The Best Investment in the World

goldI don’t know too much about investing. But when it comes to investments I know a lot.

So, I’m sitting in a hotel room in Baltimore one night last week and a GOLD commercial comes on the television. It features a guy sitting on a horse talking about why he invests in gold and why you should too.

Now I know horses are kind of expensive and I figure if this guy can afford a horse he must know what he’s talking about. Besides, the way he makes it sound gold hasn’t gone down in value EVER.

Well, I browsed on over to the website featured in the commercial to get started with my new investment. They had lots of pictures of gold bars and coins on the home page and I knew immediately that I was interested in the coins. They appeared to be about the size of a U.S. quarter but maybe a little thicker. I seem to remember the site also said something about them weighing an ounce.

I was thinking maybe I’d start with a couple dozen of these gold coins and then build from there.

I have mentioned that I don’t know too much about investing… especially in gold?

When I clicked on the page to purchase my gold coins I thought there must be some kind of mistake. The total was something like $40,000! Geez I didn’t want to buy Fort Knox, I just wanted a handful of gold quarters.

Who would have thought that each one of those little coins would cost over $1600 dollars. Not me, that’s for sure. I just closed the page and went back to answering emails.

But it got me to thinking about other investments I’ve made and THE investment I’ve encouraged so many other people to make too. That investment is an investment in yourself.

I’ve been involved in adult education and training for over 25 years and in that time I’ve learned that people who invest in themselves most often end up far more successful than people who don’t.

When I was selling Dale Carnegie Training programs I saw two distinctly different types of people; one type believed that “if the company wants me to improve and be better at my job then they will need to pay for it.” The other type believed that “my success and happiness is my responsibility and if the company I work for won’t invest in me then I will invest in myself.”

The first type complied with the requirement to improve and the second type was committed to improvement.

Given those two types it doesn’t take much to determine which one would be more successful.

So what about you? Are you waiting for someone to invest in you? Are you leaving your success and future in the hands of another person or the company you happen to work for?

Are you the person who complains about the way things are or are you the person who makes an effort to improve them?

The best investment in the world is an investment in yourself. An investment in your future, an investment in your happiness and an investment you can use to make a difference in the lives of those you care about.

Don’t wait another day, read a book, find a blog to follow, enroll in a class and get yourself a coach or a mentor. Pay for a coach or mentor if you have to; but whatever it takes, get one now!

Stop saying “if only I could” to yourself and start saying “I absolutely will.” When you decide that no one but you can limit your growth and success, then no one can stop you.

You CAN do great things, the only question is, will you?

Push Yourself

push_yourself_by_rp31-d3kfhtqSometimes we just need to take it easy. The Eagles even wrote a song about it. They say to “lighten up while you still can.” That’s good advice.

The advice is so good in fact that some people seem to over do it. Some people attempt to take it so easy that they make their life much harder than it needs to be.

As much as I endorse some “down” time, and actually coach people to schedule it into their calendars, I also remind them of that old saying “too much of a good thing.” The rest periods and time away from work are meant to prepare us for our next push towards productivity and success. See that? It says “push” towards success.

The fact of the matter is that in today’s business world we are all pushed. The question is, will we be the ones doing the pushing or we will be the ones pushed by someone else. If we don’t push ourselves, for our own purpose then we will surely be pushed by someone else for theirs.

Most people, sadly, are pushed by someone else. This happens for a variety of reasons but I think one of the biggest is a lack of goals. Goals give people a reason to push. Goals offer us a reward after a long period of pushing. Goals even provide us the fuel we need to continue pushing when we want to stop.

It’s a simple fact of life: goal oriented people are more successful than people who just coast through life without true goals. TRUE GOALS! Those are the kind of goals that have made it onto paper. They are written down along with a time line on when they will be achieved. They also have a very specific plan that states how the goal will be achieved. The plan includes the investment we are willing to make to achieve the goal and that investment is listed in terms of both money AND time.

For many goals the money investment is the easy part, at least when compared to the time investment. If the goal is real then you must block out time to work towards it. All time is expensive, that means there is no free time. That’s why the stuff you plan to do in your free time never really gets done.

