Archive for October, 2008

“Right” turns only

October 28, 2008

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could avoid wrong turns in your life?  If you could predict in advance the “right” job, investment or business?  I laughed recently when I read that UPS drivers are instructed to make as many right turns as possible – avoiding the waiting that making left turns often requires.  In fact, efficiency is so much a part of the UPS culture that 90% of their turns are to the right, as opposed to the left.  UPS trucks drove 2.5 billion miles last year, but they estimate that by turning right whenever possible they saved over 28 million miles of driving and three million gallons of fuel.

What if you could find the “right” turns in your own life, avoiding the ones that wasted time, money and energy?  Is there a computer system or programming code that could map things out that strategically?   Maybe not, but I’m confident that if we put comparable time into planning our future as UPS does into driving efficiently, we could dramatically increase our success and sense of fulfillment.  Too often I talk with people who have just allowed life to “happen” rather than recognizing they can plan and guide tomorrow and the coming years. 

Decide now what you want 2009 to look like.  Decide what “success” means for you.  As part of my 2006 goals I had written that I wanted to do 25 radio/TV interviews that year.  On January 21st of this year I did 18 radio interviews on that day alone.  This year I have done close to 250 interviews.  The writing and personal goals I identified in 2006 seem small now – but if I had not written them down they would likely have never come into view. 

Are you identifying your “right” turns for 2009?  If not, you will be pulled along by the circumstances of your surroundings.  Let’s just commit to making “right” turns 90% of the time in the coming year – and why not go ahead and start today?

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What are you full of?

October 27, 2008

Yes, I know times are tough.  I spoke at an event just outside of Washington DC last weekend and had a chance to talk to people who are wondering if there is any reason to be cheerful or optimistic. 

As a Russian priest (1829 – 1908), Father John Sergiev first thought he wanted to be a monk in the remote areas of Siberia – but after a vision, he realized God wanted him to be a missionary right where he was – in the hustle and bustle of the big urban city of St. Petersburg.  While most priests remained in the safe confines of their cathedrals, Father John would go out into the noisy, dirty, crime-ridden slums and back alleys of the city. 

He would find someone down and out in the gutter, sleeping off the effects of the previous night’s drink and activities.  Father John would cup his chin; look him in the eyes and say, “This is beneath your dignity.  You were created to house the fullness of God.”  Wherever he went, people found new hope and optimism because they discovered, or were reminded, of who they were.  Seeing ourselves in the light of who God made us to be is both exciting and contagious.

So, are you housing the fullness of God today?  If you are full of despair and hopelessness because of the current economic situation, I doubt there is room for much else.  If you are angry and resentful because your stocks crashed or you lost your job, I suspect that is what people will first notice about you.

Can you remember what you were created for?  When I hear people complain about how bad their lives are I’m going to start saying, “This is beneath your dignity.  You were created to house the fullness of God.”

You Want “Good” or “Best?”

October 22, 2008

Here’s a classic description of the good being the enemy of the best.

Dan, I have subscribed to your weekly emailed newsletter and I read the emails but just don’t seem to act. I have many things going on in my life to make my financial ends meet; I own a duplex and have a small vending business as well as work a 40 hr a week job. They all make just enough to keep me from wanting to make a change. I feel if I try to start another venture however something else is going to get neglected to the point of failure. What can I do?

This is a very common situation – I’m getting by but know there’s something better out there.  My advice is – don’t wait for failure to be your motivator.  ACT from a position of strength.  Yes, it may be a challenge to add something to an already busy schedule.  Don’t expect the extra work to continue forever – just commit to maybe a 90-day transition. 

I think your duplex and your vending business are moves in the right direction.  Both of those require a set-up process, but then continue to generate income through periodic maintenance — thus ‘residual’ income.  Look for another idea that leverages your time even more.  Our hottest selling product at 48Days.com is our Personality Report.  It’s totally automated and is essentially an electronic vending business.  People buy 24 hours a day – 7 days a week.  I lost my shirt on some cashew vending machines years ago – but I learned from that and looked for a better application of the same business principles. 

