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How Usain Bolt–the Fastest Man Ever–is Just Like You and Me

 

Jamaican runner Usain “Lightning” Bolt is widely accepted as the fastest person ever. A commanding presence in athletics since he burst onto the world stage in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, he is the first athlete to hold world record for both the men’s 100m and 200m events, as well as the 4 x 100m relay. The first man to win six Olympic gold medals in sprinting, and an eight-time World champion, Usain Bolt has become the most loved, and most marketable track and field star on earth.

Seven years ago, a 19-year-old Usain Bolt stepped out unto the track at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica. Four years earlier, in that same stadium before a jubilant crowd, Usain had distinguished himself from his peers by becoming the youngest junior gold medalist ever. In those 2002 World Junior Championships Bolt and his relay team also set national junior relay record and scored two silver medals that year. And here he was again at his towering height of 6’5″, a rising star before his adoring Jamaican fans, about to begin his leg of a 4 x 400m race. And then he pulled his hamstring.

Perhaps as the partial result of occasional lapses in discipline during training, Bolt hobbled off the track injured and in pain, seeking assistance. Disappointed, his eyes searched the crowd for his coach. And then, from the bleachers he heard a boo. And then another, followed by the low rising murmur of what would become a voluble expression of dissatisfaction from his most ardent fans. By the time Usain reached the sidelines, the people in the stadium were shouting, jeering and cursing, even accusing him of copping out of the race because he’d felt he wouldn’t win. “Forgot the pulled hamstring, this was pain on another level… the criticism hit me hard”, remembers Bolt.

 

Just like Usain Bolt, you sometimes question your ability

Even with the hopes of a dazzling career ahead of him, in that moment, Usain Bolt questioned his ability to become a top-level sprinter. With this washout on his home turf, he agonized about whether he had the stuff to compete successfully on an international level. “I’m not good enough for this sport…”, Bolt remembers thinking to himself. We’ve all experienced these moments. We feel the failure and disappointment, and we wonder if we are good enough.

 

Just like Usain Bolt, you doubt whether the pain and effort are worth it

Usain Bolt had trained hard for years, he had moved to Kingston with the promise of becoming Jamaica’s next big hope in track and field. When he failed to meet expectations that day, he wondered if he was headed in the right direction. He wondered if all the pain and sacrifice were worth it. “Is this really working?” he said. “Should I really continue? “Three years ago I started this life. Three years I’ve been injured. This might not be for me.”

 

Just like Usain Bolt, you and I sometimes feel completely alone

“My world crashed in; I couldn’t believe what I was hearing”, Bolt recalls in his new book, ‘Faster than Lightning: My Autobiography‘ [release date: November 5, 2013]. In an exclusive extract serialized in ‘The Times’, he relates how he could never have imagined a time when a Jamaican crowd, his own people would boo him as he came off the Kingston track. “Wow, I got booed in front of my national crowd when I was giving it my best.” “What the hell is this? I thought, feeling sick – seriously sick. Where did this come from?” Usain had to learn the tough lesson that even though the training and preparation happen alone, rising from defeat after giving it your best also takes place alone.

 

Just like Usain Bolt, you have greatness within you

There’s a spark of infinite potential within you. It is the desire to do something extraordinary, something only you can do. Maybe it has been recognized by others, maybe only you can feel this little light burning inside you. What do you do about it? Are you listening to the voices that say “you’re not good enough”? Or are you prepared to bear the embarrassment, disappointment, self-doubt, and move forward toward becoming your dream?

You are Usain Bolt. I am Usain Bolt. But are you the Usain Bolt who chose to walk off the track at age 19, allowing pain and pride stop him from succeeding in athletics? Are you the Usain Bolt who decided that his congenital twisted spine condition, scoliosis, would be enough to stop him from becoming a world-class athlete? Are you the Usain Bolt who decided he’d rather return to Trelawny, chill with the boys, play cricket and PS3, drink Guinness and run a grocery store like his dad, never to win an Olympic medal and never to fulfill his destiny?

Every day, we make important choices. Each little decision we make has an impact on our fate. What were you put on earth to do? Are you making the hard choices that bring you closer to becoming the person you were meant to be? Steven Pressfield poignantly asserts in his book ‘The War of Art‘:

“If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet. You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts.”

Don’t let embarrassment, failure, fear, poverty or sickness keep you from showing the world what you’ve got!

