Yes, I know the title is a bit cheesy, but it is April 15, and, of course, I mean something else: Why is it so hard to be successful?
Life is hard. Work is hard. Business is hard. Being successful is hard, let alone getting “ahead.” And working hard doesn’t mean you will be successful or get ahead, but it sure doesn’t hurt.
You need to put in time and do so smartly, whether in your business or personal life. Doing so is investing in yourself and your business. How do you do this? It depends what you do for a living.
For me, it can mean a lot of networking, including face time. For the person running a small business, it may be the same thing, but with suppliers or people who can connect them to suppliers to try and get better product or pricing. And for any of us it could be the person at the golf course, who can get us a better tee time if they like us. It works in all parts of your life.
So put in the work, even though it is taxing!
And I hope this tax day was not too painful for you!
It may be All About That Bass this year, but will any of us remember Meghan Trainor next year?
No one plans to be a one hit wonder. Whether in music or business. We are overloaded in every field of business and all professions. The goal is to sustain your business or career over time.
You do this by nurturing relationships and doing both short term, mid-term and long term planning. If you are not sure where to start, ask people you know who have had sustained success. Be open to suggestions and trying new things, maybe even doing things outside your comfort zone.
And try new things. The path that works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. But you don’t know unless you try things and determine what works for you.
If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? Self-confidence comes from inside you, not from others. And confidence and cockiness do not have to go together. If you think you know everything, you don’t.
If someone is tooting their own horn too much, it is likely they really are insecure. Most successful people play down their accomplishments. So do you want to spend time with the insecure egotistical person who only talks about themselves and how great they are, or the self-confident person who you can actually network with or want to do business with?
Just because you have self-confidence, it doesn’t mean you always will win, but you will give yourself more opportunities. That is because it really all goes back to relationships.
So tell yourself how great you are, but don’t tell me!
I read a good quote recently, actually in an email from a friend to other managers in a fantasy football league I am in. Of course it might have been part of some smack talk that was going on, but it brought to mind a truth: continuous learning and training makes for a better and more interesting work place.
The quote is “Everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-geniuses them.” It is by Buckminster Fuller, who I am not too familiar with, but I think it is correct on many levels. We all have potential, but realizing takes work. We all know intelligent people who are disinterested in learning or otherwise do not apply themselves.
The time to step up is now! It is the new year (yes, I realize it already is February!). Come up with a plan. What should you learn? Well that depends on what you do and what will help you do what you do. The first step you should take is to figure something out, whether reading a business networking book, to taking a course online or at a local community college. The options are endless.
But the right choice is to do something and stop the de-genius process!
The end of the year is always a good time to take stock of where you are personally and professionally. This can be checking in with your personal accountant to make sure you have withheld/paid enough taxes during the year or planning for deductions to planning for large corporate expenditures on things such as upcoming projects, planned corporate initiatives or planned equipment purchases. But the one thing that is a constant is that we all should be doing this.
In the past I have mentioned why it is good to sit down with various professionals you or your company work with just to check-in, be they attorneys, accountants, insurance professionals, financial planners, investment professionals, etc. The list depends on you and your business.
This does not have to be a formal appointment unless you think that is appropriate depending on the nature of the planned conversation. Instead, it can be you offering to buy them lunch or a drink. The point is the better the professionals you work with know you, the more they are able to make recommendations aimed to benefit you or your company.
So don’t wait, start making plans today to meet with these people this year, or at least first thing next year. We all are busy this time of year, but if you take these actions it will help you now and in the future.
Putting your phone on the table at a meal sends the wrong message whether you are dining with someone you are looking to connect or network with, or when you are with your spouse or kids. It is the equivalent of telling whoever you are with that the people who text, email or call you are potentially and likely more important than they are. If not, why would you leave open the possibility of having your phone interrupt the conversation and meal?
And yes, I acknowledge that phones and other devices have most of us hooked. We all are addicts. You know the feeling or thought: “Yes, I just checked for new emails and texts two minutes ago, but I may have missed one…I just can’t help myself.”
