Have another matzo ball – please

July 16, 2010

Know anyone who is angry about being fired, or about a failed business or a disappointing relationship?  Do you see how that anger continues to cripple that individual – not the company, the business partner or the brother-in-law – but the individual holding on to the anger?  That anger saps creativity, causes attempts at goodness to appear artificial and renders a split soul.

The #1 characteristic of highly successful people is “integrity” as documented in The Millionaire Mind by Thomas Stanley.  Integrity means whole, unbroken, undivided.  It describes a person who has united the parts of his or her being into a spiritually rich and unified wholeness.

At the Passover Seder, when Jews celebrate the memory of their exodus from Egypt, they taste a bitter herb to recall the old days of slavery, but then immediately override that bitter taste with matzo and wine, symbols of liberation.

We all have situations in our lives where we have to choose between the seductive appeal of getting even, attractive but harmful to our “integrity,” and the cleansing power of forgiveness and moving forward.  You give up power by remaining resentful – and regain strength and authority by not giving in to the temptation to get even.

Have a little matzo and wine tonight and walk into tomorrow with your head held high.

Bogus Oil Spill Jobs

July 15, 2010

As with any disaster there are immediately people who are capitalizing on the Gulf Oil Spill. Bogus ads for oil spill clean-up jobs in the Gulf are appearing in newspapers, online, and in email inboxes. Many of these scammers claim they have jobs waiting for you once you pay them for training or certifications.  Others require you to pay a fee to “apply” for positions.  Some are using emails that appear to be from BP or they falsely claim they’ve been authorized by BP to hire clean-up crews.

The typical red flags for scams apply here:

  • Guaranteed jobs – no company makes guarantees about placing someone in a job
  • Up front payment – legitimate companies don’t ask for training expenses in advance
  • Vague offers – we have “thousands of jobs” and “get hired today” and “$40 an hour” are come-ons
  • Your financial information is required – no real employer asks for your bank information to hire you.

Here are some helpful sites for legitimate information about possible jobs:

  1. Deepwater Horizon Response
  2. BP
  3. Alabama — Environmental Cleanup
  4. Florida — Florida Attorney General
  5. Louisiana – the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office
  6. Mississippi Mississippi Department of Employment Security

The kind of people who would take advantage of a disaster and the vulnerability of people desperately needing jobs defies description.  There are far too many real ideas available for making money to have to resort to scamming good people.  I have to assume these leeches are lacking intelligence, morals, ethics and creative thinking.  Avoid them.

Honoring my wife and killing myself

July 7, 2010

Here’s a question with a common theme:

“Dan, I have a successful side business built around a weekly podcast I’ve been running now, part time for the past 5 years. Successful meaning it fills a need, has a large, loyal following and it generates a good supplemental income.  I’m miserable at my full time job- not only is it an hour and a half commute, 50+ hours a week taken away from my family, odd working hours and the salary not being competitive I’m physically drained and not mentally or physically healthy.  I’m thinking of going full time internet business because when I put 100% of myself into it –  I come alive, the business financially comes even more alive and I’m able to balance my life out.

The problem is my wife is not supportive of the idea. She feels safer with the weekly paycheck and the health benefits. I feel as though I’m honoring my wife but suffering inside and cheating my kids of a Dad during the best years of their lives.”

Let’s just deal with three major issues here:

  1. The job is “safer and more secure.”  In today’s workplace that is probably not true at all.  No job is secure.  And if you are miserable, you are likely beginning to sabotage your position there.   You simply cannot do well in a job where you are miserable, physically drained and unhealthy mentally.   Your chances of success are greatly enhanced in doing work where you “come alive.”
  2. With your current state of misery your feelings of “honoring” your wife will certainly turn to resentment – sooner than later.
  3. The fact that your wife wants you to continue in something where you are miserable and killing yourself raises some real red flags about your relationship.  Sit down with a coach or counselor and present the facts as you have here.  Get some outside advice about your best options.

My wife, Joanne, would have been very content if I had just gotten a regular job with a paycheck when we first married – or anytime since then.  But she laughs in thinking about me having a “real” job.  She knows how I am wired for change and innovation and she supports that in me even though there has been little “security” through the years.  “Honoring” one another in marriage means embracing how God has uniquely gifted each of us – and trusting that passion and joy will release more success than obligation.

Confused and Stunned – awesome!

