The World Is A Lot Better Because Alan Colmes Was Here

AlanColmesJul2009Alan Colmes died today. That may not mean much to many but it means a whole lot to those who knew him and thought they knew him.

Mr. Colmes was a gentleman. There, I said it. Gentleman. In a time when we no longer value the value of gentleness or manliness, Alan Colmes appeared to me to be both.

I never met Alan Colmes but I knew him. I watched him on Hannity and Colmes and I listened to him on radio and television interviews. While it wasn’t that long ago, it was an eternity in the cultural life of America.

Alan Colmes never seemed to waver in his beliefs. He was in this regard a true “man”. And he never seemed to waver in his tolerance and compassion when it came to debating. In this regard, he was “gentle”.

His attitude was from a time when men (and women) debated and then shared a meal or beverage. While differences were extreme, the value of commonness was understood. We’re all here for a short time and it is best if we get along. Debate the issues, stand firm in your conviction, but never, ever demean those you disagree with.

This was Alan Colmes to me. And for this, I feel extreme loss today. Rest in peace my friend I never knew, and yet knew all too well. You left an impression on me and many, many more.

The world is a better place because Alan Colmes visited here.

Be Excellent At This For Small Business Success

Business People. Successful Business Partner Shaking Hands in the office. Business Team
Business People. Successful Business Partner Shaking Hands in the office. Business Team

I like to think of myself as capable of most any task I take on. No doubt you do as well. Given enough time and resources, we can obtain the necessary knowledge and skill to do most anything.

Which is exactly why we shouldn’t do some things. 

Some time ago I took on the job of remodeling our bathroom. We had purchased an older home and the décor was dated.  My wife wanted (among other things) to have the 60’s vanity removed and to install a porcelain pedestal sink.

Removal was a breeze. Breaking things is in my skill set. Once removed I placed the pedestal sink in place and began the installation process. A few hours and a lot of water later I sat on the floor, surrounded by hoses, gaskets, and various tools. I was dumbfounded as to why I could not successfully install this sink.

Just then my wife came in and asked, “Is there anything I can get you?”

“The only thing I need right now is a plumber” was my reply.

What seemed to be a straight-forward, simple yet not easy task had turned into an epic challenge that I could not solve. And this is often what happens in our work lives as well.

No one wants to be incompetent. But admitting one’s incompetence is often the first step in moving forward with a project. How much revenue has been sacrificed, how many clients have not been served, how many opportunities have been lost because we feel the need to do a task ourselves rather than delegate it to someone who already possesses skill and knowledge we do not?

This is most common in small business. To compete we need to be experts in accounts payable, receivable, human resources, payroll, tax compliance and strategy, marketing, advertising, sales, retention, and now social media too. It can overwhelm the most competent person just as I was overwhelmed by the seemingly simple task of installing a sink.

Each task can be mastered individually. But when it comes to the pace of running a small business, trying to master any one task on the fly is insurmountable. You’re better off admitting you are incompetent and hiring someone who is. That way you can focus on what parts of the business you do well and get better results.

If you are good at selling but poor at bookkeeping, hire someone to do the bookkeeping and do more selling.  You’ll make more money because you’ll be doing what you do well and outsourcing what you don’t do well.

All the time you spend learning a new task and doing it poorly is lost opportunity time (not to mention poor execution which leads to higher costs as well).

And here’s the real risk in not taking this approach; eventually you will grow tired of doing the tasks you don’t do well and you’ll start to avoid doing it at all. And when things don’t get done they create bigger problems that must be done. This will undoubtedly call for hiring an expert.

To be successful in business today you must comply with regulation, compete with the competition, and communicate to your target clients why they should do business with you.  Then you must close the sale and do everything necessary to retain the client.  No one person can do this well for very long.  Soon you’ll have more to do than you personally can.

If you intend to grow you will be best-served to learn this now: The best business people are very good at one or two things and excellent at delegating or outsourcing the rest.

Social Media Strategy: Become That Which You Desire To See

book_jacket-second-editionIn 2006 I wrote my first book. I’d love to say the title (You’ll Never Be Who You Want To Be As Long As You Are Who You Are) is the reason it isn’t a best seller, but the reasons are many and not the topic of this writing. The point of the book however is.

