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Owen Hemsath does the video marketing thing like nobody’s business and he’s my guest on this edition of “Entrepreneur Mind Hacks.” Together, we are discussing his contributions to my 2-book set, Entrepreneur Mind Hacks.

One of the chapters that Owen contributed is titled The Law of “As-If”, and it really resonated with me. According to Owen, the biggest enemy you’ll face is your own doubt.

We are constantly battling a force called “resistance ”. Because of this, we tend to take the path of least resistance and only go wherever we think is easiest. Along this path, for some unknown reason, there are voices in our minds telling us that we are not good enough, we’re not original enough, and that we won’t succeed.

But, what separates entrepreneurs is an uncanny ability to think differently. And, even among entrepreneurs, we need to be thinking “stronger thoughts” than other entrepreneurs in order to rise to the top. When we are able to do this, we quarantine those defeating voices in a place where it cannot be heard.

We need to constantly be reinforcing our value propositions to ourselves. In other words, we need to remind ourselves, “You are the best at what you do! You are unstoppable!” But, Owen isn’t talking about simple mantras or daily affirmations. Rather, he means a real, genuine look in the mirror with honest encouragement.

These negative voices that we battle come from the most beautiful of angels – who fell from heaven – according to Owen. The original translation of the name Satan is actually “The Accuser”, which makes total sense. There is a force of evil in the world that wants to see you fail… each and every one of us. So, all that negativity that puts resistance in front of us, according to Owen, comes from the world, our own flesh, and the devil. The bottom line is that the devil wants you to beat up on and hate yourself simply because you were made in the outstanding image of God. Toss in the dads who berated us, uncles who discouraged us, girlfriends that dumped us into the recipe… and success becomes a tough, uphill journey.

To battle all this, Owen engages in a lot of prayer, positive thinking, and he surrounds himself with positive people. And judging by the success of The Video Spot, it’s working!

When it comes to self-doubt and self-defeat, Own wrote that it’s a fast, downward spiral that we need to avoid.

“It’s even crazier that the more you doubt yourself, the more you will doubt yourself.”

It’s basically the simple law of momentum. If you allow yourself to continue moving in a certain direction, you will find yourself, in no time, moving faster and faster in that same direction. That’s basic physics. And the same is true in our psychology and confidence.self-destructive-behavior

That’s where the Act “As-If” Time comes in! Instead of continuing to beat yourself up and “Charlie Browning” about, look at yourself in the mirror and remind yourself that you are created in God’s image. You are powerful. You are more than a conqueror. Act as if you ARE who you AIM TO BE. When you do this, you’ll see those Charlie Brown moments slip away.

What’s also crazy, according to Owen, is the human brain’s inability to discern between an illusion and reality. This is why movies are so impactful. There is a part of our brain that is triggered by the illusion up on the screen, and reacts as though it is reality. So, when you are creating your own mental illusions that you’re terrible and your life is awful, your brain doesn’t know that these illusions are just you being depressed. So, the brain triggers and reinforces this belief. To combat this, you need to “hack” your mind and convince it of life’s actual reality.

Then you need to act on it!

As many experts have said, a goal without action is just a dream. You can dream all you want, and even hack your mind, but you need to follow all that up with action!

Practically speaking, I know that there are some of us who have grown up in very depressed situations and have huge obstacles to get over in order to succeed at their entrepreneurial goals. Even identifying their pessimism is hard enough, much less chiseling away at it and getting rid of it in order to Act “As-If, as Owen prescribes.

But, as Owen puts it, the person who doesn’t strive to reach out and go farther than they are in something… the person who doesn’t aspire for more… are not living up to their full potential. Amazingly, human beings are the only creatures who can do this. A tree grows and grows until it dies. It doesn’t ever convince itself that it’s grown enough or that it just can’t grow anymore. A squirrel doesn’t gather food only until it’s time for the game to start or until it gets distracted. No, squirrels gather all the food they can – with surplus, if possible – until they just can’t get any more.

Owen shares a story about a friend of his who was suddenly disabled and told by the government that he would no longer ever be able to work again.

“You’re telling me that you can’t type on a computer from your wheelchair?” asked Owen. “You can’t provide SEO service for people? You can’t set up a web based store and get into e-commerce?” You’d be amazed at what we can do – even when our bodies are limited – if we allow our creativity and ingenuity to expand our boundaries!

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This week, I’m joined by an amazing digital marketing consultant, and one of the contributors to my 2-book set, Entrepreneur Mind Hacks, Martin Shervington. Martin is an official Google Small Business Advisor and brings ‘Digital Intelligence’ to business, starting with marketing and social media. He was generous enough to help me with four different chapters in my books: Productivity, Creativity, Connection and Success. And, today, we’re going to key in on his ideas regarding Creativity.

For Martin, in order to be creative, he needs to be having fun! This may have some roots in his “side gig” of getting on stage and doing stand up comedy. More than performing for others, when he takes the stage, he goes up there and has fun. He has found that if he goes up and is not enjoying himself, but just reading from a script or memorized notes, everyone in the room knows that it’s not fun… or funny. It only works when he goes out and naturally has fun with the people he is performing for.

So, when it comes to life away from the stage, the secret is to find people who are willing to play. Whether it’s away from the computer or on social media, when people are connected and willing to thoughtfully exchange ideas… and play… then the connections are much more comfortable and productive.

Now, the hard truth is that business processes are not fun. And, as businesses grow and tasks abound, it’s easy to get sucked into the mundane parts of work. Therefore, it’s important to set aside time now and then for your team to have fun together – even if they are thousands of miles apart. There are games that can be played via video conferencing that can effectively set a new, creative tone for your team.

When Martin begins various tasks, he often begins by thinking to himself, “How can I make this an enjoyable experience?”… and not just for himself, but for the people on his team, as well as the end users and clients.

Like anything, if you are only going through the motions, then whatever you are doing becomes dull. This is true for anything from blog posts to office interactions. People need to feel refreshed.

Consider any successful television show. From season to season to season, there are consistent elements and currents, but as the show progresses, it takes new steps and additions that keep things fresh.

One trick is to figure out how to get into your fun, creative place in your own mind. For Martin, the key is to get obsessed with something to the point of looking at it from new perspectives and seeing new details within it. Then, as he dives down one rabbit hole after another, he needs to be able to step back and laugh at himself as he peeks into each bit of minutiae. But, more than the rabbit holes, Martin enjoys figuring out how to connect the dots of all the different perspectives he discovers along the way, resulting in figuring out how to do something that isn’t currently done.

So, like in athletics, you won’t get better and better or discover new techniques if you don’t push yourself into new, exciting (sometimes scary and risky) arenas.

And that’s where the fun comes in!

Image: Laura Williams

Image: Laura Williams

Years ago, Martin worked as a windsurfing instructor. At the time he learned a motto: If you’re not falling in the water… you’re not trying hard enough. This meant that at certain points, as he learned new techniques, tricks and skills, he had to be willing to fail. After smashing into the water, he would learn how to adjust and what to do differently until eventually, he would master the new technique.

The same principle applies to being an entrepreneur.

As you start out, you don’t want to risk everything, but if you’re not willing to try different stuff out, then you won’t grow. And with today’s technology, you don’t always have to go at it alone. Through social media, you can often crowd source your ideas into action, while creating a “space” for people to “play in”… all with the end result of trying out your new endeavor.

The secret is then to share with one another what is learned during this playtime. What worked? What didn’t work? By doing this, you end up with a learning community around you, who are having fun while doing your research!

For example, while in Brazil last year, Martin had the idea of putting a certain village on the global map. He networked with local businesses and they all cooperatively agreed to some virtual meetings and signed up for Google Maps. Based on their success, in no time, other people started picking up on this idea and began hosting real and virtual events in their small towns, and a model began to arise… and BOOM, out came Google Local Guides!

