11/14/17: Consuming Passions, Consuming Success

The other day I went shopping at a local consumer electronics warehouse where they have everything from talking toasters to serenading telephones.  I was looking for a new printer since mine had just died from a respiratory belt problem.

As I shopped around, I was simply amazed at how large the warehouse was and the selections available.  The television section alone covered an area the size of two tennis courts with screen selection sizes running from 6 inches to large plasma screens over 1,000 inches (Ok, I exaggerate).

After purchasing my printer, I had to pick up my item at the ‘back’ of the warehouse where all major electronic purchases are finalized.  As I stood there waiting, I saw people zipping around in forklifts, pulling up to mammoth racks that towered some forty to fifty feet high and bringing down pallets of electronics while others rushed around with the proper paperwork to fill the pending orders.  The coordination was amazing; it was like watching a ‘production ballet’.

As the warehouse folks filled the order, they would call out the name of the buyer.  The buyers would then signal by raising their hand and then point to their car to indicate where they wanted the merchandise dropped.

As I waited I noticed a lot of people were buying huge electronic appliances, with the majority being big, giant plasma screen televisions or large audio-speaker systems for achieving that ‘surround’ sound while watching television.

As the warehouse people brought the units over to the customers’ car, I also noticed that in many cases the new television or audio system seemed to be worth more than the car that would carry it.  I know we shouldn’t judge someone’s financial success by what they drive or what they wear, but it may give you some indication.  For example, one gentleman was driving a car that seemed to be 20 years old and was sputtering fumes as it drove away trying to accelerate while under the load of a new 60 inch plasma television roped into its trunk.  Something was wrong with that picture.

The average American today is carrying a credit card debt of anywhere from $5,000 to $7,000 (does not include car or house payments).  Some studies have shown that individual savings rates are a little more than 5% of our annual salary.  Another study showed that 50% of Americans wouldn’t be able to survive for more than 3 months without some type of public assistance if they were laid-off or fired.  That number rises to 70% if they were unemployed for six months or more.

As I stood there and watched the warehouse folk load up the cars and trucks with expensive merchandise, I couldn’t help but reflect on consumer debt and our obsession with possession (my new rhyme).  Americans have a passion for consuming.  We like to buy things.  Heck, we like to buy a lot of things to fill our homes with all the comforts this great system of capitalism has to offer.  But there has to be a point of reasonability, a point where we have to put on the consumption breaks and realize that having more is not better.

Does having more, mean having less?
Every week it seems that my neighbor buys a new toy.  I don’t mean just televisions, stereos and the like.  I mean a motorcycle, boat, a scooter, etc.   He also runs his own company and is very successful at it.  In his case, he does have the money or resources to pay for his passions.

The other day we happened to get into a conversation about having time to enjoy life.  He eventually confessed during our conversation that although he had all these toys, he didn’t have time to enjoy them.  In fact, he had been working so hard that his wife was complaining that he wasn’t spending enough time at home.   And, since his wife was unhappy, it made trying to enjoy the toys more difficult especially when it took away more time from the family.  My neighbor was coming to the conclusion that having more, means having less.

Here we have two extremes.  There are those who don’t have the resources (money) and spend it as if they did.  And then there are those who do have the financial means but sacrifice too much in order to get it; both have a passion for consumption.

For those without the financial resources, their debts will continue to mount and their ability to dig themselves out of it will become more difficult each day.  They won’t be able to focus on ‘possibilities’ or dreams of being successful because they’re too focused on trying to pay next month’s credit card bill.

In the latter case of my neighbor, he demonstrates that having money does not guarantee happiness.  Both will eventually learn that success is about moderation, not excessive consumption.  Less is more.  Sound familiar?

Don’t be consumed by the passion to consume or that same passion will consume your financial success and your personal happiness.
R. Wade Younger, CSP
wade@wadeyounger.com

401 North Tryon Street
10th Floor
Charlotte, North Carolina, 28202, U.S.A
980.200.3000

WadeYounger.com – International Speaking & Business Consulting
TheValueWave.com – Project Leadership & Organizational Development
Youthapedia.com – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

11/7/16: Retreats That Really Work

Many of you are involved with associations, chambers of commerce or other nonprofit organizations governed by Boards of Directors. As a former nonprofit executive, I find this structure can be awfully hard to work with— the Executive Director is supposed to run the show and the board members are key volunteers, but the Executive Director actually reports to them.

Many times the Executive is a professional in the operation of the organization and knows much more about how it should operate, but he or she answers to the Board—sometimes well intentioned community volunteers who have no idea how an association, chamber or nonprofit is supposed to operate. Yet they are in charge. This can be frustrating and confusing for all involved. The most recent Executive Director resignation at the NAACP is a great example of how difficult these relationships can be.

What can truly help is bringing in someone from the outside to clarify roles and help the organization move forward. I have recently facilitated several board retreats where this is exactly what happened. Organizations that had gotten away from their missions were refocused and put back on track. How did this happen?