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31 Dragon-Slaying Quotes from ‘Do the Work’ by Steven Pressfield

I have just finished reading the book ‘Do the Work‘ by Trinidadian-born author, Steven Pressfield. This short, powerful read, written in the no-nonsense style of a manifesto, is designed to prepare you to face the dragons that stand in the way of you accomplishing your highest goals. What are these dragons? They are the ones we all face when we attempt to do something we believe in. Among them are fear, self-sabotage, procrastination and self-doubt. They say “present, please” every time we attempt to pursue any important objective—from conquering addiction, to learning how to play a music instrument, to getting over an ex or preparing for a marathon. Whenever we decide to abandon the status quo to become our better selves, fearsome foes appear, and stand in our way, ready to fight us to the finish.

Steven Pressfield knows a thing or two about facing the adversity of procrastination, distraction, perfectionism and ego. As he worked to achieve his dream of becoming a successful writer, he struggled for almost 20 years. Pressfield worked in odd-jobs including being a bartender, picking fruit, driving a tractor, and being an attendant at a mental hospital. He was even homeless, and lived out of the back of his car before finally publishing his first novel, ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’. Steven has brilliantly dissected the opponents of personal success, and labelled them with the catch-all term “Resistance”.

Written from the point of view of a writer, this book is a deafening call to action. Steven Pressfield grabs us by the collar and gives us a sound reminder that accomplishing anything worthwhile is always going to be the hardest thing. No one gets a free pass. It’s always going to be difficult, but it is always going to be worth it.  He teaches us how to recognize resistance, how to marshal the unexpected allies needed to crush Resistance, and how to “ship” i.e. get your project to “The End”.

Do the Work‘ is a quick read, you’ll be finished the 109 pages in an hour or two, but the words will resonate for longer. I hope you will click on the link below to order it and read it for yourself as soon as possible. This will be a powerful weapon in your arsenal, as you clear the path to your own greatness as an entrepreneur, awesome parent, published author or any other important mission you’ve set for yourself. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book.

Resistance – The Dragon

“On the field of the self stand a knight and a dragon. You are the knight. Resistance is the dragon.” — Steven Pressfield

“The only intercourse possible between the knight and the dragon is battle.” — Steven Pressfield

 

The Dragon is Inside of Me and You

“What comes first is the idea, the passion, the dream of the work we are so excited to create that it scares the hell out of us.”  — Steven Pressfield

“Resistance is the response of the frightened, petty, small-time ego to the brave, generous, magnificent impulse of the creative self.” — Steven Pressfield

“Fear of success is the essence of Resistance.”  — Steven Pressfield

“The opposite of fear is love—love of the challenge, love of the work, the pure joyous passion to take a shot at our dream and see if we can pull it off.” — Steven Pressfield

“Our enemy is not lack of preparation; it’s not the difficulty of the project, or the state of the marketplace or the emptiness of our bank account. The enemy is our chattering brain, which, if we give it so much as a nanosecond, will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do.” — Steven Pressfield

“Resistance is a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.” — Steven Pressfield

“Resistance’s goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill” — Steven Pressfield

 

How to Fight Resistance and Win

“Don’t Prepare. Begin.” — Steven Pressfield

“Fear doesn’t go away. The battle must be fought anew every day.” — Steven Pressfield

“Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” — Steven Pressfield

“Don’t think. Act. ” — Steven Pressfield

“A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate.” — Steven Pressfield

“Start before you’re ready. Good things happen when we start before we’re ready.” — Steven Pressfield

“Stay stupid. Follow your unconventional crazy heart.” — Steven Pressfield

“Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur’s indispensable allies. She must be clueless enough to have no idea how difficult her enterprise is going to be—and cocky enough to believe she can pull it off anyway.” — Steven Pressfield

I like the idea of stubbornness because it’s less lofty than “tenacity” or “perseverance.” We don’t have to be heroes to be stubborn. We can just be pains in the butt.” — Steven Pressfield

“Once we commit to action, the worst thing we can do is to stop.What will keep us from stopping? Plain old stubbornness.” — Steven Pressfield

“Research can become Resistance. We want to work, not prepare to work.” — Steven Pressfield

“Get to THE END as if the devil himself were breathing down your neck and poking you in the butt with his pitchfork. Believe me, he is.” — Steven Pressfield

“Figure out where you want to go, then work backwards from there.” — Steven Pressfield

