A Question from a Young Entreprenuer

By Entrepreneurism, LeadershipNo Comments

One of my great joys in life is mentoring young entrepreneurs. One of the young entrepreneurs I’ve been mentoring sent me an email with the subject line “Being real”. In her note, she expressed battling doubts, fears and uncertainty as she moved forward with her venture. With her permission, I’m sharing a portion of her email and my response to her.

A snippet of her note:

I am okay that this is a part of the process and I am ultimately growing. I just don’t want to get stuck in a phase of this process due to fear. I think I am still struggling with actually believing in myself (not my inherent worth, but my capabilities as the container/messenger of this movement.) I have this fear that no one will follow me or be interested as I pursue this.

So my question is, what did you do when you were in a time of life where you didn’t believe in yourself? Are there any activations that I can submit myself to in order to be strengthened to trust the container that I am?

My response to her:

First, thank you for being so vulnerable. As Brene Brown says, “vulnerability is the greatest act of courage”. So being vulnerable with how you feel is already a sign of bravery!

The entrepreneur life is the acceptance of fear, not the absence of it. This took me a long time to understand. I used to say that I wake up terrified everyday, then talk myself out of it! Then I realized how foolish that was and how much energy it was sucking up battling fear. Now, I just accept FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) as part of the entrepreneur’s life.

Fear is always there because our ego loves to be in survival/scarcity mode. It wants you to feel safe and secure – even when it’s not all that safe and secure! The real safety and security is moving forward with a calling to do what is asked of you. Nothing is more secure than that unbreakable rope of faith!

The only cure for doubt and fear (any form of a lack of confidence) is action. As you take steps forward in action, your confidence will grow. In short, you don’t wait for confidence. You act and confidence follows.

A few specific tools for dealing with fear:

  • Acknowledge their existence but treat fears like a fog not a barrier. This allows you to pass through the fog to the other side.
  • Challenge fears and doubts. Ask them questions like “What is the source of this?” and “What are you doing here?” If they are real fears, you will be able to take action on them. If they are false (which most are), they will dissipate.
  • Express your fears. Find someone you trust and pour out to them. When expressed, all fears shrink or disappear. Like warm sunlight erasing the fog mentioned above.
  • Be aware of where you feel the fear in your body. If it’s in your head, it’s 99% not real. If it’s in your heart or another part of your body, you need to tune in and listen for a bit. There may be a hidden lesson in the fear you have been missing.

In the moments of heightened levels of anxiety, there’s a great Navy SEAL exercise to do:

  1. Calm your breathing – this will get you present and empower you. What’s more powerful than control your own life force!
  2. Visualize success – create a picture in your mind of what’s on the other side of the fear, anxiety, doubt
  3. Use positive language – words are extraordinarily powerful; especially self talk. So change your language you use with yourself and others.
  4. Take action – determine the next 3 – 5 steps and then act on them!

Most of all, go to the heart. That’s where your calling is stored. That’s where you will find courage and strength.

5 Ways to Be Miserable

By Leadership, Self-WorthNo Comments

The above image is from the bathroom scene in “Liar, Liar” — the last Jim Carrey movie to actually be funny. Here’s the clip of the scene. If you don’t want to spend 3 minutes laughing, the money line is this: “I’m kicking my ass. Do ya mind!?”

With that headline and clip, this post may seem like I’m in a dark mood. I’m not. I’m actually optimistic and hopeful you can actually learn to stop kicking your own ass by reverse engineering behaviors and mindsets that cause misery. In short, by dismantling suffering, you can create happiness.

Here are 5 ways to be miserable (and 5 things to do instead):

