Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Make Yourself Happy Whenever You Want

All too often, people think that their feelings emanate from somewhere inside themselves that they can't control. They are happy, sad, fearful, angry or even jealous, because of something that is out of their control. Not true - nothing could be further from the truth.

Your feelings are yours and yours alone. You can choose any one of those feelings at anytime, regardless of your circumstances.

Think about it, could you make yourself depressed right now? How about angry? Or even sad?

I know I could. It's so easy to get yourself worked up over negative actions and thoughts which generate negative feelings. But believe it or not, it's just as easy to do the same thing with positive feelings - but most of us rarely choose to do it.

If you want to be happy - then choose it. Smile. Dance. Run. Skip. Eat Chocolate. Play Golf. Be Happy. Whatever it is that makes YOU happy.

Act happy, think happy thoughts, and you will feel it.

If you want to be proud of yourself - then choose it. Do the things that you know make you feel proud and stop focusing on the ones that strip you of that feeling.

Act proud, think prideful thoughts, and you will feel proud of yourself.

I know, this all sounds so simple. In truth, it is. What's difficult . . . is actually doing it, because we often forget that we have this power over our own lives.

So as you go about your day today, rather than letting your feelings just "happen" to you, choose to feel the way you want to feel - and make those feelings a reality.

Monday, March 30, 2009

How Did You Improve Your Life Today?

The key to making real change in your life isn't about create massive change - all at once. The bigger and more dramatic the change you try to implement in your life or your business, the higher the probability of failure - the more likely you will go back to your old habit patterns.

Unfortunately, the problem with only making little changes are that most people fail to keep them in place long enough to see a tangible impact, so they usually give up on them. And, quite honestly, few people I know consistency of thought and habit to keep making small changes daily.

Did you know that if you made a .1% improvement (assuming you could measure it) to your life every day, over the course of a year you would improve your life by nearly 45% over the course of a year - and better than a 100% in two years. Do you think you would like to have a dramatically different life just a couple of years down the road?

Just as an example, if you wanted to cut calories from your diet, say go from 3300 calories / day to about 2300 calories per day, you could try to make the cut all at once. But the impact would be devastating to your metabolism and your mental state. And you would start the never ending up and down that so many dieters experience. But if you cut .1% everyday for 6 months, your body would slowly adapt and you could be there stable - with a completely redefined lifestyle and body.

The same thing can be said for anything you want to do in your life.

So how can you successfully implement small changes every day and create a better life (or business) for yourself?

It sounds easy, but it is anything but. And even the best, most talented people on Earth, cannot do it on their own.

The truth is that it requires implementing some form "Daily Accountability" - something or someone that will keep you focused and keep you taking small steps each and every day. It takes an "Accountabili-Buddy" (as was named on South Park) - a friend, a family member or even a coach (if you can find / afford one that will meet with you every day), that will hold you accountable each and every day to make small changes and make them permanent.

But don't expect your "Accountabili-Buddy" to do your work for you - sorry, that's not in the picture. The work is all yours!!! The purpose of your newly found "Accountabili-Buddy" is to keep you on track - to prevent you from falling off course with the daily distractions of life. He will pick you up when you trip. And he will walk beside you when you need someone to support you and encourage you. But most importantly, he will follow you on your journey, so that whenever you feel like giving up, turning back isn't an option. He won't let you turn back. You can stay where you are , as long as you like, but there will be no retreating to old habits.

Think about it. You know you are going to have a bad day - a day where nothing works for you and even the smallest improvement feels monumental. We all have them. "In the past", a bad day would have been enough to rock your world and send you back to your lifelong habit patterns. But when you have someone standing beside you, reminding you what you are trying to do and what you want to accomplish, a one day "hiccup" will be just that.

So go out and get an "Accountabili-Buddy" and take small steps every day that will change your life FOREVER!!!

If you are interested in finding more out about how to leverage the power of "Accountabili-Buddies", contact me at coach.jj@impossiblefutures.com.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Difference is DOING!

There are people that will tell you that you need more knowledge or more money before you can start to pursue your dreams.

Sad thing is that we believe them.

And because of that, all too often, we give up our dreams long before we ever took a single step to achieve them. We see the enormous list of things that must be accomplished before we can have what we want and we freeze in our tracks - unable to take even the very first simple step or the journey.

It just doesn't need to be that hard.

From every story I can find about great people throughout history, their journeys all started with a small step - followed by another, and yet another. In fact they would all tell you that their greatness wasn't in the result of their lives - it was the daily practice of creating it - in LIVING EVERY DAY.

Sometimes the daily steps are in the right direction - sometimes they're not. Sometimes you will stumble and even get lost for days, weeks or even years of your life. And when you stop and re-focus, you find your way back to your vision.

However, this I know for sure, if you focus on what you want - EVERY DAY - and commit to taking one small step each day that will move you closer to those goals, you will get there. You can't help but get there. It may take your entire lifetime, but you will get what you want. And more importantly you will have lived the life that you choose - each day of your journey. And for that you will have achieved true greatness.

So rather than coming up with the million reasons not to take the first step, or the second. Just take it. Just live your life by DOING what you can today!

And start the process anew tomorrow.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Marketing Your Benefits - Not Your Features

Entirely too often, business owners forget a very simple concept, "People don't really care how you do it, they just want their problem to go away."

I work with a client who is, without a doubt, the best Carpet Cleaner in the Philadelphia Area - JMS Carpet Cleaning (@carpetjan on Twitter). He knows his chemicals, his processes, and is so committed to your carpet care, that he will do what ever he can to make and keep your carpets clean.

So I asked him the other day, what do your customers want? Do they want their carpets cleaned? Or do they want clean carpets?

It sounds like "six of one, half dozen of the other", but there is a difference. One is what JMS does, the other is what the customer gets. In other words, one is a feature, the other is a benefit. And the truth of the matter is, people don't buy features, they buy benefits.

The JMS staff knows carpet cleaning. Unfortunately, their perspective clients don't. So when they talk to them about Steam Extraction vs Dry Cleaning, or one chemical agent versus another, they might as well be speaking Greek. "Jane Average Homeowner" doesn't know, and honestly, deep inside, most don't care. In fact, a majority of consumers actually get lost when you overwhelm them with what you do - because they aren't as good at connecting what you do to what they want as you are.

What matters to JMS's perspective customers is that their carpets be cleaned for their party this weekend so they aren't embarrassed when the In-Laws come over. Or they want to make sure heir six month old baby, who is learning to crawl, is playing on germ-free, as well as visibly clean, carpets.

Rather than talking about all the chemicals used in the process or which machine will work best - the best thing that JMS Enterprises, and frankly anyone else, can do is to "sell" what the customers wants.

For example, if you are a flower shop, isn't it true that your customers are buying a the ability to show how much they care for someone - through flowers. Or, if you are a hair salon, isn't a true that your customers are looking to feel good about themselves? In both cases, the customer is expecting to get something specific and feel a certain way when the transaction is done - and that is rarely exactly what you provide.

So now, take a look at your own business and at your marketing materials. What are you "selling" to YOUR customers - features or benefits? How does this play out for you and your business? What are your features and what are the benefits of those features to your customers?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Listen to the Wisdom of Teddy Roosevelt

We are in the throws of what many people call the worst economic conditions in over 75 years. I question that slightly - but regardless, things are tough.

So, my question is, "Do you throw in the towel and give up or do you commit to you dream and make it happen?"

If you are a small business owner - and a true entrepreneur at heart and maker of great things, don't settle for anything less. If it is your passion - make it so.

More so in these times, others will doubt you and your efforts. And you, at times, may even doubt yourself. But before giving up on your dream, read the words of a true leader of men, President Teddy Roosevelt, about commitment, devotion, triumph and failure.

And if you read them carefully, you will find that President Roosevelt words resonate in your heart as if he was speaking them to you directly.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Now go! Get in the arena and fight for what you believe in. Find a way to keep the fight alive and get others to support your fight. And remember . . . whether you win the fight, or lose the fight, it is the pursuit with devotion and enthusiasm that you will be remembered by.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

4 Principles of Recession Survival For Businesses

The recession is here - but that is no reason to panic. We have been through many downturns in the past and I can guarantee that we will see many more in the years to come. Business is cyclical. There are times of great prosperity - always followed by downturns. Followed once
again by - upswings!