As I trolled social media this morning I couldn’t help but notice how many postings are of a negative nature. Take away the ads (which many of them fill you with fear to buy) and the personal postings of pets and children, and virtually every message we see is negative.

Yet ask anyone if they’d prefer to be a generally negative or positive person and the answer will be overwhelmingly, “positive”.

So why do we do it? Why do we not only post such negativity but then, delight in viewing it in such massive quantities?

According to an article in The Telegraph by Lauren Davidson (17 May 2015), “The average person has five social media accounts and spends around 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing these networks every day”.

And with so much time spent and so much negativity distributed, it’s easy to see how we can become disenchanted and negative too.

Which brings me back to the reason I mentioned my book in the first paragraph. As long as we are engaging in negative experiences, we’ll continue to have negative experiences.

We all know people (maybe even ourselves) who get into extended debates on social media about topics that are important but not necessarily topics over which we have control. We debate to reinforce our position and to try to sway others to agree. But rarely does anyone change his or her mind.  In the end, we simply get frustrated and become distant.

What good does this accomplish? Aside from stroking our own egos and from having others who agree with us come to our defense it does no good.
And if we endeavor to have a better life (I’m assuming everyone does), wouldn’t it just make sense to focus on good things instead of bad?

To suggest we take a social media diet or hiatus is advisable, but not very likely given our proclivity to use it.  So how do we fix this trend of negativity?

We must become that which we desire to see. We must understand that we cannot be who we want to be as long as we are who we are.

I’ve been experimenting for the past month or so with my own social media posting and consumption. Here’s what I’m doing, perhaps it can help you.

  1. I do not click on any posting that is political in nature. I know exactly where I stand on the issues. Should I need further knowledge of a topic to form an opinion, I will rely on trusted sources, not on social media postings.
  1. I will not respond to anything in any way that is not constructive, supportive, and positive. If I cannot post in a way that will be helpful there’s no need for my comment at all. Humor is allowed only to the extent that it does not attempt to influence others to my way of thinking.
  1. I will purposefully find postings which I may comment on in a supportive or encouraging way every time I am on any social platform. Further, I will not leave any platform without making at least one encouraging or supportive post.
  1. I will make my personal and business postings be inspirational and beneficial to those who view it. There are two purposes of posting on social media; To benefit others or to benefit myself. I will create my posts with the benefit of others foremost in my mind.
  1. Finally, I will realize there are plenty of people hurting in the world today that use social media as an outlet for their pain and I’ll have empathy for them. I will encourage where I can and will not criticize when I am tempted.

Of course, I haven’t been able to avoid negative behavior completely. I fall back into old habits just like everyone else.  But what I have experienced has been life-changing.

Since beginning I’ve seen people have responded to my posting more than ever before. Who knows, maybe everyone has it wrong and people prefer good news.

But most importantly I’ve seen a change in me. I find my day starts with a lightness of heart that continues throughout the day. I’m more patient and joyous. I’m grateful.

And hopefully, that means a change in those around me as well. For while I know that perception is reality I further know that a smile brings a smile, and good is returned by good.

Give it a try and see for yourself. Only you can become that which you desire.

Just Because We Know Doesn't Mean We're Not Scared

glen-eating-fire-marshall-sylver-eventIt’s been said that “knowledge is power” and it is true. We are emboldened when we possess the knowledge of a topic or situation. Why then should we feel fear?

Wouldn’t it be great if by simply having the knowledge necessary to obtain a desired outcome, we could act boldly and achieve our desired results?

Some years ago I attended a seminar where we were taught how to eat fire. It’s a simple task that includes suffocating the fire in your mouth long enough to extinguish the flame. Of the hundreds of people in the room, every on executed the task without incident. And so did I.

But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t scared.

Many years earlier I engaged in a dumb challenge at a bar with some friends. The challenge was putting matches in our mouth and striking them to light them. The person who was able to strike the most would have his bar tab retired by the others.

It’s funny what we’ll do for a few free drinks. Actually, it’s dumb.