Create a clear picture of what the “best” would be.  Then take action to make that come into view.

“In a tornado, even a turkey can fly”

October 21, 2008

“In A Tornado, Even A Turkey Can Fly!” is a quote from venture capitalist Eugene Kleiner. He understood that when the economy is strong, even bad companies can look good.  His principle seems to have application as we look at the current economy and workplace.

We know the job and business market have taken a beating in the last 2 months. In the five years prior to that it seemed any investment was sure to go up, any house would appreciate in value, even questionable products could be pushed through with flashy marketing and “just doing your job” could still get you a paycheck.  Now it’s pretty clear we are in the downward turn of a cycle – or perhaps it should be called a cleansing, a purging or a healthy realignment.  Wall Street is admitting that many of the “investments” they sold us were nothing but smoke and mirrors.  Houses do not automatically just appreciate in value.  Interest only mortgages are a really bad proposition.  Starbucks cannot just keep adding new locations without careful planning. 

But we also know that great people prove themselves in tough times, not easy ones. Butterflies don’t fall out of trees; they first struggle relentlessly to push out of the cocoon.  Great people survive adversity by returning to integrity, character and hard work. 

In No More Mondays I outline the five characteristics we see in highly successful people:

  • Passion
  • Determination
  • Talent
  • Self-Discipline
  • Faith

Those characteristics will allow you to survive this cycle, and to thrive in the next five years.  This is a time to clearly identify your strongest areas of competence. “Turkeys” will fall back to the ground — but YOU are not one of them – you can find those unique opportunities and soar even in tough times. And remember, this is a cycle. If you focus on the “downturn” you will be discouraged. Focus on the “cycle” and prepare now to take full advantage of the inevitable upswing.

A tornado is a temporary and artificial environment.  Don’t depend on one to create artificial success either.

I Don’t Have Enough Time??

October 17, 2008

The biggest deterrent I hear to starting a new business, writing a new book, becoming an expert in one area, or moving up the ladder of achievement in any way is – “I don’t have enough time.” 

I just got the Nov/Dec issue of The Futurist magazine.  In an article on How Americans Spend Their Time it reports a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics survey.  Among other findings it shows:

Watching television remains the single most common and most time-consuming leisure activity among Americans.  Both men and women spend an average of 2.6 hours per day surfing channels from the couch.

Holy Moley!  2.6 hours a day.  What are these people thinking?  That’s 18.2 hours a week, 78.8 hours a month, or 949 hours a year.  A typical work week only accounts for 2000 hours a year – so we’re talking about almost half as much time spent watching TV!  You know what you could learn and accomplish in that same amount of time?

I’m convinced a person could take that TV time, read a great business book every week, spend 4-5 hours focused on developing a new business, 30 minutes a day in quiet meditation that would explode their creativity, and still catch 10 minutes of daily news on TV.  In 90 days that person would have clarity about their passion, purpose and calling, in six months they could put themselves in the top 3% in income, and after one year would look back in amazement that they waited so long to release the meaning, fulfillment and prosperity that was there all along.

Out of the ‘Cubicle’

October 15, 2008

Here’s a question I received today:  “Hi, Dan, I’m all set to purchase a small residential cleaning franchise (and finally be able to leave my ‘cubicle’ job), but given the present financial crisis, do you think it’s a good time to start a business?”

Actually, I think it’s a great time to start a business – precisely because of the present turmoil.  Think with me for a moment about where “security” exists.  If you work in a cubicle you probably are in a situation where one person – your one customer – could walk in tomorrow morning and fire you.  Now – if you have a hot dog stand down on a busy intersection in your town, you may have 376 people that stop by each day to buy a dog.  Thus you would have to have 376 people decide to stop using your service to put you out of business.  If one disgruntled customer decided he hated your dogs you would simply have to replace that one out of 376 customers. 

