Monthly Archives: June 2013

Party vs. Ponder

D.A. Carson once said, “There is a certain kind of maturity that can be attained only through the discipline of suffering.” Tony Robbins said it a bit differently with his famous quote, “When people succeed, they tend to party, but when people fail, they tend to ponder.”

Handling failure can be a major obstacle for some people. Why? Because of two reasons:

1. They see themselves as failures;
2. They focus on the failure and let it paralyze them.

As a result of these two things, too many people give up the fight for success before they ever get started. When they encounter difficult circumstances, they convince themselves that they will never make it and, as a result, they become self-fulfilling prophets of doom.

Others, however, seem to breeze through the problems in their lives and businesses and move on to become great successes. When they meet failure in an endeavor, be it in their personal or business lives, they don’t let it take them down for the count. Instead, they get up and keep moving toward their goals.

So…what separates those who persevere and ultimately succeed from those who fail?

Here are some reasons and some suggestions for how we can all triumph over failure and move onward to unusual levels of success:

1. Realize that, as Zig Ziglar said so well, “Failure is an event. Failure is not a person.” Nobody bats 1,000. In fact, the greatest baseball players in history became great by batting 300!! That means that they struck out 7 out of 10 times!! If you think that you are going to succeed all of the time, you are only setting yourself up for disappointment. The most successful people in the world, both personally and professionally, have become so by failing more than they have succeeded, at least in the early years.

2. Don’t focus on the failure, focus on moving forward and learning something. When failure strikes, many people get down on themselves and ask questions like, “How could I have let this happen? How could I have been so stupid?” These are the WRONG questions to ask. In the midst of failure, we need to look for understanding and solutions. Asking questions like, “What did I miss in this circumstance? What can I learn from this experience so that I will never make this mistake again?” are far more appropriate.

3. Be determined not to give up. Failure wins when you give up. Don’t let one event keep you from becoming all that God created you to be. Persevere through your problems — don’t let them run you over.

Carson was right — some kinds of maturity can be attained only through the discipline of suffering. Failure causes us to suffer, but we can become more mature and effective human beings if we are willing to submit to the discipline and learn the lessons that only failure can teach.

The Iron Law of the Market

Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape and Ning has said, “Market matters most; neither a stellar team nor a fantastic product will redeem a bad market. Markets that don’t exist don’t care how smart you are.”

These are very simple statements, yet they are full of richness and meaning for existing and future business owners. If we take what Andreessen has said, in light of the five key ingredients that make up any successful business, here are at least some of the things we can learn:

• Even the most ingenious idea will fail if nobody wants it. Creating value that nobody wants is a waste of your time, brainpower, and money. You can have a wonderful idea, but if people don’t want it they won’t spend their hard earned money on it. Sometimes ideas are just bad and sometimes they are really good but they are either leading or lagging the market too much.

• We need to find ways to serve existing markets rather than developing a product and then trying to create a market to sell it to. Creating markets is risky, hard, and expensive. If you are a small business person, trying to create a market for your product or service can put you out of business because you may run out of cash before you can create a market. Far better to look at existing markets and ask how you can add a greater or different kind of value to that market.

• The Iron Law is cold, hard, and unforgiving. If you ignore it, you will fail. I know that sounds so negative, and I really am a positive guy. What I am trying to convey to you is that you have to be careful that you don’t allow yourself to think that you are smarter than the system, or that this law doesn’t apply to you. Trust me, it does. I have seen far too many people, many of them more intelligent than me, who thought they could circumvent this law – they are no longer in business. Don’t make the same mistake.

Mission and Values

Think of all the ways human beings define themselves:

— Gender: male or female
— Race: Caucasian, Asian, African, Latin, and so on
— Nation of Citizenship: wherever one was born or became a naturalized citizen
— The list goes on from there: region (“the South); state (Connecticut); city (Dallas); even specific neighborhoods

When you think of how you would define yourself if someone asked you, what pops into your mind? To what do you link your identity?

