The Best School in the World

Almost every successful person in the world attended this school. I should probably remove that “almost” qualifier and say every successful person. It is a tough school with lessons so difficult they often seem insurmountable. Some people, the less successful types, don’t even have the courage to walk through the virtual doors of this school. 

 

It’s the school known as “The School of Hard Knocks.” Some people call it the school of life.

 

For those of you unfamiliar with this school it isn’t found in a building. It’s not located in any particular place. The school never closes, not even when you want it to. When you’re trying something new or working your butt off to succeed you can find yourself in this “school” with no notice. All of the sudden it just happens!

 

The “classes” taught there can be very challenging but once learned they tend to stay with you forever. They are frequently life changing. They are most often self-taught. The “tests” associated with these classes can leave scars that last a long time. Some of the scars can be seen but many of them are only felt. But the feeling can be incredibly painful. 

 

These lessons cannot be bought, they must be earned. As difficult as they can be I’d encourage anyone to attend “The School of Hard Knocks” because some of life’s best lessons are taught there. It seems as if that Hard Knocks place is the one that shows you how to use all those fancy degrees and formal education you received from the other schools.


Don’t shy away from life’s tough lessons. The stuff you learn in a school with four walls can help you make a living but the stuff you learn outside those walls can help you make a life.


Stop Waiting and Start Doing

I once changed roles in a company I was working for and I had the opportunity to review the team I was leaving behind with their incoming leader. We talked about the strengths and weaknesses and how he could help each of them to continue to grow. 

When discussing a particular employee I made the comment that this person would do anything you asked them to do to the very best of their ability. That was their strength. Their weakness was that if you didn’t ask them to do anything then nothing is exactly what they would do. Nothing! The person completely lacked initiative. 

That’s a huge challenge for many people in the workplace today. They wait and wait to be told what to do. When they are told what to do they will need explicit instructions on when to start and how to do it. You may tell them to do something every Monday morning for a year but the first Monday morning you fail to tell them to do it do not be surprised when it doesn’t get done. 

There are lots of reasons some people lack initiative.

Some have what’s called Bounded Rationality. That’s a fancy way of saying they can’t even consider doing something they are not told to do. If it is something not entirely within their comfort zone they won’t even consider doing it unless they are explicitly directed to do it. They may not feel especially qualified to do it and unsure where to start. That’s an initiative killer too.

Some people are lazy. They expend the majority of their energy finding ways to NOT accomplish something. But as a leader you should know this: they were not born lazy. Somewhere along the way they lost their motivation and with it their initiative. Perhaps a former boss or teacher told them they would never succeed. Maybe someone told them they didn’t have what it takes to excel. Sadly they may have believed that.

If you have the audacity the call yourself a leader then never give up on someone who may be lazy today. Discover their motivators and help them find their initiative again. That is not a burden for an Authentic Leader, it is a challenge they enthusiastically accept. 

Some people who seem to lack initiative have learned that if they wait long enough to take action that someone, likely you, will come along to rescue them. Their lack of initiative is strategic. 

They know that you or someone else you assign will swoop in to get the work done. In these cases you as a leader are at least party responsible for their lack of initiative. You have taught them that they do not need to be accountable. You deny them the opportunity to learn and grow. You limit their opportunities to learn decision making and correcting mistakes they may have made. 

If they are thinking they cannot succeed you have solidified their thinking. That’s not effective leadership. 

Sometimes too much initiative can actually lead to what appears to be a lack of initiative. When a person says yes to more than they can handle they may become so overburdened that they don’t know where to begin…so they don’t. 

As a leader you must not allow your people to become so weighted down with work that they can’t maintain their forward momentum. When that happens most leaders wonder what happened to their former top performer. What they don’t realize is that what happened to them was inattentive leadership. 

If you’re not yet a leader but you want to be then you must make taking the initiative a habit. If you hope for greater success in the future then stop hoping and start taking the initiative. 

 

Make no mistake about this absolute fact: if you always wait for someone to tell you what to do you can be certain that someone will always be telling you what to do.

Your Reputation is Priceless

The lesson on the importance of reputation is a lesson that everyone learns over time. Those who can learn it at the expense of someone else tend to be the most successful people, regardless of their chosen career. 

 

But few people actually learn it at the expense of someone else. They see the consequences of other people damaging their reputation but never consider the frailty of their own. So they learn at their own expense when they do something similar. It is then that they also discover that the cost is often huge. 

 

Your reputation is the most valuable currency you have in business and in life. It can unlock doors not even seen by some people. It can also lock those doors tighter than Fort Knox. 


We live in a time where everything is recorded and documented forever. 

 

It’s a mistake to believe that because you didn’t post something to Social Media that no one else would either. It’s become nearly impossible to even walk to your car without being caught on a nearby camera. The words and images you post are forever. They might be hilarious after a half dozen beers but could turn deadly serious the next morning. 

 

You must realize that the friendly Human Resource person you’re interviewing with tomorrow is very likely to be looking at your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages today. You would never tattoo your face with the words “I’m a drunk” on your forehead because that could be seen by everyone. But when you post the pictures of your latest drunk-fest online it’s not much different.

