If you’re racing toward a curve and you focus on the wall you don’t want to hit–you’ll probably hit it.
Race car drivers like Scott Dixon and Jimmie Johnson know that whether it’s a wall or a wreck in front of you, your focus needs to be on where you want to go, not the obstacle.
This idea has been on my mind lately as the news focuses on America’s political circus. One thing people tend to forget about politics is that you can’t have a show without an audience. The discord becomes a spectacle because people are focused on the drama, rather than on facts and forward movement.
Informed citizens, on the other hand, take the view that they play a part in how the country will shape up, and they know that if they pay attention and contribute wisely, they’ll have a positive impact. They’re looking at where they want to go–not at the “wrecked” political system.
My purpose here, however, is not to give you political advice. It’s to show you that while external events beyond our control–like political crisis or accidents on the racetrack–do throw roadblocks in our way, the people who continue to have successes are the ones who focus on where they want to go and how they can get there, not on the mess right in front of them.
I hear struggling professionals focused on their walls every day:
“Voting this year will be a lose-lose.”
“Recruiting for new salespeople is impossible.”
“No one is buying [my kind of service] right now.”
When you focus on where you want to go instead of the wall, what you say sounds more like this:
“I’m doing all I can to decipher the facts and vote wisely.”
“I’m speaking to more and more people and strengthening my recruiting skills.”
“I’m finding ways to add value so that people buy [my kind of service].”
Don’t hit the wall or become part of whatever wreck is on the road in front of you. Focus on where you want to go, and you’ll have a lot better chance of getting there.
So keep your steering sharp, and keep REACHING…
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Almost everyone knows that to succeed at anything, you need:
- A clear, specific goal
- A step-by-step plan to reach that goal
- Immediate and massive action on the steps of that plan
- A willingness to persist until you reach the goal.
If you’ve read Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich or are familiar with Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, you know that you need to put out into the universe your desire to make your goal a reality. But you also know that you can’t just wish your way to what you want; you need to be taking action, too.
In the course of my coaching and training work, I’m asked a lot of questions about the basic principles above. For instance:
If we’ve all heard these things before and we “know” them, why are so many of us no closer to where we want to be this year than we were last year? Why are some of us actually further behind? Is it because this stuff only works for a few people? Are we not doing it right? Is luck an essential element that some of us just don’t have?
For a long time, I believed that people didn’t get what they wanted–and professionals didn’t have the practices they wanted–either because
(1) they didn’t know what to do or how to do it, or
(2) they knew how, but were afraid to do it.
My friend and mentor, Steve Chandler, started our relationship by sharing an even more fundamental reason with me: they haven’t decided to pursue it. Whether or not they know what to do or have fears about it, they simply haven’t chosen it. They haven’t made the commitment to get past their fears or to learn what they need to learn.
Of course, the hesitation to make that commitment might itself be caused by fear, but then, they haven’t made the commitment to take steps to overcome that fear. So, while most people know how to be successful (however they define success), they are, in essence, choosing not to be it.
How do I get past my run of bad luck and get my practice back on track?
It seems that every time I get close to landing a big client, something bad happens to kill the deal: My alarm clock doesn’t work and I oversleep; I forget an important document I needed for the meeting; I even have a “fender bender” and miss the meeting altogether. Is there anything I can do to change my luck?
-BL in Phoenix
There may be such a thing as bad luck, but there’s also something called self-sabotage–which might arise from a fear of success. I devote part of a chapter to this problem in The High Diving Board. Maybe, some things go wrong because you’re afraid of newer, bigger clients. You don’t consciously oversleep, omit a document, or smash up your car, but your fear may have you doing–or not doing–something that causes those things to happen. Could these big accounts be too important to you?
What if your client base, as it stands, were so strong that a “big” account would be something great to have, but just not that important? Do what you need to do with your practice to make the big accounts you’re having “bad luck” with less important, and the likelihood is, your luck will improve dramatically.
Keep things in perspective, and keep REACHING…
Most of us let our fears get in the way of doing what we love.
Seventeen years ago, I was so afraid to let go of my law practice and pursue something I loved, that I honestly believed I simply didn’t know what I loved. This is the reality with which many of my clients first come to me.
“What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?” I asked Frank, an engineer who was recently laid off for the fifth time and who has become very unhappy with his profession.
“I honestly don’t know,” Frank responded.
“Is it possible that you have ideas about what you want to do, and that you’re just afraid to take a good look at those ideas?” I queried.
