The Best Investment You Can Make is in Yourself

 
I’m taking a break today from the Gary Vaynerchuk interview to…to what? I don’t want to complain but I’m afraid that is how it will sound. I don’t want to sound like an old man who thinks this generation is lacking what previous generations had but after reading this, you might think that’s what I’m doing. I don’t want to put my leadership skills (or lack of skills) out there for everyone to see but I have to be honest with myself and I’m choosing to do so publicly.

leader-mdI choose kindness over harshness. I choose conversation over orders. I choose second and third chances over rash decisions. I give the benefit of doubt rather than expecting the worst. All of these seem to be backfiring.

I understand the feeling that a job is just a job. I understand having a job you don’t love, I have one now that I don’t even like. I get wanting to do the bare minimum when there is no motivation or incentive to do more. I get all that, but I’m at the end of my career (yes I’m young but I’m at the end of one career, not my working life).

When I was at the beginning of my career the concept of work hours was foreign to me. I stayed and worked and improved my skills because I wanted to, because I was curious, because I knew that some day I’d advance and grow to higher levels. I did this without overtime pay and when overtime was available, I often wouldn’t put in for it because I wasn’t working, I was learning.

What I see of my staff is that, so early in their working lives, they’ve already checked out. I don’t see the curiosity and interest in honing their skills, learning new things, going beyond (or even living up to) their job description. The sales associates want to be managers, and the manager wants to be the general manager but none are excelling (or are even adequate) at their current position.

My pep talks haven’t worked. My pep talks with a dose of reality haven’t worked. My honest assessments with consequences behind them haven’t worked. I know business people have to fire staff and I’ve had to as well, but when you see potential in a person in spite of their lack of effort it makes the process that much harder.

I can’t help but think that a young Gary Vaynerchuk did well because he is someone who is invested in himself. I am someone who invests in myself. I don’t see my staff investing in themselves – they’re just picking up a paycheck.

Do you see the same of your staff, of the employees you deal with at a store or on the phone? What do you do to get them to see that investing in themselves pays the best dividends?


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Yin-Yang of Confidence and Fear

 
In What Next I relay the story of how Julie and I decided to buy an investment property in California but what I left out was how perfectly we compliment each other, how we balance each other. When Julie was feeling apprehensive about this big decision I was confident, calm, and reassuring. When I began to have doubts, wondered if we were making a mistake, Julie took the role of the voice of reason and strength.

Confidence and FearJulie was the Yin to my Yang as I was hers. What I’m seeing now, in a painfully real way, is that the Yin and Yang are within us as we fluctuate from confidence to fear and back again. As I move closer and closer to opening my spa, with all the details that need attending to, I cycle through the range of emotions. It takes a toll.

In Adversity on Purpose I talk about how successful people seek out difficult situations, investments or business opportunities for example, in spite of the risk and the obstacles in their way. They do this because they know that what lies on the other side of the struggle is success. I know that, too, but the cycle is unavoidable.

If all I had was confidence, where would the attention to detail come from? If I was sure things would work out, why would I check and double check my progress? It’s the fear, the worry, the concern, that keeps me on track. Conversely, without confidence, why wouldn’t I just give up? Without belief in the prospect of success, why would I be so dedicated? It’s the faith we have in our own abilities that drives us forward.

The confidence and fear cycle goes on but compliments each other as we continue forward over obstacles and up hills. How have you used this dichotomy to your advantage?


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Adversity on Purpose

 
Overcome adversityOnce again my inspiration comes from a tweetchat and once again that chat is #BeALeader (Thursdays @7pm ET). The topic last night was adversity and the conversation was focused on overcoming adversity and getting through tough times. We also recognized that adversity develops character and strengthens us.

This post is not about overcoming adversity but seeking it out, on purpose. The most successful among us do it all the time. Anyone who is fed up with their job and begins looking for a new one is choosing adversity, the interview process and the chance they won’t get the job. Yes, it’s true they might be replacing one adverse situation with a more promising adverse situation but make no mistake, they are seeking adversity.

