Lately, I run into many people who constantly have the same refrain: “I’m so busy!” or “It's crazy here!” or “I never have the time.” I hate to be critical - but it tells me a lot about you, your personality, and your work habits.
We all encounter 'bad' stuff that we have to do in our lives. Make the hard phone call, visit the recalcitrant client, tell your vendor bad news. We all have that terrible interaction we all hate to do. You might have to ask for a late payment, a raise/promotion, or tell a client that a project will be late. You might have to reach out to a prospective employer who might want to hire you.
So what do we do? We procrastinate — we put off — we do anything else except that one hard thing.
And it festers. It grows. And it takes on a life of it's own. Just like the 50's movie 'The Blob' with Steve McQueen, the longer we let it roll around, the faster it grows and starts killing people. Just kidding - but it was a scary movie when I was a kid.
Here's how I train my clients to do the hard things in life — we have to treat it like we're going to run a 10k race. What are the four things we need to do to prepare for a long race?
1. Practice — You can't just run a 10k — you have to practice and prepare incrementally to do your best. You need to practice what you're going to say and do. Develop a series of bullet talking-points to guide you. Refine them — less is more. Then practice them until they roll off your tongue. Run them by someone you trust until you have the right mix of intensity and empathy to get your point across and get the intended result.
2. Fuel — You have to eat the right foods to fuel your body. It's now time to feed the motivation part of your brain. Figure out the one thing you do to get yourself in the right state of mind with a heavy dose of mental momentum. Listen to your favorite workout song, read motivational quotes/books, call a friend who energizes you, or even workout. Do something that will instantly build your confidence and get you ready to make that connection.
3. Stretch — Right before a race, everyone stretches their muscles and joint to get them ready for the 10k. I want you to do the same thing — once you build up your confidence, I want you to center yourself and focus solely on the task at hand. Meditate, close your eyes and focus.
4. Explode — Get on the starting line, the gun goes off, and you explode forward with hundreds of other runners all vying for position. I also want you to explode — after practicing, fueling, and stretching — I want you to go right up to your phone, dial the number and make that call. Don't procrastinate and don't tell yourself you're not ready — you know you are. Just do it.
When you finally do it — everyone — and I mean everyone — says that it wasn't as hard as they thought. In fact, they say it's pretty easy. Now it's time to make that second call. And the third. And so on. Good Luck!
Let's get right into it — You need to join/start a mastermind group. Here are the facts: WHAT is a mastermind group?
Four to seven people in the trenches just like you, who work on their business/career, and who want to learn and grow. Each member offers their current resources, tactics and tools that work for them — plus they give you support when you need it.
WHY start a mastermind group?
It's a structure that will literally pull your business forward:
- You don't get sidelined when bad things happen.
- You don't get distracted, because you’re building a critical support system.
- You have a comfort zone of success you’re accustomed to and can measure your performance.
- As you break through each ceiling, you'll need partners to pull you up.
WHO should be in your mastermind group?
Optimally, you play better tennis with people who play better than you. But I feel that diversity is the real power of your mastermind — get members from many areas/industries, age groups, etc. Surprisingly, you will all have the same issues, with subtle filters personalizing them to your business/career.
WHEN should you meet?
Usually you meet on a strict, regular schedule — bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Attendance should be mandatory — your mastermind will only work if everyone is invested in its success. They run 3-8 hours, depending on the number of members, frequency of meetings, and the general 'antsyness' of each attendee.
FACILITATOR - Yes or No?
Yes — if you find your mastermind strays off course frequently and resembles a coffee klatch. The minute it becomes disorganized, unruly or off-course, you need a facilitator. I can help.
No — if you have dedicated members who recognize the power of your group, stay focused, and share in the responsibility of facilitating, developing topics to discuss, etc.
WHAT is the PAYOFF of a mastermind group?
- Exclusive Community — it involves dedication, communication, and a true willingness to succeed.
- Not On Your Own — the feeling of being alone goes away. You get committed business/career advisors.