It makes all the difference in the world when you bring in someone from the outside. They have no personal agenda and can ask all the hard questions. It’s very difficult for an Executive Director, who serves at the pleasure of the board, to tell Board members they have lost sight of the big picture or have conflicts of interest, but an outsider can.

The Value Wave can do it in a way that motivates the group to achieve excellence. It’s an exciting process and because of the dramatic results I’ve had, I’m adding this to my list of services. This is not designed as a big pep rally—it’s designed for organizations that need to advance to a more professional level or need to clarify their missions.

Think of it as hiring a personal trainer for your board. We get results you can’t get alone.

 

R. Wade Younger, CSP
wade@wadeyounger.com

401 North Tryon Street
10th Floor
Charlotte, North Carolina, 28202, U.S.A
980.200.3000

WadeYounger.com – International Speaking & Business Consulting
TheValueWave.com – Project Leadership & Organizational Development
Youthapedia.com – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

9/5/16: Being Your Best When You’re Feeling Your Worst

A great question I’ve been asked recently by several of my seminar attendees is “How do you do it? How can you produce that incredible energy on demand? Don’t you ever have a bad day?”

It’s a great question because no matter what, I owe my clients and my audiences everything I’ve got. I can’t contact a meeting planner who has been slaving for months and months to put together a fabulous meeting and say, “Oh, I got dumped last night, I don’t think I can motivate your 500 attendees.” The month my Mom passed away I had speeches a few days before and after her funeral. My clients never knew.

Most of you have to perform on demand as well – you can’t tell your boss, “I’m feeling a little upset about my problems at home, I don’t think I can give the big sales presentation today.” You’ve got to pull it together and do what needs to be done. Excellence isn’t about waiting until you feel like performing – excellence is about performing when you need to, whether you feel like it or not.

So how do you do it?

1.) Do what you love. Anyone who has seen me speak knows I am passionate about The Value Wave and I consider any day I get to speak a great day. I can honestly say that I love the people I get to work with and I love what I do.

2.) Know where your energy comes from. I’m an extrovert and my energy comes from people. Put me in a room full of them and I come to life. This matches my performance needs. If you need to be alone to recharge, try giving yourself alone time before you have to produce or finding situations where you get to be alone when you need to be “on”. If you truly aren’t suited to the work you’re in, it will be much harder to excel on demand.

3.) Take outstanding care of your physical body. My health is my number one priority; I regard it as the foundation for my performance. Eight to nine hours of sleep a night, regular exercise (both cardio and resistance training), and good nutrition keep me running on high octane. Am I perfect with these habits all the time? Heck no, but I’m pretty darn consistent and it pays off big time. I haven’t taken a sick day that I can remember and I feel great. If you are too sleepy or too overweight, it’s going to be much harder (if not impossible) to focus when you need to and produce your best.

4.) Be aware of your mental state. If you are in a funk, figure out why. Maybe it was that phone call from your Mother. Maybe it was that run-in with your annoying co-worker. Then understand it – realize your Mother didn’t mean to make you feel guilty, she’s just lonely and wants to see you. Then you can decide if you want to keep feeling guilty or would prefer to choose another state of mind. This becomes much easier with practice. The key is to realize how much control you have over your mental state.

5.) Do something. When we’re feeling hurt or upset, it’s easy to wallow: to think about all the other times we’ve been hurt, to dwell on the unfairness of it, to feel terribly sorry for ourselves. We’ve all done it, but it doesn’t do us a bit of good. It makes us feel even worse and gives the person or event that hurt us way too much power. The best thing to do is dry your tears and act. I might call a good friend who I know loves me or hit the gym. Maybe even run some errands – anything!

6.) Learn to let go. Again, this one becomes easier with practice. If you can’t do anything about something – let it go. I can’t make someone love me; I can’t bring back the dead. But I can refuse to let those things stop me. Let go of pain – there’s just no need to hang onto it. Focus your thoughts on things you can do something about.

7.) Check your beliefs. Do you believe you fall apart at the first sign of trouble? Do you believe that if a certain person leaves you, your life will be meaningless? Do you think you are an emotional basket case? You better work on changing those incorrect beliefs, because you are what you believe yourself to be. I believe that no matter what happens in my life, I will be okay. I will never give up on myself. Will you give up on yourself?

I believe we give up on ourselves when we don’t take care of our physical bodies. I believe we give up on ourselves when we allow people who mistreat us to stay in our lives. I believe we give up on ourselves when we do work we hate because we are afraid to change. I believe we give up on ourselves when we don’t try to become everything we are capable of becoming.

The only one who can bring out your best is you. The more you learn to be your best when you are feeling at your worst, the easier it becomes. It feeds on itself – you learn that you are in control of your destiny. At anytime, in any place, it is YOU who decides what your life will be.

