The Vortex of Can’t

I had the misfortune recently of sitting in on a meeting that was quickly swallowed up by the Vortex of Can’t. Everyone, not nearly everyone, I mean everyone, was discussing the things that they can’t do. This by the way was with a group of people who are paid to do what they can. 


After 45 minutes of listening to this I announced I was leaving the meeting. I suggested they invite me back to another meeting when they were ready to discuss what they could do. I haven’t heard anything from the group yet. 


I believe that success in any endeavor is about momentum. Momentum is actually pretty easy to build and that’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s also easy to build momentum in the wrong direction. 


Discussing all the things you can’t do in a planning meeting is building momentum in the wrong direction. 


The most successful people think in terms of what they can do while less successful people think in terms of what they can’t do. The difference in that thought process produces very different results. 


We are all faced from time to time with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We must never allow those obstacles to prevent us from overcoming all the obstacles that we CAN. The fact that we may see a challenge somewhere down the road must not stop us from beginning the journey. Many things can happen on the path to success. By the time you reach the roadblock it may be gone or you may have gained some knowledge or skills that make it possible to work your way around it. 


Never let the fact that you’re not yet certain how your success story will end stop you from beginning to write it.


Henry Ford said that “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” 


Success begins with a mindset of CAN, it’s not possible to simply think your way into success but you most certainly can think your way out of it. 

Focus on CAN and it will be far more likely that you actually will! 

The One True Shortcut to Success

I’ll begin by admitting that the title to this post is clickbait. But lots of people will indeed click on it because lots of people are indeed looking for that shortcut to success.


If you’re one of those you’re going to be disappointed with this post. You’ll be disappointed because the only true shortcut to success is to lower your expectations for yourself. Settle! 


Settle for less than you deserve, settle for less than you could have, settle for less than you know in your heart you are worth. 


Settling is easy, it’s fast, it’s efficient and once you’ve told yourself that you’ve achieved as much as you can, you’re set! When get over that feeling of failure you’ll be able to convince yourself that you’ve achieved an acceptable level of success. Unless you’re like most people and you just can’t get over that feeling. 


If you’re one of those people who just can’t shed that feeling that life has more to offer then I’m sorry to say it but there is no shortcut for you. You’ll have to work for your success.


The good news, great news actually, is that there are no limits for you. You can do it all, you can have it all, and once you believe that, it’s possible that you will have it all. 


Having what you want begins with knowing what you want. Most people have madhouse type hectic schedules these days. So much so that they often don’t stop long enough to ask themselves if what they are doing is actually what they want to be doing. In essence their life is running them instead of the other way around. 


That’s where goals come in. 


The process of setting goals, at least the serious process of setting goals, begins with self-reflection to determine your core values. That allows you to determine exactly what you’re willing to do in order to hold firm to those values. 


For instance, perhaps your core values include raising your kids to value all people and help them understand the importance of giving back to their community and those less fortunate than themselves. That will require a fair amount of influence from you. That influence will most likely come from modeling that behavior while investing loads of time with them.


Where will that time come from? What are you willing to stop doing so you can start sharing time with your kids? You undoubtedly would say nothing is more important than your kids. Do your goals reflect that? Are you actions reflective of your goals. Do those all important kids only get whatever time is leftover at the end of your hectic day? 


I don’t know anyone who wants to lose site of what’s important to them while on their journey to success, it just kinda happens. Unless you make it not happen. Setting goals can be a challenge but the real challenge is developing the habit of reviewing them on a regular basis so you never lose site of them. 

Setting, reviewing, and reaching your goals is not a shortcut to success but it is a proven method of achieving it. Stop wasting time looking for shortcuts and start investing your efforts into something that gets you closer to your goals.

The Wisdom of Brown M&M’s

You have probably heard the old saying that “the devil is in the details.” Well I don’t know exactly where the devil might be at any given time but he’s not in the details. What’s in the details is success. Little things matter, often they matter a lot. 


