Success takes a lot of things. Hard and smart work. Dedication. Discipline. Consistency. Persistence. Endurance. The ability to seize opportunity when it presents itself. I could keep going and make a list for pages all the things that go into creating success, and at some point, it takes a little bit of luck too.
But there is one thing that underpins it all. This one thing is what determines your success and it is a skill that you develop and get better and better at.
The skill? Making Decisions.
Everything is a choice, it is a decision. It is a choice to work hard and smart, dedicate yourself, stay disciplined, seize opportunity, etc. In many ways, our lives are the sum of the decisions, the choices, we make.
Every day we have to make a multitude of decisions and those decisions impact all areas of our lives and success.
Knowing this, do you think it would be important to get better at making decisions. Of course it would. But know this, it is a lifelong work. Getting better in this area of our lives never ends, so it is a lifelong commitment.
Where do you begin? Well, the first step I have already given you. It is awareness. Awareness to the fact that you can become better at decision making. And awareness is the catalyst to change.
Now that you are aware, here are 3 strategies you can take to start making better decisions in your life.
Separate Emotion from Logic
One of the first steps you must learn to do is separate emotion from logic. Most people make decisions purely on emotion and feeling. Well, I have news for you, feelings are not facts or truth. They are, however, very powerful drivers of our actions and impulses. You must learn to recognize emotions and stop in the moment to analyze the truth and fact of a situation as best as you can. Use logic to think through the decision and possible outcomes and be prepared to work through which outcome presents itself.
Decide and Then Correct if Needed
It's important to separate emotion and logic and think through decisions, but don't let that process paralyze you. In the end, you need to make the decision based on the best information and strategic thinking that you can - but you must make the decision. And remember, not deciding is a decision unto itself. No matter what decision you make, there will be outcomes and you will potentially need to make course corrections. Be prepared for this and don't shy away from it. Make the correction and move forward.
Don't Dwell on Things
Once you have made a decision, there will be outcomes. Many times, they will not be what you expected and even negative. Don't dwell on these outcomes or let them have a prolonged effect on you. You should take time to deal with them, but your must move forward. Harma Hartouni, a Misfit guest, who runs a massive, billion dollar real estate empire gave some great wisdom in this area. He says to "Have a 5 Minute Funeral." Take 5 mins or maybe a little longer to go through your emotional reaction to a decision, deal with it, and then put it behind you. That doesn't mean that you don't have empathy or understanding for the ramifications of the decision - especially with others involved. You must. But you almost move on from it and move forward.
Understanding how important decisions are to your life and success is the start. If you can put the 3 strategies above into practice, it will help you work on this skill and get better at it in your life and help you tremendously.
As we go through life and business, we will have relationships with a lot of people. Some will be lasting, some will be short lived. You will find that your inner circle - those you interact with consistently is fairly small, but incredible important to your life.
You have probably heard that "You are the sum of the 5 people you hang out with most." While I think there is validity to this point, I also think that you have a choice as well. You don't have to do or live the life of those around you. You can choose what makes sense for you to utilize from those close to you and what not to. But, there is no doubt those closest to you influence you.
Over the years, I have found that you really need 5 types of people in your life to help you be your best. Here they are.
The companion is the one you spend the most time with. The person that is always there for you and you for them. For most, this would be their significant other. If you don't have a significant other, it is the person you count on most and that most counts on you. For me, it is my wife, Jenn. She is the most amazing, caring, and brave individual I know. The fact that she married me is a testament to this. I am as flawed as anyone, but my flaws are not easy to live with. I am always going, non-stop, sometimes going to excess in areas of my life. I am persistent and driven to a point where it can really wear on people. I am a little bit of a control freak in certain areas of life. I am not afraid to speak my mind even if it makes people uncomfortable. This is just to name a few. It takes a strong, but different type of person to balance that out and help me to get perspective in certain areas. Jenn does that and more. I would not have made the strides I've had in my life without her help, understanding, love, and tough love.
The friend is someone besides your companion that you can let your guard down with. Someone you can can count on and even embarrass yourself in front of and still know they will be there for you. They are someone who is not afraid to have tough conversations or call you out, but also back you up and help you. You can count on them and know that through it all, they know who you are and you know who they are. It's rare to have a lot of these people in your life. It is usually just a handful over the years. Someone that I put into this category is my next door neighbor, Eugene. He is a wonderful person and good friend. He is one of the few people that I will actually let my guard down with and be more open about things personally. Our conversations, especially over a bottle of wine, can go in all directions and cover many topics. We certainly don't agree on everything and sometimes get a little heated, but no matter what, at the end of an evening, we part ways as friends and respect each other. Everyone should have a friend like Eugene.