 

R. Wade Younger, CSP
wade@wadeyounger.com

401 North Tryon Street
10th Floor
Charlotte, North Carolina, 28202, U.S.A
980.200.3000

WadeYounger.com – International Speaking & Business Consulting
TheValueWave.com – Project Leadership & Organizational Development
Youthapedia.com – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

1/19/16: Cold Calling Your Way Up!

I was inspired to write this after having an interesting conversation with a friend of mine.  This was a classic case of cold calling to the right people.  That said, “Does cold calling really work?”

Well, you can safely answer this question with a lawyer’s default response, “It depends.”

COLD CALLING – THE PYRAMID: A Case Study

A friend of mine, Director of Sales was trying to break into a company, legally of course.  He was trying to find out who the decision makers were.  His company offered what could be termed an Asset Management Reduction Strategy.  In simple layman terms, he helped track company assets and re-appraise them in order to reduce their overall tax base.

Who to contact?  He thought the best place to start was with the legal and finance department.  So he called and gave them his sales pitch; but he met with resistance.  He kept sending them the documentation they requested and would follow-up, but with little success.

He couldn’t understand it.  He knew, based on his assessment of the company’s asset structure and tax base that he could save the company over $1 million dollars.  He just couldn’t understand why he wasn’t able to drive this point home.

This is where I come into the story.  The Director tells me this whole story.  He shows me how he’s done his research, the documents he’s prepared and specifically how the company could save a load of money.

It was then that I pointed out the obvious to him.  I said, “Why would a department that’s in charge of helping the company save money hire you if you’re going to do their job better than they are?”  I continued, “By hiring you as a financial consultant, they are in affect admitting to their own inadequacy.”

I could tell he was stunned by the remark.  He nodded his head.  It was a cross between you’re right and, why didn’t I think of that.

I said, “What you need to do is start calling on the top of the pyramid, not the bottom.  The people at the top are VERY concerned with the bottom-line where the salaried employees at the bottom may be more concerned with keeping their job.”

He said, “You know, you’re right.  I bet if I showed the CEO these numbers, he’d listen to me.”  I agreed.
About two weeks later he called to thank me and give me an update.  His comments were something along these lines:

“Wade, it was incredible.  I spoke with the CEO of the company after seven attempts to get his assistant to put me through.  I gave him my three minute sales pitch on what I knew I could do to save his company money. He liked what he heard and directed me to speak with his CFO.  He personally called the CFO to make sure he took my call.  And guess what?  I didn’t have to call him, he called me.  After giving him the same spiel, guess what? He said, “Your timing is impeccable.  I am in the process of putting together a finance review for our board and I needed to bring to the table some cost saving measures; when can I see your proposal?””

He was one happy salesman.  About two months later, after all the terms and conditions were agreed to, he was awarded the business.  His commission for the deal after it was completed in 5 months, $45,000.  How do I know?  He showed me the check over a $7 breakfast he bought me.  What a friend 🙂

Cold Calling Rules of Engagement:

Cold Calling works when you know who your company/customer is.
Cold calling is effective if you talk to the right person.  The higher you aim, the higher the accountability.
Cold calling uncovers hidden opportunities (e.g., cost saving measures needed by the CFO).
Finally, my friend called 7 times before the assistant put him through.  His persistence was driven by the fact that he KNEW he had something good to offer the company.  He was so sold on his idea that he couldn’t keep himself from trying to sell it to someone else. That’s passion!  That’s selling!

R. Wade Younger, CSP
wade@wadeyounger.com

401 North Tryon Street
10th Floor
Charlotte, North Carolina, 28202, U.S.A
980.200.3000

WadeYounger.com – International Speaking & Business Consulting
TheValueWave.com – Project Leadership & Organizational Development
Youthapedia.com – The World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

1/5/16: Autopsy of Inaction

How do people get to the point in their life where they aren’t motivated to do anything?   Why do people lose hope?  As I go around the U.S. speaking, too often I come across people who seemed to have given up on their dream or aspirations.  They’ve settled for what they’ve gotten and there’s no more fight in them.  I can see it in their eyes; they look defeated.

I’ve put together here ONE scenario of what I think happens to some who lose that spirit of achieving their highest potential.  I like to think of this diagnosis as an autopsy of inaction.  This is what happens to people who don’t take action in life and simply accept their fate accompli.

You didn’t take time to write down your goals, because you didn’t need to.  You have them right in your head…no need to write them out.  Everyone reminds you to write down your goals, but you insist it isn’t necessary.

Time goes on and you get this uneasy feeling that you are NOT progressing in life as fast as you’d like.  But you can’t be sure of this lack of progress because you have no goals by which to measure your progress.

Since you can’t measure your progress, you decide to look to a surrogate measurement by comparing what you have to what others have.  You do this comparative analysis and you ultimately conclude that you don’t have as much as another person your age or as much as the person you went to High School with.

Now you get more depressed and become irritable.  You become so irritable that people find it hard to talk to you because you’re either grumpy all the time or you bite their heads off when they say anything that triggers some insecure feeling about not making progress in life.

