Actually, Winners Do Quit

I saw one of those motivational posters the other day that said “Winners Never Quit.” I’ve heard that for years. I‘ve seen similar posters forever. The premise of the posters seems to be that if you quit you’re a loser. 

 

Funny thing is, it’s not true. Winners actually quit all the time. 

 

In fact, I’d submit that the fastest way to lose is to never quit. Not quitting is one of the biggest mistakes that less successful consistently make. They may try news things but they never completely quit the old things that hold them back.

 

The most successful people know that much of their success in the coming year will come from what they quit doing. They know that in many cases they will need to quit something old in order to try something new.

 

If you don’t believe that then invest one day, just one day, to exam your actions.  After every time you do something stop for a few seconds and ask yourself if that “thing” you just did got you closer to a goal or not. Ask yourself if that “thing” you just did was productive or whether it was just something you have always done. Ask yourself exactly why you did it. 

 

If you’re like me, and most other people, you won’t be able to say with any level of specificity why you do many of the things you do. You’ll be able to explain the big things you do but likely not many of the little things that chew up most of the minutes in your day. 

 

Not being able to explain why you do what you do is what kills your productivity. Doing things simply because you have always done them destroys the discipline you need to reach your potential. 

 

I guarantee, no matter how successful you are, that there is something you frequently do that if you quit you would be more successful. There is likely something in your life that needs to change in order for you to be more successful. If that’s the case then you should know that nothing will change in your life until you quit doing something that you do everyday. 

 

Here’s an idea…quit reading motivational posters that say winners never quit. Start looking hard at all the things you do that pay zero dividends to you. Then win by quitting those things. When you quit unproductive activities you have to opportunity to start new more productive ones. 


You see, winners do quit but only so they can begin anew! 

A Million Dollar Meeting

Years ago when I was a younger salesperson one of my biggest potential accounts was the 3M Company in Minnesota. They had a group there that was called the 3M Meeting Management Institute. The group published a paper that gave lots of guidelines on how to hold effective meetings. They also estimated that the 3M Company was wasting 1 million dollars a day on ineffective meetings. (Apparently they weren’t following their own advice)

 

I hadn’t had a lot of luck breaking into that account until one day I was in a stationary store and saw a poster with a picture of 1 million dollars on fire surrounded by smoke. I bought a bunch of them and began mailing one a day to the CEO of 3M with the same short note every day. The note said “another million up in smoke…I can help put out the fire but only if you give me the chance.” 

 

I think I sent 14 or 15 posters before his administrative assistant called me to set up an appointment. 3M became the biggest account for my entire organization. 

 

The fact that 3M was losing 1 million dollars a day (if that was indeed accurate) speaks more to the shear size of their company than it does to their inability to hold productive meetings. I don’t think they were really any worse at meetings than any other company, including yours.

 

The jokes and one-liners about ineffective meetings are endless. You have undoubtedly heard many of them yourself like, “meetings are where the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.” Or “meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to get anything done.” 

 

They are funny and would be even funnier if it were not for the serious loss of productivity. Meetings are serious business. They are expensive whether the person or organization calling the meeting realizes it or not. 

 

You may never learn to like meetings but you can learn to give them at least a chance at being productive by following a few simple guidelines. These are in no particular order but the more of them you follow the better your chances of have a meeting that matters. 

 

Before you call a meeting, justify it. Don’t schedule a meeting until you’re certain you need a meeting. Most people assume that meetings are productive. If you want a productive meeting then you should assume the exact opposite. Ask yourself, “What is the intended outcome? What are we trying to accomplish? Do we need to put people in a room together to accomplish it?” If you can’t specifically demonstrate the need for a meeting, don’t have a meeting. If you can, then the process of justifying it will help you focus on what you want the meeting to accomplish. It will increase the chances of the meeting achieving your goals.

 

Don’t invite spectators to the meeting. It’s easy to “over-invite” people to meetings. We include people that may or may not help us accomplish the meeting objective. Don’t do that. Only invite people who you know will add value to the meeting. Inviting spectators to a meeting means you have people in the meeting who feel no responsibility to follow through. They feel no responsibility to accomplish anything. The only thing spectators actually accomplish is making the meeting take longer than it should.