Those who embrace the mantra, go big or go home, may fail big but they may also succeed big. Choosing adversity comes down to your risk tolerance. Is risk something to be feared or embraced? When I speak of risk I’m talking about educated, calculated, researched risk, the kind successful people take as opposed to the kind unsuccessful people take, foolish risk.

I have chosen adversity every time I’ve made an investment or started a business. I choose adversity when I attempt to overcome my phobias. We choose adversity every day we get out of bed even though we do all we can to minimize it. I’m all for minimizing and even avoiding adversity when possible, but I’m also ready to confront it when needed, are you?

When I began my latest What Next, opening a Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa, I knew I was choosing a difficult path. If it was easy everyone would do it but I, and the many others before me, believed we could triumph over whatever complication got in our way. I’ve had my doubts at times, but I did what anyone else who succeeds does, I found solutions rather than complaining about the problem.

Obstacles, adversity, and disappointment are a part of life and yes we grow stronger when we overcome these setbacks. Sometimes we even seek out adversity because we know what lies on the other side. Do you look at adversity this way? Why or why not? Please share.


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Recapping 2012 Part 3 of ??

 
BeALeader Tweet ChatIn honor of last night’s #BeALeader tweetchat (Thursdays at 7pm ET) hosted by a leader I look up to @gingerconsult, I’ve chosen a more recent blog post for my look back at my favorites of 2012. The topic of the chat was “make a plan, work the plan” and that is exactly what the post below is about. It’s rare that a plan goes according to…well, according to plan and that is why you have to keep working it.

This particular post was about a lease negotiation that had taken months to nail down nearly falling apart at the very end. The important lesson was that I had other options, other plans as backups but also that I didn’t give up and kept working toward a solution. We finally came to an agreement and we’re currently constructing our latest What Next, A Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa.

Whatever Happens

Preparation isn’t just about a goal, isn’t a task that is only completed when you have something planned. Preparation is about weathering a storm and expecting the unexpected.

Be Prepared For AnythingIn What Next I write that “it’s not the plan for the expected outcome that saves you, it’s the plan for the unexpected outcome that does.” This is what preparation is all about and why I often have a plan B, C, D, E, and F.

I haven’t written many blog posts in a while because I’ve been busy working on my latest What Next venture, my current priority.

The reason I’m writing this is that two months of planning, two months of high expectations, may end badly. I will be sad, upset, worried, and yes even angry, if this falls through, but one thing I won’t be is beaten. I won’t be much worse off even if it goes terribly wrong because of the preparation I’ve done, not just for this one thing but throughout my life.

As you live your life, are the things you’re doing now putting you in a stronger position later? It’s worth asking so you’ll be able to succeed no matter what happens.


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Recapping 2012 Part 2 of ???

 
Looking BackThe second installment of my look back at my 2012 blog posts features a common theme for me, hiking. Hiking is a great metaphor for life as the journey is often more important than the destination. Another category this post deals with is leadership. We all vary from follower to leader and back again depending on the situation.

This post also features Adam (@ajm5338 on twitter), the person I mention in the post below, who has indeed taken the steps necessary to reach the goal we spoke about at the event I attended early in 2012. I hope that Adam has a moment to stop by and fill us in on his progress.

Be The Trail Guide

Whether you are beginning your working life or are looking for a change, you have more choices than you realize. Choice is not an either-or proposition, however. You can decide to go to work for an established company, a big corporation, or you could set your own path, be your own boss. You could also do both if you want to.

Not too long ago I went to an event at a bar in NY organized by Andrew Warner of Mixergy.com. The event was a mixer (of course) where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs got a chance to talk and share ideas. I met a guy who just recently (six months ago) joined the workforce after graduating college. The thing that was interesting, though, is that he was already anxious for more. He was looking for his what next. The experience he was getting was valuable but he wanted to create something. There is no reason he can’t do both, continue getting great experience while creating something new.

Being at the event was a step in the right direction but to be an entrepreneur, he also needs to be a leader. He needs to be able to get others to follow him, to believe in his mission as much or more than he does himself.

Entering a palm oasis

Leading the way.

He is like a hiker setting off on a trail others have been down before. Anyone can be a hiker but a leader is a trail guide who knows their way. In this case, only the entrepreneur with the idea, the sense of direction, can lead their team of hikers.