“You are not allowed to judge yourself. Suspending self-judgment doesn’t just mean blowing off the “You suck” voice in our heads. It also means liberating ourselves from conventional expectations—from what we think our work “ought” to be or “should” look like.” — Steven Pressfield

 

There will be Failure Along the Way – This is Guaranteed

“That our project has crashed is not a reflection of our worth as human beings. It’s just a mistake. It’s a problem—and a problem can be solved.” — Steven Pressfield

“A crash means we have failed. We gave it everything we had and we came up short. A crash does not mean we are losers… A crash means we are on the threshold of something new.” — Steven Pressfield

“We can never eliminate Resistance. It will never go away. But we can outsmart it, and we can enlist allies that are as powerful as it is.” — Steven Pressfield

 

Why Fight the Dragon of Resistance?

“There is an enemy. There is an intelligent, active, malign force working against us. Step one is to recognize this. This recognition alone is enormously powerful. It saved my life, and it will save yours.” — Steven Pressfield

“If you and I want to do great stuff, we can’t let ourselves work small.” — Steven Pressfield

“When we conquer our fears, we discover a boundless, bottomless, inexhaustible well of passion.” — Steven Pressfield

“Picasso painted with passion, Mozart composed with it. A child plays with it all day long. You may think you’ve lost your passion, or that you can’t identify it, or that you have so much of it, it threatens to overwhelm you. None of these is true.” — Steven Pressfield

“Slay that dragon once, and he will never have power over you again.” — Steven Pressfield

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5 Reasons Why You Need A Career Development Plan Now

Photo by David Niblack

Do you have a career development plan? I am not talking about the bottom section of your last performance review. You’ve written a few vague goals outlining what you would like to achieve over the next year. We both know that those objectives hardly get remembered until it’s review time once again. Your company will not be invested in your career development if you don’t drive the process yourself. Here are five reasons why you need to craft your own career development plan and stick with it:

1. A career development plan will keep you from getting stuck in a rut

The days of being promoted at work solely based on tenure are long gone. If you have grown comfortable performing only the tasks you were trained to do when you were hired, then you might as well make up your mind to be overworked and underpaid for the rest of your life. What’s worse is that the system is rigged so that you will eventually be made redundant, and someone with higher entry-level skills will be paid less to do your job even faster. Without a clear career plan, you will be taking the slow and painful route to failure.

Don’t believe me? Look around you. Try to find one or two people in your organization who have done the same thing for years and generally accepted as being on the “going nowhere” track. You may find it difficult to immediately identify someone, but look closely. He might be the ever-faithful driver/building superintendent/superman who has never quite learned how to curb his temper. It seems unfair that he has been overlooked by management, and never given the opportunity to develop. He is loyal, but also more bitter and morose than ever. You may also recognize your candidate in the perky but unproductive receptionist. She smiles as she buffs her nails and talks on the phone all day. She may not seem worried now, but will her two boyfriends take care of her bills forever?

There are all types of people who get stuck in a rut at work. The one thing they all have in common is that they’ve taken their professional development for granted. Don’t be one of those people.

2. A career development plan will help you take responsibility for your weaknesses

Whether or not you’d like to admit it, everyone around you knows exactly how well or how poorly you’re doing at work. All the little foibles you have quietly and conveniently minimized in your own mind, are well-known by your colleagues. Maybe you’re slightly late for work, two or more times per week. You’ve gotten into the habit of abusing your lunch hour, asking a friend to cover for you. Maybe you occasionally nod off at your desk or in meetings. Perhaps you’re a manager who knows less about your work than your staff. Thankfully, your subordinate buddies help you compile month-end reports because you actually don’t have a clue.

Sure you get away with it now, but you’re not fooling anyone. No matter how sweet and well-liked you are, not addressing those little quirks now will mean career suicide later on. You could cross the wrong person, and they might throw you under the bus in retaliation. The management might change. The company could start cracking down on inefficiency. Without notice, you could be exposed for the slacker you are. You’re probably getting defensive, and thinking: there are things I can improve on, but I’m a not a slacker. Why play this hazardous cat and mouse game with yourself? If you are not consistently getting better and better at what you do, sooner or later, you will lose.