When you commit yourself to achieving goals you will push yourself, sometimes you will push yourself well past what you thought were your limits.

So, are you ready to push yourself or will you just sit back and wait for someone to push you? You’re going to be pushed, how and why you’re pushed, like pretty much every other part of your life is completely up to you.

How Stupid People Get Promoted

warning-no-stupid-people_i-G-60-6056-AB9D100ZInteresting title don’t you think? We all know who I’m talking about, the person who “somehow” got the position that we deserved. Maybe it’s somebody who has a little “authority” for the first time and immediately begins acting as if they rule the world.

These people are frustrating for all of us smart people who have earned every promotion or raise we every received.

I’ll admit that at times I’m frustrated by “those” people too. Then I remember that truly smart people don’t let things, or people, not within their control frustrate them.

I remember something else too; there really are no stupid people. There are people who look differently than me. There are people who talk differently than me. There are people who think differently than me. There are people who disagree with me and there are people who are just plain different than me.

None of those differences make them stupid. I’m wrong when I think they do.

Authentic leaders understand that different people bring different strengths to the team. They know that if everyone thinks and acts the same the success of the team can be limited.

Authentic leaders put people in their strength zones, making it possible to use the difference to benefit everyone.

The next time you’re tempted to think of someone as stupid remember that it’s far more likely they are simply different. As a leader it’s your job to figure out how that difference “fits” within the organization. It’s your job to use that difference to it’s advantage and ensure that the difference is valued by other members of the team.

Leaders who fail to find the value of diversity in their organizations had better be careful,  someone may just think they are stupid.


Why Leaders Fail

Why-your-past-success-is-hurting-your-future-successThe Swiss have been making excellent watches and clocks since the middle of the 16th century. They truly invented many of the time keeping gadgets we take for granted, including the wristwatch, water resistant watches and of course, in 1967 the first quartz watch.

In 1967 the Swiss didn’t just have the only quartz watch, they also had close to a 90% share of the world’s watch market. This apparently made them somewhat slow to see the potential of this new technology. (Nothing clouds our vision like centuries of success.)

Other countries, Japan for instance, didn’t have much share of the watch market and jumped on the idea of the quartz watch. The market turned very quickly on the Swiss and the Swiss watch industry was moribund by the middle of the 1970s. It’s been only the last decade or so that the Swiss have begun to reclaim their place as the one of the world’s leading producers of timepieces.

The Swiss have always produced the best timepieces, they didn’t lose that skill and the incredible quality of their products was never in question. So what happened?

The Swiss simply believed that their future would be an extension of their past. They believed that their nearly endless run of past success would lead to future success merely by default.

In short, they read their press clippings.

There are many ways that leaders can fail but none is as easy as assuming that you cannot fail. Believing somehow that because you’ve been right before you can’t be wrong the next time. Believing somehow that yesterday’s effort will carry you through today. Believing that the competition is so far behind that they will never catch up. Believing that you will always be the best just because you are the best today.

Authentic leaders know that their past success is only an indicator that future success is possible. They also know that the minute they stop doing the things that made them a success their success begins to fade.

The Swiss watch industry provides us with two valuable lessons: anyone can lose their leadership position and anyone can regain it.

If we always remember the first one, the odds of needing the second one goes way, way down.

Are You an RDNA Leader?

Rules 2Leaders lead by example, whether they intend to or not. If you’re a leader your people will do what you do long before they will do what you say.

You can tell them to be on time but if you’re not, it is very likely that they won’t be either. You can tell them to have a positive attitude but if you don’t, it is very likely that they won’t either.

Just as you watch your people to see how they behave, they watch you to see how you behave. Even those members of your team who “never listen” always watch.

As a leader you are their model for success. Right or wrong, what you’ve done and what you do has gotten you where you are. If your people aspire to be where you’re at then they will do what you do, even if they have little or no growth aspirations, the “safe” thing to do is mimic you.

That’s why RDNA leaders kill organizations. What’s an RDNA leader you ask?

Well, an RDNA leader is one for whom the Rules Do Not Apply! An RDNA leader has somehow convinced themselves that “they have earned the right” to a less rigid set of rules.