Now, as it happens, Martin is examining how this process of bringing people together and putting small communities on the map works with overall Google search functions. Keeping in mind that “play” is more fun for most people than “research”, he now has several groups of people “play/working” to find new solutions to draw global eyes to any town in the world with the right Google and social media positioning.

One of the keys is to effectively connect people in fun and exciting ways. When people enjoy one another and feel connected, they are much more willing to share and go the extra mile for one another – whether it be in research, growth, or creativity.

To learn more from Martin, check him out at PlusYourBusiness.com!

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This week, I’m joined by award-winning podcaster and one of the many contributors to my 2-book set Entrepreneur Mind Hacks, Daniel J. Lewis. Daniel has some simple but amazingly powerful productivity tips to share!

Daniel helps people launch and improve their podcasts and helps them communicate their passions to the world. As an entrepreneur, he knows what it is like to have limited time to work with, and the need to make the most of every second in order to be productive.

Daniel defines “productivity” as simply being able to get things done. It is a combination of using the right tools for the job, knowing how to use those tools well, and discovering new tools or techniques to be able to accomplish the things that you need to in the time that you have without having to sacrifice. When it comes to systems, they are important as long as they are not too complicated.

Whatever system you use to accomplish your daily tasks must be simple enough for you to consistently follow and effective enough that it actually works.

You could have “the best system in the world”, but if you never use it, it’s pointless. Or if it’s so complicated that you’re always using it incorrectly; or you’re spending more time on the tool and trying to get it to work within your workflow, it’s no longer an effective system.

The first system, or better yet, simple tip, that Daniel offers is to SCHEDULE YOUR TASKS. This sounds like a no-brainer, but Daniel goes a bit deeper:

“Often, we don’t have time for something unless we make time for it. We will schedule times to meet with clients or to make important calls, but it is also helpful to schedule into your day things like processing email.

I don’t even receive as many email as other people do – I get maybe 40 or 50 emails a day – but the times that I find that I’m able to process these the best is when I have actually scheduled time each day to process my inbox.

I typically schedule an hour per day, and I try to spend that time doing nothing but that task – focused on handling my email. By doing that day after day, after day, not only does it help to know that this is the time that I do this specific task (in this case, email). But, it’s giving me a regular amount of time each week to accomplish it.

You see, if you set aside an hour per day to process your email inbox, that adds up to five hours per week! Sometimes you might look at your inbox and think, “No WAY! This is gonna take five hours for me to get through!”

But, if you schedule one hour per day on whatever scheduling system you use, then you’ll actually have the accumulated time to accomplish this task.

By putting your own appointment in your schedule, it blocks out the time you need and it prevents other things from happening during that time. So, no one else can schedule a meeting with you during that time; You won’t take other calls during that time; You won’t schedule anything else during that time. And, if you use any kind of digital system, it’s very likely that it will also remind you that time is coming up.

So you’ll have these reminders telling you when to switch tasks or prepare for an upcoming task.”

So, what qualifies as a task worth scheduling? According to Daniel:

“Really, anything that you want to do or maybe anything that you find yourself doing. For me one of these things is participating in social networks. I actually have that scheduled into my daily calendar. For me, that is important for my business because I feel that it’s important for me to go out there and interact with people who are in my field, respond to tweets, check out my Facebook groups…

Image: Justin Pot

Image: Justin Pot

And this isn’t just marketing. Sometimes it’s just helping people answer a question and provide solutions for people. When I interact with my social media outlets, it really builds my brand, and it shows that I’m interested in giving back to the community. But it can be quite a time waster, if not properly handled. It’s very easy get lost in time while surfing around and around and around my various social media spheres.

So, as silly as it seems, I actually have “Social Media Participation” scheduled on my daily calendar.

I have a set time on Mondays when I start preparing for my podcast, a set time when I go live, as well as certain times I prepare for those podcasts. And usually, when I have a project that I know it’s really important – that I  really need to take care of this week – I will schedule with myself to make sure I do it. Then I won’t let anything else interfere with that project. This system is better than just a “to do list” that says, “This is what you need to do today…”

It’s much more specific.

But how would someone use this approach when it comes to projects that could take days, weeks, or even months to complete?

It’s not so much about blocking out the time to complete the task in totality – although it might be. I might decide I’m going to work an hour or two on a particular project on these particular days of the week for a certain amount of weeks. Not only is this a great way to focus and get that stuff done, but it can also be more of an accountability tool for myself.   My calendar will remind me at this time I need to switch over to work on this other task. So I start transitioning over. I start working on the next task. And then, I might continue working on that new task all day. But, I might not have ever made that transition to that task in the first place without the scheduling reminder. I might’ve been chasing all the little fires that surround me each day instead of doing the task. And by the time today’s over, I’d realize that I ran out of time.

The calendar is just a way of me helping myself to be more accountable to the tasks I need to do in that day.

Now, I have found that sometimes I need to make a hard decision between what is worth scheduling into my day, and what I simply need to toss to the trash. Daniel has these recommendations for prioritizing what should be included in your daily schedule and what doesn’t:

Often times, I need to ask myself, “What’s the return on investment here?” and not in on actual dollar amount. Sometimes value can’t be assigned to certain things, like social media participation, for example.

So, I have to decide is this really worth my time?

I need to work on treating myself like I should be treating the people who work for me – assigning myself one specific task during a specific time to focus on.

So, in essence, Daniel has set up a system that helps him stay disciplined.

Some people don’t struggle with that as much as I do I know that my biggest struggles are procrastination and time management. I put things off. I get distracted by all the shiny new things I run across. This extra structure is what helps me to stay on top of things and accomplish things; and when I see that I’m falling behind on the tasks I need to do, it is usually because I wasn’t following my structure as much as I should have been.

The second trick that Daniel shared in my book is to USE A TIMER TO AVOID DISTRACTIONS.

Image: Dale De Leon

Image: Dale De Leon

Any kind of timer that you have – even if you grab your kitchen timer or use an alarm clock – can be sued as a timer. Or, use the timer on your smartphone or tablet. Or use a website like e.ggtimer.com. What a timer can do is help you focus via what is called the “Pomodoro Technique”.   You set a timer for yourself for, say, 25 minutes and you focus on whatever task you are on and nothing else for those 25 minutes. This gives you extra mental freedom because you’ll inevitably get distracted during that time, but you can defer those distractions. You see, if I am half-way into a 25 minute period and I get a distraction, like a quick thought of a possible email coming into my inbox, or an alert of some sort… I can look at my timer and realize NO! I need to focus. And I can check my email in 12½ minutes. I can wait 12½ minutes!

It’s kind of like when I used to teach small children. It almost always happened right in the middle of a lesson, at least one kid raised his hand and asked if they could go to the bathroom.

Each time, I would immediately ask them, “Can you wait?”

And the answer, almost always was, “Yes.”

It’s a similar situation with these little distractions that can wait. You can wait to reply to that tweet or check your email or let someone go to voicemail and call them back in 15 minutes…

By deferring those things, you offer yourself more mental freedom to focus on that task right then. And when your timer runs out, you can then pursue those distractions (if you want to) Or, you may find yourself in a great zone because you’re focused! You’ve spent so much effort on focusing for those 25 minutes that you are now in a “productivity sweet spot”.

If this is the case, simply reset your timer for another 25 minutes, or however long you want, and you can get really productive work done during that time.

So much of what we do in trying to get stuff done is often just the transition into it.

I’ve seen multiple studies that said it takes up to 15 minutes – sometimes people say it’s up to half an hour – for you to really transition your brain from one task to another. So, if you’re focusing for 25 minutes, a lot of that is your brain transitioning into that task and you may find yourself in a great point where you are just “in the zone”, writing like crazy… podcasting… or whatever the task is!

You’ll find yourself in that “zone” because you’ve disciplined yourself with what seems like simple disciplines. So, when your timer does end, you may find yourself not wanting to pursue your distractions and instead stay focused for even longer in order to get more accomplished! 

