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action hero

Ask for What You Need.

Let’s talk movies.  My father loved the “lone hero” characters played by Gary Cooper, who faced off with all of the bad guys virtually solo in the 1952 movie High Noon.

To my dad, Cooper represented the idea that action heroes had to find their way by themselves.  Dad believed that strong, successful people don’t ask for help—and while he was always quick to help others, he found it almost impossible to ask anyone to help him.

I loved my father, but he died broke and broken.  And I believe that a large part of the reason for this was his view on what it takes to be successful.

He had missed one of the main points of his favorite Gary Cooper movie.  Cooper’s marshal, Will Kane, asked everyone in town for help—they were just all too afraid to stick their necks out.  In fact, soon after the movie’s release, veteran “lone hero” John Wayne was publicly infuriated that someone had actually made a Western wherein a marshal asked for assistance.  Wayne found a counter-vehicle for himself in the 1959 film Rio Bravo, in which he played a sheriff who didn’t ask anyone for anything.

Personally, I’m a fan of the 1992 movie My Cousin Vinny, with Joe Pesce and Marissa Tomei.  In the ending dialog, Vinny becomes upset when he realizes that he didn’t succeed all on his own.  His fiancé, Mona Lisa Vito, mocks him:

You know, this could be a sign of things to come.  You win all your cases, but with somebody else’s help, right?  You win case after case, and then afterwards you have to go up to somebody and you have to say, “thank you”.  Oh my God, what a f*cking nightmare!

The moral?  Keep trying, but STOP trying to do it yourself.

We all recognize that athletes have coaches.  That’s where the idea of professional and life coaching comes from.  But we are stuck with this archaic view that it’s okay for them, and not for us.  They have special needs, and we don’t.  Do you accept this view?

If not, find someone who you’d want to let help you.  We spend our lives trying to convince other people that we have our acts together, but it’s an achievement to be able to say, “Here’s what I don’t have and here’s what I think is holding me back.  Can you help?”

Whether it’s an assistant, a coach, a therapist, or a friend or loved one you never quite let in all the way, make it your hero’s mission to ask him or her for what you need.  Often times, you don’t need more information to get things done; what you need is more application–an extra set of hands on the challenges of your career, practice, or personal life.  And the motivation to get it all done is often most accessible when you’re working with a teammate, partner, or colleague.

Asking for what you need is courageous–and essential.  Please, don’t end up like my dear old dad did.  Choose to voice your needs to someone–anyone–who can help you accomplish your dreams.

In the meantime, keep REACHING…

Lost A Big Client? Be an Action Hero!

I’VE JUST LOST MY BIGGEST CLIENT! Edwin, a management consultant I coached many years ago, blurted out on the phone one day.  “What am I going to do now?”

Edwin’s one client provided him with half of his six-figure income. The loss was, he told me, through no fault of his own and at the “worst possible time”. He spent the next few minutes moaning about how he wouldn’t be able to pay the bills and how difficult it would be in this economy to replace a client like that one. Finally, he asked me for coaching.

I could relate to Ed’s situation personally. Throughout that decade, most of my own work time was being devoted to training and coaching for one financial services company with more than fifty offices and hundreds of associates throughout the country. Most of my income was coming from this work and my time for anyone else was extremely limited.

Edwin viewed the loss of his largest client as a cause for panic. It showed foresight that he had retained me as his coach to help him grow the other half of his business just a month before this, telling me that he had a sense he had become “too comfortable”. It may have been simply that he’d had a sense that his relationship with that one large client was coming to an end. But now that it had actually happened, he was moaning woefully about being without that income and having no way to immediately replace it.

“It may be true that you have no way to immediately replace it,” I agreed, “But do you believe you will eventually replace it?”
“Well…yes, eventually,” was his reply.“What has to happen for that income to be replaced?” I asked.
“Obviously, I have to get out and get more clients,” he responded, and he began to talk about all of the things we had put in place already, and about new ideas to get his practice growing. By the end of that year, he had come very close to matching his income from the previous year.

