Forget About It

Many years ago, okay, many many years ago, I was making cold calls with my Sales Manager. We had a solid process (at the time) for cold calling. We would walk into a company and ask to leave some literature with the receptionist. We would then ask the receptionist for the name of the person they would be passing the literature to so we could follow up directly. It was an effective way to learn the name of the decision maker. 

We were part way through a full day of prospecting when we made a call on a paper company. I greeted the receptionist and asked if I could drop off some literature for the person who made training decisions. She cheerfully said sure and I handed her the first piece of literature I was planning to leave behind. As I was taking the second piece of literature out of my folder I noticed the receptionist putting the first piece beneath the desk. 

I handed the second brochure over and the receptionist again placed it beneath the desk. I asked what she was doing with the literature and she said she was “speeding up the process.” I asked what that meant and she said that her boss would throw the “crap” away so she was speeding up the process. 

I was not exactly happy with her answer. So I asked if she thought that was an appropriate way to treat people. She said she would never treat people that way but it was fine for salespeople. 

Before I could “discuss” this any further my Sales Manager thanked her for her time and guided me to the door. 

When we got back to our car I asked my manager if he could believe what just happened. He said he didn’t see anything unusual and I should just “forget about it” because we had lots more calls to make. It wouldn’t be productive to let a poor call affect my effectiveness on the next call. 

As I said earlier that was many many years ago so I haven’t exactly forgotten about it. But I also haven’t forgotten the point my Sales Manager was making. 

The point was do not let one bad customer experience allow the next customer interaction to be negatively affected. The idea was to sell in “call tight compartments” so that each call was “fresh.”

Selling one call at a time protects you from becoming overconfident when things were going well. It also keeps you from bringing disappointment and maybe even anger into your next call. 

That’s not only good advice for a salesperson, it’s good advice for everyone. Do not let a poor interaction with one person carry over to the interaction you have with the next person. This is particularly important for leaders to keep in mind. 

Everyone will have negative experiences involving other people. No one has to allow that to make them negative. Staying positive in the face of negativity is a choice. It’s a choice we should all make everyday.

You Matter Too!

President John Kennedy said that each of us can make a difference and that all of us should try. The key words in that quote are “all of us.”

None of us can do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs every single bit of all the good you can do. A single act of kindness can change the world of the person receiving it and there isn’t a single person in the world who can’t be kind. 

Despite what some people seem to think showing kindness is not a sign of weakness. It is in fact a sign of strength. But first understand the difference between being kind and simply being nice. 

Being nice is when you are polite to people and treat people well. Some people call that being courteous. Being “nice” is sort of the minimum requirement for being accepted into society. 

Being kind is when you care about people and show it. Sometimes you can be kind to someone even though you aren’t nice to them. What some people call “tough love” would be one example of that. You can be nice to someone but also be unkind. That’s actually pretty common. We are often nice to people we don’t even know but we don’t put in any effort to demonstrate we care about them. 

It costs us nothing to be nice to someone but being kind almost certainly has some type of cost, or as I’d prefer to say, investment. It might be giving some of your time to assist someone else. Being kind might mean sacrificing a little of what you have so someone else can have a little bit of something too. 

Being kind takes effort and intentionality. It can be tiring but the effort is always worth it. Whether the person you’re being kind to realizes it in the moment or not; you know you’ve done the right thing and that feeling has staying power.

But here’s the thing….all that difference making and being kind to others can take a real toll on you. It can wear you down. A little fact that many people miss is that kindness for others is only sustainable if you’re first kind to yourself. Yes, you must put yourself first once in a while. 

If you’re a kind person be sure to invest some time in yourself as well. Focus on your needs. Focus on something for yourself that you never have time for. Make time! 

I know it’s counterintuitive for truly kind people to put themselves first. This is especially true for moms. But honestly, the kindest thing you can do for others is to be kind to yourself. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others. Make time for yourself so you’ll have more time for others. 

You have the time to care for yourself and others too. You just have to change your priorities to sometimes put yourself first. Remember, the people you care for most will benefit from YOU taking care of YOU too. 

Yearning for Some Learning

Successful people have a yearning for learning. The most successful people never stop learning. They know that curiosity might kill a cat but it helps a human being grow. 

A bunch of great things come from learning everyday. 

Consistent learning makes you consistently more interesting to other people. You always have something interesting to pass along. Be aware however that nobody likes a know it all so use your hunger for knowledge to better yourself, not look better to others. 

The more you learn the easier it is to relate to people different than yourself. You’ll find more in common with others. You will value the opinions of others and have more empathy for them. That empathy will make it much easier to communicate with people who you don’t normally associate with. 

Learning helps build self-confidence and self-esteem, two big factors in your success. When you know you can learn anything it’s easier to believe in yourself. It’s easier to believe you can do anything. It’s easier to believe that because if you’re willing to learn it’s a fact…you can do anything. 