3. A career development plan will help define your future career path

Socrates said, the unexamined life is not worth living. I say that the unplanned career is not worth having. According to the book “The Go-Giver” which I just read this week, there are three universal reasons why we work: Survive, save, serve. Survival and saving have to do with meeting your basic needs and having some time and money left over to enjoy life. Service has to do with making a meaningful contribution to the world around you. Most people get stuck on the first two stages, but never figure out a way to reach a place of purpose in their work.

When you don’t develop the habit of establishing and achieving clear goals, you also miss out on the opportunity to steer your career along the path of significance. Would you like to wake up one day and realize that you plodded through your days in a job you hated, instead of making a difference? Of course you don’t. Crafting a career development plan will give you the opportunity to gradually assess not only the tasks you do well, but also identify the things that bring joy and meaning to your work.

4. A career development plan will help you to take charge of your own advancement

Carving out the time, and drumming up the discipline it takes to craft a career development plan for yourself will force you to be accountable. Instead of blaming external forces for every negative turn that occurs at work, you will begin to take responsibility for your own actions and reactions.

Creating a career development plan will put the power back into your own hands. Instead of excusing yourself for being late because of traffic, you will be able to recognize that you have stayed up too late flipping through channels on TV, and neglected to pick out your clothes or organize your kids for the day ahead. Instead of being passed over for a promotion because you didn’t have the requisite skills, you get the computer training you need by taking afternoon classes, to position yourself for the promotion you want.

5. A career development plan will give you the confidence you need to succeed.

A career development plan will give you ownership over all aspects of your career. You will begin to know your strengths and weaknesses inside out. You will decide on meaningful targets and set a realistic plans to meet them. You will know what you want to accomplish, and how far you’ve already come. You will find yourself going to work each day with a sense of purpose. New motivation for your work will seem to grow out of nowhere.

When performance review time rolls around, you will no longer have to struggle to list your strengths or outline your achievements. You will be able to confidently prepare for assessment and promotion meetings. You will be able to update your résumé with ease, and not choke up at the thought of going on a job interview. Creating and maintaining a career development plan will place you firmly on your path to success.

 

In upcoming posts, I will give you the tools you need to take charge of your own professional advancement by creating your  personal career development plan.

Please feel free to share your thoughts, experiences and feedback with me in the comments section below:

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Today I’m Inspired by: Alice Herz-Sommer

The oldest living Holocaust survivor

At 108 years old, Alice Herz-Sommer is both the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor and the world’s oldest concert pianist. She was eight years old when the Titanic sank, saw the start and end of the first world war, survived the atrocities of the Nazi prison camps, outlived her mother, husband and only son, and is a twenty-five year cancer survivor. Through unspeakable tragedy, Alice is still smiling, victorious over the anguish, pain and death that could have killed her shining spirit many decades ago. Alice is an incurable optimist.

A life of privilege

Alice Herz was born in Prague in November 1903, into a privileged secular Jewish family of five siblings. Her father, Friedrich, was a successful merchant and her mother, Sofie, was highly educated and moved in circles of well-known artists, composers and writers of the time. Alice started learning the piano from her older sister at 5 years old. At 16, she became the youngest student a the German Music Academy. Through hard work and enviable diligence, by the end of her teens, Alice had established a solid career for herself as a concert pianist and teacher. By her late twenties she was well-known throughout Central Europe. In 1931, Alice met and married Leopold Sommer, a kind-hearted business man and amateur musician, who spoke five languages. Alice fondly remembers him as “an extremely gifted man, extremely gifted”. Their son Raphael was born in 1937.

An idyllic life shattered

At the age of 35, Alice’s seemingly comfortable, secure and cultured existence was about to be shattered. Hitler’s army invaded Prague in March 1939; the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia had begun. “Everything was forbidden” Alice remembers,”we couldn’t buy groceries, take the tram, or go to the park.” Although for a while, Alice and her small family were allowed to continue living in their flat, they were surrounded by Nazis, and most Jews were sent to live in the ghetto. “We had to give away all our belongings. We had nothing.”

A bad situation became suddenly worse in 1942, when Sommer’s frail and sickly 72-year old mother was plucked from their lives and sent to a death camp. Soon after, Alice, her husband and 6 year old son were shipped off to the Theresienstadt concentration camp at the fortress town of Terezin. Described as a “purgatory for artists and musicians”, the camp housed the Jewish cultural elite of Europe. It was no spa town as advertised by the Nazis. There, she engaged in hard labor splitting mica chips for war production. They lived on watered down black coffee and watery soup. “we were so weak”, Alice remembers.