  1. Systemic Beliefs: These are beliefs taught to you by someone else — parents, teachers, churches, politicians, celebrities, bosses. They’ve all poured beliefs into you that were intended to shape in you a some way. Usually in the form of religious or political doctrine. Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr refers to this as “domestication”. Systemic beliefs cause misery because they aren’t actually your beliefs. This triggers comparison (see below) and induces a stream of guilt and shame. And the ego gets addicted to guilt and shame like the body gets addicted to sugar. Besides guilt and shame, the surest sign of systemic beliefs is stunted spiritual growth. So do this instead: understand your Intrinsic Beliefs. These are the beliefs that you’ve always known to be true. They weren’t taught to you. They are also beliefs revealed to you through a spiritual journey or transformation. You will find that these intrinsic beliefs are guideposts for your mission and purpose.
  2. Extrinsic Obsession: This is my term for having attachment issues; of attaching your happiness, self-worth and value to people and outside conditions. This is the root of materialism and the cause of the rampant addiction to comfort and ease. When combined with systemic beliefs, it becomes a dark voice that says “You aren’t enough. You don’t have enough”. It is also the root of creating additional suffering through already difficult times. Extrinsic obsession robs you of your power of choice over your perspective. Concentration camp survivor and author Viktor Frankl says this: Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Frankl offers us an alternative to extrinsic obsession: Intrinsic Focus. This is focusing on the things you have actual power over: mindset, words, reactions and the most powerful tool, breathing.
  3. Lack of Self-Care: This corrosive habit comes in many forms — lack of care for the body, mind, soul and heart. Usually under the auspices of not wishing to appear selfish (extrinsic obsession!). So many people go about quietly kicking their own asses by poor nutrition, lack of exercise, not settling the mind, addiction to technology, lack of sleep, pretense in relationships and many more. They slowly empty out and never take action to fill back up. This puts the ego in charge and creates a near-constant mindset of scarcity and survival. There are thousands of ways to do this differently, but I will give you three you can do every day: 1) Spend 5–15 minutes in solitude. This doesn’t include your car ride to work. 2) Eat clean. You will be amazed about how much better you will feel. 3) Move. Walk, yoga, lift weights — just move.
  4. Comparison: The meaner cousin to assumptions, comparison conspires with all of the above to put you in a constant state of benchmarking yourself against others. Comparison is so powerful it is the #1 advertising manipulation tool. But when left unchecked, it wrecks careers, relationships and identities. Other than values mis-alignment, I also believe it is the root of most conflict. Consider a recent spat you had with a partner or co-worker. Chances are high that it was because one or both of you were in comparison mode. The opposite of comparison is Standards. These are an internal set of expectations for performance and quality — without all the guilt, shame and doubt. Standards allow you to set success points for growth to trigger accomplishment and increased self-worth. Standards teach you what to say yes or no to. They teach you discipline, discernment and healthy detachment.
  5. Trying Too Hard: This might be the summation of the first four, but it feels like a stand-alone misery trigger. This is primarily an issue with over-achievers who are trying to feed the soul through frenetic activity. More, more, more! Go, go, go! It’s a striving to make things exactly how we want them to be. Yet despite all the effort and busy-ness, nothing ever turns out the way that we planned. And if it does, we aren’t really happy because in trying too hard, success, joy and situations becoming manufactured not discovered. I’m not saying you should stop trying. I’m saying there are better ways to use all that energy. The antidote to trying too hard is Taking Action. This is a simple planning and execution exercise: set a short-term measurable, achievable and reasonable goal then determine the next 5 actions (not activities) that you are going to take. Then do them and start another next 5. Of course you will have work, life and self maintenance, but these next 5 are the ONLY thing to focus on as it relates to effort.

The lesson from all of this is that MISERY IS OPTIONAL. It has nothing to do with other people, outside conditions, our past, who is President, who is not President, who did or did not win the Super Bowl. By understanding that misery is optional, we can learn that we control the human app. It doesn’t control us. And we when control it, we learn that this very moment contains everything we need to be happy.

How to Kill Your Culture

By Branding, LeadershipNo Comments

Call it a buzzword if you want,”culture” is still the hottest topic in organizations. Senior leaders of global companies talk about it. Small business owners talk about it. Start-up founders talk about it. Employees talk about it. Vendors talk about. And customers talk about it.

There is a plethora of writing on creating/growing/preserving a culture. I am going to take a different tact of reverse engineering cultural decay. In short, I am going to teach you how to kill your culture.

  1. Stop Telling the Truth. Make sure that you spin everything to be perfect and neat. Encourage feedback but don’t do anything about it. Punish or suppress those who point out problems. Manage the narrative. Make sure that truth is pushed into whispered hallway conversations, over beers afterwork or anonymously shared on social media. When you receive data that you don’t like, be sure to twist it to fit your world view.
  2. Pretend There’s No Hierarchy. Talk about creating a flatter, more nimble organization. Get rid of org charts, traditional reporting structures and performance reviews. But don’t change any of the managers who have their position because of hierarchy. Be sure to promote people into leadership positions who know how to talk about modern business practices but are immersed in 20th century thinking. Pretend that all opinions and views are equal. Most of all, talk about “servant leadership” without ever actually serving anyone.
  3. Practice False Enthusiasm. There are no problems. Everything is great! Sure, we have somethings to work on but all is wonderful. Gather your teams and lead them on cheer sessions with repetitious sayings. Bring in motivational speakers to motivate everyone because you don’t know how to do that. Be sure to label people who point out problems as “not team players.” When facing employees, the media, shareholders or customers, paste on a big smile and use folksy terminology.
  4. Preach Diversity; Practice Tyranny. Talk about how everyone should be free to be themselves. Heck, get rid of strict dress code policies. Even have a Hawaiian shirt day! Get everyone to start expressing their true selves and then … monitor cubicle displays for anything that might be consider offensive. Tell people to cover up their tattoos. Make sure everyone speaks the same language and uses the same lexicon.
  5. Properly Allocate Resources. Use HR as an internal affairs department to root out any problem employees. Use your Marketing team to create rosy narratives and snappy ad campaigns. Use your Dev/Research team to create products that hurt the planet and rob consumers of their identities. Use your Customer Service team to manage complaints. Use your Finance experts to keep the funding flowing for your self-made problems.

