Whatever You Do has a Leadership Lesson in it!

Jim Smith recently caught my eye with his story of “Lessons From The Muck“.

A great curiosity-inducing title!

Jim is self-styled “The Executive Happiness Coach”. In this article, he takes the opportunity to extract a few lessons from a distasteful task. Wading into and clearing out an overgrown swamp.

These lessons apply in business, and in life. For many years I’ve observed people’s behaviors in life and business. The issues one faces in life, and in business, differ in detail. The attitudes and approaches most effective in facing those issues are very similar. What works in life works in business, and vice versa.

In Jim’s article he draws these parallels very effectively. In the intensely unpleasant personal task of clearing out 30 years of flora and fauna grown wild, he sees principles that apply to leadership in business. Here are the lessons he draws from this experience.

  1. You don’t know what you don’t know. Many people approach an unfamiliar situation with their familiar knowledge. New challenges require new learning, new approaches.
  2. Seek to understand, then be understood. You’ll rarely be loved, until you love. Rarely will you have friends until you be a friend. You’ll rarely be understood until you understand. What you put out comes back to you.
  3. Declare and hold a clear focus. Without it you’ll get sidetracked by the forces and obstacles pushing you off course.
  4. Practice self-awareness and emotional self-management. It’s important to think critically about how to react to situations, rather than leave it to your emotions.
  5. Continually stretch into discomfort. You make real progress and grow only when you’re working beyond your “comfort zone”.
  6. YOU are a never-ending project. Always finding ways to improve is critical to real success and growth.

These concepts are all important to good performance and progress. I recommend you read Jim’s article to understand the nuances of his approach vs. mine, and to get the benefit of his humorous approach to his story.

Think about What You Want!

Again in this article, we’ll touch on mental attitude. If some of you find these mindset messages are more frequent than you prefer, I apologize. It seems to me one can’t be reminded too often to stay focused on what you can do to make your life better. In times like these it’s doubly important. There’s a lot of negative conversation out there. Ignore it.

That means it’s important to avoid focusing on negative things. Avoiding negative focus means avoiding the mainstream news. Your mind can accommodate negative, or positive, but not both at the same time. I recommend you stay informed with a news source that reports facts. It should avoid pictures and language designed to anger or scare you. I get a two-page summary of the news every morning from the Wall Street Journal. It pretty well follows these guidelines. There are links to every article in the day’s issue. The full articles can be inflammatory. However, the one- or two-line descriptions give a pretty good idea what’s happening without over-hyping it.

The TV network news programs are designed to sell juicy stories, rather than to inform. I recommend skipping them altogether.

One of Zig Ziglar’s well-known reminders is (paraphrased): Inspiration is like bathing. It should be renewed daily.

Today’s link takes us to another episode of Eric Lofholm’s daily inspirational conference call. Bailey Cooper guest-hosts this one. It discusses one of Napoleon Hill’s success principles, keeping a positive mental attitude.

Napoleon Hill wrote Think and Grow Rich in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. He studied the habits of many of the great business minds of the time. Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie are there, along with many others. He condensed their practices into 17 success principles. Keeping a positive mental attitude is one of them. Hill’s great book is on every business success oriented reading list I remember seeing. It’s still available on Amazon.

Eric Lofholm’s daily inspirational call happens at 7:45 AM, Pacific time. Every episode is recorded and posted here. This page also has instructions for joining the call by various methods.

That’s enough from me. Enjoy, and learn from, Napoleon Hill’s success principles. I hope you find Eric Lofholm’s inspiration beneficial as well. Here’s the link again to the episode I refer to in this message.

Get More Done, with More Love, More Calm, More Focus

Mary Lynn Ziemer reminds us to be patient as the route to a calmer mindset and better performance.

Eric Lofholm talked this morning (see the 05.25.20 post) about how to avoid overload. Among his “staying positive” tips are to focus on what’s at hand now, in each moment. Then, in the next moment, focus on what’s to be done in that moment. Thinking about everything you have to do today, or this week, creates overload. Focusing on one thing at a time eliminates overload. Thinking about the day’s or week’s work Is for planning the day or week before it begins.

Ziemer’s and Lofholm’s reminders are very closely linked. In order to keep the focus Eric recommends, you must have the inner calm and patience Mary Lynn recommends. Impatience can easily lead to trying to focus on more than one thing – not very effective. The whole concept of focus is lost when when the “focus” is on several things, instead of one.

To reach the inner calm, she suggests feeling more love. She recommends a step-by-step method to help you do this.

