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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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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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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Prove Them Wrong!

Andy Murray with trophyFor any tennis fans out there I know I’m not being a spoiler to tell you that Andy Murray won his first major tournament Monday when he beat Novak Djokavic in an amazing five set match at the US Open. There were plenty of people who thought he couldn’t do it, didn’t have the extra little something to be a champion. I confess I also felt that at times including Monday evening as I saw his decisive lead chipped away forcing a fifth set.

We all face naysayers and our own doubts, but the people who persevere are the ones who keep coming back, tournament after tournament, failure after failure. These people believe in something no one else does (at least it sometimes feels like no one else believes).

I have two stories relating to that which I’d like to share. The first takes place in the principal’s office of my middle school when I was in 7th grade. I was not a very good student back then. I rarely did my homework prompting many parent teacher conferences and frustrating my parents. My science teacher, Mrs. Gillen (I still remember her name), was also quite frustrated with me. On this occasion she took me to the principal’s office to try to talk some sense into me. I remember her words very clearly. She said that I needed to apply myself, get better grades or I was in danger of having Brain“my brain atrophy.” Mrs. Gillen then asked if I knew what atrophy meant. I did and defined it for her. I think she was as shocked with my knowledge as I was with her idiotic statement. I knew my brain was just fine and that my real problem was boredom.

Needless to say, my brain did not atrophy and I have gone on to be quite successful in spite of Mrs. Gillen’s dire predictions that I wouldn’t. The second story is much more recent and involves a very embarrassing  mistake on my part.

Two years after accepting a new job with an increased salary I noticed that I wasn’t being paid properly, that I was short several thousand dollars a year. Yes it took me two years to realize this – as I said embarrassing. The company’s response was “too bad.” Unless I could prove that I was being paid wrong they wouldn’t do anything about it. In one meeting an executive said to me “after all the nice things I’ve said about you to (the president of the company) what do I say now? AJ’s still a good guy but he’s apparently not good with money?”

MoneyI smiled because I knew that was so far from the truth that it was indeed laughable, and said, “Well that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to think what you want but that doesn’t change the fact that you aren’t honoring the agreement I entered when I took this job.” I was able to prove my case and got the back pay I deserved.

In both of those examples the people I was dealing with had very little confidence in me but I kept moving forward, working to improve myself and achieve the desired outcome on my terms. It is hard when you feel isolated but that’s exactly when you need your inner voice to come through loud and clear. I’m sure Andy Murray had doubts, was fearful and nervous, but he stayed focused and knew that a positive outcome was still very possible. The same goes for you in whatever is giving you pause right now.

It’s up to you to prove the doubters wrong so what are you waiting for?

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The Calm After the Storm

HurricaneAfter a hurricane the weather is often beautiful, it’s the calm after the storm. Making a decision, particularly a decision that involves money and risk, you often feel you’re in a storm, being buffeted about in a sea of fear, concern, enthusiasm, confidence, and doubt.

I’m not yet ready to declare my decision final but while sitting on the train yesterday I was Beachovercome by a sense of calm, a sense that fear and doubt were completely vanquished. More than being calm, I was serene, totally comfortable with the decision I’m about to make.

I know it won’t last as problems are sure to arise because problems are a part of life, but I also know that during the worst of times I can have faith that the feeling of calm will return.

Do you have stories of calm after a storm? I would love to hear your comments below.

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Be Afraid

SuccessWhen you look at a successful person you don’t imagine that fear is a problem for them. People who take risks and innovate, aren’t afraid. Fear is something entrepreneurs, executives, and leaders have done away with. Right?

Not really. The fear is always there and while some will say they have overcome their fear or pushed through their fear, what they’re really saying is, they have managed their fear, controlled it, and even used it to their advantage.

The question then becomes how? How do you manage fear?