All this begs the question of whether or not there are tasks that DO NOT work well with Daniel’s timer.

I think the tasks that have an indefinite amount of time, or where you don’t need to focus much on it, fall into that category. For example, one-on-one consulting or talking with someone on the phone. I think it’s actually disrespectful to set a timer and have the mindset that in exactly 15 minutes, this interaction must end.

To be conscious of the time is one thing, but to make someone feel like they’re on a timer is another. So, if you’re interacting with other people, especially face-to-face or voice to voice, that’s not when you should use a timer technique. But instead, maybe just a calendar technique and block out that chunk of time in your day.

Other tasks might include tasks that you’ve been dreading. A better way to time these out is with the “timer reset” technique.

This is a technique that I learned from Stever Robbins – The Get it Done Guy. This is a way that I’ve been able to clean up my office and clean rooms that I would have never otherwise cleaned. The flipside of the psychological thing of using a timer is when you tell yourself, “I’m going to give myself only 15 minutes to work on this task.” Then it seems very attainable. You give yourself those 15 minutes. And you work on that task. If you then DO reset the timer after that, and continue working for another 15 minutes, there might be a psychological switch that goes on that the next time you need to work on that task (or continue working on that task) you might be thinking to yourself, “I don’t have time right now.” And really it just takes 15 minutes. But you’re conditioning your brain to think “A 15 minute task actually means an hour”. So, those may be times when you might use the timer… but don’t reset it. And I suggest that when you do those things that you really dread – set a timer and when the timer is done, you’re done. Or, at least wrap it up as quickly as possible. That way, the next time you have to do the task, you know you only have to do this for 15 minutes!

And if you think about it, over the course of a week at only 15 minutes per day, you’ve actually spent 75 minutes doing something quite easily rather than dreading it for an hour in one shot.

For more amazing insights from Daniel, check out danieljlewis.com!

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Shawn Manaher is my guest this week, as we discuss his contribution to my 2-book set “Entrepreneur Mind Hacks”.  Shawn has some golden nuggets regarding the power of good connections to share with us, and advice on how to avoid totally messing them up!

Let’s start with the basics: What are networking & business connections?

According to Shawn, networking connections are simply making and building relationships related to whatever you want to build.  So, in this context were talking about networking for the purpose of building business.  Think of it more as a relationship more than just an activity – getting to know one another.  Often times, those that are in the “online space” make the mistake of thinking that networking is just like online.  However, all networking should actually be approached in more of an “offline” approach, in that getting to know one another and establishing a relationship should be paramount.  Once you know and understand what each other’s strengths, weaknesses, services and needs are, then the mutual benefit of the connection will naturally surface.

When Shawn goes into a networking, or into any kind of connection, relationship he understands that there’s a give-and-take in the relationship.  This practically works itself out by having a certain set of strengths and services connected with the person he has networked with so that when Shawn meets someone else who needs that service, he instantly will connect the two people and see their business grow, while fulfilling the need of the other person.  Then, as the relationships grow and become more and more reciprocal, everybody within the network wins!

You see, as Shawn puts it, your business growth and your business potential is only as strong as your ability and the strength of your network.  Now, he is the first to admit that this truth didn’t sit easy with him at first.  Shawn didn’t like that the idea that success really is about who you know not what you do.

Yet, as Shawn connected with and became friends with people such as Chris Dreyer from Attorney Rankings, he realized that now, either one of them would be willing to drop everything to help one another succeed – all because each of them have given to one another without expectation.  So, in building his networking circles, Shawn has come to understand both who he has connected with, as well as where their mutual benefits reside.

Now, it’s a hard truth that some people are going to be more takers than givers.  But if you find a core group of people that are willing to give, and you’re willing to give, and there’s that mutual respect and connection across the board… then, those people become your inner networking circle.

One of the most valuable lessons Shawn has ever learned came to him the hard way:

If you’re going to network, then you need to constantly connect with the people you are networking with.

Since learning this incredibly valuable lesson, Shawn is much more organized and almost always has a plan in place before meeting somebody.  He puts them in an email database.  He follows up with them on a regular basis so that he is connecting with them in a meaningful way.  Ultimately, the purpose of networking is not just to accumulate a list of names that you know, but to help build each other’s business efforts to new levels.

But to achieve this, Shawn needed to come up with and organize an effective system.

At one point, Shawn was going to a lot of business networking events.  He was mostly going to open networking events where he would basically meet with anybody and connect with anybody.  But, then he learned about closed networking events. At these events, instead of focusing on meeting 100 different people at each event, taking part in short conversations amounting to very little meaningful give and take, he decided to go into a closed networking group.

There, Shawn worked on building relationships with a select few individuals particularly interested in building each other’s businesses in a mutually beneficial way.

Image: Grapevine Networking

Image: Grapevine Networking

Typically a closed network would be a group of about twelve like-minded businesspeople that Shawn will see fairly regularly – on a monthly basis, he meets with two or three of those individuals face-to-face, one-on-one for about 30-45 minutes.  He gets to know their businesses they get to know Shawn’s.  And then, through that one-to-one connection, each of the people are able to refer business at a higher rate and a much more successful rate for one another because they actually know each other.

Among his other efforts, Shawn has begun Sidepreneurs (sidepreneurs.com).  This innovative pool of resources, podcast, and connection site  is all about helping individuals launch their side-businesses and graduate into full-time entrepreneurship!  Shawn offers mentorship which comes out of his own experience, as well as his network.  The result has been the building of a community of like-minded individuals who are focused on building their side businesses and helping one another achieve those goals.

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Susan Finch was one of the most prolific contributors to my 2-book set “Entrepreneur Mind Hacks” . This week, she is offering the “full scoop” of her genius, as we discuss hacks that can move your business forward.

One of Susan’s greatest nuggets that she wrote was, “Productivity starts before you punch the clock” – meaning that before you even sit down to begin your first task of the day, you need to be in the right frame of mind in order to do a great job that day. For Susan, this begins from the second that he morning alarm goes off… before she even lifts her head from her pillow. That’s when she makes the decision to have a great day, do her very best for her clients, be honorable and helpful, and to have a lot of fun!

As Susan puts it, it’s like armoring yourself with Teflon before the kids start fighting in the morning.

But, this doesn’t happen automatically. It takes time to initiate this key to success. But, by taking the time to do this, it enables Susan to transition from each distinct stage of the morning, and even the entire day. When her morning “ritual” becomes routine, then she is much more capable of focusing on what is in front of her and being much more productive.

One lesson Susan learned from her mom was to never even leave her master bedroom until she was ready to take on the day – dressed, hair done, makeup done, teeth brushed, etc. By setting the stage for each day in this way, both Susan and her mother are prepared to take on anything that might spontaneously come their way.

Once she has herself together, then she spends time doing things like preparing her kids lunches, or doing things for her non-profit, or preparing things for a volunteer opportunity at her kid’s school… any number of tasks that are non-work related. In fact, she handles these things before she ever looks at her email or social media. It’s her way of lovingly taking care of those near and dear to her with all of her focus and without the distractions of work and other demands.

This helps her compartmentalize her day from the very beginning, setting the stage for an even more productive day once her work hours begin.

You see, according to Susan, human beings crave structure. We often don’t even realize it, but when we are surrounded by clutter and mess, we also surround ourselves with reminders of unmet obligations or goals. This is depressing!

But, when we declutter our office, home, or even counterspace, we will feel less burdened and be more productive!

Image: Grasshopper.com

Image: Grasshopper.com

Here are some of the “simple tasks” Susan does each morning:

  • Clean the dining room table
  • Feed the pets
  • Clear the kitchen counter

By taking care of these simple tasks, she expresses her love for her family while jump-starting her day with simple productivity. You see, the way that Susan is wired, when she is of service to someone or creating something, she is at her happiest. When she is stuck doing something that doesn’t fall into either of those categories, she simply doesn’t feel right.

