Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Right vs. Might - Being Competitive in the "Right" Way

Are successful people more competitive than the average person?  Do they have this "refuse to lose" type attitude that drives them to work harder and sacrifice more?  I'm picturing Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) when his father tells him, "If you aint first, you're last!", as a youngster in the movie Talladega Nights.

I remember, growing up, having this feeling that if I lost in athletics, trying your "best" didn't really matter - regardless of what the coaches would say.  Either you were a winner, and came out on top, or you lost, and were on the bottom.  It got me to thinking, at what point does being overly-competitive become a detriment to your success?  The more I thought about it, the more I realized its not about being "too competitive", it's about being competitive in the "right" areas.

Striving To Be The Best

If I could go back, I wouldn't strive to be the best athlete on my high school basketball team.  I would strive to be the best teammate.  It's one thing to score the most points, or win awards. But if it's at the detriment to the team, it's counterproductive and purposeless.  Make it your goal to make those around you better.

In business, striving to be the best is a tremendous attribute to have.  That competitive drive is a trait I personally look for when conducting interviews and bringing in new sales professionals.  But, if I could go back, I wouldn't strive to make the most sales, or the most money.  I would strive to be the best manager, co-worker and adviser to my clients.  Focusing purely on the numbers will cause you to lose sight of the people around you.  In the end, it's our customers and colleagues that are the catalyst to our success.

In relationships, do you need to be in control?  If there's an argument do you need to "win"?  I know I used to feel that way.  Yet, with every argument "won", all I was doing was driving a bigger wedge between myself and the other individual.  The best way I know how to describe it is similar to a boxing match.  One fighter has the championship belt, the other is trying to become the champion.  Both fight valiantly, yet the fight ends in a draw.  The winner isn't satisfied with his title defense, because he didn't win outright.  The challenger, still has no belt.  Nobody wins.

Being competitive is a great quality to have, but if you find yourself flipping over scrabble boards or alienating friends and co-workers, it might be time to take a step back.  Don't take flag football too seriously, and these parents that are getting into fist fights at there kids sporting events should be left on a deserted island somewhere.

Look for a way to strive to be the best at bettering those around you.  As the old saying goes, "A rising tide raises ALL ships."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Where Are My Nuts??

I mean that literally.  Maybe not in the way you're reading it though.  This Thanksgiving I'd be grateful for a few minutes of gutter-less thinking, and avoiding sexual innuendo's. Let's finally retire some of these classic non-knee slappers, such as:

- the buns are warm
- the bird is stuffed
- don't play with your meat
- that's a huge breast
- you'll know it's ready when it pops up
- you know what apple pie reminds me of...?
- are you ready for seconds??

Here's the situation - on a recent road trip to Alabama we stopped at a rest stop.  For the first time in at least 15 years, I was craving Cracker Jack's.  Not just for the toy either.  The salty-sweet treat seemed like a great accompaniment to my 8 hour car ride, and watered down vending machine made coffee.  I settled in, buckled up, and waited for a family that could easily challenge the Duggars to get from behind the back of the car, and mosey my way back onto the interstate.

The anticipation is building as I get the car up to cruise control speed, as I try to stomach a sip of this brown "coffee flavored" concoction. I'm actually quite proud of myself for making such a sound snack decision.  Popcorn paired with peanuts, all being held together with caramel.  Surely most people would overlook this simple yet satisfying treat en route to selecting either B8:  Cheetos or A12:  Honey Bun.

Ultimately, they would regret their decision while I'm cruising at 79 mph, wrist deep into my snack sized bag of Cracker Jacks.  They would think to themselves, "This was a poor choice.....What am I doing with my life?"  While I think contently to myself, "Way to go!  Decisions like this is what separate the good from the great - the fulfilled from the unsatisfied. You're on your way good Sir, well played!"

