Archive for March, 2009

Horse Head or Masterpiece?

March 31, 2009

When I was 13 years old I painted a horse head with a paint by numbers layout. I thought it was pretty good, but now that I’ve seen some real masterpieces I realize it was pretty amateurish. The paint was clumpy where I tried to stay inside the identified lines. It didn’t look real; it just looked like I did a good job of painting. My wife Joanne, on the other hand, has drawn some amazing pieces – always starting with a blank canvas and then allowing her imagination to direct her brush or pencil.

I realize now that life’s opportunities are presented to us in much the same way. If we paint by the numbers (take the first job, put money in CDs, buy a Ford car, purchase shirts at J.C. Penney, and have two weeks vacation every year) we will see predictable results. You know what it’s going to be – and it might be good, but it will never be amazing to you or anyone else. The only way to get a masterpiece is to start with a blank canvas. Of course, with a blank canvas you could also end up with a disaster that you decide to throw away. But the very next one may be the masterpiece that will make the world remember you.

While you may think this is about willingness to take “risk” or that it’s a reflection of “personality style” I think it’s more about dreaming, imagining and taking action. And this is not just a business or career decision – it’s more a question of the kind of life we want to live. Think of Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Bono, Oprah, Rick Warren, Howard Schultz or Billy Graham. Their personality styles cover the entire range of possibilities and no one would consider Billy Graham a risk-taker. But all of them had big dreams, started with a blank canvas and then took action to create their own unique masterpieces.

Here’s what experts are telling us we will have for the remainder of 2009: uncertainty, chaos, turbulence, turmoil, confusion and insecurity. Sounds like a paint by the number life is going to be hard to find anyway.

So you get to choose what you are creating today – a horse head or the Mona Lisa?

“Success is never an accident. It typically starts as imagination, becomes a dream, stimulates a goal, grows into a plan of action – which then inevitably meets with opportunity. Don’t get stuck along the way.” Dan Miller

I stopped dreaming long ago

March 25, 2009

Here’s a note I just received from a No More Mondays reader: 

Yes, I still do 8.5 hours of time in my “human filing cabinet” each day.  Yes, I still dream of breaking out and finding my true calling. Yes, I’m still scared to death to do so. I stopped dreaming so long ago that I can’t even remember what I loved to do when I was 20, much less 5. I just remember loving baseball more than anything else. Maybe I should get a glove and a ball and find a wall and play catch with myself for a dozen hours, and my dreams might start to come back.  Hmmm.  Maybe I will.

That actually is a great idea.  Just breaking the cycle of our routine is often the jarring that our brains need to wake up.  Go ahead and spend that 12 hours throwing a ball against the wall – I’m absolutely confident that in that time you’ll wipe away some cobwebs, peel back the scales from your eyes and begin to get in touch with your childhood dreams. 

So often I see people who have become numbed to their dreams just because “life happens.”  Mortgages come along, kids need school books, and it’s time for new tires on the car.  Who has time to dream?  But that’s why unexpected and even unwelcome events like a job loss or a business failure often break the normal day-to-day existence and wake up our best dreams.  Take the initiative while things are okay – go spend a day at the zoo, walk 4 miles out in the country, call an old high school friend, get a massage, go on a cruise, or throw a ball at a wall for 12 hours – that just may be the tipping point to reveal your true calling.

Don’t Chase That Snake!

March 24, 2009

When I was 10 years old, one of my best friends was Bob Queen.  One afternoon while exploring the back acreage of our neighboring farms, a snake bit Bob. Seeing the snake slither off, my immediate response was to run after the snake, track him down and repay the scoundrel for what he had done to my friend.  Bob, however, being a much wiser hunter and outdoorsman, quickly pulled out his knife, lanced the bite, sucked the blood out and spit out the poison.  The focus for him was on his own well being, not on repaying the snake.

How often I see people chasing the snake in their own lives.  The company folds or you just simply get laid off.  The immediate reaction may include anger, resentment, bitterness, and backstabbing.  These lead to discouragement, frustration, guilt and depression.  Be aware that all of these reactions and feelings focus on the past.  Turning around and looking to the future opens up confidence, boldness, and enthusiasm.  These often lead to an increased sense of accomplishment, personal control, fulfillment and even money.

If Bob and I had chased that snake, the poison would have been given opportunity to plunge through his veins, draining his energy and perhaps leading to his death.  What are you doing in your life?  Are you chasing a snake in the past or pursuing a dream in the future?  Choose carefully; your life may be at stake.