The highly-fortified and remote Terezin camp was used by the Nazis to fool the outside world. They allowed the Red Cross to visit three times per year, while in reality it was merely a transit camp to the gas chambers. Hitler’s army eventually tolerated cultural activities there, and used it to their own advantage. Jewish inmates were allowed to practice their music, and Alice gave over 100 concerts playing Beethoven, Bach and Schubert two or three times a week from memory to sick, hopelessly hungry and dying fellow inmates. “It was propaganda,” Sommer says. “This was something they could show the world, while in reality they were killing us.” But the music helped to sustain their souls. “There was no food. Music was our food. Through music we were kept alive” Alice recalls.

Redemption

In May 1945, the camp was liberated by the Russians. By then, it estimated that almost 140,000 Jews passed through Terezin to their deaths. Alice and Raphael were free. Alice’s husband had been sent to the notorious death camp, Auschwitz 8 months earlier, and although he survived his internment there, she would never see him again as he died of Typhus only six weeks before the end of the war.

Alice’s son was one of only 130 children known to leave Terezin alive of the over 15,000 children sent there during the war. Many died of starvation, cruelty and sickness, while the rest taken to deaths in the gas chambers. The survival of Alice’s son is the most extraordinary testament to her unwavering optimism. Alice remembers Raphael would keep asking, ‘What is war? Why are we hungry?”, as hundreds and hundreds died around them every day. Alice recounts, “it’s not easy for a mother to see her child crying, and to know that she does not even have a little bread to give him.” “But… I shielded him” she states triumphantly.  “We were always talking and laughing”. “Never did I let my son see my fear or worry. Laughter was our only medicine.” And even after the nightmare was over, Alice says “I never spoke a word about it because I didn’t want my child to grow up with hatred because hatred brings hatred. I succeeded. And I never hated either, never, never.”

Alice moved to Israel in 1949 where she lived for almost 40 years before her son convinced her to join him in London in 1986. In 2001, Raphael, who had gone on to study at the Paris Conservatory and to become a celebrated professional solo cellist, died suddenly of an aneurism while on tour at the age of 65.

Alice today

Today, living in a cozy one-room flat in London, Alice is contented with life, and still smiling. She sticks to her daily routine with ferocious discipline, starting her piano at 10am sharp. “I have trouble moving these two fingers,” she says smiling, slightly embarrassed. She was swimming daily up to the age of 97. She also reads every day, holding a giant magnifying glass. She takes long walks daily, shunning both walker and hearing aid, and still cooks for herself. “If Hitler could have heard me playing my music I’m sure he would have been a better man.”

At 108, Alice is still witty and coherent, even flirtatious, with a ready laugh. When asked the secret to her long life, Alice responds, “in a word: optimism. I look at the good. When you are relaxed, your body is always relaxed. When you are pessimistic, your body behaves in an unnatural way. It is up to us whether we look at the good or the bad. When you are nice to others, they are nice to you. When you give, you receive.” Even at her advanced age, Sommers’ joy for living still shines through “I have lived through many wars and have lost everything many times… Yet, life is beautiful, and I have so much to learn and enjoy. I have no space nor time for pessimism and hate.” Alice is not afraid of death, she says “when I die I can have a good feeling. I believe I lived my life the right way.”

Alice’s Survival Lessons

Here are 8 lessons we can learn from the life of this extraordinary woman:

1. Learn, learn, learn.

Alice’s mother had a love of learning and instilled in her children a desire to hungrily pursue knowledge, “to learn, to learn, to learn, to know, to know” Alice remembers. All through her life, it is the strength of Sommers’ mind that sustained her. She believes in putting something in your mind everyday that no one can take from you. Up to the age of 104, Alice would make the trek three times per week to a nearby university to study history, and philosophy. Even now, every Saturday, she keeps her intellectual brain limber by playing Scrabble with a friend.

2. Be disciplined. Work hard.

According to Alice, “Work is the best invention, the best.” Even past the age of 100, playing the piano is still a discipline for her. Every day she starts with an hour of Bach followed by the rest of her pieces, in order not to forget. It is not easy, and she has to play with only eight of her fingers. But, she says “It makes you happy to have something”.  According to Alice, we must always be purposefully engaged. “The worst thing is life, in my opinion, is boredom – when people don’t know what to do with themselves”. Alice asserts, “boredom is dangerous”. When it comes to diet, Alice applies discipline, too. “For 30 years I have eaten the same, fish or chicken. Good soup, and this is all. I don’t drink, not tea, not coffee, not alcohol. Hot water.” As for exercise, even at her age, Alice says “I walk a lot with terrible pains, but after 20 minutes it is much better. Sitting or lying is not good.”