Van Halen was the first big name band to take huge productions into tertiary, third-level markets. Instead of Detroit Michigan for instance they would do a concert in Lansing or Grand Rapids. They would pull up to the venue with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard for that kind of arena was three trucks, max. 


Their show was a huge production and their standard contract included a rider with a ton of technical specifications, some were meant to improve the production but many were meant to provide a safe environment for both the band and the audience. 


The rider included a clause that required bowls of M&M’s to be placed in the band’s dressing room and backstage. Also buried deep inside the rider was this item: “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”


Now the band took a lot of heat for that requirement and as the story goes David Lee Roth would go ballistic upon seeing a brown M&M in the bowl. It made the whole band seem like a bunch of spoiled prima-donnas. 


But there was method to their apparent madness. 


With literally thousands of technical specifications in their rider they wanted a quick way of determining whether or not the venue had throughly read and complied with the requirements for a safe and successful show. 


When the band would walk backstage or into their dressing room and see brown M&M’s, they knew that details had been missed. They knew that if one detail had been missed then it was very likely that other details had been missed too and some of those details could get someone seriously injured or even killed.


Every time they saw brown M&M’s they went through the rider with the venue in great detail and always found things that were missed. When they didn’t see brown M&M’s they were able to do a much briefer review of the rider and literally never saw anything else missed.


This rock and roll group, notorious for excessive partying and “other” stuff besides their music developed a fool proof way of determining whether or not the venue was paying attention to the little things. 


Val Halen knew that the little things make a big difference. They knew that small problems have a way of becoming bigger. They knew that success was in the details. 


How about you? Do you settle for “close enough” when excellent is within reach? Does the lazy part of you (yes, almost all of us have a lazy part) “settle” for good enough because great seems like a little too much work? 


The most successful people know that either you pay attention to the details now or you will absolutely pay the consequences later. 

What are you paying today?

The Best Time to Plant Ceeds

I’m told the English language is one of the hardest languages to learn as a second language. There are many words which appear to be identical yet have multiple meanings. Then there’s the your vs you’re thing that even many native English speakers can’t seem to figure out. Do I write this blog or do I right this blog? This list of conflicts within the English language could go on and on.


As challenging as the English language can be however it’s also fascinating when you really study it. 


For instance, Google says there are 171,476 words in the English language and only three of them end in “ceed.” 


The first of the “ceed” words is proceed. Proceed, as in begin or continue. Successful people know this word well; while almost everyone wants success not everyone is will to proceed down the path required to achieve it. Wishing for something rarely makes it happen, working for it frequently does. Proceed to take positive steps toward your goals or just keep wishing, the choice is always yours.


The biggest challenge for most people in their pursuit of success is simply beginning. They don’t “proceed” to the starting line, they procrastinate, they make excuses, they just never build any momentum for themselves. You cannot finish what you never begin, so proceed to the starting line and then push yourself over.


The next “ceed” word is exceed. Not coincidentally, successful people know this word well too. In almost everything they do they exceed the efforts of less successful people. The most successful people know that they are due absolutely nothing until they actually do at least something.


Once you’ve begun you must keep going. One trait of highly successful people is that they kept going when they thought they couldn’t continue. They “exceed” not only their own expectations but the expectations of the naysayers who said they couldn’t do it. Never quit without thinking about why you started in the first place. If your initial reasoning still makes since then push on; do not limit your success by failing to exceed previous limits.


The final “ceed” word is of course succeed. Clearly the definition of what it means to succeed is as varied as the population of the world. We all define success on our own terms. But this much is certain, success comes from doing. It comes from doing something significant, something that matters. 


The people who decided that proceed, exceed, and succeed should be the only “ceed” words in the English language were pretty smart. They must have known that the process of success was to proceed, then exceed and if you accomplish both of those you’ll almost certainly succeed. 

The very best time to plant your own “ceeds” for success is today. Don’t limit yourself even one more minute. Do it now with the absolute certainty the only chance you have to finish is to begin.