This progression from love to calm to patience to focus on the task at hand is all about mindset. Many people, especially some who want to move fast and furiously, are impatient with the concept of mindset. They think “I don’t have time to work on mindset. I just want to get on with action”. That approach may feel effective in the moment. It leads to trying to “multi-task”, and ultimately to overload. It’s been shown time and again that multi-tasking is ineffective.

To explore other aspects of mindset, you may want to explore my March, April and May posts. We’ve focused on mindset from many points of view, as we considered how to weather the COVID-19 challenge. What works in the most challenging times serves you well any time as you strive to be more effective.

Why do Companies Complicate their Customers’ Lives?

Based on an article originally published March 3, 2018

When you call a company’s customer service number or, worse, their sales line, how do you like it if you have to go through multiple automated menus and then wait on hold for ten minutes or longer? Does it encourage you to do more business with them? How do you feel about recommending such a company to a friend?

Ever since automatic answering systems became the norm, it’s been a mystery to me why companies who should know better put their customers through this.

Strangely, some of the worst offenders are “communication” companies, such as Verizon. Long automated phone menus and long waits on hold are hardly parts of good communication. This is a large part of the reason I departed Verizon’s service last summer. It’s all part of the subject of customer friction, which is our topic this week.

How to Give Your Customers the Best Experience

Constant Contact, who publishes my newsletter, where this article originally appeared, is certainly one of the better known email managers. They came recommended to me when I needed such a service.

As a notably un-savvy guy technically, I often run into technical issues that are “above my pay grade”.

When I call Constant Contact, there’s a brief menu of a few items to choose the subject of my call. Fortunately for me (and most likely by design, since it’s probably the reason for most calls), the first choice is “email marketing”. Then it’s rarely more than 15 seconds before I have a person on the line who can help me, and they almost always do so expeditiously.

This week Josh Linkner, serial entrepreneur and professor, addresses customer friction. Friction happens every time a customer has to click something, sign something (especially multiple times!) meet with somebody, or endure any other impediment to smooth flow. Certainly it’s true that many purchases necessarily require choices to be made (model, color, size, special features, etc.). Some parts of this process may actually be enjoyable (and can be made more so, if handled properly). Others are necessary and not so pleasant. Here’s where it’s worthwhile studying, experimenting, and tweaking the process to streamline it every bit as much as possible.

You can bet your competitors are streamlining their processes. Your improvements in customer-friendliness can make the difference between a prospect choosing you or one of your competitors!

One of the efforts to mitigate the long phone waits has recently become, “Leave your number and we’ll call you back between 38 and 54 minutes from now”. In my view, if waits have routinely become so long that this is necessary, you should make more people available! The companies who use such systems seem to employ them most of the time, so more people would not be idle much, and think how much happier their customers would be!

Friction is what’s missing at Constant Contact. You may be sure that, impatient sort that I am, If I had to go through 2 or 3 levels of complex menus when I called, and then wait several minutes on hold before I talked with someone, I’d long ago have looked for an alternate service. No doubt other companies do a good job, perhaps some as good as Constant Contact. Since they’ve provided such a satisfactory experience for me, I’ve found no occasion to sample the others.

This is how good business is done.

How do You Feel, Facing a New Challenge?

Do you delight in heaping praise on your kids for how smart they are? Or how talented?

If you solve a puzzle, do you look for a tougher challenge, a more difficult puzzle?

Do you believe your, or someone else’s, personality is what you, or they, were born with? This was our topic a couple of weeks ago.

Have you noticed athletes whose mistakes crush them? Who can’t get “back in the game” quickly?

Recently I was introduced to the book, Mindset – The New Psychology of Success, by Carol S. Dweck.

Dweck’s premise is that some people have “fixed” mindsets. Others have “growth” mindsets. Which are you? In reality, most people have a mix, but lean mostly one way or the other. We’re likely to have one mindset sometimes, and the other one other times.

As a primary school teacher, and a tireless researcher, Dweck has studied these differences most of her life.

When you hear statements like:

  • I’m no good with technology
  • I can’t learn French, or Spanish
  • I can’t drive a car with a manual transmission

You’re hearing the result of a fixed mindset, one that believes they have, or don’t have, a certain talent.

When you hear:

  • With some research, and maybe a class, I’ll figure out technology to the extent that I need it.
  • I’m anxious to dig into a language that will be useful, or interesting, to me.
  • Can you help me learn to drive a car with a clutch?

You’re hearing someone with a growth mindset.

The good news is, you’re not “stuck” with one or the other. Dweck reports that her own mindset has evolved from fixed in her childhood to growth as she matured. And of course as she studied mindsets.

In grasping these ideas it’s important to first understand the basics. You’ll need a solid understanding of some terms she uses, and her fundamental concept. After you’ve accomplished that, a couple of chapters stand out for me. These chapters highlight situations where the concepts are easy to see in action.