July 2, 2010

Is now a time to try something new – perhaps something you’ve never done before?  Or should you sit out the “recession” and wait until “things get better.”

“The times when everyone is confused and stunned can present an enormous opportunity because no one’s really doing anything,” says Dell Computer founder Michael Dell.  “I think this is the time when the seeds of really successful new businesses will be created.”

Designer Kenneth Cole says, “When things are going well, people want to do what’s working and more of it.  It’s only in difficult times that people are open to creative alternatives.”

Mark Cuban, entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, points out that some of the greatest businesses were built in recessionary times.  “Money is easy to find in boom times, which leads to far too many businesses getting out of the gate that don’t deserve to be started.  When money is scarce, better ideas face less competition and better execution can lead to greater success.”

Whether it’s changing career paths or starting your own business, there’s never been a more opportune time than today.  July 1st marks the beginning of the second half of 2010.  And what better time to claim your “independence” than on July 4th.  Recognize you are in the driver’s seat, break ties with the mother country if necessary and begin your personal revolution. And remember, “things” get better when you get better.

Business is up and down – that’s good

June 29, 2010

Pat Cuartero was a Merrill Lynch analyst.  But as he says – he discovered a higher purpose – getting more people in New York City to play with yo-yos.  He funded his startup with $8,000 on credit cards and netted $32,000 in the first five months.  It was enough to persuade him to leave his “real job” and develop his passion for yo-yos.

Instead of just selling yo-yos, Pat developed YoYoNation – a robust community of enthusiasts.  There are blogs, forums, contests, and yes, you must register to be part of the community before you can buy a yo-yo.

He’s projecting $1.6 million in sales by the end of this year.  You can get cases, string, bearings, t-shirts and other gear once you’re part of the community.  You can start with the standard Duncan Butterfly Yo-Yo for $2.99 or step up to the handmade Oxy Ti titanium model for $549.99.

Anyone remember Tiddlywinks or the Slinky?  Probably just waiting for a champion to come along.

What’s your passion and what are you doing to develop it?

Poverty or Simplicity?

June 28, 2010

The current “recession” or economic downturn has prompted many people to enjoy a healthier, greener, ecologically responsible, and simpler lifestyle.  So what is the difference between poverty and simplicity?

If I’m angry that I can’t afford a new Ferrari I may feel that I’ve been doomed to poverty.  However, if I enjoy the classic lines and character of a 20-year old sports car that I can easily afford, then it appears I have chosen simplicity.  If I “can’t afford” to eat at Ruth’s Chris I may begrudge the government’s tax and economic policies.  If Joanne and I invite some friends over for a potluck dinner where our contribution comes from our neighbor’s left-over cucumbers and tomatoes, our peace of mind may originate from our choice for simplicity.

John Robbins turned down his family’s Baskin-Robbins ice cream fortune in order to “live a far more simple and earth-friendly life.” He and his wife built a tiny one-room log cabin on an island off the coast of British Columbia, where they grow most of their own food.  John says, “This isn’t about deprivation.  It’s about choice and self-determination.”

The dictionary defines “poverty” as – “The state of being poor; lack of the means of providing material needs or comforts.”  The definition of simplicity is – “the absence of luxury, pretentiousness, ornament, etc.”

Could it be that whether we live in “poverty” or “simplicity” is primarily a choice of how we view our situation?  Simplicity has many rewards that go beyond saving money.    Among those may be the experience of living well.

One of my favorite authors, Henry David Thoreau once said: “For my greatest skill has been to want but little.” In Walden he expands on his choice to live simply:  “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…”

If you’re in challenging financial times, don’t miss the opportunity to suck out all the marrow of life.  When good times return you are likely to find that your giving goes to 20 or 30% while your simplicity remains the same.

Reverse Telecommuting

June 27, 2010

There are so many new words being birthed by the changing workplace.  Words like “googling” as a verb, electronic immigrants, prairie dogging, ohnosecond, blamestorming, seagull manager, chainsaw consultant, flight risk, assmosis, uninstalled, and cube farm.

We all understand the term “telecommuting” – when you have work from the office to complete at home.  How about the opposite of that – “reverse telecommuting.”  This is the commonplace practice of bringing personal work to the office. It’s no secret a whole lot of time is spent with employees paying personal bills, making personal phone calls, making flight arrangements, medical and social appointments, reading online newspapers, updating FaceBook, and texting family members – all on company time.

