So many individuals and organizations study the competition. They want to do everything the competition does as well or better. But it rarely helps them get ahead. How could that be?
The answer: he was only good at being the same.
Nobody remembers same. Bland is unmemorable. Bold is memorable.
There are many things you have to do as well or better than your competition. But don’t stop there. Different by itself can be weird or odd; memorable, but not in a good way. Different that is valued by your customer or client is key: they can get sameness anywhere, but they can only get that kind of different from you.
It is the extra flourish, the useful bit of information or signature difference that people talk about. They don’t talk about same. Sameness sucks.
What are you doing that is different and valued? That’s what will make you memorable.
“Don’t let it bother you.” How often have you heard or said that? It is usually about things we shouldn’t let bother us.
But what about the important things, the things that make a difference? Some things should really bother us.
If we let important things stop bothering us, we become numb to needed change. We settle for mediocrity rather than excellence. We ignore how much a bad situation bothers others and seem indifferent to them.
Don’t be a service rep who isn’t bothered when the customer is disappointed. Let it bother you enough to regain the customer’s loyalty.
Be an engineer who is bothered by a “good enough” design mentality. Be a leader who is bothered by policies that don’t support employees, or red tape that creates hassles for customers.
Let is bother you when you see someone being treated poorly and you can intervene to prevent it. Be a parent who is bothered if your son or daughter is growing distant or not doing well at school. Take action, even if it is difficult.
Let it bother you when someone is spreading gossip and you can defend the accused. If you are in politics, be truly bothered by the shortcomings of the system and work to change it.
Let your own bad performances, mistakes and shortcomings bother you enough to improve and become better.
Petty annoyances and inconveniences? Don’t let them bother you. But something important that matters? Please, do let it bother you.
“It’s all for the best” or “Something good will come of this:” do you like hearing these words when you fail? I don’t.
These sentiments might hold a grain of truth in them, but they rarely make us feel any better.
So, the first thing to remember about failure is not to sugar coat it when it happens. Accept that it sucks. Feel your disappointment, but don’t get stuck there. The quicker you can release the emotion, the quicker you can move on.
Then remind yourself:
Failure is rarely permanent. It is only permanent when you give up. As long as you’re willing to keep trying new things, the feeling of being stuck is temporary.
Failure is a hated but great teacher. We can certainly learn from success but we can learn as much or more from failure.
Failure makes you stronger. A muscle that isn’t challenged doesn’t grow in strength. The same is true for personal development.
Failure is the price of future success. If you hear a story about someone who became an instant success, you probably aren’t being told the whole story or that person is an anomaly. Overnight success can happen, but it doesn’t happen often. More often failure becomes the energy that fuels the drive to succeed. From trying, failing, learning and trying again, you move closer and closer to your desired goal.
Failure is no fun. But that doesn’t mean it can’t help make you better.
We live in crazy times. No matter how you analyze it, the events happening around us are often unprecedented and challenging. The gamut of craziness runs from politics and investigations to egregious behavior and accusations to social media, uncivil media, and so much more.
I’m not discounting the tremendous opportunities that exist these days. However, I am, for purposes of the year ahead, thinking specifically about this question:
How do you live well in crazy times?
What can anyone do? The short answer? Pursue sanity. While is sounds like a good idea, just how do you do that?
Don’t add to the craziness. Be civil with those you disagree with. Balance your heart with your head so emotionalism doesn’t drive out reason. Take responsibility for your life and quit blaming others.
Separate fact from opinion. Don’t get excited about things that either aren’t true or are so wildly exaggerated as to get attention. Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.”
Act with integrity even if others don’t. Reacting without thinking and lashing out in anger are both shortcuts to an ulcer. Just because others are behaving badly doesn’t mean that you are justified to do so, too.
Slow down. The longer I live the more convinced I am that you accomplish more of importance by slowing down. There are times when speed is necessary, but too often speed only seems necessary because we are chasing rabbits instead of tracking the big game in life.
Eat slower. A friend’s father-in-law was a doctor and when asked the most important thing someone could do to improve their health, the doctor’s response was “chew more.” Not only have I tried to chew more, but in doing so it slows how quickly we tend to gobble down our food.