Has it ever occurred to you that, whether you realize or not, there are a set of values that define who you are and what is important to you? It’s true, although most of the people I work with as a coach have never taken the time to identify and document them. The real shocker for most people is when I tell them that, if they haven’t identified their core values (the ones that really drive all of their actions, emotions, and direction in life), then they don’t know which ones are good or bad, right or wrong, or the ones that are helping or hindering their life’s journey.

Discovering your core values isn’t necessarily hard. It just takes time — time spent thinking about the things that are most important to you in life, and then committing them to writing. (If you haven’t read my post on thinking, now would be a great time to go back and go through it).

Once you have defined and refined your core values, it’s time to ask yourself how you are living out those values? What are you doing that either supports them or works against them? What needs to change for you to get yourself aligned with those values?

Ultimately, when you choose to go down this road, you wind up at a point, sooner or later, where you ask yourself the ultimate question:

What do I really want my life to count for?

That’s the kind of question that can really take your breath away, can’t it? It’s especially true if you haven’t ever really thought about it before.

Stop — right now — for just a moment. Project yourself into the future — to the day of your funeral. Come on now, it isn’t morbid to think about this. After all, nobody lives forever. We are all going to die someday. So think about that day. Those closest to you — family and friends — are gathered to eulogize you. What are they going to say about your life? What are they going to say about the things you accomplished and the people you touched? More importantly, what do YOU want them to say??

I encourage you to take the time to write your own eulogy. Write it not the way things are today, but the way you want things to be. If you take the time to really do this, not as assignment, but as a life-defining moment, you will discover, in the words you have written, the threads that can be woven into the tapestry of the life you really and truly want to live.

Once you have done that, creating a mission statement to define your life and refine your values becomes relatively simple. As always, the question becomes — will you make this investment in your life, or will you just say to yourself, “Gee — interesting subject,” and then ignore its significance?

The Benefits of Competition

.    “The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making 
his own business better all the time.”
— Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company and assembly line pioneer

People often think of competition as a bad thing.  As a result they do one of two things:

  • They seek to avoid markets where there is a lot of competition
  • They seek to destroy their competition

Back in the days before I started Optechs, I worked for as a Vice President of Operations for a multi-plant company.  Although we were based in Chicago, one of our major competitors was based in Florida.  One day the president of our company visited my office and told me that he had an idea he wanted to run by me.  Our Florida competitor was having some real financial difficulties.  Our president had identified a site not too far from this competitor where there was a facility for sale.  He was considering buying this facility, opening a plant there, hiring some key people away from this competitor, and effectively destroying our prime competition.

After reviewing his idea with me, he asked what I thought.  I told him that I had no objection to beating my competition fair and square by doing things better, faster, and smarter, but that I saw no value in kicking them when they were down.  Quite the opposite, I suggested that we see if we could find a way to work together with them and take advantage of the synergies and technologies between our two companies.  Needless to say, he did not like that idea, so we never pursued it.

I agree with Henry Ford.  While we need to be aware of what our competitors are doing and be good students of their organizations, our jobs as business managers and owners is to keep on making our own businesses better all of the time.  Competition is a good thing and we should be thankful for it because it ultimately makes all of us better.

There are four key points to remember when you think about your competition:

  • When two markets are equally attractive, you should enter the one WITH competition.
  • The hidden benefit of competition is knowing from the start that there is a market of paying customers.
  • Always become a customer of your competition and learn from them.
  • Focus on continually making your business and your products better because, in so doing, you serve your customers and grow your profits.

Loving Life

Have you ever been around someone who totally enjoys life? A person who sees each day as an opportunity to live life fully and enjoy the blessings of that day? Knowing a person like that is an inspiration because he or she understands that every moment of our lives is a gift.

This is the way we should live our lives. Life on earth should be both fruitful and enjoyable. There is great good to be accomplished on earth, leading to a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that we are each maximizing our callings.

Take a fresh measure of how much you love the life you have been blessed with. Then get busy with defining and completing the work to which you have been called. In the process of so doing, you will accomplish much and you will become a blessing and inspiration to others.