The result?  You start losing friends.  Now they won’t tell you that they’re not your friends any more, they just stop calling you or find excuses of why they can’t get together with you.
Now resentment kicks in and you affirm to yourself that you don’t need friends any way.  So you close in on yourself and now the television become your new, best friend.  It’s a wonderful companion because it helps you forget about your worries by numbing your mind.

But then you start noticing that people on the television seem to have a better life than you do.  Your discontent grows as you see how much other people have on the television and how much you don’t as you survey your skimpy apartment.

Even though television is NOT a reflection of reality, you get more depressed and unmotivated to do anything.  You soon realize (or imagine to yourself) how far behind you are compared to others when it comes to material measures of success. Now you’re totally depressed or deject and you don’t want to do anything.

When you get to this point, you’ve reached the “I Accept” point of your life:

I accept that I will never be happy.
I accept that I will never have the things others have.
I accept that I will never be able to achieve the dreams I once had.

Once you’ve reached this point, you join the millions who live out their lives in quiet desperation every day.  Although you have an almost mute yearning for more in life, you reconcile within yourself that maybe this is all there is to have in life.  You tell yourself that you will never be more than what you’ve already become, The Living Dead.

Although you have not been officially pronounced dead, your spirit and will have long since abandoned you.  And one day, as the final moments of life close in on and you feel the reaper’s breath upon the nape of your neck, what will you say?  I don’t know, but I can imagine that it might go something like this:

I settled for less, I didn’t do my best,
Early I faltered, My life I did alter,
My mind retreated, My spirit now defeated,
I wish I had…
One more smile,
Just one more laugh,
One more kiss,
Just one more hug,
One more love,
Just one more friend,
One more chance,
Just one last dance,
some more time…

When the end comes I’m sure that you won’t be asking for money, a new car, a bigger house, etc.  The things you’ll long for the most in those final moments will be those things you could’ve had for free.     Success is measured by the quality of your life, not by some comparative analysis of what you do or do not have.  Remember:

  • Don’t be discouraged to act because you feel you’re too far behind.  Nonsense!
  • Don’t compare what you want to what others have.  Mistake!
  • Don’t let your dream suffocate under indecision.  Tragic!

And finally, don’t let inaction lead you down a path of despair.  It’s a dead-end.

As the Star Wars’ Jedi Master Yoda would probably say, “Umm, lonely you’ll be!”

R. Wade Younger, CSP
wade@wadeyounger.com

401 North Tryon Street
10th Floor
Charlotte, North Carolina, 28202, U.S.A
980.200.3000

WadeYounger.comInternational Speaking & Business Consulting
TheValueWave.comProject Leadership & Organizational Development
Youthapedia.comThe World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

12/29/15: Ali and Winning

The other night I was watching a documentary on that famous boxing match called The Rumble in the Jungle.  The fight was between Muhammad Ali (Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee) and George Foreman.

The fight was held in Kinshasa, Zaire back in 1974.  This fight was crucial to Muhammad Ali who was at a career low-point after having lost his last two big fights.  He now faced George Foreman, the unstoppable power-punching champion who was bent on beating Ali.

Everyone believed that there was no way Ali could beat Foreman.  Foreman was a power puncher and Ali was a ‘dancer’.  During practice Foreman would hit the punching bag so hard he would leave a dent when he was done.

Despite losing his last two fights and knowing the power of Foreman, Ali continued to tell the media how he was going to ‘whup’ Foreman and make him look bad.  Foremen ignored the taunts confident that he could beat Ali.  During his training Foreman practiced ‘cutting off the ring’ so Ali wouldn’t be able to dance away from his powerful punches.

Ali in the meantime continued to practice his ‘dancing’ and didn’t let up the verbal assaults and insults on Foreman.  He was clearly asking for beating!

On fight night, both men went at it.  Foreman did everything to corner off Ali so he wouldn’t dance, forcing him up against the ropes and then unloading massive punches to the body and head.  Ali was clearly taking a beating on the ropes.  Yet, he continued to taunt Foreman in the ring.  Every time they were tied up, you could see Ali trash talking Foreman.  Everyone feared Ali’s rounds were numbered and that it was a matter of time before he would go down.

Then something happened.  Foreman was getting tired.  By the 5th round he had punched himself out.  By the 8th round he was in trouble.  Out of somewhere deep inside of Ali came a barrage of punches off the ropes that pushed Foreman to the center of the ring.  And with a few more punches, Ali watched as the titan known as Foreman hit the canvas floor.  Ten counts later, Muhammad Ali was the champion.  David had beaten Goliath.

Ali’s strategy, wasn’t to dance as he had led on, but it was to let Foreman tire himself out since he knew he couldn’t go toe-to-toe, punch-for-punch with Foreman.  His now famous Rope-a-Dope strategy worked.  Ali was written into history as “The Greatest” but for George Foreman, he would go into the deepest depression of his life for the next two years.

