The Sinking Boat

 
SinkingBoatWhen is a dream about a boat sinking a good thing? Well, it’s better that it was a dream rather than real but I still think the symbolism of this dream was positive.

I don’t often remember dreams but when I do there always seems to be a reason. Let me setup the situation with some background as to what was going on in my life.

The spa business my wife and I own has been doing well. The one problem we have is that we need to hire more people to keep up with the demand so that’s a good thing. One hire we needed was a manager and we had found a winner. Our new manager was excellent in every way and really put us at ease. Now we could concentrate on other issues and keep growing. Three weeks into her employment, however, she stopped showing up to work. We could not reach her in any way. She didn’t return phone calls, emails, or texts. We were at a loss.

That’s when I had this dream. In the dream every time I checked on my boat it had sunk but, being a dream, it would rise up again. I’d leave and when I would return it had sunk again. But it would rise again. The pattern continued, sink, rise, sink, rise. And that’s when I woke up.

So why do I think this is a positive thing? Because being an entrepreneur, owning a business, is like being a sinking boat that can rise again. Things go wrong, some things are beyond your control, but when things go wrong you have to rise up and deal with them, fix them, and keep moving. Our manager chose Valentine’s Weekend not to show up and my wife and I stepped in and worked. We did what we had to do and the business kept moving. We sank but were able to rise again. I’m sure something else will happen to make us feel as if we’re sinking but we do what it takes to stay afloat. Whatever the challenge, we keep focused on success.

Saturday could have been a disaster but we rose to the challenge and had a very good day.


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Crap Filter

 
I know it’s a gross title for a post but it is appropriate.

I watched an interview done at the Khan Academy with Elon Musk and it was his words that led to this title.

Entrepreneurship might be glamorous and could prove quite lucrative but it’s also the hardest work you’ll ever do. I’ll let Elon Musk take it from here.

Everyone thinks they want to be the boss but when you’re at the bottom of the “filter for the crapest problems in the company” it’s not a lot of fun. I can speak from experience and while my high points are not as high as Elon Musk’s neither are my low points. When SpaceX had three failed launches in a row and only had one last chance for a very big contract with NASA, that’s really low. When Tesla was a week away from running out of money with no investors willing to step in, that was very low.

In spite of all that, he still felt “quite compelled to do it” and that made all the difference.

In the face of skepticism and failure, to push forward anyway is the sign of a person who will be successful. I have wanted to give up many times, I have wanted to sell my business many times, but I have stuck it out and now it is beginning (these things take time) to pay off. I still have bad days but having come through past obstacles and problems makes the future problems easier to handle.

Feel free to share how you have been stuck at the bottom of the crap filter and come through it stronger than before.


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Blame is Good!

 
Blame me!I don’t like to be blamed but not because I feel the person blaming me is attacking me or out to get me. I don’t like blame because it means I did something wrong, or missed something. I’m not afraid of blame and that allows me the freedom to think outside the box, to try things even if they might seem a little unorthodox, and to view criticism as opportunity for improvement.

People need to move past the blame mentality. Blame is not a bad word. When I do something wrong and another person points it out, they are not blaming me, they are showing me an issue or mistake and helping me to correct it.

When my staff makes a mistake and I investigate and find the cause of the mistake I’m not blaming someone so they can get in trouble, or so I can fire them, I’m simply pointing out an error so it doesn’t happen again. This is the attitude I have when it’s determined that my action caused a problem. I’m not mad or scared, I’m glad, happy that an issue was discovered and that action can be taken to correct it. I’m also angry that I let it happen and that’s a good thing.

Everyone has two choices when someone “blames” them for something:

1. Get mad and upset which leads to a bad attitude

2. Be thankful someone caught the issue before it became a problem, fix it, and become better

Which will you choose?

If your choice is number 1 then you are doomed to a mentality of cover-up, fear, and passing the buck. All of that leads to a bad workplace, a bad marriage, and bad relationships.

The second choice gives you power; power to take control of the situation and to learn from mistakes which leads to open communication, the freedom to think differently, the comfort to speak up.

The bottom line is that we all have to re-think the word blame and recognize it for what it really is, help and a way to improve.

So I pledge that if I mess up and you blame me, I’ll thank you and we will all be better for it.


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Diving in the Shallow End

 
http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-girl-diving-pool-image2866893Are you conservative or aggressive? Are you more Warren Buffet or Richard Branson? Is one of them reckless and the other careful?

I say they’re more alike than you think.

It comes down to a topic I’ve touched on several times – risk. Both take risks but they are not risky – they find ways to minimize and manage risk.

Risk in business is like a swimmer approaching a pool. Diving into the water is not a risky thing on its own but diving into a pool with an unknown depth is.

Doing your research, finding out the depth of the pool, then planning your entry is how you minimize risk. The angle of entry is how you manage risk. What neither Warren Buffet nor Richard Branson do is dive in the shallow end, the risk is too high. Instead they seek out the deep end. The deep end offers the most benefit with the least risk. It might still be dangerous but it’s less dangerous.

