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We can learn from the behaviour of a lobster. I’m serious – bear with me.

You may already know that the most common way of cooking a lobster is by placing it live into boiling water.

So, when you’re in a restaurant and you’ve chosen the lobster you’d like to eat, the chef will dunk the living lobster into a pan of boiling water in order to kill it and cook it. Sounds pretty grim so far doesn’t it!

Now, because the water’s very hot the lobster tries to escape from the boiling pan by clawing its way up the sides. So, the chef puts a lid on it to make sure it can’t get away. All makes sense.

However, and here’s the key thing, if you cook more than one lobster in the same pan, at the same time, then you don’t need to cover the pan. You see, the other lobsters will pull it back down as it tries to claw its way out.

So effectively the other lobsters sabotage their chances of freedom.

So, are you one of those lobsters who’s trying to get out of the pan, the boring networking group, the unsuccessful business, the friendship group, the job etc…?

Are other people pulling you back down, so you’re forced to suffer with them?

I see it time and time again, and I’ve experienced it myself – if you’re trying to better yourself, there’s always someone trying to bring you down.

Especially here in Britain where our culture is very different to, say, America, where success is welcomed and encouraged much more openly.

Now there’s nothing we can do about those people. They’re everywhere.

But there is something we can do to ensure we don’t get stuck in the pan!

Stop making excuses. Rise above the negative forces. Take responsibility for your life and your business and don’t let anyone else pull you back down.

To all my fellow lobsters…

By Alan Adams

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You’re procrastinating. 

Right now, probably.  

Me too. I started the day with a worthy goal. A proper plan. I was going to spend the whole day working ON my business. No distractions. Diary clear. Staff briefed.  

But there’s a problem. A big problem.  

In my head.  

My lizard brain. My ‘inner head trash’. Procrastination kicks in. I find ridiculous things to do in order to avoid tackling the big things.  

30 minutes clearing emails. My desk is tidied. A sneaky check on the BBC News site. I’ve even been on Facebook. I lapse into £10 an hour jobs.  

Procrastination really is the disease of the poor.  

It’s as if I’m subconsciously avoiding the big stuff. The stuff that makes a difference. The stuff that secures the future and moves me – and the business – towards my goals.  

FACT: It’s not just me. It’s you too. In this regard at least, I’m normal.  

How do you know if something counts as ‘big stuff’?  Precisely because your inner head trash resists it. It’s like a compass. “I’m avoiding doing this. Must mean it’s a good idea and exactly what I should be doing.”  

So many businesses are stuck at their current level not because of any real tangible obstacles or barriers but simply because of procrastination. It’s a cancer. It eats away at our productivity every single day.  

Sucking you away from the big stuff. The things that make a difference. The things that secure the future, the things that move you – and your business – towards your goals.  

Your job this week is to lance it. 

Procrastination is a condition. We all have it – it impacts us all. See, you are normal too.  

But your job is to fight it with every sinew. Fight to spend productive time on things that make a difference. The things that secure the future, the things that move you – and your business – towards your goals.  

Procrastination. I will not let it win. Neither must you…  

By Alan Adams

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It’s incredibly hard being an entrepreneur.

Anyone that pretends it’s easy, and that riches beyond your dreams are there for the taking is a charlatan. Getting even a single additional customer can often be the damned hardest thing.

Which is why you need a fortress. Not one formed from stone with flags on the battlements. No, you need a fortress to protect TWO THINGS:

Your MIND and your TIME…

How you think, and what you do.

When it comes to success and the attraction of wealth, pretty much nothing else is going to matter.

If you can’t protect your productivity and you can’t protect your thinking, you are stuffed. Properly stuffed. 

We are, all of us, constantly under attack – whether it’s email, phone calls, social media, and more. And if you allow the barbarians even an inch across the ramparts, all your goals, plans, and strategies could well wind up in ruins.

For me, it’s why my holidays and time away is so important. Time to think, you see. Clearly. Without distraction. 

Your mind and your time. The two most valuable things for every entrepreneur, everywhere in the world. Today and every day. 

They need guarding and protecting – pretty much with your life because the life you lead is determined to a very large extent by how well you look after and nurture the pair of ’em. 

Man the barricades…

By Alan Adams

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Here’s something to get your brain cells churning. It’s a biggie.