Get enough sleep. The research is clear: lack of sufficient sleep is a major influence on poor health. When I was young I prided myself on burning the candle at both ends. Now, I sleep enough to keep the flame of my candle going.
Read for education and entertainment. I love novels that aren’t just engaging but teach something at the same time. (Michael Connelly’s crime novels are a great example of engaging plots and insights into police procedure.) But don’t read exclusively for pleasure. Read enough about current events to have an informed opinion and world view.
Limit your news intake. News tends to repeat itself, both on TV and in print. You can be saturated with much of the same news each day, which adds to your frustration. Be informed but don’t be inundated by news.
Exercise. (Yawn.) Sorry, but despite how much we talk about it, few of us do it enough or do it correctly. I am amazed at some of the bad practices I see at my gym. Doing weight lifting wrong is a quick way in injury and will produce little if any positive results. And don’t forget to get your heart rate up enough to improve your cardio. (In my book, The Potential Principle, I explain the F.I.T. Technique as a way to get better at anything. You simply increase frequency, intensity and/or improve technique.)
Have deeper conversations with friends. Go beyond “what are you doing?” to “what are you thinking?” Staying superficial is easy but it is the junk food of thought. You’ll learn more when you learn what others think and feel and why.
Take a trip. The best way I know to enlarge your perspective is to travel abroad. But if time and finances don’t allow, visit a new state or spend time in a museum near where you live. When we live within the familiar we forget about the diversity in the bigger world.
Be civil. I’ve found I can’t make others be civil, but I can be civil and at best set a positive example and at least minimize the total incivility in the world.
Be kind. I remind you of the advice of Philo Judaeus: “Be kind. Everyone is fighting a tough battle.” That is one of the most succinct and practical bits of advice I’ve ever read.
Count your blessings every day. To be precise, at least three. No matter how bad things are, there are always things to be thankful for. The antidote to negativity isn’t necessarily positive thinking, but rather gratitude.
Spend less than you make. My father Leslie taught me this and it is the best financial advice I’ve ever heard. It is the basis of all monetary success.
Invest more in experiences and less in stuff. Stuff takes up space in your house, but experiences take up space in your memory, and that’s where you find the richest rewards.
Live intentionally. Be specific about what you want to accomplish each day. Don’t sleep walk through the day. Find two or three meaningful things you can do each day, and pursue them as a priority.
If you can’t take action to deal with something, then don’t worry about it. And if you can take action, then do it and stop worrying. Invest your energy in constructive effort, not soul draining worry.
Tell people that you love that you do love them. My mother Dorothy recently passed at the age of 82. I always tried to end every conversation, phone call, or visiting by saying “I love you.” You’ll never regret telling someone you love them, especially when you no longer have the chance.
Sadly, the last words of pop icon and musician David Cassidy were, “Too much wasted time.” To live in a crazy world, we must make the most of each day not just “because of,” but often “in spite of.” There is much we can’t control, but so much that we can. Focus on the latter, and you’ll enjoy more sanity and a richer, fuller life.
I’m making a bold prediction about what your holidays will be like: They will be pretty much as you expect.
Okay, so maybe it isn’t a bold prediction, but it is accurate. If you go into the holidays assuming they will be a hassle, they will. If you decide they will be a time of joy and celebration, they will.
Dreading putting up the Christmas tree will make doing so drudgery. Delighting in putting up the Christmas tree will make for a memorable activity.
Gift buying will perplex you if you approach it as an obligation. Seeing gift buying as a way to express your love and appreciation for the important people in your life will make it a delightful opportunity.
What accounts for the difference in all these scenarios? Expectation.
You tend to experience what you expect, not in matters of chance like winning the lottery, but in matters of everyday life where your thoughts, attitude and actions create results. Elbert Hubbard said, “We find what we expect to find.” Look for happiness or hassles and you will find it.
What is the power behind expectations? The answer: you take action based on what you expect.
I’ve been guilty of creating my own dread through negative expectations. After years of decorating outside the house for Christmas (I live on a street known for extravagant lighting), I began to dread doing it. It felt like meeting some kind of community obligation. After all, I reasoned, Christmas isn’t just about the decorations.
