We've all sat back at times and said to ourselves, "If I only knew then what I know now..." and pondered what we could have done with that knowledge.
I was thinking about this topic recently and had a few realizations.
First, I would not change a thing. All of my decisions, good, bad, unsure, and unknown have led me to this point in my life. I think back that If I had decided not to go on that trip at the last minute, I would not have met my wife. And if my wife and I did not go through our life exactly as we were supposed to together, we would never have found Hannah. Every decision we make, leads us to something truly great - if we are willing to be open to it. Even in the worst of times, there is something for us all.
Sometimes it is hard to keep this perspective when life kicks you around. But, I've learned to find a sort of peace and tranquility in the chaos life brings. Over the years, I have conditioned myself to thrive in it. In a way, to welcome it when it comes, as a right of passage. Finding or a figuring out a way through leads to the next chapter or breakthrough in one's life.
As I've thought about this, aside from the lessons learned above, I have thought about what I would tell my younger self that would really make a difference. What could I go back in time and tell my 25 year old self that would have had an enormous impact, but not have changed the future so much that things would be drastically different today? The true answer is nothing as no matter what, my life path would be greatly altered. But then I think, what if that advice could help others that are younger or just starting out?
Approaching it this way, there are 3 pieces of advice I'd give to my younger self.
1.) Don't Take Yourself So Damn Seriously
I have always been driven...maybe to a fault. In my younger days, at times, I would let this drive for things totally consume me. I would be so maniacally focused that I would tune out everything around me, including friends, family, counterparts, etc. It wasn't meant to be mean or to give the impression I didn't care, but I know it sure made people feel that way. I didn't have balance and I thought that was normal.
Did this help me? Sure financially, but that is only one leg of the stool. If I could go back, I would tell myself to live more fully. Sure, stay driven, even keep the healthy obsession to reaching your goals, but also make it part of your goals to enjoy life. Make more friends and spend time with them. Find a hobby or two outside of work related things and make it a point to spend time in it. Self-educate on more than just topics related to success and business.
My thought back then was, "I need to work so hard that I can retire in 5 years, so I can spend the best years of my life enjoying things while I am young and can do them, not after 40 years of work when I am old." And there is some truth to that, but not at the expense of missing the life around you as you strive to do it. The experience is the adventure. Stop and think a little. Don't take yourself so damn seriously and realize that all of life is a journey that offers amazing and different adventures along the way.
2.) Don't Make Huge Decisions During Emotional Highs and Lows
Life is a rollercoaster. As Frank Sinatra sang, "That's life. That's what people say. You're riding high in April. Shot down in May. But I know I'm gonna change that tune. When I'm back on top, back on top in June."
There are peaks and valleys, ups and downs - sometimes to the extreme. One lesson that I learned the hard way and that I would tell my 25 year old self, and anyone for that matter, is to make sure to not make huge decisions at the extremes. For example, don't make big money, investing, and purchasing decisions while you are riding a high. They almost always come back to haunt you.
I bought a piece of investment real estate at one of these extreme highs when I thought I was invincible and it was a bad investment. Heck, even the terms at signing to close were different than what was discussed to the point where I called the broker I was working with and asked him what was up? His advice was "If you don't like it, don't close." Those words have served as a lesson ever since. I went through with it anyway because I had fallen in love with the deal that it could be, not what it really was and ultimately lost. I did this because I was riding a high at the time. Things were going really well. I had just made a large pile of money and thought I was unstoppable.
Same goes for the valleys. Don't make major decisions when at a low. It will haunt you as well, because things are usually not as bad as they seem and you can screw everyone's life up.
The hardest thing to do is bring logic to an emotional high or low and center yourself before making a big decision, but your must strive to do so.
3.) Things Will Never Go Exactly as Planned
My entire life can be described in one sentence: It didn't go as planned and that's okay." - Rachel Wolchin
No matter how much preparation you do, how much thinking goes into it, and how many variables you try to account for; things never end up going exactly as planned. Sometimes they go BETTER! Sometimes they go worse. My advice to my younger self is to learn to roll with it. When I was younger, I had trouble dealing with this and would question myself and my abilities when plans did not work or did not happen as they were supposed to. As Rachel says above, "It's okay!"
I go back to the beginning of this post to where I discussed the peace and tranquility that lies in the chaos. It took many years to realize this extremely important life lesson. Things aren't going to go as planned, but the opportunities and growth that come out of the chaos are what makes life so amazing and create the journey that is life itself.
If there is one thing you can plan on...it's that things will not go as planned and once you embrace this, it will make life and success so much easier...and sweeter for you. Enjoy the ride!
Come with me and you'll be
In a world of pure imagination
Take a look and you'll see
Into your imagination
We'll begin with a spin
Trav'ling in the world of my creation
What we'll see will defy
If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Want to change the world, there's nothing to it
There is no life I know
To compare with pure imagination
Living there, you'll be free
If you truly wish to be
It's true that great minds think differently. They operate at a different level. And because of the way they think, they have the ability to change the world. I was reminded of this over the last week when my daughter watched the original Willy Wonka for the first time (and then of course wanted to watch it over and over again like 4 year-old's do). It had been many years since I had seen it. But, as I sat down to watch it with her; I realized just how powerful of a message that it delivers. I have often said that "the student arrives when they are ready." And finally, after many years, I guess it was time for my arrival.
Great minds have a secret. A secret that most go through life never finding. All one has to do is read the lyrics above, from the song where Willy introduces the group to his factory, and it will stand out for you.