Now, most of the time, her efforts go unnoticed. Her kids rarely even recognize that they have a clean place to eat their cereal in the morning or lunches are made. But, we don’t love in order to receive recognition, and when they do notice that she has done something nice for them, the rewards are precious.

All this to say, these morning routines don’t have to be huge, elaborate systems. Sometimes it’s as simple as slicing apples so that her daughter can eat her lunch and talk with a friend without a mouthful of fruit.

But, while it doesn’t need to be elaborate, it does require intentionality. In order to be productive in anything – whether it be as a parent, a homeowner, or a business person, we need to pay attention to what those around us need. This helps us most effectively meet their needs.

It all begins with a proper mindset.

For instance, Susan prays daily, thanking God for her clients that allow her to work from home… establishing a grateful and selfless mindset each and every day.

Susan began learning about this years ago. When she was planning her wedding day, her priest asked her and her fiancé to answer one question (one that had no right or wrong answer) that would lay the foundation for her entire wedding day: Would she be the gracious host or the honored guest?

By deciding to be gracious hosts, they would not disappointed if things didn’t go perfectly throughout the day, but they would be incredibly filled with joy just seeing their friends and family celebrate the special day together.

This translates into her life today, both personally and professionally.

Early in her career, Susan had the opportunity to work under Jack Mealer, an advertizing great from Orange County, CA. While there, she saw a coffee mug that read:

“Our clients do not need us, we need our clients.”

This motto seemed to embody nearly everything that the firm did. Susan learned early on to never take anything for granted. They simply maintained the mindset that they were grateful for the opportunity to serve their clients.

Now, there is no guarantee that each day will end perfectly, but at least she can set the stage well by beginning each day filled with love, fun, creativity and productivity!

But what happens if your day takes an unexpected turn and suddenly becomes one of “those days”, despite your best efforts?

Susan offers some mindset game changers:

  • You can choose when to stop being in a bad mood, culminating into a choice when to stop having a bad day. Sometimes this is incredibly difficult, especially when we find ourselves so mired in our rough circumstances that we can’t see a way out of them. Susan is blessed to have a husband who will honestly (and lovingly) call her out when she begins to spiral. We all need someone like that. But when he’s not around, sometimes a simply change of location helps immensely! Try taking a quick walk outside. Getting out, away from your desk will help spur creativity and problem-solving.
  • Or, when your day takes a rough turn, call a friend or relative with the purpose of listening to them. Listen carefully about what is going on in their lives and respond with empathy and care. Too often, we make life all about ourselves. By actively listening to someone else, we set our perspectives into a more self-less mode.
  • Next, get out a pencil and paper. Stop typing on your computer. When we express ourselves through actual penmanship, a different part of our brain is engaged. So doodle, or make a list. It can be on paper, or a white board, or in chalk… whatever you prefer.
  • If you can, do some gardening. Susan’s not even a “gardener”. But, getting down in the dirt and getting your hands dirty – whether it’s mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, or planting petunias – offers a sense of instant gratification, accomplishment, and like writing on paper, engages and stimulates a different part of the brain, which will promote productivity and problem solving. Vacuuming the carpet or ironing clothes will achieve the same outcomes.
  • Finally, if you’re having a bad day and are in need of a mindset reset, turn off your phone, email, and all your notifications. According to Susan, multitasking is dumb. It is not productive. When we constantly shift our attentions from one thing to another, we are never fully focused on anything. This prevents us from doing our very best at any task in front of us. Instead, create an atmosphere that will lead to success!

You can learn more from Susan at SusanFinch.com.

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This week, Dan Crask joins me to discuss some very practical things that will help you get the most out of your work day and work space. This is a great one for entrepreneurs and home-based business folks.

Dan is “The Brand Shepherd” among my fellow collaborators for my two-book set, “Entrepreneur Mind Hacks”.  He is also a marketing expert and graphic designer as well as just a great guy!  His chapter in Entrepreneur Mind Hacks is simply titled “Tips on Staying Productive”, and he strikes gold right from the beginning:

“Staying productive is like navigating a minefield of distractions and meaningless work.”

One aspect of this is the entrepreneurial truth that not everyone is equal.  As businesspeople, we need to be able to prioritize the multitudes of problems, individuals, and projects facing us each day.  According to Dan, the number one way to do this is to first minimized your distractions.

But, what’s a distraction?

It could be as simple as family distractions, if you’re working from a home office.  For Dan, when the door is closed, nobody bothers Dad.  Another distraction could be your phone and computer notifications.  And, speaking of your phone, minimizing distractions could also mean sending all calls to voicemail instead of answering each call as they come in.

And, when it comes to personal needs, Dan goes so far as making “appointments” for his own self-care needs on his calendar so that the time is intentionally set aside for working out, meals, and even family time.

Dan also wrote:

“Through trial and error (heavy on the error), I have a few mind hacks to help keep you productive.”

It’s hard to imagine a guy like Dan being heavy on errors, but the truth is that up until 2010, Dan found himself incredibly distracted by all the latest things that were happening in social media.  It got to such a point that he was extremely enamored by what he was seeing on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  It was consuming him to the point that he’d bring social media up at client meetings, he’d be distracted by social media while trying to accomplish his work duties, and what’s worse is that his clients saw it before he did.
At that point, he put social media in the far, far, FAR backseat of life and only uses it as a tool to accomplish his and his clients’ branding goals.

Image: Mari Anne Snow

Image: Mari Anne Snow

Dan also suggests to implement what he calls a “mandatory door”, no matter where you work.  In other words, you need a space where you are able to hunker down and get work done.  Not only does this offer you the ability to focus without distractions, but it also provides privacy that could help your clients and partners feel more confident and at ease.  The other side to having a “mandatory door” is that when the door is open, anyone can come in and you are not forever isolated from the world, or more specifically your loved ones.

Now, like many entrepreneurs, Dan works from a home office, so the door has become quite a necessity.  However, depending on where you stand in your company’s pecking order, you may find yourself working in a cubicle or open space where co-workers are able to interrupt your focus.  In this case, effective communication between you, your boss, and your co-workers is critical so that everyone understands when and how you need to work distraction-free.

This also ties into some things I’ve been reading lately regarding the need for leaders to be considerate and compassionate toward the needs of those who they are leading.  This principle applies to people working within an organization, or the solo-entrepreneur who is leading his family.  Healthy communication is key.

Another tip Dan offers is to make sure your notifications serve you, not the other way around.

Too often, our email, text message, social media, and news alert notifications ping us to death when it comes to focusing on what needs to get done.  For Apple users, there is a convenient “Do Not Disturb” mode on iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers, which Dan takes advantage of.

Turning off his notifications did take Dan a bit of “detox time”, as it may any of us, but putting his social media and other non-time critical interactions onto his own terms has been incredibly beneficial.

Almost immediately, Dan was able to put in a full hour of undistracted, undisturbed, and productive time.  This may sound basic, but Dan is a creative person in a creative business and creativity can gain momentum.  Dan was finding that his repeated notifications were constantly taking him out of his creative rhythm and interrupting his momentum.  Without them, he was instantly more productive.

Dan also has found that he is more productive in the early morning hours.  Getting to this discovery took a lot of humility, as well as Dan’s ability to identify his own strengths and weaknesses.  He had to abandon the stereotypes of what needs to be done in order to be successful and take a hard, honest look in the mirror.  Such stereotypes might be: if you’re a farmer, you’re supposed to rise before the sun and get straight to work.  If you’re an artist you’re supposed to work all hours of the evening.  If you’re a writer, you should be able to tirelessly sit in front of your computer all day long.  Before abandoning the stereotypes, Dan really wanted to be a “night person”, but he realized that he simply isn’t one.  By the time 8:00 rolls around, he’s done.  He’s usually in bed before 9:00 at night.  The flip side is that he is awake and refreshed sometime between five and six each morning.  Dan finds that the early morning brings on a “newness” that invigorates him.