The number 1 mistake that most people know but don’t do.

It’s not about money. People who’ve got money to spend make the exact same mistake. It’s a mental mistake that has to be fixed in the way that you think.

Most businesses try and get their clients as cheaply as they possibly can. That’s their mission. They are easily attracted to what looks like the cheapest thing to do. Like moths to a flame – they’re stupid.

They deprive themselves of the number one advantage that they could ever have, which is to create a scenario where they can outspend their competition.

By going cheap, they can only do a very limited number of things. By changing their strategy and getting their economics right.

They can buy speed, growth and discourage competitors from entering the market. Smart marketers structure their business, so they can out-spend everyone else.

1% send full colour, glossy packages mailed to the right people out in the post.

99% will ask if they can go black and white, or reduce the paper weight, or number of pages to drive down cost. Or they’ll email it or have it available for download. Stupid.

The 1% will ask how they can do it more expensively. What could they do to force people to read it – to incentivise people to read it?

“Show up like nobody else” is a seriously smart strategy – and the best way to do that is to spend money like nobody else. Not cavalier-like. Not without testing properly.

The biggest and best question you should be asking yourself this week: “What can I do that will allow me to change the economics of getting a customer – to spend more money?”

Told you I’d get you thinking.

By Alan Adams

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You see, everyone needs to get away every now and then.  No matter how much you enjoy the things you do on a daily basis, you need to make sure you’re getting enough ‘down time’ too – it is so important for your own wellbeing and also for that of your business.   

I’ve had some of my most successful and inspired ideas while I’ve been away relaxing.

Me and Fliss had a few days away in Ludlow not long ago, the room we booked had a terrace and a hot tub, it was great to just get away and just chill out.

When was the last time you had a change of scenery and took some time out?  When was the last time you really felt as though you were ‘living the dream’?

I really hope that, like me, you’ve built your business around doing what you love – but even if you jump out of bed every morning and skip into the office full of excitement about what the day ahead holds in store for you.

You still need to take a few days out here and there just to enjoy life and relax. 

By taking time out you’re also reminding yourself of why you’re in business!  What’s the point if you can’t enjoy the fruits of your labour? Right? 

There’s a question that goes something like; “Do you work to live, or do you live to work?” and although I feel it actually comes across as quite negative.

I still think it’s an interesting one to ask yourself because it can be interpreted differently depending on your perception of it.  

I absolutely love coaching because of the impact I see it have on people life’s, you’d have to prise my business out of my cold dead fingers, but ultimately I do it to provide my family with everything they need.

So if you haven’t booked your next holiday or break yet, make it a priority!  For the sake of your business!

By Alan Adams

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I wanted to share a three-minute video with you today about the correct way to tie your shoelaces.

Now, I can just see the look on your face right now – you’re probably wondering whether I’ve finally gone and lost my marbles but stick with me a second.

It turns out that there’s a ‘weak’ form of the knot we usually tie our laces in and a ‘strong’ one.  You’ll have to watch the video to find out which you produce (!) – but the reason I wanted to share the video with you isn’t because I’ve suddenly developed a fascination with shoes or shoelaces.

It’s the last line the presenter Terry Moore delivers.  He says, ‘Sometimes a small advantage some place in life can yield tremendous results someplace else’.

So, after you’ve learnt how to tie your shoelaces properly, go and put a nugget you’ve learnt into action.

Have a watch here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAFcV7zuUDA

I’ve talked about the power of small change quite a few times, it’s the little things that matter, small incremental increases across your business will lead to huge gains.

If you do this regularly, I promise you, your business won’t come undone like a weakly tied shoelace!

By Alan Adams

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Last night I sat down and watched The Dark Knight Rises, the third and final film in the Batman Trilogy.

Those of you who have seen the film will know that in it there is a dark prison, located way beneath the Earth’s surface and its inmates face the ultimate cruelty: impossible hope.

There’s a tall tower carved out of the rock, rising many storeys to the surface and the blue sky is visible when you stand at the bottom of this tower and look straight up.

Prisoners are free to attempt to climb out and do so from time to time, with a rope tied around their waist to catch them should they fall.

The film explains that there’s a legend known to all the suffering prisoners, passed from one generation to the next, about the only person ever to succeed at this escape – a child.

