So Much to Learn

I have been fortunate over the years to work along side some smart people. Some of them were so smart that they even knew they had a lot to learn. Unfortunately, while some of them were smart they weren’t exactly smart enough to know that they didn’t actually know it all.

I’ve learned a lot over the years myself, including this little nugget of truth…the day I’ve learned all I need to know will be my final day on earth. I have so much more to learn that I may live forever!

Several years ago I was on the interview team for an open marketing position. One candidate in particular seemed very qualified. He had great experience and at first it seemed like he would fit the culture well. The interview was pretty much done and we were just kinda talking and I mentioned I was in the process of earning a Marketing Executive Certification. We talked about all the classes involved and he stated that he would never do something like that.

When I asked him why he said, “I’ve learned all I need to know about marketing.” “There isn’t anything else left to learn.” I had worked with people who seemed to think they knew it all before but I had never before heard anyone actually say it out loud.

Now the interview was really done and so was this guy’s chances of joining our team. He was maybe in his early forties and he was convinced he knew it all. Not only knew it all, he knew all that would ever be known about marketing.

It was obvious he wouldn’t be a good fit for a company with learning in it’s DNA. I actually felt kind of bad for the guy because I knew his future was going to be full of missed opportunities and limited success.

The amount of learning a person does seems to be directly linked to the amount of success they have. Let that sink in a bit…do you understand what that actually means? It’s fantastic!

It means that since a person’s ability to learn is limitless so is their level of success. It means that so long as we keep learning our opportunities for success keep multiplying. It means that your potential success is completely within your control and totally unlimited.

That is incredible.

If you’re looking for success you now know exactly where you’ll find it. You will find it in a mentor. You will find it in a book or a classroom. You may find it in a TED talk or a blog. If you’re really committed to succeeding you will find it everywhere you look.

Keep in mind that the goal of learning isn’t packing more information into your head, it’s taking action based on that information packed into your head. Successful people never stop learning. They also never stop adapting based on what they have learned.

So…what do you have to learn today?

So…You Say You Want to be a Leader

Odds are there are a significant number of people reading this who want to be a leader one day. They are waiting for a promotion to “leader” in their organization. Perhaps they are searching for a role with another organization that will “make” them a leader.

I’ve got some disappointing news for anyone who falls into those categories. No one can promote you to “leader.” No position or title in the world can make you a leader. Technically speaking, even you can’t make you a leader.

Only the people who follow you can make you a leader. You can call yourself a leader all day long but if no one is following you then you might be leading yourself (which is good) but you are not leading anyone else.

I don’t know any other way to say this except to say that waiting for a position or title to make you is leader is a mistake. It is a very common mistake so don’t beat yourself up over it too much.

People don’t follow positions or titles, they only follow other people. So instead of working for a position of leadership work to become the type of person other people will want to follow.

That type of person has a clear, realistic vision of their future. They can communicate that vision in a way that excites and inspires other people. They celebrate the success of other people as much as they celebrate their own success. They are outstanding listeners and they listen with the intent to understand rather than merely respond.

But more than anything else they genuinely care about people.

People follow people who care about them. One of the truest things I know about leadership is that you can care for people without leading them but you cannot lead someone without caring for them. Truly caring.

Caring about the person. Caring about their lives and caring about what’s important to them.

If you’re only caring about what they can do for you or your organization then you may be a boss but it’s unlikely that you’re seen as a leader.

If your goal is to be an Authentic Leader then you must put people first. If you want to grow your company then first you must grow your people. If you want your people to take care of your customers then you must first take care of your people.

If you’re in a leadership position and you think your people are nothing more than disposable assets then whatever success you may be experiencing today will not be sustainable.

Leadership is people centric. When you occupy a leadership position and you put “stuff” before your people then you forfeit the right to lead.

When you’re people believe you don’t care about them they won’t care much about actually following you. That is a mistake no organization can survive.

Your Best Coach

I write from time to time on the importance of having a coach or a mentor. The best mentors show you what to do and how to do it. They don’t do it for you.

At some point all successful people did something to make themselves a success. They likely had a coach or mentor but they had to make the effort to act on the advice they received. THEY HAD TO ACT THEMSELVES!

Taking action to accomplish something requires a whole different kind of coach. It requires a “self-coach.” That would be you!

At some point you must push yourself. You must accept responsibility for your actions and decisions. What you’re taught can’t help you if you don’t apply it. The best advice in the world falls flat if you don’t use it.

If you do nothing then nothing is exactly what you should expect in return.

If you’re a good self-coach then you’re setting goals for yourself. Long-term, medium-term goals and short-term goals. Those short-term goals can be daily or even hourly. As an excellent self-coach you turn large, seemingly insurmountable tasks into a series of smaller tasks that you can accomplish on a daily or weekly basis.

That old city in Italy wasn’t built in a day and neither is long-term success. Doing a little each day will most definitely help you achieve a lot over time.

That’s the best thing about being/having a great self-coach…they are with you every day, all day.

The challenge with your self-coach, or your inner-coach, or whatever you want to call it, is the same as it is with a mentor or outside coach. You MUST listen to their advice and then act on it.

A single pound of action is worth more than a ton of good intentions. One thing highly successful people have in common with less successful people is that they both have good intentions. What most often separates the highly successful people from the less successful is that the most successful people act on those intentions.

So follow this coaches advice and ACT!

What Defines You?

Of all the New Years Resolutions ever made “losing weight” is by far the number one resolution that people make. I guess we could hope that they make that resolution for health reasons but I’m betting most of the people who resolve to lose weight really want to look better.

Most of us are at least a little vain and our appearance matters.

What they often forget is that they are more likely to be defined by what comes out of their mouth then they are by what goes in it. I’m talking about the things you say and how you say them.