Now, not all of us are like Dan – possessing the ability to be most creative before lunch – but , the key is to figure out how you are wired and what part of the day you are most naturally productive, and then make the most of that portion of the clock-face.

One thing readers of Entrepreneur Mind Hacks may notice is a quick tip that immediately follows Dan’s submission.  It reads:

“Every day, without fail, spend the first 20-30 minutes of your day resetting your thinking about yourself, your goals, and your daily projects.  Do not start your day without absolute clarity regarding the most important tasks for your day.  Those 20 minutes will determine the tone, course, and productivity of your entire day.”

This works for Dan many mornings, but working at home with three kids under seven has its built-in obstacles some morning.  Nevertheless, he does what he can to get an early start to each day.  Whether he starts first thing in the morning, or if his start time gets delayed a bit, he has systems, including a big dry erase board, that helps him organize his day and approach his mornings with clarity.  Then, at the end of each day, he adjusts the lists, tasks and other information on the board to reflect the priorities of the following day.

All this boils down to Dan’s personal success in providing his clients with brand guidance and design.  He works with businesses of all shapes and sizes, listens to their goals and directions, and helps with pretty much anything that is visual regarding the company’s brand, as well as the company’s brand identity or even brand packaging.

This process can turn into analyzing a website’s Google Analytics report and figuring out how to help a company’s website perform better, to coming up with the right design for the packaging, printing and even product design that would help lead to successful profits.

You can learn more from Dan at brandshepherd.com, or read his personal thoughts and insides at DanCrask.com.

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“Creative Katrina” Pfannkuch is a Creative specialist with incredible tips and methods to tap into and hone our creative side of our brains. This week, we learn Katrina’s thoughts on “Mindset” as we discuss her contributions to my book “Entrepreneur Mind Hacks”including her chapter titled “Four Ways to Sharpen Your Creative Edge”.

As Katrina puts it, we are all too familiar with the word “rut”. This isn’t always a bad thing, in fact it often comes out of doing something very well… so well, that we simply keep doing it in the way that we’ve always done it… putting us into a rut. Sometimes, becoming quite good at something is actually bad for us because we don’t always put out our best effort, as it becomes almost natural to do things as we always have.

However, in order to take things to the next level, you need to break out of your rut and creatively find ways to make that happen.

So, by “creative edge”, Katrina is encouraging us to have the courage to take a step further than we have gone before – outside of our comfort zones – in order to grow.

The first method Katrina prescribes is to challenge yourself with something new, rather than expanding the reach of a current goal. Too often, when something isn’t going or growing as we had hoped, we are quick to judge ourselves and our efforts, instead of seeing the opportunities and possibilities that stand before us. But, when we start something completely new, we tend to go into it with a more open heart and mind – without expectations – because we can look at it with a healthy perspective.rubiks cube

But, let’s say there doesn’t seem to be time – with an impeding deadline looming – to “start something new”. What then? Katrina recommends shifting gears in your project – take 20 minutes or so to take a stab at a different aspect of the project than you’ve been grinding at and approach that aspect with a new, creative perspective. This will likely rekindle your energy not only in that aspect, but also the section of the project where you are stuck in a rut.

And, it feels good to be reminded what is possible in your endeavors!

According to Katrina, emotions – how you feel – play a key role in overcoming creative blocks AND what she calls “stepping into your true voice”. We tend to spend all our working days in our mind with to-do lists, projects, deadlines, etc. But we rarely allow ourselves to feel anything about these projects and to-do items. This disconnection between what we are doing, what we think about it and how we feel about it causes frustration.

In reality, creativity is very much a “body sensation”, which involves our feelings. So, if we are connected to what our heart’s passion is, we will be much more aware of what it feels like when we are working along the right path for us.

But, what about those of us who are more “systems-oriented”? What does “stepping into your true voice” mean to us?

Well, as Katrina puts it, even the most “systematic” of people are very creative. They are tasked with the goal of taking their systems and developing them in such a way that supports other people’s needs… many of which need to be anticipated and forecasted. This, alone, is a very creative act.

All this to say, “your true voice” is how you express yourself when it is completely aligned with who you are.

Katrina also says that we need to acknowledge and honor your inner voice above all others. As with any entrepreneurial space, we are looking at what other people are doing. There are a lot of ways to look outside of our own bubble – What are our competitors doing? What are the experts recommending? But, if you are not clear on what your passion is, from the beginning, you won’t be able to pick out the right people to follow when attempting to look outside. So, while these experts and competitors may seem very clear in their methods, they may not be the right methods for you, and following their example could actually backfire on you.

Everyone learns by doing. There are no exceptions. This can be scary when you are attempting something new, or even something familiar, but with a new perspective. This boils down to the fear of the unknown – How will this work? How well will I succeed or will I fail? How will this affect others?

And the first step is often the most difficult, because there is rarely a structure to follow. However, until you start doing it a new way (or doing a new thing), you will never learn how well it will work. You must do it to learn it. When you hypothesize in your mind, you can come up with a lot of unreal scenarios that could play out, which might discourage you from even trying. By doing it, you actually have hard evidence of what is working and what isn’t, based on evidentiary fact. By doing, you can learn to shift directions on the fly, which is a huge part of creativity.

One aspect to maximizing your creative strength that is often ignored, is discovering which part of the day is your “groove time”? Are you more creatively energized in the early morning? Afternoon? Evening?

Katrina also insists that each of us must believe in what we create – both during and after the creation process. When we are unsure how people will receive what we are creating, we find ourselves emotionally and practically going out on a limb. Therefore, it’s very important to ease up on ourselves when it comes to our own expectations. This will help alleviate internal frustration that would otherwise bubble up when our expectations of how other people will react aren’t met. And, it’s no surprise that if you are frustrated during the creation process, then your creation will not be as full and complete as if you were less bound by these unfound expectations.

Now, after you have created something – say, an online course or other entrepreneurial effort – but before you release it, there should be an assessment process where you can fine-tune what you have done and improve it. This can easily be accomplished with a creative mindset by stepping away from it for a day or two, and then approaching it with a fresh mind, attitude and perspective. When you refine your work, look at it from the perspective of your potential client or buyer, not from you, the creator. Think like they would. But, don’t be judgmental, be practical.

In fact, you don’t even have to wait until your creative process is completed to practically assess your work. You can have these practical moments before you begin and mid-process in order to avoid spinning your wheels in a direction that isn’t practical.

It all boils down to your intention.

When you are either self-assessing, or offering your work to trusted people for their input, are your intentions to hone and refine your creation, or are you aiming to chase the illusive target of making everyone else happy? Not to say that you must remain stalwart and never adjust the path that you are on, but do so with the right creative intentions.

To do this correctly takes both humility and courage. It’s not easy to dig into the depths of your passions and offer it for other people to review. But, afterward, you will have better insights from people you trust. This is good to have cleared out before you are bombarded by clients who may not understand your actual intentions.

Katrina also wrote a chapter in my book titled: Three Simple Tips for Listening to Your Creative Gut.  As she puts it, your creative gut is the really fun part of self-discovery. You see, if you never take time away from the routines and tasks that you HAVE to do each day, you end up drowning out that natural, creative voice inside you that yearns to inspire you with great ideas. Our creative gut is that voice that wants to be heard, telling us:

“Here is the seed of a good idea… I’d like to see, if planted, how can it grow?”

But, if we are always busy and never allow ourselves time to get out of our rut (through walking, meditating, changing the scene around ourselves, etc.) then we can never have the time or ability to even be aware of our creative gut.

There are a few questions that Katrina poses that might help you hear that voice more clearly:

Do you feel one thing in your heart, but hear another voice in your mind telling you something different?

Katrina reminds us that we aren’t just a mind. Nor are we just a body. Nor are we just a spirit. We are a culmination of all three of these. These three things may send conflicting messages, though. This is part of the fun of the creative process, according to Katrina. This is the puzzle-solving of honestly and carefully looking at each of these messages and discerning their legitimacy and relevance.

