Archive | Personal Development

The Killing Paradigms or Lies of Entrepreneurship

Thinking back on my various failed ventures I can always identify one of the two paradigms below as being the driving factor in my failure. When I talk to would be or starting out entrepreneurs I now more easily recognize when they are equally stuck in one of these paradigms. The biggest issue is that all Entrepreneurs know these two paradigms (or lies) exist but somehow when we are caught up in the excitement of building a business we think we are exceptions to the lie.

Lie #1: If I Build It They Will Come

This is the product lie. Business owners are so in love with and emotionally attached to the product or service that is being built that we can't see past the most prevalent killer paradigm of all. We somehow believe that when we bring this thing to market everyone will show up to buy it and then they will tell all their friends who will be there the next day to buy it and within a few years we will be the next Starbucks. This so rarely happens and yet we attach ourselves to it. If I invent the new mouse trap, if I create a better Facebook, if I launch this new blog, if I provide this service far better than anyone else out there… then I will make millions.

This is a lie because it takes a lot of work to get humans to change their behavior. It requires awareness and desire. Creating both is expensive. So most entrepreneurs who live in this paradigm either give up or go broke when they realize how much money it is going to cost to actually acquire a customer or two.

To give one of my own examples I remember when I launched my first blog. The blog was ground breaking and addressed a topic that was growing and under served. I was convinced that visitors would stumble upon it in droves and the ad revenue would pay off my mortgage. They didn't and it didn't.

Lie #2: Right now I make a little money with this. Somehow I will one day make a lot of money with this

This is the scalability lie. This usually happens to entrepreneurs who have found a simple way to make a little money. Perhaps you figured out you can buy product x at wholesale and sell it on eBay at retail or you can provide a service to friends of doing X thing that you are really good at, or you are really good at making Xs and they sell fairly well on craigslist. Any of these things could be something that could in theory build a big business but not if you continue to do it the way you are doing it.

In order to create a big business and make good money you either have to work 100s of hours a week making or selling product x, OR you have to figure out how to get leverage and remove yourself from the business. Real entrepreneurs do what they do in order to achieve some level of freedom however they define that. Working endless hours is rarely a part of that definition of freedom.

The first example that comes to my mind was a promotional apparel business I started back in 2006 with a partner. We essentially resold apparel services from a local print shop. Profit margins were good enough to justify doing it at the time but not big enough to add middlemen (salesman) to what was already a middle man operation. The two of us only had so many hours in the day so eventually we folded it up frustrated that it never could grow beyond where it started.

This picture is appropriate for this blog post because its a screenshot of a video I made for the blog I mentioned above and in the video I'm wearing a tshirt with the logo of our old promotional apparel business at that time 🙂

entrepreneur mistakes

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All Humans Are Perfectly Disciplined

discipline

I recently listened to a podcast with Dan Sullivan. Dan is one the industries most successful and well known Entrepreneur coaches. In the podcast he taught me a different way of thinking about Discipline and I wanted to share it today.

Most of us think of Discipline as something we have or don't have or need to work harder at having or doing. You might say, I wish I was more disciplined so I would exercise more.

Dan's take on this is that all humans have perfect discipline to our habits. Put differently, the problem isn't that a person lacks discipline but that the person has the wrong habits or is at very least lacking in the habit they wish to have.

I like this approach because it changes the approach to the solution. If there is something I wish was different about my life my best approach isn't just to “try harder” to be more disciplined. My best approach is to develop that as a habit because ultimately I will be disciplined to whatever habits I have.

Thanks for that golden nugget Dan!

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Savvy Business and High Level Performance Reading Curriculum

Traditional education and I are not good friends. I attempted to get a 4 year degree in business with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and it didn't work out. I don't have good study skills and I have a chip on my shoulder as it relates to homework (which I think is just busy work). Add to that the cost of tuition and books and I've sworn it off forever. I do however think of myself as an educated person. In addition to the education I have derived from real life experience (which of course has no equal) I am an avid reader (or listener if you think listening to books doesn't count as reading). Naturally, since learning by reading is something I am passionate about I'm always recommending books to people based on what they are looking to do/learn/change. Yesterday I was accused of “having a book for everything.”