Action Hero

Events in the story of your life often turn out differently than you hoped they will. When they do, you have a choice: You can either take on the role of Victim and rant against the cruel powers that brought you to this terrible place, or you can choose to be an Action Hero, creating ways to solve the puzzle with which fate has presented you.

Edwin started out that phone call playing the Victim, but ended our conversation as an Action Hero.

A few years after that, I parted ways with the investment company that had provided the bulk of my income and to which I had given so much of my time for so many years. I instantly thought of that conversation with Edwin. I never liked the Victim role–even though I’ve occasionally played it extremely well–so, in my story, I chose to play the Action Hero right then and there. All I had to do was focus on what I had and what I wanted, and keep REACHING…

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Don’t Throw the “Quit Switch”

At the beginning of his classic self-help book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill tells the story of R. U. Darby and his uncle, who went out to Colorado from their homes in Maryland to strike it rich digging for gold.

After finding a carload of ore, their mine ran dry.  They dug on for a few more weeks and then quit, selling their rights, their equipment, and their maps to a junk man.

The junk man consulted an engineer to take a look at the maps, and after digging another three feet, struck one of the richest veins of gold in Colorado history.

In their book, 100 Ways To Motivate Others, Steve Chandler and Scott Richardson call what Darby and his uncle did throwing the “Quit Switch”.  The gold-diggers threw the switch just three feet away from incredible wealth.

Every day, I speak with professionals who have either thrown the Quit Switch or have one in hand.

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Asking for referrals never worked for me.”
“I tried doing seminars a few times, but they never did anything.”
“I tried running my own practice, but it was just too hard.”
“You can’t make a living as a [financial advisor, insurance agent, small town attorney, realtor—you insert the category]…Well, I know some people do, but I can’t.”

It was difficult, or it wasn’t instantly successful…throw the Quit Switch!
It was going along, but too slowly…throw the Quit Switch!

NFL Coach George Allen said, Most people succeed because they are determined to.  People of mediocre ability sometimes achieve outstanding success because they don’t know when to quit.”

If your career or practice isn’t where you want it to be, stop thinking that you know when to quit.  You may be only three feet away from your vein of gold.  Don’t throw the Quit Switch.

panning-Miner

One of the points Napoleon Hill makes in his story about Darby is that the junk man was smart enough (or humble enough) to call in an engineer (an expert) to look at the mining maps.  That option was always open to Darby and his uncle, but they either didn’t think of it or they ignored it, and they chose to stop digging instead.

The only real question is: Do you want to be successful in this career or not?  If you do, get the help you need to succeed.  Don’t wait until you feel it’s hopeless and you already believe you have no choice but to give it all up.

In other words, if you really want it, swallow your pride, and keep REACHING…

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You Can’t Count the Time You Spend Washing Socks

Many professionals complain about the long hours they work.  For some, at least, all those hours are being compensated.  These professionals are moving and shaking because they want to make as much money as possible—even at the cost of family time, recreation, and often, their own health.  It’s difficult to be sympathetic about their complaints, since their situation is a choice.

But many professionals are plagued with long days and long workweeks for which they are not being adequately financially compensated.  Some of these people are simply not charging enough.  They have priced their services at a low rate, believing this to be the only way they can compete in their market.  They have not learned how to create value for clients so that they know they deserve—and then, can request and receive—better compensation.

Still others in this latter group may be confusing attendance at the office with productivity.  They feel “busy” at work, but hours are spent each day performing tasks that aren’t actually making them money.  Someone in this situation may spend an hour or two each workday involved in non-business conversations.  Maybe there’s another half hour or so spent trying to resolve computer issues.  Then, there are those lunch plans with someone he or she already sees every day…

Don’t confuse being present with being productive.  You may spend an hour and a half at the gym or health club, but how much of that is talking sports, waiting for an exercise station instead of using a different machine in the meantime, and “resting between sets”?  You could even count washing your socks—which is something you do have to do in connection with your workout—but none of this time really counts.