It is what it is. You can dwell on it and blame it for all your woes. Or, you can take control of your business and make it work - in spite of the current conditions.

The truth is - the problem isn't the recession . . .
It's how you react to it.

Do you look at the current market conditions as a problem or do you look at them as an opportunity?

I, personally, believe they are an opportunity. And I believe if you approach things with the right mindset you can not only survive, but actually thrive. And, in doing so, set yourself up to lead your market when things begin to pick up again.

The truth is anyone can survive and grow in a booming market. When there is demand galore, it doesn't matter how you market yourself or how good your product is, someone will buy it. If the growth is strong enough, there are even people who will jump into the fray who have no idea what they are doing. As an example, look at the mortgage industry through the early part of this decade - it was filled with fat and unscrupulous brokers (just trying to make a buck).

But when the pendulum swings the other way - oooh, look out. To survive in a recession, you actually need to have business savvy (or at least understand some the basics of business), a quality product, and excellent customer service.

Look at the mortgage / banking industry now! Since the collapse of the housing market there are over 200 well known mortgage companies that have gone under (big and small) - declared bankruptcy and left the business. Do you think they are the strong ones - or the weak ones? It is true market "Darwinism" - and the herd has been thinned out.

There is no magic way to survive during a recession - it is simply doing the things that every business should do all the time, but most businesses are too lazy to stay focused on - when the cash is flowing in.

I've been working with small businesses from varying industries and marketplaces for the past two years. I've also been doing some thorough research on down-turned markets in the past and how best to survive them. The trick to surviving can be reduced to 4 Principles of Sounds Business. Those principles are:

- Cash is king!
- Take care of your customers or someone else will!
- Deliver a consistent product / service every time!
- Marketing the smart way!

But. . . before I break these basic principles down for you, let me give you one other principle that applies as much to life as it does to business.

That additional principle is that all things being equal - there is an inverse relationship between spare money and spare time. It's rare to have both - money and time. So when money is down, you need to take advantage of your available time to make money. And when business is booming, there is rarely enough time to do the things you want to do, but plenty of money to pay someone else to do them.

So when sales are down (as they usually are in a recession), and there isn't a lot of work for you to do "in" your business - that is the best time to work "on" your business. And prepare it for the long road ahead. That may sound obvious, but most people don't seem to take advantage of the slower sales / customer traffic to do the work that needs to be done o create new business both today and in the future.

You see, when sales are up, you tend have a lot excess money and very little spare time. So you spend, spend, spend to get things done. But when things slow down, the opposite is usually true. The trick is to take advantage of the slow time to improve your business - apply the four principals to your business, survive the downturn and prepare for the big upswing that is forth coming by having a better run business.

Now, let's break the original Four Principles down a bit further.

Cash is king!

In any business cash is important. But during a recession, the businesses that have a ready supply of cash are going to thrive more than any other. Why is this more important during a recession than during a growth stage? Basically cash is more important during a downturn because credit becomes increasingly hard to come by - everyone is hurting and Banks / Lenders understand the importance of cash more than anyone.

There are many cases when profitable businesses go out of business because they failed to manage their cash flow properly. Don't let this happen to you. Look at your cash flow and begin to figure out where you can make adjustments to both accounts receivable and payable to ensure a healthy cash flow throughout your year.

Take care of your customers or someone else will!

During a downturn, most businesses will struggle and many will go out of business completely. This means that when all is said and done, you should have more market share after the downturn than before - though your sales may fall off. So, just because you might start gaining customers from others misfortunes - or misgivings, the one thing you do not want to do is lose your existing client base.

Your current clients are today, and will be for the coming months, your life blood. Take care of them. Nurture them. And by all means, make sure they know how important they are to your business.

And if you see them starting to leave - stop them! Get them back in your store - at all cost.

Deliver a consistent product / service every time!

The truth is, whether we are in a recession or not, for most small businesses across America (especially following the holidays) sales are slow and time is plentiful. The early part of the year tends to be a "breather" time for many businesses from retail to manufacturing.

Retail sales are down, so most retailers are cutting back. And most manufacturers are either re-tooling or re-evaluating for the coming year. So, take advantage of the slower times to build the systems and procedures that will enable you to deliver consistent products / services regardless of your staff.

The trick to long term success isn't being able to produce today - but to be able to produce a consistent product today, tomorrow and next month. If you product is hamburgers, make sure that everyone tastes the same, and the experience the customer gets every time is the same. If you product is mortgages, and one of your marketing elements is turnaround times for brokers, then make sure you can consistently deliver what you promise.

This requires strategic planning - to not only make sure you can deliver today - but also making sure you can deliver consistently on your promise during spikes in business as well as slow downs.

Make Decisions Based on Actual Measurable Facts - Not Gut Feelings!

All too often, small business owners will tell me "sales are down". I have no doubt that they are. But . . . the follow-up up questions is usually, how do you know?

Now, if they are able to pull up sales numbers quickly, I'll take it one step further and ask them Why? or Where are they down? To that question, I rarely get an answer. And without it, the right solutions to the problem are very difficult to come by.

Let me explain. So, what if we are talking about a phone sales company. We look at the data and overall sales are down 10%. That's bad right? Could be, but what if the product you main product is selling for 15% less this year than last year and overall volume is up 3%? Is that bad or good?

Or, what if new customer sales is up 100% and repeat customer sales are down 25%?

What problem needs to be focused on then? Or what if those numbers were reversed - what problem should you come up with a solution for?

Everything comes down to numbers and looking at them objectively - no matter how painful it might be. But I can tell you this - it might be tough looking at the numbers now and facing the facts that they present to you - but it is far better to find out the real truth now, when there is time to fix it, than in bankruptcy court, when you can only say to your lawyer, "My gosh, if I had only realized that back in December 2008, things would have been much better."

Over the course of the next four months, I will be taking these concepts and drilling down deeper so that you can make sure you know how best to apply them to your unique situation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

To Get Testimonials, Be Who You Say You Are - Be Trustworthy

When you say it about yourself, people call you a bragger.
But when someone else says it about you, they see you as a genius.

So, how do you get people to say it about you? How do you get people to stand up and make their voice heard about how great you are? How do you get "Tesimonials"?

"Do what you do so well that they will
want to see it again and bring their friends."
Walt Disney

Believe it or not, getting testimonials have little to do with your product. They do, however, have a whole lot to do with what else you do for yor customers. You see, your customers "expect" your product to be good - to be what you say it is. But in today's marketplace, they don't expect you to do more - because so few businesses actually do.

So when you do more than they expect - you follow-up on whether they were happy, you provide extra value without being prompted, you go that extra mile just to get a smile, your customers get excited. And excitement is what will get them talking about you.

At Disney World or Disneyland, it isn't the rides that people rave about (even though the rides are quite fun) - you can go on rides at any amusement park or carnival. Instead, it's about how you feel when you are at the park - its the experience you get before, during and after you experience the Disney Experience.

Disney doesn't just build rides and entertainment you, they treat you like you are the only family that matter. From the CEO to the person who empties the trash around the park, somehow, even though you walk around with 10,000-20,000 other customers, you feel like its all about you. You feel like they built the park for you and to give your kids the greatest memories of their lives.

It's the way they serve you, the way they care about customer service, how they listen to you that makes the biggest difference. When you do more than just provide your product or service and you go that extra mile, your customer starts to believe your rhetoric about wanting to be more than just a Donut Shop, a Realtor, or a IT Support Team. They begin to see you as caring - and they begin to trust you.

With trust, comes followership. And with real followership, you get devoted clients that want you to succeed. You get lots of testimonials.

Frankly, testimonials come when you earn them - when you have Integrity. And like earning trust with friends and family, its more than just saying you are trustworthy, its about BEing trustworthy.

So if you want testimonials, become who you say you are - not in your eyes, but in the eyes of your customers. And remember, testimonials don't come from saying your good, they come when the customer walks away from the experience feeling that their life has been changed. They come when your clients believe in you and trust you enough to let you put their name next to yours.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Simple Tips to Difficult Conversations - Know What You Want!

Have you ever had to have a conversation with someone, about something very important, but were scared to death to do it, because of the potential repercussions? Or have you ever had a conversation that started sweet and innocent, but then became divisive and emotional, when you least expected it?