 

That kind of post might only offend one person but if it’s the wrong one then that’s a problem. I know it’s all in fun but if it comes at the expense of your reputation is it worth it? Keep the pictures on your phone and show them off privately. Remember, even texting them to friends means you no longer have full control of your reputation. Always be careful.

 

The fact that your reputation is priceless is best learned before you lose it. Despite what others may tell you I do believe that even a badly battered reputation can be restored. It’s just that the more damaged it is the longer it takes to repair it. A moment or two of carelessness could potentially take years to reverse. 


A slip of the tongue or one ill conceived mouse click can have long lasting ramifications. Think BEFORE you say it, think twice BEFORE you hit post and never ever, not even for a moment, lose awareness of the value of an honorable reputation.

882 Hours to Succeed

I remember several years ago a player on the Minnesota Timberwolves was quoted as saying that “you can’t really expect someone to give a 100% effort for 48 minutes of each game for all 82 regular season games.” 

 

Well…I kind of expected it. Especially considering he was making around $20 million dollars a year. But I did get his point, it’s hard to go full out all the time. No one can be at peak performance all the time. Too much “stuff” gets in the way. 

 

But here’s the thing, very successful people find a way to keep that “stuff” to a minimum. 

 

If you’re a professional salesperson as of May 28, 2019 you have only 882 selling hours, or what I call “money hours”  remaining this year. 882 hours to make or break your year. Here’s how I got to the 882 number. Depending on your industry, depending on how many vacation days you take, depending on what you consider holidays and depending how many money hours you have in a day your number may vary but not by much. 

 

By my calculations there are approximately 147 selling days left in 2019 as of May 28th. 

 

Money hours are the hours that you can be face-to-face selling to customers and prospects. You can work 12 hour days but if you’re in a business to business selling role then it is unlikely you have more then 6 hours a day to actually be face-to-face with the people who make the purchase decisions for your product or service. Which of the 24 hours you have in a day are your money hours will vary by industry but 6 hours is the limit if you are a highly productive professional. 

 

That gets you to the 882 number. 

 

If you’re reading this during your money hours then you have less!

 

How you use your 882 hours will determine your level of success. A trip to the post office during money hours is incredibly expensive. It matters little who picks up the check for that lunch with your old friend, if that lunch is during your 882 hours it could cost you a small fortune. 

 

I get that dropping the kids off at school and getting that last hug before you start your day is a priceless gift. I just want you to understand it’s cost in terms of money hours if you’re doing it during your 882 hours. It’s a choice I hope you’re blessed enough to be able to make, I also hope it’s a well informed choice for you.

 

If you’re knocking off for the day at noon for an afternoon of golf that’s a choice too. If you happen to win 20 bucks from your golfing buddies you may want to hold off on celebrating. If that round of golf was happening during your 882 money hours it might be the most expensive round of golf you’ll ever play. 

 

As of May 28th there are 5208 hours left in the year but only 882 of them are money hours. That’s less than 20% of your remaining 2019 hours. How will you invest those hours? Will you let “stuff” get in the way of your success? Will you accept the false “fact” that you can’t be at the top of your game for every one of those 882 hours? 


Or will you do what top performing professionals do and develop a plan to maximize your use of those 882 hours? I strongly encourage you to develop your plan as soon as possible and here’s one final suggestion, don’t use money hours to do it.


Abandoning Assumptions

If you’re a leader then you undoubtedly know the dangers inherent in assuming. Yet, if you’re like too many leaders you assume your assumptions are correct. It’s other people’s assumptions that you worry about. 

 

We need to look no further than the politics of the day to see how that works out. Assuming your “side” is correct just because it’s your “side” is a terrible mistake. No matter how “firm” your assumption may be thinking something doesn’t make it so. 

 

Assumptions, especially assuming you are right because you’re the leader, makes it hard to adjust to the changing environment around you. That kind of assuming makes it hard for new ideas to see the light of day. That kind of assuming will extinguish even the most creative minds in your organization. That kind of assuming kills innovation. 

 

When a leader hangs onto assumptions, whatever those assumptions are based on, they close off their minds to all kinds of possibilities. Their mantra becomes some version of “we have always done it that way” or “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” 

 

Their people “learn” not to question the leader’s assumptions. That’s when trust in the organization’s leadership goes out the door. Morale and productivity go down and turnover goes up. 

 

Leaders must abandon all assumptions, especially their own if they hope to grow their people and their organization. 

 

It’s likely if you’ve been in a leadership position and done reasonably well with it that you’re thinking you don’t make assumptions. But that in itself is an assumption because your day is likely full of assumptions. You think it’s not because if you’re like most people you never slow down long enough to realize how much stuff you ”know” is actually just an assumption.

 

You assume your people understand you and that you understand them. You often assume you know what motivates them. You assume they trust you. You may even assume they are actually following you. 

 

Stop assuming and find out.

 

Find out by asking questions. Find out by investing the time required to truly know and understand your people. Find out by watching and working with them. Get out from behind that fancy desk and interact daily with the people you lead. 

 

Don’t assume anything. EVER! Most of all don’t assume to know more than you do simply because you hold a spot higher on an organizational chart than somebody else. 