 

Schedule only the amount of time required to accomplish the objective. Programs like Outlook are no help when it comes to planning productive meetings. The default time when scheduling a meeting with Outlook is 30 or 60 minutes. Ignore those defaults. If you can accomplish your objective in 12 minutes then schedule a 12 minute meeting. People will appreciate your respect for their time. You’ll likely accomplish as much in those 12 minutes as you would have accomplished in a 60 minute meeting. 

 

If you scheduled the meeting then it’s your meeting. When no one is in charge of the meeting then no one is in charge of the meeting. Few objectives are accomplished from meetings with no one in charge. If you called the meeting then you’re in charge of the meeting. You’re responsible for maintaining focus. Your responsible for accomplishing objectives and you’re responsible for keeping the meeting on time. If you can’t accept that responsibility then don’t schedule the meeting. 

 

If there are no action steps it wasn’t a productive meeting. I’ve never been in a meeting where there wasn’t lots of talking. I’ve been in a ton of meetings where there was no action. Talk is cheap but action is priceless. If no one is assigned an action step, or several action steps, then nothing will come from the meeting. (Well actually something is likely to come from a meeting with no actions steps….another meeting) Every meeting participant should know exactly what is expected of them as a result of participating in the meeting and also when it is expected of them. If, and that’s a big if, if there is a follow up meeting it should begin with a discussion of those action steps. Remember, a lack of action steps lead to only one thing… no action.


Just because most meetings are not productive doesn’t mean most meetings can’t be productive. You may not be losing a million dollars a day in unproductive meetings but you almost certainly aren’t getting what you could get from them. If you’re calling the meeting then the ultimate success of the meeting is on you. If you can’t accept that then no one else should accept your meeting.

Are You a Talker or a Communicator? Part Two

In my last post we talked about accepting 100% responsibility for everything you say AND 100% responsibility for everything the person you’re speaking with hears. Once you’re willing to do that then you’ll have the opportunity to improve your own communication skills. 

 

The beauty of accepting 100% responsibility is that it doesn’t matter how good the other person’s communication skills are. You still get your message across and have the possibility of better understanding their message as well. 

 

To communicate well you’ll want to make certain that your thoughts are delivered in as clear and concise a manner as possible. It helps to have a good idea about what you’re trying to communicate. If you don’t know what you want to say how will the other person ever figure it out? 

 

Make what you’re saying easy for the other person to understand. You do not want people guessing at what you mean because if they guess wrong that’s on you. Speak the way they speak, speak at their level and never never ever talk down to someone. Once I get the sense I’m being talked down to I shut my ears off cause I figure there isn’t anything to learn from this person.

 

Don’t try to convey multiple ideas in one sentence. This is especially true in written communications. Do your best to avoid “filler” words. Phrases such as “you know” “I mean” and “kind of” usually don’t add any meaning to what you’re saying but they can make it harder to decipher your message. 

 

Practice using fewer words. Try not to use 9 words to make your point when 8 words or 7 words or 6 words or 5 words would do. (See my point?) 

 

Don’t stop communicating part way through your message. Is there something you want to happen as a result of your communication? Then say so. Make certain you’ve given the other person ALL the information they need to correctly take the action you’re wanting. Remember YOU are 100% responsible for the success of every communication. When you leave out needed details then whatever happens is your responsibility too. 

 

We all communicate in some form every day. The better you communicate the greater the credibility you will have with your customers, your boss, your coworkers, your family and friends. 

 

I can pretty much guarantee you that almost every disagreement I’ve ever had with someone came from me not investing those 2 or 3 seconds required to think about what I wanted the other person to hear and to ensure that my communication was successful. 


Everything is simpler when I communicate well. I suspect you’ll find that to be true for you too. 

Are You a Talker or a Communicator? Part One

Before I begin this post on communication I feel that I must point out that I’m only writing about half of the communication process. And it’s the least important half. 

 

The communication process of course involves speaking and listening. Of the two listening is far more important. Listening is how we learn. You will learn more in five minutes of listening then you will learn in a lifetime of talking. Sometime in the future I’ll probably do a post on listening, maybe right after I do that post on procrastination. But for now we are talking about the speaking part of the process. I should also point out that much of the speaking part can also apply to our written communications. 