It’s easy to admire a champion like Ali because there is no denying his greatness in the sport.  We as a nation admire strength and skill.  We like winners.  But when I look at George Foreman the Entrepreneur today, I have a deeper admiration.  For here is a man who suffered one of greatest defeats in sport’s history in front of the world and yet was able to redefine himself.

Foreman has emerged as a true human champion having amassed the courage and strength within him to become a successful businessman and humanitarian.  They say adversity reveals the true character of a man.  Well Foreman has been revealed!  And he has revealed that defeat isn’t final or fatal; that we can all make a comeback in our own way.  He has revealed that success can be redefined.  He has revealed to us that greatness isn’t what happens inside the ring when the whole world is watching, but what happens outside the ring when no one cares any longer.
Side Note: Foreman recaptured his title on Nov. 5, 1994 at age 45 with a 10-round KO of WBA/IBF champ Michael Moore, becoming the oldest man to win heavyweight crown.  That’s character !

R. Wade Younger, CSP
wade@wadeyounger.com

401 North Tryon Street
10th Floor
Charlotte, North Carolina, 28202, U.S.A
980.200.3000

WadeYounger.comInternational Speaking & Business Consulting
TheValueWave.comProject Leadership & Organizational Development
Youthapedia.comThe World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

12/22/15: Acres of Diamonds

Sometimes Opportunity is Right Where You are At

There once lived not far from the River Indus an ancient Persian by the name of Al Hafed. Al Hafed owned a very large farm with orchards, grain fields and gardens. He was a contented and wealthy man, contented because he was wealthy, and wealthy because he was contented.

One day there visited this old farmer one of those ancient Buddhist priests, and he sat down by Al Hafed’s fire and told that old farmer how this world of ours was made.  He said that this world was once a mere bank of fog, which is scientifically true, and he said that the Almighty thrust his finger into the bank of fog and then began slowly to move his finger around and gradually to increase the speed of his finger until at last he whirled that bank of fog into a solid ball of fire, and it went rolling through the universe, burning its way through other cosmic banks of fog, until it condensed the moisture without, and fell in floods of rain upon the heated surface and cooled the outward crust. Then the internal flames burst through the cooling crust and threw up the mountains and made the hills and the valleys of this wonderful world of ours. If this internal melted mass burst out and cooled very quickly it became granite; that which cooled less quickly became silver; and less quickly, gold; and after gold diamonds were made. Said the old priest, “A diamond is a congealed drop of sunlight.”

This is a scientific truth also. You all know that a diamond is pure carbon, actually deposited sunlight — and he said another thing I would not forget: he declared that a diamond is the last and highest of God’s mineral creations, as a woman is the last and highest of God’s creations. I suppose that is the reason why the two have such a liking for each other. And the old priest told Al Hafed that if he had a handful of diamonds he could purchase a whole country, and with a mine of diamonds he could place his children upon thrones through the influence of their great wealth.

Al Hafed heard all about diamonds and how much they were worth, and went to his bed that night a poor man — not that he had lost anything, but poor because he was discontented and discontented because he thought he was poor. He said: “I want a mine of diamonds!” So he lay awake all night, and early in the morning sought out the priest.

Now I know from experience that a priest when awakened early in the morning is cross. He awoke that priest out of his dreams and said to him, “Will you tell me where I can find diamonds?” The priest said, “Diamonds? What do you want with diamonds?” “I want to be immensely rich,” said Al Hafed, “but I don’t know where to go.” “Well,” said the priest, “if you will find a river that runs over white sand between high mountains, in those sands you will always see diamonds.” “Do you really believe that there is such a river?” “Plenty of them, plenty of them; all you have to do is just go and find them, then you have them.” Al Hafed said, “I will go.” So he sold his farm, collected his money at interest left his family in charge of a neighbor, and away he went in search of diamonds.

He began very properly, to my mind, at the Mountains of the Moon. Afterwards he went around into Palestine, then wandered on into Europe, and at last, when his money was all spent, and he was in rags, wretchedness and poverty, he stood on the shore of that bay in Barcelona, Spain, when a tidal wave came rolling in through the Pillars of Hercules and the poor, afflicted, suffering man could not resist the awful temptation to cast himself into that incoming tide, and he sank beneath its foaming crest, never to rise in this life again.

When that old guide had told me that very sad story, he stopped the camel I was riding and went back to fix the baggage on one of the other camels, and I remember thinking to myself, “Why did he reserve that for his particular friends?” There seemed to be no beginning, middle or end — nothing to it. That was the first story I ever heard told or read in which the hero was killed in the first chapter. I had but one chapter of that story and the hero was dead.

When the guide came back and took up the halter of my camel again, he went right on with the same story. He said that Al Hafed’s successor led his camel out into the garden to drink, and as that camel put its nose down into the clear water of the garden brook Al Hafed’s successor noticed a curious flash of light from the sands of the shallow stream, and reaching in he pulled out a black stone having an eye of light that reflected all the colors of the rainbow, and he took that curious pebble into the house and left it on the mantel, then went on his way and forgot all about it.

