It’s Time to Broaden Your Knowledge

Man reading red bookProfessional development is critical if we want to grow into highly-valued consultants, employees, and athletes.  It’s not a one-time deal either.  We need to constantly seek out new knowledge and capability if we want to remain useful and viable.

My business requires me to know a lot about management, process improvement, leadership development, and team cohesiveness.  I learned most of this on the job, built on the foundation of my graduate studies in organizational leadership at Chapman University, with quite a bit from constant reading.  I can humbly say that I’m pretty good at my trade and craft.

But that’s not enough.  Certainly not enough to differentiate me from any of my competitors.

About two years ago I realized that I sucked at sales and marketing.  I was afraid to sell, had no idea how to properly promote my products and services, and was operating on the backs of a few steady clients and some cheap-ass contract work.  Reading more books on leadership, management, and strategy was useless.  What I needed to do was SELL!

That was the shift that really made last year a year of significant growth.  I read every book I could find on marketing, sales, and promotion.  I developed a new sales strategy, implemented a CRM system, partnered with my admin staff to help me run it, and got comfortable asking for the sale.  Broadening my knowledge was the key.  I’m sure some of my competitors get frustrated when they can’t seem to land any new clients but then decide to read more books on leadership development.  Find the area you’re weak in and shore it up!  Maximizing your strengths only applies when you do that StrengthsFinder 2.0 stuff.

But what about you?  Have you maxed out on your current level of knowledge?  It’s possible.  Even some wise king in ancient days said something to the effect of “What has been will be again. What has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun.”  If your craft is coaching, quit reading coaching books and start reading sales books.  If your trade is woodwork shift your strategy to getting more clients rather than trying to outsmart your competitors with old tactics.

And one caveat.  While there is nothing new under the sun, don’t abandon staying current in your field.  It’s all about professional balance.

If you’re serious about career development, success, job security, and winning, be sure to make professional development a priority.

Why You Need a Reality Check

reality check signOver the past year I’ve been a member of Title Boxing in Clarksville, TN.  It’s been great.  I’ve lost a bunch of weight, made new friends, and improved my confidence.  Just last month, a couple of the trainers told me I was one of the three hardest punchers in the club.  Not bad considering I’m the oldest of the three!

This got me thinking.  Maybe I could start participating in the Friday night sparring at the SSF club where some of the trainers at Title train actual fighters.  If I do ok, maybe, just maybe I could actually take a real fight.  I know I’m in my 50s, but hell Bernard Hopkins fought for a title in his 50s.  Why not?  I started thinking about what song to use for my ring walk music.  Probably Feel Invincible by Skillet or A Warrior’s Call by Volbeat.  It seemed like a great idea.

All this was running through my mind as I chained up a dead oak tree to the back of my Honda Rancher ATV.  I needed to pull it out of the ground to prevent a nearby tree from falling onto my driveway under its weight.  As I gunned the engine, the front end of the ATV popped straight up, throwing me off like a bull-riding cowboy.  For a split second, the ATV teetered in the air right over me.  Mercifully, it dropped back down onto its four wheels instead of landing on top of me.  My arms were skinned up and my ribs and thighs bruised.  I had a hard time standing back up.  I was sore for days. Reality had set in.  This 50+ year old overweight bald man with two hip replacements had no business getting into a boxing ring.

All of us have a tendency to see things in optimistic, glorified eyes.  We all have dreams and aspirations, goals and visions.  We often overlook reality in hopes that all of our dreams can happen.  Here are some of the ones I hear:

  • A retiring military officer tells his friends that he’s going to work a couple of years and then RETIRE retire at age 45.
  • Someone decides to start a business, financed by credit cards and a cashed-in 401K because it’s a sure thing.
  • A person decides to marry someone who has a drug and gambling problem because they know that “love conquers all.”
  • A middle-aged man thinks it’s a great idea to start fighting at the local boxing club.

It’s healthy to a point.  It’s unhealthy when reality finds us.  Maybe it’s a good idea to find some reality checks.

  • That military officer hasn’t factored in how much of his retirement pay is taxed and how those tax-free allowances have gone away. And oh, by the way he doesn’t have any real skills to offer an employer except things he’s been told like “leadership, multi-tasking, calm-under-pressure” etc.  Not to mention he hasn’t put a dime away in savings and has no life insurance.
  • That business idea is great. Unfortunately, the entrepreneur hasn’t done a market survey to see if it’s even viable in that area and has no clue how to market it.  Which means there is no way to bring in enough money to break even.
  • That love-struck person hasn’t taken the time to speak to counselors to get the full scoop on how powerful and expensive some addictions can be. Love won’t be enough.
  • That old guy can barely move after falling off an ATV. What makes him think he could absorb the punches of a man 30 years younger than him.

Reality checks that we induce prevent the more painful reality checks that life brings us.  Rather than go into something blindly, maybe it makes sense to put ourselves through a reality check.

It’s not negative or pessimistic.  It’s just a smart thing to do.