Are your words life affirming? Do your utterances create or destroy? Do you even consider that before you blurt out what’s on your mind?

No human interaction is neutral. You, yes YOU, leave people feeling better or worse about themselves and their circumstances after EVERY interaction. The difference might be infinitesimal but you’ve moved them in one direction or the other. If enough of your interactions go in the same direction then your words, and how you say them, are making a difference in that person’s life. Your words are making a difference in how that person sees themselves and their chances for success.

Your words have that kind of power.

Your words are making a difference in how people see you as well. Your words and how you say them are defining you to a much greater extent than your appearance ever will.

I fully support (other people) being careful with what goes in their mouth for health reasons. But everyone might also want to consider what comes out of their mouth too. Your diet can change your life. Your words can change not only your life but the lives of everyone you come into contact with.

It only takes a second to say something you may regret for a lifetime. It also only takes a second to stop yourself from saying it. Think about that for a second or two before you allow something out of your mouth that isn’t good for you or anyone else.

Do Relationships Still Matter?

There is a growing school of thought, an alarming school of thought if you ask me, that Business Relationships don’t matter as much as they used to. Some would say they don’t matter at all.

There is research that shows that could be true. Generation Z, the generation now entering the workforce is said to prefer “digital contact” over face-to-face contact, especially in business dealings.

Some people say that’s true also of Millennials but the research would disagree. Kind of. It’s only the trailing edge of millennials who prefer less face-to-face business dealings. Leading edge millennials felt that way but as they get older they look, act, speak and do much as the boomer generation who came before them.

There is no reason to think the younger millennials and Gen Z won’t age in the same way.

People and organizations who believe they can eliminate or minimize the importance of business relationships do so at their own risk. People buy and do business with other people they like and can trust. TRUST ONLY COMES FROM RELATIONSHIPS!

Without trust a customer is left to make their buying decisions on other factors, like ease of buying, reputation of the product and of course price. Without trust there will be no customer loyalty nor should there be.

It’s a bit of a scary day when I’m called “old school” because I believe relationships matter. At the foundation of that belief is another belief…one that says people matter. Every aspect of life revolves around our interactions with other people. If you can build solid personal relationships and business relationships you’ll simply have a better life and a better business.

If you don’t agree with that today then one day you will. I only hope for your sake you realize the importance of relationships before you let to much of what life is made of pass you by.

Playing it Safe

If turbulent times teach us anything it’s that there is no such thing as “playing it safe.” Some of the “safest” people I know found themselves out of work. They were the “steady as she goes” types, making sure to never rock the boat. They had themselves a nice looking 401k until the stock market tanked and then just to be “safe” they sold much of it at rock bottom prices.

This has always been true but it’s even more so in challenging times… if you want to be safe then take a risk or two. Not crazy, ill considered risk but well thought out and planned risk.

Taking risks minimizes the possibility of looking back and asking, “what if?” Even if you fail, you walk away with more experience and knowledge. Lots of people would say that taking risks in one area of your life will lead to success in other areas of your life as well. I agree with those people.

Research says that people who take risks are far more likely to achieve their goals and live a more satisfying life.

Taking a well considered risk helps you stand out from the crowd of “safers” that settle for the status quo. Leaders accept risk as the price of success, they know that “good enough” is a direct path to mediocrity.

No matter what you hope to achieve in life taking a risk is a necessary step in actively pursuing success. Very seldom does anything of value fall into your lap. You must pursue it and with that pursuit comes risk.

Accept the fact that the appearance of failure also comes from taking a risk but also understand that appearance of failure is only a mirage. It doesn’t become real until you stop taking risks that can lead to your ultimate success.

If you have the courage, and yes it takes courage, to accept the risk that comes with pushing yourself to achieve your full potential then success will likely be yours. If you can’t muster the mindset that playing it safe leads to less then you’ll just have to settle for less than you know you deserve.

Take a well considered risk today and your chances for well earned success tomorrow go way way up!

The Power of Forgiveness

I’ve done plenty of things in my life for which I needed forgiveness. Sometimes I got it, sometimes I didn’t. Obviously I feel worse about the things for which I wasn’t forgiven. But I don’t feel worse only for me, I got over it a long time ago. I made peace with my screw-up, I vowed to not make the same mistake again and I moved on.

I feel worse for the person who didn’t forgive me. They may still be holding a grudge and that’s a terrible burden to carry around. I feel terrible that the original cause of that grudge was me, something I did or something I said. But when someone offends us we have two choices, we can forgive and get on with our lives or we can carry that offense around with us like an anchor.

Anchors are heavy, they slow down and often completely stop our journey towards success.

It is important that we understand that while forgiveness may be good for the forgiven it is vital to the forgiver. Forgiveness frees us to live in the present. Forgiveness allows us to move forward in life without that anchor of anger or energy sapping contempt slowing us down.

Forgiving does not mean condoning whatever wrongdoing was directed our way. It doesn’t even mean forgetting what was done to us. It just means we are not going to allow that offense to steal one additional minute of our happiness.

Forgiving someone flushes the anger, hatred, hurt and resentment out of our system and gives us back the power to control our emotions and our lives.

When someone hurts you in some way tell them. Tell them why you feel the way you do and explain why it’s not acceptable. That’s an important step in forgiveness because in that moment you’re teaching that person what you will accept and what you won’t. Tell them as well that you forgive them, whether they think they need forgiveness or not. Remember, this is more for you than it is for them.

There is tremendous power in forgiveness but you must forgive in order to experience it. When you experience the pain of wrongdoing YOU have to make the choice of carrying that pain with you or letting it go.

Holding on holds you back, let it go and set yourself free!