A funny thing happened when I decided this year I wouldn’t decorate.
I did. I decorated after all.
Since I felt no dread or obligation, I found myself with some free time over the long Thanksgiving weekend and started rummaging around in the garage for decorations. I didn’t have a grand plan. I just tested a few strands of lights and, if they worked, I put them up.
Simply put, I did something that I wanted to do rather than feeling like I had to do it. (And, realistically, there is very little we “have” to do during the holidays. We almost always have choices). We do best when we enjoy most. Expectations become self-fulfilling.
Here are five expectations I hope you’ll turn into action to make your holidays the best they can be:
Expect to enjoy past memories. Relive the good times rather than the unpleasant ones. Don’t dwell on what happened that you can’t change. There is no upside to rehearsing what you didn’t enjoy (unless you can learn something from it).
Expect to be of greater service. Do something for somebody else. Being of service to another breaks self-absorption. With so many in need around us, it shouldn’t be difficult to find a way to be of service.
Expect better conversations. Engage in deeper conversations about things that matter. Small talk is, well, small. Ask better, deeper questions. Offer deeper, more thoughtful comments. Slow down and enjoy the exchange of information and ideas.
Expect a brighter year ahead. You don’t know what will happen, but there are so many things that you can make happen with forethought and planning. Do more than make often short-lived resolutions and set some meaningful goals and schedule enjoyable events for the new year.
Expect to beat the worry trap. Worry is rehearsing problems and situations that haven’t happened and may not occur. If you can change something, then change it and don’t worry about it. And if there’s something you can’t change, don’t worry about it either. It won’t help.
Expectations are powerful and very often self-fulfilling. Act on positive expectations and you can change your life. Transform negative expectations into positive expectations and you’ll transform your holidays.
Curiosity is a wonderful thing. Being open to new ideas and pursuing new topics is largely beneficial. But is there ever a downside?
There is, and it is to be distracted by the interesting. I know. I’ve experienced it. Because I am interested in so many different things, I sometimes follow rabbit holes that are entertaining, but don’t add to the knowledge that deepens my expertise and work.
To keep that from happening too much, I try to differentiate between “interesting” and “informative.” Interesting catches my attention. It is often amusing, curious or entertaining. Informative adds to my primary areas of focus. It deepens my useful knowledge and can be translated into tangible benefits in my work and life.
Occasionally something interesting serendipitously informs my work. That can happen through an unexpected connection with another idea. But more often than not, the “interesting” is mostly entertaining.
To understand what informs your work, consider what you are known for and what you want to be known for. Will you be able to use the material? Is there relevance to your work? These questions become the filters for your reading, study and research.
The next time you are considering spending time online or browsing the newspaper, ask yourself, “Does this just interest me or will it truly inform me?” Take the time to channel your curiosity. You won’t regret it.
Growing up my mom often used the phrase, “This will cure what ails you!” The “cure” varied widely as she said it about everything from bad behavior to an upset stomach.
As my mom believed, there might be a universal cure to whatever ails you. So, what is it? First, consider: Writer’s often complain of “writer’s block.” Those are periods when they say they can’t write anything. The words don’t come. They are uninspired and passionless.
I learned the cure for “writer’s block” many years ago: write. Combine words and letters, write from stream of consciousness, describe what you did yesterday, but just write. Leave out punctuation, use bad grammar if you must, and don’t spell check as you go, just write. Then, later, having broken through your block, go back and edit, refine and rewrite until you’ve produced the product you desire to share with the world.
It is the same cure for almost anything, whether a blockage of good ideas, a dead end in your learning and development, or the growth of your company.
Just do something.
Luck favors momentum. Planning and preparation might help, but they never replace the doing. Take some action. Get off your beach blanket, wade into the waves, splash around in the ocean of effort.
The cure to not doing something is to do something. Sounds so simple as to be nonsensical, but the unwillingness to accept this keeps many from moving ahead.
Does poor health ail you? Schedule an appointment with your doctor, throw away the bad food in the fridge, take a walk, or join a health club. None of those things will instantly make you whole, but any of them will make you healthier than you are currently.