Understand Fear

First you have to understand what the fear is telling you and why you’re afraid. No one is afraid of public speaking, they’reBe Afraid afraid they’ll look like a fool, stumble and stutter, mess up, that maybe they aren’t the expert people believe they are. I’m afraid of heights but I don’t get scared looking out the window of an airplane. What I’m really afraid of is falling, my fear of heights seems to be a lack of confidence in my ability to maintain balance. Take the onus off of me and I’m fine.

Direct Fear

The fear you feel is telling you how to manage it. If you’re afraid that you’ll stumble over words in a speech, then practice. Gather a group of friends or family and deliver your speech to them, if you stumble over any words, change them, if you lose track of where you are, focus. On a personal note I did this, I delivered a speech to just my wife and I was probably more nervous than when I was in front of the real audience because it felt stupid talking to one person like she was a larger group. That alone made me more comfortable when the real speech day arrived.

When I rock climb I direct my fear to checking and double checking my ropes, I concentrate and focus on the task of climbing, testing each foothold and handhold as I go. I breath and try to calm myself, gaining confidence in my preparation.

Manage Fear

Fear can be a good thing, a healthy fear, to keep you focused and motivated to do well or not to die. Overcoming fear seems risky to me because I might no longer respect the power and danger in a situation. I’m a strong swimmer, I don’t fear the water in the sense that I avoid it, but I do respect it as I enjoy its benefits.

Do it Anyway

Sometimes you aren’t given a choice and simply have to do something that scares you. I tell a story in What Next A Proactive Approach to Success about a job I was asked to do. When I started my job at ABC, I listed knowledge of a particular editing system called Avid on my resume. That listing was true but I had never edited a full news story on that system. When I was asked to edit a 20/20 special I got scared. My fear wasn’t of the editing it was of my ability to make the leap from basic editing to high end work.

I managed the situation by spending the weekend before the project was to begin, practicing, learning, remembering. When I began the project I was extremely motivated not to fail. I still felt uneasy but I did it anyway.

What techniques do you use to manage your fear? Please share below. Also take a moment to vote in the poll to the right – How do you see obstacles?

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Don’t Look Down


Fear is a bad thing right? We tell children not to be afraid of the various things we know won’t hurt them, the dark or monsters under their beds. As adults we try to rid ourselves of fear like the fear of public speaking or the fear of failure. Some of us are afraid of spiders and other creepy crawlers, while others are afraid of heights, which is a fear of mine. You probably can’t tell from this picture however.

Climbing higherFear has its place as an important emotion, a reaction that can save us from a bad situation or from doing something stupid. Being confronted by a robber, fear is a natural response which heightens our senses so we can react fast enough to avoid a tragedy. The term healthy fear indicates that, in moderation, fear is good for us.

I often feel limited by my fear of heights as my wife Julie is able to walk to the edge of a cliff and see what I can’t because I’m standing twenty feet behind her, my knees weak. With enough time and a gradual increase in comfort, I’m able to get past the fear and do things like you see in the picture to the left. Believe it or not, however that is relatively simple compared to what I faced in the picture to the right.

I enjoy hiking and climbing, I don’t believe in obstacles and want to be able to go through or over them to discover new things, see new sights. I want to remove limits, especially self imposed limits. That’s why I’m up there climbing that sheer cliff, to face my fear (for any climbers out there that was only a 5.2 climb – for non-climbers that simple, relatively speaking).

Our climbing instructor, Robert, was great and understood the role fear plays as we challenged ourselves to push past the anxiety. “You can’t overcome fear,” said Robert, “you can only manage it.” And that’s when it struck me, the word manage is so crucial to everything we do. There is very little we can control but we can manage quite a bit.

As I climbed higher and higher, with only the slightest of footholds, the fear was there. I wanted to quit, to be lowered down by my belay partner, and wife, Julie, who had my life in her hands, but I pressed on. It reminds me of a story my father told me about the first time he ever water-skied, “I was too afraid to fall, so I didn’t” he said. I can completely relate to that now.