If you’re a leader, or hope to one day lead, then consistently learning sets a great example for the people you lead. It’s also a great example for your kids. The people you influence will do what you do far faster then they will do what you say. You have a much better chance of helping them become consistent learners if you’re a consistent learner too. 

People who know more tend to make more…more money that is. The more we know the more we can do. The more we can do the more we can help other people. The more we help other people the more likely it is that benefits follow. The benefit of knowing you did something good follows. The benefit of making a difference in the lives of other people follows. Leaving behind a legacy of caring when you’re gone follows and yes, the benefit of more money follows as well. 

Never in human history has it been easier to learn. The internet is loaded with good information. Much of it is even true but one of the first things you need to learn is that much of it isn’t true so choose your sources of information carefully. 

There are a ton of excellent podcasts. Even more highly informative blogs. TED Talks are informative AND free. 

Plus there are books! Leaders are readers. 15 minutes a day can make all the difference between learning something new and being stuck with old ideas and old ways of doing things. 15 minutes a day. If you have convinced yourself you don’t have 15 minutes a day to read then let me suggest the very first thing you need to learn about is prioritizing the important things in life. 

You have all the time you need, what you don’t have are the right priorities. Once you figure that out you will be unstoppable. Remember, you read it here first

Successful Communication

Good communicators know that just because something was said doesn’t mean it was heard. Great communicators know that even if it was heard it doesn’t mean it was understood. 

Lack of communication can be deadly for an organization, most people realize that. What some people, and unfortunately some leaders, don’t understand is that miscommunication can be just as deadly. Wars, including world wars, have literally been caused by miscommunication. 

One cause of miscommunication is an ill informed communicator. One thing I often tell people who want to be a better presenter is that if you know what you’re talking about there is no need to be nervous. I also tell them that if you don’t know what you’re talking about there is no need to be talking. 

Even well informed communicators can sometimes miscommunicate. But the very best communicators don’t. They consistently apply the following four principles for successful communication. 

First they simplify their message. They skip the lingo and use easy to understand words and phrases. They don’t use more words than required. They don’t use four syllable words when a two syllable word will do. Lessor communicators want to be impressive. Great communicators want to make an impression. 

The best communicators see the person or people they are talking with. Notice I said talk “with.” They do not talk to and they certainly don’t talk at people. They know their audience and try hard to speak in the interests of those people. 

Great communicators know that the communication doesn’t end when they leave the stage or meeting room. They know people will be watching them to determine if what they said was the truth. So they don’t only speak the truth, they show it as well. Their actions match their words. Those actions reinforce and bring their message to life. Their actions add integrity not only to the words just spoken but to their future words too. 

Top communicators know that a good dialogue is better than the best monologue. So they engage their listeners and seek a response that indicates what they said matches what was heard. They ask a question or two to determine if what was heard was also understand. 

They accept 100% responsibility for the success of the communication. They never assume because they said something that real communication has taken place. 

Communication is a skill and by definition a skill is something that can be developed. But that development depends on a desire to in fact become a more effective communicator. Effective communication is a vital skill for an Authentic Leader. Successful communication leads to successful outcomes. 

Decide today that you will develop your communication skills and the people who you lead will thank you tomorrow. 

Living Up to Expectations

I’m a huge disappointment to some people. I don’t know who exactly but I’m sure I’ve disappointed some people along to way to where I am, which is right where I want to be. 

While I may have not lived up to other people’s expectations for my life I’ve most definitely lived up to mine so I’m good. In fact, very good. 

I’ve known plenty of people who have lived a stress filled life. Much of their stress was caused by trying to live up to other people’s expectations for their life. They didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I would frequently try to help them by pointing out that they were someone too and their expectations for their life mattered most.

If you truly want a happy life the first thing you need to know is that you are not obligated to live up to anyone’s expectations except your own. Your needs and wants matter! You may not live longer but you’ll live a lot better if you do things because YOU care about them. If you do things because YOU feel they are the right thing to do. You’ll be a ton happier if you stop doing things because someone else expects you to.

Sometimes living up to your own expectations will mean going it alone. That’s okay, you don’t need someone holding your hand every step of the way. You don’t need anyone’s permission to live your life. Some people who begin your journey with you will fall way before you finish. Don’t feel bad that they are in their own path…that’s why we are called individuals. 

Don’t let anyone tell you what’s possible for you. People will try to put their expectations on you with seemingly harmless little phrases like, “be realistic.” If people like Steve Jobs had been realistic I wouldn’t be writing this on an iPad right now. Trust your instincts, only you know  what’s possible for you. Trusting yourself, believing in yourself, is the most realistic thing you’ll ever do. 