Here's where my trip north goes totally south.  With my knee guiding our steering wheel, I tear into my destiny.  As each handful comes back, I'm more and more disappointed.  I say to my passenger (mom) "Where the hell are my nuts??"  She looks at me with confusion, disgust and I think I even detected slight sympathy as well.  I quickly learned why my fellow travelers passed on Cracker Jacks and this sorry excuse for a surprise, in favor of something more reliable.

When you're missing a key ingredient the entire meal/recipe/outcome suffers.  I didn't want caramel popcorn without peanuts, just like you wouldn't want turkey without stuffing, mashed potatoes without gravy.  Similar to my aunt without a glass of wine, the popcorn without the peanuts just wasn't as fun!  It was missing something.....something I was counting on.

Ok, so, let me finish venting about this huge let down (the popcorn, not my aunt - she did have wine after all). Success in business and in life requires all the right ingredients.  Like the numbers to a combination lock, they all must be right, and in order.  Even the smallest missing piece can cause the biggest problems.  Being a hard worker, but lacking communication skills will hinder your growth.  Providing for your family at the expense of quality time can and will likely cause relationship problems with those closest to you.

It's about balance, and knowing what extra ingredient can take it to the next level.  Without it, you'll be left disappointed, scowling at a half eaten bag of peanut-less Cracker Jacks thinking of where your life could be if you had an opportunity to re-invest that same seventy-five cents.  Happy Thanksgiving to all!!!!!!  Drive safe out there, and eat more than enough!  CHEERS!

Friday, November 18, 2011

It's Not You....It's My Food

As another work week comes to an end, another weekend of over-eating and gorging myself of all things protein approaches.  Some might say I'm using this weekend of pre-Thanksgiving feasting as practice for this upcoming Thursday.  Those people would be wrong.  Not to brag, but....I need no practice.  I practice every weekend.....the only difference being that one weekend every year comes forty-eight hours early.

I love the whole set up.  The lame cornucopia piece, which, by the way, doesn't seem like a very convenient carrying device at all.  The fake leaves used for decorating that someones cat is sure to eat and be unable to completely digest.  The dry turkey you'll be eating for the next 8 days.  The over-peppered mashed potatoes. And, my personal favorite, the cylindrical cranberry sauce.

This time spent with friends and family is designed to give thanks.  Reflecting on all that we're grateful for.  But.....let's be honest here, it's about eating.  And football.  And eating.  And family.  And eating.  And not working.  And eating pie.  Lots of pie.  So, attempt a conversation if you must.....but understand that when I give you a look like a confused rabid truck driver with gravy and yams in my beard - it's not's me, and my food.  So back off pal!  Your story about your nephews amazing slap shot can surely wait till after I'm done digesting.

Yes, I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving - as much as I look forward to every Friday/FoodDay.  But, like Independence Day, I celebrate Giving Thanks every day, and don't wait for a calendar to tell me when it's my day to indulge on delicious food!  Eat up, give me some space, enjoy the game, and throw away that ridiculous sweater the second you can.  Ahhh, this really is the most wonderful time of the year!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Drink Your Milkshake: Fully Enjoy Your Moments

I'm always hesitant to quote anything from the Buddha.  I guess it's kind of like trying to freehand the Mona Lisa, or karaoke a number from The Beatles.  It just doesn't feel right, and comes nowhere near doing them justice.  But....and you knew that was it goes:

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment."
                                 ~ Buddha

Being able to stay present during your best moments in life, while soaking it in, is the key to staying sane - in my opinion.  The magic of tomorrows success depends on our ability to make the most out of today.  As the saying goes, "one today is worth two tomorrows".

Your moments can change you.  Life today can be totally different than yesterday.  Think of some of the most monumental moments you've experienced in life.  Maybe it was getting married.  Or finding out you're cancer-free.  Do you remember where you were when you got that big break?  Recall that indescribable feeling when you had your first child.

I'm sure you can recite specific details as if it was just yesterday.  Sure, not every moment can be compared to your wedding night, perhaps, but being able to envelope yourself in your own accomplishments, whether they're big or small, is a must.  They're your moments, and enjoying them is a responsibility you must take on in order to carry you through the lows life sometimes throws our way.