- Grow Your Network — you get to connect with people you never knew existed.
- Learn — bring your skills & experience to the group. Other members will have a solution for you.
- Refer — once you are true colleagues, it's easy to refer business to one another.
- Unbelievable — masterminds infinitely impact your morale, business and career.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
We think our business/career security comes from making a lot of money, having a big title, or a checklist of major clients, but we're wrong. The greatest source of our security comes from close relationships with trusted friends.
I came upon a great quote from the Dalai Lama — "There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do, and mostly live."
How often do we feel disappointed/guilty about yesterday and anxious/fearful about tomorrow? Probably a lot.
How do we live in 'today' increments? How do we focus on what needs to happen right now without letting the past and future hold us back?
I use a simple acronym - P M R:
P = Plan — Take 5 minutes to Plan your day. Get real, assess exactly what needs to get accomplished, and write it down. Just the stuff that needs to be done today. Add time increments to estimate how long each will take, prioritize each one, and then plug them into your day calendar.
M = Meditate — Take 5 minutes to Meditate. Clean the cobwebs! Sit back, close your eyes, and clear your thoughts. Start by taking a few deep breaths then use the exhalation to sigh and release the tension. Do it again. And again. I promise you will feel better and energized.
R = Reflect — Take 5 minutes to Reflect on all the good things in your life. Gratitude is an important part of staying in the present. We tend to focus and think of all the bad things, worry, forget, and then start the whole process again. Try to focus on the positive this time — your accomplishments, your family, etc.
Take the rest of the time and get stuff done! Don't be afraid of diving in and accomplishing your action items — in fact, you will feel invigorated. Trust me!
*Just found out there is a disease with the same acronym (there always is) - I do not have it nor am I at all using the acronym lightly.
When I start with clients who are in-transition, we meet at my office in Stamford and I cover the Five Behaviors Of Successful People. I do this to help them focus, get out of a mental 'rut', and move forward with enthusiasm, passion, and determination.
In retrospect, I actually cover these five areas with all of my clients, but I do it differently — I'm a bit more subtle:
TRACK & PLAN You need to know where you've been, where you are, and where you're going at ALL TIMES. This means tracking your time (schedule) minute by minute and accounting for all of your time and energy. You should be sticking to a plan, taking discrete steps each day, and taking it to its natural conclusion.
FAIL: If you're just winging your calendar or making large swaths of time blocks, you're not tracking effectively. If you don't have a plan (try setting up 90-day plans — they're manageable), you will fail.
BE BOLD One of the original taglines for my coaching practice was "Be Bold In Life". I still love it because it embodies the swashbuckler spirit that we all need to be successful in business. You need to take chances, uncover opportunities, and most of all, you need to be BOLD in your thinking.
FAIL: Just keep saying "I can't do that!". Or constantly ask for permission to do things instead of just doing them. Or not doing them because you know they're going to fail.
THINK & ACT This is the cornerstone of my coaching philosophy — figure out what needs to be done and DO IT. Don't second guess yourself and get caught up in analysis-paralysis. Look at your options, make a decision, and take action. Worst case, if your wrong, step back, reassess, and take action.
FAIL: Procrastinate, contemplate forever and try to come up with every permutation. Push for perfection.
CHALLENGE Life is a series of challenges you must overcome to keep moving and stay happy. Work, relationships, kids, etc. are all made up of small and large challenges that we must deal with. Here's the secret — embrace each challenge with enthusiasm and vigor or you will go through life with a glass half-empty existence.
FAIL: Moan, complain, and run away from your problems. The faster you come up with a plan and deal with your challenge, the faster you will get on with your life.
OPEN UP You can spend your life closed down and not interacting with anyone or you can open your heart to the world and make a lot of new friends. Try to make a new friend every day — an acquaintance, a connection — take an avid interest in your fellow man. Most of all — SMILE!!!
FAIL: Stay home, watch TV, cocoon, close your office door, keep your head down and let your voicemail/email take over all of your connections. Oh yes — forget to smile.