One of my great mentors once told me that every person has three versions of themselves. The version that other people think they are. The person they think they need to be, that’s the version of ourselves that we try to portray to other people. Then there’s the third version, that’s who we really are. We rarely show that person to other people, sometimes we even try to hide it from ourselves.

When we try to live up to someone else’s expectations it creates huge “gaps” between those 3 versions. Those gaps create stress in our lives. Living up to your own expectations closes those gaps. But you must be honest with yourself about what and who you want to be. You must also be willing to disappoint a few people who think they know you better than you know yourself.

The best advice I’ve ever received is the best advice I can ever give. That advice is to be you. The right people, the people who should be in your life will find you. The right people will accept you as you are. Their expectations for you will be what YOU want for yourself. The people who care about you will help you along the way. They will finish the journey with you. 

It’s hard to completely shut out other people’s expectations for your life. But the more you can live your life according to YOUR own expectations the better your life will be. 

Successful People Have One Thing in Common

It’s impossible to finish anything that you don’t start. That’s the one thing for certain that all people who have accomplished something have in common…they started. 

Starting may have involved risk. Primarily the risk of failure. Successful people started anyway. Starting may, in fact likely did, mean ending something else. That ending may have felt like a loss. It’s tough to start when it feels like it will result in an immediate loss. Successful people started anyway. 

Less successful people, those who don’t understand that never taking a risk is the riskiest thing they can do, too often use their time to criticize the efforts of the people trying to accomplish something. 

I sometimes wonder if they use their criticism of others to shield themselves from the feeling of loss that comes with knowing they didn’t have the courage to even try. 

Knowing that success can only come from trying and understanding that trying often ends with something less than complete success I encourage people to make failing (at least temporarily) a regular part of their lives. 

I’d much prefer to make an effort that results in failure than to live my days wondering “what if.” Failing gives me another chance to start again, another chance at success. Not even attempting to succeed gives me nothing. It’s the same for every person reading this post. 

What we think of as failure isn’t failure unless we decide to not trying again. What we think of as failure is really a lesson in how not to do something…so long as we try again. 

Every person you think of as successful has attempted something that ended with less than complete success. They could have stopped and accepted failure. But they began again, and again and again until whatever they were attempting ended in complete success. 

I can assure you they had detractors along the way. People who criticized them and their efforts. They ignored the “can’t do” crowd and listened only to people who said “you can do it.” If they couldn’t find “can do” people then they told themselves… “I can do this.”

The quote below from President Theodore Roosevelt expresses these thoughts better than I ever could. One modern day caveat about this quote. I firmly believe that if he were alive today President Roosevelt would adjust his quote to use less inclusive language. Today we know that every human being born is endowed with the potential for greatness. There are circumstances in life that can make it more difficult for some to achieve that greatness. Successful people however make sure that none of those circumstances are of their own making. 

Here’s the quote.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Do not be a timid soul. The only way to achieve success is to try. The goal in life is not to arrive at death’s door safely, it is to accomplish something along the way. 

It is with absolute certainty that I say you can accomplish much if only you’re willing to try. 

How You Doin’?

We’re a little bit past the middle of the year and some of you have already decided whether this is going to be a good year or not so good. For those of you who have struggled thus far let me remind you we’re a little bit past the half-way point. You have plenty of time to turn things around. For those of you who have done well so far let me remind you too, we have a whole lot of this year left. If your year has been good so far then there is no reason it needs to stay that way…you can change it into a great year.

The key to moving from not so good to good is the same as moving from good to great. You must know where you are today in order to know what you need to do to be someplace else tomorrow. 

Many people reading this have not yet invested any time this year to determine exactly where they are and how they got there. Now is the perfect time for some self-reflection. 

What have you been doing that is not working for you? What haven’t you been doing that you should be doing? When was the last time you sat quietly and reviewed your goals for the year and your goals for life? Are you spending time with people who feed you negativity or investing time with people who build you up?

NOW is the perfect time to ask yourself those questions. The opportunity to change direction remains yours to seize. The decision to speed up your progress is yours to make. 

Wherever you are at this point in time it’s vital that you understand that you put yourself there. Your decisions, choices and actions have consequences or benefits. If you’re blaming others or blaming your circumstances then you’ve lost control of your year…maybe even your life. 

The most successful people don’t blame their circumstances. They create circumstances that give them the best chance to succeed. They create those circumstances with thoughtful decisions, good choices and taking appropriate action to follow through on both. 

Self-reflection requires that you be honest with yourself. Sometimes brutally honest. It also requires an understanding that you are the master and creator of your future…if you choose to be. 

Invest some time today to take a mid-year assessment of your current situation and your desired situation. Adjust what you must and be fearless in jettisoning the things, actions and maybe people, who add no value to your life. 

You still have time to make this year exactly what you want it to be. Perhaps even better than you could have imagined. Just remember, if it’s to be it’s up to you to make it so.