 

Here’s something you might not like to hear but you’ll be a much better communicator if you believe it: you are 100% responsible for both parts of the communication. You are 100% responsible for everything you say and you are 100% responsible for everything the other person hears.

 

If you ever had a disagreement where the other person says “well you said…..” and then you say, “no, I said…..” then YOU have missed the mark as a communicator. If the person you’re speaking to doesn’t understand what you’ve said then the whole point of the communication has been missed. 

 

The first step in being a more effective communicator is to accept total responsibility for the miscommunication. If you simply blame the other person for their poor communication or listening skills then you will miss the opportunity to improve your own. 

 

Speak in such as way as to encourage the other person to listen. Use words and a tone of voice that draw your listener in. Talk in terms of THEIR interests to encourage them to linger on your words long enough to understand them. 

 

Don’t use a bigger word than you need to. Don’t use lingo you’re familiar with, use their lingo. Or don’t use lingo at all. Sometimes people use lingo to try and impress someone but what’s truly impressive is being able to communicate in a way that anyone can understand. 

 

What surprises me most about my own communications is how often I say something with no consideration of how it will sound to the person I’m speaking with. I just blurt it out. I mean who has time to think about what they are saying before they say it. 

 

Well, I have time. So do you. 

 

The challenge is taking 2 or 3 seconds, yep, that’s all it takes, to consider our words before we say them. There will be a bit of silence in that two or three seconds and we, well me, thinks that makes us look stupid, like we don’t know what to say. 

 

Abraham Lincoln once said something like “it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.” 

 

Talkers talk. Communicators chose their words to convey the intended message. Which one are you? 

 

I’ve been working hard at thinking about what I’m about to say for a few seconds before I say it. What I’ve found is that I often end up not saying anything. It’s like my mom always told me…if you have nothing of value to add to a conversation then perhaps nothing is what you should add. 


In the second part of this post we’ll look at some of the more technical aspects of effective communication. There are clearly methods of communication that work and methods that don’t. We’ll be looking at the ones that work! 


Today is the Best Day to Do It

The problem with doing something tomorrow is that when tomorrow comes it’s today. Then what will you do… push it to the tried and true tomorrow again? 

 

How many tomorrows does it take for tomorrow to become the day you actually take action? There are probably many people who can’t answer that question because they don’t know how many tomorrows it will take. They don’t know because they haven’t taken action yet. They are still counting tomorrows. 

 

Successful people will miss few opportunities today. Less than successful people will miss many opportunities tomorrow. 

 

For the record, someday, the perfect day, and the right day are just as bad as tomorrow. Today is the only someday for successful people. You can make today the perfect day, you can decide today is the right day. Yesterday’s tomorrow is today. 

 

You are out of excuses. 

 

You may not realize it but all that stuff you “plan” to do tomorrow weighs you down. It is a drag on today’s productivity. Each day you delay taking action on “tomorrow’s stuff” the weight becomes heavier and the drag greater. 

 

Here’s an idea: if something takes less than a minute to do then do it immediately. Do it right this second. You’ll be surprised how many things you put off that could be done in less than a minute. 

 

Most of the things we put off are not delayed due to a lack of time. We put them off because we don’t like doing them or they make us uncomfortable. We use time as an excuse. 

 

You should know that one of the biggest differentiators between successful people and less successful people is that successful people have developed the habits of doing the things that less successful people simply don’t like to do. 

 

Success is far more about possessing the discipline required to take action than it is about anything else. You can be the smartest person on earth but if you don’t use your brains what does it matter. Lack of initiative kills far more opportunities than lack of money. 

 

Do you have the discipline required to invest a handful of minutes a day to stop putting off those things you don’t want to do? Even the ones you know would make a positive difference for you?

 

When you start doing the things that require less than a minute pretty soon you’ll have enough momentum built up to tackle longer and tougher tasks. Before you know it, nothing can stop you. 


So what do you say? Got a minute to succeed? 

A Present for Yourself

It doesn’t really matter if you believe in Santa Claus (I most certainly do) or if you celebrate Christmas in any fashion. Whether you understand “the reason for the season” or if you’re a commitment capitalist who enjoys the cash flow this time of year, you likely still appreciate presents. 

 

Despite my trust in Santa he frequently disappoints me. Like pretty much always. My wife has done a terrific job through the years of picking up the slack for the jolly guy but sometimes I end up getting what I want by buying if for myself. 