3. Laugh.

Alice’s strategy has not only been to think happy thoughts, but to show it by laughing. She is convinced this is what kept her young son alive, even as he witnessed daily atrocities for two years in the Nazi camps. “Everything is good and bad. So look at the good side and laugh.” “And I was always laughing – even there, I was always laughing.” Many people may have called Alice’s attitude fake along the way, or even accused her of being in denial, but Alice has had the last laugh, and the best.

4. Look inside yourself for strength.

Alice’s bond with her mother was so strong, that when Alice’s mother was taken away by the Nazis, she experienced grief that she thought would crush her. A small voice within told her that the strength to overcome would not come from outside help, not from her friends, her husband or her son. “You alone can help yourself”, Alice remembers stoically. She found that strength by rigorously practicing “for hours and hours” one of the most technically challenging pieces for any pianist, Chopin’s ’24 Etudes’. Her ability to master the difficult music led to her conquering her grief.

5. Don’t complain.

Complaining about a situation never ever changes it. Alice cautions: “All that complain, ‘This is terrible’, it’s not so terrible after all. Complaining changes nothing.” “When you are not complaining…everybody loves you.”

6. Be optimistic. Look for the good things.

“Every day in life is beautiful – if we only look up from our reality”, Alice admonishes. Pessimists “wait for catastrophes, and sometimes the catastrophes come” she says, almost mockingly. “Always look for the good things in life: the world is wonderful, it’s full of beauty and miracles.” Alice credits her longevity to her optimism, saying “this is the reason I am so old, I know about the bad things but I look only for the good things.” “I think about the good. That takes a lot of practice.”

7. Never hate.

“When you know history – wars and wars and wars … It begins with this: that we are born half-good and half-bad – everybody, everybody. And there are situations where the bad comes out and situations where the good comes out.” Alice zealously expresses. “Never, never hate. I don’t hate the Germans. They are wonderful people, no worse than others. Evil has always existed and always will. It is part of our life.” As for Hitler, Sommer dismisses him simply as “a madman”. “I never hate. I will never hate. Hatred brings only hatred.”

8. Be grateful.

When asked what the greatest lesson of her life has been, Alice’s reply is “thankfulness”. “Be thankful for everything, being in good health, seeing the sun, hearing a nice word”, Alice advises. She laments, “Young people take everything for granted… There is electricity, cars, telegraph, telephone, Internet. We also have hot water all day long. We live like kings.” Alice is even thankful for her experience in the camp. “I am thankful to have been there… I am richer than other people.” And to sum her 108 year, Alice says “I have had such a beautiful life”. And when asked about her philosophy of life in a nutshell, this peerless lady surmises simply: “Everything we experience is a gift. Everything is a present.”

For more on Alice Herz-Sommer’s inspiring life, I recommend Caroline Stoessinger’s biography ‘A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World’s Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor‘.

 

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Nice Smart People Succeed

In January 2012 at the first weekly team meeting, I sat with my management team to outline plans for the new year ahead. Although this date did not coincide with our fiscal year end, the start of the calendar year always naturally brings with it an opportunity for resolutions and for renewal. I asked them to be brutally honest about the ways in which they felt I could improve my leadership skills. The ten-member management team jumped at the opportunity to offer candid, 360-degree feedback. I asked probing questions, took copious notes, and made a valiant effort to keep my pride under complete submission. Most of the team leaders left that meeting feeling refreshed, I left bloodied, bruised and limping.

Receiving an unfiltered critique from those who worked with me daily got me thinking about the difference between being liked and being respected as a leader, and the age old question of which one is more important. In my quest for answers, I came across and read the book,Love Is the Killer Appby Tim Sanders. While many bosses and managers choose to wield power based on fear, after reading that book, I came to conclude that leaders should actively strive to be both liked and respected.

Published in 2002, this book could have been subtitled “How to Succeed in Business by Being Smarter and Nicer”. Tim Sanders writes that in the new economy people will be valued for their knowledge and their network and not seniority or pedigree. He argues that the only way to advance in today’s experience economy is by being a “love cat”, and intelligently and sensibly sharing your intangibles.