I think there are two types of people in the world, when it comes to these questions - those that have faced these struggles in the past. . . and those that will - someday in the future.

Difficult, stressful conversations, that can become life altering happen everyday. How we handle them is often the difference between success and failure - regardless of who you are.

No matter where you are in your life, difficult conversations can be the most stressful and tasking thing that we, as compassionate and feeling human beings, face. There are things that we know we need to share with others, but our fears of what might happen, seem to always prevent us from actually doing anything about it. Until it's too late.

Regularly, I have clients ask me what to do in this situation. And much to their frustration, I ask them a simple question in return . . .

What do you want?

As simple as that may sound, knowing what you want at all times when these difficult conversations come up can be the difference between a happy ending or one that is far "less than happy". The problems arise, when you forget what you want - what really matters to you - and you don't keep those desires in the fore front of your mind.

Do you want to get into a fight about it? Of course not. You want to come up with an amicable solution.

Is it your intent to make someone else feel bad by telling them something very personally difficult to hear? Definitely not. But you do want to help them understand the truth and help them resolve the issue if they want to.

The trouble is most people don't know what they want, so it's nearly impossible for them to think about it when they are in the midst of a very trying situation. And even when they think they do know what they want, they often haven't dug deep enough to know what is most important to them - instead of just the surface "feel good" stuff.

So, when you are about to have a difficult conversation or maybe even find yourself in one already, stop yourself and think for just a second, "What do I really want to come out of this conversation?" Do you want to resolve the problem or issue so that everyone wins . . . or do you want to be right?

Once you know the answer and focus on it, I think you'll surprise even yourself how you handle the conversation.

Monday, March 23, 2009

What's On Your To Do List?

I read an interesting Tweet this morning, "I've got a lot of things to get done this week, I better make a To Do List".

Have you ever noticed that when you really want to get things done - not just say you want to get them done - you create a To Do list? Why is that?

Because it WORKS!!!

Most of us, at one time or another, don't get things done that we had planned to get done. But it's rarely because we were blowing them off or ignoring them, it's usually because we simply forgot about them.

Hence, the invention of the "To Do List" and the little yellow sticky to put it on (boy I wished I would have invested in 3M back then).

You see, I am big on accountability. In fact, I believe, more than anything else "Accountability" is what a coach brings to his clients. But not everyone has, wants or thinks they can afford a coach - so we try to create methods or systems that will help us fulfill our need for accountability on our own. The "To Do List" is a silent piece of accountability that we create to help us face our successes and failures in accomplishing what it is we want to do.

So if they work so well, why don't we use "To Do Lists" for everything that we need or say we want to get done? The answer is as simple as it is obvious - because there are a lot of things that we say we want to do, but really don't want to do or don't know how to do. And we don't want to waste the magic of getting things done on these lower priority items.

What's on your "To Do List" says a lot about YOU. It reveals "what" and "who" are important to you. You can see whether you are focused on changing your circumstances or maintaining the status quo. And at a very basic level, when viewed over a stretch of time, your "To Do List" reflects your Mission, your Vision, and your Commitments in both business and life - because it reflects what you find "most important" in your life.

So as you look at YOUR "To Do List", what do you see? What is most important to you? And does it reflect what you want it to reflect? Are there things that you say are important to you, but aren't quite making it on your list. Why is that?

So, let me re-phrase my initial Title question. Maybe you shouldn't just be looking at what's on your "To Do List" - maybe you should be looking at what's not on your "To Do List".

And WHY!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Start Building Trust Within Your Team

If you were to ask most people sitting around a table if they trusted the people they work with, most would say yes - at least publicly. The funny thing is that most people believe their answer - or at least want to believe it. But I have found that when pressed a bit further on the issue, there is really very little trust in any team.

But I'm not talking about trusting someone will do what is asked of them or trusting that they are competent at their job. I am talking about trusting someone enough to be ourselves around them - to volunteer ideas and opinions without the fear of ridicule or retribution - to not be betrayed for being who we are.

Now take that one step further - how well do you really trust your friends and family? How much do you trust that they will listen to you and accept you, and embrace your differences as much as your similarities? It's as important to find the answer to this question as it is to answer any other question in your life. Because if you don't trust them to support who you are, they you are probably denying yourself right now.

How many of us are actually willing to say that we don't understand something to our peers, family members, friends, or teammates? Or that we disagree with something really popular? How about admitting that you made a mistake? Ask for help? Or the most difficult for many of us, hold a someone else accountable for something they either did or failed to do and not have it blow up in our face? This is the trust that I'm talking about. This is the trust that is the foundation of a solid team - a solid partnership, whether it be business or personal.

Funny thing is that most of us, think / expect this "trust" to be present at the most critical time - without any investment into it. We think that just because there is a crisis going on, people will tell us the truth and give us their best. But building trust among teammates / partners doesn't only occur during a crisis. It happens every minute of every day, in the way we conduct ourselves doing out daily activities. It happens in the way we "walk our talk" each and every day.

So here is a tip that you can start practicing today. If you are on a team (whether you are the leader or not) and want to build more trust amongst your team members, stop and ask yourself, "Am I modeling the behavior I want others to emulate?" In nearly every case I know or have seen, I find the answer to be no. That's not to say that it doesn't happen, but if you look honestly at yourself, most people live the mantra, "Do as I say, not as I do."

If you haven't been emulating the behavior you want, STOP right there. Over the course of the next month, show some vulnerability to your team mates. Tell them when you don't know the answer to a problem or that you don't understand what they are doing. Be honest with yourself about the mistakes that you made, the commitments that you haven't followed up on, and the accountabilities that you've missed - and share them with your team. Odds are, they already know (though they may act surprised), because others are usually more keenly aware of our foibles than we are. It's our lack of honest self evaluation that gets in the way of our credibility as a member of the team. And by admitting your vulnerabilities (by becoming trustworthy), your team members will gain new respect for you and more importantly will become more willing to be vulnerable as well.

And here is the key to creating change on your team - don't focus on the results of your behavior right away. This would be a fatal mistake. It may feel like the vulnerability is a sign of weakness - that your weakness is only going to cause you more harm than good. But revel in the process - reward yourself for doing, because the results will come - they always do!

Change is hard - people will not immediately trust that this new attitude is real, so they will resist. They will resist for two reasons: one because they won't believe its real, the second because they are afraid of changing themselves. But as you continue to "walk your talk", you will begin to have people open up to you more and more. They will begin to trust you. And shortly thereafter, they will begin to trust others as well. And you will have created a virus (a good virus) that will spread throughout your entire team. You will have become the moral leader of the team, even if you may (or may not) be the formal leader.

And you will have made your team stronger and more capable than they have ever been before.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Be Different In the Eyes of Your Customers

Getting ahead in today's market (or any other time for that matter), whether we're talking personally or professionally, isn't about highlighting how you are the same as everyone else, it's about making sure everyone knows what makes you different.

In business, it's often easy to see others around you being "successful" at what they are doing and try to repeat their success. That's a natural thing. But if you build your entire business plan around being just like everyone else, how are you going to answer the question, "Why would your potential clients choose you over every other way to spend their money?" And more important, how are you going to do what everyone else is doing and steal business away from them - if you don't offer anything else?

Creating success, either professionally or personally, isn't as much about being like everyone else, as it is being different. You need to offer something that no one else offers - make a promise that no one else is willing or even capable of making.

Look at Dominos Pizza in the 1980s - they were an obscure Pizza Restaurant in a small college town, until they made a promise that no one else was willing to make - Hot and Fresh Pizza Delivered in 30 Minutes or Less. Not only did they break the mold, but they did so in such a manner that they dominated the industry for decades to come. They became the model that everyone else copied

And what about Zappos. Who would have thought that people would be willing to buy shoes online, like they do - without ever trying them on first? But with their customer service and commitment to your satisfaction, they've been able to sweep the market place. Do you think they would be as successful as they are today, if their business model was the same as Famous Footwear? I doubt it!

Figure out what makes you unique - what separates you from you competition. And find out what the market wants or needs from your industry that aren't being addressed. When you do, and you embed it inside your Marketing Message - you will see a difference both in the way your current and future clients see you, as well as how your competition looks at you. And instead of you chasing them for marketshare, they will be chasing you.