     Chasing the Snake

  • Filing discrimination suit
  • Carrying a picket sign in front of the old company
  • Focusing on unemployment qualificationSpending more than one hour daily watching TV news
  • Having gripe sessions with others who were let go

     Eliminating the Poison

  • Contacting 30-40 companies about your opportunities
  • Increasing your volunteer time
  • Spending 2 hours daily reading or listening to positive, inspirational material
  • Working out , eating right, smiling more and feeling great
  • Planning for the business you’ve always dreamed of


March 21, 2009

Remember the old carnival game – Whack-a-Mole.  You would hold a mallet of some kind in your hand and when the little mole popped up, you’d whack him on the head.  However, as soon as you whacked one, another one would pop up someplace else. 

This week Joanne and I want to the annual Lawn and Garden Show here in Nashville.  We always love getting new ideas for our yard. This year we talked to several companies about building a water feature right in front of our house.  The entire show was bursting with activity.  It appears that while people are traveling less they are now more interested in improving their homes as the place for physical and spiritual restoration. 

And so it goes.  I see the same phenomenon in business that we see in Whack-a-Mole.  When one business lags, another explodes.  If your business is suffering, what is the counterpart that is thriving?  Can you benefit from that?  If appliances aren’t selling, then you can be sure appliance repair is up.  If new car sales are in the tank, used cars are thriving. 

In Think and Grow Rich Napoleon Hill said, “Every adversity, every failure, and every heartache carries with it the Seed of an equivalent or a greater Benefit.”

Have you found the greater benefit flip side of your current adversity? 

Incidentally, I won 7 Teddy Bears one time in a 30-minute stand at the Whack-a-Mole booth at Opryland years ago. My eye-hand coordination served me well.  And I believe that moles do pop up like that – but so do great opportunities for all of us in business.

Think you can or think you can’t

March 16, 2009

As a career coach I’m being contacted by lots of other career coaches right now wondering what to do.  The common theme seems to be that with things so tight right now no one is going to spend money on a non-necessity like “coaching.”  Please help me understand this – there were 509,000 job losses in the last quarter of last year, 589,000 more in the month of January and over 600,000 in February.  How could it possibly be a better time to be in the business of career coaching than right at this very minute?

But what we see is a mindset that pops up regardless of the circumstances.  When the economy swings back around and everyone is happy and employed again, those same coaches will be saying that everyone’s happy now and nobody needs our help.  Coaches who recognize the opportunity now will also be thrilled when people know they’re in the driver’s seat and still want to explore better options.

Remember the old Henry Ford adage:  “Whether you think you can or think you can’t; either way you’re right.”

Making Money and Marriages

March 2, 2009

Here is the sequence for successful selling – of anything. 

  1. Developing rapport and trust – 40% of the process.
  2. Identifying Needs – 30% of the process.
  3. Product Presentation – 20% of the process.
  4. Closing – 10% of the process.

I see people coming in to and immediately blasting multiple blog posts with their greatest MLM company that you just must join.  I see people wanting jobs who simply walk in and tell the manager they need a job.  I see car salesmen who grab a customer and walk them right over to the Chevy Tahoe because that’s where they make the most commission.  I see pastors who scream that their listeners are evil and must change their ways. 

These are all examples of inexperience and missing the critical first two steps of selling.  With no trust and no identification of the need, there will be no sale.

Years ago, on the first day of my sophomore year at Ohio State University, my friends and I were watching the new batch of freshman girls arrive.  Upon seeing Joanne (17 and gorgeous), I quickly asked for someone who could introduce me – a trusted friend of hers.  While walking with her briefly I noticed she was struggling to hold her books while putting a notice on the community bulletin board.  I offered to post the notice and saw that she was asking for a ride to school from her home on the other side of town.  I kindly offered to supply that ride – just for a couple of days until she found someone to bring her regularly (ha).  Six months later, having charmed her with my simple farm boy ways, I asked her to marry me.

dan-joanne-our-wedding-picture025On March 23rd we will celebrate 41 wonderful years of marriage.  I’m glad I understood the process of effective selling.  I developed trust and rapport, identified multiple needs, presented the product (me) and closed the most important deal of my life. 

Only an idiot would walk up to a girl and begin the conversation by asking her to marry him.  You have to go through the process of selling.  In the same way, no one who understands selling would blast masses of people with some business deal without first understanding their needs and desires.

If you need a job – you have a product to sell (you).  If you are starting a business – you have a product or service to sell.  If you have a job and want to keep it – you have a product to sell (you) – every day!   If you want to find a mate, you have a product to sell. 

Understand this process of selling and you can transform your success in any area of your life.  It’s not manipulation or deception, just common sense finding a need and filling it.