The listener is someone who can be a friend or even a companion - but let's face it, if your companion is a significant other, they have to listen. The listener is the person you know you can go to when you just need someone to hear you out. You know they will not pass judgement on you and will not try to convince you one or another, they will just listen, and then help talk things out if you want to do so. These people are critical in life, not just as a sounding board, but for your sanity. My business partner of almost 20 years, Erik, is the listener in my life. And in some ways, I am his. He is also a great friend. Erik has a way about him that helps put you at ease and helps you in times of need. He listens, is thoughtful, asks the right questions, and doesn't push unless I need him to. He seems to have a good sense for when it makes sense to do so. A listener must be someone who truly, genuinely cares and is rare to find.
The wise is someone who is experienced in life, has gained tremendous wisdom, and is willing to offer that wisdom to you when you need it. They are a guide for you to come back to as you go through life and help you when you stray off your path or feel lost. They also help you find and confirm the right ways to go. They are a mentor. My parents have certainly been wise ones in my life and are always willing to give of themselves for their children, grandchildren, and friends. Another wise person I have been fortunate to know is John. John is the former CEO of a Fortune 500 and very successful person in all areas of his life. He has tremendous wisdom and I can always count on him for help if I need it. The wise are few and far between and not easy to find. And this makes sense because it takes time and experience to acquire wisdom. As a side note, the Bible, especially Proverbs is great place to get wisdom on your own.
The challenger is someone who does just that. Challenges you. They push you. They challenge your boundaries. The help you think bigger. They take you out of your comfort zone. They ultimately elevate you. I have been fortunate to be the challenger for some and help them in their lives. It is a very important duty. I have had a number of challengers in my life from great coaches, business mentors, and teachers. Right now, one of my challengers is my daughter, Hannah. She challenges me in all the ways an 8 year old challenges a parent. But more importantly, she challenges me in becoming a better father and man in my life. As I said above, I have many flaws, and am far from perfect and it seems children are some of the best challengers to expose those things and make you confront them. And based on the current status, I still have a lot of work to do. But, I know each day I can get better and must strive to. Oh, I will falter, no doubt, but I am up for the challenge and love that it is coming from the incredible daughter that I love so much.
Everyone would be lucky to have all 5 of these types of people in their lives, and if you look around, you probably do. The next step is to engage them and maximize the impact they can have in your life.
There is a lot that comes at us in life and business. We seem to have problems and things impacting us from all angles. Many times, we ALLOW these things to affect us and we waste a lot of time and energy on them without getting a resolution. We spend our precious thoughts and time worrying about these things.
There is a principle from a wise Stoic that gave a great approach to living a good life. His name was Epictetus. Born a slave in 55 AD, he was granted freedom due to his superior intellect and became a mentor to noblemen and emperors. His most important work was in The Discourses which influenced many leaders to come, including Marcus Aurelius. He boiled things down to a fundamental rule and truth which says, "There are certain things you can control and certain things you can’t control, and you must know the difference."
A lot of people have written about this over the years and expanded greatly on it and Epictetus' writings. Years ago, I was introduce to his principles and the 3 C's. I cannot take credit for the 3C's although I did adapt them and change them a little over the years. Here are my 3C's to handling the problems of life and living better.
Think about those for a second and how true they are. I love the simplicity of them.
There are things we can control in our lives and things we cannot. Why waste time on things you have no control over? Focus on what you can control and do it well.
For those things we cannot control, we can recognize them and their impact or potential impact on us, and cope with them. Not dwell on them. Simply cope with the fact they exist and there is nothing we can do about them and move on to the things we can control and impact.
Lastly, concentrate on what counts and matters. We cannot be distracted or derailed by the things we cannot control or have no sway over. Instead, we must ask ourselves what really matters and what makes the most difference that is in our control and concentrate out efforts there.
If you follow the 3C's, you will find that you will have less stress, be more productive, and ultimately live a better life. Start putting them into action today!
Last week, my long-time business partner, Erik Mueller, celebrated 25 years as an entrepreneur. I have been fortunate to have partnered with him for over 15 of those years. During that time, I have seen him grow tremendously into a great leader and CEO. I think we have learned a lot from each other along our journey and Erik shared some of his best thoughts from his 25 year entrepreneur career last week. Here is what he shared.
25 Years later, and I am working from HOME again… WTF?
As you all know, I have a strange sense of humor.
My letter of resignation to WorldTravel Partners (Now BCD Travel), had my final day of work as March 31st and my first day of being an Entrepreneur was April Fool’s Day, 1996.
It was a few weeks before they were really sure I had quit.
It feels like yesterday, but I definitely have some scars to prove it’s been a long, hard and rewarding journey.
I lived in fear for many years as I grew as a leader. I wanted to make sure everyone was happy all of the time, I sacrificed everything for the customers and staff. My relationships with my wife and child were tested continuously through the first 10 years as I poured everything into growing a business from scratch.
Knowing what I know now, would I go back and do things differently? NO.