Friday, March 20, 2009

On A Team, No One Person Is More Important Than Any Other

For over 15 years, I spent a lot of my time, alone in the cockpit of an FA-18 (including over 40 missions in Afghanistan immediately following 9/11). There is nothing better for the ego of a true "Type A" personality than to think that success (or failure) all comes down to him - and no one else.

This is what I thought for the first couple of years of my career. That is until I opened my eyes and faced reality that nothing I did was entirely about me. It was about a team of thousands working together to achieve something bigger than anyone person could do alone. From the Sailor that loaded the bombs on the airplane to the one that launched me into the sky. From the cooks who served us all breakfast to those that ran the engines in the bowels of the ship keeping ship steaming forward - no matter what. Everyone on the team contributed directly to the effort. Everyone was needed to put that bomb on target, at the precise time. And it was this realization that although I could have "personal" success, if it didn't also contribute to team success - to the Vision of the unit, it was worthless.

Sure, I might have been the one who delivered the explosive package to the doorstep of our enemy - and the one who "got the glory". But I was only the last link in a long supply / manufacturing chain that delivered the will of the People of the United States. And chains aren't made up of one link. What good would that be, regardless of how big that one link is? It has no flexibility. And any great stress to a single link will break much easier than when that link is supported by other links.

So a good chain is made up of hundreds, if not thousands of links, each contributing the overall strength of the chain. That's Teamwork. If any link in the chain breaks, the whole chain fails.

Personal success is a wonderful thing, but true greatness of purpose comes from being part of something bigger than yourself.

It doesn't matter whether you are the first link in the chain, leading the way or the last link - at the lowest level of an organization. Every link matters - just as much as the next. The key is to build a strong chain and make sure that if you see one link beginning to absorb more of the stress than the rest - support it. Because remember if that one link fails - so does the whole chain - and so do YOU.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Seven Steps to Small Business Success

According to the Small Business Administration, given the current rate of failure, nearly 85% of all small businesses started this year will fail by the end of 2014. That means that more than 8 out of every 10 entrepreneurs will have their hopes and dreams crushed and their financial accounts drained. But it doesn't have to be that way.

There are steps that every small business owner can follow that will help them reach their goals and do so, relatively easy. The following Seven Steps to Small Business Success are a cursory look at the simple steps that are often overlooked, but are so critical to survival.

1. Build A Solid Foundation. Every business (like your home) needs to be built on a strong foundation. Whether you are just starting out or you are struggling with the growth of your company, start by building or shoring up the foundation first. In business, your foundation is clearly defining "what you do", "where you are going" and "what is most important to you on that journey" - the answers to these three questions make up your Mission, your Vision and your Commitments, respectively.

2. Define How You Measure Success and Make Decisions Based on Those Metrics. Now that you built your foundation, its time to start figuring out how we are going to go from a foundation to the beautiful dream that is the vision. It's time to begin focusing on how we define, more concretely, what we will measure to decide if we are on the path to our dream. Its time to focus on your Metrics and Goals.
3. Create a Cohesive Team - Built on the Foundation of Your Dream. No one person has all the answers and can do it all - not in any industry. Build a team and define the culture of your organization.

Your team may include your family, your friends, your employees, a Business Coach, a CPA, an attorney, or anyone else that commits to help you reach your goals. Each member of your team, including you, needs to clearly know what they do, what they don't do and what is expected of them and that they will be held accountable - not to you, but to the team.

4. Write Guidelines, Build Systems, Share Everything and Empower Your Team. Don't keep everything in your head and try to do things "off the cuff". Clearly define jobs descriptions, expectations and processes within your business - the principals, boundaries and guidelines that represent the company, its employees and its practices. Without these explicit words, a company can be easily taken advantage of, be distracted from its goals or simply get caught chasing its own tail all day.

Additionally, the real competitive edge in the next decade is knowledge and learning. Your team can only help when they know and understand what the problems are - so share. . . everything. You'd be surprised where some of the best ideas come from.

5. Make the Sale. When it comes right down to it, you have to generate sales. If you are lucky, you will have a product that sells itself - but in the long term, that too shall pass. So you ask, how do I sell my product / service? Like every other stage of business - Start with a plan and then move to action. You need other people selling for you - employees help, but you want "raving fans" of your product and cheerleaders of your services. Get out and talk to as many people as you can - potential clients, business owners, friends and family. Join groups and organizations that are have potential clients or relationships with potential clients. Become a visible part of your market. Start with people that you know and that know you. It's not only okay, but highly encouraged, to start with friends and family as your first customers, and then broaden from there. People buy from those that they know and / or trust. So sales is about creating relationships and helping others see value in what you have to offer. And relationships take time. Most people don't want to be sold, but they love to buy - so listen and learn what they want, what they need, and what they value. But don't forget in the end to Ask for the Sale!

6. Take Advantage of Opportunities and Maintain Discipline. The most successful businesses maintain focus on their core mission and how it serves clients. Your core business should be a combination of what you do best, what you are most passionate about and what is what pays the bills. When opportunity comes knocking, and it will, you must have the discipline to make sure that it is aligned with your core mission and your strategic, vision before you jump on it - always think carefully before you commit your company resources to what may turn out to be a costly endeavor that takes you time, money and assets from what you do best.

7. Find an Accountability Partner. The "great" people and companies in the world find a way to do what the need to do, but don't want to do, to become who they want to be. Nearly every one of those that truly become great have an accountability partner to help them focus on the goal - the future they are trying to achieve. In sports, we call them coaches. In school, we call them teachers. Some of us have family (parents or maybe a spouse) and friends that hold us accountable to become who we want to be without becoming subjectively attached to the outcome. In recent years, the advent of the personal, executive, and business coaching industry has given us even more options. Whatever it takes - find someone who will stand in your future and believe in you even when you lose faith in yourself - someone who can make you do the things you know you should do, but don't want to do, don't know how to do or are afraid to do, so you can become the person who you dream of becoming.

For more about any or all of these steps, please contact email coach.jj@impossiblefutures.com for more information.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Does Your Business Have A Constitution To Guide It?

It ever ceases to amaze me how many of my clients come to me with an opportunity that has presented itself to them and ask me what I would do. And no matter how many times I tell them my "pat" answer, they look at me dumbfounded.

I tell them, "It doesn't matter what I would do - does it? What matters is what you SHOULD do."

Needless to say, I rarely answer my clients . . . directly. I don't believe that is my job. In fact, I believe my responsibility is to help them find the answer within themselves. Or, at least, show them how to find it. And, besides being the right thing to do, I like to watch them squirm as I walk them through the process of answering the question themselves.

The truth is that not every opportunity is worth pursuing. You have to pick the opportunities that lead you down the same path you are on or desire to be on (or one that is very close to the one you are on), or you will find yourself drifting every which way but the right way.

So, what do I do to help them find their own answers? It's simple, I ask them to follow the same procedures that every business owner (non-business owner for that matter) should use to make an important decision - I ask them what they want, and then ask them how the solution to their new found opportunity can help support that . . . or not.

However, I don't let them tell me what they want - from the top of their head. Instead I make them pull out their Mission Statement, their Vision and their Commitments (or core values) and I make them read those words - out loud.

The reason these documents are so important is because they are the "constitution" of your business - they are the foundation of what you are and what your trying to create. They aren't just words that I made them write when I started working with them, they are the reason a business exists and what it is all about - just as the Constitution of our country defines the Mission, Vision and Core Value of our country.

Furthermore, these documents answer the questions, "What do I do?", Why do I do it", and "How do I do it?" But more importantly, they are the answers that you decided on, in the absence of stress - or opportunity trying to sway you in a different direction. And they were written down so that you could use them for just this reason - to measure against and give yourself a standard for everything that you do.

When used in this manner, the words in these documents are actually the guiding light to help you find your way in any situation.

Peter Drucker said, "Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things." Your Mission Statement, Vision, and Commitments are the documents that will help you decide what the right things are.

So, if you are struggling with your business (or even with life, for that matter), I suggest that, first, before you take one more step, create your own constitution. Write your own Mission, Vision and Commitments. Find out how powerful these documents are in helping you create the business you want.

If you have any questions on how to write your own Mission, Vision, and Commitments, please feel free to contact me directly at coach.jj@ImpossibleFutures.com, I will send you a Free PDF Handout that will walk you through the process.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Be Who You Need To Be

When creating the life you want to have (to live life on purpose), the first step is know what you want. You'd be amazed how at how few people actually know the answer to this question.