If you are a bookkeeper you may decide that rather than having one customer you are going to find 10 small businesses that are not large enough to justify a full-time bookkeeper but could use you one or two days a month.  Did you just lose the “security” you had in your former cubicle or did you just increase your “security” ten-fold? 

So is it riskier to start a business now or to stay in a corporate position – where managers are shaking in their boots, bottom lines are being ripped apart and every payroll is looked at a liability?

Incidentally, my wife just mentioned that she needs someone to come in and do a thorough cleaning of our house a couple times a month.  And I suspect we have 9 neighbors nearby who have the same desires.  In 8 years of living in this particular house, we have never to my knowledge have someone approach us about residential cleaning.

Wanna be a wealthy idiot?

October 14, 2008

The name Nasrudin is used as the mythical character in a tradition of Sufi tales.  Here’s one:

Nasrudin used to stand in the street on market days, to be pointed out as an idiot.  No matter how often people offered him a large or a small coin, he always chose the smaller piece.

One day a kindly man said to him, “Mulla, you should take the bigger coin.  Then you will have money and people will no longer be able to make a laughingstock of you.”

“That might be true,” said Nasrudin, “but if I always take the larger coin, people will stop offering me money to prove that I am more idiotic than they are.  Then I would have no money at all.”

Sometimes the most obvious solution really isn’t the best one.  You might assume that the best way to grow your business is to get more customers – it may in fact be more profitable to reduce your number of customers and charge them more.  Here in Nashville a doctor just reduced his 3,000 person client list to 300 “invited guests,” each of which he charges $2000 annually to be his patient.  He is their “concierge doctor” – and he locks in a $600,000 annual income with minimal office expense.

We all “know” that “winners never quit, and quitters never win.”  But is that really true?  How does that work with smokers?  Or with people who have taken a wrong turn on the freeway?  What if you have been in business for a year and still haven’t made any money?  What if your retirement funds have suddenly been shown to be worthless?

20 years ago this month I suffered through a devastating business crash.  I scrambled to find solutions for both the emotional pain and embarrassment as well as the financial disaster I had experienced.  My logical mind raced to find ideas where I could make money quickly to address the screaming creditors and the ongoing needs of my family.

Yet one of the “solutions” defied all normal approaches.  In reading the book of Proverbs each day – the chapter that correlated to the day of the month (31 chapters) – I began to see timeless principles that I had repeatedly violated in my previous attempts at financial success and I also discovered some counterintuitive keys for increasing my bank account once again.

I learned that wisdom is more valuable than gold or silver.  But that seeking wisdom will ultimately bring gold and silver on the back side anyway.  Here’s what it says in Proverbs 3: 13-17

“God blesses everyone who has wisdom and common sense. Wisdom is worth more than silver; it makes you much richer than gold.  Wisdom is more valuable than precious jewels; nothing you want compares with her.  In her right hand Wisdom holds a long life, and in her left hand are wealth and honor. Wisdom makes life pleasant and leads us safely along.”

 The dictionary defines “wisdom” as “The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight.”   How are you doing with “wisdom” in these days when stocks, real estate, and mortgages may turn out to be worthless?  Are you increasing your “wisdom portfolio” and assuring that you will be wealthy in the coming years?

 One of the evidences of “wisdom” is finding that authentic fit for how God wired us.  Many years ago I met Dave Anderson, the founder of Famous Dave’s restaurants.  He told me that as a young American Indian kid he had wanted to be rich, but in chasing money it always seemed to be just out of reach.  When he finally gave up on getting money and just resigned himself to doing what he loved to do, (making great barbeque) the money showed up in lots of unexpected ways.  Among other things Dave founded The Life Center for Leadership with a $1.4 million gift.

Maybe you’re chasing the wrong thing.  Give up on getting rich — try getting “wisdom” and see where it leads you.