On occasion I do run into people who ask more broadly for a book list that I would recommend. I have developed this book list for individuals who I am mentoring and I thought it would be appropriate to share it here. Since I'm always reading new books and discovering older books that are really awesome I will return to this post to update it when I find a new golden nugget I think has to be on this MUST READ list. (Click here for my article on how you can double the number of books you read)

Lastly, before I give you the list, let me disclaim that I'm listing these books in an order that I think naturally builds on itself. If you are looking for books about a specific subject you may want to jump around. Also, if you are looking for a good book list based on specific business or personal development categories you may want to check Josh Kaufman's 99 Best Books List. He originally built the book as a curriculum he calls the Personal MBA. Since then he has written his own book which summarizes all the principles (listed below).

  1. Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
  2. Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason
  3. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  4. Good to Great by Jim Collins
  5. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
  6. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Cargnegie
  7. The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino
  8. 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell
  9. Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker
  10. Automatic Millionaire by David Bach
  11. The Four Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferris
  12. Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  13. Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi
  14. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  15. Leadership and Self Deception by the Arbinger Institute
  16. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  17. Start With Why by Simon Sinek
  18. The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
  19. Tribes by Seth Godin
  20. What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith
  21. Getting Things Done by David Allen
  22. The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman
  23. The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey
  24. Built to Last by Jim Collins
  25. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber
  26. First Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham
  27. To Sell is Human by Dan Pink
  28. Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard
  29. The Millionaire Next Door – Thomas Stanley & William Danko
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Making Voicemail a Tool of Productivity [Script]

IMG_1123I don't seem to get a ton of questions from friends or clients about how they should manage voicemail until they call me and hear my voicemail greetings. Voicemail is one more inbox that has to be managed in the scope of our productivity. In this article I'm going to share my feelings about how to manage voicemail along with my own scripts I currently use to help drive the right actions.

Voicemail Productivity Thoughts

  • Phone calls are generally speaking distractions. They interrupt you in the middle of highly focused activity. In an ideal world you want to limit distractions and while you can't always influence the time when others call you, you can choose to let it go to voicemail so as not to cause a distraction when you are in the middle of a high priority task
  • When I send someone to voicemail I need to train that caller to work based on my system of productivity. This is good for the caller since they want a response as quickly as possible and good for me since I can choose how/when I'm going to respond to various inquiries
  • People always inflate the urgency or priority of their own requests. Most people who call me always think that whatever they are calling about is urgent and important. By giving them a good voicemail greeting I can force them to re-evaluate how urgent it really is.
  • I ALWAYS ask people to be descriptive in their message/email/text. This will avoid emails that say “call me when you can.” I hate those.
  • I always prefer an email or text to a voicemail because they imply that I can and should reply via email or text. Voicemails imply that one should respond with a phone call. Perhaps I'm not as social as I should be but the truth is I like the flexibility and it better plays to my schedule and timeline of availability and productivity.

Script for my Office Phone:

You have reached the phone of %Insert name% with %Insert Company name%. I check (or don't check) my voicemail often but the fastest way to get a response from me is to send me an email at %insert email%. Please be descriptive in your email so I can support you in the most effective way possible. If this is an emergency please call my cell phone at %insert cell number%. Thank you.

When I'm Traveling:

You have reached the phone of %Insert name% with %Insert Company name%. I'm traveling and may not check my voicemail often until my return. The fastest way to get a response from me is to send me an email at %insert email%. Please be descriptive in your email so I can support you in the most effective way possible. If this is an emergency please call my cell phone at %insert cell number%. Thank you.

Script for my Cell Phone:

You have reached the phone of %insert name%. Please send me an email. I really don't get to my voicemails very often but if you email me I'll reply in short order. If you don't have my email address send me a text to this number and I'll gladly reply with my email address. If this is an emergency send me a text message with the details so I can respond accordingly. Thank you.

