November 4, 2012

Uncertainty Redux

My thoughts go out to everyone affected by what is now called Superstorm Sandy. Observations from my previous post about uncertainty pale in comparison to what many face now, millions still with no electricity, two of my family members included as I write this. And many unable to return to their homes for the time being, or perhaps not ever returning to the home they once had. Not to mention the families who lost loved ones because of the storm.

How they all come through it will be the supreme example of handling uncertainty, that none of us hopes we have to face. If you’re one of the many affected by Sandy, I hope your recovery is as quick as it possibly can be.

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October 26, 2012

Uncertainty and “What If”

A couple of weeks ago while my dad was visiting my house I had to call 911. Just before the paramedics arrived, things were looking very scary to me since I didn’t know what was happening. After they walked in, he started to look better, and by the time they left for the ER, he seemed to be much better. But I still didn’t know what caused this scary scenario.

I had all sorts of thoughts running through my mind. What if it’s this? What if it’s that? What do we do if it’s this? Or that? How will this or that change his life? I had to remind myself to stop. There was no point thinking myself into a frenzy, until I knew more from the doctors who would examine him and probably run tests.

It occurred to me later that the uncertainty of this scenario is reflected often in business too. Something’s going to change, but you don’t know what, or how it might affect you. Or maybe it won’t affect you at all. But you fret about it even though you don’t have any new information to fret about. And then most of your energy goes into thinking about what if this and what if that.

It’s difficult, but you have to ignore the vicious circle of thoughts and “what ifs” that will swirl around in your head. You must force yourself to not think about things, until you know more. I don’t mean put your head in the sand and act like it’s not there. I just mean you keep looking, listening, awaiting more information, and putting off your worrying and decisions until you know more.

It’s perfectly human to fall into the “what if” trap, but try to be super-human and avoid it. At least until you get enough information.

Oh, about my dad? He ended up being perfectly fine. All tests came back normal, and he walked out of the ER with me later that evening. They really didn’t have any explanation for what happened, other than it’s just one of those things. My dad enjoyed the rest of his visit with us, and returned home.

September 26, 2012

Tips for Indies

I came across a good article at the FastCompany website that was directed at creative freelancers, who are independent contractors. Being a contractor is not much different than being self-employed. The points offered by the author are actually applicable to all independents, whether you’re a freelancer, consultant, attorney, CPA, therapist, or any other type of solopreneur.

Check out the article, and take note of some very useful tidbits of advice.

September 24, 2012

Indecision and Mistakes

A good part of what might hold us back is indecision. We might waffle on whether we should take a certain course of action, and as a result take none. Or we might hestitate to fix a team chemistry problem, wondering if we’ve read the situation incorrectly. And again do nothing. Or we might put off talking to an employee about a performance problem, for fear of not having all the information we need. Meanwhile the problem continues.

There is fear behind indecision — the fear of making a mistake. If we take that specific course of action based on what we know, we fear that we might be making a mistake because of incomplete information. We put off talking to a problem team member, again because we fear that we might be mistaken about whether they’re the problem or not.

And this fear could be in the face of strong and certain feedback that we’re reading the situation correctly, but we still fear making a mistake. A business owner I know, even though he was unhappy with an employee because of multiple job performance issues, was still unsure if he really should bring the subject up. He was afraid he might be wrong.

If you can lose the fear of making a mistake, then you will solve any issues you might have with indecision. I don’t ever mean that you make decisions based on little or no information. But I do want to remind you that we will never feel that we have enough information to make things perfectly obvious, even if we have a ton of information. You just need enough information so you can use your judgment and experience.

And try not to worry about making a mistake. As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” According to Teddy, the wrong thing is better than nothing!

September 2, 2012

Wisdom from the Original of the Mad Men

George Lois is known as the one upon whom the Mad Men, the popular cable series, is based. In his recent book Damn Good Advice, he offers a number of tips for success, with foundations in the advertising industry, but applicable to all types of businesses. Some of those tips are summarized in this Fast Company online article, which includes excerpts from the book.

Sound advice from the guy who created the brand names “Lean Cuisine” and “Aunt Jemima”, and the cult ad phrase, “I want my MTV!”.

September 1, 2012

Fruits of Your Labors

It’s Labor Day weekend; I hope you’re all enjoying it, before the school year starts up again in earnest. Thoughts of Labor Day tend to remind me that it’s labor that bears fruit. Success and results are rarely attained without the labor behind it. So if you’re considering a business method that sounds like “success with only 3 hours a week”, “6 figures with push-button software”, or “no experience necessary”, then it sounds too good to be true. And if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Get your R&R this weekend, and resume your labor next week, to work toward your goals!

August 30, 2012

Working Out Makes You Smarter?

Apparently, exercise and working out make you smarter, according to information presented by OnlineCollegeCourses.com, as summarized by Morgan Clendaniel of the FastCompany Co.Exist website. Check out this point of view — it makes for another reason to keep up your exercise routine.

What a deal: work out, look better, and be even smarter!

August 9, 2012

Motivation from the Olympics

The Olympics has offered many stories of athletes from all walks of life, all with the singular goal of leaving London with a medal. As different as all the stories are, I noticed yet again that there is one thing that stood out to me. Regardless of whether an athlete is favored to win or not, they all have their naysayers.

If the athlete is favored, there are people who will say that he or she is overrated. If an athlete is not favored, lots of people say that he or she has no chance, so why even bother. So, even athletes who are best in their own countries have to put up with this kind of talk from people who aren’t even athletes. Yet those athletes still go about their business, doing what they came to London to do.

Don’t let any naysayers in your business or personal life sidetrack you. Just go about doing what you’re supposed to be doing. That puts you in the same boat as Olympic athletes!

April 29, 2012

It’s Not How Busy You Are…

There’s an epidemic of “busy busy” going around. A lot of people are saying how busy they are. Sometimes, they’re using that as an excuse for not doing something they should have done, like answer an email that contained a specific question. Or returned a call left in their voicemail box.

Some of these folks think that this makes them look good. It’s anything but, because it’s not how busy you are, it’s what you get done. I’ve met many people who say how busy they are, yet they don’t seem to get much done — they’re not that productive. I’ve also met some folks who I know are very busy, yet if I call them and leave a message, or send an email, they always have time to respond in a timely manner. And these folks always seem to be unhurried, like they have all the time to spend with me.

Of course I wouldn’t take any more of their time than I should, but boy does that make me feel special. Think about it. Try not to catch the “busy busy” going around.

March 9, 2012

Spring Forward

Come Sunday morning, we’re going to have to set our clocks ahead one hour again, bringing to mind the phrase used when I was a kid, “spring forward.” And that’s the story of all of us trying to make something happen … to spring forward toward our goals. But what if you’re springing for something that’s not in reach?

I hear lots of workshops and seminars talk about having big ambitions and creating big goals. There’s an acronym I’ve heard from several different places, BHAG, for big hairy audacious goal. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Unless you don’t know how to get from where you are to that big hairy goal.

That’s probably the biggest issue. There are plenty of people who can think up the big goal (“I want to become a millionaire, a billionaire, financially independent, well known and famous”, etc.). That only takes imagination. The reason why very few people make it to the big goal, is because most folks can’t connect where they are with where they want to be and develop an action plan. Some do develop the action plan, then never execute it.

That’s why I’ve always said, “Great ideas are abundant. Great execution is rare.” You must execute, and in order to execute, you must know what your steps are to get to your goal.