“The only time that counts is the time you spend with the weights,” says Corey, a financial services sales manager I work with.  “You do have to wash your socks, but you can’t count that time.”

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When you’re selling and providing services, the only time that counts is the time you spend face-to-face or on the phone with clients or prospects.  If you’re not doing one of these things, you can’t claim you’re working a twelve-hour day.  You may be at the office or on the road for that much time, but a lot of that time, you’re just washing socks.

Some experts call the time you’re actually performing income-generating activities “green time”.  If you’ve been feeling that you are working long hours and not making enough money for the time you put in, try this for a week: Write down everything you do, all workday long, every day, for all five-to-seven workdays.  Don’t change what you do, just record it.  Then, go back and see how much time you’re actually spending “with the weights”—that is, how much of that time is actually green.

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If your green time is six to eight hours daily, and you’re putting in ten-to-twelve hour days, too much of your time is being spent on socks.  If this non-productive time is somehow work-related (follow-up phone calls and paperwork someone else could be doing for you), get some help.  If it’s not work-related, either accept the fact that you’re at the office longer by choice, or choose to save non-work matters for after hours.

Another financial advisor I’ve worked with greets everyone in his office in the morning, and then spends the next 8 hours on green time.  He makes it known that while he’s unavailable during the day to discuss pleasantries, at 6 PM, he’ll be happy to go for a beer with anyone who wants to spend time with him.

Stop the load of socks, and make room for green time instead.  Once things are really shaking for you, keep REACHING…

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CONCEIVE It, BELIEVE It, ACHIEVE It!

A few years ago, I was asked to give the keynote address at the Thirtieth Anniversary Celebration of Princeton Toastmasters.  I decided to speak about Napoleon Hill’s discovery in the 1930s that the wealthiest and most successful people of his time were all following the same Simple Success Formula:

If you conceive an idea for something that doesn’t exist in the world today—an invention, personal wealth, fame, the success of your business, or anything else—and you believe it is possible, and pursue it with passion, it will become a reality.

“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe,” Hill wrote in Think and Grow Rich, “The mind can achieve.”

Or, stated simply: “Conceive It…Believe It…Achieve It!”

Thomas Edison conceived that electricity could be a safe, economical source of power for lighting homes and stores, towns and cities.

Andrew Carnegie, the original “Slumdog Millionaire”, conceived as a boy that even a starving orphan could rise through the restrictive societal structure of his time to become wealthy and influential.

Both of these men conceived it, believed it, and achieved it.

In 1993, an unhappy lawyer who had spent a year battling cancer and complications from treatment that left him disabled and bankrupt conceived of an idea for a career—as a speaker, coach, and author—that was nothing like the one he thought he was chained to for life.  He dreamt of helping other professionals who were struggling—or completely burnt out, as he had been—find their true calling and success.

But for years he didn’t believe what he had conceived, so nothing happened.  A full five years later, in 1998, it was having joined Toastmasters, and having built confidence as a motivational speaker, that helped him believe in the reality of his dream career.  The belief became so powerful that soon, nothing could stop him.

Now, over 15 years later, I visit firms and organizations throughout the country doing what I love.  I coach individuals who are going through equally challenging life and career transitions as I once experienced.  And I’ve written two books and countless articles, sharing the lessons that I’ve learned with an audience wider than I could have imagined.

The main one is this: You can have anything you want…You can be anything you want…You can do anything you want.  If you conceive it and believe it, you’ll achieve it.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help to find the right track and to keep yourself on it.  Until you conceive of doing that, or until you believe you can, keep REACHING…

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Small Talk, BIG SALES: Lessons from a Master Moneymaker

Mehdi Fakharzadeh is one of the most successful insurance sales agents in history.  At 92, he is still taking on and servicing clients.

Mehdi achieved his success despite starting out with a severely limited grasp of the English language and American customs.  Now, at the top of his industry, he is famous throughout the world—with a following in over forty countries.  A Chinese admirer changed his own first name to Mehdi, and at least one other inspired insurance agent gave that name to his son.

