag, we talk etc. But dogs don’t gossip, they don’t shame each other, (okay they may bully a bit but they do it for a survival reason.)

-Chasing – My dog watches the squirrels, chipmunks and birds out the window. She was bred to dig varmints out of holes so she’s happy to let the critters be. But occasionally she finds something so compelling, she just has to chase it. Can you relate? I can.

One last thing. When the wind blows, instead of turning away, she puts her face right into it. The harder it blows, the longer she stands facing it. This inspires me: when the wind is blowing in my face, I work to stand firm, sniff and see what I can learn.