The Bad Habit of Excuse Making

Making excuses is habit forming and it’s as destructive a habit as almost any habit you could have. If you’re working for someone who accepts your excuses then you’re working for someone who is doing you a tremendous disservice. 


If you’re a leader do not accept “can’t” from the people you influence. Rather help them turn their can’t into can by focusing on what is possible. Don’t allow the people who you claim to lead to use the fact that they can’t do it all, as an excuse to do less than they possibly can.


There is only so much time in a day and when it’s spent making excuses then it’s not invested in making progress. 


And speaking of time, that is the worst excuse of all, because no one in this world has more time than you. (Before you tell yourself that’s not true stop for a moment and think about it) You absolutely do not lack time, what you most likely lack is the ability to prioritize and the ability to distinguish between what’s merely urgent and what’s truly important.


People who lack these abilities usually end up doing the easy stuff that accomplishes little while finding excuses for not doing the more difficult things that can lead to greatness. They feel busy because they are doing “stuff” all day long but if they are honest with themselves at the end of the day they will realize that most of that “stuff” was just a distraction from what they actually should have been doing.


The real problem starts when you begin believing your own excuses. Take the “not enough time” excuse as an example… you feel pressured because you “can’t” get everything you want done when you want. You spend a great deal of time lamenting this “fact” rather than investing a few minutes to prioritize your activities to align them with your goals. You don’t accomplish what you want and you use that as proof that you don’t have enough time. 


You end up using one excuse to justify another excuse neither of which are valid. Breaking the bad habit of excuse making requires a tremendous amount of honesty….with yourself. It’s a tough habit to break and many people don’t try because the people around them accept their excuses. 


If that’s the case with you then I have some really basic advice for you. Just do something. Doing anything, even making a mistake, is better than doing nothing because a mistake can be fixed while it’s pretty hard to fix nothing. You don’t have to know where your path to success ends to start on your way; just do the next right thing and once you’ve done that then do it again and again.


Pretty soon you’ll see where you’re going and you’ll be able to develop a plan to get there even sooner.


When your mindset becomes one of “can’t” then you’ve virtually assured yourself that you won’t. When you convince yourself that you can’t or you have excuses prepared before you even try to succeed then you willingly sacrifice your potential for success.


I heard someone say that success comes in cans and failure comes in “can’ts”. I don’t recall who said it but I agree with them 100%!


Never let the fact that you can’t do it all prevent you from doing all that you can. When you start down that path of doing all that you can you may just discover that you can do a whole lot more than you ever thought possible. 


I understand that the “tone” of this post may feel a little harsh; accepting excuses in place of progress is even harsher. Don’t do that to yourself because odds are you are capable of so much more!





Do You Have a Plan for Success?

I’m sometimes asked for my definition of success. I always start the same way, by explaining success is very personal and my definition is likely to be different than the next person’s. But I’m convinced that whatever your personal definition of success happens to be you’ll be more likely to achieve it if you have a solid plan. 


To be sure, a plan does not guarantee success, there are other factors in play as well but a plan, a good, well thought-out plan, can take into account many of those factors and provide you with a level of control over seemingly uncontrollable events. 


As I’ve seen again and again through the years the single biggest cause of failed plans is that they are never actually put into action. No plan, no matter how good it may be, will succeed if you never take action on it. 


While a plan does not guarantee success not taking action on a good plan virtually does guarantee failure or at least much more limited success than you otherwise might have. The bottom line on plans is pretty clear, if your plan is not actionable then it’s not really a good plan.


As we near the end of 2017 I’d like to share with you a planning method I’ve used through the years with great success. It is a simple process for developing an actionable plan; be careful however not to make the mistake of thinking that a simple process makes the execution of your plan simple, success is hard work.