Individual Coaching

At an Insurance Pro Shop seminar a few years ago, I had the honor of being asked to speak alongside Mehdi and the renowned publicist Wally Cato.  Here are some of the Lessons I learned from Master Mehdi that day:

1. Doing the right thing for your clients results in more business and referrals.  Mehdi does not attribute his success to any skill of his own—he believes it is his karmic reward for giving what he can to everyone he comes into contact with.  His belief in this regard, and how it humbles him, shines through him as he speaks.

2. Love what you doMehdi told his audience that selling insurance is his hobby.  He is up at 4 a.m. eager to start his day and doesn’t stop until his wife calls him to tell him to come home for dinner.

3. Be prepared to give them what they ask for, but always show them what you believe they should have.  Mehdi talked about how he increases the size of his sales, and helps clients at the same time, by presenting insurance policies at signing time for amounts greater than what he had previously discussed with them.

“They always try to buy less than they should,” he told his audience. “I present to them what they really should have, and often, they agree when they see it.”

4. Make them clients first.  What do you do when a client doesn’t want what you believe is right for him?” a workshop attendee asked.  “I give him what he does want, of course,” was Mehdi’s reply.  But he continued:

“I wait two or three years [until we have a good relationship and my client trusts me],” he explained, “And then I show him a chart that has on the left side what he bought, and on the right side, what I believed was right for him.  I ask him which plan looks better now…and he always points to the one on the right.”

None of this can happen, Mehdi told his audience, unless the person in question becomes a client first.

5. Never give up!  A consistent theme in everything Mehdi spoke about was his persistence“Whenever there is a problem,” he told his audience, “I sit down and create a solution.  There’s always a solution.”

6. Talk “Nonsense”.  That’s what Mehdi calls his delightful way of engaging people in conversation.

“If I’m going up in an elevator and I push ‘4’, and the other man pushes ‘8’, I say, ‘You must be twice as good as me’.  When he asks me why I say that, I tell him that 8 is twice as good as 4.”

Mehdi reminded his audience that day that it makes people feel good when you’re having fun.  As further proof that Mehdi walks his talk, he invited me to spend an afternoon with him at his office to pick his brain, and bought us lunch at his favorite Chinese restaurant—asking nothing in return.

Give first, talk small, and think big—and contact me for help with doing the right thing.  Love what you do, and keep REACHING…

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Throw Away Your “To Do” List

Every week, I try to provide you with a message of value—either to keep you motivated, or to help you hone your skills to get more clients—or for whatever else you want in your life.  Today’s message has an almost Shakespearian relevance:

“To Do” or “NOT to Do”…That is the Question!

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During my workshops, when I ask participants to describe their biggest challenge, “Time Management” is often ahead of getting or keeping clients.  But since we can’t really manage time—only our activities—thinking in this way can get us stuck in an approach-avoidance tango—with ourselves.  So, this week, I want to see if I can shift your perspective.

If you have created a traditional “To Do” list that is now 31 pages long and leaving you feeling overwhelmed, throw it out!  Or, at least, put it away in your drawer for a moment.

Before you do, however, pull from it the Six Things you believe are the most important and put them on a sheet of paper that you can keep on top of your desk (perhaps, pin it right next to that Memo to Self: Learn to Let Go!).

Prioritize those six things—and only those six things—from most important to least important, and only then, begin working on Number One, taking it as far as it can go.  Tomorrow, maybe move on to Number Two…and so on.

In the early 1900s, the industrialist Charles Schwab paid consultant Ivy Lee $25,000 for this one idea.  At first, Schwab did not believe that ignoring his huge list and focusing on just six things could possibly work.  After a month, however, he was excited to find he had finished more projects in those four weeks than he had in any previous month.  Try this strategy for just one month, and see for yourself.