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Guide to Outsourcing Stuff Worth Less than My Time

oursource to indiaMy first introduction to outsourcing was from Timothy Ferris's book, The Four Hour Work Week. Since then I've gradually increased the amount of things I outsource. While I'm still not to the point where I would like to be, I'm very comfortable with the process and have been successful in identifying some of the tasks in my world that should be outsourced. In my own view I still have a long way to go but recently a friend commented on how much he appreciated my success in outsourcing and wished he could get started. I write this article for anyone who wants to explore this but isn't sure where to start.

To Outsource or Not to Outsource

In order to determine if you should outsource something you need to answer three key questions:

1. Would it take more time for me to explain what/how to do it than it would for me to do it?

2. Based on how much my time is worth, would I lose money by doing this task myself?

3. If I regain the time I would have spent on this task by outsourcing it, can I fill that time with something equally or more valuable?

Question two of course implies that you know what your time is worth. If you haven't already you need to have a clear sense for what one hour of your time is worth. Calculate this by taking your annual take home revenue and dividing it by the total number of working hours.

What to Outsource?

About any task you can think of can be outsourced. Anything from online research, business PowerPoint presentations, online shopping, data entry, programming, graphic design, responding to emails, and much much more. The key for you, based on the above questions, is to identify the tasks that take your energy and limit your total output per hour.

For me I focus on outsourcing several key activities.

All Data Entry. All Programming/Coding. All Research.

Where to Outsource?

There are several good resources you can draw on in starting your new outsourcing lifestyle. First, there are many organization that specialize in certain types of tasks. If you need mostly personal assistant stuff (buy things, send flowers, research travel) you can go to someone like YourManInIndia.com and their group will take care of you. If you need mostly business and professional tasks (sales decks, reports, market research, business plans) you can work with someone like BrickWorkIndia.com. These types of specialized groups are going to have more consistent quality, deeper resources, and faster execution. They will demand a premium price.

If you want to start small, or aren't sure where to go you can try one of several different freelancer websites like, elance.com, freelancer.com, odesk.com, and post your project for all the various freelancers in the world to bid on it. This is my method of choice. It gives me options, guarantees competitive pricing, and allows me to meet talented people I can rehire in the future for similar work. This is how I have found my best designers, programmers, and writers.

How to Outsource?

Quality experiences and quality task completion at or under budget happens only when you know how to work with your freelancer. The key is in project description. Here are some tips:

1. Always error on the side of being overly detailed and clear in the project/task description.

2. Always ask the freelancer to check in with you a few hours into the project so you can confirm they are doing what you asked how you want it.

3. Whenever possible give the freelancer an example of something similar to the desired outcome.

4. Read reviews and ask for references.

5. Ask the freelancer to provide a quick sample or to repeat back to you in their words what they understood as the task.

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The Son of Man Hath Descended Below Them All – Peace On Earth

From 1861 to 1865 appx 850,000 Americans died in battle in the most deadly war in American History. The Civil war claimed more than double the lives of the next deadliest war (406,000 in WWII). In just the battle of Gettysburg over 50,000 men and boys died on the battle field. This was not a war that would resolve itself with diplomacy or negotiations. Both sides were willing to kill and die to win and that is exactly what happened. President Lincoln, in his first ever political office, directed the Union forces to fight in battle and crush the confederate armies.

Now, go back before the Civil war started and meet a promising man named Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Henry was born in 1807 in modern day Maine and attended college at Bowdoin. Later he would go on to be a professor at Bowdoin and eventually Harvard. He was considered the most popular American Poet of his day and would eventually find his face on a US Postal Stamp. Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke at his funeral. Like most northerners Henry sided with the Union cause in the Civil War but soon after the war started he was struck with tragedy.

In mid 1861 his wife's dress caught fire. Despite best efforts to put out the fire by all in the house she was badly injured and died within 24 hours from the injuries. Henry was also injured and grew a long beard the rest of his life to hide the scars on his face obtained when trying to beat out the fire that killed his wife. Henry was so strucken with grief that we was virtually unable to write poetry for the remained of his life, essentially retiring after her death.