Everything I did, right or wrong, put me where I am today, and I couldn’t be happier.
Did I learn some valuable lessons? Heck YES!
There are 5 critical things I learned and got right as I evolved over the past 25 years and I would like to share these things.
#1) Ask For Help
So many people have lifted me up along the way. I would not be where I am today without the help of others.
#2) Put others first
I worked for clients for free, I asked a lot of questions, I sacrificed my salary, I dropped everything when someone needed my help, I worked for days on end to meet a deadline, I paid others before I paid myself (breaking the cardinal rule) and made sure the customers and employees always knew I heard them and would do whatever it took to meet their expectations.
#3) Happy Employees = Happy Customers (Everyone Wins)
“The customer is always right” is a myth and a dangerous attitude to have.
Having happy employees means being a leader and saying NO to customers and opportunities some times. The customer wants what is best for the customer, but that is not always the same as what is best for the company as a whole. Good employees sense what is right and wrong and when their input and advice is ignored, it creates a toxic environment and this reflects in their work and interactions with the clients.
#4) Hire well
Continuing the theme of Happy Employees, a few years ago, we were struggling as a business with very high growth and we were hiring anyone we could find to fill a seat for a number of years.
Eventually, we decided to make Trish our full-time HR person and invested in consultants to teach us world-class interviewing, hiring and onboarding skills. This changed our business overnight for the better. Most companies our size don’t have dedicated HR, but I think it’s probably the most important role for any company of any size.
We found that bad players brought everyone down, and killed culture and respect in the organization. We now take our time to find the perfect fit of skills, personality and desire.
#5) Don’t Freak Out
Bad things are going to happen. Things are going to get worse. Someone’s going to get pissed off.
Nothing makes a situation worse than losing your cool. You can’t think when you are freaked out.
We’ve always joked that our #1 RULE is don’t freak out and our #2 rule is don’t freak out… and these two rules have served us well though the Dot Com bubble burst, 911 tragedy, the financial crisis/recession and Covid-19.
The next 25?
I don’t think I could be any more pleased than I am right now.
Are we growing as fast as I would like? NO, are we doing everything I want to do? NO.
I am proud of what “I” built? What makes really proud is that “I” didn’t build it, I just started it. This team, my friends, my family built this company and continue to make it great.
That’s probably the most important lesson I have learned.
Thank you ALL for your time and commitment to each other and the customers we serve. You make me a better, happier person.
Sometimes you need to get a little perspective and inspiration. One of my favorite ways of doing this is motivational videos. Here are 5 awesome motivational videos under 5 minutes to help motivate you, give you perspective, and help you succeed.
The Time You Have (in JellyBeans)
Never, Ever Give Up
Entrepreneurs Can Change the World
A Pep Talk from Kid President to You
We are all always looking for ways to succeed at higher levels and be more productive. But, what if I told you the best way to do this every day was to stop working.
That's right. The best way to reach higher levels of success and productivity every day is to STOP working - for a short while.
Most people work continuously through the day and many times don't have that much to show for it. The reason this happens is because we can only focus and work for so long at a time. We need to take breaks to let ourselves recharge and be able to re-focus. Otherwise, we get what is called the "Law of diminishing returns." It is an old economic principle that states that after an optimal level of capacity is reached, every added unit of production results in a smaller increase in output. Basically, once you are performing at an optimum level, the longer you continue to less productive you will get.
This is why we need to take "re-charge breaks" throughout the day. For me, this is 10-20 minutes where I get away from my desk and office and do something non-work related. Sometimes, its a short guided Yoga or meditation session. Many times, it is taking the dog for a walk or just playing with him throwing his stick or ball for a little bit. It really doesn't matter what it is that you as long as every couple of hours, you take a re-charge break.
Putting this into practice daily will make a tremendous difference in your success and productivity. A re-charge break helps you to get energy and oxygen in your system, clear your mind so that you can focus better when you come back, and be at your best.
Try working 1-2 of these into your day where you step away and forget about work for 10-20 mins and see the difference it makes for you!
The pace of business today is fast. There is no way around it. Things move at a blistering pace and entrepreneurs need to be able to move fast, react quickly, and seize opportunity.
This also lends to multi-tasking and moving quickly from one thing to the next. I am as guilty of this as anyone. But when people depend on you to not only be fast, but to be right, it is important to make sure you don't move too fast.
What do I mean?
You have to move fast in today's world, but you also need to keep your attention to detail and make sure that your work and what you are delivering is solid and good. Moving too fast can lead to sloppiness, especially when multi-tasking. This happens because our mind gets stretched across all of the things we are moving through and doing. We tend to move too fast and forget critical, important items or miss details that are important. This hurts us down the line.
So, how do we combat this?
