Thursday, April 30, 2009

Would you buy you?

I had the pleasure reconnect with my friend Michelle recently after a couple of decades. It’s interesting to find out how we’ve changed, and how we’ve stayed the same. After all these years one thing that remained true was how postiveness (that’s not even a word) just beams from her. From seventh grade on, she could tell you the best news, the worst news, and just so-so news and you would feel reassured in the end that you were not “going to kill the messenger.”

One of our recent conversations was my comments on dealing with a person of power who just brings you down when having conversation with that person. We will not get into the specifics of that conversation or individual. However it does help me focus on “how do you sell yourself?”

The easiest example to discuss is the topic of selling is how it relates to products actually for sale. I know a neighbor who observed a local grocery store’s non-moving products (the non-national brand versions). With his background in packaging he asked the store manager if he could run a pilot program for select items. The approval sent him on a project to repackage the products and put them back on the shelves and track the sales. The non-moving items sold, without having to drop the original price! This interesting concept of repackaging and selling is not a breakthrough concept, but, rather, an exercise that needs revisiting more frequently.

Take the example of my friend Michelle. After 20 years if the initial contact sent back and forth displayed a packaging that was not congruent, we would have just had a cordial recap and may stay buddies. Would I buy Michelle again after all this time? Would Michelle buy herself again? Would I buy myself again? What if people put a fa├žade up just for the reconnection? That would certainly work as well, right? But the truth will come out eventually, and at that point, you’ve lost a customer, and word of mouth has an upper hand to any further fake repackaging.

Whether it’s a first date, a job interview, or any form of initial contact, you have about 90 seconds or less to engage in two-way window shopping. How often have you examined yourself to see if you would buy you? Are you in moments where you exude the thought: “Here is a person who has self-respect. Her demeanor shows she is credible and important. I should treat her that way.” You owe it to yourself to look and feel your best. I’m not asking you to wear custom-tailored apparel every waking minute, or to have reconstructive surgery for various enhancements.

Honestly, I live in Orange County, CA, but I was raised in Prince George’s County, MD. In PG County, you can ONLY have self-respect to survive. It’s amusing to come from that environment and move to The OC and just observe people. Don’t get me wrong, I totally LOVE Orange County and many many many OC individuals. However, you do not need to wear flashy clothing or have surgeries to sell yourself positively. It certainly doesn’t hurt, though. However, at the end of the day would you buy yourself? If all you had were your good looks, your clothes, your cars, your money … that’s all that people would look at you as resembling. You will be invited to the VIP events, you will be invited to sit in the reserved booths at sporting events, you will be in the company of the A-list individuals … but so do others. In the long run, genuineness and self-respect contribute to your overall self-confidence, your self-packaging, and your acceptance.

On July 18th Orange County will have its inaugural OC Mud Run. We’ve never run in the mud before (except as kids), let alone 5K of it, plus obstacles. Our team is comprised of a fashion model/golfer, student/entrepreneur/golfer, hotel mgmt/dad to two All Star soccer daughters, dad/TV & movie star/motorcycle rider, and dad/Oakley fanatic/newbie sky diver. We are definitely not your typical action sports dream team … or are we? We’ve teamed up and will endure a 5K obstacle course in the mud, along with many other competitors. We’re competitors in our own respect, yet we respect each other more importantly. Our team name and motto for this event is: “Pride Chickenz: We may be chickens … but we’ve got pride!!!”

Do you think you’re important? Do you think you deserve respect? Do your actions sell you properly? Would you buy yourself?


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Begin with the end in mind

Many goals are set, while just as many remain just goals. Take for instance the traditional influx of gym memberships sold around New Year’s, let alone the sales of prepaid personal training sessions. I’m not here to talk about the genius of these marketing pushes around the first of the year, rather to discuss the goals that never make it past the first week of February.

I’m betting that many of these goal setters have great intentions, but lacked focus. It is not normally easy to maintain focus; it’s actually quite challenging. Focus takes a lot of effort, and as humans we are naturally out of focus all the time. You have to intend on staying in focus. Think about the time you had a great workout: your favorite sports drink flowing through you, your sweat pouring through your pores, and an hour later your adrenaline levels are soaring. On your next workout you concentrate on the previous workout: comparing your efforts to your current workout, feeling lackluster for not matching up, and next thing you know you’re workout is just a waste of your time and energy. The next workout you concentrate on your subpar workout and continue the cycle. Next thing you know you’ve lost the motivation to work out and your gym membership becomes a memory. Why is that?

Distractions such as “what I did yesterday” chip away at your focus. Learn from the past and let go of it. Most drivers, I hope, get into a car and drive defensively, just as we were taught in driver’s education. Look ahead, check your side mirrors, check the rear view mirror… After all that checking, I certainly hope you don’t forget about the road immediately in front of you. Using “what I did yesterday” to get you through today is just like driving a car and perpetually staring at your rear view mirror. Do not be distracted by yesterday. Focus on today. You cannot change the past. You are not into tomorrow. Focus on today, since you have control to shape today.