The intangibles Tim Sanders asks that we share are our knowledge, our network and our compassion:

Share Your Knowledge.

First, we have to put in the work necessary to accumulate enough knowledge to share, and add value to others. Books and audiobooks are the best way to get this knowledge. The author encourages using most of our free time for reading – making a commitment to review as many as one or two books per week. Tim advises that we take notes describing the book’s Big Thought, supporting ideas, and on its overall value.  We can then share the knowledge by prescribing books to our contacts the way a doctor would prescribe medications to patients.

Share Your Network.

Tim advises that we become collectors of people – establishing positive and memorable interactions with as many contacts as possible, to be able to later match them with other contacts. The more positive dealings you have had with people, the more likely you are to be a winner in business. You will have the largest networks, the most powerful connections, and the ability to call in their reserves at to help provide solutions for other connections when they really need it.

Share Your Compassion.

Let people know that you care. By expressing your compassion, you create an experience that people remember. There is a tremendous opportunity for your compassion to make a difference in how people view you, and how they view themselves, because we continue to develop emotionally and spiritually throughout our entire lives. Compassion combined with knowledge and network is the way we win hearts and influence business today.

The advantages of striving to become both liked and respected:

1. You build an outstanding brand as a person.

When you take the time to build a brand, people will trust you, like you and pursue you. Be distinct or become extinct.

2. You create an experience.

The more you read, the more you know and the more fun, interesting and valuable knowledge you have to pass along. Smart companies today are using their services as props and their services as a stage to deliver a compelling experiences.

3. You have access to people’s attention.

Biz-Love helps you give others good return on attention (ROA). It means being able to supply creativity, and help give them a foundation for their business practice.

4. You harness the power of positive presumption.

People tend to presume that a proposal is a bad idea until proven otherwise. Being a love cat arms you with the trust and respect of others, so that they know we have their interests at heart.

5. You receive exceptional feedback.

Love cats have a huge advantage because relationships don’t end when the business transactions end. Biz love partners know you are genuinely interested in their success.

6. You gain personal satisfaction.

People no longer feel secure based on their length of time with a company, and find themselves not living up to their own expectations. Love cats enjoy higher levels of security because there is always genuine reciprocity available by building intangibles.

End note: If you are a developing leader who wants to get a jump-start on building a valuable knowledge base and a wide network of contacts, if you want to learn how share compassion in business, then I urge you to read “Love Is the Killer App“.

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The Ten Commandments for Business Failure

Why is it that some brands fail, while others stand the test of time?

“In the 1980’s alone 230 companies disappeared from the Fortune 500. In fact, only sixteen of the 100 largest companies that were around in the early 1900’s are still with us.”These words are from Donald R. Keough’s 2008 book ‘The Ten Commandments for Business Failure‘.

Coke is one of those brands. Introduced in 1886, Whether you like Coke or not, it’s difficult to deny the brand’s, ubiquity, staying power and success through the years. Coke is recognized at one of today’s most valuable brands.

You may never have heard of Donald Keough, but he is at least partially responsible for the The Coca-Cola Company’s longevity. Mr. Keough was first associated with the company back in 1950, and still sits on its board 65 years later. He has served as the company’s President and Chief Operating Officer and retired from his position as Chairman of the Board of Coca-Cola Enterprises in 1993.

Donald Keough has also served on boards of several other distinguished companies including The Washington Post, H.J. Heinz Company and Berkshire Hathaway. He holds five honorary doctorates, including ones from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and his alma mater the University of Notre Dame.

Legendary investor and one of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffet, documented his resounding endorsement in the foreword. “It has been an article of faith for me that I should always try to hang out with people who are better than I. There is no question that by doing so, you move yourself up. It worked for me in marriage, and it’s worked for me with Don Keough.” As if any further endorsement were necessary, Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, and Jack Welch who led GE for 20 years as Chairman and CEO also sanctioned the book on its front cover.

In a charming and often self-deprecating style, the author takes us through the tongue-in-cheek Ten Commandments, for Failure, which are as follows:

1. Quit Taking Risks

Creating profits in the long-term requires innovation in the now. Business leaders are paid to “be discontented”, to take the calculated risks that will ensure the company’s success in the future. “When you’re comfortable, the temptation to quit taking risks is so great, it’s almost irresistible”, but it is the number one way to seal your fate and fail. Mistakes and miscalculations, even very costly ones, are simply the price of staying in business.