 

 

 

 

“Thank God for Rain”

Rain drops on windowThe other day I was driving to Nashville cursing the rain that was coming down.  My old truck doesn’t have a wiper delay and the rain was just heavy enough to require me to manually hit the switch about every 10 seconds.  As I rounded a corner, a large panel truck drove past me.  On the front of his truck was a sign that said “Thank God for Rain.”  I called him a moron under my breath until I saw that he installed and repaired rain gutters.  Then the sign made sense.

Every time we watch Shark Tank and see the innovative ideas people come up with, we probably wished we were that creative.  But if you think about it, most great ideas come when we look at our annoyances and figure out a way to fix them.  Think about it:

  • Somebody cursed the rain until they figured out that rain gutters fail during heavy rain and realized gutter repair could make some money for them.
  • Someone probably got sick and tired of stepping in dog crap so they came up with the idea of dog waste pickup as a service and ended up franchising it.
  • A creative person got tired of sitting in traffic and put the notion of driverless cars into production.  Some reports say that by 2025 most cars on the road will be self-driving.  This guy will be rich.

There are two ways to look at inconveniences.  Either we get frustrated and complain or we get creative and come up with a way to leverage and profit from them.  If you’re an entrepreneur, you already do this, but if you work for someone else, you can take this mindset into your workplace and add value by look at new ways to benefit from solving problems and eliminating wasted time.  You may not come up with a billion dollar idea but you’ll let your boss know that you’re an employee worth keeping.

This week, take a look around and find that opportunity to turn inconvenience into opportunity.

What will you be thankful for that you used to curse?

Are You Prepared for Success?

Front View of Dalmatian Dog Running on PathEvery time I make the 45 minute drive from home to Clarksville, I take Little Barton’s Creek Road.  This seven-mile two-lane road cuts the drive town down significantly.  Like any country road, it passes farms, old abandoned houses, rusted out cars, barns, and a large tobacco curing complex.  About halfway down the road, there is a house where a large white dog stands watch.  Without fail, every time I drive past, he chases my truck at least 50 feet or so before giving up and going back onto his porch.

I always wonder what he would do if he caught me.   I wonder if he’s ever asked himself that question?

Most people I know want a life better than the one they have now.  They dream about a new career, wealth, better relationships, and more happiness.  Some go as far as setting up goals to get those things.  A few actually achieve them.  Most start well and then give up.  It’s as if they’re that white dog who chases my truck.  I suspect down deep inside they don’t know what they would do if they achieved those dreams.  Could it be they’re afraid of success?  Are you afraid of success?  If not, you should be.  Here’s why:

  1. Success will eliminate the ability to blame others.  If you’re not successful, you can always pin it on someone else, the system, your economic situation, your skin color, or your upbringing.  If you have success, then you know the formula which involves hard work.  Once you have success, others can point the finger at you and say that you’re lucky.  You will never again get sympathy.
  2. Success means that others will want your time and attention.  People who are serious about being successful know that successful people have the answers they seek.  If you’re successful, people are going to want to “pick your brain,” want your advice and guidance, and will hold you in esteem.  That’s a lot of responsibility and pressure.
  3. Success means that you will need to have continual success or else you’ll be seen as a “one-hit wonder” much like many 1980s music groups.  You can never again be mediocre or others will deem you a failure.  It’s more painful to fall from success than it is from levels of expected failure.  Your success journey will never end.

My dad told me once that it’s better to expect the worst and you won’t be disappointed. In other words, don’t bother chasing that Toyota pickup truck.  You won’t be able to catch it and if you do you won’t know what to do with it.   I think that’s what motivated me to push hard to find success.

I wrote those three points above sarcastically.  I believe success is a noble goal and we should all strive for it.  I want you to strive for it.  I’ve told people that I chase big accomplishments regardless of what others tell me.  I figure if I’m the dog, I’ll figure out what to do with that truck once I get my teeth on the back bumper.  After all, something told me it was worth chasing.

Will you join me?

 

Start Keeping Score

scoreboardIn a previous post, I talked about the power of “looking at the scoreboard” as a way to stay encouraged in the face of frustration, failure, and adversity.  If you buy into that strategy, then I have a suggestion.

Start keeping score!  Download the blank scoreboard HERE

Most people start out the year with a list of goals and resolutions and yet most will fail.  There are a host of reasons but one of the key causes is the failure to track progress.  People work best when they get constant feedback on how they’re doing.  I read some time ago about the reason for those electronic signs in school zones that say “Your Speed Is.”  Apparently it’s more effective to let people know what their actual speed is so they can self-manage it back under the limit.  Maybe all of us need to keep score on progress towards goals so we keep up our efforts.

That’s where the scoreboard comes in.  I put together a scoreboard template that you can customize for your goals this year.  On the far left column list out your objectives and then at the end of each month, just put a tick mark to keep score.  At the end of the year you’ll get a total but more importantly, if you keep it current, you’ll have a clear picture of where you’re at.  Here is a sample of mine for this year.

sample

 

 

 

 

 

If you measure it, there’s never a doubt whether you’re making progress.  If your blocks are blank, you know you need to get busy!

I’m working with this tool and I hope you’ll join me!