The Benefit of Action

In a post titled Recognizing Opportunity and Taking It I told you of a networking event I went to in NY in spite of the fact that I wouldn’t know anyone including the organizer. So why did I go? Read the post, but the short answer is because success doesn’t come from talking about an event I could have gone to, it comes from taking action, being proactive, and going to the event.

There is a back story to this that was unnecessary in the original post but has special relevance now.

Before going to the event I naturally checked out Andrew Warner, the founder of who organized the event. On the website he had an interview that was free to watch at the time, with a social media marketing expert, Mari Smith. In the interview Mari mentions that to be successful you have to interact with people who are already successful and get them to interact with you. But how, Andrew asked.

The key, said Mari, was to ask for help in a mutually beneficial way. But first you have to cultivate that relationship, get on the radar of the person you’re looking to interact with. The more you learn about them, the more you can figure out what to offer them. Everyone has needs.

This had a profound effect on me and it was something that stuck with me as I headed out to the mixer. But what did I have to offer?

At the end of the night, after a lot of great conversations, I got the chance to talk to Andrew and I offered to give him a copy of my book. He took it but there was no guarantee he would read it or give it a second look. He asked me what I did for a living, why I wrote the book.

It was a passing comment that caught his attention. “My day job is at ABC News'” I said, “but my success has come from many different places.” I didn’t know it but I had just offered him something that he needed.

“Where can I find people,” he asked me, “that can write, use a camera, and do some editing?”

I know why he asked but the people I know are correspondents and anchors of national broadcasts, not what he was looking for. I told him that I could find the answer very easily and email him within a day or so.

We agreed and I sent him the email. I then followed him on twitter, which he reciprocated, but never knew if the information I gave him was of any use.

Until yesterday when I got this tweet:

Tweet from Andrew Warner

What does this mean for me? Who knows and who really cares? If I only did this to get something in return then I did it for the wrong reason. Doing something of value for someone is a reward of its own. If he doesn’t like my book, he’s not going to praise it just because I did him a favor. He will remember me, however, and maybe need something again which I’ll be happy to help him with. Maybe one day I’ll find something that I need from him, something he can help me with.

The advice I got from his website and the luck of being in the city he was holding this event would have been worth nothing if I hadn’t recognized the opportunity and taken action.

What opportunities are out there for you and will you take them?

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Groundhog Day

To me this isn’t about the animal, the winter, or when spring will arrive. For me Groundhog Day is about the movie with Bill Murray. The message of the movie is that you can make anything of your life, it’s up to you whether it’s a life you’re proud of or not.

In What Next I write “To me it seems that asking ‘what next’ is really the search for mental and physical stimulation, the search for happiness. Asking ‘what next’ is a way to break the ‘groundhog day syndrome’ so many of us feel.” Too many people use words or phrases like “drudgery,” “same old same old,” or “not much,” to describe their life and what they’re doing on a daily basis. Not me.

Every day is another chance to meet new people, to connect with others on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, to learn from people who have done the things I want to do. Whether I take the chance or run and hide like the groundhog after seeing its shadow, is up to me.

Tonight I’m once again putting myself in what many people would describe as an awkward situation. I’m going to a restaurant/bar in NY to meet a highly successful entrepreneur who, until yesterday, I had never heard of. Why am I doing that? Because that’s what people who ask “what next” do, they seek out people more successful than them, people they can learn from, and they go for it.

I’m sure it’s going to be a little weird at first but what do I have to loose? That’s the attitude more people should have.

Check back tomorrow for an update on how it went tonight.

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Being Proactive

I want to include a short note about what I did last weekend. Why do you care? Because I lived the lessons in my book, I was proactive and did something that was scary and intimidating because, if I want to succeed, it’s what has to be done.

I attended an event where potential authors pitch their books, try to convince an agent that their idea is worth pursuing, to as many agents as they can see in three hours. The authors believe in their work, maybe even think it’s the best idea to ever be thought of, but convincing a perfect stranger who has heard it all before is quite difficult indeed.