When you did not achieve success in your workout goal yesterday, do you throw in the towel?

Success is not an event, it is a process. Any champion will tell you that that this process takes a considerable amount of time. When time is involved maintaining focus is essential. Think about the kind of challenges did Hank Aaron have to overcome. Aaron said, “I think what separates a superstar from the average ballplayer is that he concentrates just a little bit longer.” Are your challenges relatively comparable to the ones Aaron had to face day-in-day-out? Those that can direct their focus to complement their talent, condition themselves to reach various levels of success.

Make every action count. Determine where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. Remember the rearview mirror driving example. Begin with the end in mind. I know friends that occasionally drive cross county. We can learn a lesson from these hard core drivers. They map out point A to point B. They know how many miles it will take. They know how many days it will take. They know how many pit stops they will take to reach point B. They know what point B looks like, so they’ll know they arrived. It doesn’t matter that there was ugly weather in the last state. It doesn’t matter that a thousand miles away if there will be a stalled vehicle that might cause a traffic delay. What matters is that this very moment, driving at night when traffic is lighter, that the driver needs to:

· Focus on staying awake

· Focus on as far as the headlights are lighting the way

· Focus on reaching a predetermined end of this stage of the journey

· Focus on reaching point B

Without maintaining focus, how will you reach your goal? Stay focused on results, not the difficulties involved. Maintaining focus conditions you for self-discipline, not self-pity. Challenge your excuses (as that’s what they are, right?). The clock is ticking and you don’t have enough time for excuses. Focus lifts you and increases your energy. Why? You get to momentarily enjoy your mini-wins that lead up to bigger wins.

My friends know that I work out to stay in shape, and to keep up with my active five- and seven-year old boys. That is my focus. My focus is not to be able to bench press Smart cars in my spare time. However, I do have a friend who has focused on more massive goals. Strength training was key to him in football, baseball, and track & field. As he continued on with progressing in his career in IT and completing his masters degree in Computer Systems Management, he maintained focus in his body building goal. Some of his successes along the way include:

· 1st place and overall – NPC Lenda Murray Classic

· 1st place – NPC Maryland State Champion

· Four IPA World Records – 275 lb. class

· Eight-time Maryland State Bench Press Champion

· Six-time Maryland State Powerlifting Champion

· Three-time Eastern National Champion

· Two-time National Champion

Recently, Sherwin (“Big Sherwin”) Pagtakhan was recognized by a sponsorship from Muscletech, beginning yet another stage of an incredible journey. Every bit of success builds to the next level of success. If the current stage of success takes a bit more time, would you consider Big Sherwin unsuccessful?

In seven weeks Big Sherwin has a major competition which I know the preparation will test him further. What’s involved is quite a handful: diet, gym time, diet, family time, diet, career, diet… Focus will be key in mapping his point A to point B over the next seven weeks. This stage of his journey is not unlike previous stages. It doesn’t matter what he did yesterday. It doesn’t matter what he’ll do five weeks from now. All that matters is today. He didn’t get to the big leagues haphazardly, but through focus. Big Sherwin, your friends and family are pulling for you. More importantly, we know your focus will pull you through.

Begin with the end in mind. Plan each stage of success that will get you to point B. Maintain focus!


Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Firms of various sizes are not immune to the current state of the economy. The conditions are very harsh out there. It will be interesting to see the firms that are still standing in a few years when the upward motion of the economy will fuel the momentum we need to see.

The survivability of these firms will be in no small part due to the sustained vision of that firm’s leader. One of the traits that leader will have is vision. Jonathan Swift states, “Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.”

From day one, the leader must be able to dream a vision and work towards inspiring others in making that dream come true. However, that vision must be a clear and worthy vision, in order to inspire others. The leader’s commitment to the purpose of the vision will transfer to others, into their own vision and purpose. When you have this congruence that flows from the top to the bottom, one should not forget that communication of this vision should also flow from the bottom to the top.

Hasn’t it been suggested that you should keep your friends close, and your enemies closer? However, taking the negativity out of the equation, even in company of your closest advisers you should not only listen to those who disagree with you, but to seek them out. An effective leader should not feel attacked when this happens; rather, this is a way to see all points of view. A strong leader must never be deterred from the original vision, especially if that vision was well-conceived. Leaders must be decisive, yet open to criticism. In fact leaders should welcome this challenge. It helps solidify the driving purpose of an organization, down to the rank and file. There will be some course-correction along the way, but as long as it complements the original direction, this should be welcome.