Is there and intriguing idea that cycles back over and over, but you ignore it?

Many of us have this happen to us. These ideas and their corresponding reminders subtly collect, yet go unnoticed. If we acknowledge them and look at them more carefully, though, they may end up being very helpful guiding factors in our lives and careers. They often point to what you are tuned into, where your heart is leading, or opportunities that lie outside of your current rut. Now, it’s extremely easy to come up with reasons why you couldn’t or shouldn’t do something… and these clues and assessments might actually be quite practical in your process. However, this “internal pessimism” might also dominate you and put an end to your creativity.

When these “naysayers” pop into your mind, Katrina advises this: ask yourself if you are afraid because “X,Y, or Z” is going to happen? Or are you afraid to actually “step into your greatness”?creative voice2

These two things can feel very similar, but they come from very different place and have very different results. We tend to go through our careers, discovering one or two things that we are good at, and resigning ourselves that THAT is our niche. This mindset may be prohibiting us from finding what other things we might be great at. Therefore, we need to stop limiting ourselves in what we think we are capable of.

This boils down to Katrina’s sage advice: Be careful not to judge yourself into a corner. Healthily assessing yourself is one thing, but judging yourself into inaction is neither healthy nor productive. Too often, we find ourselves playing a game of chess against ourselves – we think of a move, and then a counter move for each side of the board, to the point where we don’t move forward at all. By doing this, we quench our creative voice altogether, for this instance and possibly for future endeavors as well.

You can learn more from Katrina at CreativeKatrina.com.

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John Romstead is a retired fighter pilot and business executive with an incredible story of setbacks and overcoming, and now he serves people through executive coaching and an amazing podcast “Eternal Leadership“. This week, we learn John’s thoughts on “Mindset” as we discuss his contributions to my book “Entrepreneur Mind Hacks”, including his chapter titled “Mindset is the Start of Shaping a New Future”.

Now, John defines Mindset as: The totality of how you see the world, including all your life experiences that influence how you think about things. This creates the filters that govern how you perceive everything that goes on in your world, both internally and externally.

All this works together to shape the direction that you move in, in regards to your career, family life, and relationships.

Back in 1986, John was sitting in a movie theater watching Top Gun. Now, many young men saw that movie and imagined the excitement and thrills of becoming a Navy fighter pilot. John, on the other hand, was already in the Navy ROTC as a sophomore in college and had heard that the odds were stacked up against anyone with the dream of becoming a fighter pilot, so he had tossed that vision aside a long time before.

Instead, he pursued cruising nuclear submarines – in fact he got to spend a month on one that very summer. Dog fighting just didn’t seem to be in his cards. The odds were to thin.

But, he applied for flight school nonetheless… just to see what would happen.

John was accepted, and became a Navy pilot, beating the 1-in-10,000 odds!

He had entered flight school with the same amount of doubt, fear and uncertainty as any of his classmates, but he maintained the mindset that he HAD to follow the dream of becoming a fighter pilot!

One of the keys to his success was to ask a pilot who was ahead of him in the program what he did to prepare. What set him apart from those who looked up to him? For starters, he was determined – had the mindset – to graduate number one in his class.

This inspired John.

Now, it wasn’t just a “fake it til you make it” mentality, but a framework within which John approached each day and spurned him on in preparation, study, and work ethic.

And, at the end of flight school… John graduated first in his class!

This taught him early on that with a “growth mindset”, he could accomplish what he set his mind to, while appropriately addressing his limiting beliefs, turning them into liberating truths.

Now, whenever I hear people tout of things like “You can be whatever you want to be!”, but that’s just not true. Not every kid owning a basketball can grow up to be Michael Jordan. So, what separates John’s mindset from a “can do attitude”?

According to John, it begins with looking at the situation that lies ahead of you and either focusing on the obstacles that lie ahead or the opportunities and possibilities. This approach differentiates between two different approaches to the same set of facts. Depending on how you approach the facts, your mindset will either be helpful or it will limit you.

With that as your starting point, then there are several things to keep an ear out for along the way, particularly in business.

For instance, when dealing with difficult people at work, how do you perceive that situation? Do you approach it from a perspective that says, “I just don’t want to work with this difficult person?” or do you try to find a solution to your relational problem and try to find a way to integrate them into your business’ success? These are two dramatically different ways of approaching the same situation.

Another way to describe these options is this: are you merely along for the ride in life; are you a victim in life, simply reacting to whatever comes your way; or are you an active participant, putting things in motion as life happens.

So much of how we deal with life’s various ups and downs depends on how we choose to set our perspective, focusing on outcomes with clarity.

When it comes to starting points along this journey, John recommends to begin by simply getting out a pen and paper and scribble down some of the outcomes in life that you dream of, and recognize that you may need to change how you think about the items on this list. Too often, we focus on what we perceive as limiting barriers and give up on the dreams on our lists.

Take for instance, education. A lot of times, people will have goals that they’d like to achieve, but they don’t see themselves as being adequately educated. On the other hand, look at Microsoft, Apple and Facebook… all the leaders of those companies were college dropouts.

Additionally, when it comes to money, time, or human capitol, the truth is that in America, there are no limits to achieving your goals, if you approach them correctly.

This is what John writes about in his chapter regarding being aware of your mindset. But merely being aware of your perspective isn’t enough. We need to learn to talk back to it with a growth mindset.

A growth mindset is simply one that moves you toward the outcome that you are aiming for. To achieve this, you really need to be able to write down your core values, your strengths, your gifts, and really come to an understanding of who you are and how you’re wired. This solidifies your anchor point from which you can honestly assess your potential.

John relates to this process when he looks back on his life to a time when he felt as though he wasn’t coming close to living up to his potential. It took a mentor to come alongside him and discuss with him his potential.

By doing this, it changes how we even look back on our failures in life and business.

When we fail, that is just one possible outcome of what could have happened. Too often, we translate our past failures into thinking that we are the failure, instead of trying to figure out new approaches to change those less-than-ideal outcomes. If we can find new approaches that help prevent us from stopping on our way to our goals, we will instead perceive these “failures” as merely “challenges in need of solutions”.

For example, there were times when John would experience some circumstances that pointed toward failure, and he would quickly jump to the conclusion that HE was the failure, and not up to the task. These limiting beliefs compiled one on top of the other – even in unrelated areas – which led to a pattern of defeatism.

And John’s not alone.

Almost all of us are prone to do this, even in childhood. So that, by the time we are 12 or 13-years-old, we are already hardwired, psychologically, with limiting thoughts, habits and patterns. The key is to be able to recognize when we are sliding into those “fixed mindsets” and be able to make a subtle shift into a “growth mindset” – even if it’s simply allowing yourself more time and effort to get better at what you had attempted.

Now, we do have to be realistic with ourselves. For almost all of us, even with enough practice and enough time, we won’t become the next Michael Jordan or Joe Montana.

Image: Eternal Leadership

Image: Eternal Leadership

However, when it comes to business and leadership – learned skills that do not require advanced genetic makeup and luck – with enough time, training, and mentorship you can equip yourself with the tools you need to change into a growth mindset.

One key tip that John offers is to look at yourself honestly, and then ask, “What is possible if I really follow my passions and my calling?” Then look around and try to discover where the gaps are between who you are now and who you need to be in order to fulfill your goal. This, then, begs the simple question of: Are there resources, tools, or things you can work on to fill that gap, or do you need to re-hone your goals?

Some people are gifted at administration, but they aren’t at dreaming and seeing what isn’t there yet. And, sometimes it’s not a matter of giving up or re-honing your goals, but rather partnering with someone who fills that gap, who shares your goal, and the two of you or team accomplish them together!

You can learn more from John at eternalleadership.com, where he focuses on executive and leadership coaching… but he’s always eager to simply have a conversation with you and pick each other’s brains regarding how to develop a life of fulfillment.