Is it enough to simply declare yourself a leader, the trail guide? No. You have to demonstrate why you should lead, you have to give as much as you get. The authority is not yours to claim but is earned as your enthusiasm and belief in the project lights the fire of those you want to lead to success.

Now get out there and explore the trail so you can be an effective guide.

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Whose Deadline is it Anyway?

 
DeadlineThere are so many deadlines that we must meet, so many tasks that require our attention. When I was in school I’d wait till the last minute and cram more often than I ever should have. I think a lot of people did that and they continue to do that into adulthood.

As I work through the process of getting my new business started I’ve added many more deadlines, construction deadlines, ordering deadlines, hiring deadlines, a countdown to my first rent payment, and many more. Adding a level of complexity, many of these targets depend on the action of others, leaving me at their mercy (or lack of mercy). But remember that these are your deadlines not their’s and you have to take ownership of them. You have to hold them to your schedule when you can and be flexible when you can’t.

Some of these deadlines are variable, while others are rigid. The rigid deadlines aren’t surprises, however, so don’t act that way when they arrive. The important thing to know, to truly believe, is that you really do have control over these deadlines. If you plan for more than just perfection, if you plan for flexibility, then deadlines aren’t dead ends.

The opening date of our spa has moved many times and will move again before we finally open the doors but that’s ok. I’d rather get it right, make sure that the customer’s experience will be great, than open on some arbitrary date just to make myself feel good, because I soon won’t if everything is less than perfect. That might mean that I begin paying rent before I have income, if I didn’t plan for that possibility that’s my own fault. As I say in What Next, “It’s not the plan for the expected outcome that saves you, it’s the plan for the unexpected outcome that does.”

It’s easy to stress out over the many deadlines but it’s completely counterproductive. Instead, be flexible and know that a missed deadline isn’t the end of the world. But don’t let yourself off the hook either, ask why you missed the deadline and work to make sure it doesn’t happen next time.


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You Have More Than You Think

 
You have more time, money, knowledge, stamina, desire, influence and ability than you know. Those that recognize this fact are more likely to succeed.

You have the power!When faced with an impossible task you either rise to the occasion or you don’t. I think of the rare stories of people being lost at sea or while hiking, people who have survived difficulties none of us prepare for. These people found stamina they never would have imagined they had sitting in the comfort of their homes which means you have much more than you think as well.

There are everyday situations that require extraordinary commitment and focus, that many people either don’t have (I don’t believe that) or aren’t willing to put forth (all too common).

I’ve always considered myself entrepreneurial but I’ve been that way on my terms, meaning I’ve been somewhat conservative. My latest project has me taking on moreCash risk financially than I ever have and while it is daunting, I’m having the best time I’ve had in a long while. The joy I have from working harder than ever before comes from my confidence, I believe I’ll do well, and my sense of adventure, I want to explore my abilities and discover new strengths. These things, confidence and adventure, often lead to flow, a mental state in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus and full involvement. In flow, times flies and before you know it, hours have passed.

So many people complain that they need more of something, more time or money but it’s there if they only look more carefully. You would be amazed how much money you could find if you just figure out where you’re spending it or prioritize things and give up the less important expenses that cost money but give you little benefit. You can find more desire by really exploring what it is you want to do, what you love to do, what excites you.

When we began our latest business journey, Julie was rightfully concerned that with our already busy schedules, we wouldn’t have enough time for this project, and that if we found the time, then we wouldn’t have enough time for each other. So far, I’m happy to report, we’ve found the time to devote to this adventure and, since we’re doing it together, we still have each other’s company – a win-win! But time is only one aspect and we’ve seen that we need more than we thought when it comes to money, knowledge (I’ve done more research for this than I ever did in college), and patience.

We need more of everything but it’s there if we’re willing to do what it takes to get it. In the case of money, maybe we have to give up somethings for the more important stuff and so we reduce discretionary things like cable tv or stop one type of investment in favor of another (which is what we’ve done).

As for time, this blog has suffered. I haven’t been writing new posts in a while but something has to give. As we move forward with this project I’ll blog more about it but that will happen when I’m finally ready to reveal this latest What Next. Stay tuned and check back here often (and explore – there are lots of posts with lots of good information if I do say so myself).