How you enjoy them depends on your personality.  Maybe you thank a higher power.  Or maybe you soak in the moment for a while.  Or you're an extrovert that verbally and visibly shows their excitement upon a major accomplishment.  Celebrate that promotion or new account you acquired by cracking open a cold one and hold on to that feeling.  Savor these moments; where you were, who you were with, how you felt, time of day/night, and as many of the details as you can.

There's a reason why we have this uncanny urge to video tape and record every exciting occasion we experience.  Our minds work the same way as any digital recorder.  Use it each day, if only for a minute or two, when something positive happens in your life or workplace.

Here's to having your cake, eating it too, and never forgetting the way it tastes!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Making Yourself Unforgettable

Selling is everything.  And everything is selling.  It's all around us, in every interaction, in every relationship, all of the time.  We're selling ourselves to a potential employer.  We're hired, and then we're selling our services to a potential client.  We work long hours, come home, and sell ourselves to our spouses on why we're home late.  Literally, every interaction is a version of a "sales call".  I sell, you sell, we all sell.

There's a good possibility that upon reading that YOU are selling yourself every single day, you felt a little gross - uncomfortable - maybe even slimy.  Here's why;  people love to buy, but hate to be sold.  The word "selling" carries this notion that someone was taken advantage of.  Being a sales professional myself, I'm quite aware of the negative weight that word carries.

Call it what you want, you're selling yourself.  Whether it's in a professional setting, trying to influence your ideas and beliefs to your boss or the company.  Or, in a more personal setting.  Maybe trying to sell your girlfriend or boyfriend on your future together.  Or your kids on studying more, or cleaning their rooms.

This is an area of my life that I find myself focusing on quite often as of late.  How well I can convey a message can make or break a relationship, a sale, an idea, etc.  Some are simple, yet rarely is it easy.

A friend of the family asked me the other day, "What is your purpose for writing?  What's your goal?"  I thought about it, and came to the conclusion that it's my personal platform to sell my ideas, beliefs, lessons learned through successes and failures, and daily challenges to the world.  Long answer, but that's the purpose.  Again, how well I do at selling the aforementioned will determine whether or not you continue to read, or I become a forgettable blogger.

Areas where making yourself unforgettable are key:

- Relationships:  whether it's with a spouse, partner, friend or family member - the strongest relationships will be the ones you invest the greatest amount of your attention, time and creativity in.  My personal goal:  be the worlds greatest son, brother, boyfriend and boss.  That's not easy - but it's worth it.

- Profession:  with unemployment at over 10%, and, in reality, probably closer to 15% nationwide you can no longer afford to be average or ordinary.  You need to stand out, and in a big way.  If you think that fancy card stock you put your resume on is enough, think again.  Even if you DO land the job, employers no longer have to "tolerate" mediocrity.  The talent pool is flush with individuals ready for you to slip, so they can slip in.

- Business:  things change so fast, you can't even be wrong for too long these days.  Clients are being tugged and pulled in all different directions by companies vying for their attention.  What are you doing to acquire more clients, and keep the ones you have?

Making yourself unforgettable is a big piece of the success puzzle, in my opinion.  It's also something that requires continuous effort.  Your spouse probably doesn't care about the flowers you bought them last year, or the card you gave them last V-Day.  Just like your boss probably already forgot about the overtime you put in last month.  Every day is a new opportunity to sell yourself to those around you.  Don't be afraid to strut your stuff, and watch as the people around you begin "buying" you in a big way!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Your Career Is In the Garbage

A while back I walked downstairs from my apartment to throw out the trash.  I open the recycling bin and sitting there, in all its glory, is someone's "Career In A Box".  In the midst of laughing and feeling remorse, I pull out my phone and made sure to capture this not-so-Kodak moment.