Assumptions kill. Don’t let them kill you or your success.


Five Years is Too Long

Five years is a long time. Think about all that has changed in your life over the last five years. It’s kind of amazing for most people. 

 

But here’s one thing that new research shows likely hasn’t changed for you over the last five years…you haven’t made any new friends. At least if you live in the United States. 

 

The research shows that the vast majority of Americans have not made even one new friend in the last five years. The study was also specific about what qualifies as actual friendship. For instance, you can spend hundreds and hundreds of hours with a co-worker and still not develop a friendship. The study called those “relationships in a closed system wherein members have little influence on who else is included in the group.” 

 

The study suggests that you must move that relationship out of the workplace in order for it to have a chance to become a true friendship. They said on average it takes about 50 hours of time with someone before we consider them a casual friend, 90 hours to become real friends and over 200 hours to become close friends. All of those hours are outside of the workplace environment. 

 

The average adult American has 16 friends. Three friends for life, five people they like enough to hang out with one-on-one and eight people they like but don’t spend time with one-on-one or seek out. 

 

So what about you? When did you last make a new friend? Not somebody at work, not the barista at the coffee shop you stop at each morning. When was the last time you made a new real friend? I’ve asked this question of 20 people in the two hours before I wrote this post and not one, not even one, could remember making a new friend in the last 5 years. 

 

Neither can I.

 

The study provided several reasons why people have so much trouble making friends but it seems to me it’s harder the older you get. You’re not exposed to as many new acquaintances unless you make that happen. Most people don’t really make that happen.

 

We tend to stay close to the 16 friends we have and seldom reach out to new groups or try new activities where we might meet new people. We prefer the company of people who think like us and act like us. People like me would call that “cocooning in your comfort zone.” 

 

The thing is you don’t grow much when you are in your comfort zone. If you aren’t growing and learning and experiencing new things then nothing ever changes in your life. You become kind of stuck.

 

If that sounds like you then make a commitment right now to make a new friend by the end of this year. Not a new acquaintance. Not a new lunch buddy at work. A true new friend. 

 

Don’t expect someone to be your friend on their own. You be the one who gets the ball rolling. You be the one that risks that kind of weird and uncomfortable conversation. You be the one who makes a friend by being a friend. 

 

Five years is too long to go without a new friend. Whether you have more or less than the average of 16 friends adding one more could open you up to a whole new world. 


I’m sure it’s going to seem awkward to me at first but I’m going to do my best to start conversations with a few people who I could know better. Who knows, they just might be a friend in waiting.


Defining Ethics

The concept of ethics is easy to understand but it is difficult to define in a precise way. Ethical behavior refers to treating others fairly but “fair” isn’t exactly precise either. 

 

When I think of fair I think of things like being honest, maintaining trust and credibility. Fair to me means following the rules and behaving in a proper manner. It means doing your share of the work and accepting responsibility when you don’t do something you should have…or did something you shouldn’t have.

 

An ethical dilemma is a situation where you have multiple choices and each choice has some undesirable elements with negative ethical consequences. I hear about supposed ethical dilemmas from time to time but most often they don’t meet the true definition of a dilemma. They don’t meet the definition because while most of the choices might have the potential for negative ethical consequences there is at least one choice that doesn’t. 

 

The actual dilemma in those cases is that we want to make one of the choices with the negative ethical consequences. We see what’s right but what’s right is not necessarily what we want. So we claim an ethical dilemma and do whatever the heck we want. 

 

I’m tempted to say we have all, at one time or another, sacrificed our ethics for something we really wanted. But I can’t say all; surely there are people in the world who have such high ethical standards that they would never trade them for anything. 

 

I’d love to say I’m one of those people but I can’t say that either. Well, I could say it but lying about your ethics seems to me to be an especially egregious ethical violation. 

 

What I can say is that I’m a work in progress. I understand the three levels of ethics and I’m much closer today to level three than I’ve ever been. The struggle is that when I think I’ve got level three locked in I slip back to level two. That’s not bad but at level two your motivation can be called into question. 

 

Level one is what experts call the Pre conventional level. At this level an individual acts in their own best interest and only follows rules to avoid punishment or receive awards. They break moral and legal laws if they think they can do so without being caught. Sometimes they don’t even care about being caught.

 

Level two is known as the Conventional level of ethics. This level is where individuals conform to the expectations of others. They uphold moral and legal laws because they believe it’s right and they want to fit in. 

 

At level three, known as the Principled level of ethics a person lives by an internal set of morals, values, and ethics. These are upheld regardless of punishments or majority opinions. These individuals are ethical all the time, in every circumstance, even if it means they are completely alone. 

 

Remaining ethical in the face of endless temptations to sacrifice your ethics is a huge challenge. It’s another area of life where a coach or mentor is an immense help. They can point out to you why your ethical “dilemma” really isn’t a dilemma at all. They can’t make you do the right thing but they can sure point you in that direction. 

 

What ethical level are you at? What will you do to get to the next level? Who is going to help you?


Answer those questions and then get a move on. Real ethical dilemmas don’t wait and neither should you