It is in this subterranean hell that a crippled Batman, i.e. Bruce Wayne, has been left to die.

Long story short, but he attempts and fails at his escape, not once but twice.

At the point of surrender, an old prisoner who has befriended him tells him the secret of the child who successfully climbed the tower and escaped: the boy climbed without the rope.

It turns out that the weight of the rope, or rather the thoughts created by wearing the rope, (i.e that you’re going to fall) is just enough of a burden to ensure failure.

The old man tells Bruce that to have a chance, “You must climb without the rope”.

This is a fantastic parable for success.

You see, most people try to achieve their big ambitions – especially the really big ones like financial freedom – whilst still dragging heavy ropes behind them. Things like industry norms, counterproductive beliefs and old established conventions.

The higher they try to climb, the heavier the burden of the rope.

The truth is, if you want to achieve extraordinary things, you have to sever your ties to ALL ordinary ideas, behaviours and business practices. And yes, that does mean you can’t toe the line and do the same things as everybody else.

Ever since I started Horizons, I have always taken interest in the 1, 4, 15, 60 and 20 theory.

It is a fact that in any particular sector at any particular time, around 60% of people are “getting by”, whilst 20% of them are “struggling”. That’s 80% of the people in your industry or sector not achieving the results that they set out to achieve when they started in business.

Metaphorically speaking at least, they are down at the bottom of that tower, looking up at the blue sky but continually failing to get up and out.

1%, of course, are already there at the top and there’s 4% and 15% well on their way.

If you want to join them, YOU MUST CLIMB WITHOUT THE ROPE.

To be clear, I’m not talking here about cavalier risk.

What I mean is that there is a rope tied around your waist. It may have been thinned by you or, alternatively, it may be as thick and heavy as the huge ropes tied to cruise ships’ anchors.

You might want to give it a pull and examine all that is tied to its other end because, I promise you, shedding the dead weight doesn’t half ease the journey and speed things up.

The heaviest dead weights that are holding people back are rarely things or other people; they are thoughts and beliefs.

Time and time again, we find that the real blocker to step change performance is between the business owners’ ears.

It’s what’s going on in their head and it’s so liberating when we’re able to simply untie the blockages that have been holding them back and release them to climb without the rope.

In the meantime, don’t forget that Batman himself is a parable.

He’s unlike pretty much all other superheroes insofar as he doesn’t have super powers.

Batman, you see, is simply a creation of Bruce Wayne’s decision. Batman made himself into a master detective, an extraordinary athlete, martial artist and fighter and created his own intimidating personality.

The reality – and no, I’m not being glib – is that you can take a decision and make yourself into whatever it is that you want…. providing you listen to advice and climb without the rope.

By Alan Adams

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Big changes in business happen through careful thinking.

Big change comes from knowing what you want to achieve and why and how you want it to happen; making conscious decisions and then driving through the implementation.

Big change doesn’t happen through procrastination or New Year’s resolutions.

Right across the country ‘normal’ people began this year with the intention of sticking to a resolution or two. Most would have been broken by February. That’s because too many resolutions are based on what people think they should be doing rather than what they actually want to be doing. Sure, they’re well-intentioned but the result is they’re not 100% committed; not thought through and they fall at the first hurdle.

I promise you, thinking is vastly underrated in business and I’d urge you to find time – and a place – to do some high quality thinking this week. And every week. It’s the closest you’ll get to a silver bullet this year. Or any year.

Once a year take yourself off somewhere and focus on what you want to achieve and how you’re going to it, make sure that you have someone who understands your business. When I work with people it takes about 12-15 hours for someone to understand all the options to push the business forward and come up with a solid plan that’s easy to follow.

If there’s something in your business that needs addressing (there definitely is, by the way) then find half an hour this week to think about it properly.

Think about it deeply.

Always involve someone else then you’ll get even better quality of thought [CLUE: ALL our best thinking and decisions here at Horizons come from collaborative conversations and collective THINKING].

Don’t fret about resolutions. Just think more…

By Alan S Adams

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Let’s be honest. Sometimes as business owners we can get a bit comfortable with the current status quo and not really pay attention to changing trends, new technology, updated legislation and a whole host of other things that are potential opportunities or challenges.

Take Webber Carburettors as an example. In my late teens I owned a Mark 1 Escort (I loved that car!) and the company was extremely well-known, and were *the* leading performance carburettor manufacturers.