A few days after that, this same old priest who told Al Hafed how diamonds were made, came in to visit his successor, when he saw that flash of light from the mantel. He rushed up and said, “Here is a diamond — here is a diamond! Has Al Hafed returned?” “No, no; Al Hafed has not returned and that is not a diamond; that is nothing but a stone; we found it right out here in our garden.” “But I know a diamond when I see it,” said he; “that is a diamond!”

Then together they rushed to the garden and stirred up the white sands with their fingers and found others more beautiful, more valuable diamonds than the first, and thus, said the guide to me, were discovered the diamond mines of Golconda, the most magnificent diamond mines in all the history of mankind, exceeding the Kimberley in its value. The great Kohinoor diamond in England’s crown jewels and the largest crown diamond on earth in Russia’s crown jewels, which I had often hoped she would have to sell before they had peace with Japan, came from that mine, and when the old guide had called my attention to that wonderful discovery he took his Turkish cap off his head again and swung it around in the air to call my attention to the moral.

Those Arab guides have a moral to each story, though the stories are not always moral. He said had Al Hafed remained at home and dug in his own cellar or in his own garden, instead of wretchedness, starvation, poverty and death — a strange land, he would have had “acres of diamonds” — for every acre, yes, every shovelful of that old farm afterwards revealed the gems which since have decorated the crowns of monarchs. When he had given the moral to his story, I saw why he had reserved this story for his “particular friends.” I didn’t tell him I could see it; I was not going to tell that old Arab that I could see it. For it was that mean old Arab’s way of going around such a thing, like a lawyer, and saying indirectly what he did not dare say directly, that there was a certain young man that day traveling down the Tigris River that might better be at home in America. I didn’t tell him I could see it.

R. Wade Younger, CSP
wade@wadeyounger.com

401 North Tryon Street
10th Floor
Charlotte, North Carolina, 28202, U.S.A
980.200.3000

WadeYounger.comInternational Speaking & Business Consulting
TheValueWave.comProject Leadership & Organizational Development
Youthapedia.comThe World’s Largest Collection of Life Skills for Kids

12/8/15: Business Acumen

After I finished writing the book, “Touchstone, An Atlas for Organizational Wellness,” I started to think about our business and how well do we really implement this model. I also thought about how we can convert this roadmap into a seminar type course for other companies, not just a consulting tool, but as a actual classroom offering? Why was this so heavy on my mind?

Because given the speed and unpredictability with which the world is changing, a company cannot rely exclusively on its most senior people to make sense of the business environment. Someone who is 20 might make sense of signals very differently from the way a senior executive would. Moreover, people who are not necessarily senior in the hierarchy can become sophisticated about what it takes to get a deal signed in India, to grow a trading business in a new arena, or to evaluate a package of offers in the area of sustainable development.

At Fruition, we have found that business acumen can be cultivated. Several practices are critical. The first is setting an expectation that our people will make connections outside the company, not just for transactions and deals, but also to explore broader issues outside the normal business relationships. As an example, Fruition has conducted an intensive weeklong executive development program at the Fruition Leadership Institute, where senior executives talk with people from a variety of backgrounds — athletes, anthropologists, political historians, economists, and actors.

Businesses also need to open up conversations within the company. In our organization, we’ve held in-depth dialogues where people talk about the business they want to do, the context in which they want to do business, and what they’re looking for from a company like Fruition. Then, it’s important to give people the space to experiment: to construct and implement their own theories, let them get on with it, and be there to support them if they fail.

Another practice, which we ourselves sometimes miss, is sitting back and reflecting: “I tried something. It felt like a risk. What are the broader lessons? What’s going well? What’s not going well? What do we need to change or confront? What do we need?” We just launched a company called PODinar.net, and we are scheduling time to talk about what we’ve learned from this online learning system.

These kinds of conversations can easily go off the rails unless the individuals involved are grounded, self-aware, and confident enough to admit mistakes or ask for help. Therefore, we deliberately invest in people’s personal growth — not in a self-indulgent manner, but in a business context. People with higher levels of self-awareness are less likely to be limited by their own preconceptions when they look at the world around them. With PODinar, for example, we gradually discovered that companies have a much more complex and subtle set of needs and objectives than we had originally expected. Meeting these needs requires a more nuanced and multidimensional approach to the learning.

We want to help our people develop the kind of self-confidence that will allow them to wait long enough to make sense of external subtleties, instead of immediately jumping to an answer or theory. This is often the real test of whether our people are cultivating a more advanced understanding of the external world: Are they willing to wait, to tune out the daily “noise” of press announcements, to stay focused on the long-term fundamentals of the environment, and to act accordingly?

As people at all levels become more sophisticated and strategic in their outlook, strategy can move from an individual capability to an institutional capability. And with that transition, the quality and speed of our business improves as it increasingly reflects knowledge and insights from across the hierarchy.