I honestly couldn't have staged it better myself.  There, among perishable items, is a filing cabinet that once held someones professional documents.  Or was it much more than that?  Was it their life-long ambitions?  Or their fantasy job?  Perhaps it was a part-time position just to make ends meet.  Or possibly, and most likely, one of several stops along this "opportunity hoppers" journey.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?  A firefighter?  A police officer?  An astronaut?  Or (like me) James Bond?  Whatever it was for this individual in particular, I'm sure as a youngster they didn't see themselves ever having to dispose of their career in a large yellow receptacle.

I knew that, eventually, and reluctantly, I would have to give up my dream of becoming a "Double-0".  However, my inner-Bond will always hold onto the belief that I will one day drive an Aston Martin.  And thankfully, I have been fortunate enough to find my version of a "Bond Girl" as well as owning several custom made suits.  I don't say that to brag. In fact, there's a good chance that a martini, regardless of it's shaken or stirred, would make me sick.  I've even given up on introducing myself as - "Stewart.  Jack Stewart".

I simply say it to encourage you to hold onto those same child-like dreams.  Deep down, there's still something that has to stir your soul, and even if it isn't something you do to pay the bills, don't neglect and ignore those dreams all together.

Go be a volunteer firefighter is that's what you dreamt about.  Donate your time to an animal shelter if you aspired to become a veterinarian as a kid.  Just because your career may be in the "garbage" doesn't mean you need to throw your dreams in there with it.  One door closes, and another opens.  Thats not just usually the case - it's ALWAYS the case.

Not to get too deep, but there's something powerful in this picture.  One person is "throwing away" what they once were excited about doing for a living.  However, nothing really disappears entirely.  It's just recycled.  Maybe the door that this individual closed, opens for someone meant for that position?  You never know what's going to happen tomorrow professionally, or personally.  But, like my mentor Jim Rohn use to say - "If there's hope for the future, than there's power in the present."  Simply put - no hope, no future.

Hang in there, and if nothing else, keep recycling until your goals, career, and dreams align!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Failure To Communicate

"What we've got here is a failure to communicate." ~ Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Add that to the list of famous lines that I use from movies created before I was put on this earth.  Just as that phrase has stood the test of time, so will our inability to accurately communicate everything we experience on a daily basis.  It's very difficult to truly be able to share what we're feeling inside with someone else.  It's like WE know what we're trying to say, but like a "male plug" into a "female socket", we can't make the connection.  Here's some more proof:

Actual writings on hospital charts
- "She has no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states that she was very hot in bed last night."
- "Patient says she has chest pain if she lays on her side for over a year."
- "On the second day the knee was better, and on the third it disappeared."
- "The patient is tearful and crying constantly.  She also appears to be depressed."
- "The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993."
- "Discharge Status:  Alive, but without my permission."
- "Patient had waffles for breakfast, and anorexia for lunch."
- "She is numb from the toes down."
- "Patient was alert and unresponsive."

Being able to effectively communicate how your feeling can not only increase the quality of your relationships, it can also, apparently, save your life.  There's nothing more frustrating than not being able to convey your feelings properly.  A big reason why it's so challenging:  there are two minds involved.

It takes us, as individuals, some amount of time to be able to process feelings, moods, experiences, circumstances, successes, losses, etc.  We have thousands upon thousands of thoughts going through our minds a day, and hardly enough time to figure out how we feel about each one of them individually.  As if that wasn't enough, we're then expected to be able to communicate these feelings with those closest to us, in our personal lives, and also our workplace.

Unless you're a tollbooth operator, your likely have an opinion valued by more than a few people.  Being able to communicate these opinions can be improved by following these seven steps:

1 - Be articulate:  Speak clearly, avoid mumbling, use simple, straight-forward words.
2 - Listen actively:  Communicating is a two-way street
3 - Be confident
4 - Be interesting:  listeners will reciprocate your emotions - show excitement, get excitement
5 - Stay on topic
6 - Use facial expressions consciously
7 - Communicate eye-to-eye

I can't guarantee this will save relationships or get you that next promotion, but it certainly can't hurt.

"I went to the bookstore and asked the salesperson, "Where's the self-help section?".  She said she'd like to help me, but if she did, it would defeat the purpose."