Scaring the New Guy

You can win or lose a great team member in a day.

First impressions, ambition, insecurity, judgement–there’s a whirlwind of variables inside the new guy’s head. Variables that none of us older teammates really wonder about anymore.

So we criticize each other, criticize our leadership, criticize our employees, criticize our systems, criticize our tools–to us, it’s no big deal. We’re just having fun and blowing off steam. But we’ve been here a while. Our criticisms come with a bigger perspective: After all, we’ve found a reason to stick around.

But the new guy hasn’t. The new guy doesn’t know what it feels like to be a part of your company for six months, a year, five years. All he knows is the chatter going on around him on his first day.

So be careful what you say around the new guy. Silly banter can turn into a make it or break it moment for an unseasoned pair of eyes and ears.

Before you criticize, argue, make fun, or roll your eyes about anyone or anything, ask yourself: “What would this say to the new guy?”

Have you ever been given a disappointing or misleading first impression on a new job?

When Panic Hits in a Relationship

We are addicted to happiness.

That seems pretty sensible. Like a pretty good addiction, if there ever was one. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with that.

But the “happiness” we are addicted to isn’t quite the happiness that lasts. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

See, when it comes to romance and relationships, happiness is largely defined in many cultures as immediate feelings of comfort and satisfaction.

And when you define happiness as feeling-perfectright-now, and then pursue it like an addiction, momentary imperfection becomes disaster. Molehills become mountains. And the tiniest bump in the road of an otherwise loving relationship becomes a reason to panic and break up.

Now to be clear, a generally unhappy relationship certainly is not a healthy one. It’s silly to suggest being “okay” with an unappreciative and unfriendly relationship.

But you’re in for a rough road (and a lot of breakups) if you panic whenever things don’t “feel” right.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard someone say, “Something’s off, I just don’t feel the same way when we’re together lately.” Understandable. But then the next day, “Oh yeah, we’re fine now! I don’t know what I was thinking!”

Too many relationships go in dramatic cycles you should only expect to see in a sorority or in a high school cafeteria.

So here’s the big deal I think bi-polar couples aren’t getting: “Happiness” does not mean immediate satisfaction or perfection-right-now.

We are far too fickle and moody for that. Feelings and emotions come and go with the weather, with grades, with lack of sleep, and every other insignificant circumstance you can imagine.

But when you’re addicted to feeling “sure” or “perfect” right this moment, because you think that’s “happiness,” those feelings become your “reality,” and your reality becomes harsh and unstable. The beauty is replaced by insecure introspection.

One of the most helpful things in my relationship is my girl’s level-headed outlook. She takes everything in stride. Whether it’s excitement or heartbreak, she takes it with a grain of salt. When emotions are involved, she has a healthy dose of skepticism. She realizes that an extreme feeling today might be a little quieter tomorrow, and will probably be forgotten in a week.

Here’s the bottom line: Most struggles, disappointments, and frustrations in a serious relationship are going to be temporary. Most things we worry and panic over are really just passing phases.

Again, that doesn’t mean for a second that an unhappy relationship is just fine. It just means that “happiness” isn’t nearly as stable, as dreamishly “ever-after,” as we wish. A happy relationship probably won’t “feel right” every single day.

On the other hand, though, I’ve seen a lot of pious people justify their often cold and lifeless relationships, defined by unkindness and selfishness, by saying, “Oh, love isn’t a feeling! It’s not about the butterflies in your stomach. It’s about commitment and sacrifice, bla bla bla.”

Well if romance isn’t about feelings, then I certainly want no part of it.

Love is absolutely about feeling happy and fulfilled. But it’s also about patience, self-control, understanding, forgiving, and everything else that turns patience-now into happiness-ever-after.

But again, here’s the bottom line: In every relationship, the going will get tough, on occasion. There will be a time for everything–for laughing and for crying, for doubting and for trusting, for encouragement and discouragement. It’s all going to happen.

But the strong relationships that end up happy after years and years (and not just piously pretending to be happy out of some showy commitment to “goodness”), are the ones where two people can say, “We know something feels off–really off–and we’re scared and hurt. But we know it will probably feel better later, so let’s not get crazy.”

The strong partner sees that life is full of passing phases, and that there’s nothing wrong with that.