While you’re at it, make another list of things “Not to Do”.  As my colleague David Ward describes:

“You have unlimited choices.  But you don’t have unlimited time…As you choose what to do, you also choose what not to do.  The word “decide” means to “kill the other option”…If you want to accomplish great things, you must focus on great things and let go of things that are merely good.  Give up good to go for great.”

A “Not to Do” List might look something like this:

1.  Check my smart phone.
2.  Turn on my email client.
3.  Go on Facebook.
4.  Reorganize my files.
5.  Be hard on myself.
6.  Procrastinate!

Remember: this is only for now.  Set the hours between which you choose to abide by your “Not to Do” List.  Then, schedule in the time slots when you’re allowed to break the rules, and put this “Not” list back in your drawer for the evening.  Suddenly you’ll feel like you’re Managing Time.  Your story about your own ineffectiveness will change.

You’ll be thrilled with how much less you Procrastinate when it’s one of the six items on your new “Not to Do” list.

If you need help simplifying what To Do and Not to Do, contact me.  In the meantime, do what you can to keep REACHING…

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If You Really Want It, Don’t Back Away

COME TO PRINCETON IN OCTOBER
AND BECOME A REFERRAL MASTER

If you’re a financial or insurance professional, join me on Saturday, October 19th for an all-day
Mastering Client Referrals Workshop.

Boost your year-end sales and start 2014 on a roll.  For details, take a look at

https://sandyschussel.com/mcr-workshop

Register by Friday to take advantage of the Early Registration Discount.  Or call me at (609) 454-3810 and we’ll talk about whether this program makes sense for you.
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Most people don’t really understand what courage is.  When I ask them to define it in my workshops on Overcoming Fear, the answer I often get is “the absence of fear”.

But this answer isn’t accurate.  While there are a few seemingly fearless fighters, most military personnel will admit, when you ask them, that they were afraid much of the time they were in the field.
Courage is not the absence of fear; it’s action in the face of fear.  These brave people risk—and sometimes sacrifice—their lives, but not without fear.  They do what has to be done, despite the fear.

Wherever I go, I find professionals and entrepreneurs struggling to grow their businesses or advance their careers.  These are people with all of the technical skills they need to be successful, but they’re still, somehow, not getting what they want.

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Either
(1) they don’t know how to get it, or
(2) they know what they need to do, but they are allowing their fears to hold them back.

Other times, more simply:
(3) they haven’t yet decided to make the change.

If you feel like your practice ought to be growing, but you’re just stuck, start by recognizing that one, both, or all three of these factors might be at play.  If fear is one of them, understand that it’s okay to be afraid when it comes to stepping into sales and marketing and other “dangerous battlefields“.  Admit that you are afraid.  But don’t respond by backing away.

Ultimately, the fear itself can’t hold us back from having what we want and need in our businesses or lives—how we view fear and our learned response to fear are the real threats.  We feel the “fear factor”—the butterflies in our stomachs, the rapid pounding in our chests—and the little voice in our heads warns us: “It’s not okay, back away.”  And we obey.

When we were children, this response probably saved our lives many times.  We’d feel those feelings when we came too close to a hot stove or stepped into the street.  But as adults, if we so much as think of picking up the phone to make that prospecting call, or attending a networking event, or making a presentation—our “back away” response keeps us from doing what we need to do.

The good news is that if we learned this response, we can unlearn it and replace it with something better:

“It’s okay to be afraid, but if this is my goal, then I have to do it.”

Battle Call
Mel Gibson in We Were Soldiers (2002)

If you can get past the fear on your own, do it.  If you can’t, decide to hire someone who can help you, or contact me to take a step in the right direction and back onto the playing field.  No matter what you choose to do, if you have a mission, keep REACHING…

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Imposter Syndrome (cont.): Success ISN’T Chance.

“I’ve just been lucky,” my client, Jerry, responded when we started talking about the success of his financial practice.

Jerry started working with me when he felt he had hit a plateau.  He was afraid to lose what he had built by raising his management and planning rates, and he wasn’t sure what he wanted his next steps to be.