The next step is to honestly look at where you are. This is difficult, because most people tend to see their lives as they want to see them, not as they truly are. To see your life as it truly is, you need tools that provide objectivity.

Just getting to this point can be exhausting. So it's no wonder that for those that reach this point, few have the strength or the skills to go any further. And thus many people get to this point and FREEZE. They have a dream, and they figure out where they are, but they don't know how to create their dream - how to take their dream from thought to action.

And the reason they struggle is because they are most likely looking at their problem from the wrong viewpoint.

Most people try to solve problems from the viewpoint from where they are currently, rather than the viewpoint of who they want to be. And this doesn't work.

If you don't believe me, listen to Einstein, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

So what thinking "or perspective" are you supposed to use? Simple, think from the perspective that the problem is already solved. See the world as you want it to be and then figure out how you got there.

It sounds completely crazy, I know. Even as I try to come up with the words to explain it in this Blog, it seems insane. That is, until you see it work. So let me use an example to better explain.

Let's say that you are currently a small yard-care service provider and you have been making$50K in profit every year for the past 4 years. But this year, you want something bigger, you are tired of working your butt off for just $50K. This year your goal is to double your profit ($100K) in your yard service this year. If you try to solve the problem moving forward, what should your fist step be? You could sit there for hours, trying to figure that out, and struggle, because first you need to see what a $100K profit company looks like. You need to understand how figure out how many jobs are required, how many employees are needed, understand the marketing strategy of the larger company and the list goes on. The truth is, no matter, how you look at it from your current status, the most you will really be able generate in growth is 10-15%, not 100%.

Instead, you must first become the owner of a $100,000 profit company and look around yourself and see what you see.

You know that last year, it took everything you could do on your own to do the work necessary to create the profits you did last year, so when you see your $100k business in your mind, you know you are going to have to have employees. But how many? Most likely two to three. So if you want to accomplish this goal, you are going to have to be more than just a technician, you will need to be a manager and leader as well. And since you aren't going to hire all of these employees at the end of they year, you must become that manager immediately, so that you are prepared for the first new hire. Literally, you have to be the manager of a $100K business, even before the business gets there.

Next you know that you are going to have to increase your sales, but by how much? Double? Or maybe even more (with the increased costs associated with growth). But how are you going to do this? For the first time, you will have a marketing strategy - a plan to generate the desire for potential customers to want and desire your services more than anyone else's. But you don't know anything about marketing - so you see that you are going to have to learn and become an owner who does. You need to see yourself as owner who understands marketing - long before you actually do.

This list goes on - equipment needed, communication systems, policies and systems are just a few to start with.

So the question you immediately need to ask yourself, are you ready to become the person you need to be to create your goals? Or are you just the person that likes to live life the way you do now - only wishing that all of your goals would come true.

This is a very tough question, because you are going to have to change who you are - give up the security of who and what you are today. You are going to have to become the person who has the goals, not the person that wants the goals.

So, if you have a goal you want to create, figure out who you need to be to make it happen and don't wait to be that person after you reach your goal - Be Who YOU Need To Be NOW!

Are You Living Your Life Or Just Putting In Time?

Are you just living life as if you were a walking corpse, with no real motivation or drive?

Are you living your life or are you just putting in time, because there isn't anything better to do?

According to Ben Franklin,
"Many people die at twenty five and aren't buried until they are seventy five."

I'd like to say that life is different than it was over 200 years ago, but unfortunately, I don't think it's true. And in many ways it's probably worse than ever.

In my opinion, "living" is about having a dream - a vision that draws you towards it and is the guiding compass for your being. It's about making a difference with the gift that was given to you. And it's about knowing that there is more to living than just working to paying the bills, sitting in traffic or keeping the yard perfectly mowed.

Unfortunately, the cold hard truth is that we only get one chance on this earth to leave our mark on history - regardless of how small that mark may be. And we don't get a mulligan if we screw it up.

Unfortunately, most people have youthful dreams - only to give them up before their 25th birthday. I'd like to think that they've given up on their dreams simply because they stopped believing in their dreams. But doubt that's true. I believe the problem is much bigger than that. Instead, I think most people usually give up their dreams because they stop believing that dreams ever come true. And sadly, they pass that message on to everyone they know - perpetuating despair and hopelessness amongst friends and family - especially their children.

Stop, There is still time to change it all. Don't take another step or waste another minute of your precious gift.

What did you dream about when you were younger?

What did you always want to do?

What would you do if you knew you only had ten years left to live? Five years? One year? One month? One week? Or just one day?

And when you are laying there on your death bed at a ripe old age of 103, what do you want to look back and be remembered most for?

Bottomline, don't wait another minute. Start living today. Live like its the first day of the rest of your life, but as though it could be your last. Find the answers to these questions and use the answers to unlock the doors of opportunity that present themselves to you.

Decide the life you want to live - and live it.

Live life on purpose!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Is Coaching Making A Difference?

According to a worldwide survey * (by an International Network of Social Scientists), happiness of people in industrialized nations has been completely flat since World War II. And believe it or not, based on the overall percentage of happy people, the United States is 16th on the list, behind countries like Nigeria (number 1), Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador and Puerto Rico.

How can that be? We are the United States - the economic leader of the free world. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to matter?

I practice in the industry that professes it has the ability to make all that better - the Coaching / Self-Help Industry. And even though, I will probably create a lot of angst from my peers on this blog, I have to admit that I think we are failing to "truly help" our clients - as an industry.

How else can there be thousands of books published monthly, and over $20Billion spent annually by people trying to improve their lives and / or their business and yet we're no better off than we were 60 years ago?

One of the questions I ask my clients all the time is "Is that working for you?"

So let's think about that question - does it make sense to spend $20Billion per year to generate the same results you had before you started spending the money? And if the answer is "No", then the next question is . . . "What are you going to do about it?"

That means, if you ask me, there are a lot of coaches and self-help gurus out there that need to be fired.

Oh, wait a minute, they are getting fired. In fact the average turnover for clients in the coaching industry is 4 months? And the average time that someone stays focused on a self-help program after they attend a seminar or read about in a book is just over a week.

But yet they keep coming back for more. . . (hence the $20Billion annually). So there is a market, but not a solution - at least one that is making things better.

Many argue that it's the client's fault, they haven't committed enough. And they say, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink." But I think if you ask most clients they will tell you that's why the coach was hired to begin with. If they knew how to drink the water on their own, they wouldn't have hired the coach to begin with. It's not a matter of teaching the client where the water is but instead getting them to understand that they are thirsty at all and getting them to want to drink the water they need to drink, not the water that is making them sick.

I believe Leadership and Coaching is getting people to do what they don't want to do, don't know how to do, or are afraid to do, so they can BE who they want to BE.

And the truth is it's easy to coach a good client, just like it's easy to lead a good follower. But the greatest leaders figure out how to get even the worst followers to follow them and get them to want to do it. So, I think it's time for the coaching and self help industry to shit or get off the pot.

It's time for us to show some real value.

I'm curious, what do you think?

* The survey I reference was done in 2003. Some may argue that more current data may indicate differently, but from other surveys I've read about more recently the same statistics ring true. The reason I didn't use a more current survey, is most people would try to blame current market / economic conditions rather than looking at the failure of the industry that claims to be fixing the problem.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Listen First . . . And Listen Empathetically

"Listening is a magnetic and strange thing,
a creative force. The friends who listen to us
are the ones we move toward.
When we are listened to, it creates us,
makes us unfold and expand."

Next time you find yourself in a passionate discussion or maybe even a heated argument, try something different. Rather than arguing your point of view and putting the other person on the defensive, listen to what they have to say.

I don't mean "shutting up" while they are talking - I mean listen. Turn off the TV and the computer screen. Don't think about what you want to say next. Don't think about what you're having for dinner later. And definitely don't stare off into the sunset, waiting for the noise to stop.

Just listen to them.

And, if you manage to stay focused on the words for more than a minute or two, try to listen past the words and hear the meaning and feelings behind the words.

I know, it sounds hokey. And you are probably asking yourself,

How am I going to win the discussion or argument, if I all I do is listen? I've got to give my opinion in order to change their mind.