An RDNA leader will say that “rules were made to be broken” by only by me.

These are the leaders whose motto is “do as I say not as I do.” These are the leaders who kill the morale of their team and then condemn them for low motivation and poor attitudes.

Authentic leaders know that they are the model for successful behavior. They willingly follow the same rules they set for others and hold themselves to an even higher standard of behavior than others.

Authentic leaders know that if they don’t apply the rules for themselves then the rules won’t apply to anyone. When people see that their leader follows the rules they will follow the rules as well and they will follow them much more enthusiastically.

Authentic leaders will also see rules that need to be broken but will likely change the rule for everyone and often, the rule is changed before it is broken.

If you hope to truly lead others then you need to make sure there is one set of rules for everyone. Two sets of rules creates an atmosphere of the “haves” and the “have nots” and in any type of organization this much is certain, “have nots” never willingly follow the “haves.”

Why “Bosses” are Poor Leaders

20130202-045559.jpgAre you “The Boss” of the operation? Do you “boss” people around? Are you considered by others to be “bossy?”

I hope not, for your sake and the sake of the people who you are apparently supposed to lead.
The position you have or the title you’ve been given (or maybe gave yourself) might make you a boss but it can’t make you a leader. Being a boss and being a leader are at nearly opposite ends of the management spectrum. The mindset of someone who is a “boss” and the mindset of someone who is a leader are as different as night and day.

Bosses are a dime a dozen. Leaders can be one in a million.

A boss tells. A leader shows. A boss forces compliance. A leader earns commitment. A boss criticizes. A leader coaches. A boss tends to care about themselves. A leader cares about others. A boss is almost always a chore to work for. A leader is always always a joy to work with. A boss confronts with anger. A leader confronts with care. A boss says “I.” A leader says “We.” A boss has no followers. A leader does.

I believe it is impossible to have the mindset of a “boss” and still be a leader. They are just too different. If you see your people as employees then you’re likely a boss, if you see your people as people then you at least have the opportunity to be a leader.

Being a boss might produce some short-term satisfaction but being a leader can produce a lifetime (sometimes many lifetimes) of fulfillment and contentment. Being a leader is actually less stressful than being a boss because your people are moving with you instead of constantly shearing away from you. Being a boss is a job, being a leader is a joy.

So, now that you understand the difference, let me ask you, are you a boss or a leader?

When Deciders Don’t Decide

DecideAn authentic leader has many important roles in an organization. Coach, mentor, and manager are just a few that come to mind. To be an effective leader they also must be skilled in a number of critical areas: they must be vision casters, they must have great judgment, they must be strong communicators and they must make tough decisions.

I could do a full post on any of those skills and many more that are required for effective, authentic leadership; but today, we’re just going to talk about decision making.

I know George W. Bush had a lot of fun poked at him for saying he was “the decider” but the reality is that one of the key requirements for authentic leadership is the ability to make a decision.

That ability grows out of two characteristics which are vital for leaders: integrity and courage.

People in leadership positions who fail to make timely, effective decisions often lack the basic courage to do what they know should be done. They may fear a confrontation, they may fear hurting someone’s feelings, they may fear that it could be a wrong decision.

All of us are held back by fear from time to time but to truly lead you must make the tough decisions in spite of your fear.

Still others in leadership positions lack the integrity to make timely critical decisions. They wait, they postpone, they delay while they try to figure out a way to have the decision benefit themselves.

In both of those cases the result is often delayed decisions or even worse, no decision at all.

Authentic leaders know that “no decision” IS a decision and it is almost always the wrong decision. “No decision” paralyzes an organization, it stops growth and allows doubt and rumor to fill the voids left when no decision is made.

When “deciders” don’t, or won’t, or can’t decide; the results are usually dire for the organization they lead.

What experienced leaders come to understand that is even a wrong decision usually causes fewer problems than no decision. So they decide to decide!

If you’re new to leadership, then decide today that you WILL decide. You’ll get as many facts as you can, you’ll seek the advice of your associates, you’ll use your best judgment and then YOU will decide. It’s what authentic leaders do!

Of course, after making the decision you must act on it but we’ll leave that for another post.