Frank responded all too quickly that he simply didn’t know.
“It’s not about being afraid of anything,” he insisted.
But the likelihood is that, long ago, Frank banished his ideas about what would make a great career and a great life–as he saw these things–to the place of the “Unspeakables”. He hid them away and “forgot” them, so he wouldn’t speak them, think them, or even see them anymore.
But what is so dreadful about just having a dream career or a dream life–not even necessarily acting on those dreams–just having them?
After years of studying my own fears and those of the many clients who have consulted me for help with theirs, I’ve learned that the simple act of acknowledging a dream gives rise to tremendous fear: A fear that acknowledging it in any way might lure you away from your “Safe Neighborhood”.
The Safe Neighborhood is the life you’ve created for yourself, including the people you associate with, the places you go, and the security of your daily routines. These could all be altered in some way if we were to pursue our dreams–so it’s best not to have them, we think. I discuss the concept of the Safe Neighborhood (and why I don’t see it as a “comfort zone”) in my book, The High Diving Board.
Leaving our Safe Neighborhoods might put us in unfamiliar territory. We might fail, and become the laughing stock of those very people we are depending upon to hold us close where we are. So, yes–simply thinking our Unspeakables induces incredible fear.
The dilemma, though, is that if we’re unhappy (or uncomfortable) with our current situations, we ought to be looking in our secret corners, or outside the walls of our Safe Neighborhoods. Instead, people usually stay stuck in the middle, frustrated and unfulfilled:
They stay where they are in their jobs, rather than even think of changing careers or starting to work on their own;
They reach a plateau in the growth of their businesses and can’t bring themselves to think about what’s needed to take these further;
They lose their jobs–jobs they hated, anyway–and apply again for the same jobs at new companies, because they can’t bear to think of careers that would make them happier.
If this sounds like you, there are some great exercises on pages 43-48 in The High Diving Board that can help you, but you can start today by simply taking some kind of action to do something you love. Sign up for that course in Italian, or that course in photography, or that ballroom dancing class, and watch what happens as you expand the borders of your Safe Neighborhood.
Let those Unspeakables out of the dark, and keep REACHING…
“You want me to call up my previous clients, just to see how they’re doing?” my client Alicia asked me two weeks ago. She was astonished that I would suggest something so forward.
“Isn’t that unprofessional–or unethical?” she continued.
“Do you care how they’re doing?” I asked her.
“Well, of course I do,” came her reply.
“Why, then, would it be wrong to check up on them periodically?” I asked.
Alicia has been a coach for four years, helping young professionals with career transitions. She had consulted me because she wanted to grow her business. Her belief system was that she needed to maintain her professional distance, and her interpretation of what that meant included the idea that once a client had benefited from her services, she no longer had a reason to communicate with him or her on a personal level.
Alicia agreed to call four of her clients before our next session. She even agreed to ask them to tell her the value she brought to their careers and to their lives.
As soon as we connected on the phone again, Alicia couldn’t wait to tell me about her experience.
“First of all, they were grateful that I cared enough to follow up,” she began. “None of them thought, as I did last week, that my call was inappropriate.”
“That got me comfortable enough to ask them about the value they received from me,” she continued proudly, “And that’s what I’m really excited about.”
Alicia found out that she had given all of her clients confidence, focus, and someone to hold them accountable until they were on their feet again.
It reinforced for her all of her beliefs in what she was doing and got her excited about finding more clients. She was so excited, in fact, that she was now able to agree to the one thing she had been unable to bring herself to do the week before.
“I said to each of them, ‘Don’t keep me a secret,’ as you had suggested,” Alicia announced to me, “And right there on the phone, one of them told me about a friend she was going to talk to who she thought could use my help.”
Here’s what Alicia learned:
1) If you have former clients whose experiences with you were positive, stay in touch with them. An email or phone call at the right time could actually mean a lot to them.
2) Ask them about why they chose you and your firm, and what value they received from working with you.
3) Don’t be afraid to mention that you’re open to introductions to other people who may need your help. Simple statements like “Don’t keep me a secret,” or “I’m never too busy to help someone you care about,” can open the door to new clients.
Talk with current and past clients, ask how they’re doing, and keep REACHING…
If you’re just starting out in a professional or sales career, you’re probably struggling to get things going.
If so, take heart. If you’re doing the right things, it will get much easier as you continue. You just need to get some momentum going, and momentum is always easier to perpetuate than it is to initiate.