Was I successful? Well I had four agents ask for proposals and that is all any of the authors could hope for. Now the truly hard work begins.

Below is a post I wrote several months ago but I think is appropriate in light of this past weekend’s events. Enjoy!


Hit the Red Button!

Back when I was a videotape editor, hitting the red button meant you made an edit, copied audio and video from one tape to another. Hitting the red button was a commitment. Because it seemed so final, many editors would perform a preview edit, they could see what the outcome would be without actually recording it.

The thing is that an edit wasn’t really permanent, it could be redone by recording new material over the old. Previewing the edit indicated a lack of confidence, that the editor didn’t trust their instincts.

There is no preview in life so a lot of people procrastinate, unwilling to hit the red button, afraid to make a commitment. Maybe you’re ready to send an important email and can’t bring yourself to hit send, or maybe you want to buy a stock but are so afraid of losing money that you watch it go up for days before finally deciding to buy (the opposite is true as well).

I just submitted my final manuscript for What Next to the publisher! Was it ready? Was I ready? Every day I thought about making changes adding more or taking something out, but I didn’t. 

I was, and am, confident that it’s a good book with lots of valuable information and so I hit the red button!

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Two Approaches to Being Proactive

Based on yesterday’s post, I want to share the stories of two people who were proactive and how it has paid off for them. Each of these people took action for different reasons but the results were similar, success. This post will also serve as a test to see if either of these people actually read my blog. Well do you?

In yesterday’s post I said that there are two different starting points for action. The first is taking action because you want to rather than because you have to. This type of action can be born from a new idea, boredom, curiosity, or a sense of adventure. The second starting point for action is a response to some outside force, which is really a reaction. There’s nothing wrong with reacting to something, it’s the type of response that matters.

The first story is about a friend I worked with for several years in New York. I’ll call him Mike and he worked in television for many years ending up at  ABC News where we met. After several years he began to feel stagnant, unhappy with his assignments, feeling as if his creativity was being stifled.  Mike also grew weary of the daily commute from New Jersey (something I can certainly relate to).

Mike dreamed of moving out west (he was the only person I knew in New York that wore cowboy boots) but could have continued at ABC to this day. He really had no reason to leave. His job was secure (as secure as any other editor at ABC) and his wife worked, so there was no financial incentive to leave. On the contrary, there were plenty of financial risks involved. Mike was too young to retire and walking away from two jobs could prove quite foolish.

Had Mike decided to stay, decided that the risk was too great, I believe he would have given in to what I call coasting, the tendency to continue on a path simply because you’ve been on it for so long. (On a related note, an article on Psychology Today’s website is a great supplement to my chapter called Coasting and a good explanation for why it’s so hard to change course). Instead of coasting, Mike decided to be proactive. He sold his home and much of his possessions, purchased a motor home, quit his job, as did his wife, and headed west.

The journey was not easy and it took several attempts to find the right fit, a place where they could feel comfortable and find work. Today Mike and his wife have a lovely home in a beautiful place. Mike freelances in television and his wife has a job she enjoys. Some people might have thought they were crazy but they went about the transition the right way and worked to make it successful.

For my next example of being proactive I’m going to start at the end. Tova Gold runs the website,, and has helped many people rediscover simple things throughout the day that make them happy, that bring joy into their lives. This doesn’t sound that impressive but when you consider that many of the participants in the 30 Days of Muchness Challenge have been through devastating losses, even a moment of joy can seem impossible to find.

Tova didn’t wake up one morning and think a website called Muchness would be a good idea. This was a realization that evolved from her own experience with loss. After the tragic loss of twins 24 weeks into her pregnancy Tova had lost a vital part of herself, something she called Muchness. Looking to regain her generally optimistic, fun-loving outlook on life, she took a photo of herself wearing something that made her feel better, an item of clothing with sequins. Each day for 30 days she posted a picture on Facebook and wrote a bit about why that item brought her joy. Soon others were asking if they could take her “Challenge” and the website, the concept, the community of Muchness, came to be.