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Stephanie Calahan is one of the amazing entrepreneurs who made my books Entrepreneur Mind Hacks, parts 1 & 2 possible by contributing super amazing content.

One of the chief things that Stephanie discusses is “Misplaced Actions in Your Business”. Stephanie has noticed that a lot of entrepreneurs are “busy being busy”. But, being busy does not equal being productive, nor does it necessarily move you toward your goals. To contradict this, Stephanie encourages people to take what she calls “inspired action” and move their business forward.

The trick is that there is an innate conflict between “inspired action” and “being busy”.

Image: Tom Lue

Image: Tom Lue

An example Stephanie often shares is the story of a salesperson who has a route that he regularly goes on and he meets regularly with his prospects, but his sales stay somewhat mediocre and stagnant. Deciding he needs new training, he attends a motivational seminar. Following the seminar, he is inspired and encouraged to do better! Yet, the truth is that he still doesn’t know how to sell any better than before… he is just more enthusiastic about it. And, he actually ends up turning some clients off with his newfound enthusiasm, so his sales actually go down.

That’s “misplaced action”.

He didn’t need more enthusiasm… he was already dutifully going out and making honest attempts at making sales. What he needed was sales training.

One distraction that many entrepreneurs have that leads to this “misplaced action” is all the information that we have at our fingertips today. In addition to the quantity, people have become really GREAT at writing marketing copy today, equating to a ton of “bright shiny distractions” coming at us from everywhere. It seems like every entrepreneur guru has something new that each of us “has to do”. So, many people end up doing all the things that the experts say they need to do, but none of it actually moves their business goals forward.

What we all really need to do periodically is to take a step back and pause for a minute to assess what our real goals are. Sometimes, we get so busy “doing things” that we lose sight of where it is we want to move toward.

In other words, having clarity in regards to why we are doing what we are doing really matters.

In fact, two of Stephanie’s favorite words are Clarity and Alignment.

By alignment, she means this: sometimes there are things that certain people do that help move their business forward with amazing ease. However, when someone else does the same thing, it just doesn’t work as well. For example, many people suggest blogging for your business in order to grow an online following. This is great for many entrepreneurs, but for others, merely sitting in front of a keyboard with a blank page only causes anxiety and stress. They may know exactly who to write to and what to say, but they just can’t get the wheels turning when it comes to this specific mode of communication. Stephanie counseled one individual who had this very problem. Now, while writing a blog was not her cup of tea at all, she was a very proficient verbal communicator, so instead of posting a blog on a weekly basis, she started a podcast… with great success! She followed up each podcast with getting her words transcribed and turned into what else… a blog!

That’s one example of having clarity and then getting her actions and goals aligned.

But, clarity doesn’t always arrive overnight.

And speaking of overnight… sometimes entrepreneurs don’t even have clarity regarding which part of the day they are most productive… early morning? Afternoon? Evening?

Stephanie, for example, is not a morning person at all. She would regularly have arguments with her alarm clock when it went woke her up. To combat this, she would force herself to schedule 8:00am meetings. Yet, by doing this, she was rarely at her best when she needed to be.

Nowadays, she takes her son to school in the morning, then uses her morning to charge her battery through prayer, quiet time and exercise – at her pace – before taking on the day. Then, when she starts her morning meetings at 10:00, she is all ready to be her most productive.

Besides schedule, entrepreneurs also need to have an extreme amount of clarity regarding who you serve. When you have the approach of “I’ll work with anyone who will pay me”, then too often your marketing message and other communication pieces are not clear enough for potential clients to identify a connection between them and your business.

Who you work with, what problems you solve, and what types of solutions you provide are three of the most important areas each businessperson needs to have clarity in. Now, for some people, deriving this clarity might begin with deciding “what” you do or offer. For Stephanie, and many others, “what she does” actually falls behind “who she serves”, especially since her “what” skill set is so expansive.

In my book, Stephanie is quoted as saying:

“Being productive means you are taking action on things that are leading you to something.”

This goes back to having purposeful action in whatever you do.

But Stephanie’s favorite “Stephanie-ism” is this:

Being will trump doing every time.

You see, Stephanie has spent years as a Productivity Coach. One of the things that made her stand out from the rest is that she did not focus on To Do Lists. This is because too often, entrepreneurs focus on “getting stuff done”, and not enough focus is put on doing the right things.

This is why and how she came up with the “To Be List”. Before you even get out of bed in the morning, Stephanie encourages you to decide, “Who are you going to be today?” Will you be loving? Compassionate? Smart? Funny? Energetic? Enthusiastic?

You can then use these adjectives to govern how you approach the myriad of circumstances that approach you throughout the day.

For example, say you’re commuting out on the highway, and suddenly someone cuts you off. Your gut instinct may be to get angry at them for driving so carelessly. And, if you give into this, you will remain frustrated as you go into your next meeting and you’ll be much less productive. However, if you build a habit of choosing who you are going to be throughout the day, and if you choose to be forgiving… then you will be able to approach being cut off on the freeway differently and your day’s meetings will go differently. That’s when you will begin to see great differences in your results and productivity as well!

This tends to run opposite of the culture that we are living in. Today’s culture is very emotionally driven, what people do is often based on what feels right at that particular moment. Therefore, as a society, we have conditioned ourselves to believe that whatever we feel is true.

Therefore, we need to define who we are and then PRACTICE BEING that person. Just like learning, as a child, to brush your teeth daily, ride a bike, get dressed on your own… all these things needed to be practiced before they became habits.

The same holds true for people who are new to deciding WHO they are going to be – they need to practice before it becomes a habit.

Then, at the end of each day, you need to quickly review how you did throughout the day’s events. Over time, you’ll begin to see the habits beginning to form and decisions being made more instinctively.

This all comes together in what Stephanie calls, “Being the bigger you.”

You see all of us, as we go through our days, have our highs and our lows. When you behave in such a way that represents the “bigger you”, you stand within your own power – not allowing anyone to walk all over you or take advantage of you – while also maintaining self-control with a proper mindset. By staying in this “zone”, you avoid regret, wishing you could have handled life’s “lows” better than you did. This also allows you to remain empowered while empowering other people along the way.

So, how does all this apply to our business lives as entrepreneurs?

Well, for one example, we can go back to sales.

Let’s take a hypothetical example of someone owning their own business, working in sales, where the meat of their business takes place via phone conversations. But, a lot of people – when they dive into sales – live their lives and careers as if “it’s all about them”.

“I hope they buy from me.”
“What can I say to convince them to buy from me?”

“What if they don’t like me?”

“What if they don’t buy from me?”

These are all very common mindsets that sales people deal with. However, it’s the fearful, “smaller you” that all this is derived from.

Instead, if at the beginning of the day, this salesperson decides that they are going to be an excellent communicator and great listener, then their sales conversations will be vastly different. You see, if you’re going to be an empathetic listener and great communicator, then the conversation can’t be all about you. The conversation has to revolve around the person that we are talking to on the other end of the phone. By doing this, you’d be able to clearly listen and understand the issues they are facing, and then – if it makes sense – you’d be able to offer them the best solution.

This avenue of perspective, communication, and mindset almost always equates to higher sales and greater productivity.

As I’ve heard it said before,

Your clients will tell you exactly what they need if you’re smart enough to ask enough questions.

You see, as odd as it may sound, according to Stephanie, it all boils down to love. Instead of coming across as someone trying to push your will (via sales) onto them, you come across as someone who loves them and wants to lovingly help them in their need, then the client is immensely more eager to buy from you… because they feel loved.