Are you ailing in an important relationship? Make the time to have a conversation, express appreciation, ask a question, or invest more time in that person. You can’t improve without initiating.
Are you suffering from a lack of teamwork? Are you not getting the results you need from team members? Read an article, buy a book, go to a seminar, interview a successful leader, and than apply at least one idea that you’ve learned.
Here’s the cure for whatever ails you:
Determine what you will do; something, no matter how small. Choose anything as long as it is helpful.
Pick a time to do it. Schedule it. Better yet, do it right now.
After you’ve done it, pick something else to do.
Repeat the process.
As a tribute to my mother who recently passed at the age of 82, I offer this as a cure for whatever ails you.
A client recently told me about the amazing Halloween celebration they were having for their employees and their families. He made it sound so good I wanted to go, too.
Then he said, “It doesn’t make us more productive, but it is fun.”
I respectfully disagree. I think having fun does make an organization more productive. Fun, done right, is fuel for enhanced performance. Companies that celebrate their employees prove they value them, and a party like he described is such a celebration.
Recently I spoke for Acuity Insurance, consistently ranked one of the best places to work in America. They have a ferris wheel—get this—inside their headquarters. A full size ferris wheel for their employees and families to enjoy, especially on every other Thursday when they host everyone for free food, beer, and fun.
Before I spoke, I got a tour. My guide said, “If we have time I’d like to show you the dungeon.” I thought it was a metaphor for a room with no lights or extremely boring work.
Nope. It is a fully outfitted dungeon. When they added on to the existing headquarters they ended up with an extra room that they turned into a dungeon. Obviously nobody is tortured there, but it speaks to a spirit of whimsey that I think is very cool and fitting for a company where people have fun.
What are you doing that is fun and, that done right, will make you more productive, too?
Your purpose is essential to pursuing your potential.
If you want to be everything you can be, you need a compelling reason, and that is your purpose. It takes a strong why to power the what and how of making your best better.
In my new book, The Potential Principle, I map out four essential areas to focus on for personal and professional growth, and I provide four powerful tools for creating breakout improvement in each area. Just as importantly, I explore the foundation of success, which is significance.
D. L. Moody said that our greatest concern in life should be to succeed in something that really matters. One of the best ways to do this, and move closer to realizing your true potential, is this:
Look for the inherent meaning in your work as well as infusing your work with meaning.
When you commit to something bigger than yourself, you often find a bigger purpose. Remind yourself every day of how your role as an employee or an entrepreneur contributes to the purpose of your company, and the impact you have on customers. When you better your best, you also have more to give your family and community.
Remember that you have a positive impact on others through your performance. It isn’t just the job that you have but also how you do that job that makes the difference between average and extraordinary. Resolving a customer’s complaint gracefully, delivering a knockout sales presentation or going above and beyond as a parent or spouse gives purpose and meaning to your efforts.
What matters most to you? What gets you out of bed each morning, excited and ready to face the new day? Where do you enjoy spending your time, energy, and emotion?
As a person of faith, I believe we all have a purpose in life. Find yours. Discover the meaning in what you do. Then give it everything you’ve got, using the tips I’ve shared in this blog and the guidance and encouragement I offer in The Potential Principle. Not only will you find success in bettering your best, but your success will matter—both to yourself and to the people around you.
Order The Potential Principle at http://bit.ly/potentialprinciple.
New York Times bestselling author Mark Sanborn’s new book The Potential Principle: A Proven System for Closing the Gap Between How Good You Are and How Good You Could Be is scheduled to release September 5, 2017 and provides a map and method for becoming better than best. By identifying the four key areas in which growth is possible—thinking, performing, learning, and reflecting—and applying the four tools of improvement in those areas—disrupt, refocus, engage, and expand— Sanborn reveals the secret for achieving breakthrough improvement in any area of life. Mark is president of Sanborn and Associates Inc., an idea studio dedicated to developing leaders in business and in life. He is a noted authority and an in-demand speaker on leadership, customer service, and extraordinary performance. To book Mark and share the message of The Potential Principle with your team, please contact Helen Broder at firstname.lastname@example.org or (910) 256-3495.