Of course once the research is done and the decision is made you still have to dive in and that’s what a lot of people don’t do, or wait too long to do and miss out on the opportunity. Once the key information is determined you have to move. Like a quote I used in the chapter called Risk in What Next, Lee Ioccoca, former CEO of Chrysler said: ““I have always found that if I move with seventy-five percent or more of the facts that I usually never regret it. It’s the guys who wait to have everything perfect that drive you crazy.”

So avoid diving in the shallow end but do dive in!

 


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If You’re Not Falling…

 
skiingI learned to ski late in life.

To get my girlfriend (now wife) back into normal activity after her house burned down, my friends suggested I take her skiing. Julie skied before the fire and they figured she’d enjoy getting back to it. I, however, hate the cold and the idea of purposely going out in the cold was not appealing to me at all, but I did it anyway. I loved it!

We began skiing regularly and would spend a long weekend in Vermont every year with a large group of friends at a ski-in-ski-out home in Killington. One of those friends, Dave, was an excellent skier who had grown up in Colorado and even tried out for the US Olympic team. Dave became the coach for all of us amateurs.

I was getting quite good feeling comfortable on some black diamond runs but I was still falling more often then I wanted to. When I expressed my frustration to Dave he said, “If you aren’t falling, you aren’t learning.”

I was pushing myself to get better and when you take chances like that, not all of them work out. I could have taken it easy, stayed at the level I was at and never fallen again, but that didn’t appeal to me.

Coasting, resting on my laurels, in other aspects of life also doesn’t appeal to me. Constant improvement, trying new things, living life as an adventure, those things do appeal to me but sometimes I fall.

Falling is not fun but neither is stagnating. I’ll take the occasional fall if that means I’m getting better. Are you willing to fall once in a while?


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Broaden the Definition of Failure

 
Failure sounds so final, like there is no recovery but the truth is that you can recover from all but the most catastrophic failure. As long as the end result is not death recovery is possible.

I’m not one of those pie in the sky, failure is a gift, kind of people but I do believe a lot can be learned from mistakes and that failure is far more common than we like to admit. Some people don’t want to focus on failures but I want to expand the definition and see failure even in success. If I can pick out the one thing I did wrong in an otherwise successful endeavor, I’ll be even better the next time.

FailinsuccessFailure is not the opposite of success!

Without a crystal ball it’s easy to think of every setback as a catastrophe but the reality is that it’s probably just a bump in the road.

When my most requested massage therapist quit I thought my spa business was doomed, that my descent into bankruptcy was beginning (yes I can be over dramatic sometimes). The reality was that we had many capable and skilled therapists who could and did pick up the slack. Instead of bankruptcy, our revenue increased every week after her departure.

But there was still failure in this situation. I’m not sure the outcome would have been any different but I could have worked smarter to keep her rather than letting my stubbornness get in the way.

Later when another therapist was showing up late, calling out, and otherwise being disruptive, I was less worried. Again she was our most requested therapist but I knew we’d be just fine without her. I had many conversations with her to discover the source of her behavior but to no avail. The outcome was the same, other capable therapists took up the slack and revenue stayed on its upward trajectory.

In each case I failed in some way but I was able to manage the situation, look inside myself and come up with changes to improve myself and my business. If instead of seeing these events as failures, I just saw them as the normal course of doing business, I would not learn from them, I would not be able to make the necessary adjustments to improve my connection with my employees.

I see failure all around because my definition is broader than most, and while I sometimes panic and think the end of the world is near, I know that a solution is probably near as well.


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Working for the Man

 
OfficeSpaceI see a lot of posts that tell people to follow their dream, start a business, do what you love. If the headline says “Quit Your Job” or “Be Your Own Boss” people will click.

We all want autonomy. We want people to answer to us, we’re tired of answering to others.

Long before I opened the doors to my business I knew that the romantic view of working for yourself was false. Now that I’ve been in business for a couple of years I realize that I was underestimating the reality. At my day job I have one person I have to answer to directly. There are a lot of people above me but I answer to one person on a daily basis.

At the spa I own I have over 10,000 people I have to answer to. Every client that walks through the door is my boss. Most of the time the interaction goes very smoothly but when it doesn’t I have to answer to them. But I underestimated who I had to answer to by not also taking my employees into account.

I know there are people out there who are talking to their computer (or smart phone or tablet) saying “you’re the boss, the employees answer to you.” And that’s how I know you don’t own a business. Yes, I have hired and fired, I have disciplined and praised, but the truth is that without the employees I don’t have a business. I have to respect the employees and to that end I let them know exactly how important they are by telling them that before the doors opened I was the most important person in the company but once the doors opened each of them were far more important than me. They interact with the client, they provide the service and if it’s a great massage or a wonderful facial then they deserve the praise but if the client isn’t happy they also deserve some of the blame, I deserve the rest.

You will always be working for someone else so the question you have to ask yourself is whether the work is fulfilling enough to make it worth while.