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Whose Priority Are You?

 
Not Their PriorityYou are not their priority. I don’t know who they are but trust me, they don’t care. I don’t mean that they dislike you or want you to fail but I’m sure there are a lot of people vying for their attention. Your most important priority is you, not someone else, so why would you expect any different from anyone else? What you need to do is take responsibility for your success and make them (whoever they are)  want to put you at the top of their priority list.

No need to be annoying or make a nuisance of yourself. On the contrary you want to make it easy for them to work on your project or issue. Here’s an exampleTheir Priority

I’m not at all a commercial real estate expert, I’m a novice. As I look for commercial space for my latest What Next (this is the most information I’ve revealed about it thus far) I was a bit frustrated by the lack of depth in my designee’s  choices and so I began doing whatever I could to find alternatives, to increase my options. I drove around looking at places where I shopped, places that were close to major roads, places that had well known national tenants. I also went online and searched commercial real estate web sites. I don’t know if any of these locations will end up being the place I choose, but by presenting these specific options to the experts, I know they have a clear path to take on my behalf.

Think of this in terms of your job. You might want your manager to help you get a promotion especially since you’re such a good employee but you are not their priority. They probably manage more than just you and each person wants their attention. So what can you do? Make yourself indispensable, be the Linchpin as Seth Godin would say, and demonstrate your value rather than tell them how valuable you are. Does that mean more work for you? Yes but success takes work.

Taking this idea and applying it more widely I’d say it’s important to offer some assistance, some value, to anyone you’re asking for help. By making their job easier you make it more likely that they will go the extra mile for you because you’ve given them a head start.


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The Art of Prioritizing

I’ve been off-line for a while. I haven’t updated this blog, I haven’t been on Facebook, and I haven’t taken part in many discussions on Twitter in theOffline past few weeks. I’ve been really busy and the pace I’ve set for myself will only get worse (or better depending on your perspective) as time goes on.

Over the past few weeks I’ve realized a few things about myself and about what asking What Next really means. I’ve seen what I write about in my book and my blog come to life and I’ve learned from the experience. I’ve had lessons on leadership, entrepreneurship, business, and focus to name a few.

In What Next A Proactive Approach to Success I write “For those of us who never stop asking “what next,” we may seem like crazy people who are never happy with what we have and cannot stick with one thing. We’re really multitasking on a grand scale. Instead of juggling different items relating to one topic, we juggle many topics.”

Juggling many topics, however, does not mean you are not focused and devoting the proper amount of time and energy for the most important tasks. For the past few years my book, What Next, has been my focus as I attempt to increase sales and spread the concepts I believe in so strongly. But now I’ve turned my attention elsewhere, to a new business, and it seems like the book and all my hard work have been forgotten. Nothing is farther from the truth.

Priority!I also recount a story in What Next about Sir Richard Branson turning down half a million dollars for a one hour speech. Who would do that? A billionaire, yes, but his incredible fortune wasn’t the reason he didn’t give the speech. “Branson’s representative said, ‘Richard has three main priorities he is focused on, and he will only allocate his time to those three priorities, and speaking for a fee is not one of them.’”

Richard Branson was focused, but that didn’t mean that he had forgotten or abandoned all his other interests. Some things were less important for a short time as he was devoting more energy to his priorities. This is what many people have trouble with but what successful people are really good at, blocking distractions and focusing on the things that will bring progress.

As windows of opportunity present themselves I’ll be back online and once I feel comfortable enough to reveal what my current What Next project is, I’ll do so here and on all my social networks.

For now I recommend that you evaluate your two or three priorities, the things you believe have the greatest potential to move you forward, and come up with a plan to make them your main concerns while blocking the distractions that will inevitably come up.


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Leadership Training Carnival

Leadership Training CarnivalThe June edition of the Leadership Training Carnival is out hosted by Guy Farmer at Unconventional Training Blog featuring a blog post from What Next: Lead, Follow, AND Get Out of the Way. There are several other articles worth checking out so take a trip over to Guy’s blog and see what you can learn.


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