Oh, and one more thing …

Spend plenty of time for yourself in retreats, spa days, golf excursions. After all, managing the process of killing your culture can be draining.

Or …

Be an awake leader and do the opposite of all these and build something amazing that produces happiness, value and meaning for all involved.

5 Questions for Year-End Pondering

By Leadership, Self-WorthNo Comments

These are the 5 questions I’ve been asking myself and sharing with my various circles.

  1. What is something you learned about yourself in 2016? Use your beliefs and behaviors as a starting point.
  2. What is something you wished you would have learned about yourself in 2016? This might be something you’d like to work on in 2017.
  3. One year from today, what do you want to be celebrating? Think in terms of tangible success — i.e. holding up a Super Bowl trophy.
  4. What is the top success factor/measurable for reaching the above goal? Often referred to as the “number”; the one number that determines success.
  5. What current habit, behavior or bias could prevent you from reaching your celebration goal? We are our own biggest obstacle.

In the spirit of transparency, here are my answers.

  1. In 2016, I learned how to surrender. By “surrender”, I don’t mean surrendering my beliefs, sovereignty, or values. I mean surrendering to the things that I don’t have control over — especially related to other people’s behavior and decisions. It took me all year and I still feel like I have to re-learn it daily.
  2. I wished I would have learned active patience. 2016 has been a year of waiting in almost every aspect of life. During the waiting, I would frequently let the waiting turn in to obsession; which would turn in to anxiety. The good news is that I had previously learned to create space between emotions and actions — so I had the wisdom to not be brash. That said, I could have used way more of the waiting time for “active patience”: growth, productivity, creativity.
  3. One year from today, I want to be celebrating the publishing of three books. One will be a book of my #musings from Instagram. The other will be the last of the “Bacon” books (working title: “Soul Bacon: How to Have a Life that Sizzles”). And the third will be a book co-authored with my Root + River partner Emily Soccorsy. 
  4. The #musings book is essentially written and just needs layout and print. So the top success factor is the discipline to schedule writing time and actually write. Specifically this number is 10 hours per month.
  5. The top habit/behavior/bias that would prevent success would be getting overwhelmed and living in Covey’s Quadrant One of urgent-and-important. This is unsustainable and robs me of the energy, joy and discipline to create.

If inspired, take a run at answering these questions. And if feeling brave, share your answers in the comments or drop me a note a [email protected]


Build Trust, Build Your Brand

By Branding, LeadershipNo Comments

“Trust” is a term that is oft abused and diluted by advertising, sales people and political candidates – usually with some sort of phrase that begins with “Trust me …” or “Believe you me …”. Yet despite its over-use, “trust” is still a powerful word. Why?

Because people do inherently want to trust.

Herein lies a great branding opportunity: if you are truly trustworthy, your brand will grow faster than any other form of brand building or marketing. Trust is viral. Trust is an attractant. Trust is memorable. And trust never becomes obsolete.

Branding begins with leadership. Ergo, instilling trust begins with the leader(s) of an organization. Steven M.R. Covey says it best in his book “Speed of Trust”:

“The first job of a leader—at work or at home—is to inspire trust. It’s to bring out the best in people by entrusting them with meaningful stewardships, and to create an environment in which high-trust interaction inspires creativity and possibility.”

The top indicator for a trustworthy leader is emotional intelligence (EQ). High EQ leaders are humble, self-and others-aware and open for feedback – all traits of trust building. This trust then begins to become part of the culture of a team or organization. It is self-policed – not through policies or procedures but by conversations and accountability.

Trust then begins to appear in the products and/or services produced by a brand. High standards, attention to detail and quality assurance are all factors in building trust into your offerings. Again, the “right way to do things” is a cultural standard not a manual. Trust also become an integral part of all human experiences. From new employee on-boarding to internal communications. To create creating consistent customer delight for current and new customers. It also extends out into the community with donations, service projects and more.  All of which reinforces and amplifies trust.

Finally we get to marketing. Let’s pause and consider this. Marketing used to be the main instrument for creating a perception of trust. It was the first thing you did as a brand.  Now marketing is the last thing you do if you are a trust-driven organization. So how does trust get translated into marketing? Here are few tips:

  1. Speak to the heart.  Everyone’s minds are full, so provide a message to their hearts. Plus, trust begins in the heart, not the mind.
  2. Use simple, declarative statements. People don’t have time for squishiness or messages of low nutritional value. Trust comes from speaking plainly and clearly.
  3. Tell stories. Not the stories of your organization, but stories of your employees, customers and influencers. These stories contain all of the ingredients to build trust.

Simply put, if you want to be a trustworthy brand, be a trustworthy person. Hire trustworthy people. Give your customers trustworthy value. And be a trustworthy neighbor in your community. The combination of these things – all built on trust – is like a perpetual motion machine for your brand. Producing value, innovation and relevance.

And trust me. I’m a branding guy. 🙂