First, we must understand that we need to move fast, but recognize when we are moving too fast and slow ourselves. Second, we have to be careful not to multi-task, or at least focus on no more than 2 things at a time. And when we are doing a task, we need to be present and focused and not be thinking about the other tasks or items we need to do next.
One trick I've learned to center myself during these fast paced periods of work and day to day needs, is to just stop and take a deep breath. Then take a moment just to think through the task and how to deliver the best outcome. After doing that, block out distractions for just a few minutes and concentrate on what it is you need to do. This little 30 second exercise will help you to still be efficient, but better focused, and give you the ability to achieve better results in your work. Try it today!
I was on a call the other day with a large client. It was a big group of people discussing solutions for the future for the client. I know for many that selling and servicing clients via Zoom or virtually is newer to them during these times, but over a decade ago, I took my companies virtual and have been selling and servicing clients that way for a long time.
During the meeting, as the client spoke and talked about the future and their needs, I immediately could "sense" the way the meeting should go and how we could further help them. While others on the call were asking questions that really repeated what the client had just said, I listened and felt the client's needs and the beginning or their frustration as they repeated some things. Working virtually is hard, even if you can see people. It is not the same as sitting across the table. And, if people are just on audio, it is even harder. This is why you have to hone your skills in how you actively listen to voice inflection, tone, things like a sigh here or there, even a deep breath.
After a couple of minutes of back and forth with the group, I spoke up and simply and clearly articulated what I thought, based on their feedback was the best solution. And I brought in other people on the call, that hadn't seem to get what they client was saying yet, and helped them to understand how their skill and what they do could help accomplish the goal for the client. After another 10 mins of discussion and having some fun thinking about bigger possibilities, everyone was on the same page and excited about what we could do together,
One of the most important skillsets anyone can develop, for business and life, is the ability to "sense" others in the moment. This means sensing their feelings, quickly understanding voice tone and inflection, body language - and then being able to empathize where needed and find understanding. I wish I could say there was a magic formula on how to do this, but it really comes from experience. To get good, you have to actively listen and be on high alert to sense the different ways of communication and then figure out find the "sweet spot" in which all parties can succeed. As you do this more and more, you will be able to almost intuit what is needed and work across multiple parties simultaneously to reach the best outcome.
Learning to "sense" others and in business, "sense the customer" may be the most important skillset you can build and foster in your company.
Have you ever read the book, "The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey?"
If you have, you know where I am going in this short post. If not, it is a great read. The book is essentially about how distractions and problems of others can and will become yours if you are not careful.
The essence of the book is about how to say no, delegate, and empower - because it you don't, everything will end up on you. For example, if an employee comes to you with a problem and because you are busy and don't to really want to deal with it, but know you can do it quickly and get back to things - you take it on from the employee to get it done. You have essentially been given "the monkey" and trained that person that they can dump their problems and issues, their monkeys, on you and you will handle them.
This happens all of the time in entrepreneurship. In fact, entrepreneurs are the worst at this. Because we have so much going on and most of the time as high functioning individuals, to stop and take the time to coach someone and empower them to solve their own problem is not something we do by instinct. It is much easier just to take it on ourselves. What is one more thing, right? Wrong. We have to learn to say no, delegate, and empower. Otherwise, the business it just us and cannot scale or survive long term. If you have to do everything, things will eventually break down.
The same thing happens to middle managers, which is what the book is about. They essentially, get saddled with everything and end of working long hours and get burned out. As entrepreneurs, we seemingly have an unending reservoir for work, but that is not healthy. We can and will get burned out.
So, the next time you are being given a monkey. Stop it. Take a little extra time to say an outright no, delegate or most importantly, empower and coach your team to grow and handle these things themselves. If you do, you will find yourself much more successful, have a better quality of life, and have a better business. Get rid of your monkeys!
There is a secret to success passed down through history. It has been right in front of you your whole life. In fact, you have either used it to your advantage or disadvantage over the years.
I can tell you this - this success secret has impacted your in some form or fashion throughout your life.
What is the secret?
That which your focus on expands in your life...
The Bible stated is as "That which you gaze upon, you will become." Also in the Proverbs it was stated "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."
Confucius said, "The more man meditates upon good thoughts the better will be his world and the world at large."
And Tony Robbins has said, "Where your focus goes, energy flows."
I can continue to point out this theme throughout history, but I think you understand. What you focus on expands in your life and success.
So, the question becomes, What are you focused on? What if you started every day by asking that question of yourself? And based on the question, what if you could then choose what you are going to focus on in your life that will make your life better? Or the same in business or your work? What can you choose to focus on that will help your success in business or your work the most?
The big epiphany for me was not the realization that "Which you focus on expands in your life and success," but the fact that you can choose your thoughts to focus on. And if you can choose your thoughts to focus on, you can have a bigger control over your success and results in your life. So, choose your thoughts. Choose them wisely. And focus, focus, focus.
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