But when you listen first and ask sincere questions about what the other person is trying to share, you might be surprised by what happens.

By listening first, you are demonstrating that you care about them as individuals - what they say and how they feel matters to you. And believe it or not, you are building trust. You are demonstrating to them that it's not an argument that you are trying to win, but rather a winning solution you are trying to find with them - the right solution.

And believe it or not, when someone trusts you, they actually begin to want to hear your opinion and gain your advice. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But if you continue to practice the art of listening first, you will be surprised at the influence you gain - simply by building trust.

"The reason why so few people are agreeable in conversation is that each is thinking more about what he intends to say than about what others are saying, and we never listen when we are eager to speak."
Francois La Rochefoucauld

Friday, March 13, 2009

Keep Moving Forward!

On Wednesday, I was reminded by Wendy Christiansen (authenticstyle on Twitter) of one of my favorite Disney films, Meet The Robinsons. Wendy didn't specifically bring up the movie (I did that), but I was inspired by the many quotes that she was sharing with the Twitter world by someone she admires greatly, Walt Disney.

For those of you who haven't seen the movie, I will do my best not spoil the plot (nor the power of the ending). But suffice it to say, that of all the Disney movies I've ever seen, the message of this one was delivered as perfectly as any live action movie. The way the Director and Writers of this movie carried the message of the story through to the end was absolutely AMAZING.

The moral of the story, "Keep Moving Forward", is interwoven in the stories of two young roommates in an orphanage. It is a Back to the Future plot with all the intracacies of the time travel. But it is the very powerful message that plays upon the impact that "regret" has in our lives, that makes this movie stand out as a Keeper.

The truth is, things happen to us that we may or may not have planned on happening. Sometimes we don't get the job we had hoped for (or we get fired / laid-off). Or we go through a divorce (or break up before we ever had the chance to get married). Maybe we have a child out of wedlock and are raising him or her on our own. Or we get diagnosed with a "chronic" or even fatal illness that was no fault of our own. The truth is, bad things happen to good people and these things are outside of our immediate control - for whatever reason.

However, although we may not be able to control the circumstances or events in our lives, we do have complete control over our responses. We always have a choice! We can dwell on the negative and live a life of sadness, sorrow and self-pity - always wishing we could change the past. Or we can accept what has happened in our lives as part of who we are and always look to the future as an opportunity to create greatness.

It sounds like an easy choice - from a conscious perspective. But if you don't stop and think about it, and choose the happiness and the future, it is very easy to fall into the habit of regret and bitterness. For most people, it happens every day.

So, like the characters in the movie, you get to make the choice. Dwell on the past . . .


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Communication - The Solution To Your Problems

Got Problems? Communication is the solution - or at least it is 99,99% of the time.

Every problem has a solution - the difficulty most people have is finding and implementing the best solution. I want to thank Gloria Bell, Brett Bodine, Jenci Spradlin, Joe Cook and Brian Campbell from Twitter for reminding of the power of communication in amazing chat last night.

Unfortunately, too often, people try to solve their problems with the same thought process that created it (their own mind) and they tend to carry the burden of the problems (and thus the solution) on their own shoulders.

Whether we like it or not, we are social beings. We need to share our lives with others to optimize our happiness and grow individually and collectively. And thanks to technology, we are able to grow our social networks larger and larger than ever before - gaining advice, support and actual help from more friends, neighbors, and even (dare I say it) enemies than ever before.

We all have expertise of some specific field. But no matter who you are, we all lack something - some knowledge and wisdom that we need others to fill in. Some are better at finances, while others are better at marketing. Some have great hand-eye coordination but lack the ability to think systematically, and yet others are the exact opposite. Nobody, I repeat NOBODY, can do it all on their own.

And the glue to our network is communication. The answer to nearly every problem is communication. The more trusted and open the communication is, the more effective we can be in accomplishing our goals - if for no other reason than because the more likely others (whom we need) will be both willing and able to help us.

So stop trying to be a one man or one woman show (and yes, I'm taking my own advice on this one). Share your vision of the future with every one you know (and even those you don't know). Invite them into your life. Engage with them to find out what they have to offer to you - or to others around you.

Listen and read more than you talk and write.

Only when you do all of these things with an open heart and an open mind will we all truly begin to make strides to reach the next level of the human experience.

Up until the Industrial Age, our Tribe (as Seth Godin like to call it) was very limited. Our sphere of influence rarely left our own home - at most reaching to the edges of our direct community (town or city).

Then with the advent of new forms of communication and transportation in the Industrial Age, we were able to extend our spheres of influence well beyond the limits of our eyesight - our reach went beyond the horizons for the first time. But during this age of communication, time tended to be the biggest limiting factor in the development and growth of our Tribe - because we could only communicate with so many on a regular, consistent basis.

But now, in the Information Age, there are no limits in time or space on who we can reach out and communicate with. The world is our playground - and currently there are 6 billion people all hanging out together.

Sometimes the noise can be deafening. But if you leverage technology properly, you will find that you can build personal relationships and find partners that compliment you in any endeavor you wish to pursue.

So reach out - engage and invite others into your world. And literally. . .

Grow in ways you never thought possible.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

A client of mine told me yesterday that making more money, doing what he was doing, is easy. But then he said, he isn't doing it, because he doesn't like what he's doing anymore.

Can you say EXCUSE?

Yep, that's what it is - nothing but an excuse.

It's amazing the excuses we make trying to defend our actions - or even better our in-actions (and I use the pronoun 'we' in the preceding statement purposefully). The scary thing is that we reward this "excuse-able" behavior by convincing ourselves that the excuses are legitimate - that they are valid reasons to prevent us from taking action.

Don't kid yourselves - these excuses may help you feel better in the short term, but in the long term you will kick yourself over them. And most likely you are setting yourself up for a life of regret if you don't break this habit immediately.

Frankly, you have a choice - either you can choose to NOT have the world you want, making excuses for every little thing that gets in your way. Or, you can take control of your life by taking full responsibility for what you do (or don't do).

It is your choice. And whether you realize it or not, everyday you're making this choice - even though most of the time it's done completely unconsciously.

So as you are going about your day, listen to yourself. Listen to the language you use when you tell yourself or others why you didn't do something you intended to get done. Listen to the reasons and ask yourself, "Am I just making excuses?"

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stop Waiting For The Phone To Ring

Regardless of your industry or size of your business, many of you are saying the same thing, "Business seems to be drying up. The phone just isn't ringing like it used to."

Why is that? Is it all the recession? Or is there something that you are or aren't doing that is contributing to your current situation?

If you ask me, the recession is a contributing factor, but it isn't the only reason your sales and profits are down. In my opinion, blaming some THING or some ONE else is a victim's attitude.

With every crisis, there is an opportunity to create a new success. So your job is to find that opportunity and seize it - to take the actions that no one else is willing or able to take in your market.

And so, I offer to you that making the phone ring and customers walk through your door isn't something you can fix today. It required weeks of work and investment in marketing that should have begun long before now. So stop stressing about it. Use that energy to launch yourself to the next level. And focus on what you can do NOW to affect your business tomorrow, next week and next month.

You see, you can't change your current reality any more than you can change your past. You are where you are right now, because of your actions (or in-actions) of the past. Today, you can only change your future, not your present. So unless you want to have the same conditions next month as you have today, it's time to look at what different actions you are going to take RIGHT NOW to change your current reality into what you want for the future.

The next couple months and years are going to be tough. But I can promise you this, they will be a lot tougher, if you don't get involved and start taking control of your own destiny. Odds are no one is going to bail you out.

Of all the times to be a business owner - now is not the time to sit on the sideline and wait for customers to find you. Get out there and be willing to take chances. Start taking control of your business - take control of your marketing and rather than waiting for your phone to ring, MAKE IT RING.

Make your potential customers choose you over every other option they have to spend their money.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind, Part III

In the past two days, I have been discussing the Power of the Subconscious Mind – both from a stand point of understanding what it does and doesn't do for you as well as explain how it does it. Today, I will close the three part series with a couple examples of how others leverage this power and how you can as well.

There are many ways to leverage the power of the subconscious mind, but I'm going to discuss two very specific ones, and give some examples of how these tools are helping people all over the world - right now. And I will show you can use them yourself in your everyday life. The two methods are Briefing and Visualizing.