It really is all of us just filling any empty time by checking our phones or other devices. In the past we would have had to do things such as think, daydream, or stare out of the car window. Now, I have a child who is a teen and barely knows directions because his face is buried in his phone anytime he is in a car. Observing teens and their friends leads to the conclusion that they do not know how to enjoy a moment of quiet.
I have read what others think we should do. Don’t bring your phone into a business meeting. Turn off your phone at night. Makes rules about its use at the dinner table. Don’t check work email after a certain time. Great ideas, but hard to actually do.
That is why I am trying to follow my new, self-instituted rule of not placing my phone on the table when I am dining with someone. It may seem like a small step, but you have to start somewhere. And as a big believer in paying attention to those you are dining with, it definitely makes sense.
If any of you have ideas or rules that work and result in better face to face communication in your offices or homes, I would like to hear about them.
In my world preparation is everything, whether for trial, a transaction, oral argument or the first meeting with a new client. In your world there are equivalents where you can win or lose business based on your preparation or lack thereof.
I am heading into a trial in a few weeks and am in the process of preparing. While I think my client has a great chance of success at the trial based on the facts and evidence, I know that my level of preparation can greatly affect those chances and the ultimate outcome. My goal always is to be as prepared as possible because it not only gives me the best chance for success, but also the best chance to not miss something that can help win the day.
In this situation with the trial my preparation is compensated, but in many situations I am preparing by spending my uncompensated time. Why? Because the more prepared you are the better the possible outcome. If you think you are the only one your potential client, customer, etc. is speaking with, you are being naïve. And even if they are not talking to someone else, the confidence you instill in them because of your preparation will give you a better opportunity to reach the outcome you seek.
Plus, it can turn those people into your cheerleaders too, which never hurts.
People have opinions. And sometimes they actually are good to hear. Really.
It can be a good idea to bounce issues, ideas, etc. off of someone, whether a mentor, colleague, spouse. But just because they tell you what works for them, or what they think will work, the best response is “Thanks, I am going to think about that.” The reason for this is what works for one person may not work for another.
It can be simple things. I use Outlook’s Calendar features to keep track of meeting, deadlines and anything else. Others in my firm or who I know swear by the Tasks function. You say tomato, I say tomato. I think you get the picture.
At the same time, ideas or processes from others can be helpful. I always am looking to create efficiencies or do things in a more organized or better way. It is better to always be open to new idea and thoughts, but at the end of the day you have to think for yourself.
When new or potential clients ask me how we can make our first meeting as productive as possible it is an easy answer. Prepare. That means me too. I ask them to look through all of the documents, emails and information they have that is relevant to their issues. And I ask them to send me the operative contract, documents, emails and or an outline of the pertinent facts prior to the meeting.
This applies to you too. You cannot prepare too much. Knowledge is power.
If you are meeting with a salesperson, know what you need and have a plan. This helps you order what you need, not make emotional decisions and keep the meeting on point.
If you are the salesman, know the company or person you are trying to sell. Research. It helps to keep notes about people, their companies, their families, etc. The personal touch is everything (but you need to be sincere and care, or you will hurt your cause). Search the Internet, review your notes, or take whatever actions will help you be prepared for your meetings. Knowledge and preparation make meetings go smoother, and better, and more productive.
By doing so you will help yourself, and help others. Time is money is true. Most people would like more money, and we all can use more time, so prepare as well as you can and you will have a better opportunities for more of both.
It seems that everyone is an expert on something, or is, at least, trying to position themselves as an expert. But are they? Depends.
Some are. Some, well you know.
You may wonder whether it is important to be an expert at something. I believe it is. It is how you differentiate yourself from others. You may be thinking who you know is more important than what you know, but who you know gets you in the door while what you know keeps you there.
And it isn’t easy to become an expert. It takes time and effort. It is like investing in yourself. Many of you will have heard of the 10,000 hour rule that Malcolm Gladwell has written about; It takes 10,000 of practice at something to become an expert. The point is that nothing worth doing or knowing is simple and there is no fast road to expertise.
But if you put in the time and effort into something important or central to your career or business, others will notice. So what do you know or do better than most others, or your competitors? Or what do you want to know or do better than most others? It is never too early or too late to figure this out and start putting in the hours now. So, what do you know??