My friend Marv used to tell a story at his sales workshops about being taken, as a small boy, to see the steam locomotives as they pulled in and out of Grand Central Station in New York.
“Not those sissy diesel engines we have today,” he would say, “These were powerful steam engines.” Then he would imitate the sound of them and pound on a table to give his audience a sense of the power of these massive machines—particularly through the eyes of a five-year old.
Marv’s story ended with a lesson:
“You could put a one-inch thick steel bar across the tracks where the train was starting, and as big and powerful as the locomotive was, it would not be able to move,” he told his spellbound listeners. “But let that train get started and put the same steel bar on the tracks a mile out, and that locomotive would slice right through it as if it were made of butter.”
Professional and sales careers work the same way. In the beginning, no matter how powerful you are, it’s a struggle to get over that steel bar. Some of us don’t make it—and end up in jobs where someone else does the prospecting for clients. Those who do make it learn to attract clients—first one or two, here and there—and then more and more, from all over, as the train begins moving along the tracks.
If you’re still struggling to get over that steel bar, try remembering these four rules:
1. Always see the opportunities in any situation. Setbacks are chances to learn. Failures teach you what doesn’t work.
2. Put 100% of yourself into what you’re trying to accomplish. When you’re working, be 100% at work. When you’re playing, be 100% at play. When you’re with a client, be with that client 100%.
4. Be a light in the lives of the people you serve. You’ll get much more steam from a genuine desire to serve your clients than from a focus on your own needs.
As a coach, I help my clients to both initiate and perpetuate their momentum, so that their engines can go pounding down the rails. I know that once you get going, with a little push, you can be unstoppable. So even if you’re starting with huffs and puffs, don’t resign to just chugging along—get the steam you need to give, and keep REACHING…
“I don’t know how I got to this point,” Richard told me.
Richard was in his sixteenth year as an attorney. He was still a “Junior” Partner in his firm because he did not bring in enough business to be promoted to Senior Partner. He was still working sixty hours a week and, although he was paid extremely well by most people’s standards, he joked about how little it was if you figured it by the hour.
While I usually work with “independent” professionals, Richard’s challenge is one that is common to almost all professionals—the urgent need for more clients.
“What if I conjectured that you are somewhat comfortable right where you are?” I asked him.
“Comfortable, here?” he responded indignantly, “I’m not where I am by choice!”
Jim Stovall, author of The Ultimate Gift and a former Olympic weightlifter, who lost his sight at age 29 and found a way to change his life for the better, tells his audiences:
“You are where you are because that’s where you chose to be.”
You can blame everyone else and your circumstances for where you end up, Jim says, but regardless, if it’s not where you intended to be, you need to look in the mirror (whether you can see or not) and say, “I guess I didn’t want it that badly.”
“Nothing will happen until you say ‘yes’ to your dream,” Jim proclaims.
“Where do you want to be?” I asked Richard.
“I want full partnership,” he told me.
“What do you need to do to get there?” I asked.
“I need to bring in some really large cases,” he responded.
“How would you do that?” I pressed.
“I don’t know,” was his honest response.
“How badly do you want it?” I queried next.
“It’s practically all I think about,” Richard confided.
“Then I take it you’re willing to learn and do the things you need to do?” I asked.
Richard said “yes” to his dream and with a little coaching, he began to bring in the right kind of business to his firm. To start getting new and better clients, he needed to make new and better choices.
Are you making the choices you need to make to be where you want to be? First, you have to say “yes” to your dream. Then, keep REACHING…
P.S. What dream do you need to say “yes” to? Tell me about it in the comments below this blog.
“I know I don’t want to do this anymore,” Erica, a financial advisor working for a large firm, complained to me during our first call together,“But I just don’t know what I do want to do.”
“Erica,” I responded, “Imagine you’re at your 100th Birthday Party. Gathered around you are all the people you love and who love you—your children, your grandchildren…maybe even your great-grandchildren.”
“I don’t know,” Erica persisted.
“Well, what do you want to be remembered for?” I pressed.
“I want them to think I was adventurous—maybe eccentric,” Erica began. “I want them to think I was a good Mom,” she continued. “I want to be able to tell them about my travels.”
Erica was beginning to enjoy the game.
“I want to be able to get away when I feel the urge—to have some kind of work that doesn’t tie me down to an office like I am now. I could work from home, pick my own hours, and make house calls, or rent some space if I needed to bring some people to me.”
By herself, Erica had switched the conversation from how she would like to be seen and remembered to what she wanted her life and her work to look like.