In terms of driving I have had the privilege of driving BMW vehicles for some time now. The Ultimate Driving Machine. From the time each BMW rolled off the assembly floor the end user is fairly certain of the quality of the craftsmanship and purpose of that vehicle. I would not have chosen a BMW if I also did not share in the engineer’s vision. However, the road condition, the weather condition, the occasional valet driver … they may decide to challenge this vision. Going for a drive in that BMW 100 miles an hour from California to Vegas I’m sure I’ll encounter some challenges. Perhaps it’s as simple as one or two misaligned wheels? Next thing you know the tires start cupping and vibrations in the vehicle start shaking the vehicle. While it’s wise to address these challenges really soon thereafter, would it not have been better to seek them out prior to making such an intense (non-cop friendly) task. The Ultimate Driving Machine is not so ultimate anymore, is it? Take the ultimate dotcom that commanded venture capital funding without a solid business plan. Take the ultimate marriage of a couple with no solid plan after the honeymoon.

Nevertheless it is interesting to point out the makeup of the individuals who contribute to a leader’s vision.

I remember reading a story almost a decade ago told by Manchester United’s sports psychologist .There were three men who were laying bricks, and each was asked what he was doing. The first bricklayer stated, “Laying bricks.” The second bricklayer stated, “Earning ten pounds per hour.” The third bricklayer had a much bigger vision and stated, “I’m building a cathedral and, one day, I’ll bring my kids back here and tell them that their dad contributed to this magnificent building.”

The psychologist suggested to the team they can apply these three approaches to the training they were about to undergo. Which team member was to respond:

· I’m just practicing

· I’m earning 1,000 pounds per hour

· I’m helping to build the best Manchester United team ever and I’ll be proud to tell my grandchildren I was part of it."

At the start of that day’s training, promptly scoring a goal 30 yards away David Beckham ran off celebrating and shouting “Cathedral 1, Bricklayers 0.”

Leaders must dream their vision, seek others’ dissenting views, inspire others to see the grander vision, and plow forward in unison.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Finish what you started

We can learn from those who succeed at anything that perseverance is what’s key to crossing the finish line. That finish line can be anything: completing a project at work, seeing your children mature into adults, or actually crossing the finish line at a sporting event.

(Teamwork is an important topic to cover at a later posting. Today I want to focus on one’s perseverance, to make a point on its effect on personal development and achievement.)

Each one of us begins as equals. Not one of us was born with a towering vertical leap, a blazing pitching arm, a smoking sprinting stride … you get the picture. How many times have we heard of the star athlete’s story where he/she grew up in a small town and have been playing a particular sport since childhood and are now known worldwide as a champion of that sport? List some of the most popular cities in the US along the left side of a sheet of paper. On the right, list some of the widely known athletes and their hometown cities. The list on the right will prove my point.

To make a team, one needs to practice. To stay on a team, one needs to develop. To win a championship one needs to persevere. Rewards go to the last one standing. Remember, it’s the last step of the race that counts the most. It is when the winner is determined. It is when the reward is given. If you took every step of a race, and you stopped and didn’t take that final step to cross the finish line, it’s as if you never took that first step. With the finish line in sight, winners say, “Finish what you started” … whiners say, “I’ve gotten this far, and I’m tired.”

You don’t make it to the championship to coast to a win; you leave everything on the field and come out as champions. It will not be easy; it will be tiring … since the other team will have the same goal as well. That’s what makes watching a championship game more interesting: when both sides are battling it out, giving the spectators a great show, and providing immeasurable rewards of accomplishment to the winners.

US statesman Robert Strauss is quoted, It's a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don't quit when you're tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired." We all start strong, with lots of energy and enthusiasm to finish a task. Those who have given up at critical two-minute warnings let the gorilla get the best of them. Those who have given up on their teen’s problems let the gorilla get the best of them. Those who have given up at gold medal games let the gorilla get the best of them. Success in family, in business, in sports, or in anything, is because you were determined to, not because you were destined to.

Sports Illustrated’s “greatest sports moment of the twentieth century” was witnessed on February 22, 1980, during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games. (I highly recommend the movie, Miracle, for this inspirational story.) The Soviet Union had won every ice hockey gold medal (but one) since 1956. Soviet players were professionals, led by ice hockey legends. The United States had amateurs led by Coach Herb Brooks. Moving their way up the round robin brackets the two teams were to finally face each other. To prepare for the game, the Soviet coach decided to rest most of his best players and to have them study plays instead of skating. Coach Brooks continued to skate his players hard, and continued to berate them for any perceived weaknesses. In that famous showdown, the Soviets led most of the contest. However the US players’ tireless training and conditioning, along with their relentless determination, showed towards the end of regulation, taking the lead and holding on to defeat the dominant Soviet players, with the famous sports announcer’s call to tell it all: “Eleven seconds, you've got ten seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”

Success doesn’t demand more than we have, but ALL that we have. When the clock winds down, did you leave everything on the field?