You have probably been told a million times that if you believe something, you can do it. But, most never really believe that themselves. What's more is...it is not enough to just believe. You must create the idea in your mind and then believe not only in the idea, but that you can execute to make it reality. That is where everyone falls short. They come up with ideas all the time and believe in them. What they don't believe in is their ability execute and make it happen.
Watching the movie with my daughter made me realize this all over again. What Willy Wonka is saying in his lyrics is not just that you can create paradise with your imagination, but he is showing, when he tells them to "take a spin," that it has to be brought to life to really matter.
Think of the greatest minds and people that you know in business or leadership throughout the world. I would venture to say that they not only create their world first in their minds, but they are almost obsessed with executing to make it a reality. Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Founding Fathers come to mind. And we see living examples of this every day with people like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Tom Brady. They may live in this world, but they recreate it and define it in their imagination - and then they make that a reality.
It comes down to how we think and then act, but it also comes down to the level we play at every day. The quote from Eleanor Roosevelt below sums this up perfectly. "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people."
Take inventory of your conversations over the next week and who you have them with. Are you discussing ideas and things that really matter and can change your whole world or are you wasting valuable time. Make it a mission to play at the right level with right people and take you ideas to execution and make them a reality...Because, there is no life I know to compare with pure imagination, living there you'll be free, if you truly wish to be!
Last week, I spent a couple of days in Napa with my new Mastermind group lead by Mike Koenigs and Ed Rush (pictured with me above).
For those that don't know what a Mastermind is, it is a group of influential people that get together in secret to plot taking over the world. Just kidding. But in some ways, it is similar in that we work together to help our businesses reach their full potential and takeover our markets.
I have been a part of different Mastermind groups throughout the years, but in the last few, had not been part of any, as personally, I have been focused on my family with bringing Hannah home from China and professionally, have been busy with the growth of my different businesses. I was immersed in both equally and hadn't had time for much else.
But, going into 2017, I made it a goal to expand my view and the potential of what is possible, and knew I had to be part of a Mastermind to do that.
So, I settled in for a couple of days with this group and within the first few hours was reminded of what I had been missing out on for the last few years.
I could give you 20 great lessons that came from participating in and observing this group come together over a few days, but really there is one that I think is most powerful - The Power of a Network.
Years ago, as a sales rep in a Fortune 500, I became successful because I quickly learned to build a network of people that could benefit each other mutually and help each other grow. I wasn't the best salesperson. I wasn't super polished. But I did hustle, and I made a name for myself as a connector. People could come to me when they needed a contact or a resource for something and I would most likely have a connection for them. Of course, this worked both ways. When I needed something or they knew someone who could use my products and services, they would refer. It was the law of reciprocity at it's finest.
Over the years, I've never lost that ability to network and give, but I have spent less time focused on it.
I have probably missed out.
This past week reminded me of the Power of Networks and the power of reciprocity. Network saves legwork!
No matter what you do, you need to realize that your network offers you the greatest potential for success, improvement, and opportunity. Who you know matters.
Within 3 hours of meeting people at this event, I had a connection that was willing to promote one of my products to their entire client-base. We simply had a great lunch where we introduced ourselves and realized we had a lot in common and quickly saw the potential of being partners. And we both genuinely wanted to help each other. This one connection could potentially create tens of thousands of dollars of value.
That is the power of networking, but also the power of a Mastermind because people that join Masterminds understand this principle and believe greatly in the law of reciprocity. They join wanting to give and help and seek opportunity. And, of course, what you focus on becomes your reality, so that is what they get!
It was great to be reminded of this and have it re-ignited in my life this past week. I thank everyone in Napa for their insight, wisdom, and willingness to help. And Mike and Ed for the great wine and food!
Now, it's your turn. Take time to put emphasis on building your network. And social networks don't count. Get out there, meet people, take a genuine interest, look for ways to help both of you win...and give. You'll be amazed at the power of a connection.
Networking is becoming a lost art and it may be one of the biggest advantages you have in your success!
Are you paranoid? You should be. The best always are.
In any business, at any stage, it pays to have what I call a healthy sense of paranoia. The reason is stated in the quote above by Andy Grove of Intel. "Only the paranoid survive." In fact, he wrote a best-selling book about the subject of the same title. He's right.
Healthy paranoia is good for you. It drives you. It keeps you on your toes. It makes you work harder. It causes you to innovate and stay on your game. It keeps things interesting.
It also causes you to not rest on your laurels or get complacent. In the entrepreneurial life cycle, there are peaks and valleys - especially in the early years. But if you persevere and stick it out, you eventually get to a point where things are pretty good. Your bills are paid every month. You're making good money...or enough to sleep well at night. It is at this point where a lot entrepreneurs and leaders lose their edge. They get, as Andy says, "Complacent."
Complacency is death by a thousand cuts for a business. It isn't necessarily the end of the business, but many times it is the end of growth of the business. It's the end of what made that business great. It's the end of the "magic." Many times this happens when a founder leaves as they were the spark and catalyst....and they had the healthy paranoia. Apple with Steve Jobs and Starbucks with Howard Schultz are good examples. In each case, they both left or retired and the business got complacent and sputtered. When each returned, they brought back that edge, that drive, that feeling of "we have to go to do better or we'll get passed up."
Healthy paranoia is good for you. It drives you. I keeps you on your toes. It makes you work harder. It causes you to innovate and stay on your game. It keeps things interesting.
If you are an entrepreneur or even in a position to affect the direction of a company, embrace being a little paranoid. Here are 5 examples of how being a little paranoid can make a difference:
Developing a healthy sense of paranoia is critical to success and a big part of how people keep their edge.
If you want to be more successful, get paranoid!