“Would that work be in the financial field?” I asked.
“It could be, I guess—at least in the beginning,” she responded, “But I might want to write something and maybe try to sell some things on line—helping people manage their own finances—or helping other advisors to cope or change, like I’m doing. If I had a business selling things like that, I could be helping people, and earning money even while I traveled.”
In a matter of minutes, with the help of the 100th Birthday Party Game, Erica had found direction and was working on her Mission Statement. (This exercise can be completed in detail with the help of my book The High Diving Board: How to Overcome Your Fears and Live Your Dreams.) One of the best things you can do for yourself is to sit down and write out your own Mission Statement. What do you want to stand for? What do you want to accomplish? How do you want to be known?
What’s the story you want to be telling at your 100th Birthday Party? Writing a Mission Statement will help you live your life on purpose. All you have to do is make sure that everything you do each day is in some way connected to the mission you’ve chosen for yourself.
I hope to see you at my 100th Birthday Party. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
Over the past two weeks, I’ve been busy producing material that you may find useful.
Two weeks ago, Postema Marketing Group sponsored a Webinar I presented called Making Client Referrals Easy. The entire program is now available on YouTube, just by CLICKING HERE.
This week, Sabrina-Marie Wilson released my interview on her acclaimed radio show “Abundant Success”, and it’s already getting lots of attention. It includes my personal story about leaving my “safe neighborhood” and overcoming my fears. You can listen to, or even download, the podcast on iTunes by CLICKING HERE.
In my coaching work this month, several of my clients have been talking about the stress of trying to balance their family lives with their work lives. In my articles, I write a great deal about FEAR, but I more rarely snag the opportunity to write about a related, but equally insidious monster: GUILT.
Years ago, I was helping a child psychologist who ran a busy private practice, made rounds at a local hospital daily, and made himself available to testify in all sorts of court cases. During one of our conversations, he mentioned that he himself had five kids.
“Five kids?” I gasped. It seemed to me that this must be a guilt-ridden man, whose excessive work with neglected children had to have fueled a certain degree of his own family’s neglect. “How can you possibly manage to give them the time you know they need with a schedule like yours?”
With true calm, the good doctor explained to me that the first appointments he put on his schedule each week were with his family—in blocks of two or three hours each. “I’d like to give them more,” he told me, “but I take comfort in the fact that I treat my appointments with them as being my most important.”
“I don’t allow interruptions—except for dire emergencies—of my family time, just like I don’t allow interruptions when I’m working with a patient. When I’m with them, I’m with them one hundred percent. I don’t feel guilty about not getting work done. When I’m working, I know they’re in my schedule, so I don’t feel guilty about not being with them.”
Like the doctor, most of my clients who struggle to balance family and work time are in practices for themselves. Unlike the doctor, most have somehow chosen to be their own worst possible bosses. These bosses could give them more time with their spouses and children…but they don’t.
In his book, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber points out that most of us go into our businesses backwards. We don’t start by figuring out what kind of life we want—what Gerber calls our “Primary Aim“—so we are forced to accept whatever life our business or practice pushes us into.
You don’t have to work 70 hours a week to be a successful professional. Thirty-five hours—or even four—could get the same results, if you are focused. Fear and guilt can affect this focus. The fear often comes from being overwhelmed by the number of steps we see on the way to the success we picture—from forgetting to focus on just a few steps at a time. The guilt usually comes from not having clear boundaries set around our family and work time. Here are some ideas to keep things from getting muddled:
- Decide where you want your practice—and your personal affairs—to be in the next three years, and write each down in as much detail as you can.
- Just as the doctor did, create a Master Weekly Schedule that starts with your family time and time off. Leave open spaces for all of the things that might pop up during the week. Then, put blocks of time into the work portion for: a) the things you need to do on a regular basis, b) three important projects, and c) thinking and planning.
- Honor your family time as if it were a major professional commitment. Make “appointments” with your spouse and children. When you are on work time—barring emergencies—be on work time. But when you’re with family, be truly with them, so there is no guilt.
You can design your work and professional life around the personal life you want. If you want a sense of how balanced (or imbalanced) you may currently be, take a look at the “Wheel of Life” on my Free Resources page. Before you know it, you’ll be doing the things you need to do and feeling much better about where you are and how you’re spending your time.
If you’re already doing what you love and making separate time for those you love, keep that pesky guilt beast at bay, and just keep REACHING…
*Image courtesy of tech.co.
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.
“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.
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…