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Can You Build Fires?

 
Making FireI was a horrible Boy Scout. My troop was the Keystone Cops of the scouting world, the ones who came in last in our survival and wilderness skills competitions, the ones who didn’t capture the flag, build a fire, or navigate with a compass. In the navigation competition you had to follow a course using only a compass and to make things more difficult, you wore a paper bag over your head so you couldn’t see where you were going. Using only a map and a compass most teams made their way to the finish line, our team walked in circles.

But this post is not about navigation, it’s about fire. Another competition had us build a fire using only a few select items (none were matches unfortunately). The first item was flint to make a spark and that reminds me of this quote from What Next: “Inspiration on its own is like a flint without fuel, the spark is there but nothing catches fire.”

Of course we were given fuel in the form of tinder but it was a very limited supply. Now there was something to catch the spark but it wasn’t that easy. If the spark wasn’t strong enough or had to travel too far to reach the tinder, it wouldn’t catch. It’s the same with inspiration. If there is no one around to share your inspiration it might just remain an idea, a thought rather than action. If you can’t motivate yourself then the spark of inspiration will be exstinguished. Again from What Next this is summed up with this quote: “Motivation is the tinder for the spark of inspiration; it is the thing that catches fire.”

If the tinder did indeed catch the spark it would die without coaxing and that came in the form of oxygen. You would stoke the flame by gently blowing on the tinder; blow too hard and you put out the fire, too softly and it won’t spread. As we build the fire of our lives this last ingredient is drive. “Drive is the wind that spreads the fire of motivation sparked by inspiration,” I write at the end of What Next. Drive is the oxygen that sustains us as time, money, nay-sayers, or any other obstacle tries to exstinguish our fires.

As a Boy Scout I was horrible at building my fire but with practice and the right combination of inspiration, motivation, and drive, I’ve built plenty of fires that sustain me both mentally and financially. A leader will help others build their fires or give them one of the necessary ingredients. I hope I’ve given fuel to others so that they can build a fire of their own. What are you doing to build, sustain, or spread your fire, your passion?


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Too Honest to Succeed

 
PullingHairLabel this a rant. It’s one of many examples of people being clueless, overconfident, and criminal but landing on their feet and doing better than all of us who are honest, smart, and careful.

Today I’m adding Fabrice Tourre, also known as The Fabulous Fab, to my list of people who succeed in spite of being wrong or outright criminals in Tourre’s case. Mr. Fab was convicted of six counts of securites fraud in his role in the subprime mortgage mess that caused so much damage to the economy. Since this was a civil case brought by the SEC there will be no prison time but Tourre faces a fine of one million dollars and a lifetime ban from the securities industry.

So why is The Fabulous Fab on my list? Because the University of Chicago rewarded this guy with a job as an economics professor. His first class should be “how to defraud investors and land on your feet.”

What is wrong with us? Why do we keep rewarding people who aren’t worthy? The list I’ve compiled is pathetic: a financial advisor who lost his home but got a book deal anyway, a New York Times financial reporter also lost his house due to bad decisions and also got a book deal, a financial expert who called for major defaults in municipal bonds and couldn’t have been more wrong gets a book deal and starts a hedge fund. The list goes on but the honest, smart, financially successful among us continue to write blogs, self publish books, and otherwise struggle in obscurity because…because why?

Seriously why? Please add your comments below with your opinion of why it seems only screw-ups do well.


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Embrace the Complexity of Options

 
Anthony RobbinsIn a post a long time ago (one of my first) titled “Oh No” I lamented the fact that I was just another motivational author or speaker and I was not happy about it.

I think the reason I don’t want to consider myself a motivational author or speaker is that they are too simplistic in their approach. I, however, want to embrace the complexity of options. Take a simple concept like fear. I just read an article about Anthony Robbins saying how fear holds you back from success and while I’ve written about that very topic, I’ve also written about the benefits of fear. It’s too simplistic to say fear=bad and courage=good but that’s really all Anthony Robbins is saying, and most motivational speakers say.

I keep coming back to something Scott Loughmiller said in What Next, “I don’t take risks I manage risks.” And that concept can be applied to everything: I’m neither afraid nor fearless, I manage my fear; I’m neither under confident nor over confident, I mange my expectations. The fear is there, the lack of confidence is there but we push through it and yes the lack of fear can be dangerous and over confidence can get us in trouble. We constantly fluctuate between emotions and that’s ok as long as we manage to make progress.

This also ties in well with what Gary Vaynerchuk told me when I interviewed him in 2013, that self-awareness was the most important trait for success. If you are honest with yourself about what’s holding you back, you can begin to manage it.

Anthony Robbins and his ilk are the sugar rush of success, it’s a nice rush but it won’t last. Simple sells very well for them, but life is complex and requires complex solutions together with lots of work. Go to a motivational speech or read a motivational book and you’ll feel good for a while. Become self-aware and manage your issues and you’ll be well on your way to sustainable success – but like anything it takes work.


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