Stephanie works with purpose driven entrepreneurs, helping them leverage their business, while getting their message out with power, ease and joy so that they can make a powerfully positive difference in the world. This all translates into exponentially increased profits, as they boldly build their business around who they are rather than who they believe someone else wants them to be. You can find out more at www.StephanieCalahan.com

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This week, I “hang out” with Kenneth Manesse, Sr. – one of the contributors of my book Entrepreneur Mind Hacks.Kenneth Manesse Sr

At the young age of 18, and without any real skills to boast of, Kenneth jumped into the “entrepreneur pool” of business. Through a lot of trial and error, he discovered that many of the things he was doing was taking him far too long to do. His thought process was, “If I could only learn more and do more, then I could earn more and have more.”

But, instead, the harder he worked and the more time he spent on his tasks, the only things he accomplished was getting burned out and discouraged.

That’s when he discovered the importance of putting together a team.

Since then, Kenneth has started six different businesses in four different industries, and each of them began with a core team of key individuals. As Kenneth puts it,

“If you can understand your weaknesses as well as your strengths, and then find other people who are strong where you are weak to be a part of your team, your business will scale much faster.”

But, team building isn’t the only thing to keep in mind. You also need to focus of “Purple Cows”. In other words:

“If you think of your business as a ‘Purple Cow’, as Seth Godin puts it, you will no longer be just a commodity. Now, consider a trip to the grocery store… when you look at the shelves of cereal, you are bombarded with a huge variety of commodities just in that one aisle. So, by default, most of us default in our search process to Price. But, when you simply hunt for the cheapest price on everything, you race toward the bottom. The good news of this is that you will most often win the race! The bad news is that you are perpetually at the bottom. However, if you establish yourself as a “Purple Cow”, you find a way to stand out, become noticeable and remarkable, and find yourself at the top!”

So, price isn’t the only differentiator when it comes to what you have to offer. In fact, when it comes to your main draw, it should be one of the last things you consider.

Now, Kenneth’s portion of the book was titled “Who Wants to Jump In?”, where he writes:

“We often hear the following question that is asked of successful entrepreneurs, ‘How did you come up with your business idea?’ The real question is not how great the business idea is or was, but how great was the business opportunity?”

This all makes me wonder, what is the difference between an idea and an opportunity?

Firstly, how many times have you heard someone exclaim, “I have this KILLER idea!” Well, as Kenneth puts it, that killer idea is probably going to kill their savings, energy and other resources. Unless you fervently test a killer idea, it is not an opportunity.

One thing that Kenneth is noticing amongst those who are jumping into the entrepreneurial pool is the need to look at the various ideas out there and discern which ones are opportunities that can be scaled.

In business, we have three phases: The start up phase, the speed up phase, and the scale phase. In order for a business to scale, it has to have a big enough market share so that the business can continue scaling and growing. This is partly what contributes to making a business move from good to great!

It is in this scaling process where 90% of business owners stall.

Of the businesses that pass their five-year mark, 95% of them will never grow beyond five employees. This means that of those entrepreneurs, most are working 60-80 hours each week, have created a job for themselves that they don’t particularly like, and most get burned out and want to quit.

Only about 5% actually go on to join those who make over $1 million.

That tiny slice of entrepreneurship is what most people dream about, but the reality is that 95% of them never achieve it, largely because they don’t secure some critical steps before they venture out into their business.

So, the starting point for entrepreneurs should not be coming up with the next “great idea”, but instead “discover the next great opportunity”.

Opportunities have “data driven decisions”. This shows that the entrepreneur has done their homework and data drives their decisions, not their emotions.

Image: Krissa Corbett Cavouras

Image: Krissa Corbett Cavouras

You see, when an entrepreneur looks at the data in regards to the marketplace, the competition, and their own differentials, they can derive a quantitative market share.

In other words, if you want to become a millionaire, solve a problem that a million people have and are willing to pay a dollar for your solution.

The problem is that too many entrepreneurs prefer to gloss over or even ignore the data. It often takes too much time to drill down into the information.

Yet entrepreneurship, at its core, is solving people’s problems and in exchange for that, these people will give you something of value… their hard earned dollars. So, the question instantly rises: is your solution to their problem valuable enough to them to give you money for it?

All this ties to Kenneth’s metaphor of “Who Wants to Jump In?”, as a word picture of checking to see if there is water in the pool before you jump in. Too often, we see a “pool” and jump in without checking to see if there is water (or a profitable market share) waiting for us.

But, as Kenneth writes, “if you find the need, you will find the niche that you will be able to sell to”. But, how can we find those needs?

The lucky thing for today’s entrepreneurs is that we now have this thing called “Google”.

If you simply start a Google search with the phrase “how can I…” or “how do I…” and then finish it with whatever business idea you may have, you will see on the search page how many people are also searching for this same information. This is just one of several quick and easy tools that offer entrepreneurs even more data to learn how many people are searching to have this particular problem solved. In fact, some of these tools will drill down even deeper, letting you know how many people on a daily basis are trying to solve that very problem. These types of “data digging” will let you know how well your business may or may not serve your market and how fast you can scale. If only a handful of people are looking for that particular solution, you will have a hard time growing that opportunity, and it will take a lot of time and money to scale.

Most people don’t realize this, but marketing is NOT selling; and selling is NOT closing.

These are actually three very unique things.

When we go to the marketplace and start marketing, we begin by asking “Who can say that this is of value?” (whatever your this may be). Asking this question will establish who your buyers are. Only after you can determine who your buyers are can you begin your selling process. The selling process positions you as the person who has the skills, abilities and talents to solve their problems faster and more efficiently, giving them a benefit that they want and need. Once the people within your marketplace understand that… only then can you close.

Other tools that can be helpful as a first step is a “Keyword Tool Dominator”. This gives you the ability to learn all of the search terms and download them into a .cvs file that you can take into Google Adwords and before you know it, you will have the greatest number of people within the marketplace you’re looking for… all within a few short minutes.

Now, consider the show Shark Tank. Kenneth loves the show and loves to watch the eager entrepreneurs pitch their ideas. But, inevitably, at some point in their pitch, one of the “sharks” will ask them, “What are your sales?” The reason they ask this question is not to find out how much money the person is making so far. It’s actually to determine whether or not this person possesses an idea or an opportunity.

Have they gone to the marketplace and learned if the people there think their idea holds value?

You see, no one wants to go into business and spend five-to-ten years in the start-up or speed up phase. No one has enough resources or energy to spend that kind of time without scaling.

Switching gears a bit, Kenneth also has some golden nuggets behind choosing the business road you want to travel on:

“When you follow your passion, what ends up happening is this: you want to work in that which you are passionate. That’s great. But that’s not a business model. A business model creates the systems, and then have other people work in your business. To do this, you can’t work in your business, you must work on your business. No business will scale unless someone is working on the business. So, if you are going to spend all your time working in your business because it is what you are passionate about, then entrepreneurship is not for you.

On the other hand, if an entrepreneur lists everything that their business opportunity needs to do in order to scale, and puts together a team to take care of these items, then every item on that list that doesn’t have a team member’s name next to it becomes YOUR job. Then, your business becomes your boss and it will change you. You will find yourself making sacrifices that you hadn’t even considered before, including your time, resources, and family.”

Your spouse and kids can tolerate a certain level of separation as you start out in the start-up phase, but before too long, they begin to feel worth less than the jobs that you are doing and not long after that, they begin to feel worthless altogether in your eyes.

The bottom line to scaling, according to Kenneth, is not to think of a specific personnel number or even income level; but to get your business to a point where it is running without you having to run it. Put the right systems in place so that the systems run properly and the right people in place to manage the systems.

When done right, this all results in the freedom you long for.

But, only 5% of entrepreneurs find this freedom. The only 95% continue to grind away and fall short of scaling properly.

But, what is a good system?

A system is simply a “way something is done”. But, if the system is not in writing, it doesn’t exist, nor is it transferrable. Instead you have to sit with them and hold their hand throughout the system’s process. You simply cannot assume that people will understand your system, unless it is clear and relatable. This doesn’t matter if it’s a business process or making a peanutbutter-and-jelly sandwich.

You can learn much more from Kenneth at mespecialist.biz, or find him on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter… he’s everywhere!

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