Almost two years later, Henry's oldest son Charles was in his 19th year, had decided to join the Union army against his father's wishes. He wrote home in a letter on March 14th 1863, “I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer. I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good.” Not too long later he was appointed to the office of lieutenant but was severely injured in the Battle of Mile Run on Nov 26th 1863.

30 days later, Henry found himself trying to nurse his son back to health, in the middle of the worst American conflict in all our history. His wife dead, his oldest child barely alive, and the world around him crumbling. In that day, Christmas 1863 he sat down and wrote a poem he titled “Christmas Bells.” Today we know his poem as the carol, “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day.”

Life is difficult. We all live through hard trials. Can any of us begin to understand the true misery and suffering endured by Longfellow or others of that Civil War era? As his poem suggests, we make it through these difficult times by remembering Jesus Christ who “descended below them all” suffering both body and spirit on our behalf.

Christmas is special because we remember the Savior who makes our lives easier and worth it. As the angels sang, and as Longfellow's poem suggests, Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.

Merry Christmas.

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The “It’s Not About Me Moment”

I was on a hike with some friends recently. Adam, a friend started to tell me about a time many years ago when he attended a talk by Stephen R. Covey in which he spoke of the importance of focusing on others. My friend Adam told me that was the beginning for him. The beginning of a new paradigm of work, family, career, and so much more.

brainstorming-411589_1280I can relate. I had a similar moment in 2006 when I attended a retreat where a very smart man named Les spent a few hours explaining the difference between producers and consumers. That was the day when I understood that life is about creating value for others.

Every successful person has a moment like that. A moment when they realize life is about creating value for others. There are a lot of people in the camp of naysayers who think it's truly a load of crap. These are the people who think work is about making money and money is about being happy. They are of course wrong and their passion for cash will only get them so far.

What was the moment for you?

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The Glare of the TV On The Window – A Confused Society

I run at night. My wife works out in the mornings before I go to work so I can watch the kids and I work out at night after the kids go to bed. In these late night runs through our neighborhood I see one thing more consistently than anything else. People watching TV. Isn't it amazing how our obsession with TV stops us from achieving our dreams? Some people even feel that they have to watch TV in order to unwind and prepare for sleep.

683635_71003223The average American watches more than 10 hours per week of television. I don't need a calculator to figure out that is at least 520 hours of TV each year, which equates to about 22 days. Over the course of a year its amazing to consider that the average American watches enough TV to cover 22 full days. If you take out 8 hours a day for sleep then it would take 32.5 days to watch 520 hours of TV. Over a month each year!

Some television programming and movies are inspiring and educational. It can also be a good way for people to spend a little time together. Upon reflection however, couldn't you easily think of an activity that provides better education, inspiration, or a more effective way to spend time with the people you love?

In the next 12 months what could you achieve if I handed you an extra 32 days? What if you cut your “average” TV consumption from 10 hours per week to only 5 hours per week? What could you do with those 16 extra days in the next 12 months? Could you finish the basement? Could you start that business you've been thinking of? Could you climb a mountain, go on a vacation, build something with your children?

Time is not only a precious and limited resource its also an expendable one. We can never get it back after it goes by. The best stewards use their time as a tool to produce more value for more people. What will you do with your extra 32 days next year?

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The Eternal Laws of Stewardship

I recently sat down with a very great group of men at my church and we spoke openly about the term Stewardship. Since stewardship is the governing principle or law between us and our divine creator (or insert here whatever eternal power term you prefer) its very important to understand how it works. The laws that dictate stewardship can be used to bless more people in a greater way if we understand them.

This is not meant to be a religious discussion exclusively but simply a look at how the laws of human behavior govern the outcome of our efforts. That said, I am pulling on religious overtones and taking some specific terms and ideas from Christian scripture. With that in mind, and with the help of my friends and my mom, I've come up with this short list of Laws and Principles of Stewardship.