2. Be Inflexible 

The “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality is the second best way to secure the demise of a business. There is no one formula for success that will continue to work always; leaders must constantly challenge themselves to change. “Flexibility is a continual deeply thoughtful process of examining situations and when warranted, quickly adapting to changing circumstances.” Darwin’s concept natural selection is applicable not just to organic species, but to the survival of businesses as well.

3. Isolate Yourself

Staying in touch with customers, distributors, managers and staff is essential to continued growth and success. It is temptingly easy to physically isolate yourself from “distractions” in the comfort of leather sofas and plush carpets in corner offices on high floors guarded by layers of Personal Assistants. Creating your own “executive bubble” is a great way to be the last to know when anything is going wrong. Answer your own phone, make your own coffee, know the names of your people – walk around and find out how they are doing and what the Company needs to be doing better.

4. Assume Infallibility

Another great way to fail successfully is to never ever admit a problem or a mistake. Develop the artful skill of finger-pointing. Blame external forces such as currency fluctuations or the unusually active hurricane season. Cover up mistakes for as long as possible without admitting that anything is going wrong. It’s best to wait until there is a full-blown crisis and then say “mistakes were made…” (but not by me).

5. Play the Game Close to the Foul Line

When you consistently “play it close to the foul line”, your employers will not trust you, and neither will your customers. If you achieve success by destroying your principles in the process, it will not last. Build a reputation for doing the right thing – to be forthright, honest and fair. Build trust. Honor and decency are virtues which never become outdated.

6. Don’t Take Time to Think

“Thought is hard” ~Goethe. In many ways technology often adds to the complexity of life without providing appreciable advantages. With the steady stream of data constantly bombarding us, it is appealing to believe that being busy is the same as being effective. Base decisions on careful evaluation. Objectively analyze mistakes; they are a powerful opportunity to see what went wrong. Making time to think is essential for success.

7. Put All Your Faith in Experts and Outside Consultants

“It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.” -James Thurber. Putting too much faith in outside expertise can lead to disastrous consequences. Quite often, managers insecure in their authority blame restructuring, layoffs and other unpleasant decisions on plans drawn up by outside experts. This is just another cowardly way of passing the buck. Good business leaders take responsibility for the future of their businesses, they don’t farm out important strategy decisions to third parties.

8. Love Your Bureaucracy

If you want fail spectacularly, put administrative concerns ahead of everything else. Chains of command, paper pushing, and general red tape can lead to endemic dysfunction. Bureaucracy within organizations causes responsibility to become so diluted that the managers become incapable of making objective decisions. Action becomes  impossible. In a crisis, the results can be catastrophic.

9. Send Mixed Messages

Communication does not occur unless the message is both heard and understood. For example, rewarding employees who have not met performance targets sends the message that the targets really don’t matter. Be consistent in the message you send. Apply accountability and follow through with the consequences.

10. Be Afraid of the Future

If you want to paralyze your business, start proceeding with caution all the time, allow pessimism to thrive. Unquenchable optimism is the spirit the engenders achievement and success. Move boldly ahead – approach the future with optimism – especially when the circumstances are unfavorable.

11. Lose Your Passion for Work, for Life

To fail, just continue to set low expectations for yourself and everyone around you; keep saying “that’s good enough”, or “that’s not my job”. All achievement requires passion. Work is hard, but it is worth the effort to those who are convinced that they are capable of being better. It is the strong desire to do better and solve problems that should drive your passion to work harder. Successful people perform at a higher level, just for the satisfaction of doing it. Passion can be cultivated; form a strong emotional connection with whatever you are doing, and never stop.

 

In many ways, Donald Keough’s book is a story of failure, with lively anecdotes illustrating each commandment, the author details the perilous mistakes of Xerox, IBM, Ford and especially Coke. Companies don’t fail, people do.

It is also a tale of success.  Great leaders don’t allow themselves to be dragged down by failure, they recognize the mistake, admit their errors and find a way to move on.  This amazing little books gives us a glimpse into how a product established in 1886 is still with us today as one of the strongest and most loved brands in the world. It is as refreshing and stimulating as an ice-cold glass of Coke Zero on a hot summer day. I highly recommend it.