The ability to gain insight, construct and act upon the mental model of the big picture requires plenty of practice. The essence of the skill is to find patterns from among a wide variety of trends and to posit the missing ingredients that could catalyze convergence. Many great leaders began to practice this exercise when they were younger, in less complex contexts, and over the years they have developed the requisite skills and judgment.

One simple way to begin is by asking yourself a series of six questions, exploring the ideas with colleagues and peers:

1. What is happening in the world today?
2. What does it mean for others?
3. What does it mean for us?
4. What would have to happen first (for the results we want to occur)?
5. What do we have to do to play a role?
6. What do we do next?

Working through these six questions helps executives assess the validity of the company’s moneymaking approach. This is an iterative process that tests the leaders’ mental abilities to qualitatively see how the world is changing — almost always including the perspectives of others. It requires transcending the old rules of thumb that are etched deep in the psyches of many executives, and it means giving up the habitual reliance on precedent that worked for many companies during times of more linear change.

But the ability to perceive trends quickly, or even to make sense of them, will not automatically guarantee success. Rather, success depends on the rigor and discipline applied to the entire process of envisioning the changes, deducing specific actions, and implementing the plan.

Some leaders do this by deliberately seeking out diverse perspectives and listening to a wide variety of sources. They meet regularly with other top CEOs to bounce ideas off one another; they regularly read not just magazines and newspapers. They attend confabs like the annual World Economic Forum. Their social networks are filled with sharp observers who share their intense curiosity but come from diverse backgrounds. Leaders with business acumen are accustomed to informal chats with others, during which they feed their hunger for other viewpoints. They seek out younger leaders who understand how new technologies are being used or who are less bound by past ways of doing business.

Of course, there is a good deal of noise out there, too. Not every conversation will add clarity to the big picture.

In closing, great leaders can stay on point. They build their big-picture view, listen to and sift out extraneous threads, bounce their opinions off others, retest their qualitative hypotheses, and reformulate their big-picture view. This unseen iterative process provides the vital foundation for developing business acumen. Such leaders know that they are responsible for the organization’s ability not just to adapt, but also to choose its course; the long-term survival of the enterprise depends on their ability to learn to see more effectively. That’s the skill you want every single employee to have or at least understand.

11/24/15: Dragging Mental Bricks

The majority of things we worry about never come to pass. The majority of bad things that have happen to us are in the past so why worry about them. The majority of bad things that have happened to us seldom repeat themselves. Suffice it to say, that most of our worries and anxieties come from the past and have no bearing on our current state of mind.
Yet, I’m constantly amazed at the type of issues people carry with them day-to-day, month-to-month, and year-to-year. It’s common knowledge that we can’t change the past, so why dwell on it? It’s common knowledge that the past, once survived, can’t hurt us, it can only help us become stronger.

Having stated the obvious, why do most of us continually drag our past with us every day. We take our past to work with us, bring it into our personal lives and we even tuck into bed with us every night.

I want you to start thinking about these past incidents you carry with you as individual bricks. And every day, you load up your bricks into your “self pity” sack and off you go. Yes, a sack of bricks. Every time I see negative people walking around I visualize them carrying a large sack of bricks. For everything wrong that’s gone wrong in their lives, they add another brick to the sack. Although the bricks are not real, but imaginary, the weight of each is undeniable and directly proportional to the credence the person gives to it.
When things don’t go your way, you get upset and add another brick ‘labeled’ resentment into the sack. When you get rejected for a job or get terminated by no fault of your own add a brick called ‘dejection’ to the sack. How much emphasis you place on these setbacks determines the size of the brick. Over time that sack will weigh you down to the point of inertia; you can’t move.

In real life if I asked you to carry a sack of bricks with you to work, in your car when you’re in traffic, or when you go to bed you’d think I was crazy or a sadist. So why is it that most people choose to carry a sack of mental bricks of the past around with them every day? But more importantly, how is it that others seem to be free of the sack?

There are two categories of people in the world, a Brick Carrier and a Brick Layer. Brick carriers like to carry their bricks with them everywhere they go. They never seem to stop worrying about things in life. They’re always worried about money, always resentful of something and always suspicious of everyone. They always have a great excuse of why they haven’t been as successful as they’d hoped. They always blame things outside of control for their lack of success. These carriers will go through life weighted down by their own mental bricks and blaming everyone for their misfortune but themselves.

Brick layers carry their bricks for a while when things go wrong. No one can immediately discard a mental brick when something in life goes wrong. But brick layers know that eventually, sooner or later, they have to take the brick from their “pity” sack and lay it down and begin to either lay the foundation for a better future or a new road toward success. With bricks you can build foundation or build a road towards the future.

Brick carriers always see problems even when an opportunity to move ahead presents itself. Brick carriers are so use to seeing bad in things, they’ve lost their ability to see opportunity. They’ve gone blind. They take every opportunity to pull out their mental bricks and show the world and others how life has cheated them in the past. They love showing the world their bricks of discontent. You can usually identify these bricks carriers by how often they whine about their situation, or complain about others.
These brick carriers also have a perverse sense of pride in their bricks. They never miss an opportunity to share with other how life has done them wrong and the bricks are their proof. They are quick to pull the bricks from their sack, hold it up high in front of everyone, like a badge of honor.