“Jerry, you’ve worked hard to develop your practice to this point,” I affirmed to him, “So what makes you say that it was luck?”

“It’s just that the people I work with haven’t discovered how little I really know,” he replied.  ”I mean, I’ve got all these licenses and certifications, but if they knew how often I was just winging it, none of these people would have stuck with me for so long.”

Jerry was suffering from “Imposter Syndrome“.  While his clients believed in him and gave him glowing testimonials, in his own mind he was a phony, and whatever successes he had were only attributable to blind chance.  The fact that his “luck” was based on how he treated people—as well as on a combination of training, continuous learning, intuition, and life experience—didn’t register with him at all.

Jerry is not alone.  According to an article published a few years ago in Inc. Magazine, as many as 25% of successful entrepreneurs feel like imposters all of the time, and up to 70% feel that way at least some of the time.  (That leaves little more than 5% who are confident that they have earned what they have!)

But I worked with Jerry to change his paradigm—to get him to understand that while it may appear that some people have success that is attributable to chance, his success is attributable to the dedicated effort with which he applies the skills he does possess, and to his obvious care and concern for his clients—it comes from ACTION.

Jerry came to realize that it was appropriate for him to raise his rates.  “I still feel like a fake sometimes,” he told me, “But I understand that the feeling is about my fear that I don’t deserve this success.  I have to look in the mirror and remind myself that I do deserve it.”

For a great discussion on the Paralyzing Fear of being unworthy, refer to my first book, The High Diving Board.  I encourage all professionals to start selling services by “acting as if” they are already successful.  Somehow, many of them never stop feeling that they are only “acting as if”, even long after they’ve actually become quite skilled and knowledgeable, and truly excellent at what they do.

If you think you’ve been riding on luck alone, and you’re worried it’s going to run out, contact me now and I’ll set you straight.  Don’t give Imposter Syndrome the chance to hold back the growth of your business, practice, or person…just keep REACHING…

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Chasing Whales? (Start with JUST ONE.)

Bill is a financial services representative in the Southwest U.S. who told me that one of the greatest challenges for him was his fear of reaching out to the already “successful” people in his community who he thought he could help.

“I have a list of these people I never call,” he told me.  “The thought of reaching out to them gets my stomach churning, and I just can’t bring myself to do it.”

Bill’s list of these special prospects had at least 50 names on it.  He called it his “Whale List”.

What’s the actual challenge in contacting them?” I asked him.  “Why is that you have no trouble contacting other people, but you’re paralyzed when it comes to contacting the whales?

Bill thought for a moment and then nearly gasped at his own answer.

They might think I’m a fool to believe that I could help them.

Bill, do YOU believe you can help them?” I asked.

Well…yes, I think I might be able to!

So, all you’re really saying is that they might say NO to you,” I pressed on.  “And if you think about it, how is that any different from when anyone else says NO to you?

Again, there was a silence, and then Bill replied.  “Well, I guess it really isn’t any different.

So, if you weren’t afraid to pick up the phone and ask them if they’d like to work with you,” I asked, “what would you do differently than you do with anyone else you call?

Nothing different at all,” he quickly conceded.

Could you commit, then, to just one Whale Call a day?” I asked, and Bill agreed that he would.

After a week, I could tell we had created some magic.  Bill had already made five Whale Contacts, and while three of them had politely told him they had no interest in speaking with him about their situations, two of them made appointments with him.  None of the Whales were rude to him or refused to take his call.

A few weeks have gone by now, and Bill is still too intimidated by these local “movers and shakers” to make more than one Whale Call per day—but he has also successfully converted one of the whales into a promising new client.

If there are people on your list who you’re terrified to contact, challenge yourself to call just one a day—or even one each week.  Prepare and rehearse what you’re going to say, and then make that single attempt to connect.  It could change the entire course of your practice.

If you still can’t dream of making this small commitment, contact me now for help.  Don’t let fear keep you from chasing the biggest mammals in local waters; just keep fishing, and keep REACHING…

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