My background, as you may or may not know, is in Naval Aviation. For nearly 20 years, I flew FA-18s for the US Navy. This is a dangerous community, that unfortunately has written most of its "lessons learned" in the blood of lost Aviators. But it's also a community that does everything it can to prevent making the same mistakes more than once. It is for that reason that Naval Aviation began to formalize it's Briefing process to help Aviators prepare for missions and minimize the tragedies that were so costly in the early years of Carrier Aviation.

The Brief has two purposes. The first, not as relevant to this discussion, is to assign responsibilities during the flight and to make sure everyone knows what they are supposed to do when. The second, which is directly related to this discussion is to cue the memories of the pilots and flight officers of what they are going to do, before they are put into the position of having to do it.

Each flight, pilots, whether flying alone or with others, review everything they expect to encounter on the forthcoming flight from standard checklists to emergency situations that they are most likely to encounter during the flight.

Specifically, there is one Immediate Action Emergencies (as we called them – because the procedures had to memorized verbatim) that comes to mind. It is our “Settle Off The Catapult Procedures” - what you do if you get to the end of the catapult shot off the front of the carrier and you don't have enough speed to actually go flying safely. These procedures are probably the most time critical procedures that any pilot must learn, because reaction time for survival is often seconds at most (and often tenths of seconds in the worst cases).

*** Click here to watch a quick video showing these dangers. ***

If the situation occurs that the pilot must go through these procedures, there is little time to figure out what to do, it is pure reaction. And it often requires responses faster than you have time to consciously process – literally, you must rely on your subconscious inputs. As such, every flight, that launches from the carrier, briefs these procedures so that they are refreshed into the forefront of the Pilot's subconscious mind. This has been proven time and again to save lives by ensuring the pilot's subconscious mind is prepared to draw from the right procedures very quickly.

In fact, I know many pilots (including myself when I flew) that would make sure to go through the procedures one last time while taxiing into position just before all night catapult shots. They would literally touch gently each button or handle that is part of the procedure – so as not to forget EXACTLY where they are – cuing there mind one last time. And it works!

Briefing and mentally preparing works because your subconscious mind has prepared itself for likely situations it will face. So where else, besides aviation, is this technique used?

Just about everywhere you see consistent success.

Most often people do it somewhat informally – and they see good results. But if they were to just start formalizing the practice, they would generate considerably better results in every endeavor of their lives.

For example, game preparation for any sporting event is about going over the game plan and the plays that you expect to use – and how the opponent may react. It involves reviewing in your mind what you are going to do, when, and how - thinking through at some level all the differing problems you might face and what actions you would like to take when they happen.

It's important to note, that this is in no way a guarantee that you take the planned actions. You may choose to do something different, real time, given the situation. But by briefing all contingencies, you have a higher probability of success.

Additionally, you see this in business teams (as well as individual efforts). As an example, think about Sales Teams. The Sales Team that briefs how they are going to follow their system before making calls (cold or hot) is prepared for all contingencies. They will be more prepared to handle each situation that the perspective customer could throw at them – even before they encounter it, because the response will be “top of mind” for them. This improves consistency and reduces individual errors. And these teams that brief are far more likely to make their target goals, as they are able to recognize resistance from the customer quicker, often responding to it, even before the customers feels it consciously themselves.

And there is no reason that it can't apply to everyone on a personal level as well. No matter what your daily activities involve, you can better prepare yourself to handle the situations, at a much higher level of success, simply by reviewing what you are going to do and how you are going to do it, minutes or hours before hand.

The other technique that I wanted to discuss was visualization – visualization of both short term desire and long term goals.

Although, you can use visualization techniques during briefing, what I'm referring to goes a bit further than just leveraging the power of visualization in preparation for a planned situation. The visualization I'm referring to is about first creating what you desire in your mind – and then creating it in the real world.

Truth is, before anything can be created in reality, it must first be an idea or thought in your mind. And when you create a new idea or desire a new outcome, you subconscious mind looks at this as a problem to be solved – which it LOVES to do.

Whether it is a short term desired outcome or a long term goal, it will go through the same process. First it will look through file structure already in your mind - the solutions from your past. But in the absence of a good solution, it will begin to rapidly blend pre-existing solutions, as well as look for external (outside) opportunities to try to come up with a solution. The stronger your visualization of the desired outcome, the higher the probability of it finding a solution that will solve the problem.

In the case of visualizing short term solutions, you are most often tapping into your own ability to create a solution from internal blends of pre-existing solutions. This is often called “thinking on your feet” – coming up with creative blends of situations that you may or not have seen in the past. And because the subconscious can't tell the difference between reality and fantasy, it may create solutions then blend your own experiences with those that you have read about or even dreamed of. Some are better than others at this. But not because they are better thinkers or more creative. Instead people who are better at "thinking on their feet" tend to be those that have a larger database of solutions to pull from – based on their past. And that requires prep work - practice.

As an example, in golf, one of my favorite sports, Phil Mickelson is the master at this. No one is more creative in coming up with “off the wall” shots to save a horrible lie. As you watch him, it almost seems like he is inventing the shots as he goes. But as it turns out, that's not the case. I've seen him in interviews discuss how he tries hundreds of different types of shots in practice because he knows he's going to find himself in weird situation during a tournament.

So when Phil Mickelson has a horrible lie and can't see the hole that he is aiming for because of a big tree in his way, he stops, visualizes what he wants to do and leaves the rest to his subconscious mind to come up with a solution. Does he know this is happening? Probably not, but that doesn't matter. It happens because that's the way our mind works. He sees the shot he wants to make and his subconscious mind retrieves the method he used to do it in practice. Then it's all “muscle memory” that puts the shot in place.

Visualization of long term goals is a little different.

I'm guessing you've heard ideas about the Law of Attraction or “asking the Universe” for what you want as taught through the Teachings of Abraham and The Secret. The concepts are that if you simply think about what you want, and ask the universe, the energy of the thoughts alone will attract to your your desires and actually turn them into reality. In one way, I believe in these ideas, but not because of some cosmic energy creates it. Instead I believe it is YOU that creates the solution – your subconscious mind – not an external force over which you have no direct control.

When you “visualize” a problem for your subconscious mind that it cannot solve immediately, it doesn't quit looking - it continues to look for answers until you direct it elsewhere. If there are no answers within your memories to the solution, you subconscious mind tries to find a solution outside externally. It listens more intently, watches your surroundings closer, and does what it can to manipulate your thoughts to attract you to situations that it believes will most likely provide answers.

Let's say you are looking to surround yourself with people who are truly happy. As long as you can visualize that happiness in a powerful way and do so again and again, your subconscious mind will feed your conscious mind with thousands of thoughts steering you away from negativity in others and towards people that bring happiness to you. Its not that these people magically come into your life – they are going about their own life, seeking the things they are seeking. What has happened is that your subconscious mind has gone through all your existing patterns and steered you towards taking actions that will increase the likelihood of you meeting and engaging with these positive people.

And you recognize these happy people easier – because your sense are tuned to their presence. As opposed to the presence of negativity. You subconscious mind doesn't create their happiness nor does the universe bring them to you. Instead, you change your habits (as controlled by your subconscious) to give you a better chance of meeting these people and building a relationship with them.

The same thing can happen with wealth. If there is a specific goal that you want to create - and you commit to that goal as a priority - your subconscious mind will first look for a solution internal to your past experiences. But in the absence of a solution, it will look elsewhere - external to your own memories and experiences. It will lead you down new paths - meeting new people, reading new books, and living new experiences - all of which it thinks will supply you with the solution.

What is the difference between believing it is your subconscious mind is creating your world and some powerful universal force? Simple – in one situation, you are at the will of some outside (external force), giving you an excuse when it fails. And the other is completely controlled by you and you alone. And you have no excuses any more - for the situation you are in.

Bottomline, the power to create your world is within YOU not with some outside force. But in order to create the world you want, you can't just continue to do what you have always done, you must to accept that you do have the power and learn how to leverage it.

You must learn how to leverage the Power of Your Subconscious Mind!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind, Part II

The power of the human experience is truly limitless – and I believe the key to that power rests in the ability to unlock and leverage the energies and capabilities of the subconscious mind. In Part I of this three part series, I endeavored to explain what the subconscious mind does and how it interacts with our conscious thoughts. And in this part, Part II, I intend to further expand on the ability of the subconscious mind by discussing how it can be distracted and let you down during times that you need it most, how you can leverage the power of your existing file structures and finally how you can start to change your patterns of thinking and begin to take control of your subconscious mind.