Brick carriers also have a tendency to grow their bricks as time goes on. Feeling like a victim, each incident of injustice, in their mind, will grow over time as the mortar of resentment is glommed onto every brick in their sack. Time has a way of distorting the past; often making it seem either worse or not as bad as you remember. Brick carriers always remember past incidents as worse. And as time distorts their memory of a past incident, so too does the brick become larger and more distorted. Over time, as the mortar of discontent hardens, the bricks begin to resemble a large mass of concrete of a defeated mind.

The reality is that we all carry a sack of bricks. Each brick representing something that went wrong or when someone did us wrong. But time and maturity help us deal with the past and allow us to pull those bricks out of the sack and move on with our lives more freely.
So the question is, are you a brick carrier or a brick layer?

11/17/15: That’s just semantics…

That’s just semantics….” Said scornfully, the remark implies that time spent understanding the meaning of words is wasted.
In fact, words are extremely important. Clear language is not only essential to communications. It’s the basis for clear thinking.
The importance of clarity in communications is readily apparent. Too often, leaders make a request, and by the time it filters through layers of management to the people who ultimately fulfill it, its meaning has changed dramatically and results are unsatisfying.
Even in one-on-one discussions, clear language is essential. A leadership team disagrees about the need for team-building. He thinks people work well together, and team-building would be a waste of time. She complains that teamwork just isn’t working, and something needs to be done to improve it. He says “team” and means the people who report to him. She says “team” and means the people from throughout the organization who are working together on a project. It’s no wonder these two leaders disagree!
Similarly, people in organizations make commitments to one another; but when one requests this and the other promises that, their agreement is meaningless and disappointment is inevitable.
Beyond communications, precise language is also essential to clear thinking. People think by manipulating symbols — words and numbers — in their minds and in writing. If those symbols don’t distinguish differing concepts, the differences are likely to be lost.
Phillipinos have at least 22 words for “rice,” and perceive the differences. Eskimos have at least 20 words for “snow,” and perceive the differences. On the other hand, as an American, I know only a handful of words for “rice” and “snow,” and do not appreciate the subtle differences. It’s not that my eyes cannot see what Phillipinos and Eskimos see. Without the right words, it’s hard to even think about a concept.
You have a “budget” for 15 people, and all are quite busy with current commitments. A customer approaches you and requests another project — requiring that you hire an addition person — and is willing to cover all costs. Do you take her money and hire the person, or turn her away for lack of “budget?”
That depends…. If “budget” means “spending power” (like a checkbook), then your checkbook may be empty; but you’re happy to take on the work (and the additional headcount) as long as the customer pays all costs. On the other hand, if “budget” means a “cap” on your headcount, you cannot take on the project without risking a poor performance appraisal. The difference between spending power and caps is significant; it’s crucial not to use the same word for both concepts.
Sometimes, business slang leads people to serious misunderstandings.
For example, in business, people have come to use the word “own” synonymously with the word “produce.” Managers might be heard to say, “I own this product line,” when in fact they mean to say that they produce it. When staff within an organization use language in this way, they often come to believe that they have the right to decide what products and services they produce. This misconception undermines a culture of customer focus, and often squanders the organization’s scarce resources on products for which the corporation has little use.
Another common example of semantic sloppiness in organizations is using the word “customer” synonymously with the word “client.”
Let’s presume that the word “client” refers to people outside the organization who benefit from its work. If we take the word “customer” to mean the same thing, then clearly one’s peers within the organization are not customers.
However, high-performance teamwork depends on internal customer-supplier relationships where, for every project, a prime contractor is accountable for all its deliverables and forms teams by “buying” help from peers. With this paradigm, teams form quickly, involving just the right people at just the right time. Furthermore, everyone on each team understands his or her individual accountabilities, and the chain of authority within the team is clear.
On the other hand, if the concept of “customer” is limited to clients (outside the organization), it’s easy for people to abandon commitments to peers in favor of clients’ requests. In such an environment, it’s difficult to trust one’s peers and teamwork disintegrates. Results include dissatisfied peers and clients, political strife, and reduced organizational performance.
Clients are people outside the organization. Clients are generally customers, but peers within the organization can be customers as well. Occasionally, clients serve as suppliers, as do peers. In fact, a peer may be your customer on one project, and your supplier on another. “Customer” and “supplier” refer to relationships, not a set of people. To think clearly about one’s accountabilities, it’s essential to use different words for these very different concepts.
In most business discussion, definitions found in conventional dictionaries suffice. But there are some situations where distinctions are critical and common semantics are ambiguous. In my experience, leadership and organizational design are particularly sensitive to misunderstandings. Where this has proven the case, we’ve been pressed to define terms very carefully.
It’s not important that others adopt our words. It is important that people within an organization agree on a single meaning for each word.