  • In chapter 3 she discusses the importance of a growth mindset in parents and teachers of young children. Kids, with their young absorptive minds, take signals from what adults say to them. If they’re scolded when they make a mistake, they learn quickly not to make mistakes. Of course this means, “don’t take on anything too difficult”. What if they’re praised for their talents – how easily they did something? They learn that quick performance is better than working hard to learn something difficult.
  • In chapter 7, we learn the results of the two mindsets in coaches of sports teams. She describes three well-known college basketball coaches, All had moments of success.
    • Bobby Knight of the Indiana Hoosiers won a lot of championships. His success was sporadic.
    • John Wooden led the UCLA Bruins from a 3rd-rate status to 10 championships in 12 years. He was arguably the “winningest” NCAA coach ever.
    • Pat Summitt coached the Tennessee Lady Vols. She started with a Bobby Knight (explosive, inconsistent) style. She evolved into recognizing losses as learning opportunities.
  • I’m sure you can see, even without reading more detail, where the fixed and growth mindsets were.
  • In chapter 7 she also discusses “false” growth mindsets. She covers a couple of misunderstandings about what is a growth mindset.

I leave you with that much introduction and summary of Carol Dweck’s great work. For me it’s a unique examination of the ingredients of real success. I hope you find it equally compelling.

Entrepreneur? Or Just Another Business Person?

(Published in The Unity Community newsletter in January 2019)


Norm Brodsky
, who writes a regular column in Inc. magazine, has a very interesting story for us for this issue

He and his wife stopped by a store where Linda Pagan manufactures and sells ladies’ hats. 

Linda makes some very broad-brimmed hats that many people like for outdoor events. Since she includes boxes with all her hats, she needs larger than normal boxes for these hats. 

She took the “bull by the horns” and helped her box supplier develop the capacity  to produce these outsized boxes. The supplier hadn’t identified the market for such hat boxes. She did, and stepped up to make it happen, with benefit to herself and other marketers, the box supplier, and the customers.

This is the way business should be done – win-win-win! It’s how a market economy generates wealth. 

Through cooperative effort, everybody benefits. Linda, the box supplier and other milliners earn a profit by selling their wares for more than it costs to make them. The customers get the hats worth more to them than the money they pay for them.

So here’s the difference between an entrepreneur and another business person. Many people start a “business” which is really just a job for them. They don’t answer to a boss per se (except their customer), but they’re selling what others sell, with few if any unique features.

Those who identify and fill a gap, or space for a product or service that nobody is offering, are entrepreneurs. Others compete with existing suppliers without offering anything new. They must compete on price, delivery time, or other mundane features of their product or service. They have much more competition than the entrepreneur does.

Enjoy Norm’s story about entrepreneur Linda Pagan. This insight may be useful to better understand and explain the difference between entrepreneurs and other business people.

Need Some Inspiration in This Time of Challenge?

The world is in turmoil. The news media is full of over-blown hype about it. Perhaps you need some inspiration.

A few suggestions:

  • Turn off the TV
  • Put down the newspaper
  • Read, or re-read, my recent posts on The Unity Community. The open rates for these messages currently stand at 18-21%. This tells me there are many of you who have yet to benefit from them. I refer to:
  • Listen to Eric Lofholm’s live (7:45 AM PT every business day) or recorded 15-minute motivational calls. The recordings and the instructions to join the live call are here. Eric is always upbeat and shares valuable business and sales tips, as well as pure inspiration.
  • (For those with children under 20: Eric has just announced he is doing a special daily training for kids. Most schools don’t teach kids mindset, goal setting, effective communication, etc. Eric is filling that space at a time when kids need it most. I just watched today’s episode and recommend it.)

Mindset is vital. It always works best to approach any situation, however dire it appears, with a positive attitude. There’s a positive side to every situation. Focusing on the negatives will only depress you.  It will do absolutely nothing to improve the situation, or your own performance.

You must be positive to perform at your best. 

You can be positive only by eliminating the negative. 

It’s impossible for the brain to recognize positive and negative simultaneously. Focus on the positive.

Fear and faith cannot co-exist (Napoleon Hill). Have faith that you will do what is necessary. Then do it!

Be aware of facts. Intentionally avoid the hype.

When you can do something to help, do it. When the situation is out of your control, worry won’t help. Move on to whatever good you find. Can’t find it? Look harder – it’s there.

In this time, we can appreciate these observations:

  • Some down time is a good thing.
  • Quiet time with family is good.
  • More relaxed interaction with friends is beneficial.
  • More time to think about and plan for our business and life will have long-term benefit.
  • It’s pretty easy to reduce expenses when we’re not moving around much, restaurants are closed, etc.
  • We may learn more effective or efficient ways of working while our mobility is limited. Example: We have essentially 0 commute time and expense.
  • Think of other benefits!