Arguably, some of these can only be handled during normal work hours, but how much is acceptable?  According to a recent survey by Salary.com, the average worker admits to frittering away 2.09 hours per 8-hour workday, not including lunch and scheduled break-time.  Yes, companies assume a certain amount of wasted time when they determine employee pay.  However, the survey indicates employees are wasting about twice as much time as their employers expect.  Estimates are that employers are spending $769 billion per year on salaries for which real work was expected, but not actually performed.

Would you be willing to be paid for results only, rather than for time spent in the office?  Would that increase or decrease your compensation?

Write a book – you’ve got to be kidding

June 24, 2010

I love writing in all its forms: blogs, articles, books, etc.  However, the statistics for choosing this as a career are dismal.  One in four Americans does not read one book per year.  Over 200,000 new books were published last year.  Average book sales for a Christian book put out by a major publisher are about 4,000 copies.  AuthorSolutions reports that sales of their self-published titles average about 150 copies each.  The average sales overall for a book published in America is about 500.  Yes, sales of eBooks is growing.  But if you think that technology is eliminating “real” books you’ll be interested to know that eBooks comprised about 4% of the overall dollars ($23.9 billion) in book sales in 2009.

Garrison Keillor recently commented on the sustainability of the publishing industry, in the Chicago Tribune:  “I think that book publishing is about to slide into the sea.  We live in a literate time, and our children are writing up a storm, often combining letters and numerals (UR2 1derful)…The future of publishing: 18 million authors in America, each with an average of 14 readers, eight of whom are blood relatives.  Average annual earnings:  $1.75.”

If you care about statistics and averages, the information above is enough to discourage and redirect anyone.  But what if writing is your passion?  Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol hit the #1 spot last year at 5,543,643 copies sold.   Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue sold 2,674,684 copies.  Obviously, there are still some amazing opportunities in writing books.  Have you identified why your book should be written?

I currently have six book projects in the works.  I can’t imagine doing anything else that I would enjoy as much – or that could bring me more success.  The bad news doesn’t discourage me but it does remind me that I must write with excellence – as success in any area requires.

Just gimme a faster horse

June 23, 2010

As thinkers, inventors and entrepreneurs we hear a lot of clichés.  “Find a need and fill it.”  “The customer is always right.”  “Winners never quit; quitters never win.”  And so on.  But as entrepreneurs we recognize that common clichés are often not true at all – as with those just mentioned.

If you wait for your customers to tell you what they want, you’re going to be too late.  You’ll go the way of universities that “teach” business practices that have already been used for 5 years by the brightest and best in real business.

What did customers in Henry Ford’s day want – not the Model T; they wanted faster horses.  Giving customers what they want will force you to be playing catch-up with competitors.  Steve Jobs doesn’t give customers what they want – he creates innovative and unheard of products and then wows people into wanting them.

If you provide the service your employer wants you will get a paycheck and two days off a week (feed the nice horsey).  What would happen if you provided an idea or service that would transform your company?

Go ahead — Astonish me

June 22, 2010

Astonish is not a word we hear much.  But what is it you do that is brilliant, amazing, excellent, remarkable, essential, extraordinary, outstanding, noteworthy, incredible or astonishing?

What is it that displays your personal best – your personal brilliance?

The story is told that one day the great artist, Picasso, was walking in the market.  A woman approached him, handed him a pencil and piece of paper, and asked, “Can you do a little drawing for me.”   Picasso replied, “Absolutely.”  He did a quick little drawing and handed it back to the lady.  She looked at it and said – “That’s amazing.” After thanking him she started to walk away.  Picasso stopped her and said “Excuse me, that’ll be $1 million.”  She said, “One million dollars – that took you 30 seconds.”  To which Picasso replied, “My dear lady, it took me 30 years to do that.”

A fellow comedian once asked Steve Martin, “How can I become as well known as you are?”  Steve told him, “Be so good at what you do that people cannot ignore you.”

There are only 3 legs to extraordinary success:

  • What are you deeply passionate about?
  • How can you do that with excellence – perhaps better than anyone else?
  • What’s your economic model.  How are you generating income?

Integrating these 3 components will separate you from 97% of the people on the face of the earth.  How can you be the Bill Gates, Mick Jagger, Bono, Mother Teresa or Billy Graham in your area of passion?  Don’t let false humility keep you from sharing your best with the world.  Go ahead — Astonish me.