So, of course, practically every young male including me wanted one of its kits on their car. However, following a hugely successful period for the business, the market began evolving. Technology and stricter emission requirements meant carburettors were unable to compete, and were replaced by fuel injectors.

For a short time during that changeover period there was a window of opportunity for Webber to become the leading performance manufacture in the new emerging technology, but unfortunately they failed to take that chance.

And where are they now? Well, while they are still going today they’re a niche business which simply supplies the classic car market. 

And on the other hand take Tachodisc. Once the UK’s leading producer of wax tachograph discs, during the late 90s they boasted a huge proportion of the UK market. Unfortunately for Tachodisc, after many years of domination, EU legislation was brought in and the whole market was told it was to switch over to digital tachographs within a matter of months.

The wax tachograph disc was about to join a long line of extinct technologies.

However the firm decided that they were flexible enough to embrace the new technology – a brave move, especially as they’d never been in the digital market and were going up against the big boys like Siemens. They actually did some quite clever stuff. Not only did they identify skills gaps and engage external assistance to help with this monumental change.

They recognised that no one really knew anything about this new product or how it was being introduced, so they engaged a PR firm to prepare and issue opinion-led articles in relevant trade magazines, firmly establishing themselves as the market experts.

When the switch was implemented, they took a big share of the market, beating the likes of Siemens with their multi million pound manufacturing facilities and marketing budgets.

So, whatever your line of work or industry, it’s imperative that you keep an eye on new developments, new legislation, and what your competitors are doing so that you can spot opportunities and avoid any pitfalls.

By Alan S Adams

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I was listening to somebody complaining about their bad luck yesterday. If I’m honest, they had had a tough time, but – like most things – their perception of it all made it ten times worse.

They could have chosen to see their challenge as an opportunity but instead it reinforced their view that the world was a tough place, which got me thinking about how some people really roll with the punches while others get KOd first time.

Often it’s the challenges we face which turn out to be the very best things to happen to us – personally as well as professionally. Divorced? It leaves you open to meet someone more perfect for you. Bankrupt? Tough lesson, but you get to start over with a hell of a lot more wisdom. Redundancy? Take the cash, and the time, to reinvent your career… You get the picture.

One of the most profound examples of everything working out for the best that I’ve ever heard is a story my Dad shared with me of his time as a young Army Sergeant in Aden. It was 1966 and he was responsible for mortar fire control – not the easiest or safest of roles.

He essentially helped protect the engineering teams who were going out to dig wells and conduct other hearts-and-minds tasks for the local community. They’d come in and do their thing, and he’d be there to provide protection, and so always be the last to leave and return to base.

On this particular day, my Dad and a Private had been to Stores to pick up their equipment and a radio set, all ready to head out. They’d already checked their kit, but for some reason my Dad decided to check the radio again. This time, when he pulled the aerial out, the very tip snapped off. He told the Private to stay put and ran to the Stores get a replacement. Despite legging it there and back, by the time he returned to the main gate the driver who was meant to be picking them up had been and gone.

His heart sank! Missing the transport could be seen as being absent from his place of duty during a time of war, and that’s a super-serious charge which could even have led to a prison sentence. What frustrated him even more was that the driver’s only job was to pick them up – it was completely pointless to drive away without them…

Just as they were trying to figure out what to do next, an enormous explosion shook the ground and lit up the sky. The lorry that they should have been on had driven straight over an anti-tank mine and exploded a little further up the road.

Thankfully, the driver was in a mine-proof cab and so survived (but was so badly injured he was medically evacuated straight back to the UK). Had my Dad and the Private been in the unprotected rear of the lorry, they would have been killed instantly. 

He never did find out why the driver hadn’t waited, but this certainly was one of his luckiest days, and that one heart-dropping moment turned out to be one of the most blessed of his life. And it’s the same with business.

The ever-fabulous Jim Collins looked at just what role luck had when it came to the success of companies in his book Good to Great, and found that the super-successful had just the same amount as the unsuccessful ones. It wasn’t what happened to them which translated into bottom line results, it was how they dealt with it.

And the moral of this tale? Whatever happens, good or bad, just roll with the punches and keep going. After all, it may turn out to be your biggest blessing.

By Alan S Adams

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