I was successful on that climb at managing my fear. On the second climb however I was not as good a manager and psyched myself out, opting to quit half way up. One step forward, one back. Next time, and that’s part of managing your fear, next time, I took two steps forward.

What fear are you willing to face so that you can learn to manage it?

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That Risk Ain’t So Risky

What is considered risky by one person may be conservative for another. Whether personal, financial, or business each person has a point they will not pass, a chance they will not take.

What I don’t like is when other people project their fear, their cautiousness onto me. The hard part is when your spouse is the one you can’t seem to agree with. In my case that’s a good thing. Julie keeps me in check, tamps my enthusiasm and brings a dose of reality to an otherwise overly optimistic me.

It turns out, however, that common risks like starting a business aren’t nearly as risky as people may think.

In a blog post on the Harvard Business Review website Bruce Gibney and Ken Howery state, “Entrepreneurship is a deviation, an occupation for heroes, heroic for the reasons it can’t be recommended: it’s just too unsafe. But the conventional position is nonsense; building new companies is far more sensible than the practical will admit.”

Imagine this conversation. “What’s your major?”


“You mean business, right? Entrepreneurship isn’t a job, where do you plan on working?”

“Wherever I want, doing whatever I want.”

The idea of working wherever you want without being limited by a career path may look to others like a lack of focus but it is a life many people aspire to and have had great success with. As I point out in my book, What Next A Proactive Approach to Success, Scott Loughmiller, an entrepreneur, saw two paths out of college, work for someone else or be the boss and start his own company. Scott chose the latter and it worked out very well.

How many people with “safe” jobs lost them in the most recent economic volatility? In contrast, Gibney and Howery point out that “of 5,000 businesses started in 2004, almost 56% were still in business in 2010, despite suffering through a brutal economic downturn.” Of the 44% that aren’t still in business, how many have moved on to another business that is still active?

Entrepreneurship should be encouraged. Starting a business is not risky. Pouring all your savings, even going deep into debt, for an idea that hasn’t been researched, hasn’t been tested, is not risky, it’s foolish. I’m sure it was a risk for Richard Branson to start Virgin Airways but I’m sure he didn’t throw caution to the wind and make hasty decisions without research. If Virgin Airways was not profitable, if it were starting to drag the rest of his businesses down, I’m sure he would eliminate it before any real damage could be done.

I spent money to publish my book and I’m spending money to publicize it. I don’t know if any good will come from it but I’m not going broke in the process. There is a point beyond which I will not proceed but until then I keep moving forward with one goal in mind.  My book was a risk but it was not risky.

What is a risk you’ve wanted to take but didn’t out of fear or pressure from others? Share your answers below in the comments area.

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Climb a little higher

I have a picture of me on a hike that I never thought would be possible. Well it started as a hike but ended up being a climbing expedition. The reason I never would have thought the picture possible is that I’m afraid of heights. The image doesn’t show fear or concern, I look really happy, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m afraid of heights. My love of hiking and climbing and exploring outweighs my fear.

Whenever I’m on a hike or climb that takes me higher than a certain amount, the fear seems overwhelming. I feel like I don’t have control, that other forces, the wind, the sandy earth, will cause me to fall but I walk a little farther, climb a bit higher, and explore some more. What I find is that I can go higher if I just give myself some time to acclimate.
Climbing higher
The image you see here was possible only after climbing smaller heights with wider ledges. Once I was comfortable with that, I could climb higher using narrow ledges, and then finally, once my confidence was strong enough I could perch precariously on a rock no wider than my foot.

Making it to the top of that climb was awesome not just for the accomplishment, not just because I faced my fear, but because I was able to see something that would have remained hidden if I didn’t do those other things.

It’s Friday and the weekend is a great time to relax and decompress from the workweek but there’s also an opportunity to explore and to experience new things, to discover what you really enjoy about life. Have a great weekend!

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