 

It’s okay to give yourself a gift, especially this time of year and I know just the gift for you. It will have an immediate positive impact on you and it will last the rest of your life. 

 

If doesn’t need to be wrapped, it’s guaranteed to fit and the best news of all is that it doesn’t cost a thing. It’s the best present you will ever give yourself. 

 

Wondering what that present for yourself might be? Well here it is:

 

Forgive someone.

 

Forgiveness might be a gift you share with someone else but the forgiver often receives more than the forgiven with this special gift. It makes no difference in the forgiven has asked for this gift or not…you as the forgiver still reap the benefits of one of the best gifts ever. 

 

The reason this is a great gift is because it comes from within you. You might have to reach deep within yourself to find it but I promise you it’s there. The most unique thing about this gift is that it’s actually worthless until you give it away, then it becomes priceless….for you.

 

Forgiveness is one of those things that is far far easier to write about than it is to practice. Do it anyway. Get rid of the pain, the hurt, the regrets and the anger this holiday season. Do it once and for all, you’ve thought about it, maybe even for years, quit thinking about it and do it. 

 

Forgiving others can be hard but what can be even harder is forgiving yourself. If there is something you’re hanging onto, no matter how big of a deal it might have been in the past, let it go, forgive yourself. 


When you forgive someone else you give yourself a gift, when you forgive yourself it is like you’ve given that gift twice. So go ahead and give it, I’m absolutely certain it will be a perfect fit. 


Don’t Run From Change

You, like everyone else, prefers to do what you’ve done before. You, like me and everyone else, well, pretty much everyone else, likes doing what you are comfortable doing. You know what works and what the heck, why reinvent the wheel. After all, if it ain’t broke why fix it.

 

I can’t say for sure but I doubt if that “if it ain’t broke” philosophy ever really helped anyone excel. Eventually somebody comes along and breaks what’s been working fine for you. I mean what exactly was wrong with cassette tapes and VHS recorders? They worked and more importantly than that, I knew how to work them. 

 

But along comes somebody who makes them obsolete by inventing these little plastic coaster looking things that held a lot more music and video. And now those are gone too. My CD player was working  fine when I threw it out, so was my turntable for that matter.

 

What is wrong with people who can’t leave well enough alone? Well nothing is wrong with them because if not for them I’d be writing this on a typewrite. If not for them, you wouldn’t be reading it.

 

It’s normal for people to resist change. I could write pages on the psychological reasons for that but each of us has our own personal reasons for resisting change too. Those frequently trump even logical reasons for accepting the change.

 

As normal as it is to dislike and even fight change it is also often self-destructive. We fight in order to maintain control because we make the mistake of thinking that with control comes safety. 

 

If that was ever true it certainly isn’t true anymore. 

 

Consider the dilemma of the antelope. When lions hunt antelopes, the pride’s dominant male stays where he is. The female lions — the real hunters, swifter than the male — sneak around to the far side of the herd, fan out in a wide semi-circle, and lie down in the grass. The dominant male, bigger but slower, really incapable of catching the antelope by himself, takes on the job of suddenly leaping up and roaring at the antelope. He’s good at it. The antelope bolt from him — and run straight into the trap laid by the waiting females.

 

For the antelope, safety would lie in running toward the roar. Safety comes from deliberately picking out the thing that is most terrifying, and moving toward the source of the fear. No antelope has ever been known to do that. Very few people can either — but people are the only ones who can learn to deal with the change that they fear.

 

So what about you? What do you fear the most? What conversation do you dread the most? Who in your business or family do you not get along with? Who can you not bring yourself to forgive? What change have you wasted precious time and energy on fighting? 

 

Whether you know it or not, they will be your most powerful teachers of change. Moving forward, toward the fear is the safest and most productive thing you can do. 

 

I’m certain there would be more antelopes in the world if they could move toward that threatening lion. I’m sure there would be more successful people in the world if they invested their energy to seek out their difficult, scary situations so they could work through them. 

 

I feel the need to admit here that I have frequently run from the lion myself. With that admission I can also say that whenever I found the courage to run toward the lion it worked out pretty well. 


Will 2019 be the year you face your lions? Will you run at them? Run past them, over them or through them? You can do it, you absolutely can do it, the only question is… will you?