Why You Really Need a Vision

“Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision.” – Ayn Rand

A vision is a clear concept of what you plan to make a reality.

Having a clear and powerful vision is absolutely vital to success, but it’s amazing how many people don’t really have one.

In his book, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth, T. Harv Eker says, “The number one reason most people don’t get what they want is that they don’t know what they want.”

Remember the last time you set out on a roadtrip without knowing where you planned to go? How long did it take you to get there? How excited were you at the thought of arriving? How efficiently did you move toward your destination?

Seems silly enough, I know. But now ask yourself this.

Remember the last time you talked to a friend who seemed to have no idea where he or she was headed in life? It was probably pretty recently. How motivated are they on a daily basis?

And be honest with yourself. Do you really know where you want to be in twenty years? How often do you catch yourself aimlessly “getting through” the workday and making it to tomorrow.

For some of my early years, I had some vague dreams, stumbled upon “the answer” several different times, continued assuming I would get somewhere eventually, and lived in mediocrity.

I was like a person who jumps in their car and wanders back and forth around town. And I thought it was progress.

But as Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?”

He understood that progress without a vision is no progress at all. Working towards nothing in particular gets you nothing in particular.

But the sad reality is that most of us wander around for most of our lives with no idea of where we’re going. Then midlife crisis hits and we wonder why in the world we’ve been aimlessly cruising around town and calling it a roadtrip.

The only way to make progress is to first understand what we’re working on. We cannot have no vision and still expect to see opportunities around us, know which way to go at a fork in the road, or make productive decisions. Plus, there’s a lot of world out there ready and eager to help. But if we don’t express our vision, nobody will know what help to give.

So the first step to anything–the absolute priority to any great work or successful life–is having a vision. Great leaders have visions. World-changers have visions. Abraham Lincoln had a vision of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream of an America that respected all people equally. Thomas Edison had a vision of the lightbulb. Without these clear, powerful visions, they would have had no direction.

So what do you want?

“To the person who does not know where he wants to go there is no favorable wind.” – Seneca

Do you have a clear vision for your own life?

Create a Powerful Speech in 2 Minutes (Step 1 of 5)

I prefer giving most speeches with relatively little preparation–no scripts and few rehearsals. It is a challenge that stretches me, and it is great practice for life and work. Even more personally important, it helps me speak from the heart instead of falling into mindless performance.

But if I’m going to wing it so much, I’d better have a pretty good system for making it powerful even without the advantage of weeks of preparation.

Well after years of doing it, with preparation times  varying from months to weeks to days to hours to minutes to literally 2 seconds, I’ve figured out how to very quickly come up with a powerful speech.

If you become very familiar with your process or formula (so practice, practice, practice!), you can use it with detail while writing a speech in advance, you can use it quickly when you’re only given a few minutes to throw a speech together, and you can even continue planning your speech while you’re already delivering it!

So here’s the first and most important step in creating a speech:

Choosing Your Topic and Purpose

I spend more time on choosing my topic than you might expect. And even once I know my topic, the exact purpose for which I will use it can take me quite a while to determine. Here are two reasons why:

     1. It is absolutely the most important part of your preparation: If the speech is going to be effective, you have to be speaking on a relevant topic and using the topic in a powerful way. It must fit your audience–their interests and needs. And it must fit you–your recent and current feelings, experiences, and education.

So even when I’m given a very short time for preparation, I spend a large portion on choosing the topic. When I used to compete regularly in impromptu speaking with 2-minute prep times, especially once I had gotten good at it, I often spent the entire first minute just deciding which of the suggested topics I should use and what the point of my speech would be.

     2. The choosing process actually generates some of your best content: If you think “writer’s block” is tough, try “speaker’s block.” It can be incredibly difficult to decide what to say when faced with a direct question: “What should I say about this?” Every ounce of doubt inside you sends you into a panic and keeps you from thinking clearly. This is especially true when you’re faced with a difficult deadline (for instance, you may be given 2 minutes to prepare your speech).

But the good news is, before you throw the content-question at yourself, if instead you focus on the topic-question, content can more easily present itself. When you’re wondering, “Should I speak on that or this?” the pressure, instead of being on the detailed content, is on the general topic. So while you are in the process of coming up with your decision, your mind is free from the “What should I say about it?” pressure, and the “what”-content can start flowing naturally. “If I speak on A I could tell this story. Oh, but what I’ve been studying could fit really well into B! And I could use that quote I heard!”