I took an entire matchbook and when it went up in flames, so did my upper and lower lips. It took a couple of weeks of aloe treatments to get back to normal.

And thoughts of that past pain came back when I saw the flaming cotton ball at the end of the stick I was about to eat. All I could think of was how much it hurt to burn my lips, how much pain I endured, and how much embarrassment I suffered.

Now I was about to do something similar that could have the same result. And this time, not only did I possess the knowledge of the pain; I was sober too!

I could have allowed the previous experience to prevent me from a successful result. I could have been one person in the room that was too afraid to do what we’d been taught to do. Who knows, if I had not eaten the fire that day maybe others would have allowed my fear to expose their fear. Perhaps I would have prevented someone else from achieving his or her goal with my fear.

But I overcame my fear. I realized that I now possessed new knowledge. I knew exactly how it would work this time if I only followed the process. And I did.

But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t scared.

How did I overcome the fear? I focused on what I knew I needed to do and ignored that which I didn’t want to do.

As we make changes it is important to remember that we must act proactively with confidence in our new knowledge.

If we’re trying to avoid mistakes of the past while trying to employ knowledge of the future, fear will hold us back and we’ll fail to act, or worse, we’ll pull back with catastrophic results.

As the flaming cotton ball approached my mouth or as it was inside, had I remembered the pain I experienced before, I might have opened my mouth, exhaled, and given more fuel to the fire. I would have not only burned my lips but likely the inside of my mouth and much of my face too.

We must act boldly and confidently in the knowledge we’ve gained. Change is at hand. We know what to do and all we must do is do it.

But that doesn’t mean we’re not scared.

New Year's Day is not Championship Day

new-years-day-orchampionshjipheading1Every player wants to win the championship. Professional athletes stay in shape during the off-season but a championship campaign begins with training camp.

After a few weeks, preseason begins. Here the players get back into the groove of competing. While everyone wants to win the real purpose of preseason games is to evaluate the ability of each player to execute both personally and with the team.

Some players won’t make the team. In the end, the manager puts the best team he can on the field with the intention of winning the championship at the end of the season.

Championships are often won or lost before the season begins. It is often the discipline each team member has during off-season, training camp, and preseason that makes all the difference.

What does this have to do with our personal success next year? Everything.

More than half of all people in the world look at New Year’s Day as a new beginning. The other half are in denial. A new year is simply that, “new”.

That’s where trouble begins. We approach New Year’s Day as Championship Day. It’s as if we suddenly are thrown into the biggest game of our lives. And the bad news? We prepared for the big game by doing everything we no longer want to do.

Imagine the manager telling his players, “Ok, listen here guys. During training camp I want you to try to miss the ball when you swing the bat. On the odd chance someone does hit the ball, I want you to be sure not to catch it if it comes near you. And if you’re the one who hits the ball, whatever you do, do not run those bases.”

Then, after camp and pre-season the manager says, “This is it guys. Everything we’ve worked so hard for. It’s Championship Day. Today, make sure that when you swing you don’t miss the ball. When the other guys hit it, you have to catch it every time. And run those bases as if your life depends on it. Go get ‘em!”

Take a professional baseball player and have him practice missing the ball for an extended period of time and it will take him a while to get back to hitting the ball at all.

It’s the same for you and me. We’ve been practicing all the wrong skills.

We desire something better. So we set New Year’s Resolutions or goals. Sadly, most of us will fail. Not because we didn’t earnestly desire or genuinely try, but because we prepared poorly in the off-season (aka last year).

So let’s take a new approach this year. Let New Year’s Day be the beginning of a winning campaign. Let’s bring our best discipline but be aware we’ve been enjoying the “off-season” for a while now. We’re going to make some mistakes, engage in some old behaviors, and yes, we’ll even fail.

But remain diligent and disciplined. When we fail, begin again with the knowledge we gained in failure. Examine what caused the failure and endeavor to avoid those circumstances next time.

In the end, we may find that some players (our new goals) won’t make the team. We just might find that we can win our championship without them. Better still, we may find that goal wasn’t big enough for us.

It’s time to put our best team on the field and begin our winning campaign.

New Year’s Day shouldn’t be the end. New Year’s Day is by its very nature is the beginning.