I also feel the need here to add another caution; we’re talking here about a strong 2018 but don’t let that lull you into thinking 2017 is over, there’s still time to finish strong. No matter what kind of year 2017 has been for you how you finish it absolutely matters. Finish strong!


So, first let’s determine what an actionable plan is not: It is not, “I’m going to work harder” or “I’m going to work smarter” or any variation of the same. That is not a plan; it is a dream, a dream that turns into the nightmare of the same old thing.


A plan that succeeds has action built into it, the actions are very specific, and the actions have measurable standards that leave no doubt as to whether they have been accomplished. Each individual action has its own deadline, a deadline which is critical because you’ll never find “someday” on a calendar.


Here is an 8-Step Planning Process that has been proven time and again to help people achieve success if they are willing to put in the required effort:

1. Develop a clear picture of your current situation – we must know where we are before we can know where we are going

2. Be certain you know your vision of the desired situation – specificity is a key here

3. Develop short, medium and long range goals – it is perfectly okay to adjust your goals as circumstances change and don’t forget, one of the secrets of goal achievement is to break big goals into smaller ones to make the big goal easier to achieve 

4. Develop your program – how will you succeed – what will you sacrifice – remember success is not just about what you will START doing, often what you STOP doing is just as important. Be as specific as you can possibly be in this step

5. Determine the investment you are willing to make (time & money) – the commitment of time is frequently harder to make than a financial commitment

6. Set your Time Table – When will it all happen – just like it says, Time Table, specific dates and times, giving yourself a range of dates is giving yourself the opportunity to delay your success

7. Implement the total plan – no plan is more worthless than the plan never put into action

8. Follow-up – Check back often on how you’re doing – and while you’re checking back find someone that cares about you to hold you accountable to your plan, this is a lot of work and is almost impossible to accomplish alone


That’s it, there is your planning process, and before you start telling yourself you can succeed without doing all this “work” let me share something else with you: What you call success today will pale when compared to the success that is possible when you execute a solid plan.


Don’t think of your plan as work, think of it is an investment and it is the greatest investment you can make because it is an investment in yourself. You matter, your success matters and if you will commit to a plan you will see results almost immediately. The plan may not always “work” the way you intended but I can promise you the planning always will.

What Do You Mean…Urgent?


Function: adjective 

1 a : calling for immediate attention : PRESSING <urgent appeals> b : conveying a sense of urgency

2 : urging insistently : IMPORTUNATE

– ur·gent·ly adverb


Well, here is the definition from Webster’s.  I think I like the first one, but the second one isn’t too bad either.


I guess it really doesn’t really matter which one you prefer as long as you have one of these definitions that you can embrace as your own. 


Now when I say embrace I mean EMBRACE!  Really latch on to it and live the meaning of urgent, live it through your words and actions every single day.  I remember attending a Dale Carnegie™ Sales Conference about 25 years ago when one of the presenters was asked about his opinion on the most serious threat facing professional salespeople at the time.  I think his answer applies as much today as it did at the time: a lack of urgency. 


He believed, and I agree, that salespeople who go about their business as though a deal could wait another day are doomed to a career filled with limited successes and missed opportunities. 


Salespeople who lack a sense of urgency, whether it’s urgency regarding following up on a request for information, urgency to return a phone call, urgency to make that one additional sales call a day and urgency to do the things they know would make a difference, are what I call woulda, coulda, shoulda salespeople.  These are the salespeople who lament the poor business climate and challenging customers that the salespeople with a sense of urgency pursue, maximizing the market and reaping the rewards.


Which one are you?  Do you have that sense of urgency?  Or, do you “leave a little business for tomorrow?”  If you’re a woulda, coulda, shoulda salesperson, you had better hope your competition is too!  As of the date of this post there are only 27 or 28 selling days (depends on if you work December 26th) left in 2017. Will you press on with urgency or will you coast into 2018?


That’s not a question about your ability, that’s a question about your attitude. Successful people know that a fast start is important but the most successful people know that how well you finish what you started is the real key to continual success.