First, let's talk about the why and how the subconscious mind can be distracted and let you down in times that you often need it the most. As I discussed in first part of this series, the subconscious mind is constantly absorbing information from all around you – through your senses that you are both focusing attention on and the ones that you aren't. It is recording all the information in your memory – including that which you aren't even consciously aware of. It does this constantly. But that's not all it is doing.

Another major task that your subconscious mind is constantly working on is to find solutions to the problems that you have in your life. It is constantly going through its existing file structure (using the computer analogy) again, looking for the answers to questions that you have posed to it. Some of these questions have simple answers, but some are much more complex.

How many times has a name, date, or other significant thought suddenly popped into your head minutes or even hours after you tried remembering the fact – even when you weren't consciously thinking of the question? Believe it or not, this is your subconscious mind diligently going through all of the files in your brain looking for the answer. The more recently the file had been accessed, the easier it is to find.

These efforts to find solutions to your problems would seem to be a very good thing (and it is very useful), but it can be costly as well.

You see, even though, your subconscious mind is very powerful, capable of handling, storing and retrieving, millions of bits of data, it does have it's limitations. The more you burden your subconscious mind with difficult problems to solve, the less processor time it has to spend on some of its normal, every day work – absorbing and analyzing incoming data from the senses, and feeding insight and recommendations to the conscious mind given its comparison of current situations to past circumstances of your life. Literally, the processor is overloaded and like your computer it will slow down and even lock-up.

How does this affect you? Believe it or not, the impact could be dramatic. As an example, during the car accident rates for normally safe driving adults spike during time periods around a divorce (plus or minus 6 months). And the reason is simple.

During a divorce, we are experiencing more complex and unique problems than we have ever faced before. This causes the subconscious mind to work overtime to try to solve these very complex problems (day and night). As it is spending so much “processor time” trying to solve your marital problems as well as find ways of binning all the new information that is coming in, it is not supporting your daily life activities by monitoring your surroundings through the senses that you aren't paying attention to. So when your conscious mind is distracted by a ringing telephone, a song that comes on the radio, or the driver that just cut you off, the normal support you get from your subconscious mind isn't there, and your likelihood of an accident goes up dramatically.

Now, before you panic about the “low level stress” (as I like to call it) that distracts your subconscious mind from supporting you in your daily activities, please note there is something you can do about it. First, be aware of the “stress” in your life. The fights that you are having with love ones, the bills that aren't getting paid, a love one that is terribly ill or has recently passed away and anything else that would normally keep you up at night are all things that will distract your subconscious mind. And when you see them beginning to develop, stop. Assess your life and simply be aware. Take your time with your daily activities – noting that your best will be slightly compromised on these days. And the more these things are bothering you, the more pronounced your decreased performance will be.

Some have a skill called “compartmentalizing”. This is where you can separate circumstances from one part of your life from affecting another – so as to not allow them to interfere with each other. An example is a fight at home that you manage to leave at home to as to not allow it to interfere with your job performance. This is a very powerful skill, but it primarily focuses around conscious thought – and has only limited control over the subconscious mind. The key is noting that when these things occur, you may not be at your best, unless you take some actions to do something about it. We will talk about this more in tomorrow's Part III of the blog.

Now that I've discussed one of the dangers of the depending on the subconscious mind, let's talk about how to leverage the power of the existing file structures that lie within your subconscious mind.

Just about everything in your life has been recorded in the annals of your mind – including many things that you weren't even aware of at the time. These things can be leveraged to help you perform at peaks levels in every aspect of your life.

You see, as I stated yesterday, your subconscious mind is believed to work 1000-3000 times faster than your conscious mind. It is analyzing your existing conditions and comparing them to past situations (your old files) to find the best response to every situation you find yourself in.

So, the question is, how can you leverage your subconscious mind to become the best you can be?

Well, it is believed the best way to do this is to actually “cue” up the files you want your subconscious mind to access, before you need them and make sure that it is pulling from experiences and ideas that will benefit you when you need them rather than those that will harm you.

But how do you do that? Even though it sounds quite complex, it's actually quite simple. You access the files right before you need them, so that they are “top of mind” when a situation that is going to require them comes up. This is the essence of “visualization”.

Frankly, as good as the subconscious mind is at accepting inputs from the five senses, it has no way of telling the difference between reality and fantasy. Whether you are watching a movie, dreaming, or living your life, it tends to take in those events and bin them the same. As your subconscious mind experiences each of these situations, it stores the memories in the files that they relate to, based on your existing file structure – which is why every one experiences things and remembers them just a little bit differently – they are stored in ways that match the individuals personal experience.

Now in a stressful event, or just going through every day life for that matter, your subconscious mind will usually look first in the file folders that have been most recently accessed to compare your current situation to and to find solutions to problems that arise. This occurs, even when there may be a better file to assist you in the situation. So, although you can't directly control what files your subconscious pulls from, you can increase the likelihood that it will pull from the files that will increase your success.

You can actually see a great example of this in Football (and in all sports for that matter). By watching hours and hours of tapes on their opponents, players and coaches can actually begin to program their subconscious mind to see how their opposition will most likely respond given certain situations. And if done properly, the players can actually increase the likelihood that their subconscious mind will notice a given formation and play before the conscious mind will even see it. This gives the player the feeling that they are inside the mind of their opponent – literally seeing their moves before they make them – at an unconscious level. And I know you've heard the term, “He's unconscious.” when referring to a player that is playing at a level far and above normal skill level.

So the key hear is making sure the information you want to access is “top of mind” for the subconscious mind to draw from before the event occurs. There are many ways to accomplish this goal, but the most common being visualization techniques, briefing, and even “warming up” before the event.

They all work, but what is most important is that you find one that works for you – and that you use it.

Finally, in Part II of this blog, I want to discuss, at least at a cursory level how to begin to take control of your subconscious mind and shape it to assist you even more to achieve your desired goals.

You've heard people say that if you want to change a habit, it takes 21 days of consistent practice. The time frame is arguable, but the concept is absolutely true – if you want to change the way your subconscious mind supports and controls your life, you have to create new file folders from which it will draw information and feed it to your mind.

As I said before, our subconscious mind loves repetition. In fact, it tries to bin everything that comes in to your mind into pre-existing file folders. Partly, because it's the easiest thing to do, and partly because it knows that you conscious mind is quite random – always chasing new ideas and new fads.

Over time it has seen thousands of new ideas come in. And nearly everyone of those ideas has died on the vine – eventually forgotten before it really gained any ground. Your subconscious knows that if it kept a file folder for everyone of those ideas, it would make it VERY hard to find the files that it really needed in a timely fashion – just as you have trouble finding files on your computer if you don't manage your file folders in an organized fashion.

This means that if you want to create a new way of thinking, and generate support from your subconscious mind to help you perpetuate that thought process, you have to be both focused and diligent. You have to do everything you can, every day, to make sure that you are emphasizing this new way of thinking and drive these thoughts repeatedly into your subconscious.

For example, if you have new goals that you want to create – read them out loud, so that you are using your sight, your speech, and your listening all at the same time – and do this at least once a day. For the first couple of days, they feel powerful to your conscious mind, but not so much to the subconscious. Mostly because the subconscious doesn't know what to make of them – they don't really fit into your existing model of thinking. But over time, you start to make a dent into the way the subconscious views these goals – it starts to look that them as real problems that need to be solved. And instead of trying to bin them in already existing file folders, it tries to figure out a “new way” to resolve the situation.

It is at this moment, that you have your first level of break though into making these goals a reality. Precisely when your subconscious recognizes that there are no old paradigms or methods of solving / binning these goals, it begins to look at the problems differently – it begins to seek new solutions. And it creates new file folders that it can access regularly to solve this and other problems like it.

And finally, as this occurs, you are unleashing the most powerful tool in our personal arsenal – your subconscious mind.

Tomorrow, in the final part of this blog series, I will give you some powerful tools that you can apply to your life as well as some powerful examples of people that have leveraged the power of their subconscious mind. I hope you are enjoying this series and I am looking for any and all feedback and comments you might have on it.