One of my clients had a grand opening this weekend — and I made it a point to be there to help out with the crowds. It's a state-of-the-art fitness complex — the first of it's kind in Oxford — and by the size of the reception, it's going to be a huge success. As a small present, I designed and printed a banner of Greg Plitt with one of his favorite quotes:
"There are two types of pain, the one that breaks you and the one that changes you. In the gym, pain is felt as a result of weakness leaving the body. Physical pain is the glue of transformation and the pain of progress. The more you endure the harder it gets to accept the thought of failure."
What a great quote. I read it every time I'm in his studio and he pushes me past my physical limits (ouch). What happens if we apply this quote to our business/career?
"There are two types of challenges, the ones that break you and the ones that change you."
How often are you really broken down? Of course, we lose our job, we lose major clients, get yelled at by our boss or we might make a terrible decision that cost us lots of money.
But are you really 'broken' — or just powered-down for the time being?
"In business, loss is felt as a result of weakness leaving the body."
Too often, we tend to hang onto loss — we dwell on it — we make it a scar that we feel everyday. It keeps us from taking additional chances and bold decisions. We get gun-shy — we are afraid of making the same mistake again.
Will you REALLY make the same mistake again? Or are you coming up with excuses not to try something new that will take you out of your comfort zone?
"Business/Career loss is the glue of transformation and the pain of progress."
The bedrock of any business/career is TRANSFORMATION. You can't stand still — you have to innovate constantly to stay ahead of the competition. If you don't — you're taken off the main endcap shelf and tossed in the bargain bin.
"The more you endure the harder it gets to accept the thought of failure."
As you know, I regularly listen to 'How I Built This' — an NPR podcast where they interview successful business owners and how they got there. What's the one consistent theme I hear in every interview? FAILURE - LOSS - TRYING AGAIN.
If you grow a thicker skin when exposed to failure — it's easier to take bolder chances. Try it — it's fun.
What would you do if your website burnt down? Not literally, but if some catastrophic purge happened and you lost your entire website — all the copy, images, blog posts, testimonials — everything? You'd have to start FRESH. From the beginning. It would be a lot of work — but you'd get it done. And guess what — it would be better. Fresher. Newer. And it would probably bring in more clients.
Sometimes our career or business tends to get clogged up like an old set of drain pipes. Early on, water flowed through them perfectly — but as time wore on, they got gummed up with tired old slogans, artwork, and promotions.
Why? Because we don't see outside of our bubble.
- "It's good enough."
- "It says what I want it to say — even though I wrote it years ago."
- "That old business card still works — don't change it."
- "Everyone loves my holiday cards — I send the same one every year."
- "I have the perfect sales close — it works every time!"
FACT: If you don't change — you might go out of business or lose your job.
We have to tear down to rebuild. To start anew on a firmer foundation — to reach new customers and clients. To boldly go where no one has gone before.
Spring/Summer is here and it's time to clean house:
- Maybe a new logo is in order. A new font, shape, graphic might add energy to catch people's eyes.
- New coloration for your branding/signage. The wrong color/shade can date your company so quickly.
- A more responsive and attractive website that says less and does more. People don't have time to read pages of copy. Less is more - get right to the point and tell them what they need to know.
- Develop a new filing system for your desk. Make yourself more efficient and clear the decks.
- Clean your systems. Clean/replace your laptop, phone, etc.
- A new wardrobe, hairstyle, glasses, body. Stand back and be critical — maybe that hairstyle from the 80's isn't working anymore (I don't have that issue).
Every company and executive needs to update their image. If you don't, first impressions might turn potential clients and opportunities in the opposite direction. Yikes!
I run into so many people who complain how they can't find a job, or get a promotion, or find new, great clients (Group 'A'). I also run into people who find a job quickly, get that promotion, and regularly find great clients (Group 'B').
What is the difference between Groups 'A' & 'B'?
- Group 'A' has developed the most perfectly formed excuse structure holding them back from success.