I have found that, especially when under a time crunch, some of my best content flows very naturally when I’m still focused on weighing the advantages and disadvantages of competing topics.

10 Helpful Questions

So what makes for a good topic and purpose in a speech? It depends on the speaker, audience, context, time, and lots of other variables. But here are a some questions that may help get your mental juices flowing:

• What have I been thinking about most lately?

• What would facilitate a remarkable personal connection or story I can share?

• What would the audience trust me to teach them?

• What are my audience’s interests and goals?

• What are my audience’s problems and needs?

• What is my audience expecting and hoping to hear?

• What would my audience find significant and memorable?

• Do I really care about this topic and believe in this purpose, so that I can speak from my heart?

• Do I really feel comfortable and confident about choosing this topic and purpose?

• And last but not least, will it fit my allotted speaking time and venue well?

Takeaway: Remember that the topic and purpose of your speech is by far the most important part of your preparation. It must fit you, the audience, and your speaking situation. On it hangs the success of your entire speech. So devote plenty of time to choosing it carefully. As a bonus, your choosing-time just might generate great content before you even start on step 2!

What suggestions can you share for coming up with a powerful topic and purpose for a speech?

The Real Secret to Selling

Over the past few years I’ve spent a lot of time selling products and services. And I think I’ve discovered the secret to selling.

The “trick” isn’t buying audio programs and training curricula.

It’s not making personal connections with your clients.

And it’s not doing your research beforehand.

Of course, all of those are excellent techniques and can make you a much better salesperson.

But the real secret to selling is much simpler:

Just do it.

I know that sounds pretty simplistic. And I’m sure you’re disappointed. But here’s why I say it: In the real world, where our true colors are shown, most salespeople just aren’t selling.

Even most ambitious salespeople aren’t usually selling. We salespeople are master procrastinators.

Whether it’s checking e-mail or the news, planning our work and schedules, talking with our sales teammates, researching our prospects, learning our products, it’s very likely we’re trying very hard to not make a sale.

In fact, it’s amazing how much time we invest in making ourselves better at sales–reading, practicing, getting advice and coaching–instead of actually selling. (Which is strange, because the best teacher is experience.)

Even once we have learned how to sell well, once we’ve had some success, and put up some good numbers, we’ll still look for excuses to do anything-but-selling.

Now please understand, I am as big a supporter as any of serious self-improvement in professional skills. I regularly take classes, read books, and use programs to work on my own skills.

And many sales positions require the effective salesperson to spend the majority of his time working on prospecting, preparation, and follow-up.

But when it comes down to it, the most important trick to selling is just taking the step between “getting ready” and actually-doing-it. Because that’s the step most salespeople hate taking.

Not only is it the most important, it’s also both the easiest step and the hardest step. And it is completely psychological.

Unlike professional training products, just-doing-it costs nothing. And since experience is the best teacher, you can be sure of its value. It is more rewarding than any other part of the process, and it’s earning you a paycheck.

Should be easy. Right? But it’s not. Ask a salesperson. There are lots of reasons salespeople spend the vast majority of their time not selling. But regardless of what those phobias are, if you’re a salesperson, deep down you probably want to beat them. Right?

Well here’s the secret: JUST DO IT.

Your numbers will increase. So will your confidence. And so will your skill.

That being said, I know how hard it is.

So here’s to you, to my courageous brothers and sisters in sales. Here’s to you who spend your life repetitively offering products to judgmental, unpredictable, and just plain crazy customers.

Today, make a sales call. And then make another. And another. And another. And another. And another. And another. Your fellow salespeople and I are rooting for you!

(Oh, and then go invest in a good book on sales strategies.)

The same is true with most areas of growth in our life. I love (and personally use) inspirational and strategic books, training materials, careful planning, and the like. But when it comes down to it, half the time we’re just stalling.

No matter how many smoothie makers and nutrition books you buy, you won’t lose a pound until you add action to planning, doing to wanting. If you want to get better at working out, do it more. If you want to get better at writing, do it more. If you want to get better at listening, do it more.

If you want to get better at anything: Just do it more!

How do you overcome procrastination due to laziness or nervousness?