  1. Stewardship consists of all things with which we are given or blessed. All stewardship is a blessing and stewardship includes things, resources, time, responsibilities and assignments. This also includes our own body, talents, intuition, family, relationships, and physical and monetary blessings.
  2. If we do not work to grow, cultivate, or take care of our stewardship we risk losing it. Certainly we all know that we must exercise our talents if we want to keep them but we must actively leverage all of our stewardship to serve and produce value for others if we are to keep and grow our stewardship.
  3. To some is given more stewardship than others. We are not all born and raised in comparable circumstances. Thus, some are naturally blessed with a greater amount of resources (stewardship) to help them serve others. They still must choose what to do with that stewardship.
  4. Stewardship is grown at the benefit or service of others. Since our Creator has given us stewardship in order to help others, when we are obedient to that purpose in creating value our stewardship is increased.
  5. Some stewardship like assignments, roles, titles, and other responsibilities are temporary. We must do the best to magnify them while we have them.
  6. To good stewards is given more stewardship. As states above, stewards who work toward serving others and creating more value for more people will be rewarded with increased stewardship.
  7. Our greatest stewardship is the relationships we have with others including the relationship we have with deity.
  8. Some stewardship appears to be a burden and other stewardship is more clearly a blessing to the steward. Regardless of the appearance all stewardship is given to the steward to bless them and others.
  9. Stewardship needs to be prioritized: As one's time is a stewardship, wise stewards work to prioritize and discern the best timing and importance of each stewardship as it competes for one's time.
  10. Stewards are accountable to he who gave the stewardship. Stewardship is not given lightly. We must give an accounting of what we have done with the stewardship we were given on behalf of serving others. We are judged and blessed not in comparison to others but in respect to what we did with what we were entrusted with.
  11. A wise steward shall inherit all things. The creator wants to give us more stewardship. He wants to bless us. The ultimate reward given to the wisest stewards who magnify their stewardship, is “all things.” The great and wonderful reward.

Do you think I missed any?

If we can accept these laws of the universe and work toward obeying them our stewardship will increase and we will be able to help and serve more people in a bigger way.

>>Download Printable Laws of Stewardship Handout<<

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Marketing: What Job Is Your Product Being Hired To Do

I recently read a book that posed this paradigm of marketing. When working on product development, and then when marketing a product, ask yourself, “What job will my customer hire my product to do?” In addition to looking at this from the marketing and business angle I also want to address how this applies to relationships and personal development.

Products and services are sold when they create specific value in the life of the customer. When your customers shop they have a need in mind for which they are trying to find a solution. What is the need or what are the various needs for which your product is suited?

If you can uncover what job the product is being hired to do then you can greatly improve the product and the marketing efforts. I recently met with a car dealership client of mine. I would have assumed that they product was a car and that people buy a car to be able to have transportation from point A to B. Under that assumption I would have launched a very awful ad campaign to help drive them more business… with the wrong message to the wrong people. This particular car dealer told me that isn't the case with their customers. Their customers buy a car from that dealership because they have no money to put down and/or because they have bad credit and they want to repair it. Knowing that, one can advertise to the right people at the right time with the right message.

Another car dealer client of mine tells me the job their customer is “hiring” the car to do is to make them look good. That particular car dealership specializes in luxury imports. If the customer wants a good deal on a reliable car they will go elsewhere.

Consider in your own marketing efforts, how well do you really understand what job your customers expect your product/service to perform. What need do they have that you are fulfilling? Use surveys and post sale calls to really identify these key insights to improve your ongoing product development and  marketing efforts.

Perhaps you also need to consider for a moment your own relationships with your spouse, family members, coworkers, and others. Ask yourself, “what job am I hired to do?” For example, do I really understand what my wife expects from me. Do I know and understand what needs she has that she expects me to meet and solve? Relationships grow when we have a clear understanding of what the other person needs from us and we work to be that person for them.

If you are wondering how you can best discover what the expectations and needs are of the other person in the relationship I suspect the best method is just to ask. Ask with a sincere intent to listen and understand and you may discover the most critical things that will help you grow a deeper and more valuable relationship with all those around you.

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