- Group 'B' fights their big fears every day, dismisses the weak ones, and gets shit done.
What do they do?
- Group 'A' blames their weaknesses, the market, their age, other people, and how customers demand so much more. They moan about their bad luck, how no one wants them, and how other forces are impacting their success.
- Group 'B' doesn't play that game. There is no time for blaming. They figure out what needs to be done and they do it. They realize it's going to be hard, they will be tested, and they will have to push themselves harder than ever before.
What happens in the end?
- Group 'A' plays the same broken record every day and suddenly find that half of 2017 has passed them by. They're still without a job, with no promotional opportunities (and their current position on the chopping block), and clients disappearing at an alarming rate.
- Group 'B' gets the interview and offer. They get the promotion and raise they asked about. They go after and get even bigger clients - bigger than they ever dreamed.
Which group are you currently in? What group do you want to be in?
Extra Credit . . . How To Be In Group 'B':
- Stop looking and finding excuses for your situation. You're a smart boy/girl — you know exactly what the problem is. Get out there and take action.
- Be Bold In Life - Start taking chances — not wild-ass ones, think about your next steps and then move!
- Ask for forgiveness, not permission — this is my mantra — reach out to that unreachable person, ask for that raise, go after that affluent client.
- Do It NOW - Don't wait for 'the right time'. There's no time like the present. "Action expresses priorities." - Gandhi
- Stop procrastinating because you're 'afraid'. This is a No Whining Zone — no one is going to change your diaper.
Why do people hate HVAC Networking Events? Usually it's full of people who are all talking small. "How's business?" " There's a lot of people here." "How's the food?" "That's a great tie."
Shoot me now. We all hate these events - executives, vendors, and business owners alike. Unfortunately, we've been told that we have to go to them to grow our business. And they're right.
You have to regularly break out of your bubble and meet new people. Interact and market your product/service to get traction.
But how many events have you attended early in the morning or late into the evening that just sucked? Tons.
I have a technique to make them Powerful, Engaging, & Fun. Here are some of the things I do to dump the small talk and have courageous conversations:
1. Take An Avid Interest In The Person You're Speaking To.
Most of the time, people are only thinking of themselves. In fact, many people closely listen to what you're saying only to anticipate a pause so they can talk.
Take the time to LISTEN to what the other person is saying and frequently add energizing sounds and body language to keep them going.
Paraphrase what they just said and insert a follow-up question to dig deeper into what they are commenting on.
2. Act Like A Host.
What do hosts do? They make their guests feel comfortable, at home, start fun conversations, and selflessly connect people together to build a strong networking circle of professionals.
What's wrong with acting like a host (even if you aren't the host) and helping your fellow attendees accomplish all of these goals?
I love to walk up to a group and ask everyone how they like the wine/food/room — they always positively comment and immediately invite me into their conversation. Try it.
3. Talk About Scary Subjects.
Instead of the weather, think of assertive, strong questions to get people out of their shell. Some I've used:
"So, what's your big project for 2017? How's it going so far?" "What new things are you trying to launch?" "Favorite super-power: Flying or X-Ray Vision?" (I love this one - ask me how it works) "Did you hire anyone new this year? What was the one quality that shined for you?" "What client do you absolutely despise? Why? Why don't you fire them?" "What's the scariest thing you've done in the past few years?"
Now understand, some of these work with new acquaintances — some will only work with friends or when you've conversed for a certain amount of time.
4. Open Up.
Once you've made an initial connection, try to open up and talk about serious topics. Once you get to know the, let them know that you just lost a client or that the product you just launched isn't doing that great (as an example). Being honest and authentic is so much better than fake and boring.
5. It Not All About YOU.
Don't go there only looking for business. In fact, frame your perspective around helping others. "I am going to try to connect everyone I meet to someone I know to help them build their business/career."
Givers Gain — make sure to try to help everyone (okay - not everyone - there are some lost causes in every bunch).
If you try just one of these — you will transform your typical, boring networking event into an exciting and memorable soirée. Be Courageous!