Two very different people with very different circumstances were proactive and made a change, made a difference. Now it’s your turn. How are you going to be proactive? 

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Making a Move

I feel myself becoming scattered. It’s a common problem for people like me, people with lots of ideas, lots of thoughts running through our heads. It’s difficult to maintain focus but the ones who can, who can limit their attention to two or three priorities, are more likely to be successful.

My focus should be on the book and the message in the book, so while I reserve the right to drift a bit, I’m going to write a series of posts highlighting the various concepts from the book. I’ve written about curiosity, an important part of What Next, often mentioning hiking, or the benefits of meeting new and interesting people. I’ve written about a concept called coasting and the need to become unstuck, all of which can be referred to as procrastinating.

Today the concept I want to pick apart is the broad notion of being proactive, it’s part of the book’s title after all.

The first part of being proactive is deciding that you need to take action. This action could be a new idea such as a business you’d like to start or a hobby you want to begin. The action can also be a situation you want to correct, which is really a reaction, such as deciding that being in debt is holding you back, or that your job has become unbearable and it’s time for change. I believe the first type of action, born from your ideas, is a much stronger position to be in than the second type of action, a reaction to something that has already occurred.

“I would rather be prepared and have a plan than have to react to the unexpected,” I write. I’d rather do that but it’s not always possible. The vital part of being proactive is doing something once the decision to act is made. That’s the part I’ve been having trouble with lately. I can’t seem to decide on a plan and without a plan I’m just winging it, a position of weakness.

The problem I’m having is a lot like the idea of inspiration, I’m inspired to act but can’t seem to get moving. Inspiration without action is just a good intention, and good intentions don’t accomplish goals.

This post is my first step toward implementing my plan, such as it is. What is your first step toward what next? What action are you going to take now? I have a page on this blog called “Share Your What Next With the World” because I feel it’s important to make your dreams real by sharing them with others, forcing yourself to get moving. Not everyone shares that view but I’m convinced you’ll be held accountable, by yourself or by others, if you share your what next.

Tomorrow’s post will provide two examples of being proactive. One was a reaction to another event, the other was created from nothing.

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Often change is associated with progress but that doesn’t mean we’re happy about change when it occurs. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is a theory a lot of people might subscribe to and it’s not a bad thing.

Facebook’s recent change has a lot of people annoyed as did the other changes they’ve made in the past. notice no one is saying “we should go back to the way things were four versions ago.” With each change we got used to it and with each new change we want to go back, but only to the previous version.

With Facebook we don’t have a choice but when it comes to our own lives, the change we make is more in our control than we think. The desire for change may be prompted by something beyond our control but the power to change lies with us. Maybe a new boss makes work miserable for you, you have no choice about that, but you can decide to leave, to find a new job.

Rather than being caught off guard, asking What Next is about being proactive. Why not keep your eyes open for a new job opportunity even if you are happy at work? Why add to the stress that if things change you also have to put a resume together, make contacts, and otherwise begin the search?

Change is good, it shows progress. Sometimes the wrong kind of change is made but the good news is that can be changed as well.

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Daydreams are not enough

I found this article on the psychology today website and it made me think of a rather strange revelation I make in my book, What Next. I write: “I talk to myself.”

This is different than what this article points out. “A common theme among self-help teachings and new age spiritual ideas, such as The Secret, is that you have the power within you to make your “dreams” come true by focusing your mental energy, your “intent” on them. Then, they will come to you. But some new research claims that doing so can actually make you less likely to achieve what you wish for.”

Focusing your mental energy, or believing something good will happen is nothing short of daydreaming if you ask me. Focus your mental and physical energy on something if you really want it. Believe you can achieve your goals but know you have to work at it too.

In What Next I go on to say that “People who ask “what next” seek out new venues and alternative ways of doing something, and they often visualize themselves in that situation. As I visualize myself in a situation, I rehearse, I talk to myself.”

That is being a whole lot more proactive than simply fantasizing. All that rehearsal does nothing for you unless you actually go out and put that practice to use.

Daydreams are a great start but it’s up to you to make them a reality.

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