Stay positive! Better times are coming.

All Work and no Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy

As an entrepreneur, you’re probably very good at working hard. Many fail see the value of taking a break. Here’s Rebekah Lyons, in an interview with Alex Sanfelippo, describing a more balanced approach. The interview is about 34 minutes long. On the linked page there’s a brief outline of what she covers.

It’s very easy for a business owner, or anyone driven to succeed, to buy into the “work harder” syndrome.

The truth is, if you keep your head down for much more than an hour, your effectiveness diminishes. When you’re working, or concentrating on other routines in your life, it’s important to take breaks. 

I have to admit I sometimes violate this. I can get engrossed in writing and lose two or three hours very easily. I do my best to guard against that, and it still happens.

The most effective breaks come in several varieties. You should be intentional about taking:

  • 10-minute breaks during the day after 50-70 minutes of focused work.
  • A full day off from work each week.
  • A several-day, or even several-week vacation at least once per quarter.

In the hourly short breaks, some physical activity boosts the level of serotonin. 

Serotonin is known as the “feel-good hormone”. It helps you feel energized and upbeat, so you can return to focused work with renewed vigor. 

Levels of serotonin gradually decline during sedentary work. This can leave you feeling dull or lethargic. Physical activity restores your serotonin level – walking or other light exercise is ideal for this.

Your work keeps you physically active, you say? You still need the mental break to stay energetic and ideally focused.

Here’s a very good article on serotonin and melatonin, which work pretty much opposite to each other.

In Rebekah’s interview she talks about rhythms everywhere in life. In the world of work, she discusses:

Rest and Restore, which she places in the category of input rhythms.

Connect and Create, which she calls output rhythms.

Want a more effective work day? Want to get more done in a month? Follow Rebekah’s advice to bring more balance into your routine.

Many studies have shown it. You can do more in 6.5-7 hours, net of breaks, than in 8-9 hours of unbroken effort.

What Will Help You Most to Navigate Hard Times?

This month seems to be developing into a time of philosophical exploration. Last week we discussed Wayne Dyer’s wise life improvement suggestions. This week, I go  back a little further in history (about 700 years!) for for some Persian wisdom on life.

Yalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, better known simply as Rumi, was a 13th-century Persian poet, faqih, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic.

Nikos, who has commented on several of my articles, recently sent me 75 Rumi quotes. Most of them are worthy of thoughtful note. In the list, every 10th one is highlighted. There are many nuggets of wisdom in the entire list. For different people, different ones will have the biggest impact. I won’t try to select for you.

All of this advice, no matter the source, essentially comes down to positive mindset. Travel restrictions, wild stock market fluctuations, etc., can lead one to think negatively. We have no control over those things. One thing we can always control is our mindset. Keeping a positive mindset helps us through the toughest of times. In a positive mindset we are much more effective at addressing what we can control.

Napoleon Hill famously said, “Fear and faith can’t co-exist.” Have faith that you can produce the results you want, and set fear aside.

Be positive and grateful.

Employee: Can I Email You 24/7?

When are you connected to technology? More importantly, when do you disconnect?


Here’s the story of a lady who stayed connected 24/7…until she “blew a circuit breaker”.


The lesson she learned from that was to set strict rules for herself. She decided when she would check email. And when she wouldn’t. Of course she told her colleagues that her email responses might be delayed. She also advised “If it’s a true emergency, text or call.”


Studies indicate the majority of business leaders haven’t made that decision. To their detriment, I’ll wager!


A little aside on decision-making I hope you find valuable:


Dr. Benjamin Hardy has some unique and valuable ideas about decision-making. He contends that willpower is for those who haven’t decided.“Design trumps willpower.” – B. J. Fogg, Stanford psychologist

Ben is one of my most trusted mentors. Since I started working with him several months ago, I’ve found this to be true. Several decisions I’ve made have simplified my life and work considerably. Among the most important are:

  • Rising at 5:00 AM every work day, which also means going to bed before 11:00 PM every night before.
  • In the first few minutes after I get up, I take a quick cold shower and drink 20 ounces (0.6 l.) of water.

When I was first presented with these suggestions, in prospect they looked difficult. Now, having made the decision to follow this routine, it is indeed routine…and easy. No decisions required! No will power required! The decision is made.
The benefits in improved engagement and focus are huge.

To get back to the “lead story”. Mathilde Collin, her company (Front) and her life have realized big improvements. Her new focus on “the important things” (usually not urgent) has brought her many great things.


Read on!